After 4 years of Trumpism, with their succession of repetitive tweets, fads, unpredictabilities, inconsistencies, the new American president should be called Hercules Biden, as the files that Donald Trump left him, in foreign policy, are so many colossal challenges to be taken up. These files are named: Iran, Russia, Turkey, China, North Korea, Afghanistan & Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It will be an issue that is all the more difficult to deal with as the Iranians and the Americans have opposing aims, hence their antagonistic rhetoric which borders on deadlock. Joe Biden can, at best, say to the Iranians: We are going back to the July 2015 accord, but on the condition that you return to strict compliance with your commitments. But we can doubt that this is enough. Because the Iranians, masters of blackmail, are now demanding the “lifting of all American sanctions, before any resumption of discussions”. Which will be difficult for the United States to accept.
The Iranians want to make the Americans pay a high price. They do not forgive them for leaving the agreement in May 2018. And for the rest, they refuse to meet the demand not only American, but also European, to associate any negotiation of a new agreement with stopping their ballistic missile program and their expansionist policy in the Middle East.
The ultra-conservatives, linked to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who hold virtually all the levers of power, lead the dance and are hostile to the option of a simple return to square one of the Vienna agreement.
What follows will undoubtedly be worrying, as the Iranians will take advantage of the current deadlock to speed up their nuclear program, by enriching uranium to 20%, by producing more uranium metal, which is an essential component of nuclear weapons. They have also just continued their violation of the May 2019 agreement, admitting, according to the IAEA, having produced in one month 17 kg of uranium enriched to 20% and, no doubt, they will go as far as question the IAEA inspections.
The height of duplicity was recently reached when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared that “Iran has so far respected the nuclear deal”. Antony Blinken, the new US Secretary of State, is not fooled. He is right to say that “Iran has stopped honoring its commitments on several fronts and that if it does get back on track, it will take time to verify that it is meeting its obligations. ”
We are therefore far from appeasement! The difficulties will, on the contrary, increase, because Iran is supported, economically and militarily, by the two great powers that are Russia and China, which have just signed a strategic partnership with Iran of significant of 25 years. Enough to lead Joe Biden to toughen up his tone against Vladimir Putin, to whom Donald Trump displayed, strangely, blind benevolence.
Vladimir Putin was able to take advantage of Donald Trump’s amateurism in foreign policy to influence and even manipulate him. With Joe Biden, the tone will change.
While declaring himself ready, like Vladimir Poutine, to extend, for 5 years, the START treaty on the reduction of their respective nuclear arsenals, Joe Biden put his finger on the subjects which annoy: Russian interference in the American presidential elections of 2016 and 2020, the treatment inflicted on the main Russian opponent, Alexei Navalny, the possible Russian financing of the Afghan Taliban to incite them to kill American soldiers.
In short, when Vladimir Putin declares that he and Joe Biden will take responsibility for maintaining the security and stability of the world, those are fine words. We must now take action to avoid any confrontation.
Turkey, which is NATO’s southern flank, poses a serious problem, due to Erdogan’s duplicity of wanting to have one foot in the Transatlantic alliance and another with Vladimir Putin.
With the departure of Donald Trump, Erdogan loses a powerful ally that he knew how to influence and manipulate, as Vladimir Putin did. With Joe Biden, the relationship will be more frontal, even if the American President does not forget that the Turkish army is the second largest army, after that of the United States, in NATO. And that America has several hundred missiles with nuclear warheads on Turkish soil.
The new US president will still have to set the record straight and ask Erdogan to clarify his position. Especially since the Europeans, marked by the four years of the Trump administration, added to the disappointments of the Obama era, are increasingly seeking to develop a European “strategic autonomy”, while strengthening NATO in the face of Russia and China.
China and its iron helmsman, XI Jin Ping, worry Joe Biden. They are thirsty for power and have obvious hegemonic inclinations. China wants to become the world’s largest economy and supplant the United States, the world’s largest power, since the end of the 19th century.
Beijing is conquering Asia and Africa, thanks to their “New Silk Road” project. A project that also allows it to establish itself in Europe, by helping faltering economies, such as those of Greece and Italy.
XI Jin Ping clearly hammers out his intentions: “I want to lay the foundations for a future where we gain initiative and dominate”. The Chinese President can boast today of being at the head of the only country to have a growth rate of 4.9% in the midst of a pandemic. He is stepping up the agreements to boost his influence and growth. In November 2020, he signed the largest free trade agreement in the world with 24 countries in the Pacific region. And in December, he signed an agreement in principle with the European Union for gigantic investments. Today, he warns Joe Biden against a new cold war and does everything to prevent him from once again uniting the West against China.
It is not surprising, in such a context, that the new US Secretary of State displays his ambitions to “reinvigorate the alliances abused by Donald Trump, to counter the threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and the United States. North Korea “.
5- NORTH KOREA
In North Korea, Kim Jung-un is determined to speak up, displaying a more aggressive posture towards the United States, which he sees as his greatest enemy.
Neither its chaotic economy, the pandemic, nor the international sanctions seem to affect its determination to develop its nuclear deterrent force. The new missile to be tested soon, with a range of 3,200 km, would be able to reach Guam and the Sea of Japan.
A test of such scope would violate United Nations resolutions and would be all the more worrying as it could be the prelude to launching an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching any part of the United States. .
For now, Kim Jung-un has imposed a moratorium on the use of this type of missile, but he could end it at any time, if it escalates. Kim Jung-un surely does not have forgot that, during his election campaign, Joe Biden called him “vermin”. It is therefore to be expected that there will be provocations and tensions between the two men in the months to come.
To avoid such a crisis, Joe Biden could adopt, against North Korea, the so-called “strategic patience” doctrine dear to Barack Obama, even if this doctrine has not been crowned with success.
In Afghanistan, the Americans could make their major strategic mistake, in terms of international politics, by withdrawing their 2,500 soldiers present there. Joe Biden wants to re-examine the agreement signed with the Taliban, by Donald Trump, in February 2020, after 19 years of war, which provides for the total withdrawal of American forces by May 2021.
This total withdrawal would come in exchange for the Taliban’s pledge not to allow terrorist groups, such as Al Qaida and ISIS, to act against Western interests from areas they control. Suffice to say that this is wishful thinking, even irresponsibility, when we know that the return to power of the Taliban will be synonymous with a return to the most medieval obscurantism.
7- ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
On this thorny issue, it will be necessary to see whether Biden will manage to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor. And how will he react to Russia’s proposal, expressed by its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, to organize an International Conference, with the participation of Russia, the United States, the UN, the European Union, Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, all of which advocate a two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian. Except that is precisely all that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to hear about!
* International policy expert and diplomatic consultant.