President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East produces hardly any tangible results. He wants to one-up China and Russia but has a problem because of his human rights agenda.
Few tangible successes can be identified from Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East. In Israel and the Palestinian territories there was hardly talk of anything concrete, and he left Saudi Arabia without a guarantee of greater oil production. The latter would have been an important election gift from Saudi leadership leading up to the U.S. midterm elections in the fall.
All Biden has to show for his trip is the civilian fly-over rights for Israel that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now guaranteeing. Like Donald Trump before him, Biden is having his greatest success in the rapprochement between the Arab countries and Israel. It is being driven by a shared concern about Iran.
Leave No Vacuum Behind
Biden clarified his goal for the Middle East trip with the frank comment that he did not want to leave behind a vacuum that China, Russia or Iran could fill. That has, however, already occurred to some extent, due in no small part to the withdrawal policies of his two predecessors. The fact that Vladimir Putin is visiting Tehran this week, that he could establish himself in Syria, and that China has expanded its economic ties with the Gulf states all demonstrate that the new geopolitical competition for the region is well underway.
At least Biden demonstrated that the American will not give up in this race. As a democratic president, however, he will continue to face the problem that the region’s autocrats expect realpolitik from him, not lectures about human rights.