Is the new framework for the Middle East really new? Interpreting Biden's National Security Strategy 2022

Is the new framework for the Middle East really new? Interpreting Biden’s National Security Strategy 2022

The Biden Administration on the 12th of October released America’s new National Security Strategy reiterating the need for a strong and purposeful American role in global affairs. The document reflected the administration’s strategy toward different issues of both national and global significance. With the U.S. declaring to support de-escalation and integration in the Middle East through a new framework, the Middle East is once again at the center of attention. The text has sparked a new debate about whether the new framework proposed by the Biden administration represents a modern approach or is simply a fancy gimmick.

The framework constitutes five principles. First, the United States will support partnerships with countries that subscribe to the rules-based international order, and the U.S will make sure that these countries are better equipped to guard themselves against any kind of foreign threats. Second, the United States will not allow foreign or regional powers to sabotage freedom of navigation through the Middle East’s trade routes, including the Strait of Hormuz, nor tolerate actions by any state to dominate the Middle East through military buildups, or threats of any kind. Third, the U.S would work to reduce tensions and de-escalate conflicts through effective diplomacy. Fourth, the United States will promote regional integration by building political and economic connections and through integrated defense structures. Fifth, the United States will always value human rights enshrined in the UN charter.

This framework, as proposed, will be based on making alliances to strengthen deterrence, using diplomacy as a tool for de-escalation, and building partnerships for long-term stability. Undoubtedly the framework looks solid on paper, however, it also hints that Washington is still focused on cornering Iran, just using different tactics this time i.e., diplomacy to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions and integrated defense structures against the Islamic Republic. Moreover, America’s continuous efforts to extend and deepen Israel’s ties to its neighbors and other Arab states, for instance, the latest Lebanon-Israel deal to resolve the maritime border dispute, which appears to have been orchestrated by the States reflects that the U.S would seek to bring all countries together through partnerships, alliances, and military aid to create an “all against one” bloc to counter its rival Iran.

But this explanation is at odds with what America explained in the third principle of its new security strategy, all the rhetoric about engaging in diplomacy to de-escalate tensions. Analysts have already started contesting how exactly the U.S would use diplomacy as a tool for de-escalation. Some including the author believe that the U.S might be signaling toward a new Nuclear Deal. This argument is derived, mainly from the new National Security Strategy document where the U.S has admitted that military-centric policies have not favored the U.S greatly in advancing its interests in the region and that there is a need to take more practical steps in building partnerships, coalitions, and alliances to strengthen deterrence against Iran while also using diplomacy to de-escalate tensions.

Therefore, the best interpretation of this rather confusing security document would be that the U.S will be going all in. On one hand, the administration will be willing to chalk out a new joint comprehensive plan of action to deter the Islamic Republic from going nuclear (through diplomatic means). While on the other hand, the Americans would be doing all in their capacity to support Israel extend its relations and influence in the region so as to build an “all against one” bloc against Iran. The United States has also mentioned “integrated defense structures” to incentivize smaller players in the region, also offering them safe trade passages through waterways of the Middle East (Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al Mandab). In simple English, the U.S wants the middle east united through its modern approach to creating a deterrent against the Islamic Republic of Iran and would also use diplomatic means to deter Iran from its Nuclear Ambitions.

It is clear from the explanations provided above that the U.S. is considering non-military means to achieve its policy objectives, but it is also noticeable that the U.S. has not ruled out the option of use of force, it is still on the table but not as the first priority. After all, the new approach is new in essence in that it establishes new rules of engagement in the region, based on diplomacy, coalitions, integration, and partnerships. However, putting the new security strategy into effect will be the real test of the U.S. because it will be far more challenging than it appears on paper. Nonetheless if implemented successfully, it would result in a less hostile Iran, a stronger Israel, and a more integrated Middle East.

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Muhammad A Asmat

Written by Muhammad A Asmat

Muhammad Ammar Asmat Virk is a researcher at Global Affairs (International Magazine), and a student of Strategic Studies at National Defense University, Islamabad. His research is focused on Geo-Politics, Civil Nuclear Technology, and Soft Power.

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