Islamdom is America’s weak spot. George W. Bush tried to democratize Islamdom only to find out that the majority of the electorate in many Muslim nations votes Islamist, meaning that there are no prospects for democratization in many Muslim nations because the majority of the people wants totalitarianism. Yet, Bush’s democratization campaign resulted in the Arab spring, something which was certainly not intended and ultimately turned out a huge failure and tragically resulted in enormous loss of life. Barack H. Obama tried to reconcile with Islamdom and align America with the Islamists, only to find out that America became even more unpopular. Donald J. Trump completely ditched democratization, tried realpolitik and cozying up to dictators and so ended up enormously respected by governments in Islamdom and also feared due to his famously capricious personality. Joseph R. Biden in contrast does not appear to have any particular philosophy with respect to Islamdom. Biden has gained a reputation as a weakling and that is apparently the view that MBS holds of Biden. The most fundamental lesson in Middle Eastern regional politics is the utmost danger of acting in a way that one is perceived as weak because no one in the Middle East respects the weak. Obama, Trump and Biden all pursued a policy of incremental disengagement from the Middle East which Biden only in July this year claimed was a mistake.
The Trump administration knew all too well that its policy of maximum pressure might lead to the US having to act to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Biden administration has a faint hope that its own endless negotiations will avoid that outcome. However, those endless negotiations have completely discredited Biden among most Gulf leaders, particularly considering that his Iran appeaser-in-chief Rob Malley is on the record of having advocated aligning America with Khomeinist Iran. However, the penchant for Saudi-bashing in certain Democratic congressional circles is difficult to square with American interests. There is no way that MBS could maintain selective freedom for pro-democrats and Islamists as the Islamists, including the usually deceptive Muslim Brotherhood, would immediately disguise themselves as ostensible pro-democracy activists in order to introduce totatitarianism through the ballot box. Repression has to be uniform and tough during the era of reforms in Saudi Arabia while a new Americanized digital generation is raised in the country that hopefully might be inoculated against the lure of Islamism.
What recommendations could be made for US policy for Islamdom? Supporting democratization and liberalization in Muslim nations where public support for Islamism is weak is certainly noble, worthwhile and in concord the American interest. Success might lead to increased support for democracy in those Muslim nations where currently the majority supports totalitarianism and in those nations should liberalization without democratization be promoted. The policy of developing close personal relationships with Muslim dictators was a very successful way of keeping Islamdom in check. There is not much redeeming that can be said about the Mideast policies of the Obama administration. One particularly unwise man in the Oval Office wanted Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood to take over Islamdom and luckily his hopes came to naught.
It could be argued that wise advice to MBS would be not to annoy his nemesis in the White House and let him continue to negotiate ad absurdum because nothing will come out of it as Tehran is negotiating in bad faith. However, then comes the Iranian feminist revolution and Biden of course contraray to what allied Mideast leaders would like refuses to impose a no-fly zone over Iran that would provide air support to insurgents despite this being precisely the right time to do this in drastically increasing the chances of success for a no-fly zone. And so MBS articulates his displeasure in a way designed to significantly hurt his adversaries in the Democratic party in the November 8, 2022, midterm elections in the United States. Of course, MBS has hardly forgotten how the Democratic administration of Joe Biden intervened with his father King Salman to have MBS unseated as crown prince and now it is payback time. This of course is a lesson to all future US presidents for the next decades that developing close and trusting personal relationships with MBS is absolutely pivotal for safeguarding the American interest.
However, there is no question that Trump had an elaborate plan for containing Iran and defending the Arabian oil fields. Six more Muslims nations were lined up to normalize with Israel in the last months of the Trump presidency only to have second thoughts after power was handed over to Biden in January 2021. Let’s face the facts. If Iran’s gains control over Arabian oil then Iran will have gained superpower status to rival the United States. However, it is in the interest of the United States that GCC nations integrate militarily with Israel so as to boost their ability to defend themselves against Iran. At the same is there a need for a signed US defense guarantee to the GCC, something that Biden and MBS have either failed to agree on or else Biden has refused to provide altogether. Why has normalization stopped under Biden even though this is so crucial to American interests in the region? It is difficult not to blame the Biden administration.