Biden defends trip to Saudi Arabia
President Biden defended his controversial upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, which is a part of a wider trip to the Middle East, in an op-ed published on Saturday, asserting that “we have to engage directly” with Saudi Arabia and other countries in order to ensure that the U.S. is “strong and secure.”
“As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure. We have to counter Russia’s aggression, put ourselves in the best possible position to outcompete China, and work for greater stability in a consequential region of the world,” he said in his op-ed, which was published in The Washington Post.
“To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes. Saudi Arabia is one of them, and when I meet with Saudi leaders on Friday, my aim will be to strengthen a strategic partnership going forward that’s based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also holding true to fundamental American values,” he continued.
The president argued that the landscape in the Middle East had improved since he took office, claiming he had inherited from former President Trump a less stable region. He rebuked Trump for leaving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, under which the U.S. and several other world powers agreed to provided sanctions relief to the Middle Eastern country if it curbed its nuclear program, among other moves.
“From the start, my aim was to reorient — but not rupture — relations with a country that’s been a strategic partner for 80 years. Today, Saudi Arabia has helped to restore unity among the six countries of Gulf Cooperation Council, has fully supported the truce in Yemen and is now working with my experts to help stabilize oil markets with other OPEC producers,” Biden wrote.
Biden’s remarks come ahead of a planned trip to the Middle East that will begin next Wednesday and see him make stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.
Some have objected to the president traveling to Saudi Arabia given US. intelligence’s conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as other human rights concerns. Biden’s trip, and his planned meeting with the crown prince, mark a stark reversal from his promise while campaigning for president that he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over Khashoggi’s killing.
“I know that there are many who disagree with my decision to travel to Saudi Arabia,” Biden said in acknowledgement of the concerns. “My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank.”