A day before the government announced its decision on Saudi Arabia, Biden gave the first major indication of his presidency that he would be ready to use military force in the Middle East if he felt it warranted. He ordered retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed fighters in Syria and showed his willingness to maintain a military presence in the Middle East as Iran continues to support a network of anti-US militias across the region.
In response to the strikes that reportedly killed at least one militia member from the Kataib Hezbollah militia group, an Iran-backed group that is also part of the Iraqi government’s official security forces, Iran declined an invitation from third parties to join the United States to join diplomatic negotiations.
During the campaign, Biden pledged to restore the Iranian nuclear deal signed by his former boss, President Barack Obama, and highlighted his record as an opponent of Obama’s intervention in Libya and the flood of troops in Afghanistan. (Biden also defied the risky mission Osama bin Laden started, though he was less quick to brag about it.)
When he got to office, one of Biden’s first steps was to announce that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, including arms sales.” It was largely seen as a preventative move as Congress would likely reintroduce a bill that Trump had vetoed to stop arms sales in support of the war in Yemen. But it also reflected pressure within his party – and from many Republicans who support Trump – to turn the page on American intervention.
Still, Biden has surrounded himself with veterans of the Democratic foreign policy establishment in Washington, which has raised concerns among some of his party’s critics that he will revert to the moderately interventionist approach that defined Obama’s tenure.
Weeks before his inauguration, several progressive groups sent him a list of 100 staff recommendations as they became increasingly concerned about his foreign policy decisions. Critics have pointed to the proliferation of former Obama administration officials who had ties to the arms industry during their years outside of the public service.
Biden has said he wants to “end the wars forever” and he often speaks of his experience as the parent of a service member stationed in Iraq (his son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015). However, it is considered extremely unlikely that Biden will keep an election promise to remove all US troops from Afghanistan by May 1. This will be a crucial test of his dedication to non-interference – in a situation where the results can be ugly either way. This, too, can be explained by his desire to focus on domestic politics, Parsi said, calling it a path of least resistance.