US President Biden to discuss regional missile, defense capabilities in Saudi Arabia

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US President Joe Biden will discuss regional missile and defense capabilities on Saturday when he meets Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, where he will be seeking to integrate Israel as part of a new axis largely driven by shared concerns over Iran, said a senior administration official.

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“We believe there’s great value in including as many of the capabilities in this region as possible and certainly Israel has significant air and missile defense capabilities, as they need to. But we’re having these discussions bilaterally with these nations,” the administration official told reporters.

Biden, on his first Middle East trip as president, has focused on the planned summit with six Gulf states and Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

Biden needs the help of OPEC giant Saudi Arabia at a time of high crude prices and other problems related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and as he encourages efforts to end the Yemen war, where a temporary truce is in place. Washington also wants to curb Iran’s sway in the region and China’s global influence.

The administration official said the US is hopeful it will see an OPEC+ production boost in the coming weeks. Biden is expected to press other Gulf producers to pump more oil. The OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, meets next on August 3.

The US president, who started his trip to the region with a visit to Israel, will hold bilateral talks with leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq before taking part in the wider summit where he will “lay out clearly” his vision and strategy for America’s engagement in the Middle East, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.

“He’s intent on ensuring that there is not a vacuum in the Middle East for China and Russia to fill,” Sullivan said.

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