Biden has a tough mission in the Middle East

Biden has a tough mission in the Middle East
Columnist Mohammed al Hammadi - Jusoor Post

US President Joe Biden was forced to publish an article entitled “Why I’m going to Saudi Arabia”, in which he explains and perhaps “justifies” the reasons behind his visit to the Kingdom in the upcoming days.


Undoubtedly, President Biden’s expected visit to the region in the middle of this month and his meeting in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the leaders of the region is considered important because of the current situation in the world and the Middle East.


This is especially true considering that President Biden began his tenure boycotting the two most important countries in the region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Republic of Egypt.


For the past 500 days, the White House has chosen to keep a distance from the region, ignoring its leaders and issues, so July’s meeting is an opportunity to set priorities.


This visit reveals and even confirms the change in the balance of power in favor of Riyadh after the Russian conflict with Ukraine in Europe. It also confirms the position of Saudi Arabia as an influential country in the global system that should be treated in a manner commensurate with its stature.


The Jeddah meeting is supposed to discuss major issues such as the fight against terrorism and Iran’s subversive behavior in the region, in addition to the global economy, energy, and oil market regulation.


The fact is that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were true partners of the United States in the face of the Iranian regime’s absurdity and the struggle against terrorism, as well as their constant cooperation when it comes to the global economy and energy issues. A role both of the countries are entirely convinced of and will never drop. However, these two countries, along with the rest of the region’s countries, are also interested in seeing the American commitment to regional security and its cooperation with countries to resolve the outstanding issues and the ongoing conflict in much of the region.


Five years ago, in May 2017, former US President Donald Trump came to the region to participate in the Riyadh Summit, in which several leaders of Arab and Islamic countries participated.


Everyone expected that the summit would be the beginning of a new phase of partnership and cooperation. However, President Trump gave unsuccessful statements after summit, and his whole goal was to appear before the American voters in the image of the victorious president who took from the Arabs everything he wanted and returned to Washington without giving them anything in return.


President Biden’s visit comes after that summit and after an indifference that lasted for more than 18 months, preceded by hard-line positions from the countries of the region during his election campaign and after his arrival to the White House. The visit also comes at a time of internal economic difficulties in the United States, accompanied by a sharp decline in Biden’s popularity, as he hit the rock bottom according to the current opinion polls.


The upcoming visit and meeting come at a time when the balance of global power is shifting, and the United States is no longer in the same strong position it had maintained during the past three decades, especially in the Middle East, where its role and influence have declined significantly.


The global equation has changed as the war between Russia and Ukraine has imposed a new reality in the world, in addition to the Chinese and Indian mood, which are heading to adopt a new set of policies and positions.


This visit comes as everyone remembers Biden’s accusations against Saudi Arabia, alleging that the latter is “killing children” in Yemen, and everyone also remembers his stance on the Arab coalition in the Yemen war and how he removed the Houthi group from the terrorism list. The recent change in President Biden's position with the announcement of a visit to Saudi Arabia, and his praise of Riyadh's “courageous leadership” in the Yemeni conflict, seemed a positive change, but it came too late, and this delay has cost the region a lot.


The rise in oil prices may have reminded Biden of his old allies, and the economic problems in the United States may have rushed his decision to resume talking with Riyadh. But this visit, although it is welcomed in the region and some have high hopes for it, faces some difficulties. One of these difficulties is that Biden is required to clearly demonstrate that the United States values ​​friendship with an old strategic ally, and that it will do more to address this ally’s security concerns and take into account the ally’s political and economic interests.


In addition, the United States must realize that Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not want the American pressure to continue the way it has in the past few years, which caused a lot of tension between the United States and many countries in the region.


President Biden's next mission in the region seems difficult - his article in the Washington Post also confirms this - and that is unusual.


The visit of American presidents to the region has always been easy, preceded by understandings and agreements and ending in ways that satisfied all parties, but this time it seems different, as the accumulation of the past years and the experience that the region’s countries had, especially after the visit of the last two American presidents - Obama and Trump- will force the region’s countries to be more cautious during the upcoming meeting in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. After years of cooperation with the United States, the countries of the region saw how Washington met this cooperation with denial and positions that do not express a behavior of a true ally who cares about the interests of his allies.


The latest of these positions was when dozens of innocent citizens in Saudi Arabia and the UAE were killed and wounded by Houthi militia attacks against vital civil targets in both of the countries. The American administration did not take the expected position of a trusted ally.


As per the previous facts, the ball will be in President Biden’s court, and it remains to be seen how he interacts and responds to the requirements of the region’s states. Can he deal with these countries as partners and allies and respect their interests before he demands to have his own requests addressed?


As this summit begins, the United States is required to change the way it views the region’s states, and deal with these very same states as allies and friends no matter how small they are in size and area.


States are not perceived anymore according to their geographical space, but according to their strong political and economic influence. Small states are not carrying out “orders” anymore, but rather they want their interests addressed in return of serving the American ones.


Otherwise, the balance will not be equal, and partnerships and relations cannot continue. All the countries of the region expect the United States to exchange cooperation with similar cooperation. What the region’s states witnessed from the United States during the past decade, such as the unprecedented indifference for the region’s interests and the dramatic reversals in historical relations between the US and the region’s states, will make these states think twice before taking any steps.