By Nasser Kandil
Many questions are raised about what the new US President Joe Biden’s ascent to the Presidency will bring in the shadow of the dark page represented by ex-President Trump’s time in office. Many rush to envision a rosy period represented by Biden due to the large thorns left behind by Trump, although the real picture is different. Biden’s rule as “Walking between the dots,” and “Ma bisheel al zeer min al beer” as a popular Arabic saying goes implying ineffectiveness, are invitations to lower expectations. The options awaiting Biden are complex and difficult, and the contradictions which surround the pressing dossiers he will be presented with will guarantee the every supposedly possible option to undertake will create a crisis of equal peril in parallel to the one he will resolve. This suggests that the utmost that Biden will be capable of is crisis management to keep big explosions at bay, while lacking the ability to achieve major breakthroughs.
The position the US finds itself in is similar to that the Occupation is in, namely both the inability to wage war and to forge settlements, for structural reasons in both situations. The Israeli Occupation, whose leaders and generals have gotten to the point of acknowledging the inability to wage war, appears unfit for something else. When the Occupation emerged victorious from its wars, it fell under the illusion that making settlements was superfluous, and drew illusory high ceilings for settlements, which made them impossible. When the Occupation failed to realize its goals in the wars it waged or was defeated in, it considered any realistic settlement as a confirmation of its resounding defeat and its dissolution as an entity based on power. The powerful “Israel” does not make settlements because it feels no need for them, but rather feels the desire to impose on its opponents conditions of surrender. “Israel” the weak, weakens first in the view of its extremists, which then robs any ruling politician of the needed delegation to enter into the realm of settlements, and to the same extent robs that politician of the ability to wage more wars.
In the American case, Biden faces challenges of the caliber of reaching understandings with Moscow and Peking on the basis of partnership and not merely the diffusion of conflict. Based on the opinions of all the experts, an entrance into such assumed partnership constitutes an American acknowledgment of loss in stature which Biden knows he has to avoid for the duration of his internal war with the Extreme Right which has become more powerful, and the title for dangerous domestic polarization, and which asks for proof of hanging on to American distinctiveness and excellence. In parallel, what Biden needs in the Middle East is to appear as a defender of “Israel” and able to decrease tensions, when pursuing either course will cause damage to the other. He has to prove the efficacy of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran in comparison to Trump’s policies, without allowing Iran appearing to benefit. He also has to reunify his allies, starting with Europe, Turkey, Egypt, and the Gulf, which raises the question about what he will do with the Muslim Brotherhood and with Libya. If he gives precedence to the alliance with Egypt, France, and the Gulf over the alliance with Turkey, how will he prevent losing Turkey and the risk of her positioning more clearly with the Iranian-Russian alliance? In consequence, conceding a Russian Iranian Turkish cooperation ending in a compete American defeat in Syria and Iraq?
What will Biden do in the domestic arena, and could he take steps to decrease the level of anger and anxiety among the Black, Latino, and Muslim Minorities without increasing the level of anger among the White racist and organized extremists? Would he succeed in containing the Extreme Right through cooperation with the Republicans without making concessions at the expense of economic and social programs which impinge on the rich in favor of the poor and weak, whose proportion has much more than doubled with COVID? And could fracturing in the ranks of Democrats be avoided with concessions to Republicans?
The first matter which has to addressed by Biden is foreign, namely the consideration of how to deal with the Nuclear Agreement, which will be under domestic scrutiny, and the scrutiny of all of Washington’s allies and opponents and their evaluation – a dossier in which Biden has little room for maneuver. Any discussion of requests related to Iran’s missile program and regional crises, and even calls about a basis for return to the Nuclear Agreement or calls for going back on nuclear escalation steps Iran had undertaken are outside of Iranian consideration.
Biden faces two difficult choices. Lifting sanctions imposed on Iran since 2017, a clear Iranian condition for mutual return to the same Nuclear Agreement without negotiations, will result in increased domestic polarization and a widening of the gap with opponents, and an escalating Israeli and Gulf climate. Keeping sanctions under the slogan of anticipated negotiations which will not materialize, at the risk of transforming his Administration into another Trump Administration, which will close Peking and Moscow doors, and result in the staggering and fall of the Nuclear Agreement, and in an escalation in regional tensions.