In the coming days, the world will witness the development of a very interesting chess game in the Middle East between the presidents of the US and Russia – Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, who are going to make significant for both states trips to this region. According to the White House, the very demonstration of the American flag in the Middle East is important as a sign that “the United States is not going to hand over the region to Russia and China.” As for Russia, it has recently significantly strengthened its ties with Saudi Arabia and a number of other nations in the region, without stopping at the results it has achieved.
From July 13 to 16, Joe Biden, as part of the first Middle East tour of his presidency, will visit Israel, the West Bank of the Jordan River and Saudi Arabia, and meet with the heads of nine Arab countries on the Red Sea coast. At a White House briefing, Biden’s national security aide Sullivan said that the US president would travel to the Middle East to discuss assistance to the region in the area of energy security in light of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. The American president himself was more specific when he pointed to the openly expansionist goals of his visit to Saudi Arabia on July 10, all of which boil down to a confrontation with Russia and China in order to put the United States “in the best position.” As The New York Times noted on June 3, during his visit to Riyadh, Biden will seek to lower world oil prices in the face of the American government’s attempts to “isolate Russia on the world stage.” Biden himself noted that he wasn’t going to separately ask only Saudi Arabia to increase oil production to reduce world fuel prices, but would also call on all the countries of the Persian Gulf to do so.
Per statements in Washington, in order to implement American plans to confront Russia and China, the United States needs the help of Middle Eastern partners in various areas – from energy to weapons. And for the sake of this, Biden even preferred to forget that just recently he angrily denounced Riyadh for human rights violations and announced a boycott of Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman. But today these topics in Washington are clearly not considered important, as the White House has set itself a much more urgent task, that is, global confrontation with Russia.
Yet, even before Biden’s departure from the US, Fox News’ Stuart Varney stressed that the US president’s trip to Saudi Arabia with already stated anti-Russian goals would be a “big embarrassment” for him because Saudi Arabia would have to get OPEC+ (which includes Russia) approval to increase oil production. Varney said that it wasn’t Putin behind the undermining of US energy independence, but Biden himself, having come to power. In terms of persuading Arab partners to increase oil production, as well as to join anti-Russian sanctions, one must not forget that since the beginning of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, the United States has repeatedly tried to persuade the countries of the Middle East to join, but they have not done either the former or the latter.
Almost at the same time as Biden’s trip, Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Tehran on July 19, where he will take part in a trilateral summit with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who are the guarantors of the Astana process to promote the settlement of the Syrian conflict. The head of the Russian state is additionally expected to have both bilateral and trilateral contacts, and a summit meeting with Erdogan.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey, and Iran have met annually, according to a tradition that has developed since 2017, to discuss the situation in Syria, and the negotiating platform has constantly moved from one capital to another. The meeting in Tehran was supposed to take place in March 2020, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, in 2020, negotiations between the three leaders took place in a video format, and in 2021 they weren’t held at all. It is possible that this was due to the Iranians being engaged in other matters because they had elections for a new president in June 2021, followed by a change in government and administration. Yet, given Ankara’s planned new military operation in northern Syria, which could change the balance of power in the country, it was impossible to postpone the trilateral meeting.
Another reason for the need to convene the Tehran meeting now is the increased intensity of Israeli attacks on Syrian territory amid reports of an escalation in the Iranian presence in Syria. At the same time, the Israelis have openly begun accusing the Russian military of allegedly giving the Iranians too much freedom of action, although Damascus and Tehran believe that Russia could have resisted Israeli attacks more harshly. It is noteworthy that these actions by Israel take place against the backdrop of increased US activity in Syria.
In addition to discussing the very pressing problems and actions by the international community on Syria, active bilateral contacts will be held during the Tehran meeting. Many experts agree that the Tehran meeting will serve to strengthen Russia’s relations with Turkey and Iran to counter Western sanctions.
Taking into consideration the ardent desire recently shown by a number of countries around the world to join BRICS and the SCO (Iran will be admitted to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this year), the upcoming meeting in Tehran will also serve to form a new axis in international relations, one with the explicit participation of the so-called “Muslim vector.” As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier following talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Tehran will be able to play a significant role in the activities of the SCO as one of the main centers for the formation of a new world order.
Using the example of the BRICS and SCO countries in creating the basis for a new world order, today it is becoming obvious to an increasing number of countries that the US and the West it rules isn’t trying to help developing countries, but to restrain them, and this could lead to a clash between America and 6 billion people and half of the global economy.
In the same context, the obvious difference between the goals of the two trips to the Middle East by Biden and Putin is striking. While the American voyage pursues frankly aggressive goals to strengthen the hegemony of the West over the whole world and further limit the actions of Moscow and Beijing, then Putin’s trip to Tehran demonstrates only constructive intentions: resolving the situation in Syria and developing trade, economic and political cooperation within BRICS and the SCO, as well as between Russia, Turkey and Iran.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.