Fri. Aug 12th, 2022
US President Biden meets with heads of Gulf states growing cautious about Iran

President Joe Biden closed the ultimate leg of his four-day journey with a go to to a summit of Arab nations on Saturday to put out his technique for the Center East in a area bracing for confrontation with Iran.

The US president spent the morning assembly individually with the leaders of Iraq, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, a few of whom he had by no means sat down with.

Biden invited Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who turned president of the UAE two months in the past, to go to the White Home this yr, saying he appeared ahead “to a different interval of sturdy and rising cooperation” between their international locations underneath the sheikh’s management.

The Gulf Cooperation Council summit, held within the Crimson Sea port metropolis of Jeddah, is a chance for Biden to display his dedication to the area after spending most of his presidency centered on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s rising affect in Asia.

Hours earlier than the convention began, the White Home launched satellite tv for pc imagery that signifies Russian officers have twice just lately visited Iran to see weapons-capable drones it’s seeking to purchase to be used in its struggle in Ukraine.

A senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters earlier than the summit, mentioned Moscow’s efforts to accumulate drones from Tehran present that Russia is “successfully betting on Iran.”

Not one of the international locations represented on the summit has sanctioned Russia — a key overseas coverage precedence for the Biden administration. 

As soon as shunned, now fist-bumping

Biden’s attendance on the Gulf Cooperation Council summit adopted his Friday assembly with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto ruler and inheritor to the throne presently held by his father, King Salman.

The US president had initially shunned Prince Mohammed over human rights abuses, notably the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence officers consider was seemingly permitted by the crown prince.

However Biden determined he wanted to restore the longstanding relationship between the 2 international locations to deal with rising gasoline costs and foster stability within the risky area.

Biden and Prince Mohammed greeted one another with a fist bump when the president arrived on the royal palace in Jeddah, a gesture that was swiftly criticised. Biden later mentioned he didn’t draw back from discussing Khashoggi’s killing throughout their assembly.

The subject created a “frosty” begin to the dialogue, in keeping with a US official accustomed to the non-public conversations.

Nevertheless, the ambiance ultimately turned extra relaxed, the official mentioned, as they spoke about vitality safety, increasing high-speed web entry within the Center East and different points. 

Biden even tried to inject some humour into the dialog by the top of the assembly, in keeping with the official, who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate a personal session.

The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya information community, citing an unnamed Saudi supply, reported that Prince Mohammed responded to Biden’s point out of Khashoggi by saying that makes an attempt to impose a set of values can backfire. 

He additionally mentioned the US had dedicated errors on the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, the place detainees had been tortured, and pressed Biden on the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh throughout a latest Israeli raid on the West Financial institution metropolis of Jenin.

Adel Al-Jubeir, the dominion’s minister of state for overseas affairs, known as the go to a “nice success” and disregarded questions on friction between the 2 international locations.

“Perhaps the sceptics are individuals on the lookout for theatrics or drama. The fact, nonetheless, is that this relationship could be very strong,” he advised Arab Information, a Saudi information organisation.

Vitality costs excessive on the agenda

When he addresses the Gulf Cooperation Council, Biden will supply his most fulsome imaginative and prescient but for the area and the US position there, the White Home mentioned. The Biden administration can also be anticipated to announce $1 billion (about €1bn) in meals safety help for the Center East and North Africa.

The US president’s first Center East journey comes 11 months after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden additionally goals to reprioritise the nation away from the Center East’s ruinous wars and ongoing conflicts stretching from Libya to Syria.

Vitality costs — elevated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — had been anticipated to be excessive on the agenda. However Biden aides tempered expectations that he would depart with a deal for regional producers to spice up provide instantly.

“I think you will not see that for an additional couple of weeks,” Biden advised reporters late Friday.

On the summit, Biden was set to listen to issues about regional stability and safety, meals safety, local weather change and the continued menace of terrorism.

General, there’s little that the 9 Mideast heads of state agree on in relation to overseas coverage. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE are attempting to isolate and squeeze Iran over its regional attain and proxies. 

Oman and Qatar, then again, have strong diplomatic ties with Iran and have acted as intermediaries for talks between Washington and Tehran.

Qatar just lately hosted talks between US and Iranian officers as they tried to revive Iran’s nuclear accord. 

Iran not solely shares an unlimited underwater gasoline discipline with Qatar within the Persian Gulf — it rushed to Qatar’s assist when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt minimize off ties and imposed a years-long embargo on Qatar that ended shortly earlier than Biden took workplace.

Frustration with Biden over Yemen’s Houthi resolution

Biden’s actions have annoyed among the leaders. Whereas the US has performed a necessary position in encouraging a months-long ceasefire in Yemen, his resolution to reverse a Trump-era transfer that had listed Yemen’s insurgent Houthis as a terrorist group has outraged the Emirati and Saudi management.

As for US issues over China’s increasing attain, China seems keen to offer Saudi Arabia with missile and nuclear applied sciences that the US is extra hesitant to do. China can also be the most important purchaser of Saudi oil.

For Iraq, which has the deepest and most important hyperlinks to Iran of all of the Arab international locations, its presence on the assembly displays Saudi efforts — supported by the US — to carry Iraq nearer to Arab positions and the so-called Arab fold. 

Iraq has hosted a number of rounds of direct talks between Saudi and Iranian officers since Biden took workplace, although the negotiations have produced little outcomes.

Earlier than the summit, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadhimi, who survived an assassination try with armed drones in November, wrote in International Coverage that Iraq faces many issues however is working “to unravel Iraqi issues with Iraqi options”.

“When US President Joe Biden involves the Center East this week, he will probably be arriving in a area going through quite a few challenges, from terrorism to meals insecurity and local weather change,” he wrote. 

“However the Center East can also be a area that’s more and more going through these challenges collectively underneath a gaggle of leaders pursuing constructive change.”.

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