Biden’s 3 big Middle East misses

President Biden’s trip to the Middle East this week inadvertently underscores the fact that at least three major promises he made before taking office have been abandoned or remain unfulfilled.

Driver news: The Iran deal has not been restored, Biden is on his way to the country he promised to make a “pariah”, and the US consulate in Jerusalem is still closed.

Restoration of the Iran Agreement

Iran’s nuclear deal is still in tatters despite the fact that restoring it was probably candidate Biden’s only first layer political goal towards the region.

Stand next to Acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday promised not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, while noting that he still hoped to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

  • With negotiations stalled, Iran has continued to accelerate its nuclear activity. Biden’s helpers have been insisting for months that the window to save the deal is closing. It is not clear what exactly Plan B may entail.
  • Biden has taken fluttering from proponents of the deal for refusing to invest much political capital in rescuing it and for refusing to meet Iran’s demands to lift Donald Trump’s largely symbolic terrorist designation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
  • Biden said on Thursday that the US offer to renegotiate the agreement was already on the table, warning Tehran, “we are not going to wait forever.”
2. Turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”

The bid’s Saudi stop stands in stark contrast to his promise to make the kingdom a “pariah” over its human rights abuses, especially the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.

Asked today if he would raise Khashoggi with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Biden stated but said his stance on the assassination was “so clear” that everyone understood it.

  • Biden’s initial refusal to engage directly with the Crown Prince – and the release of an intelligence report blaming MBS for the killing of Khashoggi – appears to have hampered the administration’s efforts to convince Riyadh to increase its oil production.
  • Biden has clearly calculated that it is worthwhile to pay a controversial visit to reset the relationship, even though many progressives disagree.
Opening of the Consulate in Jerusalem

The bite promised a far more positive reset in relations with the Palestinians, including a key commitment to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that served as the U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority until Trump closed it in 2019.

  • But the leaders of Israel’s fragile coalition (which recently collapsed) warned the Biden administration that reopening the consulate would be a political bomb in Israel and help bring former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to power.

  • Biden has taken a number of steps to restore aid to the Palestinians and rebuild a relationship that arose under Trump, but he has left the consulate promise unfulfilled. The Palestinian leadership has very low expectations for Biden’s visit to the occupied West Bank tomorrow.

A promise Biden did not make was progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

  • The process that occupied so many of Biden’s predecessors is completely stagnant, primarily because of Israeli politics.
  • It was hardly on Biden’s agenda in Israel and was only dealt with in vague terms in Thursday’s “Jerusalem Declaration” on US-Israel relations.

What’s next: After meetings with Israeli leaders on Thursday and Palestinian leaders on Friday, Biden will fly to Saudi Arabia to meet the king and crown prince and attend a summit with regional leaders.

What to see: The Israeli government on Thursday approved the parameters of an agreement around two strategic Red Sea islands that will pave the way for Saudi Arabia to take steps to normalize relations with Israel, says Axios’ Barak Ravid.

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