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Peace through strength: The stark contrast between Trump and Biden

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Kristi Noem

By Gov. Kristi Noem
Real Clear Wire

As the White House presses Israel to agree to a ceasefire that will allow the terrorist group Hamas to regroup and attack Israel again in the future, it’s worth taking stock of the mess Joe Biden has made of the Middle East, especially compared to Donald Trump’s record.

President Trump’s approach of peace through strength, in the Reagan tradition, has been supplanted by Biden’s record of war through weakness, in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter.

Trump kept Europe safe from Russia without risking nuclear war and kept Israel safe by keeping Iran in check; Biden has failed on both counts.

On Biden’s watch, Russia invaded Ukraine, Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took 251 hostages – including eight Americans, Iran attacked Israel with drones and missiles, and Iranian proxies regularly target and harass U.S. forces and allies throughout the region.

The contrast is stark. Trump brokered the Abraham Accords, a historic series of peace agreements between Israel and four Arab countries – the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – which set the region on a path toward peace, prosperity, and integration.

Historic diplomacy was backed by strength. U.S. forces, under Trump, sealed the territorial defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and killed the ISIS terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iran’s lead terrorist, Qassem Soleimani. And Trump enforced the red line on chemical weapons use by Syria, unlike Barack Obama, who threatened force and then backed down.

On Joe Biden’s watch, Iran is closer than ever to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and Iran has attacked Israel directly, not via proxies, but for the first time ever with drones and missiles. The Ayatollahs have an even tighter grip on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen than they ever have in recent years. In addition to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7, 2023, Israel and Hezbollah are exchanging fire on the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel could end up fighting a two-front war.

And then there was the tragic and humiliating rushed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which 13 U.S. soldiers tragically and needlessly died.

Biden’s Israel policy has also been a disaster for the Democrats and an embarrassment for the United States. He has tried to strong-arm Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by meddling in Israeli domestic politics and has looked feckless and weak in doing so. He is losing support from both Israel supporters and Arab-Americans at home – seemingly something only Biden could pull off.

It’s hard to imagine that any of this would happen under President Trump's leadership – because he was president, and it didn’t. A Trump White House would have already laid the foundation for a long-term solution for the region, including discussions on a potential Palestinian state solution, as well as options for all those in the region – not just for Israelis and Palestinians, but in Lebanon, in Syria, in dealing with Iran, and its expanding nuclear program, and in halting the Iranian takeover of Iraq.

Many in the region are waiting for November, quietly hedging and hoping for Trump’s return.

A Trump Doctrine for the Middle East would reset U.S. foreign policy to a natural blend of America First, peace through strength, and the art of the deal.

First, a Trump doctrine means restoring deterrence with Iran, which can never get a nuclear weapon or threaten the U.S. or its partners and interests. Iran also can’t be dealt with solely on its nuclear file; it is key to any regional solution – including for peace between Israel and both Lebanon and Syria. Absent a resolution, there will be more Oct. 7 events, more attacks on American forces and partners, and the threat of nuclear weapons hanging over the region – which Trump will not accept.

Second, America is losing its investment in Iraq to Iran. Trump said in 2016 that he would not let Iran take Iraq’s oil; but that’s exactly what is happening on Biden’s watch, as Iraq’s energy resources are being divided up by Iran, Russia, and China. Almost 4,500 American have lost their lives in Iraq, and trillions of dollars have been spent on the war. These lives and dollars have been squandered by Joe Biden.

Biden has no clue about the energy security at stake in Iraq and the region. Iraqi reserves are immense and might exceed that of Saudi Arabia. A Trump administration would put energy security first in Iraq and the Middle East and create even more opportunities for U.S. businesses, including in natural gas, which is cleaner than oil, and in which the United States is a world leader.

A Trump doctrine would expand the Abraham Accords’ foundation for regional economic integration in the aftermath of the Gaza war – for both Israelis and Palestinians, for the Levant and the Gulf, and maybe even for Iran, if it ever changes course.

At the core of this plan would be a lasting peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, anchored by rock-solid U.S. leadership, which is absent under Biden. It would be anchored as well in Israel’s edge in technology and innovation as a hub to help bring prosperity and hope for Israelis, Palestinians, and all peoples of the region.

There is a ripple effect from U.S. leadership that is unmatched in global affairs.

Rather than a vision of peace and security, which was the case under Trump, the Middle East is on knife’s edge – because of Biden’s weakness.

Ronald Reagan, accepting the nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in 1980, said that “war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak.”

America’s Middle East partners know they can trust President Trump to build on the inclusive vision of the Abraham Accords. But there is no peace without strength, especially in dealing with Iran and its proxies.

Kristi Noem is the governor of South Dakota.

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