As the US turns away from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, China moves in
With friends like these . . .
It’s unlikely President Biden did much to repair our relationship with the Saudis with Friday’s trip. First, there was that farcical first bump with Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, to avoid the image of them shaking hands. COVID, the White House said, even though Biden ended up gripping his way through Israel.
So: Diss MBS and still end up with a dumb picture. Win!
It’s insult for injury toward the Saudis, who, like many Mideast allies, feel abandoned by the United States. From running out of Afghanistan to empowering Iran to build a nuclear weapon, Sleepy Joe has smashed to bits America’s credibility in this still vital part of the world.
Yes, the Saudis are not perfect allies. But we live in the real world and have to cultivate the relationships that are in our country’s best interest. Iran’s leaders are chanting “death to America.” Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait — we must keep them as a counterweight. We must also protect our most staunch ally, Israel. That’s what made the Abraham Accords so important, the Trump Administration strengthened the relationship of Israel and the Arab world.
Then Biden took office and said publicly he wanted nothing to do with it all. His not-so-excellent adventure only showcases to the world how weak America has become under his leadership. We all know the president will be forced in private to beg and grovel for Saudi oil, even though America has more than enough natural resources right here at home. Sadly, it seems Biden is more afraid of the progressive wing of his party and their so-called green agenda than enriching not just Saudi Arabia but the other Gulf States as well.
Then there is the more significant self-created problem in the Middle East no one wants to talk about. America faces a rising China that, due to the Obama-Biden years of failing to confront Beijing in a failed “pivot,” is now offering an alternative to the United States. Beijing sees a president who is clearly in decline — indeed, for them, another symbol of America’s overall decline — and are ready to pounce.
China is already the biggest buyer of Saudi oil and wants nothing more than to displace us in the region in every possible way. The Chinese military already has a naval base close by in Djibouti and want to start placing assets in the region to ensure oil flows are uninterrupted.
And what is Biden doing about this? A big, fat, nothing.
Sadly, Team Biden has no vision for the Middle East except on how fast to run away from it, as he has alluded to on many occasions. He has no strategy on how he can reboot relationships or how to stop the spread of Chinese money, influence, and critical military might. In fact, if you were sitting in leadership in Riyadh right now, thinking about what nation can further its own national interests and is ascending in global stature?
It certainly would not be the country that abandoned Afghanistan and keeps begging the mullahs in Iran to make a deal on nukes and begging us for more oil when they attack us on human rights, that’s for sure.
Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) serves as president and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. Kazianis has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues.