What Did Biden Achieve on his Mideast Trip?

I resisted drafting an article before President Biden completed his trip to the Middle East, with key stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia . . . because, when I led arms control talks with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, I appreciated the now long-forgotten adage that “politics stops at the water’s edge.”    

That then was a well-deserved descriptor of the approach of both Democrats and Republicans, especially in the congressional delegations that regularly visited us in Geneva.  I cannot recall a single breach of that assumed rule during those nearly five-years. Not so, today . . . regrettably.  

And now that the president’s trip and stops with long-standing U.S. allies is over, I would opine that little if anything positive would be achieved should have been expected, and regrets were much more likely, given the status quo.   

On page 288 of his 2014 Memoir “Duty,” Bob Gates (Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama) gave still applicable descriptive comments: Then Vice President Biden was “impossible not to like” as “down to earth, funny, profane, and humorously self-aware of his motermouth.”  He next noted that President Obama began “cutting him off “impatiently” in Situation Room meetings, no doubt leading to an uneasy legacy among many Obama officials now in high-level White House and Biden Administration posts.  

Then, after noting he had known the President since he came to Washington as a Delaware Senator, Gates recalled: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”  I would amend Gate’s observation now to say: “six decades.”  

Regarding the president’s recent trip, Jim Geraghty mentioned  in his July 18, 2022 National Review article, “The wheels come off the Presidency,” that even the Washington Post editors, usually among Biden’s cheerleaders, highlighted that he “had been taken to the cleaners.”  

For example, whatever might be claimed as help from Saudi Arabia, U.S. needs were mostly unaddressed—self-imposed needs produced on day one of the Biden administration—when President Biden shut down the on-going programs that then made America an oil supplier to the world. Now we are again dependent on oil from others, including from adversaries.  And our oil production activities release less carbon into the atmosphere (a global warming concern of the “green community”) than that of others, including our enemies and peer competitors.  

Moreover, little if anything reported supports the “Abraham accords” inherited by the Biden administration, especially in countering Iran’s efforts to gain nuclear capability. Rather, the Biden administration seems focused on appeasement incentivized by hundreds-of-billions of dollars, hoping to restore the terrible unverifiable Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that legitimized Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons.  

An October 16, 2017 Fox News article by Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is still one of the best discussions on the ugly JCPOA deal President Biden seeks to renew. He described Iran’s serious threat to America (the “Great Satan”) and Israel (the “Little Satan”) — and the delusion of past American leaders in dealing with Iran and North Korea. He urged our leaders not to fall prey to the arms control community’s siren song that has so often misled our national leaders, and reviewed Iran’s activities since the 1979 “revolution” until then: 

  • 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis that ended with the election of President Reagan after President Carter’s failed efforts at negotiation and failed rescue efforts by special forces; 
  • 1983 truck bombs that killed 241 U.S. service personnel and 58 French paratroopers in Lebanon; 
  • 1987-88 U.S. naval support efforts to help Kuwaiti tankers pass through the Straits of Hormuz while Iran was attempting to mine the Persian Gulf; 
  • 1979-2008 U.S. unsuccessful efforts to contain Iranian and North Korean dictatorships, via an “axis of evil” strategy; and 
  • 2008-2016 Obama administration failures in its attempt to develop a new relationship with Iran, a “fictional fantasy” that allowed Iran to dominate the Middle East. 

Newt noted that Obama-Biden administration policies had enabled much increased Russian influence in the Middle East, including in conjunction with Russia’s longstanding alliance with Iran and its allies like Hezbollah, armed with more than 100,000 missiles that could be fired into Israel — while it builds missile factories in Syria and Lebanon and develops plans for an Iranian Port in Lebanon.  

Newt noted that Iran, flush with money thanks to the JCPOA, was fermenting major instabilities, including propping up Hamas and funding a proxy war in Yemen against the Saudis. Now, President Biden reportedly is again promising a financial windfall while renewing an appeasement policy with Iran. 

I then favored ending the charade, as summarized in the September 21, 2017 letter I co-signed with 44 others.  President Trump subsequently withdrew from the JCPOA because it was inconsistent with U.S. national security interests.  And now President Biden wants to return to the JCPOA?   

In considering these issues, we should not forget that Iran has long had an ability to launch ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, including on the United States—as I joined four others to report seven years ago. Moreover, Iran cooperates with North Korea in its nuclear testing efforts—we should not presume that Iran hasn’t somehow obtained nuclear weapons to arm those missiles.   

Iran and North Korea both pose an existential threat to all Americans. A high-altitude nuclear explosion over the United States would produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that shuts down the nation’s electric power grid for an indefinite period.  Little to nothing has been done to apply well-known countermeasures to protect the grid. Failure would make electricity losses from hot weather, now a major reported concern, look like child’s play.  

So, while little if anything was helpful from President Biden’s recent trip to the Middle East, a greater concern is the gross failure of our leaders to provide for the common defense against a growing existential threat to all we hold dear—as they are sworn to do.