The President Biden ended a four-day, exhausting visit to the Middle East this weekend. He was criticized for his pandering to oil rich autocrats as well as his failure to fulfill a campaign promise to be a pariah to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Mr. Biden was able to promote stronger security coordination between Arab power and Israel, something that used to be unthinkable and now a viable option due to mutual concern about Iranian threats.
He used this visit to give assurances to the project that the U.S. would remain regionally involved on many fronts, including climate change and infrastructure investment.
But after an extremely criticized meeting, which the Saudi crown Prince, who U.S intelligence officials claim orchestrated the 2018 killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi was abandoned by the president, he failed to achieve another important goal: To convince Saudi Arabia to boost its oil production.
After a meeting closed to the public with Saudi leaders on Friday, Mr. Biden seemed to admit that he was unable to get a Saudi commitment to increase crude oil imports to the international market.
The administration wanted to see such a change, in order to lower international oil prices as well as reduce high gasoline costs for the United States.
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” I’m trying to get more supply to the United States of America. This is what I believe will happen,” Mr. Biden said to reporters. Based on today’s discussions, the Saudis agree with this urgency. I believe we will see more steps over the next weeks .”
Both parties criticize
The lack of commitment by the Saudis only seemed to increase frustration towards the president from both the left- and right-leaning Washington. Media coverage about his Mideast visit was heavily influenced by the death of Khashoggi.
With Mr. Biden having promised on the campaign trail that Saudi Arabia would be a “pariah”, critics fiercely condemn the meeting between the president and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is the de facto ruler.
Khashoggi’s widow condemned the meeting and said that Crown Prince Mohammad’s blood is now on Mr. Biden for his respects to the Saudi leader.
Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan and Publisher Washington Post were scathing about Mr. Biden’s “shameful” fist bump in Jeddah with the crown prince.
SEE ALSO: Bernie Sanders discredits Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia
Mr. Ryan stated that the greeting conveyed “an intimacy and comfort which delivers to the crown Prince the unwarranted redemption it has been desperate seeking .”
The criticism continued after the president returned to Washington on Saturday night.
Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an independent senator who caucuses alongside the Democrats said that no oil deal President Obama could hope for was worth making with Saudi officials.
“You’ve got a family that is worth $100 billion which crushes democracy, which treats women as third-class citizens, which murders and imprisons its opponents,” Mr. Sanders said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program. We believe in democracy, human rights and any other thing that this nation believes. It’s not right that we have to maintain a friendly relationship with dictatorships like the .”
Key Republicans also expressed frustration with foreign policy.
The top Republican in the Senate Armed Services Committee is Senator James M. Inhofe from Oklahoma. He said that Mr. Biden had failed to fulfill his “one primary task in the Middle East — securing more oil supply from our Partners to lower home prices .”
“Rather than prioritizing this goal, however President Biden focused instead on the optics and his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince — setting on a fist bump rather than a handshake as though it would make an epidemiological or diplomatic difference, Mr. Inhofe stated. To no one’s surprise , he returned home empty-handed.
Security Against Iran
Biden responded to criticisms of his Saudi Arabia trip, insisting that his entire visit had greater implications for America and the rest of the world in a time of stagnant nuclear negotiations with an ever belligerent Iran as well rising instability due to Russia’s War in Ukraine.
Administration officials stated that the overall objective of the trip was to encourage stronger security coordination among Arab powers including Saudi Arabia and Israel. This push comes after months-long efforts by the Obama administration to persuade Iran to rejoin the Obama-era nuke deal.
After the Biden administration’s attempt to negotiate an Iranian-U.S. diplomacy detente over the last year has failed, President Obama is now forced to concentrate on regional military readiness against Tehran.
Foreign policy analysts believe that Mr. Biden has made significant progress in this effort since his visit.
While he did not make any firm promises to end the impasse in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, the President vowed to the U.S. during his stop in Israel as well as during his trip to Saudi Arabia, that they would not permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
” The United States…is prepared to use every element of its national power in order to achieve that result,” said a joint statement that Mr. Biden signed with Israeli leaders.
” The declaration stated that the United States also affirmed its commitment to working with partners in order to counter Iran’s aggressions and destabilizing actions, either directly or via proxies and terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Biden also stressed “the necessity to further deter Iran’s interference in other countries’ internal affairs,” as well as a wider set of defense commitments, in a communique that he issued following his meeting in Saudi Arabia.
Gregg Roman is the director of pro-Israel thinktank the Middle East Forum. He said that both the commitments represented a positive shift on Mr. Biden’s position toward Iran and signaled that the “military option” was back on the table in regard to Tehran.
“”I believe Biden got many wins on this trip,” Mr. Roman stated. He did this by adopting pragmatic thinking .”
Others remarked on Mr. Biden’s comments before the Gulf Cooperation Council (a regional security organisation), during his final day in Saudi Arabia.
” We will not leave the vacuum for China, Russia or Iran,” the president stated. We will continue to work on the moment, with principled American leadership
Biden also outlined a U.S. strategy for engagement, including an ongoing commitment to regional security in the face of increasing global insecurity.
” This was remarkable,” stated James Jeffrey, Chairman of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program and former Special Envoy to the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS.
“He said that, if this is put in context of global conditions, then Russia, China, and Iran are threatening the world order. Jeffrey stated that this is important.
” This is the most powerful statement that we have received from the administration in challenging Iran,” he said.
The administration also advanced relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia by getting Saudi Arabia to let him fly direct into the Kingdom from Israel.
Saudi Arabia refused permission for Israeli airlines to use its skies, but it did so briefly in 2020 when other Arab countries signed the Trump-era Abraham Accords normalizing Israel’s relations.
While the Saudis refused to recognize Israel or join the Abraham Accords since their 1948 foundation, the Administration hailed the opening up of airspace for Mr. Biden’s flight as a major breakthrough.
David Schanzer from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy’s Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security said that Mr. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia marked a significant shift in how he approaches a relationship which has been historically complicated.
He applauded the President’s efforts to improve relations despite the problematic record of the Crown Prince on human rights and noted that his campaign promise not to shun the Kingdom wasn’t realistic.
” The president must do what is in the country’s best interests,” said Mr. Schanzer. “I believe this was an organized effort to face the realities of the times, rather than trying create an ideal that doesn’t really exist right now or is unlikely to exist in the future .”