A Biden Middle East doctrine is forming, and it’s a big deal

The president of the United States, Joe Biden. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/)

There are two things I believe about the growing crisis in the Middle East.

We are about to see how a new strategy of the Biden administration to address this multi-front war involving Gaza, Iran, Israel and the region; what I hope is a “Biden Doctrine” that responds to the gravity and complexity of this dangerous moment.

And if we don’t see such a big, bold doctrine, the crisis in the region is going to metastasize in ways that will strengthen Iran, isolate Israel, and ruin America’s ability to influence events there for the better.

A Biden doctrine, as I call the convergence of strategic thinking and planning that my reports have included, would have three paths.

One of the ways would be a strong and decisive stance on Iran, including a strong military retaliation against Iran’s proxies and agents in the region in response to the killing of three US soldiers at a base in Jordan by a drone apparently launched by a pro-Iran group in Iraq.

In the second way would be an unprecedented American diplomatic initiative to promote a Palestinian state, NOW. It would imply some form of recognition by the United States of a Demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, that it would emerge only once the Palestinians had developed a set of defined and credible institutions and security capabilities to ensure that this state was viable and could never threaten Israel. Biden administration officials have been consulting experts inside and outside the US government on the different forms this recognition of Palestinian statehood could take.

In the third way there would be one security alliance of the United States greatly expanded with Saudi Arabiawhich would also involve Saudi normalization of relations with Israel, if the Israeli government is prepared to adopt a diplomatic process leading to a demilitarized Palestinian state led by a transformed Palestinian Authority.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden.  Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of the Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of the Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS (SAUDI ROYAL COURT/)

If the administration can pull it off (a huge if), a Biden Doctrine could become the largest strategic realignment in the region since the 1979 Camp David treaty.

However, it is absolutely necessary that all three tracks be united for the Biden Doctrine to be successful. I think American officials understand this.

Because I know this for certain: October 7 is forcing a fundamental rethink about middle East within the Biden administration, given Hamas’ barbaric attack on Israel; the massive Israeli retaliation against Hamas that has killed thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza; the increasing attacks against Israeli and American personnel in the region; and the inability of Israel’s right-wing government to articulate any plan to govern Gaza the morning after the end of the war with a Palestinian partner other than Hamas.

The ongoing rethink indicates that we are aware that we can no longer allow Iran to try to expel us from the region, expel Israel from the region, and intimidate our Arab allies by acting through proxies (Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Shiite militias in Iraq) while Tehran sits happily and pays no price.

And, simultaneously, it signals an awareness that the United States will never have the global legitimacy, NATO allies, and Arab and Muslim allies it needs to confront Iran more aggressively unless we stop allowing the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, maintain our policy. hostage and we begin to build a legitimate and credible Palestinian Authority that can one day govern Gaza and the West Bank effectively and, as a good neighbor of Israel, along final borders, would negotiate together.

Nader Mousavizadeh, founder and CEO. from the geopolitical consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners and senior advisor to then-UN official. Secretary-General Kofi Annan describes this emerging Biden doctrine as “the double reckoning strategy.”

“You strategically expose Iran and, at the same time, embark on an unprecedented initiative to lay the foundation for a demilitarized Palestinian state, in ways the United States has never done before,” Mousavizadeh said. “Each track needs the other to be successful. Each path reinforces and justifies the other. Repelling Iran and its allies in an improved and sustained manner strengthens Israel’s security and the security of our Arab allies. Combining that with an authentic and bold US commitment to a Palestinian state gives us legitimacy to act against Iran and the allies we need to be most effective. “It also isolates Iran militarily and politically.”

I think this is exactly right. It is time for the United States to expose Iran and Netanyahu’s deceptions.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Europa Press/Contact/JINI
The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Europa Press/Contact/JINI (Europa Press/Contact/JINI/)

Netanyahu is the reason I coined this rule for reporting on the Middle East: “Whatever people tell you in English in private is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what they say in public in their own language.”

Netanyahu has been whispering to Biden privately that he might one day be ready – maybe – to consider some kind of demilitarized Palestinian state, while in Hebrew and in public he has been saying just the opposite.

Fortunately, Biden has been on the track enough times to know that Netanyahu is just trying to wind him up. Sometimes age is an advantage. It is time to call the games of Netanyahu and the ayatollahs at the same time. A Biden Doctrine is the right way to do it.

We have tolerated Iran destroying all the constructive initiatives we have been trying to build in the Middle East, as long as Tehran stays below the threshold of attacking us directly. And at the same time, we have tolerated a Netanyahu government that seeks to permanently prevent any form of Palestinian state, even to the point of reinforcing Hamas against the Palestinian Authority for many years to ensure that there is no unified Palestinian partner.

“October 7 revealed that our Iran policy was ruined and our Israel-Palestine policy was ruined,” Mousavizadeh said. “Those policies allowed and empowered Hamas to savagely attack Israel. “They enabled and empowered the Houthis to paralyze global shipping, and they enabled pro-Iran Shiite militias to attempt to expel US forces from the region, forces deployed there to prevent ISIS from returning and help keep the region reasonably stable.”

All of this happened, he added, without anyone holding the Tehran regime responsible for the way it “deploys its poisonous and destructive non-state actors throughout the region against the constructive objectives of our allies,” who are trying to build a more inclusive region. .

It is for all these reasons that I believe, hope and pray that a Biden Middle East Doctrine will arrive, and the Israelis should too.

Israel is now losing on three fronts. It has lost the narrative war over Gaza: although Hamas murdered and raped Israelis, it is Israel that has been brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague for the civilian casualties it has caused in Gaza while trying to eradicate Hamas fighters who embedded among civilians. It is losing the ability to keep Israel safe without overextending itself in the long run, by invading Gaza without any plan for how to find a legitimate Palestinian partner other than Hamas to effectively govern there so Israel can withdraw. And it is losing on the regional stability front: Israel is now the target of a four-pronged Iranian attack (by Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Shiite militias in Iraq), but it cannot generate Arab or other allies. the NATO it needs to win that war. , because it refuses to do anything to foster a legitimate and credible Palestinian partner.

If a Biden Doctrine emerges, Mousavizadeh concluded, “it will be good geopolitics abroad and good politics at home.”

It could deter Iran both militarily and politically, taking the Palestinian card away from Tehran. It could promote a Palestinian state on terms consistent with Israeli security and, simultaneously, create the conditions for the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia on terms that the Palestinians can accept.

And it’s a strategy that could work with Arab Americans on Lake Michigan and with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. It is a strategy that could force a reckoning within Iranian politics, within Palestinian politics, and within Israeli politics.

© The New York Times 2024

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