Reshaping US-Saudi Relations At Expense Of Palestinians
The United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed on the importance of stopping Iran from “acquiring a nuclear weapon” during a four-day trip to the region by U.S. President Joe Biden where Israel has been at its core.
Saudi Arabia and the United States underscored the need to further deter Iran’s interference in “the internal affairs of other countries, its support for terrorism through its armed proxies, and its efforts to destabilize the security and stability of the region,” the statement said.
Both countries plan on resetting relations while Israel tightens links with Saudi Arabia in order to coordinate air defense systems to deal with the threat of missiles from Iran and its allies.
In 2015, Iran signed a deal with six major powers to limit its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain a weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the pact, saying it was insufficient to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Since then, Iran has boosted some nuclear activities and attempts to revive the deal have been fruitless.
Key points of Biden’s tour
The four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Biden’s first trip to the Middle East since taking office, started off with a meeting with Israeli leaders to expand security ties with the nation and discuss countering efforts by Iran to destabilize the region, CNN explains.
Next, he visited Saudi Arabia to accomplish some strategic interests. First, Biden has defended the encounter with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, as acting partly at Israel’s request and stressed the importance of Israel becoming “totally integrated” in the region.
Although Saudi Arabia is holding back from going much further with Israel, some changes can be seen between Israel and Saudi Arabia. There has been an expansion of Israeli overflights in its airspace, direct flights for Muslim pilgrims from Israel, and guarantee shipping passage for Israeli vessels when two islands in the Red Sea are transferred over from Egypt.
Secondly, another main goal of visiting Saudi Arabia has been the rising fuel prices partly due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. A reset of relations with the Saudis is one way to lower high gas prices in the US if more oil can be pumped into the country, but the trip did not produce any immediate announcements on increased oil production, CNN informs.
Additionally, Biden has wanted to present himself as being committed to actively engaging in the Middle East and not allowing Russia or China to expand their geopolitical influence.
“The United States is invested in building a positive future in the region in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere,” Biden said at the meeting with the GCC+3. “Let me state clearly that the United States is going to remain an active and engaged partner in the Middle East,” he added.
Some highly criticized moves
As CNN describes, the reset and Biden’s image of fist bumping with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been highly criticized. MBS has been accused by the US of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s murder directly with the Crown Prince and indicated he believes MBS was responsible for it, as he emphasized the US commitment to human rights.
Other analysts like Ali Abunimah, director of Electronic Intifada have told Al Jazeera that the president’s tour goal has been to shore up a crumbling and blood-soaked US hegemonic order and reinforce the regional anti-Palestinian and anti-Iran alliance.
He also described this US-led alliance with Israel at its core as one hosting any anti-Palestinian Arab dictatorships in the pockets of Tel Aviv and Washington.
Others have perceived Biden’s trip as a deep commitment to Palestinian subjugation and the efforts to help Israel cover up the murder of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in May.