TEHRAN – Kurk Dorsey, a professor of history at New Hampshire University, is of the opinion that the U.S. administration has made many mistakes and is not entitled to intervene in West Asia.
“I would agree that the U.S. is not entitled to meddle in the Middle East (West Asia), and that the U.S. has made many policy mistakes,” Dorsey tells the Tehran Times.
Dorsey, who specializes in modern American history, World War II, and U.S. foreign policy, also says that the U.S “will stick with the traditional ally (Israel) over the unknown.”
The following is the text of the interview:
Q: Do you expect a main policy shift by the incoming Biden administration? Do you expect Biden to neglect U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia?
A: I do not expect any substantial change to U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia in the first year of the Biden administration. There is a long list of higher priorities, starting with mending relations with the U.S.’s traditional allies in Europe, reassuring Asian allies that the U.S. will work with them to counter China, and rethinking policy toward Russia.
The Trump administration took almost all of its direction from the personal relationships that the president had with foreign leaders. Biden will return U.S. policy to an analysis of long-term U.S. interests based on the U.S. vision of the world since the Truman Doctrine in 1947.
Q: How can Iran trust the U.S again while the Trump administration ditched the nuclear deal unilaterally? What is the guarantee that the incoming administration won’t behave like Trump’s?
A: Iran’s government should recognize that their problem was with Donald Trump, and he will have no more influence after January 20th. If they believed that they could work with Barack Obama, they should believe that they can work with Joe Biden and his advisors, many of whom worked for President Obama. Having said that, they also should ask themselves why European leaders have not pressed the United States harder on Iran over the last four years. Partially, they did not because those leaders did not think that they could sway Trump, but partially they did not because they do not have much sympathy for Iran’s goals.
So, Iran may well decide to focus more on relations with Russia and China, but it should do knowing that each of those countries has its own interests, which may not align with Iran’s. China’s Belt and Road initiative has angered people in many of the countries of Asia, and Russia’s neighbors might encourage Iran to think twice about trusting Moscow.
Q: Why does Washington follow the policy of “Israel First”? How can the U.S. provide security for Israel at the expense of the others?
A: This question requires a longer answer than you will want here, but the simple fact is that the U.S. has supported Israel from its founding. Now in the U.S., there are many people who see Israel’s security as central to U.S. policy in the Middle East (West Asia). In addition, there are many evangelical Christians in the U.S. who believe they have a biblical obligation to support Israel.
Joe Biden understands in a way that Donald Trump never did that the Palestinian refugee problem is central to the on-going tension in the region, so he will not be as close an ally to Israel as Trump was. But at the same time, it is hard for me to imagine a policy that will satisfy both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I think Biden and his aides agree. Given a choice, they will stick with the traditional ally over the unknown. Iranians also need to look at the recent recognition of Israel by Bahrain and the UAE as evidence that some Arab states no more see Israel as a threat. It appears that MBS met with Netanyahu, which is simply incredible. These Arab states are moving toward acceptance of Israel as a normal state, not a threat to their existence that needs to be destroyed.
Q: How do you measure the Nov. 27 assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh? Can it affect the nuclear deal negatively?
A: This assassination story is very strange. The Iranian government has offered several stories about what happened to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and no one has claimed responsibility. The logical explanation is that Israel was behind the assassination to slow down Iranian technical progress. And it is logical to think that the assassination might trigger an Iranian reaction that would make it impossible for Joe Biden to restart the JCPOA. But it just feels to me that there is something important about this story that we do not know yet, maybe something that the Iranian government does know or suspect. So, at this point, it does not look like it will change the direction of the nuclear deal when Joe Biden becomes president.
Q: How do you assess the U.S and Israel’s record in waging wars, especially in West Asia?
A: That is a fair question, but you do need to separate Israel and the U.S. The U.S. was opposed to the Israeli/French/British attack on Egypt in 1956 and was caught unprepared for Israel’s attack on Egypt and Syria in 1967. Likewise, Israel stayed out of the U.S. wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, even though clearly those wars benefited Israel. I also think that the U.S. has generally used the term peacekeeping to describe, for instance, the forces in the Sinai Peninsula, rather than its forces in Syria.
I would say that the (Persian) Gulf War in 1991 was a justified and prudent use of force against a state that used force to conquer a smaller state. Iraq’s invasion was an attack on peace and order in the world, hence the UN-authorized action to remove Iraq from Kuwait and many Arab states cooperated. At the end of that war, Iraq agreed to give up its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons. I think it is fair to say that Iraq never complied fully with the UN inspection scheme, largely because Saddam Hussein did not want Iran to know what he still had. The decision to go to war in 2003 was a tragic mistake with awful consequences for Iraq based in part on the assumption that Iraq still had those weapons.
So, I would agree that the U.S. is not entitled to meddle in the Middle East (West Asia), and that the U.S. has made many policy mistakes. And yet it is the closest thing to a good broker for the region with the power and prestige to make things happen. Even a poorly run Trump administration with a secretary of state who does not command much respect was able to broker recognition agreements between Israel and both Bahrain and the UAE.