In mid-July, Joe Biden will embark on his first trip as US president to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. In Jeddah, he will also meet all the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. This landmark visit is critical in Washington’s relationship with its traditional Middle Eastern partners, especially at a moment when global and regional geopoliticsshifts encourage a US recalibration of its posture in the area. In recent years, relations with Saudi Arabia have been affected by numerous issues, including the ongoing conflict in Yemen, the growing presence of Russia and China in the region and the Khashoggi affair on top of other concerns on human rights issues. Today, Biden is also counting on the Gulf countries to increase their oil production to contribute in lowering global energy prices that have soared as a result of the war in Ukraine. In addition, defining a mutual strategy toward Iran would be an equally central topic of Biden’s agenda as the stalemate on the resumption of the JCPOA persists. In Israel, Biden will finally face a complex political landscape, having to deal with a government in atransitional position while also trying to mend American relations with the Palestinian Authority, which sown in turmoil during the Trump years and still faces many challenges. Overall, many knots have yet to be untied, and this will not be an easy task.
What are the key elements of Biden’s Middle Eastern politics today? How has the redefinition of US politics in the region been impacted by the crisis in Ukraine? What are the main aims and strategic calculations for Biden’s visit to the Middle East? Will this visit set the stage for new levels of security and energy cooperation? What are the potential limitations and pitfalls that Washington and regional stakeholders need to address in this regard?
Kristin Diwan | Senior Resident Scholar, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW)
Nimrod Goren | President and Founder, The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitvim)
William F. Wechsler | Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Middle East Programs, Atlantic Council
Ugo Tramballi | Senior Advisor, ISPI