- President Biden touted several accomplishments on security and conflict in the Middle East, including working on Trump-era normalization between Israel and Arab states and building an integrated regional defense network.
- However, Biden’s commitment to revitalizing the Iranian nuclear deal may have undermined what little progress was made on the trip, according to experts.
- “If you’re unwilling to address the fundamental problems of the nuclear deal… You will face a very tough time trying to bring allies on board [with] your requests,” Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Weeks after President Joe Biden touted his geopolitical accomplishments during a long-anticipated trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, his commitment to pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran has threatened the administration’s regional agenda.
Biden’s trip centered around smoothing regional tensions and expanding the Trump-era Abraham Accords to bring cooperation between Israel and Arab countries into the open. However, his determination to revive the Iranian nuclear framework pits the region’s governments against Biden’s simultaneous efforts to forge a strong military alliance and put a stop to proxy conflict in the region, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The prospect of an Iran nuclear deal that gives enemies [Iran and its terrorist proxies] more money, more capabilities, while still keeping Iran on a path towards nuclear weapons, means that U.S. allies do not feel secure,” Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and advisory board member at the Vandenberg Coalition, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Biden’s claimed accomplishments included opening Saudi airspace to Israeli flights, brokering the resolution of a territorial dispute between Israel and Saudi Arabia over islands in the Red Sea and promoting a ceasefire to the Saudi-supported civil war in Yemen. Biden also advocated for regional security cooperation that would create a deterrent effect against Iran’s belligerence at a summit with leaders of nine countries on July 16.
“This trip is about once again positioning America in this region for the future… and we’re getting results,” Biden said after the end of his first meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
During his trip, Biden reiterated his commitment to a reviving the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement former President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018. “As we continue to work closely with many of you to counter the threats… posed to the region by Iran, we’re also pursuing diplomacy to return constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, addressing the nine Arab leaders.
However, Arab states stopped short of declaring a defensive alliance against Iran during Biden’s visit despite expectations, including multiple media reports and remarks by Jordan’s King Abdullah regarding a NATO-like group, according to a report from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said “there is no such thing as an Arab NATO, and the issue is not on the agenda” at the summit with Biden, Arab News reported.
The United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan all communicated with Iran ahead of Biden’s visit, assuring Iran they had no intention of forging a regional security network, MEMRI reported. (RELATED: Putin Forges Deals In Iran After Biden Blows Through Middle East)
Arab countries might prefer to have a closer relationship with Israel as a reliable regional ally girding against the Iranian threat. However, uncertainty over whether the U.S. will offer defensive military support as Biden pursues a diplomatic path with Iran pushes them to avoid actions Iran might see as provocative, such as growing closer to Israel, Goldberg told the DCNF.
“There are such strong concerns about the ramifications of a new nuclear deal with Iran, they’re very much hedging their bets,” Victoria Coates, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and advisory board member at the Vandenberg Coalition, explained to the DCNF.
White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk said Wednesday a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “highly unlikely,” a more pessimistic statement than has previously emanated from high-level U.S. officials, Axios reported. Some fear the deal may become irrelevant as Iran has ramped up its uranium enrichment in recent months and claimed to have the capability to produce an atomic weapon.
.@POTUS in Israel on Iran: “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome. We’ll continue to work with Israel to counter other threats from Iran throughout the region.” More: https://t.co/jsgSTFgNw9 pic.twitter.com/63nTXpF2Dc
— Department of State (@StateDept) July 15, 2022
Biden’s advocacy for the nuclear deal strips the U.S. of leverage it could use to accomplish other goals, said Goldberg, including promoting an end to the war in Yemen that many see as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia, to whom the U.S. provides material support, and Iran, who backs the Houthi rebel group. The Houthis vowed on July 17 they would not agree to an extension after it expires on August 2, Arab News reported.
“If you’re unwilling to address the fundamental problems of the nuclear deal… you will face a very tough time trying to bring allies on board [with] your requests,” said Goldberg.
The White House and the Saudi Foreign Ministry did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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