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What the papers said: Day one of Biden’s Middle East trip

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A round up of some of the opinion and views published by regional and international media on US President Biden’s trip to the Middle East.

LOCAL PAPERS:

Abu Dhabi’s The National: Joe Biden’s trip to Jerusalem met with ambivalence and optimism

The National noted that while there is cautious optimism that Biden will help to forge stronger ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, there is a feeling that dysfunction within Israeli politics will make any significant progress or achievement difficult.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab News: Biden should heed Arab concerns over the danger from Iran

Arab News ran an opinion piece authored by Dr. Ali Awah, who served as ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan (2001-09) and Lebanon (2009-16), in which he argues that “Biden’s aim of reviving the nuclear deal without effective curbs on Iran’s ballistic missile capability and malign activities in the region is highly misplaced. He is, though, right in appreciating the promising “new vibe” in the op-ed he authored for the Washington Post, published on 9 July.

He goes on to say that the conclusion of a comprehensive strategic defence agreement would be the right step to ensure there is zero scope for Iran to endanger the peace and progress of its Arab neighbours.

Riyadh-based Al-Arabiya: Are Democrats rivals of Saudi Arabia?

Al-Arabiya ran an opinion piece by Abdulrahman al-Rashed, chairman of Al Arabiya’s Editorial Board, in which he outlined the often-strained relations between the US’ Democratic leaders and Saudi Arabia and argued that what truly matters is the US President’s stances, not that of the party he is a member of. Ties built on strong foundations go a longer way than those built on personal relations, contrary to what some believe, he said.

“I imagine Biden, who still has a bit over two years – which is not a short period – in the White House, will deal with US-Saudi ties with realism and positivity, despite the currents pushing him in an opposite, anti-Saudi direction,” notes al-Rashed.

Israel’s Haaretz:

The Tel Aviv-headquartered newspaper noted that President Biden’s speech on the first day of his visit to Israel and the West Bank only mentioned ‘peace’ once, but it seems nearly all those present would rather avoid it, the report said.

GLOBAL PAPERS:

The Telegraph: Biden is the author of his own Middle East nightmare

The British newspaper’s defence editor Con Coughlin argues that: “Nothing better illustrates the Biden administration’s confused thinking on the Middle East than the White House’s insistence that it will persist with its efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran.’

Coughlin goes on to say that the fundamental problem with this approach is that it places Washington very much at odds with long-standing allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, which view the Iranian regime as a threat to their very existence.

The FT: ‘Mission impossible’: the problem with Biden’s plan to tame oil prices

The Financial Times ran an opinion piece in which casts doubt over Biden’s hopes of convincing Saudi Arabia to pump more oil while crimping Russia’s energy revenues. Citing several oil executives and market analysts, it says consensus is that both parts of the plan are fraught with difficulty and could even backfire by goading Russia into cutting its energy exports and pushing up prices.

CNBC: Biden heads to Saudi Arabia for what could be an ‘embarrassing’ climbdown — or a welcome reset

CNBC observes how Biden has downplayed what many analysts say is his administration’s desperate need to see the Saudis and OPEC members pump more oil, in order to ease record-high gas prices for Americans.

It also highlights how Biden says human rights will still be high on his agenda, but many observers say that’s unlikely, given the other security and energy-related interests in focus.

The outlet notes how the fact that Biden will be flying from Israel directly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is one small hint of progress on the goal of achieving an Israeli-Arab normalisation.

Furthermore, while critics have said the meeting will put the ball entirely in the Saudis’ court, there are some things the kingdom very much wants from the US – primarily, an ironclad guarantee of security.

The Times: Biden’s first presidential visit to the region is likely to yield little of substance

The London-based newspaper ran an opinion piece which notes that Biden’s Middle East trip has two key objectives: to reassure Israel that attempts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran will not be at Israel’s expense; and to advance the current frosty US relationship with Saudi Arabia. Neither will be easy it argues.

“Saudi Arabia is the real focus of the Biden visit. He will fly there direct from Israel, and will face an uphill battle to repair relations with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But MBS, as the prince is known, is in no mood to rapidly pump more oil to ease the West’s energy crisis in the wake of the sanctions against Russia.”

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