This is the area where US presidents have been absorbing their potential for decades, even as they try to “return” to Asia. Joe Biden is no exception, engaging himself in a complex redefinition of the US position in the Middle East.
The president initiated two parallel initiatives that were not necessarily linked: one in the direction of Saudi Arabia, accused of ordering the assassination of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the other on the premises of the Iranian nuclear issue.
There are two elements that are common to both themes. First, it is true that there is a strong animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and that the United States has a long history of conflict with Tehran and alliances with Riyadh. Second Link Donald Trump instead attacked Iran relentlessly, strengthening a relationship with the Saudi royal family and therefore the state.
Mark the territory
In such a complex environment, Biden is cautiously advancing, perhaps even more vulnerable.
On February 26, the White House revealed rare courage, exposing US intelligence to the 2018 murder of a Saudi journalist. This note directly blames the Crown Prince for killing Kashogi.
But Biden did not go all out with the logic that if the instigator of the murder of an American refugee journalist and a Washington Post contributor is pointed out, action should be taken against him. The president marked his territory, but did not want to further destabilize Saudi Arabia, a key country in the Middle East. In this way he deceived people who expected too much from him.
There is no doubt that Biden will not be able to weaken Saudi Arabia much at a time when he is trying to reconcile with Riyadh’s incumbent rival Iran. In this case, too, the first steps made it possible to re-establish an open dialogue during the Obama era, which Trump sought to sabotage with some success. On March 1, French President Emmanuel Macron phoned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and tried to mediate, without major results.
In a better world, the US president wants to reconsider US obligations in the Middle East to focus on the “existential” rivalry with China.
But the situation has remained unchanged for decades: while US strategic interests are less strong than ever, and the Gulf oil dependence is largely overhauled, Washington has the potential to attract attention to the region.
Biden does not want to be a new Obama, and his foreign policy budget has been tarnished by the landmark decision not to operate in Syria after the 2013 chemical attacks. As a sign, the new president launched his first military offensive in Syria last week.
Two diplomatic efforts are to be completed without destabilizing Saudi Arabia or offering more concessions to Iran, the most unpopular in the United States. This will be the first test of an order as part of redressing the mistakes made by the previous administration.
(Translation by Andrea Sparcino)