The beginning of President Biden’s term in office has been a frenetic flurry of actions that are difficult to follow, but one alarming trend is becoming clear: the current administration is building up Iran and tearing away at the foundations of the peace agreements between Israel and the Gulf Arab states.
Reinstating Tariffs on the UAE
On Monday night, President Biden reinstated a 10 percent duty on aluminum imports from the United Arab Emirates. that President Donald Trump removed just one day before leaving office.
The story actually began in March 2018 when Trump initiated a 10% tariff on aluminum and a 25% tariff on steel. Trump justified the tariffs by invoking a “national security” clause under Section 232 of the 1962 U.S. Trade Expansion Act, the first time this was used since 1995.
The UAE immediately requested an exemption from the newly instated US tariffs. The 11.5% of total US aluminum imports last year totaling $1.3 billion came from the UAE, making the emirates the third-largest source of aluminum for the United States, after China and Russia. The UAE is trying to move its economy away from oil and is investing in promoting tourism and industry so removing the tariffs would have helped them develop their industry. Conversely, the US is heavily invested in trade with the UAE, exporting Boeing aircraft and defense equipment.
President Trump granted the request, removing the tariffs on the UAE on his last day in office.
“In my view, the available evidence indicates that imports from the UAE may still displace domestic production, and thereby threaten to impair our national security,” Biden stated, claiming Section 232 as justification.
“Tellingly, there have been 33 such exclusion requests for aluminum imported from the UAE, covering 587,007 metric tons of articles, and the Secretary of Commerce has denied 32 of those requests, covering 582,007 metric tons,” Biden said. “This indicates the large degree of overlap between imports from the UAE and what our domestic industry is capable of producing.”
Biden’s Tariff Policy Makes No Sense
Though unions and steelworkers are lauding the re-installation of the tariffs which were initiated by President Trump. Biden is currently considering removing the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe indicating that he specifically wants tariffs that target the UAE and none others.
Biden’s move to reinstate the tariff against the UAE was surprising since he made a campaign promise to roll back all of the steel and aluminum tariffs that President Trump instated. As a booming metal industry would allow the UAE to transition away from oil exports, President Biden, who has pledged to end the use of fossil fuels, should want to support the UAE aluminum industry.
Biden Trend: Pro-Iran, Anti-Peace
The move does conform to a growing trend in Biden policies. Last Thursday, the Biden administration announced that the sale of F-35 fighters to the UAE and precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia was “temporarily paused” pending review.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken explained at a press conference that “it is typical at the start of an administration to review any pending sales, to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy, so that’s what we’re doing at this moment.”
Both the arms sales and the tariffs were part of the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel that President Trump brokered. Negating both seems to be a general move to roll back or adversely affect the peace agreements. Blinken addressed this aspect of the new policies.
“We very much support the Abraham Accords, we think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbors and other countries in the region is a very positive development and so, we applaud them, and we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on it in the months and years ahead,” Blinken said. “We’re also trying to make sure that we have a full understanding of any commitments that may have been made in securing those agreements, and that’s something we’re looking at right now.”
According to reports, Biden was negotiating with Iran to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal, negotiated by President Obama and signed in 2015, is considered an existential threat by the government of Israel as it allows for an unmitigated Iranian nuclear weapons program beginning in less than four years. According to a recent statement by Blinken, Iran is currently only a few months away from having enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon. President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018.
Blinken stated that the Biden administration was fully committed to returning the Iran deal.
“President Biden has been very clear in saying that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing, and then we would use that as a platform, to build with our allies and partners, what we call the longer and stronger agreement and to deal with a number of other issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran,” he said.
The president’s integrity will be tested in the timing of any return to the JCPOA, as Blinken noted that no credible return will be announced in the near future.
“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts,” Blinken said. “It would take some time, should it make the decision to do so for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations. So we’re not there yet, to say the least.”
It should also be noted that President Biden made a campaign pledge that Saudi Arabia would not be allowed to use US-made weapons against the Houthis in Yemen. The Houthis have been waging a civil war against the government in Yemen since 2014. The war has created a massive humanitarian crisis and widespread famine. The Houthis, backed by Iran, have launched several successful drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia. Biden’s intention to withhold or limit the military capability of Saudi Arabia would greatly benefit Iran’s expansionist plans.