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Biden’s Strategy for the Region
US President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the US Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Biden’s Strategy for the Region

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, February 9

One of the gravest problems that faced Saudi Arabia and other US allies during Barack Obama’s presidency was the US strategy of a “new phase.” Obama often talked about it, but it was a reflection of the vision of a large team of senior policymakers that surrounded him. In short, these individuals believed that the United States’ strategic interests dramatically changed since the Second World War. China, not Russia, became America’s largest economic and political adversary and the Middle East lost its importance with the increased American reliance on its own production of shale oil. Under Obama, the American military began its withdrawal from the region and, along with that, reduced its political activity in the Middle East. But the proceeding years showed us that things weren’t that simple. The Iranian nuclear threat emerged as a clear global threat. Terrorism could return and threaten the United States at home. And China itself has been advancing toward Asia and Africa and exerting control over territories included in its Belt and Road Initiative — including in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These changes have sent American policymakers back to the drawing board, where they are required to reevaluate their assessment and strategy of international politics. For example, the US doesn’t want to leave Yemen a failed state that becomes a hotbed for the Houthi militias and al-Qaida to grow and prosper under Iran’s control. However, it also doesn’t want to fight there and therefore has no choice but to support the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, Washington wants to satisfy the organizations that call to stop the war for humanitarian reasons. Therefore, Biden has no choice but to support the coalition and strengthen his country’s influence without direct military involvement in Yemen. Biden’s decision to reverse Trump’s decision and remove the Houthis from the list of international terrorist organizations reflects his desire to find a peaceful solution for Yemen. It would be impossible for his administration to negotiate with the Houthis if they are listed on the terrorist list. As for Washington’s statements and calls on Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the countries of the region to improve their handling of human rights issues and the release of political detainees, this is primarily lip service coming out of the White House. The US cannot force these governments to change their laws or release those whom they consider a threat to their national security. In fact, these calls are inconsistent with Biden’s strategy of placing America before the interests of any single individual. Arab states must realize that this is a two-way street. Ultimately, the United States looks after its own interests in dealing with the Middle East. If no interest is to be found, then it will not remain involved in the region. –Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

Give the Gift of Trusted News!

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The Media Line is always there to report to you the stories and issues of the Middle East – completely and in context: TML is the source you can trust.

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Please support our ad-free, nonprofit news agency. Our seasoned journalists reporting from the Middle East are working day and night during these challenging, yet defining times; and our student interns are honing their knowledge and skills, preparing to emerge as tomorrow’s journalists.

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Felice Friedson
Founder, President

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