Riyad-Washington Ties: What Prompted Biden Towards the Middle East Tour? -Ahmad Bhuiyan


18 months after taking office, President Biden traveled to Saudi Arabia on Friday via Israel on his first trip to the Middle East. But Biden’s visit has sparked controversy in his country. A section within his party, the Democratic Party, is deeply unhappy. Their words – the president compromised his ethics. Saudi Arabia is one of America’s main allies in the Middle East. For a long time, Saudi Arabia is one of the first countries that any new American president visits after taking office. So, why this debate now? Because, before and after becoming president, Mr. Biden’s visit has nothing to do with it. Like many Americans, Joe Biden is angry about Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s civil war. After the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he was so displeased with Prince Salman and the Saudi royal family that he announced during the election campaign that if he came to power, he would leave these Saudi rulers ‘alone’. America has maintained a close relationship with the Saudi royal family for decades, sacrificing values ??mainly for the sake of oil. But Mr. When Biden came to power, he began to say that human rights would be the basis of his government’s relations with any foreign country. After coming to power after winning the election, he refused to meet or talk to Saudi Crown Prince Salman. The Saudi prince made several attempts to talk to him but failed. Mr. suspended the sale of new weapons to Saudi Arabia. Biden. Even after the news of his visit to Saudi Arabia was confirmed, Mr. Biden said he will not talk to Prince Salman. But later the Saudi government informed that the two will talk in Jeddah.

Why this change? Biden’s cleanup President Biden was furious with Saudi Prince Salman over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. At the end of 18 months, why did Mr. Biden start walking in the opposite direction? Analysts say that the 79-year-old US president is bowing to reality or accepting it. And the Ukraine war is mainly working behind it. A few days ago, in an article written by him in the Washington Post newspaper, he wrote, “We need to take countermeasures to Russia’s aggression. We need a strong position to compete with China… For this reason, we need to establish direct contact with those countries that can help us in our efforts. Saudi Arabia is such a country.”

At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Thursday, reporters asked him whether he would bring up the Khashoggi assassination in a meeting with the Saudi crown prince. Without answering the question directly, Biden reiterates why he is going to Saudi Arabia. He said Saudi Arabia’s role was important for the stability of the “restless Middle East” and to prevent the region from “falling under the influence of China and Russia”. “My position on Khashoggi is clear. I will never be silent on human rights issues. But I am going to Saudi Arabia in the national interest of the United States, as an opportunity to consolidate our influence in the Middle East.”

Mr. Biden directly said, “As the United States struggles with China and Russia to maintain its influence in the world, ignoring the Saudis will undermine American interests. I want to make sure that America’s leadership in the region remains intact. There is no vacuum created where Russia and China make up for it.”

It is undeniable that over the past 18 months, as relations with the White House have cooled, the Saudis have increased ties with China and Russia. Saudi Arabia’s trade with China continues to grow. Mr. Prince Salman’s relationship with Putin is quite warm.

Moreover, despite America’s disdain, he has no momentum to consolidate power within the country, and there is little doubt that he is the king of one of the most important countries in the Middle East, whether he likes it or not.

Oil factor

There had been growing uneasiness among parts of the Biden administration for some time about the consequences of the president’s stance on Prince Salman and Saudi Arabia. The volatility in the US oil market after the Ukraine crisis added to that uneasiness. Mr. Biden also understands that additional Saudi oil is now essential for America.

Political Compensation

Now everyone’s attention in America Mr. What happened between Biden and Yuvraj Salman, whether they shook hands or what was the mood of the meeting. Part of the Democratic Party wants Mr. Biden should press for the release of the opposition in Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi spoke about the murder trial. Yemen calls for an end to the war. Do not promise to sell new weapons. If you don’t do this, Mr. Biden will be under pressure within the party. In one newspaper, Khashoggi’s fiancee wrote in a sub-editorial aimed at President Biden: “You condemn Russia for torturing the opposition, for war crimes in Ukraine. Saudi Arabia continues to commit the same horrific human rights abuses. Why are you giving them a discount? For oil?”

What do the Saudis want?

Over the past year and a half, the powerful Saudi prince is unhappy as usual at being snubbed by the White House. That’s why after the war in Ukraine Mr. Saudi Arabia has not responded well to America’s attempts to isolate Putin. Oil production has increased slightly, but not by much. In an interview with the research magazine The Atlantic in April, Mr. Asked about his frosty relationship with Biden, the Saudi prince replied – “I don’t care at all.” Neglecting Saudi Arabia, he said, “Would be bad luck for America and good luck for China.”
Saudi Arabia has agreed to start a peace deal with Yemen’s Houthi rebels, but instead wants stronger defenses against Iranian missile attacks.

And just days before the visit, Saudi Arabia announced opening its airspace to Israeli commercial aircraft. As a result, he became the first American president to travel directly from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia.

But the importance of Mr. Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is mainly political. What happens on the trip is more important when he comes to his country. He wants to change Saudi Arabia completely according to his own will. The Saudi crown prince sees Biden’s visit as his recognition. Then he will surely start thinking that it is not even possible for America to despise him and his country.

The writer is independent analyst on national and international issues.