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Biden ended his Middle East tour without a single major achievement

July 19, 2022 at 11:25 am

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (R), King Abdullah II of Jordan (2nd R), Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (3rd R), US President Joe Biden (2nd L) and King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (L) attend Jeddah Security and Development Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2022. [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia – Anadolu Agency]

With great enthusiasm and confidence, US President Joe Biden headed to the Middle East last week hoping to achieve major goals to help the Democratic Party in the midterm elections for the Senate and House of Representatives slated to be held in November. He visited Israel and made “important” security pledges to the occupation state in order to mobilise support for his party among strong pro-Israel lobbies in Washington. He also went to Saudi Arabia and met with Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman to ask the de facto ruler to boost oil production in an effort to improve the mood of American voters who are suffering from unprecedented increases in oil prices.

Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed the Jerusalem Declaration in which the US pledged to protect its “strategic” ally, the apartheid occupation state, and promised to exert the utmost effort, even military force, to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear bomb.

At the Jeddah Security and Development summit, Biden presented his vision and strategy for America’s engagement in the Middle East. He said that the US would not walk away from the region to leave a vacuum for China and Russia to fill. Behind closed doors, meanwhile, he begged Bin Salman for the Kingdom to boost its daily oil production.

The New York Post made Biden’s goals for his Middle East tour very clear, noting that he “sought to shore up some of the United States’ traditional Middle Eastern alliances” and “to boost oil production as a way to calm the runaway inflation that has hammered his approval ratings at home.”

This was always going to be an awkward task, given that Biden pledged during his electoral campaign to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state for the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “Concerns over sky-high oil prices have forced his administration to reconsider his promise to isolate the kingdom,” said the New York Post.

READ: Biden’s visit and the Jerusalem Declaration demand some determined opposition

On the creation of a Middle East security alliance, Reuters commented: “The summit communique was vague… and Saudi Arabia, Washington’s most important Arab ally, poured cold water on US hopes it could help lay the groundwork for a regional security alliance – including Israel – to combat Iranian threats.”

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al-Saud, claimed that he was not aware of any discussions on a Gulf-Israeli defence alliance. He pointed out that if such discussions have taken place, the Kingdom would not have been involved in any case.

Differences between the Arab states and the few Gulf States within the Gulf Cooperation Council make the idea of such an alliance impossible to countenance. The UAE is currently in the process of sending an ambassador to Tehran, the perceived “threat” from which is prompting the US and Israel to form the so-called “Middle East NATO”.

Biden's first visit to the Middle East - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Biden’s first visit to the Middle East – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Many Arab states have Shia citizens, who are often more loyal to Iran than to the regimes in their own countries. Any alliance against Iran could well be a cause of popular chaos and instability in those countries. Any positive public view related to emerging Israel in the region has eroded sharply, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

What about the boost in Saudi Arabia’s oil production? “[Bin Salman] had agreed in a closed-door meeting to boost the amount of oil it pumps, thereby easing high gas prices for Americans,” the New York Post cited Biden as claiming.

However, the same news website reported that the crown prince appeared to cast doubt on Biden’s assertion. It pointed to comments by Bin Salman and other Saudi officials that they would not increase oil production without the agreement of the Kingdom’s partners in OPEC+.

Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia announced that it would increase its oil production by two million barrels a day and Biden said that the effects of the increase would be felt in a while. “I’m doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America, which I expect to happen. The Saudis share that urgency. And based on our discussions today, I expect we’ll see further steps in the coming weeks.”

However, reported that the effort to raise oil production will take five years to complete.

“This president seems to be incapable of doing any of the hard work which needs to be done for the American people,” said Corbin Trent, co-founder of the No Excuses PAC and former spokesman for Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Even the opening of Saudi airspace to Israeli flights, which Biden described as a historic move celebrated by Yair Lapid, was nothing to do with Israel’s integration within the region. According to the Saudi foreign minister, Riyadh’s decision to open its airspace to all carriers had nothing to do with establishing diplomatic ties with Israel and was not a precursor to further steps.

Biden sought to use his Middle East tour to reiterate Washington’s influence in the region, which it is not ready to abandon in favour of China and Russia. However, he ended his tour without a single major achievement. To add to his discomfort, the trip has been condemned at home. It was not a good few days for the US president.

READ: Biden’s ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ is no direct path to ‘robust regional infrastructure’

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.