, 2022-07-16 13:25:00,
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Before stepping foot in Saudi Arabia, President Joe Biden knew there would be trouble.
Biden was risking criticism by visiting a country he had vowed to make a “pariah” for human rights abuses, and there was no guarantee the visit would immediately yield higher oil production to offset rising gas prices.
He decided to face the blowback anyway, hoping to use the visit to repair strained ties and make clear to wary Arab leaders that the United States remains committed to their security and the region’s stability.
His visit to Saudi Arabia was occasionally uncomfortable but, in Biden’s view, ultimately necessary. Although he’s been focused on confronting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and limiting China’s expanding influence in Asia, those goals become far more difficult without the partnerships that he was tending to here.
“It is only becoming clearer to me how closely interwoven America’s interests are with the successes of the Middle East,” the president said Saturday at a summit in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
It was a belated recognition of geopolitical reality that, for nearly a century, has kept the United States deeply invested in the energy-rich region, most recently with ruinous wars that stretched over two decades. Biden tried to turn the page on those conflicts while insisting that the U.S. would remain engaged.
“We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” Biden said. “We will seek to build on this moment with active, principled, American leadership.”
The summit, where Biden announced $1 billion in U.S. funding to alleviate hunger in the region, was the final destination on Biden’s four-day trip, which included stops in Israel and the West Bank.
His travels were shadowed by a steady stream of grim news from Washington, where Democratic plans to address climate change floundered on Capitol Hill and there was fresh evidence that inflation had reached historic levels.
And at every step along the way, Biden confronted a far different region than existed when he served as vice president.
President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal reached under President Barack Obama, and Tehran is believed to be closer than ever to building a nuclear weapon.
The threat, which Biden has struggled to address through renewed negotiations, has deepened coordination between Israel and its Arab neighbors, who have found common cause in confronting Iran.
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