The Pentagon leader wants to confirm its Middle East allies and Reuters


© Reuters. PHOTOS: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a NATO cabinet meeting at Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol / File Photo

By Idris Ali

MANAMA (Reuters) – US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on Saturday to reassure allies in the Middle East that President Joe Biden’s administration has committed to the region despite Washington’s turn to China.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

The Gulf Arab states, which rely heavily on the US military umbrella, have expressed doubts about Biden ‘view of the region, especially after the US left Afghanistan. He is now looking at efforts to revive international nuclear cooperation with Iran.

In his remarks to Bahrain on a trip to the Gulf, Austin acknowledged concerns locally and internationally that the United States was only focusing on China’s problems.

“Let’s be clear: America’s commitment to security in the Middle East is strong and resilient,” Austin said.

He said the United States was committed to dealing with Iran, even though Washington was working to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We are committed to the diplomatic impact of the nuclear issue. But if Iran does not want to get involved more deeply, then we will look at all the necessary steps to keep the United States safe,” Austin said.

The Pentagon chief said Washington would come to the forefront of negotiations to renew the agreement from Nov. 29 in Vienna by faith.

“But what Iran has done in recent months has not been encouraging – especially because of the growth of their nuclear program,” Austin said.

The Gulf states have called for an agreement to end the so-called Iranian weapons program and to disrupt the region.

‘AMERICA MUST BE DESTROYED’?

When several US powers tried to move the idea away from the Middle East and into the Pacific, Biden in August ended the longest U.S. war in Afghanistan.

“It’s frustrating that the United States is on the verge of leaving home. I don’t know if I’m texting you about leaving America,” said Jon Alterman of the Washington CSIS think-tank.

The United States Secretary of Defense, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Austin did not expect a new commitment to the region during his visit.

Saudi Arabia, one of the strongest allies in the Washington region, is frustrated with the approach of Biden’s White House, which has forced Riyadh to advance its human rights record and end the war in Yemen.

Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was present at a security conference in Manama, received verbal confirmations but said “demonstrations are also important”.

He also stressed the need to prevent Yemeni allies from Iran from taking up arms. Washington is forcing Riyadh to lift a barrier to unity in Houthi-controlled territories, which the group wants to end talks with.

Austin was due to travel to Saudi Arabia in September but the trip was canceled at the last minute. They will not visit Riyadh on this trip.

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