President Biden faces a wide range of difficulties as he makes his first journey to the Middle East since taking office. The United States is reevaluating its position in the area at a time when its attention has shifted to Europe and Asia, with the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the rearview mirror. According to the Associated Press, Biden will make history as the first sitting president of the United States to go straight from Israel, his first stop, to Saudi Arabia before heading back to Washington D.C. The schedule reflects the seismic shift in the region’s politics toward improved ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Israel improved ties with nations like the United Arab Emirates under former President Donald Trump and the Abraham Accords. While it is unlikely that Israel and Saudi Arabia will establish official diplomatic relations during Biden’s visit, some gradual steps may be taken, such as permitting Israeli commercial planes to fly over the kingdom on their way to adjacent nations. The U.S. military’s Central Command, which coordinates activities in the area, has already seen an increase in security cooperation. The White House’s national security spokesperson, John Kirby, stated that the new military alliance aims to develop a regional air defense system that could defend against Iranian drones and ballistic missiles.
Additionally, Biden could face pressure to tone down his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to get the country and its neighbors to pump more oil and end months of exorbitant gas prices. However, energy analysts say drivers shouldn’t get their hopes up. Samantha Gross, head of the Brookings Institution’s energy security and climate program, warned that if the general public expects reduced gas prices following this trip, they would likely be let down. The Saudis, one of the largest energy producers in the world, are already generating close to their 11 million barrels per day of daily oil production potential. And OPEC+ members, including Saudi Arabia, are probably going to be wary of American demands.
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