The new US President Joe Biden has been using his first days in office reversing the actions of the maverick former President Donald Trump who, in the name of putting America first, had turned conventional polity upside down, thereby destabilizing the world order even while isolating his nation. Biden has signed a slew of executive orders designed to, among other things, rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, as also reverse Trump’s policies on immigration, construction of the border wall and ban on visas for some Muslim countries. However Biden, who was a Senator and US Vice-President, is thoroughly conversant in foreign policy matters and has been selective while reversing Trump’s foreign affairs strategy, as shown by his acceptance of the accords arrived at by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel, and the continuation of the Quad and the Indo-Pacific policy of the previous administration. Similarly, he has persisted with a hard line stance with China, describing her as America’s most serious competitor and vowing to push back on her attacks on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance. He has, however, rejected the bonhomie which prevailed with Russia during Trump’s time, and has accused Russia of “interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks and poisoning its citizens”, the last being a reference to the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose immediate release he has demanded.
But Biden is yet to fully articulate his policy in middle and west Asia, perhaps aware of the complexity of the situation there and the reality that the US might tread on many toes within and outside the country if pre-emptive reversal is undertaken. The sole move he has made in the region is to announce that the US would end all support for warring parties in Yemen, while refusing to designate the Houthi rebels as ‘terrorists’ as Trump had done. His Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has appointed a special envoy to Yemen to work with the UN and all involved parties to bring hostilities to an end. However, he has yet to frame his policy on the Palestine-Israel issue and, equally important, firmly reverse Trump’s policy on Iran. It may be recalled that the 2015 nuclear deal, an agreement reached between Iran, the US, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK, had sought to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, with sanctions eased in return. Iran had complied with the laid down provisions till Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions, which prompted Tehran to re-embark on its nuclear programme. Biden appears to be treading carefully, resulting in a stalemate, with the US wanting Iran to stop uranium enrichment and the latter asking America to first lift the economic sanctions, and it is not yet clear who will blink first to break this impasse.