Will a Biden Administration Undermine Recent Progress in the Middle East?

Oct. 27 2020

By slaughtering sacred cows of Middle East policy, the Trump administration has taken such long-overdue steps as recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights, while brokering groundbreaking agreements between Israel and Arab countries. Of course, the Obama administration deserves some credit for the latter developments too, as its attempt to realign the U.S. with Iran inadvertently fostered greater cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states. But, asks Danielle Pletka, will Joe Biden, if victorious in the upcoming election, seek to reverse some of these developments?

Arab leaders are already fretting about what a Biden presidency could mean for them. More than the Biden-Harris campaign’s promises to “reassess our relationship with the kingdom, end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil,” the greater fear is of the pendulum swinging back to the pre-Trump status quo, and a rebalancing of American policy in the region to favor Iran. As much as anything else, the fear of a renewed American-Iran alliance is driving Sunni Arabs to Israel. Could they be wrong?

Team Biden has made it clear that if Iran comes back into compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran deal, they will rejoin. But it seems unlikely that anyone from a Biden administration would conduct the aggressive lobbying campaign for Iran that Barack Obama’s hapless Secretary of State John Kerry embraced. Indeed, the more serious risk is not that Biden’s Middle East advisers fall hopelessly in love with the Islamic Republic, as too many of Obama’s negotiators did. It is that they will do nothing in the face of Iranian efforts to dominate the Middle East and that America’s erstwhile allies take their security into their own hands, to dangerous effect.

With an America that ignores both Iranian predations against its own people and turns its back . . . traditional allies, . . . the odds are that regional powers will take it upon themselves to protect their interests in the best way they know how. That began with a new alliance with Jerusalem, but where it could end is anyone’s guess. The last time such fears were in the air, the Saudis escalated their conflict with Yemen. . . . This time they may well turn to other interested global players—Saudi Arabia is now China’s top oil supplier—for weapons and more.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, US-Israel relations

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations