Politics

Biden says US ‘won’t walk away’ from Middle East

Although US forces continue to target terrorists in the region and remain deployed in bases across the Middle East, Biden hinted that he was moving on from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by the country.

“Today, I am proud to say that the era of ground wars in the region, wars that have involved large numbers of American forces, is not underway,” he said.

Biden also pressed his counterparts, many of whom lead repressive governments, to guarantee human rights, including women’s rights, and allow their citizens to speak out.

“The future will be won by countries that unleash the full potential of their people,” he said, including allowing people “to question and criticize leaders without fear of reprisal.”

Before the speech, Biden spent the morning meeting individually with the leaders of Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, including some he had never sat with.

Biden invited Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who became president of the United Arab Emirates two months ago, to visit the White House this year, saying he looked forward to “another period of strong and growing cooperation” between their country under the leadership of the sheikh.

The Gulf Cooperation Council summit in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah is an opportunity for Biden to demonstrate his commitment to the region after spending most of his presidency focusing on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and China’s Growing Influence in Asia.

Hours before the start of the conference, the White House released satellite imagery indicating that Russian officials recently visited Iran twice to view weapon-capable drones it is seeking to acquire for use in its war in Ukraine.

None of the countries represented at the summit followed the United States in sanctioning Russia, a key foreign policy priority of the Biden administration. On the contrary, the UAE has become something of a financial haven for Russian billionaires and their multi-million dollar yachts. Egypt remains open to Russian tourists.

The release of satellite images showing that Russian officials visited Kashan airfield on June 8 and July 15 to examine the drones could help the administration better tie the relevance of the war to the concerns of many Arab countries over ambitions. Iran’s nuclear, missile program and support for militants in the region.

A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters ahead of the summit said Moscow’s efforts to acquire drones from Tehran show that Russia is “effectively betting on Iran.”

Biden’s attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit follows his meeting on Friday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom and heir to the throne currently held by his father, King Salman.

The president initially shunned Prince Mohammed for human rights abuses, in particular the murder of American writer Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence officials said was likely approved by the crown prince.

But Biden decided he needed to mend the long-standing relationship between the two countries to deal with rising gas prices and foster stability in the volatile region.

Biden and Prince Mohammed greeted each other with a fist as the president arrived at the royal palace in Jeddah, a move that was quickly criticized. Biden later said he didn’t hesitate to discuss Khashoggi’s murder when they met.

The topic created a “frosty” start to discussion, according to a US official familiar with private conversations.

However, the atmosphere eventually became more relaxed, the official said, as they discussed energy security, the expansion of high-speed internet access in the Middle East and other issues. Biden even attempted to inject some humor into the conversation at the end of the meeting, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

Saudi news network Al Arabiya, citing an unnamed Saudi source, reported that Prince Mohammed responded to Biden’s mention of Khashoggi by saying attempts to impose a set of values ​​could backfire on him. He also said the US made mistakes at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where inmates were tortured, and pressed Biden over the murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a recent Israeli raid on the city of Jenin in the West Bank.

Adel Al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, called the visit a “great success” and brushed off questions about friction between the two countries. .

“Maybe the skeptics are people looking for theater or drama. The reality, however, is that this relationship is very strong,” he told Arab News, a Saudi news agency.

Biden, when addressing the Gulf Cooperation Council, will offer his most comprehensive view yet for the region and the United States’ role there, the White House said. The Biden administration is also expected to announce $1 billion in food security assistance for the Middle East and North Africa.

The president’s first trip to the Middle East comes 11 months after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as Biden aims to redefine U.S. priorities away from ruinous Middle East wars and ongoing conflicts stretching from Libya to Syria.

Energy prices, high since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had to be high on the agenda. But Biden’s aides tempered expectations that he would leave with a deal for regional producers to immediately increase supply.

“I suspect you won’t see that for a few weeks,” Biden told reporters Friday night.

At the summit, Biden was expected to hear concerns about regional stability and security, food security, climate change and the lingering threat of terrorism.

Overall, there is little the nine Middle Eastern heads of state agree on when it comes to foreign policy. For example, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are trying to isolate and squeeze Iran over its regional reach and proxies. Oman and Qatar, on the other hand, have strong diplomatic ties with Iran and have served as intermediaries for talks between Washington and Tehran.

Qatar recently hosted talks between US and Iranian officials as they try to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Iran not only shares a huge undersea gas field with Qatar in the Persian Gulf, but it rushed to Qatar’s aid when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed relations and imposed a years-long embargo on Qatar that ended shortly before Biden took office. .

Biden’s actions have frustrated some of the leaders. While the United States has played an important role in encouraging a months-long ceasefire in Yemen, its decision to overturn a Trump-era decision that classified Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist group has outraged the Emirati and Saudi leaders.

Politico

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