Biden out of His Depth in Complex Middle East

Prior to Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the media was full of rumors that the Saudis were being sweet-talked into recognizing Israel. Already the Saudis allow Israeli planes to use Saudi airspace.

Wishful thinking. Israel wants the Saudis to acknowledge it as chief terrorist-cop in the Middle East. The Saudis see themselves are head honcho, so they are unlikely to bend over like the other Persian Gulf monarchies, who just want to maintain their playboy lifestyle and like to be feted by slick, rich Israeli diamond merchants. Much more fun than pumping aid into Palestinian hands, only to have Israel bomb anything worthwhile as soon as it’s built. But political correctness demands that the Gulf states given at least pro forma support for Palestinians.

So no ‘progress’ on the Saudi front. On the contrary, the Saudis are holding talks with Iran. Renewing diplomatic ties with Iran is much more likely than recognizing Israel.

The UAE is not interested in provoking Iran. They are neighbors. Only US-Israel wants war with Iran. The Persian Gulf States, while rich client states of the US, are not interested in the US war in Ukraine and have not totally abandoned Palestinians, just want peace. Attempts to resurrect the 1950s METO (Middle East treaty organization) fell flat. METO died in 1979 when Iran had its Islamic revolution and expelled the nest of US-Israeli spies in Tehran. It is laughable to think it could be resurrected, given that only the Persian Gulf states are reluctantly on board. Israel’s dream of being the caliph of the Arab states, controlling Middle East politics, is of interest only to US-Israel.

Saudi Arabia is tied to the US economically and politically. For it to ‘switch sides’ is not an option. The fact that it spends countless billions on arms does not make it secure. Its arms purchases from ‘both sides’ seem more to be for political support, to keep as many rich nations on side as possible, like bribes.

Biden said in Saudi Arabia that America would not “walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran,” while his predecessor Trump was planning to withdraw U.S. forces from the Middle East. In my view, obviously, Biden was pressured to back down on MBS. Campaign promises in the US are meant to be broken. Indeed, if he had stuck with his human rights talk, the Saudis would have to go to Russia and China for support, and make peace with Iran. The US nice words about human rights long ago lost any meaning.

One can only pity Biden, president of the most powerful nation, kowtowing to a bloodthirsty tyrant. I suspect Biden has no real friends, and has no use for MBS except as an obedient client state.

Obama chose Cairo as a venue to address the Muslim world while Trump and Biden preferred Riyadh as the first station of their trips to the Middle East. That is an interesting contrast. Obama is an intellectual with a sense of what works in the world, given his constraints. He vowed to close Guantanamo but when the generals nixed it, he moved on to other fish. He wanted to pull out of Afghanistan, but was pressured into expanding operations. He did not relish the fate of JFK.

The JCPOA was his brainchild and arguably his only foreign policy victory, but Trump’s hatred of Obama meant he systematically undermined everything Obama did. Obama was nice to Iran? Ok, let’s tear up the treaty, ramp up sanctions, assassinate Iran’s top general, Soleimani, give Israel a free pass to assassinate Iranian nuclear physicists. Biden spent 8 years as Obama’s sidekick, but he is a Trump clone, continuing Trump’s policies, ignoring Obama’s. Who would have thought?

Trump’s plan was to strong-arm the Arabs states into recognizing Israel and together attack Iran. He had/has no intention of leaving the Middle East. His plan is to leave it to Israel to police. In light of that, Biden’s attempt to keep a 2-state solution in Palestine-Israel alive is at least not that apocalyptic.

Trump’s one bit of evidence that he wanted to withdraw US forces was his attempt to pull troops from Syria, but even there, he was happy to bow to the generals when he realized the US troops in Syria were ‘protecting’ Syria’s oil. That is, protecting Syrian oil from being used by the Syrian government to fight ISIS and to reassert control over rebel and occupied territories. Trump was a disrupter but left no legacy. Biden is a ‘nice guy’ and so far has left no legacy either.

Putin’s trip to Tehran to meet with Erdogan and Ayatollah Khameini added insult to injury for the Israelis. And to make matters worse, Pompeo threw another apocalyptic curveball, calling to undermine the creation of a Russian-Chinese axis bent on exerting military and economic hegemony in Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East, which he argues would further devastate the lives of Americans and our economy here at home. Russia, China, Iran are now allies and must be crushed.

But the US, which threatens all three nations individually, has created this alliance. We should thank Pompeo for his warmongering. This is just the latest version of the US need to see world as enemy to conquer, justifying its terror campaign as central to its war on terror.

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