Middle East trip a rude awakening for US

It is not over-stretching it to describe US President Joe Biden's Middle East trip, which ended on Saturday, as a catalogue of embarrassments.

In Israel, it was clear that Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid were not reading from the same page on how to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Similarly, he was not on the same wavelength in his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

And rather than the longed for commitment to increase oil production, Biden received a rebuke from Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for trying to "impose his own values" on Saudi Arabia.

Neither of the two main goals of Biden's visit, namely forming a Middle East version of the air defense alliance and persuading Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, were achieved.

The Middle East air defense alliance envisaged by the US includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq, and is aimed at containing Iran. However, there are obvious differences between the parties and despite the upbeat talk afterward, Biden failed to make any headway in advancing it.

Biden also failed with his other main objective, namely to persuade Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production, since Saudi Arabia is not willing to "choose sides" in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

On many issues in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is supported by Russia, and Russia's arms sales to Saudi Arabia have increased in the past few years.

By increasing its oil production, Saudi Arabia would in effect be participating in the US sanctions against Russia, which would damage the relationship between the two countries, thereby pushing Russia to the side of Iran, and worsening the security environment around Saudi Arabia.

This also highlighted how empty-headed was any notion that by reasserting the US' presence in the region, the supposed vacuum it had created would be refilled, and China and Russia would somehow be squeezed out of the Middle East despite the cooperation they have established with countries in the region.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made it clear that Saudi Arabia views China as another important partner.

Countries in the Middle East have experienced the misery that comes in the wake of the US taking an interest in their affairs. They are wary of falling into that trap again, and they are unwilling to put all their eggs in the US basket.

Thus Biden's hopes for the trip were bound to be dashed as his objectives were unrealistic. He misread the regional situation and overestimated US influence.

Biden's embarrassment in the Middle East shows that while Washington is still stuck in the past, other countries are keen to accelerate the transition from the power structure it has imposed on the world.