White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently stood behind her podium and directed her anger at the previous US administration, whose withdrawal from the nuclear deal encouraged Tehran to adopt a more hostile policy, according to Psaki. Even those who sympathize with Iran’s regime cannot possibly support this claim, as Iran’s expansionist policy began way before Trump and remained long after him.
This is one of the key mistakes made by the current administration. Even a year after leaving the White House, the Trump administration is still being used by its successor as a scapegoat for all the foreign crises that the latter has contributed to, if not caused. What’s more, Biden’s administration finds these justifications and excuses for its foreign policy so it can keep realizing its vision across the world. This is the main motive behind the accusatory approach toward Trumpism, in my opinion.
In Afghanistan, the Biden administration used the same unconvincing strategy after the chaotic withdrawal from the Kabul airport and the heart-wrenching scenes of civilians struggling to hold onto departing airplanes. At the time, Biden said this withdrawal was inevitable because of the pledges made by his predecessor, although he could have revoked those pledges or disregarded them the way he did other dossiers, such as migration, the economy, or COVID-19.
The same scenario is now unfolding with the Houthi militias, as the blame is being cast on others. But it is now clear that removing the Houthis from the terror blacklist one month after their listing encouraged the militias and pushed them to send hundreds of drones and rockets in the direction of Saudi Arabia and, lately, the UAE.
To use any and all means in the internal US conflict is understandable, and both parties do not hesitate to go down this road to achieve more gains in the midterm or presidential elections. The 6 January Capitol attack was used to get back at political rivals, and there was talk of domestic terrorism being the first imminent danger. But using the internal conflict in foreign files can only engender chaos, as is happening now in the Middle East.
But how to make sense of what is happening? And why would the Biden administration adopt the policy of flimsy, unconvincing excuses? In a previous article I wrote, Inside the mind of Joe Biden, I wrote about how the current US President thinks about foreign policy. After spending decades in the Senate, Biden has become no different than US foreign policy veterans who believe in backing US interests around the world and reinforcing what they call the “American world order.” For this reason, Biden supported the 2003 Iraq war, despite many of his fellow Democrats opposing it.
So, what happened, and what changed? A lot has, but most importantly, the US domestic scene has changed, and as a result, politicians –opportunists by nature– changed their ways of thinking. Biden is not the same person he was 20 years ago. This does not necessarily mean that he has changed his thoughts or convictions; rather, he is willing to renounce them for bigger personal goals. The second and more important reason, is that many Obama administration figures who strongly believe in the nuclear deal with Iran have joined Biden’s administration.
The political deal in this context is clear: a return to the nuclear deal means a revival of the Obama administration’s biggest success on the foreign policy level. This, in turn, is synonymous with promoting a different policy in the Middle East, one that is based on withdrawal, disregarding commitments made with allies, or sharing the region with Iran, as Obama has personally stated.
In exchange, Biden’s nomination for a second term is guaranteed. Such a nomination is hard to imagine without a strong Democrat belt supporting him, one that only Obama, the beloved leader for many Democrats, can mobilize.
This conflict of interests between Democrats and Republicans is understandable and legitimate, and emotions have no place therein. All the excuses that Jen Psaki and others repeat are nothing more than illusions to turn eyes away from personal ambitions and objectives. Little do the seismic repercussions matter, since the collapse will be far away from the White House West Wing, where the President sits behind his office with his strategists devising his next election campaign.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.