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Several of the foreign-policy hands most likely to join a Biden administration have been “consistently wrong” in their prognostications about the Trump administration’s global diplomacy, including their predictions that Trump’s hardline policies would ignite war in the Middle East and make Israel less safe, a new report says.
The Democratic Alliance Initiative, a new conservative foreign-policy group, recently issued an investigation into leading liberal voices who are likely to play a central role in a Biden administration. It details how these so-called experts have consistently predicted catastrophe and conflict across the globe as a result of President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy decisions, particularly toward Iran and its allies.
Many of Biden’s top advisers, including prominent names who served with him during the Obama administration, predicted that Trump’s efforts would isolate the United States and incite a military conflict. In reality, these policies have constrained Iran’s atomic weapons program, bolstered Israel’s security, and brought the Middle East closer to peace than ever before, the study says. If Biden wins the 2020 election, his administration is poised to roll back most of Trump’s signature foreign-policy achievements. This would include rejoining the landmark nuclear deal and altering policies meant to bolster Israel’s border security against an encroaching Iranian threat.
Former top Obama officials Samantha Power and Susan Rice, for instance, both foresaw bloodshed and even warfare after Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Soleimani in January. Power, the former United Nations ambassador, predicted things would get “very ugly very quickly,” while Rice, the former national security adviser, wrote in the New York Times that it was “hard to envision how this ends short of war.” Power is a secretary of state contender should Biden win the presidency, and Rice was on the shortlist to be his 2020 running mate.
These predictions did not materialize, and Iran backed down when faced with the threat of a full-scale war with the United States.
Other foreign-policy minds likely to be considered for a Biden National Security Council or State Department have also been wrong in their doomsday predictions about Trump’s Middle East policy.
Colin Kahl, Biden’s former national security adviser and point person on Iran issues, declared Trump had started a “war” with Iran after Soleimani’s killing. He also repeatedly bemoaned Trump exiting the Iran nuclear deal and said war would eventually ensue. He argued the decision, along with moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, would ultimately help Iran, but Israel’s hand has strengthened in the region since 2017. Gulf Arab countries Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates increasingly view Iran as a common threat and have officially forged diplomatic ties with Israel.
Martin Indyk, another veteran of Democratic administrations who tried unsuccessfully for decades to negotiate Middle East peace, claimed the Soleimani killing would push Iranians to “unite in hostility towards the United States.” But Iran’s democratic protest movement has only grown in strength since the terrorist leader was killed, and continues to threaten the hardline regime’s grip on power.
Indyk, who has moved between Democratic administration roles and perches at prominent Washington think tanks, also claimed in January of this year that Soleimani’s death would prompt the Iraqi government to expel U.S. forces from the region. These “logical consequences” of Trump’s actions, as Indyk put it on Twitter, failed to materialize.
Indyk made similar predictions about relocating America’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This move “would likely spark an explosion of anger in the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim worlds, and generate a rallying cry for Islamic extremists everywhere,” Indyk wrote in a December 2016 report for the liberal Brookings Institution think tank. “American embassies and American citizens in Muslim countries would likely be targeted by violent demonstrators,” he said at the time in another example of what the study identifies as multiple failed predictions.
Ilan Goldenberg, another Biden ally who served as chief of staff to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2013 to 2014, argued that Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran would result in “a weak sanctions regime.” American sanctions, he wrote in a 2018 article, “will be a fraction of what it was in 2012.”
Two years after Goldenberg authored this piece, sanctions on Iran remain the toughest in history. The Trump administration this month forced the United Nations to reimpose all international sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement, a move likely to block Tehran’s access to cash.