When U.S. President Joe Biden visits the Middle East next month, his hosts — in particular, Saudi Arabia — will probably try to persuade him to re-engage with the region.

Far from enabling the United States to focus on strengthening its position in the great-power competition with China and Russia, they might argue, strategic disengagement from the Middle East gives China an opening to bolster its own regional influence. But the reality is not that simple.

As a major fossil-fuel producer, the Middle East is clearly important to the U.S. In fact, it is sky-high energy prices that have forced Biden to try to patch up his relationship with Saudi Arabia. Until recently, Biden was shunning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, over his alleged role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018.