AMERICAN foreign policy expert Professor Danielle Pletka believes there are indications of some good news and some bad news on the Middle East from the Biden Administration’s early days.
Pletka, who was addressing a webinar for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), listed among the bad news that many of the people in the Administration’s key foreign policy posts, such as Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, new CIA head William Burns and Iran envoy William Malley were either instrumental in the Obama Administration’s negotiation of the “really, really terrible” JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, or senior figures in that administration.
Also concerning to the Senior Fellow in foreign and defence policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, were the seeming eagerness of the Biden team to re-enter the JCPOA, the reversal of the Trump Administration’s designation of the Houthis as terrorists, and the muted US response to subsequent Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabian civilians, the murder in Lebanon of Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim, and an attack by Iranian proxies on US assets in Iraq. She stated, “The Iranians are testing the Biden Administration. And so far, the Administration has shown itself to be reticent in pushing back.”
The good news includes that Biden is insisting Iran comply with its JCPOA obligations before he will remove the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, and the Administration seems likely to keep troops in Syria, which is important as ISIS is having a resurgence, and Russia and particularly Iran are using their presence there to cause trouble.
She described Biden taking so long to call Benjamin Netanyahu as bad and “petty”, but is pleased Biden supports the Abraham Accord peace agreements, and will leave the US embassy in Jerusalem. However, she doesn’t believe the Administration will promote further such deals, as it clings to the old thinking that peace with the Palestinians must come first. While things between Israel and the US won’t be the same as they were under Trump, the fundamentals of the relationship won’t change under Biden, because Biden is pro-Israel, not hostile as Obama was.
Restoring funding to UNRWA and getting back into the UN Human Rights Council without any demands that they change were “ridiculous” and “an embarrassment”, especially given Biden wasn’t using any of the leverage Trump had left him by withdrawing US involvement.
She does, however, hope that Arab states will withdraw their funding to UNRWA, noting that the UAE already has, and she added that the Europeans and Canadians are also getting sick of it.
The US, she said, must understand that the Iranian regime is united when it comes to the nuclear program and its support for terrorism – the supposed distinction between hardliners and moderates is “unmitigated rubbish”.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) decision that it has jurisdiction over Israel and the Palestinians is, she said, what the Court has always been about. She said it’s notable that the Biden Administration hasn’t lifted the sanctions Trump imposed on the Court, and if it continues on its present path, “the worm will turn.” It will lose support in the US and the Canadians and Europeans are getting tired of its behaviour. She added that “for Israel, the best thing is to remind people there, but for the grace of God, go you, because everybody can run afoul of these international keystone cops who arrogate to themselves powers which they were not afforded by any treaty anywhere.”