Michael Hirsh reports on the lingering toxic effects of Trump’s foreign policy decisions, including the decision to renege on the nuclear deal. Biden’s timidity on reversing Trump’s policy has left many observers baffled:
“The decision-making process in the administration is such that people who have the last word with the president are prioritizing domestic policy over foreign policy,” said Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, who is a former top aide to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s chief Iran negotiator.
The result, Vaez said, was “tragic” for Biden and would come back to haunt him, especially with Iran edging toward potential nuclear breakout – the point at which the country has enough fissile material for a bomb. “For someone like him with so much foreign-policy experience to allow politics to play such a role is unbelievable.”
Biden’s mishandling of the revival of the nuclear deal has loomed larger than some of his other foreign policy mistakes because it is such a high-profile issue, it was a major difference between Biden and Trump during the campaign, and the magnitude of Trump’s failure was so great. It has also undermined Biden’s claim to competence in matters of foreign policy, which his supporters assumed was one of his strengths. Rejoining the agreement is a no-brainer on the merits, so it has been discouraging to see the process drag on for more than a year when U.S. reentry should have been relatively straightforward. Vaez says that it is “unbelievable” that Biden is allowing domestic politics to play such a dominant role in the decision-making process, but it is unfortunately all too believable given the president’s tendency to favor the status quo even when it was created by Trump. Add in political calculations during an election year, and you have a recipe for inaction and stagnation.
Carl Bildt and Javier Solana are similarly mystified by Biden’s slow-walking approach:
So it’s puzzling that, after running on a return to the nuclear deal and promising that “America is back,” Biden has been slow-walking diplomacy that US allies strongly support. The common refrain is that he is “playing it safe” on Iran ahead of the upcoming midterms. But frankly, being the president under whose watch efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear efforts succeeded would be a much bigger hit for Biden and the Democrats in advance of the 2024 elections.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.