After a rocky start to U.S.-Saudi relations, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will embark on a trip to the Middle East with a planned stop in Saudi Arabia. The visit to Riyadh is likely to be particularly consequential, as Biden’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will signal that Washington is ready to work with the crown prince as the heir apparent of an indispensable Middle East partner. Urgent policy issues are also at stake. Sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine have driven gas prices to near-record highs. Biden is no doubt hoping to get Saudi Arabia to increase oil production and lower the cost to Americans at the pump before the November midterm elections. Additionally, with nuclear negotiations in Vienna at a seeming stalemate, Washington must look to alternative strategies to deal with Iran that will require close coordination with regional partners, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been seeking a renewed U.S. commitment to their security as they face numerous threats, mainly from Iran and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Will this visit pave the way for an updated security guarantee from the United States and new levels of Saudi cooperation on energy pricing? How much common ground do the two countries share regarding perceived threats from Russia and Iran? Are there any limits to a positive recalibration of ties, and what are the potential pitfalls both sides must overcome? Will this reengagement open the door for Saudi Arabia to normalize ties with Israel?