US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Bahrain earlier right now with plans to talk with plenty of Middle Eastern officers amid considerations over Russia and China’s inroads within the Gulf.
While no conferences have but been made public, the Saudi, Egyptian and Libyan international ministers might be in attendance on the Manama Dialogue discussion board, together with dozens of different senior regional officers.
Austin is about to handle the discussion board on Saturday morning earlier than heading to the United Arab Emirates to debate the “two countries’ common defense priorities,” the Pentagon chief instructed reporters this week.
The go to marks the highest US protection official’s second journey to the Gulf area in simply over two months.
Why it Matters: Washington is making an attempt to assuage Gulf allies’ considerations about US retrenchment from the area.
On Saturday, Austin will change into the highest-level administration official but to talk earlier than a public viewers within the Middle East.
His go to additionally comes as anticipation mounts over the Pentagon’s anticipated completion of a sweeping inner overview of the distribution of its forces across the globe.
“There’s a misperception in the region that the redeployment of certain [military] assets is commensurate with reduction in US commitment,” a senior protection official attending the journey instructed reporters on the situation of anonymity. “One of the points that the secretary will make is that is just not true.”
After a collection of sudden and uncoordinated withdrawal orders in the course of the Trump administration, present US officers have been at pains to emphasise that American troops should not leaving Iraq or Syria and that the army will retain its main bases within the Gulf.
Still, there are considerations that the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, final yr’s removing of Patriot air protection methods and up to date deliberation over lowering provider strike group deployments within the Persian Gulf may additional encourage Arab allies to discover protection partnerships with US adversaries Russia and China.
Secretary Austin’s go to additionally comes inside a broader diplomatic blitz by American officers in search of to reassure allies forward of a deliberate return to oblique negotiations with Iran over returning limiting Tehran’s nuclear program.
White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and Iran envoy Rob Malley are additionally attending the discussion board after arriving within the area final week. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, Yemen envoy Timothy Lenderking and the State Department’s high officers for regional safety, Mira Resnick additionally arrived for visits over the previous week.
Following conferences in Riyadh on Wednesday, US officers and the Gulf Cooperation Council launched a joint assertion condemning Iran’s nuclear enrichment and weapons proliferation within the area however expressed help for diplomatic engagement with Tehran.
“Members of the GCC briefed on their efforts to build effective diplomatic channels with Iran to prevent, resolve or de-escalate conflicts, backed by strong deterrence and defense cooperation with the United States,” the assertion learn.
“The US and the members of the GCC affirmed that deeper economic ties after the lifting of US sanctions under the JCPOA are in the mutual interest of the region.”
Austin reiterated his supporting function within the diplomacy throughout a press convention on the Pentagon on Wednesday.
“I’m going to continue to be very clear: we will defend ourselves, our partners, and our interests against threats from Iran or its proxies,” he mentioned.
What’s Next: The protection chief gained’t be making any main bulletins in the course of the journey, however will name for elevated multilateral cooperation in plenty of areas, the senior protection official mentioned.
In Abu Dhabi, Austin is more likely to proceed discussions with Emirati leaders on steps in direction of making certain the safety of the F-35, the sale of which the Biden administration has reaffirmed dedication to.
“We have every confidence that the UAE will uphold those commitments and expectations,” the senior protection official mentioned.
Know More: The Wall Street Journal reported earlier right now that the Emirati officers have halted building on what US officers suspect was a Chinese army facility at a port within the UAE.