Destabilizing speculation

It’s time for foreign policy realist Joe Biden

President Joe Biden talks about liberal internationalist discourse but takes a realistic step. The recent Summit of Democracies was not idealism but part of a strategy to contain China and Russia. Internationalist rhetoric aside, Biden has a dark side to Realpolitik – which is why he was able to survive so many decades in Washington and get elected president.

Some of my right-wing friends have criticized me for recommending Biden for the diplomatic gesture that should have earned him the 2021 Machiavelli Prize. The announcement of a new military pact with Britain and Australia (AUKUS) to deter China stabbed France in the back – or to put it another way, imitated the operating mode of traditional French diplomacy.

Getting out of the mess called Afghanistan – even if it meant abandoning a campaign to bring democracy and improve women’s rights – was also an exercise, albeit crass, of Realpolitik. Charles de Gaulle, who said goodbye in Algeria and turned their backs on the French settlers there, would have approved.

President Kennedy, the icon of American liberal internationalism, promised in his inaugural address that America “will pay any price, bear any burden, face any difficulty, support no any friend, would oppose any enemy, in order to ensure the survival and success of freedom. . “But then he made a secret deal with the Soviets to pull American missiles out of Turkey as part of a deal to end the Cuban Crisis of 1962. Apparently,” at all costs “did not include a nuclear war.

We learned of the 1962 secret agreement with Moscow several years later. Which raises the following speculation: Did Biden promise Vladimir Putin at their recent virtual meeting that he would not support granting NATO membership to Ukraine?

I hope he did. Despite the cries of the internationalist crowd, a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine is not in the national interest of the United States. This is exactly what Trump would have done.

Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part – such as my hope that Biden would reveal his Realpolitik side in his dealings with Tehran and resolve the crisis over the Iran nuclear deal by avoiding a military confrontation with Iran while bolstering the position of the American allies in the Middle East. East.

The usual neoconservative suspects have experienced a sort of psychotic depression over the face of the United States withdrawing from the Middle East under three presidents. They fantasize about an American-Iranian war that would return America to a region where it always seemed to find itself in some kind of costly military quagmire as it tried to solve intractable problems.

If you agree that it is time to reduce the US military presence in the Middle East, the main US strategic mistake was not to tear up the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but to tear it up. sign in 2015. This made Washington a guarantor of the balance of power in the region. But the odds of Iran breaking the agreements, destabilizing the Middle East and eliciting a response from its opponents there were over 50%.

In the end, the United States placed itself in a lose-lose situation. Allowing Iran to strengthen its strategic status, by providing it with the diplomatic and financial incentives to do so, went against the interests of America’s partners, Israel and the Sunni Arab States, who viewed the Islamic Republic as an existential threat.

But then, if you are considering revoking the nuclear deal in the face of Iranian aggression, you put yourself in an impossible situation, in which your two choices are either to challenge Iran and risk a military confrontation with it, or to ‘appease Tehran and threaten the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Arabia. Either way, Iran emerges as the winner.

Instead, view the 2020 Abraham Accords as a model of a cost-effective way for the United States to deal with Iran and pursue its goals in the Middle East. The United States must send a clear message to Israel and the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia: we will help you stand up to Iran and ensure that the Ayatollahs do not get their hands on nuclear weapons. , thanks to strong diplomatic and military support.

America would help its partners to help themselves – and without fighting their wars. Rather, the United States would serve as the balancer of last resort in the Middle East, stepping in directly only if Iran gains the upper hand and threatens to erode the balance of power.

This is what the United States did when it joined WWII. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan threatened to seize Eurasia: not a direct threat to America. The United States did not go to war with the Soviets when they posed a similar danger, but held them back through the containment strategy.

It is also how the United States helped end the Iran-Iran war. The provision of military assistance to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq helped prevent an Iranian military victory and restore the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. As well as forcing Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait in 1990.

On the contrary, a militant US military interventionist policy in the Middle East sends the wrong message to its allies. This creates “moral hazard” – to use an economic term – by dissuading the allies from looking after their interests and causing them to rely on American protection. Now read this week’s headline in the The Wall Street Journal, a report on the very first official meeting last Monday between the Israeli Prime Minister and the head of the United Arab Emirates: “Fear of Iran, reduced role of the United States in the Middle East pushing rivals together”.

No, don’t expect Israel and the Arabs to form a Middle Eastern version of NATO anytime soon. But when they complain that America is abandoning them, it forces them to work together on a strategy to contain Iran.

President Obama’s fantasy was that the nuclear deal with Iran would encourage Tehran to become more “moderate” and help stabilize the Middle East. He did exactly the opposite. Revoking it while encouraging the formation of an alliance between Israel and the Sunni Arab states has helped tip the balance of power in their direction and weaken Iran’s strategic position. But now Iran has concluded it can crush the Americans cojones, acknowledging that, like his predecessor, President Biden lacks the backing to launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, a move that is expected to lead to yet another military confrontation with Tehran.

President Biden can change this Iranian calculation by sending a message to the Ayatollahs through intermediaries like Qatar. He should make it clear that as long as Tehran refuses to give up its nuclear ambitions – a return to a revised accord would be the first step – its administration will not oppose (no need to use the word “support”) any initiative by Israel to protect its legitimate national security interests.

In this context, the United States would veto any UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its decision and, more importantly, it would use press leaks to suggest that it would supply Israel with tankers. supply that could be essential to attack Iranian nuclear sites. , as well as the Massive Ordinance Predator (MOP), aka bunker bombs, which could penetrate Iranian nuclear bunkers.

How would Iran respond to such a challenge? Threatening to attack US targets – which he does anyway – and then justify a massive US military response? To plead with the Russians and the Chinese to protect them, when it is clear that they would breathe a sigh of relief in Moscow and Beijing if the Iranian nuclear program were destroyed?

Iran could certainly threaten to use its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, to strike Israeli civilian targets, including Haifa and Tel Aviv. This could give Israel the opportunity to devastate both terrorist groups. The activation of the Shiite militias in Iraq or the Houthis in Yemen could also invite an appropriate American and Saudi response without triggering an all-out regional war.

The threat to unleash Israel and the Sunni-Arab bloc against Iran should demonstrate to the Ayatollahs that it is possible for the United States to stabilize the balance of power in the region without direct military intervention. This would return the Islamic Republic to its true strategic size and strengthen the position of the United States in the Vienna talks. It’s time for President Biden to expose his grim Realpolitik side?

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