Violence tests Biden’s withdrawal from Middle East hotspots | New policies

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

Outbreaks of violence and scenes of civil suffering test President Joe Biden’s resolve to divert attention and US foreign policy troops from hot spots in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to give ammunition to Biden’s political rivals in his country.

Biden and his supporters say that by diverting US military and diplomatic attention from the region’s bogged down conflicts, he is delaying failed policies that often only prolong conflicts, and that US engagement demoted already encourages countries to resolve. disputes by themselves. But fighting has recently erupted in some of the areas affected by Biden’s pivot.

The Israel-Gaza war exploded as Biden tried to take a step back, creating scenes of crushed bodies and flattened houses and a growing division in Biden’s own party over whether he needed to do more. Israel and Hamas on Thursday announced a ceasefire in airstrikes and rocket attacks that have killed at least 230 Palestinians and 12 in Israel.

Fears of a Taliban takeover and a new civil war grow before Biden’s troops withdraw from Afghanistan. And outside the besieged desert towns of Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launch an offensive as Biden ends US military support for a six-year war led by Saudi Arabia.

“This is the result of the policies of US President Joe Biden,” Yemeni journalist Walid al Rajhi tweeted this month after bombing Iran-allied Houthi rebels on the walled city of Taizz. He echoed the claim that fighters from a besieged Yemeni government stronghold, Marib, also tell visiting press teams: that Biden’s military withdrawal and overtures to rebels have only emboldened them. Houthis allies of Iran to push for decisive victories on the battlefield.

How determined Biden is pivoting and what happens in the hotspots afterward will shape his foreign policy legacy.

Biden seems to be betting that even if violence erupts in the Middle East and Afghanistan as the United States turns away from its primary focus, it is a price to pay for pulling the United States out of regional conflicts as larger ones challenges arise elsewhere.

The blame is already there. “The decisions of the Americans have hurt us, and we hope that the Americans will reverse their decision,” Lt. Gen. Sagheer bin Aziz, Chief of Staff of the Yemeni Army, said in an interview on the battlefield, with CNN.

Republicans say the same thing. Biden’s actions “only encouraged Houthi aggression, a lesson the administration should remember with the Iranian regime,” tweeted Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

And as the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups peaked since 2014, Democratic lawmakers across the country this week joined with progressives in pushing Biden back into intensive U.S. diplomacy. “Others will needlessly perish if America does not act with the immediacy that this violence demands,” North Carolina Democratic Representative David Price told Biden in a letter signed by 138 others.

Israel’s announcement of a ceasefire came a day after Biden briefly and sharply increased public pressure on Israel, calling for a “significant de-escalation” within hours. Biden’s remarks Thursday praising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to “end current hostilities in less than 11 days” were back in line with the strong support of US presidents for Israel’s ally.

Biden calls that it is essential that the United States withdraw from its efforts to police conflicts in the Middle East and turn to long-term priorities. This includes competition with China and climate change.

“No one is saying we should be in Afghanistan forever, but they insist now is not the right time to go,” Biden said last month as he set the 9/11 deadline for the withdrawal. American military.

“’Not now’ – that’s how we got here,” Biden said of the 20-year US deployment in Afghanistan that left the Taliban still undefeated and the Afghan government still vulnerable.

For the administration and its supporters, the answer is to break deadlock and costly wars and manage Middle East diplomatic efforts so that foreign policy efforts do not rack up air miles over years of diplomacy. unsuccessful commuting into peace processes that combatants often fail to do. don’t want.

Regarding the war in Yemen, for example, “at some point you have to accept what the facts on the ground tell you,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has met with Gulf officials. and the United States on a visit to the region this month. “The United States has been involved for six to seven years, and Yemen has moved further and further away from peace during that time.”

Since September 11, “all we have done in fighting war after war in the region is to make our country less secure,” Murphy said. “So yes, it may need an adjustment if the United States decides to remember how it protected its interests before 2001.”

The Biden administration highlights the intensive efforts of its diplomats for peace talks in Yemen despite the end of military support. On Thursday, the United States imposed sanctions on two Houthi leaders in the offensive against Marib.

Murphy argues that US efforts to facilitate the confrontation with Iran are already encouraging attempts at conciliation on the ground. This includes Saudi Arabia this year, which contacted Iran, its main rival, and its resentful Arab partner, Qatar, after President Donald Trump gleefully backed Saudi Arabia into an intense confrontation with the two.

Even before Biden came to power and sought to calm tensions, Arab leaders, including the United Arab Emirates, had realized that joining in with Trump’s campaign of maximum pressure on Iran had only done urge him and his allies to double the attacks, Ali said. Vaez, director of the Iran project of the International Crisis Group and former UN official.

“I think the United States no longer sees the region as a priority,” said Marwan Muasher, former foreign minister of Jordan. But intelligent engagement from the United States will be crucial, he said.

“The Biden administration shouldn’t do more on the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians, Muasher said. “He should just do things differently.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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