BERING STRAIT + TROPIC OF CANCER Report: Meetings between leaders of important nations are usually worthwhile even if they yield no immediate results. But there are exceptions. One was Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich meeting with Hitler. Another: President Biden’s sit-down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week, The Washington Post reports.
“Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud…reiterated that any increased oil production won’t be a Saudi decision but one by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus, which includes Russia. That’s a not-so-subtle way of saying Saudi will maintain its warming relations with Vladimir Putin regardless of what the U.S. thinks.” And this:
The Saudi foreign minister poured cold water over any imminent normalization with Israel, saying this was not a precursor to further steps. He said Riyadh was not part of any discussions on a Gulf-Israeli defense alliance to counter Iran.
Without securing an immediate pledge by one of U.S. key partners in the Middle East Arab world and a heavyweight in OPEC -to boost oil output or garner public support for US efforts for a regional security axis that would include Israel, Biden’s visit to Jeddah that was meant to reinforce strategic ties with Riyadh that have weathered 80 years, “both the issues ended up on the hot plate at the same time”, a regional observer says.
To quote WP, Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit was worse than an embarrassment. “The president’s 24 hours in Jeddah were dominated by photos of his fist bump with MBS. Things went downhill from there.”
“The two video clips above suggest so…and that’s not good,” the observer adds.
EXCERPT OF the 2nd VIDEO CLIP: “There are some things we need from Saudi Arabia. Number one, they’ve got to do their part to stabilize the energy markets. They have refused to do so to this point and I’m looking for some results out of this meeting on human rights. It doesn’t matter if it’s disgusting…the meeting. What matters again are the results and you know that…Remember that Saudi Arabia probably would not exist as a country without it’s defense relationship with the United States. We have done arguably more for Saudi Arabia and it’s neighbor, the United Arab Emirates…to help them defend themselves than we have done for Ukraine…and we’ve done a lot for Ukraine. And I think there is a time when we we need to say luck if you’re not willing to…to help us kind of oil; gas prices…”
“The two sides did not really turn the page…the visit was a gamble by Biden…and pain versus gain gambit for both the sides,” the observer says.
On Sunday, Biden returned to the White House after the four-day trip to Israel and with little in hand from Saudi Arabia amid reports that taking a cruise could cost less than filling your gas tank!
Pressed by reporters on the oil supply issue, Biden said, “I’m doing all I can to increase the supply,” adding that increases would be seen in weeks. “We’ll see more when we see gas stations start to lower their price consistent with what they’re paying for oil,” he added.
Biden’s list also included “a historic deal to transform a flashpoint at the heart of the Middle East wars into an area of peace” with Saudis agreeing concessions assuaging Israeli security concerns over the strategic Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir.
Early readouts suggest Biden’s vision of future US-Middle East engagement was just what the Saudis wanted to hear, according to CNN.
Immediately after Biden’s Middle East visit and emergence of a new US-led regional security architecture, Iran signaled “existential deterrence” to deter it without violating NPT.
“A credible posture (however) will need exiting NPT,” an Islamabad-based regional security analyst said.
With input from Irshad Salim, Karachi