This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. President Joe Biden is setting off on his first Middle East trip since taking office, with Iran high on the agenda in his visits with U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, both bitter rivals of the Islamic republic.
The journey starts on July 13 with a three-day stop in Israel to discuss Western powers’ negotiations with Iran on reviving the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Biden, who was President Barack Obama’s vice president when the original deal was struck, has made reviving the nuclear deal a priority of his presidency.
Biden will spend two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders then meet with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.
Biden will then move on to Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to press for further normalizing of relations between Israel and the Saudis — historic enemies but both also opposing Iran’s moves to increase influence in the region.
“The fact that President Biden visits Israel and from here will fly directly to Saudi Arabia encapsulates a lot of the dynamics that have been evolving over the last months,” an Israeli official said.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia oppose moves by Washington to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran.
Biden will visit the Saudi port city of Jeddah on July 15 to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
President Donald Trump had close relations with the Saudis, but those ties have frayed since Biden took office, with his administration taking a harder line on Riyadh’s human rights record.