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Biden’s foreign policy failures

Aug 17,2022 - Last updated at Aug 17,2022

While the Biden administration has recently had major successes on the US domestic scene and his approval rating has risen to 40 per cent, his administration has performed disastrously in foreign affairs, most notably in three cases.

Joe Biden pledged during his presidential campaign to return the US to the 2015 agreement curbing Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions, abandoned by Donald Trump in 2018. But Biden failed to honour this promise promptly and without conditions. Instead, he continued Trump's policy of piling more and more sanctions on Iran and making demands as the price of return. This contributed to the defeat of Iranian moderates and the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi in the June election and has prolonged the talks to the point that European mediators have become exhausted and impatient. They have now put their much amended, "final text" on the table. The mediators are set to give their reply today.

Both the US and Iran have shed conditions unacceptable to the other side but Tehran continues to insist that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must end its demand for a credible explanation over uranium traces at three undeclared sites abandoned by the nuclear programme decades ago. Iran has failed to meet IAEA demands although its inspectors have verified there is no secret nuclear activity at these sites.

In June, the Western-dominated IAEA board of governors censured Iran over this issue, angering Tehran by keep this issue open. Iran is concerned about a repeat at the next board meeting in Vienna in mid-September. This would be a dangerous way for the Western powers to torpedo the 2015 agreement and blame Iran. Meanwhile its nuclear programme is advancing rapidly both at the technical and practical levels.

US diplomats and scientists have appealed to Biden to promptly return to the deal. He has stalled because of opposition by anti-Iranian and pro-Israeli US legislators and lobbyists. However, recent polls show Biden would be blamed by 33 per cent and Trump by 34 per cent of respondents if the deal collapses; 67 per cent of voters advocate US reentry and 78 per cent oppose military action against Iran.

If the deal is not renewed, this region could experience a proliferation of nuclear programmes which could ultimately involve weaponisation. And, if military action is taken against Iran, the entire region, particularly the Gulf, could be engulfed in retaliatory warfare.

Biden also faces a prolonged, punishing war between Ukraine and Russia and world-wide inflation and economic crises precipitated by this unnecessary, avoidable conflict.

In the run-up to the Ukraine war, Biden and Britain's ex-prime minister Boris Johnson refused to heed Russia’s vehement objections to Ukraine's membership in NATO. Instead, Biden cited US intelligence sources' claims that Russia, which had gradually massed 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border, intended to attack its neighbour. If, instead, Biden, in particular, had pressed Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to renounce any ambition to join NATO and pressed parliament to remove NATO membership from that country's constitution, the Russian soldiers might have returned to their home bases. Moscow and Kyiv could have negotiated over Russian-held Donbas area and Crimea.

The war has negatively affected the entire globe. It is bleeding the West for funds and arms to enable Ukraine to repel the Russian attack, and has not given Biden and Johnson the boost in approval ratings normally accorded war leaders. Johnson was forced to resign for his objectionable domestic antics. Biden's approval rating has crept up from 33 to 40 per cent due to the passage of legislative programmes benefitting US voters and their families.

China is the third front where the Biden administration has, unnecessarily, stirred up hostility. During the first meeting in March 2021 between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Yang Juichi and the state councillor Wang Yi, Blinken expressed concern over their country's human rights record and increasing Chinese authoritarianism and external outreach. Yang retorted by saying that the US has "deep-seated" human rights issues and should not promote its version of democracy while there is discontent at home.

The existing downward trajectory of US-Chinese relations launched by Donald Trump accelerated after China's ally, Russia invaded Ukraine. Chinese anger peaked when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial visit to Taiwan where she promised the US would defend the island. While Biden asked her to call off her trip, she refused. While he argued that the executive branch could not tell the legislative branch how to behave. As head of the Democrat party to which Pelosi belongs, he has considerable leverage over her activities, especially if they harm US interests. In response, China's military carried out an intimidating air and sea drill off Taiwan.

Beijing rejects Taiwan's independence and regards the island as part of mainland China. The anti-Communist US alienated Beijing by sticking for 30 years to its absurd policy of considering tiny Taiwan's Nationalist government as the ruler of the vast mainland from which the Nationalists were expelled in 1949. Washington only recognised the People's Republic of China in 1979. A row with Beijing was, and is, not in the interests of the US or China.

Biden could avert disaster in this region, after months of prevarication and procrastination, by finally reentering the nuclear deal and averting regional destabilisation.

He could try to contain the Russia-Ukraine war by withholding weapons from Kyiv to curb its unrealistic ambitions and promising Moscow that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO (a veto by one member will prevent this). Thus far, the US and NATO have not pushed for a ceasefire and negotiations and have, instead, opted for Russia's defeat. Ukraine has said it would fight until all its territory is restored. This would prolong the war, leave Ukraine in ruins, wreck Russia's economy, and deepen anti-Western sentiments in Russia. Europe, not the US, would bear the brunt of Russian anger if natural gas supplies are cut off during the winter, driving up energy costs, crippling industry and depriving European households of heating and cooking gas.

On China, the Biden administration could tone down rhetoric over human rights and promote the rights of its own blacks, browns, women and children.

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