US President Joe Biden returns from a four-day visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia with a handful of pledges on regional and energy security issues, many of which are little more than empty promises. The price paid for these hollow achievements was high.
The administration of US President Joe Biden has, since its inception, placed perception management at the forefront of its national security policy, wrapped in well-known tropes such as “democracy”, “human rights and “rules-based international order”. .” While embracing such political thematics is not unique to this administration, the extent to which it has been allowed to stray from the basics of fact, and instead craft narratives that are often more fictitious than real, is alarming.
No political moment has lived up to this combination of inconsistencies, contradictions and half-truths like Biden’s recent trip to the Middle East. Born out of the dual need to salvage regional concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and secure Saudi guarantees on increased oil production, Biden’s trip turned into a series of made-for-TV moments designed to shape public perception, only to be quickly brushed aside by the harsh truth of reality.
Israel and Iran
Biden’s first stop took him to Israel, where it was hoped he would meet former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on a united front against Iran’s ongoing nuclear enrichment program, as well as the possibility of a normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Instead, Biden found himself greeted by Yair Lapid, an interim prime minister who took office in early July after Bennett’s governing coalition collapsed in the latest manifestation of Israel’s domestic political chaos.
As Biden continued to speak in support of the United States returning to the Iran nuclear deal, Lapid said that “the only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if it continues to develop its nuclear program, the free world will use force”. Lapid’s choice of words underscored the reality that while Israel is prepared to use force against Iran (and recently undertook military exercises to test this scenario), the reality is that it is not not currently in a position to launch and sustain a significant air attack without U.S. participation. Biden and Lapid signed a joint statement saying the United States is prepared to use “all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, creating the perception of unwavering resolve.
This statement, like nearly every aspect of Biden’s national security policy, has proven to be more exaggerated than the reality. In the run-up to Biden’s visit to Israel, Iran has continued to enrich uranium to 60%, just steps from the 90% level deemed necessary to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. In the aftermath of the Biden-Lapid joint statement, a senior Iranian official, Kamal Kharrazi, said that Iran “has the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb” but has “not taken the decision” to do it. The Iranian message was clear: if the goal of the United States and Israel was to prevent Iran from possessing the capability to produce nuclear weapons, they had failed.
Safety trumps values
There will be no Israeli military strike against Iran because, quite simply, there will be no American military strike against Iran. The reason for this collective impotence in the face of Iran’s actions lies in the primary purpose of the second leg of his trip to the Middle East, a visit to Saudi Arabia and a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS name. While the Biden administration insisted that the primary focus of the visit was not energy, the question of Saudi Arabia’s ability and willingness to increase oil production was at the forefront. center of its creation and implementation.
The reason why energy security is so high on Biden’s agenda is simple: high oil prices in the United States and the chaotic energy security situation in Europe, compounded by the collective US-European measures against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Projections of the collapse of the Russian economy due to Western sanctions have had a boomerang effect on the United States and its allies, with the Russian economy holding up as the United States struggles and Europe s collapses.
The link is that any US or Israeli attack on Iran would trigger an inevitable Iranian retaliation against the oil production capacity of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The economic pressure on the United States and Europe would turn into an energy crisis that could prove fatal to their economies, as well as those of any oil producer targeted by Iran. Biden knows this; Israel knows it; Saudi Arabia knows it; and Iran too.
However, to be able to appeal to Saudi Arabia for oil market aid, Biden first had to renege on earlier promises to treat MBS as an outcast for his alleged role in the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Not only did Biden meet MBS, but he had to submit to Saudi projections of moral equivalence when MBS pushed back against Biden’s retribution for Khashoggi’s death by raising US treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and silence on the killing of an American Palestinian journalist. Shireen Abu Akleh.
The signing of 18 “partnership agreements” by US and Saudi officials shows how low the bar was. In the end, Biden threw away any pretense of moral authority in exchange for promises that likely could have been delivered without physically meeting MBS.
While Saudi Arabia has pledged to help stabilize the global oil market, the real decisions have been reserved for the next OPEC-plus meeting in early August, which Russia will attend. The irony that Russia has a say in policies that the United States deems essential to its security should be obvious to all observers. So does the contrast between Biden’s pathos and the public confidence of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as he meets Turkish and Iranian leaders this week at a high-profile summit in Tehran. As Russia, Turkey and Iran discuss joint policies that will influence the security of the Middle East and, by extension, the world, Biden returns home to a series of domestic and foreign policy crises, none of which was significantly affected by her visit to the Middle East. , however the White House turns out.
Scott Ritter is a former United States Marine Corps intelligence officer whose service over a career spanning more than 20 years included periods of service in the former Soviet Union implementing control agreements. armaments, serving on the staff of US General Norman Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War and later. as Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. The views expressed in this article are those of the author.