President Biden on Saturday vowed that the US would not “walk away” from the Middle East during a summit attended by regional leaders in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The summit was attended by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan, known as the GCC+3. Biden’s message to the Gulf monarchs and other attendees was to join the US in upholding the so-called “rules-based order” in the face of growing Russian and Chinese influence.
“Supporting a rules-based order doesn’t mean we always have to agree on every issue, but it does mean we align around core principles that allow us to work together on the most pressing global challenges,” Biden said.
The president told the Arab leaders that he wouldn’t leave a “vacuum” in the region. “We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran,” he said.
One of the main purposes of Biden’s trip to the region was to deepen Israeli-Arab cooperation. Saudi Arabia agreed to open its airspace to Israeli flights but denied the idea that it was a step toward normalization.
Israel wants to build a military alliance with the US’s Arab allies in the region, and Biden was expected to push for more Arab cooperation on this front at the GCC+3 summit. But since many Arab nations don’t want to publicize their military cooperation with Israel, it’s not clear if much progress was made.
During his trip to the Middle East, President Biden said the Saudis agreed to continue the ceasefire in Yemen, where the US has supported the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal blockade and bombing campaign since 2015. While there is still fighting on the ground, the truce has held relatively well, and no coalition airstrikes have been reported since the end of March.
Biden falsely claimed at the summit that there are currently no US troops engaged in combat in the Middle East. “For the first time since 9/11, an American President is visiting this region without American troops being engaged in combat — in a combat mission in the region,” he said.
But Biden told Congress in June that US troops “equipped for combat” are deployed in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. In Syria, the US has recently stepped up raids and drone strikes against ISIS.