Speaking at a summit for the Gulf Cooperation Council — a union among Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — Biden told Middle Eastern leaders that despite the absence of American soldiers participating in warfare, the United States will remain involved in the region’s affairs.
“Let me state clearly that the United States is going to remain an active, engaged partner in the Middle East,” Biden remarked. “As the world grows more competitive and the challenges we face more complex, it is only becoming clearer to me … how closely interwoven America’s interests are with the successes of the Middle East. We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran.”
The United States spent $800 billion on fighting a war in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 to end the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, with over 4,500 Americans and 100,000 Iraqis losing their lives. Last year, the United States ended its invasion of Afghanistan, which lasted from 2001 to 2021 and cost $2.3 trillion.
“I am proud to be able to say that the era of land wars in the region — wars involving huge numbers of American forces — is not underway,” Biden said. “But we maintain both the capacity and the absolute determination to suppress the terrorist threat wherever we find it. We’ve demonstrated that this year — eliminating the Emir of ISIS on a daring operation, and just this week, taking out another key leader of ISIS.”
Biden also touted the need to “ensure adequate supplies” of energy “to meet global needs.” Though he did not mention oil, many have speculated that output of the key commodity was a primary factor in Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia. “Energy producers have already increased production,” Biden added.
Gas prices reached $5.00 per gallon in early June before falling to a national average price of $4.55 per gallon as of Saturday, according to AAA. Biden generally favors policies meant to promote green energy, such as emphasizing public transportation and electric vehicles, and also refused to greenlight the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline last year.
The Biden administration has also returned the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — a nuclear deal with Iran originally approved by President Barack Obama in 2015 — after President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement. Iran is currently enriching uranium up to 60% — past the JCPOA’s cap of 3.67% and increasingly close to the 90% grade required for nuclear weapons.
“And as we continue to work closely with many of you to counter the threats posed … to the region by Iran, we’re also pursuing diplomacy to return constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” Biden said. “But no matter what, the United States is committed to ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon.”
Ahead of Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, news broke of the Department of Justice launching an investigation into the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) for purported anticompetitive practices — a move that drew concern given the market entrance of LIV Golf, a company backed by Saudi investors. Some lawmakers saw the move as an attempt from Biden — who has called the Islamic nation a “pariah” state — to curry favor among Saudi leadership.