President Biden — who once pledged on the campaign trail to make Saudi Arabia an outcast — stood shoulder to shoulder Saturday with that country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, along with leaders from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan for what the White House dubbed a “family photo.”
Biden, his hands clasped in front of him as he stood on a purple carpet with top officials from the Gulf Cooperation Council + Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, has been in the Middle East all week for a controversial, whirlwind session of top level talks.
The photo also included Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa; Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi; Jordan’s King Abdullah II; Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; Kuwait’s Crown Prince Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah; Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi; United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Asaad bin Tariq al-Said, a special representative for the Sultan of Oman.
“The United States is clear-eyed about the challenges in the Middle East and about where we have the greatest capacity to help drive positive outcomes,” Biden said Saturday — while also prodding his counterparts on human rights.
“The future will be won by the countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women can exercise equal rights and contribute to building stronger economies, resilient societies, and more modern and capable militaries; where citizens can question and criticize their leaders without fear of reprisal,” he said.
Biden has been in the Middle East all week looking to shore up some of the United States’ traditional alliances there. After first visiting Israel, the president arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday and met with the country’s Crown Prince, offering a fist bump which sparked controversy.
On the campaign trail the president had promised to make the country a “pariah” over the prince’s role in killing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but concerns over sky high oil prices have forced his administration to reconsider that stance.
Before the photo Biden sat for bilateral talks with the leaders of Iraq, Egypt and the UAE. He also participated in a reception and welcome lunch for the assembled Middle East potentates.
The president is expected to depart Saudi Arabia Saturday afternoon and return to the White House in the late evening.