After a slow start in Iran, the Biden administration was somehow convinced to alter course on the nuclear negotiations and become serious. Though both sides still accuse the other of being unrealistic on sanction relief, both sides now believe the other is committed to resuscitating the JCPOA nuclear agreement. Iran’s top negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, recently said that the US has assured him "that they are also serious on returning to the nuclear deal." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8 that he is optimistic about the negotiations and "that almost all main sanctions have been lifted and talks continue on some details."
So, some things change. But some things don’t. When it comes to taking sides in several of the foreign conflicts that are of interest to the U.S., unlike the Iran nuclear talks, the Biden administration has not altered course.
As the Israeli-Palestinian situation once again spins out of control amid evictions, violence, airstrikes, bombed buildings, rocket fire and massive troop call ups, the Biden administration is resisting forces to change policy and is maintaining the charted US course.
According to Israeli media, Hamas has sent Israel a ceasefire proposal through the Russian foreign ministry in which both sides would cease attacks on a mutual basis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, immediately rejected the offer and, instead, had his security cabinet approve a plan to intensify attacks.
Israel has also rejected a ceasefire proposal from Egypt and the United Nations. A senior Israeli official said that Israel will not negotiate a ceasefire before Hamas pays a price for its attacks.
Despite Israel’s decision to continue and intensify the attacks instead of exploring ceasefire proposals, the Biden administration has continued the American tradition of offering Israel cover at the United Nations. The Security Council began discussing a draft statement calling "on Israel to cease Jewish settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, and urge[s] general restraint." It condemned both sides’ use of violence and called on both sides to de-escalate the situation. The joint statement’s release, however, was blocked by the US.
A second attempt by the Security Council was again blocked by the US. Although the other fourteen members of the Security Council were in favor of the joint statement that "demanded immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction" and "called for respect for international law, including international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians," the US, again, blocked the statement.
Reiterating "the steadfast partnership between the United States and Israel," Secretary of State Antony Blinken "expressed his concerns" to Prime Minister Netanyahu, "regarding the barrage of rocket attacks on Israel, his condolences for the lives lost as a result, and the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself." He added his wish that "all parties… de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence." On May 12, President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He conveyed his "encouragement" to restore calm. He also "condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians."
Israel is not the only occupying power the US is continuing to support. When it comes to taking sides in foreign conflicts, the Biden administration is also staying true to the charted US course in Morocco.
In the dying days of the Trump administration, the US inked one of the most cynical of the Abraham Accord agreements, making peace between Israel and Morocco, two countries long at peace. The price the US paid for public peace between Israel and Morocco was the illegal recognition of Morocco’s control over Western Sahara. Though it doesn’t seem to matter to American law, Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara is illegal under international law. Both the UN and the International Court of Justice have ruled in favor of Western Sahara’s right to self governance.
In a stunning move in early May, the Biden administration committed to Morocco that it would not reverse the Trump administration’s decision and would continue to recognize Moroccan possession of Western Sahara. Secretary of State Blinken passed the promise on to a relieved Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita: Morocco had feared that Biden might reverse Trump’s recognition.
Following a visit to Ukraine by Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the US continued to promise to arm and provide military cooperation to Ukraine. The US has delivered millions of dollars of aid to Ukraine since the coup that Biden and Nuland encouraged, and they have promised hundreds of millions more. In April, the US made several deliveries of military cargo to Ukraine. Nuland was a dominant force in the Ukraine coup, as her taped confession revealed. In that taped phone call, Nuland reveals that Biden, then the vice president, was willing to "midwife" the coup. So, it is perhaps not surprising that Blinken and Nuland traveled to Kiev with promises of continued coup support. "Of course, we consider every request," Blinken assured. "Pentagon is Ukraine’s key partner."
Biden has also shown no signs of changing course on Venezuela. After calling Venezuela’s democratically elected president a "brutal dictator," Secretary of State Blinken called for “an effective policy that can restore Venezuela to democracy.” State Department spokesman Ned Price clarified the course continuation when he confirming that the US continues to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. In March, Secretary of State Blinken called "Interim President Juan Guaidó," stressing the need for "free and fair elections." Blinken said that the US is working with the usual cast of "like-minded allies," like the OAS, to exert pressure on Venezuela. In a recent congratulatory tweet to newly elected Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso, Blinken said it was “Good to speak with President Elect Lasso Guillermo about how we can work together to strengthen our economies, restore democracy in Venezuela, and create a more secure region for the benefit of all.” When it comes to choosing sides, the Biden administration is, once again, staying the US course in Venezuela.
In 1979, when the US joined the rest of the world in recognizing Beijing in mainland China and not Taipei in Taiwan as the capitol of China, China agreed to abandon its plan to reintegrate Taiwan by force and to turn to peaceful negotiations, while the US agreed to withdraw US forces from Taiwan, end its defense treaty with Taiwan and maintain only low-profile, unofficial diplomatic relations. The Trump administration broke that delicate agreement when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was “lifting all of these self-imposed restrictions. Executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be null and void.”
In this foreign conflict, the Biden administration is, once more, maintaining the US course. Under Biden, the US has sailed warships in the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Straight. It has conducted drills with the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Nimitz and their strike groups in the South China Sea. The Chinese Defense Ministry says that Biden has increased the military activity of warships near China by 20% and of aircraft by 40%.
In his very first address to congress, Biden threateningly framed US-China relations as a competition to "win the 21st century." Biden even invited Taiwan’s representative to the US to his inauguration. He then sent an unofficial delegation of former US officials to Taiwan. On April 9, the State Department clarified and continued Pompeo’s promise breaking policy. State Department spokesman Ned Price "issued new guidelines for US government interaction with Taiwan counterparts to encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship." It called Taiwan "an important security and economic partner" and determined to "liberalize guidance on contacts with Taiwan."
As in all of these many other foreign conflicts, the Biden administration has not altered the traditional US course.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.