Biden and the Mideast: Will he benefit from the legacy of his predecessors?

February 12, 2021
Biden and the Mideast: Will he benefit from the legacy of his predecessors?

Rami Al-Khalifa Al-Ali

FROM the headquarters of the US State Department in Washington, US President Joe Biden chose to deliver his speech on his administration’s foreign policy.

The temporal and spatial significance that Biden accorded to by choosing the ministry as the venue was quite obvious, as the new president wanted to bring back the glory attached to the US diplomacy and restore its actors who were marginalized during the Trump years. Moreover, it also showed that the beginning of the presidential term is an indication of the importance President Biden attaches to the foreign policy files that will be on his table.

Perhaps the first impression that an observer can get is that foreign policy has returned to institutions where it belonged after it was characterized by individualism and was closely linked to the personality of the former president during the past four years. The other impression is the return of US foreign policy, as Biden promised during his election campaign, to traditional orientations.

One of them is considering Beijing and Moscow as the two rivals that Washington will seek to contain, but that does not mean escalating the conflict with them to the point of an all-out confrontation.

And what the president has declared explicitly was to restore the respect for the traditional allies of the United States. He has also sought to build bridges to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and return to the alliance that marked the warm relationship between the US and Europe since the end of World War II, and which has cooled down recently, especially in Paris and Berlin.

What concerns us most from the speech of Biden is related to the Middle East region, as he emphasized the traditional alliance between Washington and Riyadh, which, for nearly seven decades, was one of the most important pillars of stability in the Middle East region, despite all the violent shocks and crises that it has had experienced.

In particular, the US president stressed the need to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, and this is something that has always been supported by the Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia. Indeed, most of the criticism that came from the Arab countries and most Arab people was about the neglect meted out to the Yemeni file from the part of the international community.

But here the US president did not distinguish between two issues: the first is a ceasefire, and we believe that this is what can be achieved, and the Arab Coalition and the legitimate Yemeni government are open to that. As for the second issue is about reaching a peaceful settlement, the Arab Coalition is open to it too, but the matter is linked to the mullah regime as it must take its hands off Yemen and stop supporting terrorism. Here, this is the big task that the Biden administration will have to face if it is honest in its intentions. What worries the Arab people most is that the American policy intends to restore the notorious Obama administration’s orientations.

You can criticize Trump’s policy a lot and you can denounce his tendencies, and in many cases, you are right in that, but one thing you have to admit and that there was clarity in his policy toward the Middle East region. Though Obama allowed Daesh (the so-called IS) to expand and manage to control large parts of Iraq and Syria, Trump came out boldly to eliminate it and prevent the war from being politically exploited, thus saving tens of thousands of lives. While the Obama administration had adopted a gray policy toward Iran, Trump has done everything possible to curtail Iran and clipped its wings.

All we hope is that Biden and his administration's staff will be able to follow the legacy of previous administrations and overcome the disastrous mistakes that were made in the past without repeating them.

February 12, 2021
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