President Joe Biden on Saturday attempted to reassert US leadership in the Middle East as he met with key leaders in the region, promising his administration would stay engaged amid fears China and Russia would swiftly fill a leadership vacuum.
The President said American leadership in the Middle East would focus on using diplomacy to strengthen alliances and build coalitions, and that the US’ objectives would remain “focused, realistic and achievable.”
His speech comes nearly one year after the US withdrew all military troops from Afghanistan and ended 20 years of war in the country. He noted his visit to the Middle East was the first time since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 that a US President visited the region without American troops being engaged in combat in the region, though US forces continue to conduct operations in Syria.
Biden’s foreign policy since taking office has largely focused on countering China’s growing geopolitical influence and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has raised questions about the extent of the President’s commitment to engagement in the Middle East. But on Saturday at a summit in Jeddah, the President sought to assure other Middle Eastern leaders – and the rest of the world – that the US still sees the region as crucial to its foreign policy goals.
“Let me state clearly that the United States is going to remain an active and engaged partner in the Middle East,” Biden said at a summit attended by key leaders on the last day of his Middle East swing.