Key points to watch during Biden’s trip to the Middle East

President Joe Biden is on his way to Israel on Tuesday, part of a broader visit to the Middle East with a visit to the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. It will push for Israel’s deeper integration into the region, urge the Gulf states to pump more oil to mitigate the global energy crisis and ensure that the United States does not prioritize the region, despite its focus on the war in Ukraine and strategic competition with China.

It will be a complicated journey for Biden, who has been criticized by activists and members of his own party for showing that he restored relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he once described as “no redemptive social value”.

“Our goal has been to recalculate but not sever ties with Saudi Arabia,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday. Sullivan argued that in a world that is increasingly geopolitically competitive, especially in the Indo-Pacific and Europe, the United States must continue to participate in the Middle East.

“The Middle East is deeply intertwined with the rest of the world. And if we act now to create a more peaceful and stable area, it will be profitable for the American national interest and the American people for years to come.

In Israel, he will meet with caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Israel’s security in Iran’s reconstruction, including the integration of its Arab Gulf air defense capabilities.

In the West Bank, Biden will reiterate its support for a two-state solution and seek to restore relations with the Palestinian Authority after the Trump administration withdrew aid and closed the US consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the US delegation to the Palestinians.

Biden will attend the GCC + 3 Summit in Jeddah with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Barain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates) and Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, where he will present his vision for US participation. in the area.

He plans to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to fix ties with Saudi Arabia – a country he once called a pariah.

Observers will look at how Biden could reconcile these interests with a foreign policy theory that is about the superiority of democracies over dictatorships, especially in light of the killings of journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh.

Here are the key points to look at:

Energy production

As the United States and other countries face rising fuel prices and high inflation due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Biden has little choice but to join oil-producing countries in the region.

However, prices have risen so much that it is highly unlikely that producers will be able to pump enough oil to bring prices down sustainably, said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a member of the Baker Institute for the Middle East.

Oil prices have remained high despite an agreement in June to increase crude oil production by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August by a group called OPEC +, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, including Russia.

“I just do not see that the Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are ready to break out of the OPEC + framework,” Ulrichsen told VOA. “They have their own relations with Russia to think about.

The market’s dynamics are unlikely to change any time soon, observers say,’s why the government has been underestimating expectations that the visit could lower gas prices and reduce inflation, and instead emphasize that the emphasis will be on regional security rather than energy.

The unification of Israel, the confinement of Iran

The United States has for decades been pushing for an integrated air defense system between GCC and Israel – a proposal with a renewed outlook in light of growing cooperation between Israel and key Gulf states, especially the United Arab Emirates.

“In the long run, we are talking to nations in the region about air defense capabilities in particular and what we can do to help protect them and then, explore the idea of ​​being able to somehow integrate all these air defenses together,” said John Kirby, Director of Strategic Communications at the National Security Council. , told reporters on Thursday.

Increased integration is driven by fears of Iran’s expansion and reconstruction. Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, said earlier this week that there could be many weeks in Tehran to collect enough enriched uranium to ignite a nuclear bomb.

Negotiations aimed at breaking the deadlock on how to save Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal ended last week without much progress.

Israel-Saudi thaw

As both Jerusalem and Riyadh have been insecure about Iran, the Biden government has quietly worked towards a diplomatically normal position between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Given the monarchy’s power in the Muslim world, it would be the most important extension of the Trump era from the Trump era, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan recognizing Israel, and overturning the Arab world’s commitment to restrain normal development until Israel agrees to end it. that. occupation of Palestinian territory.

During the trip, Biden will fly directly between Tel Aviv and Jeddah and back, first for the US President after Trump’s historic 2017 flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. At present, there are no direct commercial flights between the countries.

Although it is unlikely that normal developments will occur in the near future, Biden’s flight inspectors see this as another sign that it is inevitable.

Israeli businessmen are already visiting the kingdom, said Steven Cook, a senior fellow in the Middle East’s Africa and Africa Research Council. Getting it publicly recognized would be helpful for the Biden administration to point to as a sign of progress, Cook told VOA.

Observers believe that Saudi Arabia’s recognition will not be granted while King Salman is in power. However, “it is no secret that Saudi Arabia’s new leaders see great benefits in Israel,” Yasmine Farouk, a non-Middle East scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told VOA, referring to the Crown Prince. .

A ceasefire in Yemen

Ending the seven-year proxy war in Yemen between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi militants supporting Tehran has been the goal of the Biden regime. The conflict has turned the country into a breeding ground for jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and led to humanitarian casualties in which more than 300,000 people died.

Biden is expected to urge Saudi Arabia to lift the rest of the Houthi-controlled northern Yemeni barrier and make the ceasefire – set in April and renewed until August – permanent.

Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said he was concerned about the possibility of a Houthi drone or rocket attack reviving the conflict.

“The Tinderbox in the Middle East today is such that it could explode at any moment,” he told VOA. “I fear it could happen while President Biden is in the region.

Value vs. interests

Biden’s handling of the killings of journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh will test his ability to balance his commitment to US values ​​and US national political and economic interests.

Many will pay close attention to how vigorously he addresses media freedom issues as well as the rights of women and minorities when dealing with some of the world’s most oppressive and dictatorial leaders.

Saudi columnist Khashoggi was brutally assassinated with the consent of the Saudi Crown Prince. A US judge who is suing Khashoggi’s girlfriend has given the government until August 1 to decide whether to grant the Crown Prince immunity. The White House declined to say whether it would.

I can not comment on that from here, because this is a legal decision, “said correspondent Karine Jean-Pierre to VOA.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, was killed by an Israeli gunman, according to international experts who have access to the investigation.

Kirby declined to confirm when asked by VOA whether Biden would deal with their deaths while in the area. Kirby also ignored the question of whether Biden would focus his speech on the “struggle between democracy and autonomy” aimed at his foreign policy theory.

Biden is learning that it is not so clear, said James Jeffrey, chairman of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.

“This is a credit to him, but it means he has a lot of baggage because he has not formally relinquished it,” Jeffrey told VOA, referring to the Biden summit on democracy in December.

“What has it done since then? Has anyone even mentioned it since it happened? I rest my case. “

Anita Powell contributed to this report.

Key points to watch during Biden’s trip to the Middle East

Source link Key points to watch during Biden’s trip to the Middle East

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