President Joe Biden has promised a, “new and more promising chapter of America’s engagement,” with the Middle East.
“We cannot allow Iran to become nuclear,” said current Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid during a news conference Thursday after meeting privately with other world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden.
Lapid may only be the temporary, interim Israeli Prime Minister- former PM Naftali Bennet having only been recently ousted and a new election not having taken place yet- but in that one sentence, Lapid speaks for nearly the entire unified Middle Eastern region.
Whatever other disagreements may exist, between members of the Knesset, rival political parties; between neighboring, allied and politically opposed nations, religious groups; over borders, land rights, history; Iran’s rouge government cannot become nuclear.
Even without the bomb, Iran’s brutal government regime has sponsored so much terror in the region through proxies, its nearest neighbors and co-religionists have found a new spirit of unity. In the past few years, Middle Eastern nations from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates have even been warming- officially and unofficially- towards Israel.
The signing of the Abraham Accords two years ago was the first major sign of thaw in diplomatic and trade relations between Israel and its neighbors in decades. To contain the threat of Iran, Middle Eastern nations and other regional powers are prepared to band together in ways that once seemed impossible.
That Iran’s rulers are rapidly closing the distance between a non-nuclear and nuclear Iran is no secret.
According to U.S. President Joe Biden, the United States has laid out a path inviting the Iranian government to return to its previous nuclear deal but hasn’t yet heard a response back.
“When that will come, I’m not certain,” President Biden told the press Thursday. “But we’re not going to wait forever.”
“I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome,” Mr. Biden continued.
On this subject, Israeli PM Lapid appeared to disagree.
“The Iranian regime must know that if they continue to deceive the world they will pay a heavy price,” Lapid said during the news conference. “The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table.”
Israel, among other Middle Eastern nations, did not support the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity, arguing it failed to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile program or address military proxy and terrorist operations in the region.
As Iran has progressed closer to achieving a nuclear bomb, however, the old 2015 agreement has even less support.
“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons,” President Biden told reporters. In response to a question about using military force in Iran, Biden still didn’t back down: “If that was a last resort, yes.”
“Sanctions on the IRGC, which has carried out regional attacks, have been a sticking point in negotiations to bring Iran back into compliance with the agreement meant to keep it from having a nuclear weapon,” reported the AP during the recent talks. “Iran announced last week that is has enriched uranium to 60% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade quality.”
President Biden has distinguished himself well on this trip, flexing his diplomatic muscles and displaying a rare knack for navigating delicate political situations. By affirming the Abraham Accords, Biden has given Israeli and Middle Eastern leaders reason to be optimistic about presenting a united front against Iran.
To his credit, Mr. Biden hasn’t hesitated to put U.S. national and Middle Eastern regional security ahead of gotcha questions from the press about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged involvement in the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
“Next week, I’ll travel to the Middle East to start a new and more promising chapter of America’s engagement there,” President Biden wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on July 9. “This trip comes at a vital time for the region, and it will advance important American interests.”
“A more secure and integrated Middle East benefits Americans in many ways,” the President continued, calling its waterways, “essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on.”
“And a region that’s coming together through diplomacy and cooperation- rather than coming apart through conflict- is less likely to give rise to violent extremism that threatens our homeland or new wars that could place new burdens on U.S. military forces and their families.”
“Last month, more than 30 countries joined us to condemn Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its past nuclear activities,” President Biden wrote in the Post. “My administration will continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Iran is ready to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as I remain prepared to do.”
“There are so many issues at stake that I want to make clear that we can continue to lead in the region and not create a vacuum, a vacuum that is finned by China or Russia,” President Biden said Thursday. “And so the purpose of the visit is to coordinate with nine heads of state, whether in U.S. interests and I believe in Israel interests as well.”
With any luck, Biden’s visit will truly mark the beginning of a period of peace and stability in a region too long afflicted by war and terror.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)