Albert Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results” (well, I'm not actually sure he said this, but it's often misattributed to him). It was that quote that popped in my head this week as I learned of Biden’s Middle East policy intentions. Trump was the first president in 40 years to not start a new war or expand an existing one. In fact, Trump tried to draw the existing wars down even more by bringing more troops home. That announcement, of course, made the establishment big mad. Trump got peace accords between Sudan and Israel, the UAE and Israel, Bahrain and Israel, and Kosovo and Serbia with Kosovo (a Muslim country) finally recognizing Israel. Trump said possibly even more would be joining on and I’m sure had he won a second term they could have. There was rumor the next one might have been Saudi Arabia. That would have been huge.
Trump completely broke with the failed Middle East establishment policies from the past 50 years and took bold new directions. For 50 years the dogma was that no peace could be forged in the Middle East until the issue of the Palestinians was settled. The Palestinian issue does need to be solved one day with all sides happy enough to put the issue behind them, but frankly their leaders over the past 50 years have not served them well. They have been intransigent and unwilling to cede ground and they’ll accept nothing less than each and every one of their demands be met. It has kept them poor, angry, and in a state of uncertainty. Trump rightly looked at the issue and realized he didn’t want to get dragged into that briarpatch.
Trump also pulled out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal – a flawed deal that gave a country with terror proxies 1.5 billion dollars and the ability to potentially make a nuclear bomb. He also imposed harsh sanctions deciding that the was the correct manner to rein in the country. Trump saw that Iran was the country in the region that the other countries feared and he decided to neuter it.
What Trump got right by ignoring the Palestinians issue and clamping down on Iran was that the Middle East narrative of Israel/Palestinian relations as the dominant issue was moving to (if not already replaced) with Iranian/Arab - specifically Shiite/Sunni - relations. Palestinian leaders were not happy about the accords and made their unhappiness known. This was met with a surprising response by Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia that criticized Palestinian leaders’ efforts - saying that their time could have been better spent on peace initiatives to protect the rights of the Palestinian people. A Saudi prince being critical of Palestinian leaders is a seismic shift and not something that would have happened until recently.
Israel not only aligning but forging stronger economic ties with its Arab neighbors are positive steps and you’d be forgiven for assuming that the next administration coming in would be intelligent enough to continue those policies. Instead, we are going right back to the same failed policies from the pre-Trump years. First, Team Biden wants to re-enter into the Iran Nuclear Deal - something that Israel has made clear might require them to take possible military action. We also found out they intend to resume relations with the Palestinians. We also inked a deal last year to sell F35 fighters to the UAE. That deal has now been put on hold. Yes, it appears that much like his press secretary, Jen Psaki, Joe Biden is very fond of circling back on things.
Why? Why are we going back to the failed policies of the past? Why are we going back to deal with Palestinian leaders when it hasn’t worked in the past? Why are we going to placate an Iranian regime that we know hates us and hates Israel? Why are we going to snub the UAE that is aligning with Israel – a country that we know is a solid ally? It’s utter madness. Iran is already demanding sanctions end before talks even begin of the Iran Nuclear Deal. My money says Biden will do it.
So, that’s where we are now. Back to the failed policies of the past for the immediate future… and a President that thinks doing the same things will somehow yield different results.