Biden in the Middle East: What Promises Will He Give?

US President Joe Biden is preparing for his first tour to the Middle East from July 13-16, 2022,   as President of the United States of America. The tour will take him to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

According to information from credible US sources, discussions during the tour, which has long been prepared for and after extensive consultations, will include multiple political, military, economic and commercial issues of paramount importance for all parties concerned, but the first goal  is represented in two main points.

The first is confirming Washington's commitment to the security of its allies in the region and reassuring them in an effort to dispel any doubts about evading the strategic importance of the Middle East in US foreign policy in favor of focusing on containing China in the Far East, in addition to subjugating Russia and exhausting it in the Ukrainian crisis.

The second point is denying the existence of any American will to withdraw from dealing with the region’s problems and leaving it to face its fate alone in light of the chaotic rivalry it undergoes.

This rivalry is mainly fueled by the interventions of some major international powers and the ambitions of regional powers that do not hide their aspirations to expand their religious and sectarian influence or restore the glories of a bygone empire.

To demonstrate what they call the “seriousness and credibility” of the US endeavor, these sources refer to two parallel activities by the US president on the sidelines of his meetings with the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The first one is his insistence on making a visit, even for a few hours, to the territories of the Palestinian National Authority to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and also to inspect a Palestinian-run hospital in East Jerusalem, under the cover of a humanitarian step whose political backgrounds and dimensions are not hidden from observers.

The second activity is an expanded meeting which was held in Saudi Arabia, including the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in addition to the Egyptian president, the Jordanian monarch, and the Iraqi prime minister.

It is a meeting that the US administration was keen to avoid linking to the Abraham Accords, as was promoted by the Israeli side, who believed that the meeting would be a quantitative and qualitative development of the Negev meeting.

From the follow-up of most diplomatic and media sources to whom the process of marketing the presidential tour was entrusted, it is clear that their focus is on only the international and regional circumstances in the context of which this tour comes. Of particular import are the negative repercussions on the entire global economy as a result of the war on Ukraine and the concomitant worrying rise in the prices of materials, basic foodstuffs and energy products.

This comes without a single word or even a gesture about the nature of the practical steps that the US President might propose to the region's leaders regarding its controversial issues.

Unsurprisingly, these sources have no information on what practical proposals President Biden might have in his pocket. Even if he had effective suggestions, Biden personally would not disclose them in advance, because he is aware that the order of priorities in the region differs from one country to another.

Undoubtedly, this realization prevents him from the risk of angering one party or another for fear that this will have negative repercussions on the goals he envisages for this tour. These go beyond undoubtedly the concerns of the region to what is more universal in his country’s open conflict with both Russia and China on more than level. Mr. Biden knows very well what he will hear from the leaders in the region who are invited to meet him, who are themselves well aware that he is coming reluctantly.

This awareness has not prevented all the region's leaders from welcoming the tour since its announcement, based on what they hope to achieve. This welcome was expressed through official statements, as happened in the tripartite Sharm el-Sheikh meeting between the Jordanian and Bahraini monarchs and the Egyptian president, and as issued by the Israeli government. The region has also taken practical measures of clearly symbolic value, such as Saudi Arabia’s raising its oil production, and the coalition’s approval to extend the armistice and cease-fire period in Yemen.

Israel's first concern is to employ the round for more Arab openness to it in order to intensify the steps to marginalize the issue of the occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories, and to push for the destruction of any attempt to revive the peace process on the basis of the two-state solution that the US administration is still adopting on paper.

The Arab side expressed its aspiration to redraw a future map of relations with Washington based on commitment to the declared positions, transparently and disavowing any blackmail on human rights issues and others.

Although the Iranian nuclear situation and the subversive role played by Tehran’s sectarian militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen causes concern to everyone, there is a difference in positions regarding the way to deal with the challenges and threats it poses, ranging from:

* Whomever seeks to establish an official alliance for the countries of the region against Iran, and pushes for a comprehensive military adventure that destroys the entire nuclear program, as Israel demands.

* Those who call for tightening economic and financial pressures, and for announcing the status of the GCC countries to be under the American nuclear umbrella, to show more deterrence to Tehran's ambitions in the region, and to prevent a nuclear race in it.

* Whomever is pushing to intensify communication and negotiation in Vienna, and if possible, in other venues, with the gradual easing of economic sanctions, in order to encourage Tehran to show greater flexibility.

In view of this discrepancy in positions, which includes other issues as well which may reach the point of conflict, it is not clear how the US president will respond, nor what promises he will exchange in a region where American politicians are the most experienced and are aware of the reality of its problems, complexities and the intertwining of many of them.