Biden’s weakness is making the Middle East more dangerous


Last Saturday President Joe Biden pre-empted his upcoming visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia with a pack of lies in The Washington Post, among them his claim that “The Middle East I’ll be visiting is more stable and secure than the one my administration inherited 18 months ago.”

Fact check: You’ve got to be kidding me.  

Let’s rewind to January 2021. The Trump administration left office having strengthened the pillars of stability and security the region needs. Chief among them was bringing the bilateral relationship with our greatest ally in the Middle East — Israel — to a point of unparalleled closeness. American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights — key strategic terrain on Israel’s border with enemy Syria — remains in place to this day. We affirmed Israel’s right to exist by proclaiming that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” And the coordination between our security agencies was at an all-time high.

Even more to the benefit of America and the region, the Trump administration also achieved the greatest win for Middle East peace in a quarter century. The Abraham Accords — normalization agreements between Israel and her neighbors in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — have helped set the trajectory for a new Middle East, transforming old rivals into partners eager to obtain peace and reject Iranian hegemony. Biden writes, “compared to 18 months ago, the region is less pressurized and more integrated.” He’s stealing credit for the Trump administration’s work.

Gasoline prices are shown at a gas station on June 9, 2022, in Salt Lake City.
The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the US over the past two weeks has hovered at $4.86 per gallon.
AP/Rick Bowmer

Worse than that, he has squandered the momentum from the Trump administration’s diplomatic and security achievements, making the region less stable and secure.

The most fatal of his mistakes is the endless effort to induce Iran to re-enter the nuclear deal, the first version of which exposed Americans, Israelis and all peoples of the Middle East to an Iran flush with cash for terrorism and a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon.

The desperate drive to re-enter the deal is the antithesis of the Trump administration’s posture of deterrence, epitomized by our decision to take Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani off the battlefield. Today the Biden administration is appeasing the mullahs once again, failing to push back on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities and creating danger for America from an Iranian nuclear breakout.

Last week NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Biden’s Iran negotiations envoy, Rob Malley, “Do they have enough highly enriched uranium on hand to make a bomb should they choose to do so?” Malley meekly responded “Yes,” adding that it would only be a “matter of weeks” for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran talked a big game about enriching uranium under Trump. But the country never crossed the key threshold of enriching to 60% — its highest level ever — until Biden was in office. Now Iran boasts of the capability to reach 90%, the amount needed for a nuclear weapon.

In desperation to get Iran to rejoin the deal, the Biden administration has also made the region and America less safe by failing to enforce the sanctions we imposed on the Iranian oil industry. Iran’s oil sales have doubled since last August, according to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. That means the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s coffers of seed money for nuclear weapons, proxy wars and terrorists in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen are filling up once again.

The situation is a far cry from what one Iran-financed fighter in Syria told The New York Times at the height of the Trump team’s pressure campaign: “The golden days are gone and will never return. . . . Iran doesn’t have enough money to give us.” Playing footsie with Tehran has also caused Israel and the Gulf states to fear that the United States is selling out their security interests for another bad deal. The only leader who will agree that things are better is Khamenei.

This Sept. 1, 2014 file photo, shows a nuclear research reactor at the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
Biden’s Iran negotiations envoy, Rob Malley, said Iran has enough highly enriched uranium on hand to make a bomb.
AP/Vahid Salemi

Let’s also not ignore how China and Russia are continuing to bolster their respective presences in the Middle East. In March 2021, China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement worth some $400 billion. China desperately needs Iranian oil, and the regime in Tehran is all too happy to oblige in exchange for Chinese infrastructure and technology, including Orwellian surveillance technologies. In addition to being a major arms dealer to Iran, Russia is creating a sanctions-proof trading relationship with the Islamic Republic, thereby increasing its foothold in the region.

China, Russia and Iran will drill together next month in war games hosted by Venezuela. Lifting sanctions on Iran, or pretending they don’t exist, will only create more opportunities for the Chinese Communist Party, the Putin regime and the regime in Tehran to work together.

Ordinarily, the United States could count on Saudi Arabia to help mitigate Iran-related risks. Now cooperation with the Saudis is much in doubt. Biden kicked the diplomatic ball into his own goal by threatening to “make [Saudi Arabia] in fact the pariah that they are” early in his term. Like it or not, Mohammed bin Salman is likely to be Saudi Arabia’s ruler for the next 50 years or so. America needs the Saudis to sustain global energy prices, provide intelligence on jihadist threats and push back against Iran. Why the president would alienate a vital long-term partner for American security and prosperity in the region escapes me entirely.

And now that he is following through on his campaign promise to kill off America’s domestic oil and gas industry, crushing American families with inflation in the process, Biden will use his trip to beg the Saudis to pump more oil. It’s a humiliating look for America in the region.  

Finally, let’s not forget the Biden disaster in Afghanistan, which went unmentioned in his op-ed. The Trump administration handed Biden a solid, conditions-based plan for a political transition in Afghanistan. There were no US troop deaths for months as we undertook negotiations. The Biden crowd threw out our plans and raced to meet a politically motivated withdrawal deadline, with 13 dead American troops at Kabul International Airport the tragic result of his chaotic abandonment of the country. America is bereft of military and intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan to help stop resurgences of al Qaeda and ISIS. The Taliban is also looking to accommodate China’s interest in the country — a key geostrategic spot at the center of Eurasia.

It’s clear the region is less stable or safe today than it was in January 2021, but don’t take my word for it. I am confident the average Israeli, Emirati, Afghan or Saudi would agree. The former head of US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, would support my view, too.

Today President Biden is piggybacking on the Trump team’s success in keeping America out of any new wars in the Middle East and setting new foundations for peace. Sadly, his decision to empower the Islamic Republic of Iran through appeasement increases the odds that the American people will have a new conflict on their hands. Given Biden’s weakness, it will likely be the next president who has to clean up the mess.

Mike Pompeo was US secretary of state, 2018-2021.


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