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An American Vaccine for the Middle Eastern Patient

An American Vaccine for the Middle Eastern Patient

Monday, 22 February, 2021 - 10:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Joe Biden does not need anyone to explain to him the story of the storms that blew over the world and repeatedly changed its features. He is supposed to know the story and some of its chapters in detail. For half a century, he has been listening, discussing and receiving reports on both America and the world. He had to follow the story of his country and that of the world from his office in administration or his seat in Congress.


Biden is an old witness. The most important files he faces today were already on the table when he was elected to the Senate in 1972. Coincidentally, it was the same year that a president named Richard Nixon, through the extraordinary efforts of a man named Henry Kissinger, made the historic visit to the Chinese continent. The whole world shook at the sight of Communist emperor Mao Zedong welcoming in his country the master of US imperialism.


It was no secret at the time that the American-Chinese banquet was aimed primarily at diminishing the role of the Soviet Union, which was living under the medals of Comrade Leonid Brezhnev and his thick eyebrows. In those days, diplomats repeated that the US had decided to move the “Chinese card” to force Moscow to rein in its international behavior.


When Biden entered the Oval Office, he had to address a man who is different from Mao Zedong. It is true that he is the Secretary-General of the Communist Party, but he had placed Mao’s Red Book in a drawer and started attacking the world with technology and goods, preserving the influence of the Communist Party rather than its ideologies.


The Chinese leader no longer wants to see the “comrades” rule here or there. He wants to see the Belt and Road Initiative reopen the Silk Road, and attract countries near and far. Biden has the right to conclude that Xi Jinping is more dangerous than Mao.


In Moscow, Brezhnev and the Soviet Union are now gone. But the man sitting in the Kremlin may be the most dangerous, not because he sleeps in Stalin’s bed, but because he realizes the weaknesses of the West, especially when the US leadership of the world is wavering. Vladimir Putin’s coldness deceived many Western leaders. They were under the illusion that his utmost ambition was to save the Russian Federation itself from a Soviet fate, and that he would hurry to present his credentials as a friend of the West and embrace its economic remedies.


The current US president knows that Putin harbors a project of revenge against the West rather than the desire to cooperate. Ukraine, Navalny and cyber-attacks are among the evidence.


When Biden entered the Senate, France bid farewell to the era of great powers represented by Charles de Gaulle, and was busy going through presidents until the arrival of Francois Mitterrand at the beginning of the following decade. As for Britain, it was consuming prime ministers while awaiting its big date with Margaret Thatcher.


Between the French-German “locomotive” and the British privacy, Western Europe was boasting of NATO until the Berlin Wall unexpectedly collapsed. Then, doubts infiltrated the Atlantic and European homes.


In his speech to the Munich Security Conference, Biden tried to dispel ambiguities and concerns over the abovementioned files. He was keen to address the Europeans, stressing: “America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back.” Despite his emphasis on not returning “to the rigid blocs of the Cold War”, he affirmed that America is committed to the spirit of the Atlantic alliance, and the items that demand partnership to confront challenges and encroachments.


It was no secret that several European parties started to believe that the image of America, which rushes to rescue Europe militarily, would no longer be repeated if the Old Continent came under an imminent Russian menace.


Criticism thrown by Donald Trump at the Europeans’ inadequate contribution to defending their continent reinforced the impression that NATO was aging and had become more like an operation room against terrorism or “limited threats.”


Biden stressed the return of the Atlantic and the partnership, consultation and preparation for “a long-term strategic competition with China,” accusing Beijing of violations that would undermine the foundations of the global economic order.


He also blamed Putin for seeking to sow discord within the European and Atlantic families.


It can be said that Biden’s words did not carry surprises regarding the files of China, Russia and the relationship with Europe. They were a reflection of his policy expressed in his previous speeches and the persons he chose in his team.


Despite the unanimity that Chinese file has become the primary concern of any American administration, the prevailing impression is that the first test will take place on the land of the Middle East, specifically in the Iranian file.


Trump had gone too far with this issue. He withdrew from the nuclear deal and adopted the policy of “maximum pressure”. He highlighted what Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement ignored, which is the development of the Iranian ballistic arsenal and Tehran’s policy of destabilization in the region.


Trump also ordered the killing of the most prominent Iranian military commander and the sponsor of the Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese and Yemeni infiltrations, General Qassem Soleimani.


The truth is that the Middle East region, regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, is burdened with the world’s strongest wounds. This region has absorbed the bitterness of empires, the disappointments of revolutions and the perpetration of coups in lost societies.


It is a region bombed with ethnic and sectarian ruptures and hatreds, amid widespread poverty, high unemployment, fear of others and the decline of the state project against small armies and mercenary brigades that are remotely controlled.


Only few countries have escaped from the limitations of the past, as most of the maps are still tormented with internal tensions or regional hurricanes.


The Middle East is the frailest patient at the Biden Clinic. The region cannot be treated with previous remedies that have had their shortcomings.


An efficient American vaccine is needed for the Middle East patient. A vaccine that would return the armies and militias to their original maps and restore the lands to their owners, by reinstating the authority of international law.


The Middle East cannot be left a jungle of occupations and an arena for rockets and mercenaries. The Middle East is a big test for Biden’s vaccine.


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