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The Way Out of the Impasse Between Iran & U.S.

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On June 18th, Iran will hold its Presidential election. The current Government is led by Iran’s moderates, who are the people that aren’t closed-minded to the possibility of America’s being less than 100% determined to take back Iran as America had grabbed that country in the 1953 U.S. coup there, which ended Iran’s democracy and installed the brutal and much-hated fascist Shah Reza Pahlevi. The non-moderates in Iran will not negotiate with the United States, and never did. Restoration of the Iran deal will be impossible if the non-moderates again win power there. But we have only until before that June 18th election to restore it, if it is to be done at all.

There is a superb explanation of this situation, by Alexander Mercouris, in a 38-minute talk by him at The Duran on 2 May 2021, and it is a preface to everything that I shall here be adding to it, which will be only my policy-conclusions which follow, I believe, quite logically, from the facts that he so clearly and accurately presents there. That video (which I recommend everyone to listen to) can be seen here:

He concludes by saying (and I add my comments [in non-italics and in-between brackets]), starting at 31:50-

We will see, over the next few weeks, whether the U.S. and Iran are able to overcome their common mistrust [which has resulted from Trump’s having cancelled the Iran deal, which had taken years to negotiate] and find a way forward, or whether opponents of the JCPOA [the Iran deal] in the United States, in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and in Iran itself, will instead prevail. I should say that I think that this is going to be a key moment in the Middle East. If the United States is able to re-enter the JCPOA, after having made various steps to walk away from it [Biden’s having promised that he wouldn’t return to it unless Iran would first agree, in advance, to making concessions, beyond those it had made in the JCPOA, which — if Iran, which had adhered to the deal, which the U.S. did not, were to do that — would outrage the Iranian public and thus guarantee the current Iranian Government’s fall and replacement by the non-moderates; so, that demand by Biden was stupid in the extreme], but if it re-enters it on Iranian terms [that is, unconditionally, which is the only way for the deal’s violator to be able to return to the deal], then it would be very difficult for people in the Middle East to see it [because Biden had promised not to do that] as anything other than a major concession and a signal that the United States is, indeed retreating from the Middle East. Iran will, at that point, be in the ascendant, and it will probably increase its influence in places like Iraq, and possibly Syria and Lebanon also. The Saudis and Israelis, by contrast, will be dismayed, and no doubt they will consider what steps they should take, possibly distancing themselves, to some extent, not perhaps from the United States, but from this Administration [meaning that many mega-donors to the Democratic Party while Biden or Harris are leading the Party will quit or greatly reduce their donations to it, and that Republicans will probably then easily retake the U.S. White House in 2024]. The alternative, however, it seems to me, is worse [for the United States and everyone]. If the United States and Iran cannot agree a way forward, and the JCPOA [restoration] fails, then the situation is set up for a showdown, at some point, between the United States and Iran, with Iran, almost certainly in that case, pushing forward [under rule by its non-moderates] with its nuclear enrichment program, and forging, at the same time, ever-closer ties with the new Eurasian powers, Russia and China, which are increasingly working together. At that point, some kind of military hostilities, in the Middle East, become more likely. 

The United States, once more, finds itself in a difficult position. It does so because of the way in which it has inserted itself, to such a degree, in the affairs of the Middle East, which, in some ways, it does not fully understand, and which it is certainly unable to control. 

Trying to build long-term policy in the Middle East by an outside power, like the United States has done, is like trying to build a castle on a foundation of sand. The edifice might look imposing for a while, but eventually it crumbles.

It seems to me that, whatever happens, over the next few weeks, we are going to see, with these negotiations, the beginning of that long retreat, or, rather, a further step in that long retreat, of the United States, from the Middle East, and [from] that era, which began in the 1970s, when the United States managed to establish itself as the prevailing overwhelmingly dominant power across the Middle East and the country that essentially decided the course of decisions and events there.

So, this will be a step towards the end of an era. If so, however — if the United States manages to withdraw in an orderly way by agreeing to the JCPOA, despite the embarrassment and, to some extent, the humiliation [because Biden has promised not to do this] that it will suffer — that will at least provide a route for a dignified farewell.

If, on the other hand, the negotiations fail, and the JCPOA dies, then the eventual outcome of an American retreat from the Middle East will probably happen still, but the sequence of events will be disorderly, chaotic, and, perhaps, violent.          

Biden chose, when he entered office in January, to commit his Administration to Trump’s foreign policies. He accepted the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which was a slap in the face to the Palestinians. He accepted Trump’s acceptance of Obama’s policy that Crimea and Donbas — which had separated themselves from Ukraine after Obama’s coup which had seized Ukraine’s government in February 2014, as a result of a plan by Obama which had started forming in Obama’s Administration in 2011 — must be seized back by Ukraine, and Biden promised that the United States would help Ukraine to do that. And he accepted Trump’s continuation of Obama’s plan to oust Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria and replace him with leaders who would be selected by the Saud family. He also accepted Obama’s and Trump’s change in American policy on Taiwan, toward switching away from the decades-long “one-China” policy of refusing to grant separate-nation status to Taiwan, toward now sending officials to Taiwan in violation of that policy and toward sending warships to the Taiwan Strait (internationally recognized by every nation except America to be Chinese territory) as a threat and preparation for publicly demanding that Taiwan be recognized by the United Nations as being a separate nation and no longer a province of China. All of these policies were build-ups toward some hoped-for surrender by Russia, and by China, and by Iran, to Biden, which would supposedly happen in some way without direct military conflict between the United States and Russia, and/or China, and/or Iran.

Furthermore: Biden continues Trump’s — who continued Obama’s — policy to get the UK Government to transfer Julian Assange from a British super-max prison in solitary confinement to a U.S. Supermax prison in solitary confinement so that the U.S. can permanently remove Assange from access to the public and perhaps execute him on totally bogus charges. Assange has never been convicted of anything and has been imprisoned by the UK Government for over a decade, awaiting a court ruling that he can be extradited to the U.S. for elimination. Here was the first day of his only trial, which ended in no conviction and in what was expected to be his release from that super-max prison, and both on that first day and on the last day of his trial (as can be seen there), British ‘justice’ was clearly outrageous and suitable only for a dictatorship. Furthermore, instead of that regime releasing him, the U.S. regime under Trump and now continuing under Biden appealed UK’s ruling that had declined to extradite him, and both the UK and the U.S. Governments are keeping him in that UK supermax solitary confinement until UK either announces that he is dead or else extradites him to a U.S. prison to await his death in some American prison — regardless of whether or not he ever becomes convicted of anything.

Biden chose this astoundingly stupid and arrogant policy of the U.S.&UK imperium, instead of criticized and renounced his immediate predecessors’ policies on these matters.

It is vastly more difficult for him to reverse those stupid and dangerous policies now, after he had announced them, and to back America down from them peaceably, than it would have been if he had not entered the White House in the way that he did, as a continuation of George W. Bush and of Barack Obama and of Donald Trump’s policies on these matters. He has been continuing down their road to World War III.

His immediate predecessors were building toward World War III, and he chose to build more toward that War, but Mercouris seems to me to be expecting that Biden will discontinue that road now, after Biden’s having committed himself toward building that way even more than his immediate predecessors did.

The road to WW III is long, and Biden, by now, should recognize that we are nearing the end of that road, which would be the inevitable annihilationist destination of the road that the U.S. has been taking.

At this point, either Iran will, yet again, have to yield-up its sovereignty (basically return to being an American colony, as it was between 1953 and 1979), or Russia will have to yield-up its sovereignty (which it never did yield), or China will have to yield-up its sovereignty (which it formerly had done when Britain grabbed it), or else the United States will have to stop demanding them to yield up their sovereignty.

Why has Biden chosen this dead-end? The reason (besides his stupidity) is obvious: The only alternative for him has been and is for the U.S. Government to face courageously and honestly in front of the entire world, that its existing policies on each one of these matters is imperialistic and alien to what had been the plan and the intent of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his plan to end all imperialisms and replace them by the first global democratic federation of nations, by means of the sole possessor of strategic weaponry being the United Nations, the organization which FDR himself invented, created and named, but which his immediate successor, Harry S. Truman, catastrophically weakened in order to prepare for the U.S. Government itself to take over control of the entire world and dictate to it as the world’s first all-encompassing global empire. In 1991 when the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance all ended, it seemed as if Truman’s goal of a global U.S. dictatorship would finally be fulfilled, and that was supposed to be “the end of history.” But it was, instead, only America’s intensified war for global dictatorship, and the end of that war will come now, but definitely not on America’s terms.

Either Biden will, now, proudly take up and continue, the vision of FDR — to end all empires, meaning especially its own, and to transform the U.N. into what FDR had planned it to become, the democratic federation of all nations — or else, there will be global nuclear annihilation.

Clearly, Biden, throughout his life, has been stupid and arrogant, but the question facing him now is whether to continue this, right up to its ugly end, or else to announce, proudly, that he is a decent person and will return America, and the world, to what had been FDR’s vision for it.

If he chooses the latter path, then — and this is the only way to do it — America will again take up the banner of freedom and democracy, to the entire world: including nations that it (for whatever reasons, valid or not) disapproves of. And, then, he will win the Nobel Peace Prize, which Obama had won but did only one thing ever to have deserved, which was the JCPOA (which he hadn’t yet even envisioned when he was accepting that entirely unearned Prize).

Whereas Mercouris seemed to me to be optimistic that Biden would do the sane thing, I am not, because Biden has given no indication that he is willing to renounce his, and his immediate predecessors’, extremely ugly record, of reaching to grab the entire world.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Was Trump better for the world than Biden, after all?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Joe Biden and the State Department just approved a major deal with the Saudis for 500mln in choppers maintanance. Effectively, the US sold its soul to the Saudis again after the US intelligence services confirmed months ago that the Saudi Prince is responsible for the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration is already much more inhumane and much worse than Trump. Biden doesn’t care about the thousands of American citizens that he left behind at the mercy of the Taliban, the Biden administration kills innocent civilians in drone strikes, they are in bed with the worst of the worsts human right violators calling them friendly nations. 

Biden dropped and humiliated France managing to do what no US President has ever accomplished —  make France pull out its Ambassador to the US, and all this only to go bother China actively seeking the next big war. Trump’s blunders were never this big. And this is just the beginning. There is nothing good in store for America and the world with Biden. All the hope is quickly evaporating, as the world sees the actions behind the fake smile and what’s behind the seemingly right and restrained rhetoric on the surface. It’s the actions that matter. Trump talked tough talk for which he got a lot of criticism and rarely resorted to military action. Biden is the opposite: he says all the right things but the actions behind are inhumane and destructive. It makes you wonder if Trump wasn’t actually better for the world.

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Biden’s worrisome construct of security and self-defense in the first year of his term

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Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe

US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is failing so far. He can’t get the Iran nuclear diplomacy on track. The Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster seen by all, placing an unusually high number of weapons and armaments in the hands of the Taliban and leaving everyone behind, to the point that one wonders if it was intentional. The US military has been able to accomplish far more impressive and bigger logistics tasks in the past, so when they want to they can do it.

More worrisome, however – and because it is also oriented towards future impacts – is Biden’s construct of vital concepts such as security, international peace and self-defense which has already displayed a consistent pattern during the first year of his term. The signs are already there, so let me bring them out to the surface for you.

Treating a counter-attack in self-defense as an original, first-move strike

This is a pattern that can be noticed already in Biden’s reading of what constitutes defense. It first struck me in a place where you might not think of looking. It originated from the criticism of the previous Trump administration’s support for the destructive Saudi Arabia campaign on Yemen, leaving Yemen as the biggest famine and disaster on the planet. To avoid the same criticism, the Biden administration decided to do what it always does – play technocratic and legalistic, and hope that people won’t notice. On the face of it, it looked like Biden ended US participation by ending the “offensive” support for Saudi Arabia. Then in the months after the February decision, reports started surfacing that the US actually continues doing the same, and now most recently, some troops from Afghanistan were redirected towards Yemen. Biden didn’t end Yemen; he set up a task force to examine and limit US military action only to defensive capabilities, which sounds good to a general observer. It reminds me of that famous Einstein saying that all the big decisions were to be taken by him and all the small decisions were to be taken by his wife, but there hasn’t been one big decision so far. So see, it just turns out that everything falls under defense, ask the lawyers. Usually no one would object to the well-established right to defend yourself. The problem with that is that the US is actually in Yemen. Treating any counter-strike and any response to your presence as an original, first-move attack is not only problematic but it also simply doesn’t work in legal terms. It goes along the lines of “well, I am already here anyways, so your counter-response in self-defense is actually an attack and I get to defend myself”. If the issue was only with terrorist or rebel organizations (because let’s face it, who cares about the Houthies in Yemen?) I don’t think we would be discussing this. But as you guessed it, this approach can already be traced as a pattern in Biden’s thinking and the way he forges alliances, draws red lines and allows things to happen, and it stretches to areas that most people definitely care about such as a possible military conflict between the US and China.

Let’s take the newest development from today. The US just announced that it has entered into a trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which is encirclement of China par excellence. Where it gets interesting is that the trilateral partnership is purported to be only for “advanced defense capabilities”. The equivalent of this is someone from another city squatting at the door step in your apartment, inviting two others to join, and then when in the morning you push them and step on them to go to work, the squatters claiming that you attacked them and calling the police on you in your own apartment. This is Biden’s concept of self-defense: since I am already here in your space, you are attacking me.

The US is trying to start something with China but it doesn’t know how to, and China seems completely unconcerned with the US.  Chinese leader Jinping doesn’t even want to meet Biden, as became clear this week. China doesn’t care about the US and just wants to be left alone. They already said that in clear terms by reading it out loud to Wendy Sherman last month. Biden didn’t have to ask for a meeting in that phone call this week because he already knew the answer. Wendy Sherman got a clear signal on her China visit that the US president won’t be getting that coveted red carpet roll-out any time soon.

So the story says that the US is going all the way to the other side of the world and staging military presence there but only to defend itself. The US has no choice but to move in to defend all the US citizens at risk in the Indian Ocean — that’s the stand-up comedy line of the week. It is staging military presence right at China’s doorstep — if not in Chinese waters, and the idea is “yes, that’s your turf but now that I’m here, if you push me to leave, you are attacking me”. This is the strategy of narcissists and those that are looking to point the finger to their opponent when they just don’t have anything, so they stage something. China is in the long-term game, playing against itself. The US is that number 2 that’s trying to create provocation. In the Indo-Pacific, the US is biting more than it can chew. China is not a big mouth or one to throw around military threats. That’s the US style: “be very careful, we might bomb you if you don’t do what we say”. A dog that barks doesn’t bite. On the other hand, China is more like a Ferrari — it will go from 0 to 200 in seconds and then it will go back to its business. The US and Biden will be left whimpering but no one will jump to save the US from its own folly because self-defense in the US packaging is not even bought by the US government itself. Even they don’t buy their own packaging. So why should anyone else?

Treating embarrassing discoveries and things that don’t go my way as a threat to international peace

This one is a big one. With this one, Biden is playing with the queen, namely action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter in the name of international peace and security. A threat to international peace and security is grounds for action under Chapter 7 which includes military action, and it’s never to be spoken lightly. Words have consequences. The UN Security Council rarely specifies grounds for action under chapter 7 for threats to international peace and security but it’s enough to take a look at the practice: resolutions were passed when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, in response to 9/11, against Kaddafi who was marching toward Benghazi to wipe out the people in 2011, in relation to genocide, etc. Grounds for a threat to international peace can’t be “because I don’t like the way things are turning out for me”.

Peace and security are not like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. There has to be an actual or imminent attack and actual military action or violence. Loose interpretations of threats to peace and security are a sign of weak leadership.

Leaders who construct dissent and criticism as terrorism in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, as I have argued about the FBI previously in the left media, are weak leaders. In smearing Martin Luther King, the FBI argued national security. As director Oliver Stone said in Cannes this summer, when he was investigating the JFK assassination, every time he was getting close, he heard “national security”. 

You can see a lot about the character of a nation by the way it constructs security, and notice traits such as narcissism, weakness, cheating. The Biden Administration has to know that a threat to international peace and security can’t be “things that make my government look bad”. In 2001, the world followed the US in Afghanistan because there was an actual military attack. The world won’t follow the Biden administration on a bogus threat to international peace that can best be summed up as a major embarrassment for the US government. Suggesting a link is a threat to the fabric of international society. Not only is it a sign of national narcissism but also a sign of arbitrariness and authoritarianism. Treating criticism and the exposure of US government crimes as if it were a military attack is what horror movies are made of. What’s next? Droning journalists?

Treating issues which are a subject to treaties, rules and negotiations as a threat to international peace  

The Biden security construct stretches to various regions, including my own. This first struck me with Biden’s executive order regarding the Western Balkans when he tied blocking these countries from EU accession to a threat to international peace, which carries significant consequences. If a country, let’s say Bulgaria, is exercising its lawful right to veto EU processes, hypothetically, based on Biden’s understanding, the US could table a resolution for Chapter 7 action to punish an EU member-state for blocking the accession of an EU candidate because that’s a threat to international peace. That could hypothetically lead to military action against an EU country making use of its veto. Biden doesn’t have a veto in the EU. Do you know who does? Bulgaria. So until Biden becomes an EU country he doesn’t have a say.

Biden was visibly irritated that the process of EU accession has been stalling for quite some time, especially with N. Macedonia and Albania at the EU’s doorstep, so he decided to give it a go. Let’s not forget that the Balkans are a favorite Biden region and this goes back to the 1990s. I have written about it before: Biden is stuck in the 2000s when if you mentioned the Western Balkans the words international peace were a guaranteed association. Not anymore. Negotiations, rules and voting are the peaceful and reasonable way to resolve issues, agree or even not agree in some situations, and are the opposite of war and aggression. Treating these ways as a threat to peace is just the rhetoric of those who can’t get their way. But it’s also indicative of a worrisome trend with Biden that anything that the US government doesn’t like can be dressed as a threat to international peace, which carries the most significant of all consequences in the international arena.

Treating lawful counter-measures as a threat to national security

Perhaps the best and most fascinating example of lawful counter-measures I ever heard was brought by Andrew Clapham at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Here is the story. The UK issued unlawful sanctions on a country. In response, lawful counter-measures by that country targeted jam exports because a jam factory in Scotland was the key to turning the elections. The targeted counter-measures worked, hit jam exports, discontent people in the region voted the other way and the government that put in place the sanctions to begin with was ousted. This was a brilliant example that you hit where it hurts and you do it lawfully. Counter-measures don’t have to be identical. The US likes to put tariffs on Louis Vuitton bags in retaliation when it deals with France, for example. In the Trump trade wars, Europe would hit bourbon and jeans exports as a counter-measure. You hit their signature product. Not all counter-measures are illegal and count as an attack. International law is full of examples.

Similarly, lawsuits against a government are a lawful counter-measure. This area reveals another part of Biden’s worrisome construct of national security. A threat to sue the US government cannot in and of itself be a threat to national security. Tortured reading of what is national security is a sign of weak leaders, narcissists, those on the losing end, or straight up losers – or all of the above. 

Treating lawful counter-measures as a cause for self-defense is not only a sign of a wrong understanding of self-defense, but is the ultimate sign of narcissism. Usually those who attack know better and brace for impact in anticipation of the counter-measures. Narcissists, on the other hand, cry that they are being attacked when they receive a counter-strike in response. Strategists know better.

Mistreatment of whistleblowers, critics and opponents as spies and as a threat to national security

This one is an easy one. Only losers treat whistleblowers and critics as spies and as an automatic threat to national security. Take the treatment that Gary Stahl has received at the hands of the Biden Administration and the FBI, for example. Again, the US government doesn’t get to construe a huge embarrassment (in what will soon be revealed to shows the true criminal nature of the US government) as a threat to international peace. This is a problem for America. Not only doesn’t China plan to attack militarily the US any time soon over what’s to come, but China is largely unconcerned with the US and would like to be left alone. Any talk about a risk of military conflict could only mean that it is the US that plans to attack because they are embarrassed they got caught red-handed and the world will see the US government’s true nature. Talk of threat to international peace has a very high threshold. No one cares about how America would feel – that’s your problem, not an issue of international peace. 

The Biden concept of security is that of an ugly, pretentious, old woman who is told she can’t enter because her ticket is not valid. She then throws a feat screaming she was attacked, beaten and insulted, expecting everyone to be on her side. But the world simply doesn’t care about the problems of this pain-in-the-ass anymore. The US government will have to try much harder if they want to present the issue as anything close to security and self-defense, let alone a threat to international peace. That tune is old and there are no buyers. 

The US surely thinks very highly of itself if they think that a scandal like that is worthy of a military conflict but literally no one else sees the US as this important anymore. This scandal will matter only to America in what it reveals about all the layers of the US government across rank, institutions and administrations. That’s it. It ends there. Any talk of Chapter 7 threshold is war mongering and no one will care. 

People talk about the Biden doctrine on Afghanistan but the Biden doctrine that will be sealed in history will be something along the lines of “Anytime I get caught, it’s a threat to international peace and security.” This is how Biden will be remembered in history: for creative writing endeavors in the security field and no substantial foreign policy achievements. 

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Biden’s credibility restoration plan

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Although damages of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan cannot be easily undone, by taking a series of wise steps, Biden can send a strong signal that America is coming back.

Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan has shattered his reputation as a safe haven for allies. This is while, he pledged to restore U.S. leadership after Trump by confronting China’s and Russia’s growing totalitarian ambitions, restoring historic alliances with European allies, and ending the never-ending conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

But he is not the only President whose decision has eventually damaged the United States’ global reputation. Donald Trump’s capitulation deal with the Taliban, Barack Obama’s indolence in Syria, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq have all tarnished the United States’ credibility around the world. The question now; however, is no longer whether Biden and his predecessors should have acted differently. It’s how the United States can minimize the damage.

Biden should begin by speaking the truth. So far, the President has failed to admit the failure of his withdrawal plan. Biden ought to be straightforward with himself, the American people, and the whole world.

Biden’s policy should, of course, vary depending on the area and global conditions. To promote its interests in the Indo-Pacific area, the United States should station a few ambassadors, including a Navy or Coast Guard attaché, in the Pacific Island countries of Tonga, Tuvalu, and Kiribati. In addition, a considerable number of troops currently stationed in Afghanistan should be redeployed to the Pacific. Finally, Biden’s administration should engage with U.S. defense contractors to speed up the transfer of military equipment to Taiwan. Getting Taiwan its armaments swiftly would be a powerful show of support as a steadfast ally, as well as provide modern platforms to prevent a Chinese amphibious invasion.

The Biden administration should also do all in its power to rebuild relations with European partners. For the very first time, NATO invoked Article 5, which identifies an assault on one member as an assault on all. Since then, soldiers from a variety of countries have fought and died alongside US troops. Nonetheless, Biden decided to leave Afghanistan without consulting the governments of these countries, leaving them to plan emergency rescue efforts for their populations. Close allies of the United States are understandably enraged. America’s behavior is being chastised in Paris, Berlin, and the British House of Commons on both sides of the aisle.

Last month, at a meeting of regional leaders in Baghdad, Macron made it clear that, unlike the Americans, he was dedicated to remaining in the Middle East. “Whatever the American choice is,” he stated in public remarks in Baghdad, “we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight terrorism as long as terrorist groups function and the Iraqi government requests our assistance.” It was a clear example of Macron’s idea of “strategic autonomy,” which implies European independence from U.S. security policy, and an attempt to use the United States’ humiliation to underline that Europe and Washington were not always on the same page. At an emergency G7 summit, Mr. Biden is said to have turned down allied requests to extend the August 31 deadline for exit.

The Biden administration’s recent decision not to penalize Nord Stream 2 pipeline participants has enraged Europeans as well. Poland and Ukraine underlined their worries in a joint statement about the ramifications of choices taken on the pipeline without the participation of nations directly impacted, claiming that Nord Stream 2 poses both geological and ecological risks to Europe.

As a result, whether it’s diplomatic recognition of the Taliban regime, humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, or any other major issue, the US should not take any more action without engaging partners. Mr. Biden should also dispatch senior members of his national security team to Europe and other regions of the world to reinforce America’s commitment to their security.

As to the Middle East, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, in a Foreign Affairs article described “America’s opportunity in the Middle East,” suggesting that diplomacy may work where previous military interventions have failed. The United States’ involvement in the area is frequently portrayed in military or counter-terrorism terms, and as a binary option between going all-in or going all-out. Instead, Sullivan advocated for a strategy that relied more on “aggressive diplomacy to generate more long-term benefits.”

Accordingly, the President and his team in Vienna should get the new Iranian administration back to the negotiating tables and rejoin the JCPOA and ease the tensions in the Middle East. Also, the United States should do all possible in Afghanistan to secure the safe transit of Afghans who qualify for U.S. visas to the Kabul airport – and to keep flights flying until they are able to leave. This should apply to both Afghans who dealt closely with the United States’ military, and to those who engage with U.S. media and humanitarian organizations and must get visas from a third country. In addition to ensuring that the United Nations and humanitarian groups have the resources they need, the United States should cooperate with its Security Council allies to guarantee that the Taliban does not hinder the free flow of help.

Moreover, to follow any influx of jihadists to Afghanistan, intelligence agencies will have to rededicate resources and increase surveillance. They must be pushed to coordinate their efforts on the Taliban in order to keep the most threatening groups under control. The United States could set an example by agreeing to accept a fair share of any displaced Afghans. Neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, which already have millions of Afghan refugees, are closing their borders.

Biden may not be able to prevent all of the disastrous repercussions of the Afghan catastrophe, but he must act now before the harm to U.S. interests and moral stature becomes irreversible. By taking these steps, he can send a strong statement to the world that he has learned his lessons and that America is coming back.

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