Why is Joe Biden Traveling to the Mideast?
Author: Greg Valliere
October 17, 2023
1. SHOW SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL: It’s no secret that Biden and many of his top advisers aren’t big fans of Benjamin Netanyahu, but they want to show there’s no friction between the two. And Biden wants to send a signal to American opponents of the war, mostly on the left, that resistance is futile.
2. URGE RESTRAINT: Biden’s advisers have been warned that the “Arab street” will explode later this week if Israel inficts massive damage and high casualties in Gaza. Biden will emphasize restraint and humanitarian aid; whether that will sway Arab opinion is doubtful.
3. A MESSAGE TO IRAN: Two U.S. battleships and at least 2,000 American soldiers will send a message to Tehran. This is the single biggest wild card in the war — a conflict between the U.S. and Iran is the one scenario that could scramble the U.S. financial markets, which have been surprisingly sanguine on the war.
4. THE POST-WAR CLIMATE: Once Gaza is subdued, the focus will shift on the post-war climate. Biden has urged Israel to refrain from a long occupation, and the Israelis apparently don’t want one either. Biden began the post-war debate this week by proclaiming that it would be “a mistake” for Israel to begin a long occupation.
5. A CONTRAST WITH TRUMP: Biden’s advisers think Donald Trump handed them a gift when he called Hezbollah “very smart,” a comment the former president had to walk back (a rarity for him). The White House theme will be who’s the more stable war-time president — perhaps not the impulsive Trump, who bears grudges and has lashed out at Netanayhu in recent days.
THE END GAME: If Biden returns from the Mideast without any tangible progress, with a war raging in Gaza, his critics will pounce. If Hamas is quickly crushed and other regional powers reach an agreement to care for one million refugees, the U.S. president may win points for the effort. The stakes could not be higher for Joe Biden.
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