US foreign policy has always been guided by a combination of values and interests: values that the US tries to promote in other countries are democracy, human rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, freedom of the media, freedom of religion, the rule of law, decency and free elections.
Interests are influence, security, technological, scientific, economic and academic cooperation, trade, industry, etc. The introduction of the personal interests of decision-makers is considered corruption, especially if these interests involve financial favors for the decision-maker or his relatives.
In this article we will examine several aspects of the American involvement in four countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia and Iran
Since the end of World War II, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States has been characterized by mutual trust and mutual assistance: Saudi Arabia supplied oil to the United States and Western Europe through the Saudi national oil company Arabian-American Oil Company (ARAMCO). In return, the United States supported Saudi Arabia and protected it against the attempts of the Soviet Union and its satellites in the Middle East: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, South Yemen, Libya, to take over Saudi Arabia and transform it from a conservative monarchy into a socialist republic in the style of South Yemen, Syria or Iraq under the socialist Ba'th party.
At the same time, the United States maintained warm relations with Iran as long as this country was under the rule of the Shah until the end of 1978. After the Khomeini revolution in Iran in 1979 and the transformation of Iran into a country hostile to the West in general and to the United States and Saudi Arabia in particular, the United States was the strong defender of Saudi Arabia in the face of the Iranian-Shiite desire to overthrow the Sunni-Wahhabi kingdom and take control of the Persian Gulf, the two holy sites Mecca and Medina and the entire Middle East.
In recent years and especially since 2009, when Barack Obama took office as President of the United States, there has been a drastic change in the relationship of the United States to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Khomeini's Iran gradually became a favorite of the United States to such an extent that the United States and other powers signed the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2015 which allowed Iran to legally acquire nuclear weapons by 2030.
In October 2018, Saudi Arabia executed the exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and President Biden, since taking office in January 2021 considers Saudi Arabia a leper state. He continued the pro-Iranian policy despite the fact that the terror and killing carried out and sponsored by the Iranian regime inside and outside of Iran is much greater than the deaths resulting from the actions of the Saudi Kingdom.
The American move to support Iran, despite the frequent "death to America" slogans, does not stem from value considerations but from clear interest considerations. The USA prefers a good economic relationship with the Iranians, especially with regard to oil and gas while it fears Iran's ability to instigate terrorism around the world against American interests.
In comparison, President Trump, during his years in office (2017-2021), withdrew from the nuclear agreement and imposed painful sanctions on Iran because he considered it - quite rightly - a terrorist state both towards its citizens and towards other countries. Since during his term he brought the USA to energy independence, he saw no need to rely on the Iranian energy industry. The weight of values in shaping his policy was much greater than the weight of interests.
In 2023, ahead of the mid-term elections for Congress and the Senate, President Biden feared defeat due to high oil prices. He went to Saudi Arabia to ask the crown prince to increase oil production and thus gave the "kosher stamp" to the regime that eliminated Khashoggi.
What drives the Obama and Biden administrations in their relationship with the Saudis and Iranians is not the set of values that the US believes in, but self-interest considerations.
Since Israel was established in 1948 and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the US has stood by its side in international bodies, in economic interests and above all - in military assistance and cooperation. American support for Israel has been strong both on the Democratic and Republican sides. This support was based on values and interests. Both countries believe in democracy, human rights and political freedom, free communication and a market economy. On the interest level, Israel served as the long and strong arm of the US and the West in the Middle East, especially during the years when the region was under Soviet hegemony. American Jewry was a strong link between the two countries.
However, since Obama took office in early 2009, relations between the US and Israel gradually began to deteriorate. The main reason was the demographic rise of the Israeli conservative right, which was represented by a right-wing majority in the Knesset led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while in the US the liberal side became more and more dominant over the years and the liberal governments of Obama and Biden are a manifestation of this situation.
The tension between the US and Israel has increased since 2009 due to the great controversy over the question of how to deal with Iran, its ambitions to take over the region, the terrorism it spreads in the world, its threats to Israel and its military nuclear program.
The current U.S. pressure on Israel regarding judicial reform is without precedent.
This time the interference in Israeli affairs was led by President Biden himself. He refuses to invite Netanyahu to the White House and interferes in the domestic debate in Israel about the balance between the legislative and the judicial authorities. The question is why? Perhaps because he is overwhelmed with his own legal problems and that of his son (see below) and is therefore trying to overcome the pain of the ongoing congressional investigation by finding a scapegoat.
Israel has suffered in the past from U.S. pressure over "settlement" policy and some foreign policy issues, but there has never been anything like the current parade of American “concerns” regarding minor changes to internal Israeli laws. It has no bearing on U.S. interests. Nevertheless, the president himself went on a public crusade to “defend democracy” in Israel.
Biden’s interests in Ukraine
US relations with Ukraine have known ups and downs. In 1994, the US, along with other countries including Russia, gave Ukraine a guarantee of the integrity of its territory in exchange for Ukraine relinquishing the nuclear weapons that it was supposed to receive after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton said in his speech on the occasion of signing the "Budapest Memorandum":
"Ukraine chose to give up nuclear weapons when the former Soviet Union dissolved. Your decision has made the Ukrainian people, the American people and the entire world, much safer and more secure."
I do not doubt the sincerity of Bill Clinton's intentions. He saw great value in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and he believed that the US would stand by Ukraine if in the future there was a Russian threat to its territorial integrity. He believed in the value of loyalty and assumed that the Budapest Memorandum would deter Russia and prevent it from acting against Ukraine. Clinton also believed that Ukraine, which separated from Russia, would follow a liberal democratic path along Western European lines. Clinton was motivated by liberal values in addition to interests related to the Ukrainian economy - food production, energy and metal industry.
Nine years ago, the Budapest Memorandum proved to be a useless document when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea to the Russian Federation while Obama was president. It again proved to be useless in February 2022 when Russia again invaded Ukraine. Both Obama and Biden and the memorandum failed to deter Russia from invading Ukraine and Biden has so far failed to bring about an end to the war and Russia's withdrawal.
However, in addition to the political interest, a personal interest has recently come to light. Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, was involved in business in Ukraine during President Obama's time while his father was Vice President, apparently relying on being the Vice President's son. There is a possibility that Joe Biden was aware of his son's activities and this possibility led to a congressional investigation into the mixing of US interests with the interests of the Biden family.
The ongoing congressional investigation into allegations of corruption against President Biden and his son Hunter initially appeared to be an internal American affair. If it is further revealed and proven that current U.S. policy on the conflict in Ukraine was influenced by personal motives, the entire world political map could change.
The mystery of the schemes of the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma during the period when Joe Biden was vice president and his son was on the board of Burisma has already been widely discussed. The Congressional Oversight Committee, chaired by Chairman James Comer, is getting closer to the full extent of the information.
Now the testimony of former Ukrainian Attorney General Victor Shokin is on the agenda. He will likely be called to testify before the congressional committee. According to the European press, he has recently begun to talk about Hunter Biden and his father.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had investigated the matter, said: "We find out that the Bidens took a $10 million bribe from the Ukrainian head of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, which I could have told you, you know, and did tell [the DOJ] three years ago. And they followed up on none of the evidence I gave them. They were hoping that people would disappear or die. It's extraordinary.” He added: “One witness ... who is a woman, who is the chief accountant at this crooked company, Burisma. She was the wife of the former owner, who died under suspicious circumstances. And she was willing to give up all of the offshore bank accounts, including the Bidens'. And she's supervised the transfer of a lot more cash to the Bidens and other crooked politicians for Burisma."
What comes up in the recent European publication (https://eutoday.net/) ics the book of the former Ukrainian Attorney General Victor Shokin in which he tells the whole story of the Bidens – father and son – and their involvement in domestic issues in Ukraine. This book can: be downloaded for free through the link https://eutoday.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Victor-Shokin.pdf
Probably the most shocking revelation of the book is the detailed story of how Shokin was dismissed from the post of Attorney General after he began investigating corruption in Burisma. He describes in detail what preceded his dismissal, namely Joe Biden's phone call to Ukraine's President Poroshenko. The tape of that conversation was later leaked. Biden demanded that Shokin be fired in return for $1 billion in state loan guarantees.
On February 16th, 2016 Ukrainian president Poroshenko delivered a firm order to Shokin: "Victor Nikolaevich, you have to go." Contemplating how to justify Shokin's departure, Poroshenko acknowledged Shokin's effective performance. "Write," he suggested, "for health reasons." Shokin responded that he was in good health, to which Poroshenko advised him to resign of his own volition. In March 2016 Shokin resigned.
Later Joe Biden admitted to publicly pressuring Poroshenko to fire Shokin.
Now Republicans in Congress are discussing bringing Shokin before Congress to testify. Shokin will testify about Hunter Biden's million dollar fees and his father's role. There are already enough grounds for serious hearings involving Shokin - as the NY Post recently reported, former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins informed current U.S. Attorney in New York Jeff Berman in 2018 about Biden's possible involvement in problems in the Burisma case. However, the matter was hushed up. “I really cannot think of a legitimate reason why the Justice Department would not accept such a complaint. I felt like it was a stone wall,” Cummins said.
The NY Post reported similarly that bribery allegations were brought to the DOJ in 2018, before the whisteblower.
Meanwhile, the dismissed Ukrainian Prosecutor General
He directly accused the U.S. president of "low moral qualities" in his latest admission to the public.
The congressional investigation is becoming an increasingly stifling affair for Joe Biden and his son Hunter. His affairs are being discussed in the international press, and his rating is reaching new lows, giving the Republican candidate a better chance to win the election.
From all of the above it becomes clear that US foreign policy in the last two decades is characterized prominently by self-interest, while in the Ukrainian case there is suspicion of the presence of personal interests in shaping US foreign policy.
In the Saudi case, it is clear that the arrows of the Biden administration from the Khashoggi affair are directed personally against the heir to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an attempt to pressure the Saudi royal family to replace him with another prince.
The connection between political interests and personal considerations as shown in the relations between the US and Ukraine raise the possibility that personal considerations are also involved in Israel-US relations, chiefly the desire of Biden and his administration to cause the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to leave his post through American intervention in the ongoing public struggle in Israel and assistance to the elements opposing the right-wing majority in the Israeli Knesset.
Within this framework, it is possible to understand Biden's motives for interfering in Israel's domestic issues. A statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Israel judicial reform says:
"As a lifelong friend of Israel, President Biden has publicly and privately expressed his views that major changes in a democracy to be enduring must have as broad a consensus as possible. It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority. We understand talks are ongoing and likely to continue over the coming weeks and months to forge a broader compromise even with the Knesset in recess. The United States will continue to support the efforts of President Herzog and other Israeli leaders as they seek to build a broader consensus through political dialogue."
In this statement Biden implicitly ascribes the responsibility for the chaos in Israel to Netanyahu, thus siding with the opposition in the Knesset. I am not sure if any other state would accept such intervention.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is an expert in Israeli Arab culture and the Arab world as well as Israel's international relations. He served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups.