Recommit, Don’t Retrench: Policy Priorities for Biden’s Middle East Trip

President Biden intends for this week’s trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia to lay out an “affirmative vision for U.S. engagement in the region.” This is an urgently important task at a vital moment. For the president to succeed, however, he must present a fundamental reorientation of U.S. strategy in the Middle East – one that directly addresses the damaging perceptions among our Middle Eastern partners of America’s receding commitments to regional security.

These perceptions have been exacerbated by the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, failed nuclear diplomacy with Iran, slow responses to Tehran’s regional aggression, and conscious efforts by the Biden Administration to distance itself from key partners like Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) increasingly work together to uphold regional security, but such cooperation has clear limits in the absence of sustained U.S. leadership.

To address these challenges and harness these opportunities, President Biden should use this trip to signal unmistakably that the United States is undertaking a comprehensive strategic pivot – one that recommits it to upholding Middle East stability and strengthening regional security cooperation in the face of shared challenges from Iran. Specifically, President Biden should:

  • Recommit to the Middle East with a Biden Doctrine;
  • Lead on integrated regional air defense;
  • Address partners’ security concerns about Iran;
  • Expand regional defense cooperation;
  • Boost U.S. military readiness; and
  • Develop a strategy for Israel-Saudi normalization.


Ambassador Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command

Iran Policy Project Members

VADM John Bird, USN (ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet

Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, U.S Air Force Headquarters

Lt Gen John Dolan, USAF (ret.)
Former Director for Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Ambassador Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

LTG Raymond Palumbo, USA (ret.)
Former Director for Defense Intelligence

General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander, United States European Command