Joe Biden ended American support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen on Thursday and froze the withdrawal of American troops in Germany while initiating a change of tone on Russia and breaking with Donald Trump’s diplomacy.
“We are intensifying our diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen,” “which has caused a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe,” said the President of the United States in his first foreign policy address to the State Department.
“This war has to end,” he insisted, confirming the appointment of a seasoned diplomat, Timothy Lenderking, as envoy to Yemen. “And to underline our resolve, we are ending all US support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, including arms sales.”
The Middle East strategy redesigned
Specifically, Washington will cancel the controversial sale of “precision ammunition” to Riyadh, which was decided at the end of the mandate of the former Republican president, who, despite all adversities, has always supported the pillar of the Saudi kingdom with Israel for his policy against Iran.
Questioning this support for Saudi Arabia therefore upsets the balance of regional alliances and reshapes US strategy in the Middle East.
Riyadh heads a military coalition charged with numerous mistakes made against civilians in their intervention with the Yemeni government against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Silence about Iran
The Houthis welcomed the end of the US engagement. “We hope that this will mark the beginning of a decision to end the war in Yemen,” said Hamid Assem, political leader of the Sana’a insurgents.
This decision could also be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill by Iran as it prepares to enter into complex negotiations with Washington to save the Iranian nuclear deal on which Donald Trump slammed the door.
“Is the United States ready to cut the hundreds of billions of dollars in arms it sells in our region? Is it ready to end the child massacre in Yemen?” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked CNN International Week.
Although the return to the 2015 deal is seen as a “critical priority” by the White House, Joe Biden did not mention it in his speech.
The 46th President of the United States has also confirmed that he will “stop” the partial withdrawal of American troops from Germany, the time of a “global posture review” of the overseas armed forces entrusted to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Diplomacy is back
Donald Trump announced in June that the American armed forces in Germany would be reduced to 25,000 soldiers. This decision had caused a stir in both the American political class and Europe, where Washington’s allies, particularly Berlin, were abused during the four-year mandate of billionaire New York.
“America is back, diplomacy is back,” said Joe Biden. “We will rebuild our alliances,” he promised again. He defended the classic values of American diplomacy – promoting democracy and human rights – which Donald Trump said he had given up.
And to illustrate this “return” of “moral leadership” internationally, he announced that the United States would be accepting 125,000 refugees under the resettlement program starting next year, an eight-fold increase from 15,000 accepted that year , a historic low.
Against the “authoritarianism” of China and Russia
President Biden has finally shown his determination to face China and Russia, accusing his predecessor of being weak, particularly towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States “must be there in the face of the advancement of authoritarianism, particularly in the face of growing ambitions of China and Russia’s desire to weaken our democracy,” he said.
“I made it clear to President Putin in a very different way than to my predecessor that the time when the United States submitted to the aggressive actions of Russia (…) was over,” he said.
He remained silent, however, on the concrete measures his national security adviser Jake Sullivan had promised to make Moscow “accountable”. And said almost nothing about his strategy against Beijing, but is unanimously seen as the number one strategic opponent of the world’s leading power.