President Biden made his first travel to the Middle East in mid-July, visiting Israel and Saudi Arabia. Since Biden assumed charge of the presidency he gave cold shoulder to Saudi Arabia and castigated king MBS for his collusion in killing the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This trip by the president was a reversal of his policy to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah over human rights violations.
This visit has incited anger in the American public that the Biden administration has legitimized the leader responsible for Khashoggi’s killing. It shows that the Biden administration is accepting the region as it is and deems the US interests uppish than preserving human rights in the region.
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The US wants to maintain its status quo in the Middle East
The trip did not result in flamboyant announcements like the normalization of Arab-Israel ties as the former US president Trump had planned Abraham Accords. Saudi Arabia also seems not committed to increasing oil production to ingratiate America. Yet, the recent US expedition to the Middle East could not be undervalued as it resulted in some significant developments that are; the US-Saudi agreement to build 5G and 6G telecommunication and Saudi Arabia opening airspace for Israeli air flights.
The US wishes to redefine its position in the Middle East ceding the region, not to Russia and China’s influence. With the multi-thematic cooperation with Israel and regional countries, the US is recalibrating the Middle Eastern order. In this regard, Biden has done multiple efforts. President Biden framed the Negev forum between the US, Israel and several Arab countries to enhance economic and security integration. Biden holds a virtual summit of “I2U2 ”, a forum between India, Israel, the USA and the UAE discussing economic and political opportunities between the following states to encircle Chinese influence in this region.
During the visit to Israel, Biden signed Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Declaration for enhancing multi-fora cooperation between both countries keeping apart the Palestine-Israel issue saying that the ground is not ripe to restart parleys. Biden exchanged words with Israeli prime minister Yari Lapid over the looming threat of Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Through this declaration, the US and Israel want to present a united front against Iran. Biden is trying to resurrect Iran’s nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) which was signed in 2015. President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018.
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With Biden’s diplomacy approaching to demise, the US is thinking of a harsh response to Iran to obviate it from making nuclear arsenals. The US is making a last-ditch effort to use diplomacy in addressing Iran’s nuclear activities because president Biden still prefers diplomacy. Israeli prime minister
Lapid said to Biden, “ Words can not stop Iran. Only a credible military threat would stop them”. If diplomacy fails, the US would turn to coercive measures to stop Iran. The US would likely provide a B-52 bomber to Israel because the latter still lacks weaponry to attack Iran’s nuclear sites which are well-fortified.
The US criticism of MBS over Khashoggi’s murder was a hurdle for the relationship between America and Saudi Arabia. The in-person engagement between Biden and MBS was a positive development in melting the ice between both countries. Despite differences in human rights values, the US is intended to continue cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Both countries have intertwined interests in the region. Saudi Arabia needs U.S. cooperation in its proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria to combat Iran and America wants Saudi Arabia to pump more oil amid the Russo-Ukrainian war.
The way forward
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia and other regional countries were unhappy with America over the US retrenchment from the region and going to the nuclear deal with Iran without addressing Iran through regional influences. There are a lot of opportunities to continue cooperation on energy, trade, security, and climate change to address reservations of the Middle Eastern nations. Together the US, Israel and the Middle Eastern countries could present a formidable front to Iran.
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This visit was also an assurance to the regional countries that the US would not walk away from the region. Biden gave an impression through his visit that the US has not abandoned its allies. China and Russia were pleased to see the US distancing from the region. China is targeting the region for its growing oil and gas needs to outshine the American economy. It approached Iraq for Belt and Road initiative. This has forced the US to reassert its leverage in the region than leave room for its rivals.
To conclude, Biden’s visit to the Middle East may have short-term deliverables but it portends a long-term security architecture for the region under the umbrella of the US to combat multifaceted challenges in the Middle East.
The writer is an author at times Glo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.