A lack of clarity, previously mentioned by this author concerning the lack of clear direction and goals for the West's involvement in Ukraine, also, if you consider its many contradictions, seems to extend to much of the Biden administration's foreign policy.
The recently released Biden National Security Strategy points to the "acute threat" posed by Russia to United States national security. Yet the administration continues, with the support and encouragement of the European Union, its futile attempt to restart the "nuclear deal" to enable Iran's expansionist regime to have as many nuclear weapons as it likes and the ballistic missiles to deliver them -- and on top of that, using Russia, of all countries, as its proxy negotiator.
One can only wonder at how the Biden administration believes the U.S. can negotiate the nuclear agreement using Russia, a nation it labels as an "acute threat," to work on a deal with Iran, a nation that it labels as a "persistent threat."
Not only is Iran an ally of Russia, it is also a strong backer of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It is providing Russia with "kamikaze drones," training and military advisors, all while helping Russia evade international sanctions imposed in the wake of its scorched-earth invasion of its peaceful neighbor, Ukraine. Iran is also reportedly in the process of transferring ballistic missiles to Russia, including the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar.
Another serious contradiction is how the U.S. is undercutting relations with other key players and allies in the Middle East as it tries to legitimize Iran's attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Not surprisingly, most Middle Eastern countries do not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran. U.S. President Joe Biden and the Saudi government made this point abundantly clear at their summit earlier this year. Given the unified messaged and shared strategic goal, you would think this would be case closed. Far from it.
Saudi Arabia is evidently deeply concerned that the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. is apparently still trying to negotiate, will open the door for a nuclear-armed Iran in the near future. It is the Saudi kingdom and its oil wells that Iran has been attacking. The Saudis might therefore be understandably alarmed by the efforts of the Biden administration to finalize a new agreement that would enable Iran to legitimately have nuclear weapons.
While Democrats and others opposed to Saudi Arabia have seized upon OPEC's decision to cut oil production by two million barrels per day as a pretext to bash the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia, unlike Iran, has not been invading its neighbors. At present, Iran, through its proxies, effectively controls four countries in addition to its own: Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Many leaders believe the oil-production cut was a direct signal to Biden about the Saudi's apprehensions over the continuing negotiations. The rational Saudi view seems to be: Why should we help the U.S. empower a neighbor who is trying to kill us?
Saudi leaders may well have hoped that if they offered to cooperate with the U.S., the Biden administration would, at the last minute, reciprocate by abandoning its negotiations with Iran. When that did not happen, the Saudis may have concluded, as OPEC earlier had: "If you want more oil, pump it yourself."
Oil production cutbacks in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have already had major economic consequences both in Europe and in the U.S. -- not only at the gas pump. Worldwide, electricity generation, manufacturing and transportation currently depend overwhelmingly on fossil fuels, not windmills or solar panels. Many Democrats were so concerned over the damage that could be done to the party's election prospects last November that the Biden administration even asked the Saudis to delay any cuts until after the midterms.
In response to the Saudi cuts, Biden said he will examine all aspects of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, thereby conceding that his fist-bump diplomacy was a failure. Why the U.S. even expected the Saudis to help it while the U.S. was cuddling up to Iran -- which has been attacking Saudi Arabia for years through its Houthi proxy in Yemen -- is unfathomable.
Just a few weeks into Biden's term, the U.S. removed the Houthis from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, after which the Houthis launched attack drones and missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Why should a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead not be far behind? Even so, some in Congress are calling for "NOPEC" legislation that would allow legal action in U.S. courts against OPEC as a cartel.
Imagine the confusion of the American citizen at this point. The U.S. is supplying tens of billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine as it attempts to defeat the Russian invasion. Russia is being aided by Iran, which is helping it with weapons supply and sanctions evasion. Why does the U.S. continue to work on disruptive deals with countries that are "acute" and "persistent" threats to the U.S., and which will improve Iran's economy -- so that Iran can be in an even stronger position to help Russia attack its neighbors, while Iran attacks its neighbors?
In addition to its in-house militias such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij mercenaries, and the Quds Force, Iran does not hesitate to use its military proxies -- such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Iran, through Hezbollah, has approximately 200,000 missiles in Lebanon that at pointed at neighboring Israel from the north, and has been trying with Syria to do the same from Israel's northeastern border. Iran, since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, has called for "Death to Israel," which it also calls "the Little Satan" and "a one-bomb country."
The Saudis, admittedly imperfect, have never encroached on their neighbors or how done anything remotely comparable -- not to mention the gruesome way Iran brutalizes its own citizens (such as here, here and here). If that is how Iran treats its own people, how can one expect it to treat other countries any better?
National security and economic alliances in the Middle East are being badly damaged by the possibility of a new Iran-U.S. agreement, especially if the U.S. seeks to punish any country opposed to its efforts to land a genocidal nuclear agreement. The administration argues that OPEC, by cutting production, is doing the bidding of Russia. Wrong. The Iranians, also since their 1979 Revolution, have called for "Death to the America" and refer to the U.S. as "the Big Satan" -- you at least have to give the mullahs credit for being honest. So OPEC is actually saving the U.S. -- as well as the Gulf states, from strengthening the growing Russia-Iran axis.
Punishing energy producers in the Middle East will mostly hurt American consumers, whose purchasing power has already collapsed as they face an inflation and a recession. They are paying more for food, gas, heating -- everything -- caused by a self-inflicted oil and gas shortage. The bottom line appears to be that American citizens, whose tax dollars are underwriting massive amounts of assistance to Ukraine, are paying more at the pump because the Biden Administration wants an Iranian nuclear agreement with a key supporter of Russia.
If you are confused, it is because the Biden administration's foreign policy is confused. If the Biden administration really believes Russia is an "acute threat," it needs to act like it and stop propping up Russia's allies, which are also threats to the U.S. Instead, the U.S. should be working with countries in the Middle East to support efforts against Russia.
The U.S. also needs to stop this foolish obsession with getting a new Iranian nuclear deal. It is inconsistent with all U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Send a clear message to Russia, Iran, Europe, the Middle East and, most importantly, to American citizens: the Iran deal is dead, dead, dead. Stop the confusion. Stop empowering terrorist states.
Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.