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Emma Ashford

Biden’s Reversal on Gulf States Is the Wrong Kind of Realpolitik

In a futile attempt to lower gas prices, the president risks entangling the US further in a region it should be trying to exit. Reviving the Iran nuclear deal would be smarter.



Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

After several months of will-he-won’t-he speculation, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East next month will include a stop in Saudi Arabia. There, he will meet with Mohammed bin Salman, ending the crown prince’s diplomatic isolation over his involvement in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The decision is a staggering about-face from Biden, who during his presidential campaign vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state. 

This isn’t the only apparent change in the Biden administration’s approach toward the Gulf. There are widespread reports that it is on the verge of signing a substantive new security pact with the United Arab Emirates. The deal is rumored to include regional economic and security cooperation, as well as the potential for a concrete U.S. security guarantee to Abu Dhabi.