As Joe Biden prepares to assume the presidency he has made no secret of his intention to steer a very different course than Donald Trump in the Middle East.
Most presidents were they to announce a course change would be reacting to failure and hoping for success. President-elect Biden has chosen a bold new direction. He intends to walk away from what may be the longest string of foreign policy successes in American history and return to the abject failures of Barack Obama’s tenure.
The dismay in Arab capitals and in Jerusalem is palpable. The glee among the ayatollahs in Tehran can only be imagined.
The Obama-Biden foreign policy enabled unprecedented aggression by Tehran. It quite literally set the Middle East on fire. President Trump put Iran back in its box and via the Abraham Accords made major strides toward ending decades of hostility and war in the Middle East. Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates have all exchanged embassies with Israel, and it is clear that this is a process that will continue if not derailed by the abject appeasement of Tehran implied in lifting sanctions and returning to Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
American alliances in the region were strengthened under Donald Trump. Perhaps more importantly, as Iran was pushed into a corner and the longstanding Arab-Israeli enmity began to fade, the outlines of new alliances that would guarantee peace for generations to come began to appear. Suddenly, we were looking at the very real possibility of formal reconciliation between Riyadh and Jerusalem and a Jewish-Sunni Arab coalition that would not just keep Tehran contained but end the scourge of Islamist terrorism that has threatened the world since 1979.
Saudi Arabia, as keeper of the Two Holy Cities, is key to everything in the Middle East and in recent years has made dramatic progress toward liberalization and democratization. It is on a path toward modernization and democratization that could only have been dreamed of a short time ago. The change, which owes much to Mr. Trump’s support, can only be described as miraculous.
Now, in anticipation of Mr. Biden’s pro-Iran policies, Riyadh is bracing itself and preparing for the worst. Mr. Biden’s desire to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia is crystal clear. During his campaign, Mr. Biden vowed to “reassess” ties with Riyadh and at one point promised to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are” during a 2019 Democratic debate.
These are not just words. They are policy, and the team Biden is assembling for his administration is tailor made to cozy up to Iran and walk away from our Sunni and Israeli allies.
• Trita Parsi, a lobbyist for the Iranian regime, has been mentioned as a possible member of Mr. Biden’s incoming National Security Council team. In the runup to the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Parsi and a retired Iranian diplomat made 33 trips to the Obama White House to assist in drafting the document.
• Jake Sullivan is Mr. Biden’s incoming National Security Adviser. When Mr. Biden was vice president, Mr. Sullivan was his vice presidential national security adviser. He was a lead negotiator in the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal. Just for good measure he was also one of the key architects of Mr. Obama’s Pacific “rebalance” strategy under which the United States surrendered the South China Sea to Beijing.
• Tony Blinken is Mr. Biden’s choice to be secretary of State. He is another veteran of the Obama administration and also previously served as then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. He, like all of Mr. Biden’s picks, completely believes in the idea of negotiating with the ayatollahs and returning to the terms of the disastrous nuclear deal. Nothing he has seen in the last few years has changed his mind.
Speaking during an interview in January 2020 he said, “The fact of the matter is, the world was made a better and safer place by the Iran nuclear deal. It took a major challenge to world peace off the table. It cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It put in the most intrusive inspections regime in arms control history, and, by every account, Iran was abiding by the agreement.” The fact that none of this was true did not seem to matter one bit to Mr. Blinken.
• William Burns is Mr. Biden’s choice for CIA director. Mr. Burns headed up the secret “back channel” talks with Tehran during negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal under President Obama. He was the leader of an American team that began talking with the Iranians in March of 2013 about the terms of the coming capitulation.
While Mr. Biden is busy getting the band back together and preparing to sign yet another one-sided deal that will invite another explosion of Iranian-sponsored violence, the Iranians are making their intentions equally clear. They have not changed, and they are in no mood for peaceful coexistence.
A bill has been introduced in the Iranian parliament that lays out a series of key goals for the Islamic Republic:
• Carry out a “decisive act of revenge” on the U.S. for the killing of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani.
• Evict the United States from the Middle East.
• Continue Soleimani’s mission of destroying Israel and accomplish this goal by 2041.
• Counter economic sanctions.
• Install a defiant foreign policy.
The first Iran deal was a nightmare. What is shaping up as the sequel looks even worse. Tired of winning? You won’t have to wait long. Mr. Biden has opted for failure in the Middle East and hundreds of millions will pay the price.
• Sam Faddis, former CIA operations officer with experience in the conduct of intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia and Europe, is a senior analyst at Ravenna Associates. He is the author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” and, with Mike Tucker, “Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq.”
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