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Sen. Chris Murphy is one of the senators visiting the region. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senior Biden administration officials visiting the Middle East this week urged "de-escalation and diplomacy with Iran, Turkey and Qatar," an Arab official briefed on the talks told me."They just want to keep the temperature down in the region."

Why it matters: The Middle East is not a major foreign policy focus for Biden, and his goals in the region are primarily to put Iran’s nuclear program “back in a box” and avoid any further crises that will pull attention away from key challenges like China and Russia.

Driving the news: Three different U.S. delegations visited the region this week.

  • The Biden administration’s delegation consisted of State Department counselor Derek Chollet, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Dana Stroul and National Security Council Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk. The delegation visited the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and is expected to visit Egypt later this week.
  • Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Chris Coons and Chris Van Hollen also visited the region and met in Abu Dhabi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
  • Sen. Chris Murphy visited Jordan, Oman and Qatar, and joined administration officials Monday for dinner with King Abdullah II of Jordan. This was the first visit by Biden administration officials to the kingdom.

What they're saying: Murphy told me the meeting in Jordan was important to show the U.S. commitment to a partner who was neglected by the Trump administration.

  • "Our main message was that we want to decrease tensions in the region, and I was encouraged to see in all my meetings that there are steps to de-escalate — the Saudis are talking to the Iranians, there are Yemen ceasefire talks and talks between Qatar and Egypt," Murphy said.
  • On Yemen, Murphy said he and the Biden administration officials were discussing how to proceed with the Saudi proposal for a ceasefire and pressure the Houthi rebels to accept it.

Go deeper

Behind the scenes of the Biden administration as the U.S. ditches Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard today along a roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Many in the U.S. military see the race out of Afghanistan as a dishonorable withdrawal, and some State Department officials fear the U.S. may have to close the embassy in Kabul.

Driving the news: Those were some of the dire soundings Axios heard in Washington yesterday, as the Pentagon made the shocking announcement that 3,000 U.S. troops will head into Afghanistan to help evacuate Americans.

15 mins ago - World

"I assume full responsibility," Duterte says of drug war

Rodrigo Duterte in 2017. Photo: Linus Escandor II/AFP via Getty Images

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he assumes full responsibility for a violent war on drugs that has killed thousands of people, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Last month the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity during Duterte's war on drugs.

CDC approves boosters for Moderna and J&J and mix-and-match

Boxes containing vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's independent advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine for certain populations and allow people to mix-and-match doses.

The big picture: The agency aligns with the Food and Drug Administration authorization Wednesday night which said people could switch to whichever vaccine they wanted for their booster shot.