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Biden's Middle East goal likely to be missed

Time:2022-07-13 14:10:00 Source: CHINA DAILY China Youth International

  Actions taken by Washington are deemed cause of soaring gas prices

  US President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, July 8, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

  US President Joe Biden's first visit to the Middle East since taking office could have a broad but not deep scope, and dramatic outcomes are not likely, even regarding oil output from Saudi Arabia, some US experts said.

  Biden will travel to Israel on Wednesday and Saudi Arabia on Friday on a journey that the White House said was aimed at expanding regional economic and security cooperation. He will become the first US president to fly from Israel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

  The visit was variously described as a delicate and diplomatically sensitive visit by US media, which speculated about issues ranging from the likely outcomes to even the logistics arrangement, such as whether Biden should be photographed while meeting, or even shaking hands with, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

  Biden will be reengaging with a country that he, while a presidential candidate, branded as a "pariah "over the killing of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

  According to Chas W. Freeman Jr, former US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Biden's visit is a "belated "recognition that the US has diminished leverage in the Middle East.

  The visit to Saudi Arabia is justified by the high price of gasoline at the pump and the assumption that additional production from Saudi Arabia might lower it, according to Freeman, who was the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992.

  However, Freeman told China Daily on Monday that the price of gasoline is the result of US-sponsored sanctions against Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The latter two countries could add significantly to the global oil supply and thereby lower prices if they were not under US unilateral sanctions, he added.

  "Saudi Arabia cannot unilaterally direct OPEC or lower prices set by global supply and demand. And it won't try," he said.

  Freeman also said the visit to Israel is a "genuflection to Zionism" that will pay off in terms of campaign contributions, but accomplish nothing on the long-standing question of how Israel and the Palestinians can find a basis for mutually satisfactory coexistence.

  He also said the planned meeting with the Saudi crown prince is proof that interests transcend values in US foreign policy.

  "Cheap political shots (on the campaign trail) like proposing to make a major economic power a 'pariah' can turn out to be politically very expensive both in foreign policy and domestic terms," he said.

  Oil output

  Jon Alterman, senior vice-president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the Biden administration has come to realize that doing a lot of things in the Middle East and around the world is "much easier if the Saudis are trying to help you and much harder if they aren't".

  "This meeting is an effort to go broad but not deep," Alterman said at a briefing last week in Washington.

  Among many things, the trip is about energy, broadly defined, the environment, energy security, and the security of Israel, and not just about Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, according to Alterman.

  "I don't expect there are going to be any huge reveals that come out of this trip," he said. "I don't think the Saudis are going to announce they're going to produce as much oil as quickly as they can to bring prices down."

  For months, Biden has urged Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to raise oil output, but one should not expect any dramatic announcements on oil policy coming out of this trip, said Ben Cahill, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Energy Security and Climate Change Program.

  "It's important to note that right now Saudi Arabia's oil output is near record levels," Cahill said, adding that summer is the peak demand period in Saudi Arabia, making it harder to free up volume for export.

  Stanley Renshon, a political analyst at City University of New York, said he expected "very modest additions" in oil pumping.

  "What will really be pumped up is Biden's accomplishments there, however meager they are," Renshon said in an email.

  "There are real outcomes and there are PR memes and narratives," he said.

  "I expect the trip to be heavy on the second and light on the first. Why? Biden needs the Saudis right now more than they need him," the analyst added.


Original Title:Biden's Middle East goal likely to be missed
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