The first steps of the Joe Biden Administration in foreign policy will have to overcome the many mines laid during the term of Donald Trump. During the last weeks, and at a dizzying pace, the current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has laid four devilish traps for his replacement in the post, Antony Blinken: the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism; the declaration of the Huthi rebels of Yemen as a terrorist organization, the lifting of restrictions on contacts with Taiwan and the undisputed role – according to Pompeo, as there is no evidence in this regard – of Iran as an al Qaeda base of operations.
The first gives wings to the anti-Castro members of Florida, mostly pro-Trump, and began the path of the thaw with Havana that Biden wanted to retake. The nod to Taiwan can only make China even more uncomfortable, after four years of trade and diplomatic warfare. The other two announcements directly target Iran, when the democrat proposed to return to the nuclear pact signed in 2015 and from which Trump withdrew in 2018, in addition to encouraging Saudi Arabia in Yemen – Biden intends to reevaluate the relationship with Riyadh – and clinch the coffin of the antagonism of the ayatollah regime. Pure diplomatic dynamite for the start of the term.
For a president like Biden, who seeks to reestablish international alliances frozen by Trump's isolationism and retake the world leadership that the United States has traditionally exercised, the outlook could not be brighter. If Pompeo's overtime initiatives are compounded by the recomposition of the board in the Arab-Islamic world and Israel, with the establishment of relationships and a growing recognition of the Hebrew State, the outlook becomes even more complicated.
Through the work and grace of Trump's son-in-law and court advisor, Jared Kushner, several countries in the region, from Morocco to Sudan, Bahrain or the United Arab Emirates, have established diplomatic relations with Israel, leaving the Sahrawis in the lurch, in the case of Morocco, or the Palestinians, by opening a gap in the traditional Arab support for their cause. None of this seemed to matter: the agreements were presented by the outgoing Administration as a great success that allowed the word peace to be pronounced with capital letters in a troubled region. They are derived from the so-called deal of the century, another notch in Trump's diplomacy that has more noise than substance and leaves the Palestinians at the feet of the horses.
As in the composition of his Cabinet, in foreign policy Biden will follow the path that Obama traced, for example with Cuba and Iran. But the insistence of the outgoing Administration, which has pulverized decades of professional diplomacy, on putting a wheel in its wheels is unmatched in any other transition. In the last days of the Republican in the White House, the United States has completed the reduction of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where only two checkpoints of 2,500 soldiers remain. The situation in both countries is far from stable, and US troops remain a target. It should be remembered that Biden opposed the military increase in Afghanistan in 2010, as well as the intervention in Libya, and during the campaign he was against participating in “unnecessary wars”.
Although a black swan can always appear, Blinken, an ideological liberal interventionist, comes to the State Department with a lesson learned. Aware of the consequences of Obama's refusal to intervene in Syria, he is also aware of the error of having initially supported Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war. His appointment was well received in Israel, for whose security he has always been a great defender, and who will also benefit from a reinforcement of military collaboration after deciding in extremis the Pentagon – the other leg, together with the State Department, of the US foreign policy – place Israel under the US Central Command, instead of under the European one as before. The goal is to tie Iran even more short, fostering collaboration among all countries in the region, even though the new Administration advocates the outstretched policy, with the possibility of easing sanctions if Tehran backtracks on its enrichment program. of uranium. The interest that Iran will have in the foreign policy of the Democratic Administration is evidenced by the appointment, this Saturday, of Wendy Sherman as number two of the State Department. A veteran career diplomat, Sherman led the US in the nuclear pact negotiations with Iran.
Both Blinken and Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor -who was the bearer of the pact with Iran-, defend greater toughness towards China, although at the same time they are aware of the cost and wear that this fierce struggle for the scepter of global superpower supposes in an exceptional situation such as the pandemic. The commitment to improving relations with the EU after the United Kingdom's departure, and with NATO, after four years of pressure – or extortion, for some, by demanding an increase in defense spending – from Trump also seems clear.
The probable conciliatory mood with Iran does not seem to have an equivalent in relations with Venezuela or Cuba, as Sullivan defends diplomatically forcing the eviction of Nicolás Maduro and a renewed pressure on Havana to isolate the Chavista leader. For the rest of Maduro's allies (China and Russia), a turn of the screw is also expected to alienate their interests from the needs of Caracas.
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