With empty hands, by Kirill Benediktov for RTinRussian. 18.07.2022.
Much was expected from the visit of the aged US President Joe Biden to the Middle East. And not only in the corridors of the White House and the State Department, where this visit was being prepared: in connection with this trip, certain plans were made both in Jerusalem, and in Riyadh, and in Abu Dhabi. It’s just that, as usual, different players hoped for different things: in Israel, they hoped that the visit of the “leader of the free world” to the eastern capitals would lead to further rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and, accordingly, strengthen the security of the Jewish state, the monarchies of the Persian Gulf cherished dreams of lucrative purchase contracts American weapons on preferential terms, but in Washington this trip was considered as the last and radical means to cope with rising gas prices in America itself.
Everyone was disappointed.
“Biden at the Arab summit failed to achieve neither security nor oil commitments,” Reuters candidly admits . Instead of concrete steps that would convince US allies in the Middle East that America still considers them as priority partners, Biden got off with meaningless words. “The United States is investing in building a positive future for the region in partnership with all of you, and the United States is not going anywhere,” he said in Jeddah. However, the summit communiqué is extremely vague, and Saudi Arabia, Washington's most important Arab ally, has not supported US attempts to lay the foundations for a regional security alliance: a kind of Middle East NATO to fight Iran and its Shia-supporting Axis powers.
At first glance, this is strange, because the kingdom has a vested interest in preventing Iran from becoming a regional superpower and pushing the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf into the background. But the fact is that the model of "Middle East NATO" in the view of Washington must necessarily include Israel - the best friend of the United States in the region. And to harness Jerusalem and Riyadh in one cart is very, very difficult. Recall how much effort Donald Trump spent on concluding the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the UAE, and he had a very powerful Middle East team, which was personally supervised by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Biden's team of diplomats is no match for Trump's, and Sleepy Joe himself was not eager to establish friendly relations with Saudi kings and princes, especially with the heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman (in the States, he is usually called simply MBS). The reason is in the story of the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote a column for The Washington Post and was a consistent critic of Prince bin Salman. In 2018, Saudi intelligence agents captured Khashoggi at the premises of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, tortured him and eventually dismembered him with a bone saw. According to Turkish intelligence, which is trusted in the US, this was done on the personal orders of the heir to the throne. In 2018, Saudi intelligence agents captured Khashoggi at the premises of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, tortured him and eventually dismembered him with a bone saw. According to Turkish intelligence, which is trusted in the US, this was done on the personal orders of the heir to the throne. In 2018, Saudi intelligence agents captured Khashoggi at the premises of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul, tortured him and eventually dismembered him with a bone saw. According to Turkish intelligence, which is trusted in the US, this was done on the personal orders of the heir to the throne.
When Biden launched his 2019 presidential campaign, he vowed to make Saudi Arabia a rogue state and repeatedly claimed that Mohammed bin Salman was personally responsible for Khashoggi's assassination. In the first year of his presidency, he stubbornly avoided direct negotiations with the prince, which, of course, did not contribute to the strengthening of American influence in the kingdom either. But when gasoline at US gas stations soared to $ 5 per gallon, the Americans began to sadly joke: “I need a second job to be able to drive my car to the first one,” Biden had to forget about his intention to punish the Saudi prince and fly to bow to him.
The flurry of criticism that fell upon the already extremely unpopular president in connection with this visit (not only the Republicans scolded him, but also his fellow Democrats) forced Biden to justify himself very clumsily.
“This is not what it seems,” the owner of the White House tried to convince journalists, insisting that he was flying to Jeddah not to meet with Prince Mohammed, but to communicate with the leaders of nine Arab states - America's allies. At the same time, everyone was well aware that the main purpose of Biden's visit was to convince the ruling family of the al-Sauds to increase oil production in order to somehow cope with "Putin's inflation" - if anyone has forgotten, this is already the official term with which American propaganda is trying to disguise the monstrous failures in economic policy made by the White House administration.
But even with this, Biden did not succeed.
He met with Prince bin Salman and bumped fists with him - a common practice in the post-pandemic world - but this caused even more outrage from human rights advocates than a simple handshake. Photos of the smiling president and prince went around all the world's media. “Biden, who defends Ukraine, human rights and democracy from Russia, at the same time went to meet with the ruthless and repressive Saudi leader, which he seemed to like,” said Aaron David Miller, a seasoned diplomat who served as adviser to the six ( !) US Secretaries of State at the Arab-Israeli talks. “He confirmed the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman and traded his status as president for a number of achievements, mostly in the interests of Saudi Arabia.”
Biden later exacerbated his clumsiness by telling reporters that he told the Saudi prince everything he thought about him and the "outrageous" killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the very beginning of the meeting. “I was direct when I talked about it. I have made my point crystal clear!” the American president assured reporters. But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir immediately denied Biden's speech: he did not hear the White House owner tell bin Salman that he was responsible for the murder of Khashoggi. All that happened was a short and "less contentious" exchange of views on human rights issues. And, apparently, the American leader failed to convince the Saudi prince that he was right.
“America's attempt to impose its values on other countries by force could backfire,” according to al-Jubeir, the prince replied to Biden. “It didn't work when the US tried to impose values on Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, it backfired. Countries have different values and these values should be respected!”
Translated from the Eastern diplomatic language into Russian: do not tell us how to live and what to do. Otherwise, the consequences can be extremely unpleasant (for the US, of course).
It's not surprising that the prince had the courage to talk like that to "the most powerful man in the West." It is surprising that, having come to beg the al-Saud royal family to save America from sky-high fuel prices, which are about to turn into a crushing defeat for the Democrats in the midterm congressional elections, Biden generally raised the topic of the assassination of Khashoggi and bin Salman's personal responsibility for it. Even if it happened not during a meeting with the prince, but at a briefing with journalists.
But the fact that the results of Biden's visit to the Middle East turned out to be more than modest is not at all surprising.
"All that the American president and his foreign policy team have managed to achieve is a vague agreement that Saudi Arabia is committed to "maintaining the balance of the world oil market for sustainable economic growth."
On Saturday, bin Salman said the kingdom would increase its production capacity to 13 million barrels a day. The American media were quick to pass off this statement as a great White House victory, but the devil, as you know, is in the details: in fact, the prince said that Saudi Arabia will increase its production capacity to 13 million barrels per day by 2027 from a nominal capacity of 12 million barrels for the time being, after which "the kingdom will no longer have the ability to increase production."
That is, we are talking about increasing the possibility of oil production by 1 million barrels per day, stretched over a period of five years. At the same time, now, having the ability to produce 12 million barrels nominally, Riyadh produces about 10 million barrels under an agreement with other members of the same OPEC+ group that determines global oil prices. Suppose the kingdom will produce in five years not 10, but 11 million barrels - this will not save either American car owners or Democrats in the elections this November.
By the way, while Biden was negotiating in Jeddah, Washington was preparing for a trade war with the very OPEC, on which the immediate future of the United States now directly depends. The Washington Times reported that the US Congress has again begun considering the NOPEC (No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act) anti-cartel bill, which allows the federal government to bring antitrust claims against OPEC members and other oil exporters involved in cartel agreements in the oil market in the courts.
It is not certain that lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be able to pass this bill (it has been traveling on various congressional committees for a couple of decades), but the very desire to threaten sanctions against those on whom the immediate future of the United States directly depends vividly characterizes an American foreign policy that is acquiring everything. more symptoms of schizophrenia.
Biden came to Saudi Arabia hoping to secure an oil deal to help drive down gasoline prices, which are pushing inflation past a 40-year high and threatening his ratings . “He is leaving the region empty-handed but hopes that the OPEC+ group, which includes Saudi Arabia, Russia and other producers, will increase production at the August 3 meeting.”
Notice I didn't say "Russia", it was Reuters.
So, as a result of the most intense and scandalous foreign visit during his presidency, Biden: a) tarnished his reputation as a defender of democracy and human rights; b) rehabilitated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with amazing friendliness; c) disappointed Israel and the countries of the Persian Gulf with the absence of a coherent strategy for maintaining security in the region; d) achieved nothing but vague promises to increase Riyadh's oil production in some indefinite future; e) once again demonstrated the dependence of the United States on OPEC +, and therefore, to a certain extent, on Russia.
Great diplomat, great.