President Biden on Saturday told a summit of Arab leaders that the United States "is invested in building a positive future of the region, in partnership with all of you." However, Reuters reported, Biden failed to secure commitments for increased oil production or for a regional security alliance — including Israel — to counter the threat of Iran.
"Saudi Arabia, Washington's most important Arab ally, poured cold water on U.S. hopes" following a dustup over human rights, Reuters reports. During a meeting on Friday, Biden confronted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman about the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which bin Salman likely approved. In response, the crown prince brought up the abuse of prisoners that took place at Abu Ghraib prison during the U.S. war in Iraq.
"The crown prince responded to President Biden's remarks on the Khashoggi affair quite clearly — that [Khashoggi's murder], while very unfortunate and abhorrent, is something that the kingdom took very seriously," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a press conference Saturday, adding that such "mistakes" happen "in any country."
The New York Times notes that, despite Biden's repeated references to a global battle between "democracy and autocracy," he is willing to maintain ties with the Gulf monarchies in order to prevent America's rivals from gaining greater influence in the region. Biden insisted that the U.S. will not "walk away" from the Middle East "and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran."