By Yashwan Raj
Washington, July 12 (IANS): Food security will be the focus of the first-ever summit of a new West Asia-focused Quad comprising India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates to be held virtually during President Joe Biden’s visit to the region this week, starting with Israel.
Biden’s next stop will be Saudi Arabia, which will capture all the hype and attention from his visit to West Asia; in particular his meeting with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince accused by the United States of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who lived in the United States and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post.
The new Quad is called I2U2 (India and Israel are the two Is and the United States and the United Arab Emirates are the two Wes), and it was launched in October 2021. Its defined portfolio is to expand cooperation economic and political in West Asia and Asia.
Biden will participate in a virtual four-way meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates President Mohammed bin Zayed during his four-day visit to Israel starting Wednesday.
The West Asia Quad is the third group of four countries with the United States as a member launched in recent years. The others are the Quad, which the United States forms with India, Australia and Japan, and the Quad, which was born out of cooperation between these countries following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; and that is done with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Biden “will host a virtual four-way summit with the leaders of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and India with a focus on food security,” said Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, briefing the White House reporters from the next visit on Monday.
Sullivan, however, had no questions about the Quad.
His boss, Biden, is already facing criticism for his upcoming meeting with bin Salman, including from members of his own Democratic party. The meeting, they say, marks a major political turning point for him and other critics of Saudi Arabia, a country he, as a White House candidate, had vowed to make a ‘pariah’. worldwide for its appalling human rights record.
Biden pushed back on an op-ed in The Washington Post on Saturday. “From the outset, my goal was to redirect – but not to sever – relations with a country that has been a strategic partner for 80 years,” he wrote in the signed article. “Today, Saudi Arabia helped restore unity among the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, fully supported the truce in Yemen and is now working with my experts to help stabilize oil markets with further other OPEC producers.”
However, Saudi Arabia’s efforts to stabilize oil prices may have been the main reason for Biden to rethink his policy. Rising oil prices are hurting him at home and, with the highest inflation in 40 years, could cripple Democrats in upcoming midterm polls in November.
Democrats now control the White House and both houses of Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Midterms have always been mean to the ruling party and the Democrats should lose Congress, at least the House of Representatives.
But they hope to mobilize their troops and resources on the issue of abortion, which was a constitutional right until the Supreme Court recently banned it, and on gun law reforms. But those are two issues very low on voters’ lists, which a new CNN poll finds inflation and gas prices the most important.