WASHINGTON (AP) – On the way to opening the door, the Trump administration is enforcing new rules, regulations and mandates on a number of foreign policy issues under President-elect Joe Biden and Cement President Donald Trump’s “America First” legacy in international affairs.
Nonetheless, the impetus will not work, as many of these decisions could be reversed or substantially revised by the incoming president when he takes office on January 20.
In recent weeks, the White House, the State Department and other agencies have been working overtime to develop new policy announcements in Iran, Israel, China and other countries aimed at locking up Trump’s vision of the world. Some have attracted significant attention, while others have often flown under the radar.
Moreover, while Biden can turn many of them upside down with the stroke of a pen, some will demand the time and attention of his administration, which may require urgent attention with a number of other priorities when it comes to power.
The most recent of these actions was released last week, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made two announcements in support of Israel’s claims to the territory claimed by the Palestinians, which could be Israel’s last visit as Secretary of State.
Biden’s group has been silent on the announcements, but has made it clear that Biden supports some of them and will change many as he seeks to return to a traditional policy against Israel and the Palestinians.
Even before the former vice president was formally announced as the Democratic presidential nominee, the Trump administration’s determined efforts to block Biden policy changes with China, half a world away from the Jewish state, actually began several months ago.
As opinion polls began to show Biden as a clear option to defeat Trump in November, the administration began to move despite public opposition and full confidence in the presidential re-election.
Some officials point to Pompeo’s July 13 announcement that the United States will now reject all of China’s regional claims in the South China Sea, a 180-degree shift from previous administrations’ positions, and that all such claims should be handled by an arbitrator.
Trump’s foreign policy decisions Many of the foreign policy achievements of the previous administration from the outset – the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate deal and the Trans Pacific alliance in trade – should be linked by executive officials with the possibility of Biden becoming the next president first.
An executive said at the time that all decisions made after that would be made with one eye on Biden becoming president. Thus, fears that Trump might be a one-time president began to take hold in July, following which Biden hastened announcements aimed at thwarting any reversal.
Check out some of those moves:
On Thursday, before making an unprecedented trip to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Pompeo announced that the United States would no longer consider Palestinian rights advocacy groups “antisemitic” in support of the boycott, exclusion and sanctions movement against Israel.
He also announced a change in the import labeling rules that require products made in the colonies to be identified as “made in Israel”. The product labeling will take some time to come into effect and so far, no groups have been affected by the antisemitic name. But, even if they are implemented, Biden can change them on the first day.
Those actions have been taken by the administration since taking office following a number of Israeli-friendly measures. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, the Palestinian Authority and the UN working with the Palestinians. These include cutting aid to the refugee agency. While Biden is unlikely to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, other measures could quickly change that.
Pompeo and other officials have spoken of a new impetus for sanctions against Iran, but the truth is that the administration has been increasing such fines since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago. New sanctions could target supporters of Iranian-backed militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Shiite Houth movement in Yemen, which is engaged in a devastating war with the country’s internationally recognized government.
Biden has said he wants to rejoin the nuclear deal, and Iranian officials have said they are ready to return if he does. With the executive order, Biden could have removed many of the Trump administration’s restructured obstacles, but it is not clear how much higher priority it will give him.
BROADER MIDDLE EAST
The withdrawal of significant numbers of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq – reducing the number of troops in each country to 2,500 – is a clear indication of Trump’s intentions and Biden’s approach. Withdrawals could be delayed or slowed by the Pentagon, and it is unclear how the State Department will handle staff at embassies in Baghdad and Kabul, both dependent on US military support.
Pompeo has threatened to close the US embassy in Baghdad if rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militants against the area are not stopped. However, despite last week’s decision to withdraw troops, no announcement has been made about the embassy’s condition.
Although the administration’s toughest measures against China began a year ago, they have gained momentum since March, when Trump decided to simultaneously blame China for the spread of the Corona virus novel and accuse Biden of being too soft on Beijing.
Since then, the administration has steadily increased sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has also moved against Chinese telecommunications company Hawaii and demanded restrictions on Chinese social media applications such as Dictok and Wechat.
Last week, the Foreign Office’s Policy Planning Office released a 70 – page Chinese policy strategy document. While this is not in the slightest in the way of immediate policy recommendations, it does support increased support and cooperation with Taiwan. In fact, as soon as the document was released, US officials met in Washington to discuss economic cooperation with Taiwanese colleagues.
Sunday marked the formal withdrawal of the United States from the “open sky agreement” with Russia, which allowed each country more rights to inspect military facilities. Six months after the United States announced its intentions to the Russians, the withdrawal only puts in place one more arms control treaty between former Cold War adversaries – the new START agreement, which limits the number of nuclear weapons each could possess. That contract expires in February.
The Trump administration has said it would not be interested in expanding the new START agreement if China did not join, something that Beijing has rejected. In recent weeks, however, management has downgraded its position and said it is ready to consider an extension. As the transition to the Biden administration approaches, those talks are ongoing.