© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a NATO Defence Ministers assembly on the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
By Idrees Ali
MANAMA (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sought on Saturday to reassure allies within the Middle East that President Joe Biden’s administration was dedicated to the area regardless of Washington more and more turning its consideration in direction of countering China.
It was unclear how a lot impression Austin’s speech would have with Washington’s allies within the Middle East, because it was not backed by any bulletins of additional deployments or new weapon gross sales within the area.
Gulf Arab states, closely reliant on the U.S. army umbrella, have expressed uncertainty about Biden’s give attention to the area, particularly after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. They at the moment are carefully watching efforts to revive a global-powers nuclear pact with Iran.
In a speech in Bahrain throughout a visit to the Gulf, Austin acknowledged concern within the area and globally that the United States was solely focussed on China’s problem.
“Let’s be clear: America’s commitment to security in the Middle East is strong and sure,” Austin mentioned.
He mentioned the United States was dedicated to countering Iran, at the same time as Washington works to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue. But if Iran isn’t willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all the options necessary to keep the United States secure,” Austin mentioned.
The Pentagon chief mentioned that Washington could be coming to the oblique negotiations on reviving the deal beginning on Nov. 29 in Vienna in good religion.
“But Iran’s actions in recent months have not been encouraging – especially because of the expansion of their nuclear programme,” he Austin mentioned.
Gulf states have requested for any deal to deal with what they name Iran’s ballistic missile programme and destabilising behaviour within the area.
‘IMPENDING AMERICAN ABANDONMENT’?
While quite a lot of U.S. administrations have tried to transfer the main target away from the Middle East and in direction of the Pacific, Biden in August ended the longest U.S. struggle, in Afghanistan.
“There’s dismay that the United States is on its way out the door. I’m not sure messaging addresses that sense of impending American abandonment,” mentioned Jon Alterman of the Washington CSIS think-tank.
A senior U.S. defence official, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned Austin was not anticipated to make new commitments within the area throughout his journey.
Saudi Arabia, certainly one of Washington’s closest regional allies, has been annoyed by the method of Biden’s White House, which has pressed Riyadh to enhance its human rights report and finish the struggle in Yemen.
Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, attending the Manama safety discussion board, welcomed verbal assurances however mentioned “demonstrative actions are equally important”.
He cited the necessity to forestall Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis from acquiring arms. Washington is urgent Riyadh to elevate a coalition blockade on Houthi-held areas, a situation from the group for ceasefire talks.
Austin was set to go to Saudi Arabia in September however the journey was postponed on the final minute. He is not going to be visiting Riyadh on this journey.
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