Joe Biden is an Empire politician, a US exceptionalist who is convinced that the world must be dominated by the great power of the United States forever. In the Middle East powder keg, he will return to the Obama-era status quo: he will hopefully reverse his predecessor’s escalating Iran policy and revive the crucial Iran deal. His Israel-Palestine policy will certainly become more moderate in tone, but as a self-proclaimed “Zionist,” he will set only minimal limits on the Israeli government: instead of steroids, Netanyahu must now again suppress the Palestinians as normal. Biden will not start a new war in the Middle East, but he will not end any. As a proven liberal interventionist, he will enshrine the “forever war” for all eternity.
Donald Trump was not re-elected as the first US president since Bush Sr. On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden is expected to move into the White House. As in 2016, the Democratic establishment has decided against the left-wing option and rallied behind the Empire candidate. Biden is a political veteran and has been a key influence on U.S. foreign policy for decades. The following is the powder keg of the Middle East under a Biden presidency; specifically about Israel-Palestine, Iran and the question of war and peace in general.
Israel-Palestine - back to normal oppression
“I’m a Zionist,” Biden repeatedly declared. His ties to Israel go back decades, and he counts several Israeli prime ministers, ministers, and presidents among his personal friends. According to the Biden/Harris campaign website, Biden’s support for Israel is “unwavering,” “tireless,” “rock solid” and “indestructible.” As vice-president, he put together a record - more than 38 billion U.S. dollars over 10 years" in Obama’s last year. Biden could restore bipartisan support for the Israeli regime during his presidency and will reunite the pro-Israel lobby in the US, deeply divided under Trump. At the annual events of all these lobbying organisations, he is always a welcome guest. Unlike Trump, he will probably be timidly rhetorical, but in no way substantial, in any case, against the Israeli government’s crimes. Shortly after the 2014 Gaza massacre, Biden said of Israel’s far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I love him.”
Us groups such as Black Lives Matter and Palestinian human rights groups always express mutual solidarity and explicitly see themselves as different fronts of the same global struggle against racism and ethnic oppression. This holistic spirit is a source of identity for the movement of young left-wing MPs, who have been aspiring for several years, who want to revolutionize the encrusted Democratic Party from within. This diverse group, also known as The Squad, is a charismatic frontwoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who represent left-wing positions not only at home but also in foreign policy, and is clearly in favour of the rights of the Palestinians. Some of them are open BDS supporters. The support of Israeli crimes, which has been considered a sacred cow by the Democrats for decades, breaks away with this group of young socialists. The way Biden will fight this intra-party generational conflict is uncertain, but the party is at a crossroads and will inevitably set the course for the Democratic Israel-Palestine policy of the coming years and decades.
Biden has been critical of Trump’s israel policy, which is contrary to international law, but it is unlikely that he will reverse those steps and move the US embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. On the other hand, Biden will certainly reverse some of Trump’s outright anti-Palestinian actions, reopening the Palestinian embassy in Washington and the US embassy in East Jerusalem, for example, and resuming aid to the Abbas leadership. Biden greeted at least one aspect of Trump’s Israel policy with great goodwill: the Washington-mediated normalization agreements between Israel, on the one hand, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Sudan, on the other. In the political vacuum, these deals are positive – but from a real-political point of view, they are problematic and a disaster from the Israeli-Palestinian peace perspective. At a town hall in mid-October, Biden even complimented Trump on the Israel-UAE deal. So it is likely that Biden will continue to push the policy of Israeli-Arab normalization.
On Thursday, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a news conference with Netanyahu in Jerusalem that the Trump administration would officially classify the pro-Palestinian BDS movement as “anti-Semitic.” Founded in Palestine in 2005, the human rights movement seeks to build economic, political and diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions at international level. Inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the 1990s, BDS is uncompromisingly non-violent in its opposition to Israeli apartheid, against an end to the occupation, and for Palestinian self-determination. At the press conference, Pompeo called the BDS movement a “cancer.”
The statesman, Joe Biden, is less confrontational in his choice of words, but he essentially shares the trump administration’s position here. In May, Biden told major Democratic donors that “too often left-wing criticism of Israeli politics turns into anti-Semitism.” A strategy paper from his campaign states that Biden “strongly rejects the BDS movement” because he “fights against it.” delegitimize Israel on the global stage". In doing so, he is reversing the same nonsense that we always hear from the right in Israel and in the West. BDS is not about Israel at all, but the movement advocates the enforcement of internationally securitised human rights and a life of dignity for the Palestinians. The BDS movement’s official Twitter channel reads aptly: “By rejecting BDS, Joe Biden supports US complicity in Israel’s decades-long regime of occupation, colonialism, and apartheid, and supports the denial of basic human rights from us Palestinians.”
Joe Biden “firmly” rejects the BDS movement, shamefully opposing the global nonviolent struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice & equality. Cutting US military aid to Israel is vital to the progressive agenda of #HealthcareNotWarfare and social, racial, climate & gender justice. pic.twitter.com/JtMHYocXnU— BDS movement (@BDSmovement) May 20, 2020
Under Biden, there will be a change in tone in Israel-Palestine policy, not in the basic substance. If the policies of Netanyahu and his hawks were under Donald Trump, their “private Santa Claus,” as on far-right steroids, the Netanyahu government, with Biden’s backing, will have to return to the pre-Trump status quo – so the occupation, apartheid, and dehumanization of the Palestinians will have to return to normal.
One of the terrain in the Middle East where I personally have (great) hopes for a Biden presidency is the Trump-inflamed conflict with Israel’s arch-enemy.
Biden must quickly return to Iran deal
Since the 2016 campaign, Trump has been incessantly railing against Iran, withgetting to pull out of the crucial Iran nuclear deal (officially JCPOA) in May 2018, which is seen as a textbook example of solution-oriented, peaceful diplomacy. This was followed by the reinstatement of all US sanctions against Tehran, which were to be lifted as part of the deal. Under Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, Trump also launched new attacks on Tehran in many other areas, with catastrophic consequences for Iran’s economy and health care system. The JCPOA parties, Britain, France, Germany, and the EU, were willing, but de facto unable to defend the deal against Trump. In a toned-down form, this also applies to the two other parties, Russia and China. Joe Biden has repeatedly said during the campaign that he wants to rejoin the deal. In a guest column on CNN in September, Biden extended his hand and assured that he would “offer Iran a credible path back to diplomacy.”
But a return to the Iran deal will be anything but a self-starter for many reasons. Biden, for example, must fight resistance from Republicans, just like the Iranian neocon wing of democrats. The Israeli government, as well as the Emirati and Saudi governments, are already taking a stand to lobby Washington against re-entry into the JCPOA. In addition, the Trump administration will impose entirely new Iran sanctions in its remaining weeks, which will make it harder for the Biden administration to back down on the deal. Since these new sanctions will not have a nuclear link, but are tied to areas of human rights in Iran, Tehran’s ballistics program, and its regional activities, criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike, Biden would lose too much of his political capital if he repealed these new sanctions without consideration. But if he does not take them back, he will lose his credibility with Tehran – a cleverly sneaky move by Trump strategists. This “flood” of sanctions is being worked out with the Israeli government and is expected to be implemented weekly in new waves until Biden’s inauguration. “The goal is to impose as many sanctions as possible on Iran by January 20,” Axios quoted an Israeli source as saying. Bloomberg writes, citing an interview with Trump’s special envoy to Iran, Elliot Abrams: “The Trump administration has worked to create a web of hard-to-reverse sanctions that could initially hinder Biden’s efforts.” The Iran hawks around Trump want to preemptively sabotage Biden’s Iran policy.
On the other hand, Tehran is also excelled in the diplomatic game, and over the past year has skillfully built up a negotiating mass by suspending the main operational statutes of the Iran deal in five well-calibrated stages, each with a two-month gap, and enriching uranium beyond the rules. These steps – it cannot be repeated often enough – were not a breach of the treaty by Iran, contrary to media coverage in the West and the statements of local politicians. Article 36 of the JCPOA gives each Party the right to ‘suspend all or part of its obligations’ should the other parties be guilty of ‘significant non-compliance’ with its obligations. Tehran, therefore, made strategic use of this provision in its “breaches of contract” with a view to new negotiations. This too is to be condemned, but each of these steps can be reversed in the shortest possible time, for example by exporting enriched uranium or by diluting it with unenriched uranium. Tehran was not about preparing the way for the bomb, but about strengthening its own negotiating position.
In his CNN column, Joe Biden called on Iran to “strictly respect the nuclear deal” as a precondition for the US re-entry, while Tehran believes Biden is not in a position to impose any conditions at all. Tehran, for its part, demands that the US return to the deal without any preconditions. Tehran is also demanding an apology from the U.S. government, as well as compensation for the negative impact of the Trump sanctions, neither of which will be provided by Biden. Yet, to show his goodwill, he would have to practice creative diplomacy and approach Tehran more subtly and inmoredirectly. Biden could quickly reinstate special permits for some countries to purchase Iranian oil, allow shipments of humanitarian goods to Iran, ease travel restrictions on Iranian citizens, and lift sanctions on government officials. But above all, Biden could finally release an IMF loan request of FIVE billion U.S. dollars, which Tehran had already requested in March to combat the Corona pandemic and which is still blocked by Washington.
So there would be many ways for Biden to return to the negotiating table, keeping both sides face down. All this should happen quickly, with rapid and tangible positive effects for the people of Iran. Because in June are presidential elections in which the hardliners around revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei are given good chances. Whether an anti-Semitic incitement wins from the beating of Ahmadinejad – who is likely to run again – or a moderate from the Rouhani camp also depends on whether President Rouhani can prove that his reform course is bearing fruit. While many hurdles will have to be cleared to revive the Iran deal, it is hoped that Biden will restore Obama’s only great positive foreign policy legacy and do everything possible to salvage the deal.
What U.S. Presidents Are Doing in the Middle East
Joe Biden represents the encrusted US political establishment like few besides him – the bipartisan sit-downs between big corporations, Wall Street, and politics, the corruption that draws global circles. Biden, in particular, has played a decisive role in shaping US foreign policy for decades; First, 36 years as a senator for Delaware, including 12 years on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chaired for several years, and from 2009 eight years as Obama’s vice president, he always “proactively” took care of global policy issues. Biden is seen as an archetypal representative of liberal interventionism – the political school of thought that, to put it bluntly, promotes the role of the United States as a “world policeman,” and sees this role as the ostensibly that Washington must wage war on the spread of freedom and democracy around the world. Political scientist Edward Knudsen aptly describes to Monitor: “Joe Biden certainly believes in what he calls America’s leadership. This means US dominance and military intervention. He believes that America has the right to intervene anywhere, at any time.” The monitor report, as well as a guest article on Telepolis, documents the great closeness of Biden’s closest circle of advisers on the arms industry and the militaristic Washington think tank bubble.
In the spring, Biden outlined his foreign policy agenda in the journal Foreign Affairs, the apt title of the detailed essay: “Why America Must Lead Again.” The essence of the 12-page essay could be evaporated as follows: the superpower USA is to guide the fortunes of this world for all eternity. Other democracies may “flank” this, but every aspect of the globe must be dominated by Washington. Opponents must be subjected to war at all costs or brought to their knees “as a last resort”. His plans to subdue China, by the way, sound as old-fashioned as if the world’s last 30 years of oligopolization had simply passed Biden. His “foreign policy agenda will put the US back at the top of the table” – because round tables do not exist in the Biden cosmos. This arrogance, as it should be for a democrat, is always shrouded in the flowery, inconsequential phrases of liberalism: freedom, security, transparency, human rights. “Democracy” and derivatives are present in the text 42 times.
The good tone also includes: “It is time to end the endless wars that have cost the United States immeasurable blood and riches.” The fact that Biden himself is one of the architects of the “forever war” is deliberately unmentioned in the essay. In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was contrary to international law, war criminal George W. Bush had a powerful ally on the Democratic side in the person of Joe Biden, who had been openly invading at least five years earlier; Biden, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 1998, with a smile on his lips: “We end up going to be alone - going to strike alone - and it’s going to take men in uniform like you who walk into the desert and turn off Saddam.” For years, Biden remained a supporter of the Iraq invasion, only to voice criticism under Obama.
Under the Obama-Biden presidency, the Imperial Great War of the Bush administration, under which hundreds of thousands of troops invaded foreign lands and smashed the US flag into the ground, should be adopted. Under the Obama doctrine, wars were then conducted more discreetly, which became known as the “light footprint”: not invading armies, but night raids by Special Forces; no air squadrons dropping bomb rugs, but joystick-controlled drones, whose constant surge in the populations triggers and spreads the same terror that they claim to fight. From a dense network of special forces, smaller military contingents, private mercenaries and drones, the U.S. empire can strike at any time and anywhere in the wider Metropolitan and Middle East – the “forever war,” the endless war, U.S. exceptionalism, the claim to be able to bomb any land on the vast land from Senegal in West Africa to the borders of the Himalayas, the arrogance, to presume to be allowed to do so. It is precisely this arrogance that, after nearly 50 years in US politics, is firmly encoded in Joe Biden’s foreign policy DNA.
While Trump adopted the doctrine of The Light Footprint from Obama and escalated in many battlegrounds, Biden will also adapt it. “We can be strong and smart at the same time,” Biden describes in his essay in Foreign Affairs the intended strategy of renouncing large-scale invasions, but using a network of special forces everywhere. “These smaller missions are militarily, economically, and politically sustainable,” Biden bluntly argues, advocating the continuation of the “forever war” for all eternity, even if he replaces the toxic attribute “endless” here in the style of liberal-interventionist word flowers with the euphemism of “sustainability.” “Sustainable” – green and eco reverberate in the war. How he gets this word on paper in the first place to describe war missions speaks volumes about the deeply entrenched misanthropy in Biden’s worldview.
No, a return to new major wars, including a coup d’état and anecuting of entire countries, a return to Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, I think under Biden is unlikely to be ruled out. Like his two predecessors, he will, of course, bomb Syria, but somehow arrange with Assad and Putin. Like Trump, Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, and Bush Sr., Biden will of course drop bombs on Iraq, but he won’t move large troop contingents into the country. Nor do I see any new conflicts in the Greater Middle East. Many countries are also left with little left. Who should the US bomb? Turkmenistan? Mauritania? And the truly apocalyptic sword of Damocles, called the Iran War, which under Trump was constantly hanging over the region, will melt down under Biden, if all goes well.
The presidency of Joe Biden will be just as bland and grey as the person Joe Biden. He is the center-right Empire politician, the blinded American exceptionalist he has been for decades. How could he get out of his skin? On the question of war and peace in the Greater Middle East, we will not see any fundamentally drastic developments in one direction or another. In the Middle East, President Biden will simply do what US presidents do in the Middle East: drop bombs.