Biden meets with Arab Gulf countries to counter Iran threat

US President, Joe Biden
US President, Joe BidenFile

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia): President Joe Biden was using a summit of Arab nations on Saturday to lay out his strategy for the Middle East as he closes the final leg of a four-day trip meant to bolster U.S. relationships in a region bracing for confrontation with Iran.

The president spent the morning meeting individually with the leaders of Iraq, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, some of whom he had never sat down with.

Biden invited Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who became president of the UAE two months ago, to visit the White House this year, saying he looked forward to another period of strong and growing cooperation between their countries under the sheik’s leadership.

The Gulf Cooperation Council summit, which is being held in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, is an opportunity for Biden to demonstrate his commitment to the region after spending most of his presidency focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing influence in Asia.

Hours before the conference began, the White House released satellite imagery that indicates Russian officials have twice recently visited Iran to see weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire for use in its war in Ukraine.

None of the countries represented at the summit have moved in lockstep with the U.S. to sanction Russia, a key foreign policy priority for the Biden administration. If anything, the UAE has emerged as a sort of financial haven for Russian billionaires and their multimillion-dollar yachts. Egypt remains open to Russian tourists.

Release satellite imagery that shows Russian officials visited Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 15 to look at the drones could help the administration better tie the war’s relevance to many Arab nations’ own concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, missile program and support for militants in the region.

A senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters before the summit, said Moscow’s efforts to acquire drones from Tehran show that Russia is effectively making a bet on Iran.

Biden’s attendance at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit followed his Friday meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto ruler and heir to the throne currently held by his father, King Salman. AP

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