President Joe Biden’s planned trip to the Middle East later this month has reportedly been postponed until July. The news came one day before Iran’s supreme leader appeared to stoke tensions with remarks about “enemies” on Saturday,
Biden’s plan to visit to the region in June was not publicly confirmed by the White House, but NBC News reported on Friday that the administration is postponing the trip in favor of a wider tour of the Middle East in July.
The apparent change of plan comes amid protests in Iran that prompted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to take aim at what he described as external “enemies” on Saturday.
Biden would have reportedly visited Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which are key U.S. allies that have long opposed the current Iranian government, with Saudi Arabia and Iran supporting different sides in several regional conflicts, including in Yemen.
An unnamed senior administration official told NBC News on Friday: “We are working on a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia for a GCC+3 Summit.”
GCC is the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.
“We are working to confirm dates. When we have something to announce, we will,” the official said.
NBC News reported that the planned trip to Saudi Arabia in June will not take place, citing a foreign diplomat and two U.S. officials, while another U.S. official reportedly told the network Biden’s visit to Israel will also be pushed back.
Five sources had told NBC News earlier this week that Biden would visit both countries in June. It is not clear why those visits have now been delayed.
On Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei addressed the nation on the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Protests have been taking place in Iran for weeks following the collapse of a building in the southwest of the country that left 37 people dead. Khamenei blamed the protests on “enemies.”
“Today, the enemies’ most important hope for striking a blow at the country is based on popular protests,” Khamenei said.
“But the enemies’ calculation is as wrong as many earlier ones,” the ayatollah said during his televised remarks.
Khamenei also said Iran’s enemies were waging a “psychological war” against the country by accusing Iran of piracy.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized two Greek oil tankers on May 27 after the U.S. confiscated Iranian oil from a tanker that the Greek government had impounded.
“Who is the pirate here? You stole our oil. We took it back from you. Taking back a stolen good is no theft,” Khamenei said on Saturday.