Skip to main content

Middle East

Biden can’t stand back from the carnage

Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Joe Biden wants to “stand back” from war in the Middle East, says Josie Ensor in The Daily Telegraph. But just as he “tried desperately” to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and take a back seat in Syria, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip erupted. A vicious school bombing in Kabul last weekend killed more than 60 people and injured 150, mostly schoolgirls. And Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has begged Biden to “step in and de-escalate to stop the carnage” as Israeli jets pound buildings to rubble in Gaza and Hamas rockets fly into Jerusalem. While he was fixing America’s leaky roof – a tanking economy and catastrophic unemployment – a sinkhole appeared in the backyard.

“I’ve never been more concerned about national security than I am now,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox on Monday. At least Donald Trump got results. He started no wars and stopped several from happening. He was even nominated for a Nobel peace prize after brokering the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. And now? We’re going back into the Iran deal, so the Arabs and Israelis are beside themselves. Iran is getting stronger, China is threatening us at every turn and Russin troops hug the Ukrainian border at will. This is a dangerous time. When the American president is weak – and, believe me, “everyone sees Joe Biden as weak” – that “empowers all the bad guys”.

For all the Republican harrumphing, says Janan Ganesh in The FT, Biden has actually held on to a number of Trump’s policies. Trump refused to scold Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of a journalist who lived in the US and for the cruel war in Yemen. Under Biden the kingdom is nothing like the “pariah” the new president had promised to make it. Trump took the US out of the Iran nuclear pact. Biden’s revival of it has been “slower and more conditional than most had expected”. And with China, Biden’s approach – shadowboxing navy ships and steep tariffs – is “truer to Trump’s than to Barack Obama’s”.

Whatever “stand back” policies he’s aping elsewhere, Biden is being “truly, deeply reckless” on China, says Peter Beinart in The New York Times. The media bang on about Russia, Iran and Afghanistan, but the president’s stance on Taiwan is “meaningfully increasing the risk of world war”. The new administration has said that America’s support for Taiwan is “rock solid” – but in 1978, when the US established diplomatic relations with Beijing, it agreed to pretend there was only “one China”. The Pentagon has reportedly enacted 18 war games against China over Taiwan, and China has won the lot. China cares more, and no wonder: “The United States would never allow Mexico to join a military alliance with Beijing.” I hate to say it, but to save millions of lives, a policy of “stand back” might be the way to go.