PSL Editorial — Biden’s Middle East trip: Apartheid, war and oil

Party for Socialism and Liberation

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Photo: Joe Biden with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and other top officials next to a U.S.-supplied missile system. Credit: @POTUS

While the inflation crisis and attacks on basic rights continue in the United States, Joe Biden is traveling abroad to focus on shoring up U.S. domination over the Middle East.

Biden began his tour with a visit to Israel, landing on Wednesday. In a speech upon his arrival, Biden went out of his way to emphasize his ideological support for Zionism – the racist political movement that established the state of Israel on the land of the Palestinian people. Echoing the religious fundamentalist justification for the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, Biden stated, “[Y]ou need not be a Jew to be a Zionist … Every chance to return to this great country, where the ancient roots of the Jewish people date back to biblical times, is a blessing.” 

Biden explained in the same speech, “From here, I’m going straight to a briefing on Israeli missiles and rocket defense capabilities, including the U.S. support for the Iron Dome and Israel’s new laser-enabled system called the Iron Beam.” The U.S. government gives Israel nearly $4 billion every year for military equipment to repress Palestinians and threaten neighboring countries. This is in essence a subsidy for U.S. weapons manufacturing corporations who receive the contracts to provide these armaments.  

Biden has ignored demands for a meeting from the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian-American journalist who was murdered by Israeli soldiers in May while she was reporting on an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. Despite being a U.S. citizen, American authorities conducted a sham investigation into her killing that clearly aimed to cover up the criminal role of Israel. 

War threats against Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Biden issued a joint declaration today affirming their mutual commitment to aggression against Iran. Discussing the “bipartisan and sacrosanct” nature of U.S. support to Israel, the statement read, “The United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.” 

By threatening to “use all elements of its national power,” the United States is clearly referring to the possibility of waging war on Iran. Such a conflict, which would be absolutely devastating to the people of Iran and the whole region, almost came to pass in 2020 when the Trump administration carried out a clear act of war with the assassination of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. 

This war threat comes as negotiations to revive the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the “Iran nuclear deal” – reach a critical point. The deal was shredded under Trump, and the Biden administration has taken a hardline approach in its renegotiation. Biden himself used his trip to reiterate those positions, telling Israeli media that he would be willing to walk away from the deal in order to maintain the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a “terrorist organization.”

Israel, along with the United States, is a nuclear armed power that constantly threatens its neighbors. Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while Iran is a signatory and has repeatedly stated that it is not developing nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia, oil and inflation

Biden will fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia even though Saudi Arabia does not formally recognize Israel – a symbolic step meant to underscore U.S. support for normalization between the two countries. The basis of this normalization is shared hostility towards Iran, but there is another item at the top of Biden’s agenda on this last leg of his tour: oil. 

In the Saudi city Jeddah, Biden will participate in a meeting of regional leaders, including key oil producing states. The U.S. government wants these countries to step up production in the hopes that this will help get surging fuel prices under control, and by extension relieve inflation more broadly. 

The most important of these oil producers is the Saudi regime, one of the most repressive states in the world. An absolute monarchy presides over an ultra-reactionary, theocratic form of government, responsible for well-known crimes like the genocidal war in Yemen and the grisly assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. All of Biden’s talk about human rights goes out the window when the health of global capitalism is at issue. 

It is a false choice to say that workers in the United States must tolerate friendly relations with a regime like Saudi Arabia in order to get relief from the spiraling inflation crisis. Instead, the government could crack down on oil corporations that have raised prices to obscene levels while reporting record profits. Exxon Mobil, for instance, recently announced that it expects to report $18 billion in profits during the second quarter of this year alone. The war in Ukraine has also contributed significantly to surging fuel prices and the cost of other essential goods. This conflict could be brought to a rapid end if the U.S. government ceased its policy of prolonging the war by flooding the country with tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons. But Biden is evidently more concerned about the fading fortunes of U.S. empire than addressing the dire problems faced by working people.

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