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Selection of Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State in the next Joe Biden administration represented a clear vision from Biden about the expected role Blinken will play during the next phase. Blinken was one of the most prominent couturiers of US foreign policy during the rule of former US President Barack Obama, when he was occupying the post of Secretary of State Deputy, John Kerry and was one of the most prominent US negotiators who drew the general frameworks for the nuclear agreement with Iran. Therefore, Blinken wasn’t chosen casually, rather, the selection was simply a result of the significant role he played in managing and planning US foreign policy in the previous stage. Actually, his clear knowledge of the nuclear deal details will inevitably help when Biden decides to negotiate with Iran again on the same agreement.
Blinken is already not against military solutions. He previously supported the US invasion of Iraq and supported his country’s intervention in Libya and Syria and the Saudi intervention in Yemen.
Blinken is one of the most outstanding adherents of the ideal school, which prioritizes work within the participatory international system and highlights the value of international alliances, as a preference in the external work. Accordingly, rearranging the paths of the relationship with the Europeans on Iran is deemed probable, especially in the context of forming a united front to impose more pressures on Iran regarding the nuclear program.
Despite his clear foreign policy approach which is usually inclined to diplomatic solutions, he was blamed for his support for military solutions including the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he was a member of the Senate, the US military intervention in Syria and Libya and the Saudi military operation against the Houthis in Yemen. This explicitly means that military solutions with Iran are on the table in case it keeps the military escalation against the US interests in the Middle East.
For Blinken, Iran is a state of instability in the Middle East and US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement during President Trump’s reign has increased this instability state. He believes this has resulted in adverse consequences on US interests In the Middle East, which necessitates reconsideration of the US position in the nuclear agreement and a more effective strategic approach. At the same time, international alliances are given utmost priority as Blinken believes alliances against Iran are not less important than alliances against China.
Challenges that stand in the way of the upcoming secretary of state, the severest of which prevails in case Trump burn the ground on which the new minister will start moving…
Blinken will face a number of challenges that will hinder his work while heading the office of US foreign policy, specifically when dealing with the Iranian file. These challenges stem from multiple international obligations, in this context, Blinken will be subject to sensitive political conditions have been never faced by a Secretary in previous US administrations, including:
- The first of these challenges arises from the possibility of the military escalation at which Trump administration is showing progress due to the US military build-up in the Persian Gulf region, the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in addition to the attacks carried out by Israel against Iran in Syria. Crises might be accumulated in the face of the new Secretary, especially if Iran undertakes a counter escalation.
- New variables in the Middle East that are directly related to Iranian behavior, foremost of which are the emergence of the pro-Iran factions in Iraq, the application of the Caesar Act in Syria, the peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the negotiations on demarcating the borders between Lebanon and Israel and the Gulf-Israeli normalization. All these files are entitlements resulted from Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran in May 2018, now the question is how Blinken will deal with all these variables?
- Although Blinken fully supported Israel’s security and military superiority, he on the other hand supports a return to the nuclear agreement with Iran. Actually, this file is so critical for him in this context, which is how to balance between Israel’s security needs and reaching a new agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear and missile program, a matter Israel considers an existential threat to it.
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia constitutes a strategic buffer against the Iranian role in the Arab Gulf region, specifically when it comes to Bahrain and Yemen, on the other hand, Biden expressed that he would be in the process of reassessing the relationship with the Kingdom after assuming the reins of power in the White House. Therefore, if Biden administration really reviews the nature of US-Saudi relations in the future, this situation would have serious repercussions on terms of the strategic balance in the Arab Gulf. Consequently, another problem arises in the face of the new secretary, the balance between Iran’s leverage and Saudi Arabia’s security.
Blinken and challenges of the US administration and Iran
The internal policy management process in the next phase is a file that is no less important than the above-mentioned external challenges. Thus, Blinken will face a complicated US political environment during the Biden administration, which may hamper many of his approaches towards Iran. These internal challenges mostly include:
- There is still a broad political and security current within the US administration and the Pentagon (the alliance of arms, technology and money), which opposes tackling the nuclear agreement again with Iran, and considers that Iran was not serious about abiding by the terms of the agreement and this was evidenced by the high levels of enrichment of the uranium in the Natanz and Frodo nuclear reactor. The other challenge is the Republican control on the US Senate, a control that may hinder many of Blinken’s efforts if he decides to request lifting of some or all of the sanctions imposed on Iran, because of its nuclear program as a preliminary measure before engaging in direct negotiations again.
- Biden’s situation from the nuclear agreement with Iran and if he wishes to return to the nuclear agreement signed with Iran in April 2015, or to talk about a new nuclear agreement deemed as more important, valuable and influential. Although Blinken is one of the couturiers of the nuclear agreement with Iran, he believes that making the old agreement as a basis for building a new agreement tackling its missile program and its regional behavior may constitute a more effective approach. This indeed collides with Iranian intransigence that stipulates not to talk about any nuclear agreement before complete lifting of sanctions and compensation for the great losses Iran has suffered as a result of these tough sanctions after the withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, which Blinken refuses in return.
- Biden announced that he would be keen on returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran, if Iran returned to abide by its obligations stipulated in the agreement, which was rejected by Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, who said, “If the new US administration wants to become a member of the nuclear agreement from which Trump announced his country’s exit, we are ready to talk about how it will return to the agreement. He added, “If the United States fulfills its obligations under Security Council Resolution 2231, we will also fulfill our obligations under the nuclear agreement, there is no need for negotiations or any conditions for that (To end penalties) “.
Overall, Blinken will seek for formulating a new strategic approach for the United States towards Iran and he will also draw a new road map implies a balance between Iranian challenges and US imperatives in the same form that Biden had aspired to during Obama administration, while giving political realism a clear margin in his new approach. This is indeed anticipated due to the political conditions that are really different in a way constituting great challenges in the near future.