A geopolitical earthquake is upending alliances and enemies in the Middle East while most everyone has their attention focused on Russia’s yearlong invasion of Ukraine. Before we get to that, however, you’ll need a little context.
Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief, light, and entertaining as possible.
First, the global view.
Before the Russo-Ukraine War, we had three pretty bad actors on the world stage, to a greater or lesser degree: China, Russia, and Iran. Each seeks to upset the rules-based world order set up in large part by the U.S. after World War II, and to realign global relations — violently when necessary — to suit their own ends. That’s the major reason why, whatever you might think about Ukraine’s corrupt government, I believe it’s important for the West to keep Ukraine armed and stop (or at least forestalling) Moscow’s grander ambitions.
Since Russia’s invasion early last year, the resulting Western sanctions, and China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, the Russia-Iran-China axis has grown much closer. There are still limits to how much they’ll cooperate (Beijing is not very excited about Russia’s current war), but those limits are fading faster than before.
Now let’s narrow our view down to the Middle East.
Outside of our political and cultural affinities with Israel, the only reason the Middle East holds any importance to us can be summed up in one word: oil. All the Arab and Persian worlds’ petty-yet-murderous disputes over what amount to us as nothing more than historical trivia matter deeply when our economic lifeblood flows through their veins.
Perhaps the least-appreciated part of Donald Trump’s time in office was his two-track strategy for dealing with the Middle East. The first track was domestic, easing the regulatory brakes off of American energy production. The resulting decline in oil prices and our decreased reliance on Middle East imports gave Trump the leverage to activate the second track: negotiating the Abraham Accords between Israel and a growing roster of Arab countries.
Those two tracks led to the same destination: boxing-in Iran and halting its imperialist ambitions to dominate the region.
More peace plus less reliance equals fewer foreign entanglements. And a stronger, safer, richer America, too.
Folks, that is called Grand Strategy and, at least in the Middle East, Trump and his people — like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and special envoy Jared Kushner — were masters at it.
Flash-forward to January 2021 and Joe Biden’s inauguration when, immediately upon becoming president, he did just one thing wrong: literally everything.
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He removed sanctions from Iran and Russia, slammed the brakes back on American energy production, and basically green-lit Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden also let the Abraham Accords wither on the vine for no reason other than Orange Man Bad. Instead of completing the historic peace agreement by nudging regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia on board as the capstone achievement, White House spokesweasel Jen Psaki blithely dismissed Abraham as “the tactics of the prior administration.”
The Saudis, instead of signing up for peace, spent the first two years of the Biden Administration quietly playing diplomatic footsie with arch-rival Iran.
Nature abhors a vacuum and in the same way, Beijing rarely misses an opportunity to move forward wherever America moves back. It was Chinese diplomats who sealed the deal between Riyadh and Tehran last week, in what analysts say is “a broader sign of a changing global order.”
“China’s role as a mediator in resolving longstanding issues between the regional foes had not been made public prior to the announcement,” al Jazeera reported. “China will continue to play a constructive role in handling hotspot issues and demonstrate responsibility as a major nation.”
All the while, the Biden Administration sits on its thumbs and vainly begs the Saudis to pump more oil. Biden is throwing away our influence in the region, allowing China to take our place, enriching the terrorist regime in Tehran, and making ourselves more dependent on foreign oil.
Whatever the exact opposite of Grand Strategy is, you’re witnessing it right now.