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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul Aziz receiving US President Joe Biden as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman looks on behind, at Salman Palace in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 15, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: President Joe Biden on Saturday will lay out his strategy for the Middle East as he closes out of the final leg of a four-day trip meant to bolster US positioning and knit the region together against Iran.

In the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, Biden will meet with heads of state from six Arab Gulf countries, plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq for a regional summit. Hours before the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, the White House released satellite imagery that indicates Russian officials have twice visited Iran in recent weeks for a showcase of weapons-capable drones it is looking to acquire for use in its ongoing war in Ukraine.

Release of the satellite imagery — which shows Russian officials visited Kashan Airfield on June 8 and July 15 to get a look at the drones — could help the administration better tie the relevance of the war to many Arab nations own concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other malign activity in the region.

A senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of the summit, said that Moscow’s efforts to acquire drones from Tehran show that Russia is “effectively making a bet on Iran.’’

The gathering of leaders comes a day after he championed steps toward normalising ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and sought to rebuild cooperation with the Saudi king and crown prince.

When he speaks to the Gulf Cooperation Council and its Arab allies, the White House said, Biden will offer his most fulsome vision yet for the region and how the US can cooperate with it. The Biden administration is also set to announce at the summit $1 billion in food security assistance for the Middle East and North Africa, according to the administration official.

Energy prices

His first Middle East trip comes 11 months after the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as Biden aims to reprioritise the US away from the Middle East’s ruinous wars and ongoing conflicts stretching from Libya to Syria.

“It’s a strategy fit for purpose for 2022 as opposed to the two decades of major land wars that the US fought in this region over the course of the 2000s,’’ Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in a preview of the speech.

Energy prices — elevated since Russia launched attacks on Ukraine — were expected to be high on the agenda. But Biden aides tempered expectations that he would leave with a deal for regional producers to immediately boost supply.

“I suspect you won’t see that for another couple of weeks,’’ Biden told reporters late Friday.

At the summit, Biden was set to hear a chorus of concern about the region’s stability and security, as well as concerns about food security, climate change and the continued threat of terrorism.

For Iraq, which has the deepest and strongest links to Iran of all the Arab countries, its presence at the meeting reflects Saudi efforts — supported by the US — to bring Iraq closer to Arab positions and the Arab fold. Iraq has hosted around five rounds of direct talks between Saudi and Iranian officials since Biden took office, though the talks have produced little results.

Ahead of the summit, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al Khadhimi, who survived an assassination attempt with armed drones in November, wrote in Foreign Policy that Iraq faces many problems, but is working “to solve Iraqi problems with Iraqi solutions’’.

“When US President Joe Biden comes to the Middle East this week, he will be arriving in a region facing numerous challenges, from terrorism to food insecurity and climate change,’’ he wrote. “But the Middle East is also a region that is increasingly facing those challenges together under a group of leaders pursuing positive change.”