The U.S. Secretary of Defense came out frustrated from the Manama Dialogue conference. Although he made it clear that the United States was ready to confront Iran if necessary, he encountered skepticism and difficult questions.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was frustrated. He attended the Manama Dialogue Conference in Bahrain to convey a reassuring message to US allies in the region, delivering a speech emphasizing that the United States has not withdrawn from the Middle East, and remains committed to facing Iran and protecting its friendship. But after the speech, he was bombarded with questions from the audience, all of which testified that a large part of those sitting in the hall - including senior officials in Israel and many Arab countries - simply did not believe him.
In the public debates in the Security Conference Hall, in the hallway conversations in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel and in the closed discussions in the 51st floor meeting rooms overlooking the Gulf waters - everyone spoke of the feeling that the US is abandoning the Middle East and showing weakness in Iran.
When I met a senior US Department of Defense official at his hotel in Manama he explained his boss's frustration. "People in the region have become accustomed to thinking in a certain way," he said, "but our commitment to build our alliance is not just measured by the number of soldiers we have in the Middle East.
"The hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan only heightened the sense that Biden would continue Obama and Trump's policies and reduce US involvement in the Middle East.
President Biden's senior adviser to the Middle East, Brett McGrack, who also spoke at the Manama conference, tried to ward off this criticism.
"The United States is not going anywhere. Afghanistan was because of Afghanistan - it has nothing to do with our interests in the Middle East. On the contrary, the withdrawal from Afghanistan is actually devoting resources to us for operations in the Middle East," he said.