Every now and then, America mislays one of its Mideast allies. “Who lost Iran?” they asked in 1979, as the shah’s regime went sideways, the answer being Jimmy Carter and the State Department. “Who lost Egypt?” they asked in 2012, as the Muslim Brotherhood took power, the answer being Barack Obama and the State Department.
“Who lost Israel?” will soon be added to this perplexed refrain. The answer will be President Biden and the State Department.
But this time, America will be losing the region as a whole — to its historic rival, Russia. Iranian mischief will wax again, and Washington’s Arab and Israeli allies will move on without anyone losing much sleep over what the White House thinks about anything. This is a deliberate strategic choice, and it will lead to the collapse of American influence in western Asia.
Team Biden appears bent on reviving the Iran deal at all costs. The costs include completing the Democrats’ turn away from the Jewish state and thoroughly alienating America’s Sunni-Arab clients. In reviving the nuclear deal, moreover, Washington will repeat a failed experiment in the hope of different results.
The Iranian regime won’t accept a tougher deal than the 2015 accord, and the Biden administration is Obama 3.0: The same team looks to rehabilitate its reputation, not to secure the national interest. The Obama-Bidenites will accept any humiliation from Tehran and call it a diplomatic breakthrough.
The Obama-Biden Mideast template, the one favored by much of Washington’s foreign-policy cognoscenti, involves abandoning America’s allies and perversely empowering the Tehran regime, by putting it on what Henry Kissinger called “a glide path to a nuclear weapon.”
Former President Donald Trump rejected that template. He knew bankruptcy when he saw it, and he told Americans what the rest of the world already knows: Their experts are fools, their Mideast policies a catalogue of failure.
Trump dropped the Iran deal and chose containment. And he trashed the “land for peace” paradigm between Israel and the Palestinians — and forged peace deals between the Jewish state and four Arab states.
Blessedly, much of Trump’s legacy is locked in. Team Biden can’t roll back the Abraham Accords or return the US Embassy to Tel Aviv. No one in the region now imagines total Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories known as the West Bank.
The one area where Trump’s legacy isn’t locked in is the Iran deal. Don’t believe new Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he says the administration wants an expanded deal, or that the administration will consult with America’s allies. Team Biden is a revival of the Obama administration, and it inherits the ignorance and arrogance that led to Obama’s having his nose rubbed in the desert sand by Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Biden team has already signaled it wants to reassess relations with Saudi Arabia and taken Yemen’s Houthis off the terrorist list as a sop to Iran. The prime minister of Israel has had to wait for his call from Biden.
The Bidenites might imagine they’re putting America’s needy, gross allies in their place. But in reality, Team Biden is merely speeding up the arrival of a post-American Middle East.
The Israelis have let it be known that they assassinated Iran’s nuclear planner Mohsen Fakhrizadeh with no US involvement and minimal notice to Washington. The Saudis are edging toward open relations with Israel, as the anti-Tehran front hardens.
Russia has already replaced America as the principal outside power in the region, and Netanyahu would probably prefer to deal with Vladimir Putin that with Biden. Turkey is pushing into Syria and Iraq.
Meanwhile, Chinese investment pours in. If the United States loses control of the Mideast, and the Persian Gulf in particular, it loses control of the world’s most valuable waterway.
So the question isn’t so much “Who lost Israel?” as “Is the US losing the entire Middle East?” And the answer has to be yes.
That prospect alarms American Jews and evangelical Christians, but Israel will be fine without Washington. Its new friends need its tech and military power, and its new patrons don’t share the left’s boutique fetish for the Palestinians.
The United States, though, won’t be fine: It will be reduced to a decaying, irrelevant power, capable only of pique and petty blocking moves — and shut out of the 21st-century world.
Dominic Green is deputy US editor of The Spectator.