President Joe Biden wishes to disengage from the Middle East, but the Middle East does not intend to disengage from the United States.
America is perceived by rogue Middle East entities as “The Great Satan,” and the main obstacle on their way to achieving their overarching goal: bringing the West into submission. This goal has deep roots, going back to the seventh century C.E.
Isolation is not a realistic option in the increasingly globalized village, where rogue Middle East regimes are engaged in the proliferation of terrorism, non-conventional military technologies and drug trafficking around the globe. Their reach extends all the way to the American continent, impacting U.S. homeland security.
Will the United States lead or follow the engagement process? Will its engagement with rogue Middle East entities be conducted mostly around the U.S. or the Middle Eastern “end zone”?
The Biden team’s track record
Biden’s Middle East policy reflects the worldview of his top foreign policy and national security team, most notably Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been Biden’s most influential adviser since for six years, from 2002-08 (similar to Secretary Baker’s influence on President Bush), when Blinken was the Democratic Staff Director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Other leading members of the team are National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, CIA director William Burns and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence. They—like Blinken—played a key role in shaping President Obama’s Middle East policy.
For instance, they were instrumental in creating the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), which followed the U.S. embrace of Iran’s ayatollahs (Shi’ite terrorism), while demoting the stature of the pro-U.S. Saudis, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This has intensified the existential threat to these regimes, harming the United States’ strategic reliability and driving its traditional Arab allies closer to China and Russia.
In 2009-2012, they supported the rise to power of Egypt’s anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni terrorism), while turning their backs on the pro-U.S. President Hosni Mubarak.
They coddled the Palestinians, pressured Israel and promoted the establishment of a Palestinian state, disregarding the Palestinian track record—the Palestinians are the role model for intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude.
In addition, the Biden team participated in the orchestration of the 2011 U.S.-led military offensive against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which aimed to topple Gaddafi for slaughtering his opponents and squashing human rights. However, the demise (lynching) of Gaddafi transformed Libya into a regional and global platform of Islamic terrorism and ruthless violations of human rights, igniting a series of Libyan civil wars, with Russian, Turkish, Egyptian, Emirati, Saudi, Qatari, French and Italian military involvement.
The Biden team’s current performance
Biden and his team assume that Islamic terrorism (e.g., Iran’s ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, PLO, Houthis) is driven by despair. They ignore the fact that Islamic terrorism has been driven—since the 7th century C.E.—not by despair, but by deeply-rooted, intolerant, fanatic and megalomaniacal anti-Western ideology, irrespective of Western and Israeli policies.
Similarly, Palestinian hate education and the overall Palestinian track record make it clear that Palestinian terrorism preceded Israel’s 1967 reunification of Jerusalem and return to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). It has never been driven by the size of the Jewish state, but instead by its very existence.
The Biden team has attempted to base its Middle East policy on the noble values of human rights and democracy, which are inconsistent with the Arab Middle East.
Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan have advocated shifting resources from military to diplomacy. They have highlighted multilateralism over unilateral U.S. national security action, urging enhanced coordination with Europe (which prefers appeasement in the face of rogue regimes), the United Nations and international organizations (which are dominated by anti-U.S., non-democratic countries).
The pursuit of multilateralism and diplomacy has occasionally undermined the U.S. war on terrorism, as evidenced by the multilateral JCPOA. It provided Iran’s ayatollahs with $150 billion and the lifting of sanctions, which generated an unprecedented tailwind to Iran’s wars (in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan), regional and global terrorism (from Thailand through Europe and Africa to South and Central America), domestic repression and development and the proliferation of ballistic missile technologies.
Furthermore, the resumption of the annual U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority was not preconditioned upon the termination of monthly allowances to families of terrorists, hate education, incitement and the idolizing of suicide bombers. Moreover, the restoration of U.S. foreign aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) does not require an end to the funding of Palestinian hate education, nor does it require shifting gears from perpetuating to resolving the status of Palestinian refugees, as is practiced by the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees.
President Biden’s policy on Iran
President Biden’s determination to re-embrace Iran’s ayatollahs and rejoin the JCPOA was demonstrated by the appointment of Rob Malley as Special Envoy for Iran. Malley was the key behind-the-scenes negotiator of the JCPOA, a personal friend of Secretary Blinken, with open channels to Iran’s ayatollahs, Hezbollah, Hamas and PLO terrorists.
Secretary Blinken, Malley and their colleagues have downplayed Iran’s present and past track record. They are preoccupied with assessments regarding Iran’s future track record. They have whitewashed Iran’s military involvement in Yemen’s civil war on the side of Houthi Shi’ite terrorists, and Iran’s goal of toppling the Saudi regime and controlling the critical Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which is vital to global trade and regional and global military balance. While the United States intensified pressure on Saudi Arabia to withdraw from Yemen, it took the Houthis off the list of designated terrorist organizations, which triggered an intensified Iranian/Houthi bombing of Saudi cities and oil facilities.
The Biden team assumes that a dramatic financial/diplomatic bonanza will incentivize Iran’s ayatollahs to abandon the fanatic vision which has guided them, including their education system, since the 1978-79 revolution. The Biden team expects such a bonanza to alter the nature of the ayatollahs, convincing them to accept peaceful coexistence and power-sharing with their Sunni Arab neighbors. Moreover, the Biden team waived the regime-change option, which has crippled the U.S. bargaining position, violating a fundamental rule of negotiation with rogue entities: Bury the hatchet, but leave the handle sticking out.
The progressive effect
President Biden’s Middle East policy has also been impacted by the growing clout of progressive Democrats, who are determined to shift resources from national security and foreign policy to the domestic arena. They advocate a Third World-oriented policy while ignoring and oversimplifying the unpredictable, 14-century-old, violent and despotic intra-Arab and intra-Muslim reality.
Thus, they criticize pro-Western entities such as Israel, ignoring Israel’s historic and moral track record and contribution to the U.S. economy and defense. At the same time, they embrace anti-Western rogue entities such as Iran’s ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, irrespective of their fanatic and despotic core ideology and violent track record.
Moreover, the “progressives” have misperceived the tectonic eruptions on the Arab street as reflecting an “Arab Spring,” a pursuit of self-determination, human rights, national liberation and democracy. In fact, it has been an Arab Tsunami; an extension of the intrinsic Middle East violence, hate education, terrorism and repression.
Will President Biden repeat—or avoid—past critical mistakes?
Will President Biden yield to—or defy—the progressive pressure?
Will President Biden disengage from the non-disengaging Middle East?
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.
This article was first published by The Ettinger Report.