The President started his trip by meeting with Israeli leaders to expand security ties with the nation and discuss countering efforts by Iran to destabilize the region. He next went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he attempted to reassure regional leaders – and the rest of the world – that his administration remains committed to actively engaging in the Middle East and not allowing Russia or China to expand their geopolitical influence.
On Friday, he sought a reset of relations with the Saudis as he looked for ways to lower high gas prices in the US, which have contributed to a significant drop in Biden’s approval ratings.
That reset began with a widely criticized fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, whom the US has accused of sanctioning journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Biden said he raised Khashoggi’s murder directly with the Crown Prince and indicated he believes MBS was responsible for it, as he emphasized the US commitment to human rights.
Here are five takeaways from the trip:
Biden’s fist bump with MBS signals a reset in US-Saudi relationship and draws fierce criticism
Ahead of his departure to the Middle East, administration officials had told CNN they were aiming for a full reset of the US-Saudi relationship after years of strain following Khashoggi’s murder.
A fist bump in front of the cameras between Biden and the Crown Prince neatly symbolized that moment.
The meetings in Jeddah largely seemed to go along with the planned reset of the US relationship with the kingdom, and Biden announced several new areas of cooperation aimed at reshaping US-Saudi relations. But the images of Biden’s seemingly chummy interactions with the Crown Prince drew the most attention.