It’s “uncanny”, says Simon Tisdall in The Observer, how America’s declining influence across the Middle East is tracking the previous retreat of the British Empire from the same area. One by one, ruling regimes are “asserting their independence and freedom of action”, while courting new allies. So it’s perhaps unsurprising, “given his lifelong belief in American pre-eminence”, that Joe Biden has launched an “ambitious push” to re-establish US dominance in the region. The President is trying to pull off an “improbable hat-trick”: a working “understanding” with Iran; a “historic Saudi Arabia-Israel” peace deal; and a breakthrough on Palestinian statehood.
The whole thing looks faintly “delusional”. He is apparently proposing to completely lift US sanctions on Iran in exchange for a few American prisoners, a halt to Tehran’s attempts to build nukes and a possible end to Iranian military drone sales to Russia. Then, to try and win back Saudi Arabia from the increasingly influential Chinese, Biden is reportedly offering his blessing for a Saudi nuclear power programme, if Riyadh normalises relations with Israel. His hope seems to be that the “domestically besieged” Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, is so desperate for a win that he’ll take a Saudi deal even if it means opening discussions on Palestinian statehood. That would be a “big pre-election win” for Biden, but even if Netanyahu could be persuaded, his far-right coalition partners certainly can’t. And time is not on Biden’s side. Regional leaders “wonder how long he will last”, and whether Trump will replace him. The US President can “do his darnedest”, but like Britain’s lost “imperial age”, the “American century” in which he’s so firmly rooted is passing swiftly into history.