Sailors on board the USS Whirlwind display a U.S. flag

Sailors on board the USS Whirlwind display a U.S. flag during a training exercise in the Persian Gulf on June 30, 2019.

(Photo: Loveday Morris/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

With Marines on Persian Gulf Vessels, Is Biden Risking War With Iran?

Biden is charting a dangerous path in signaling to Saudi Arabia that Washington has its back in return for Israel normalization.

The Washington Post reports that Biden is embarking on a “remarkable escalation” in the Persian Gulf that could lead to a U.S.-Iran war. He is reportedly preparing to authorize U.S. Marines and sailors to be stationed on interested commercial vessels in an effort to thwart Iran from seizing oil tankers in the region.

Biden is primarily responsible for having created this situation due to two policy paths he has chosen.

First, he chose to negotiate America’s return to the JCPOA rather than reentering it via executive order while also disregarding many of the key factors that made Obama’s diplomacy with Iran successful.

Iran has undoubtedly created its fair share of problems in the talks. But by choosing a negotiated return, Biden also chose to keep Trump’s sanctions in place — even though key Biden officials are on record blasting Trump’s max pressure strategy as a dismal failure.

But today, Trump’s maximum pressure strategy is Biden’s. One element of it has been to confiscate Iranian oil on the high seas — in contradiction to international law — as a way to enforce US sanctions on Iran. Predictably, Iran responded by targeting oil shipments of countries that collaborated with Biden on this matter. This has then prompted Biden to beef up U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to prevent Iranian actions that only began as a result of Biden’s own policies.

But now Biden may “remarkably escalate” this counterproductive policy by putting U.S. military directly into the mix. This is partly due to the second policy he has erroneously prioritized: the Abraham Accords and getting Saudi to normalize with Israel.

Saudi Arabia has requested a security pact with the U.S. in order to agree to normalize with Israel and abandon the Palestinians. Biden may wisely not go for that, but as part of wooing the Saudis, he believes he has to show that he’s willing to commit to war in the Middle East — a commitment few in the region believe the U.S. has.

Stationing U.S. Marines on oil tankers may be designed to signal to Mohammed Bin Salman that Biden is serious about defending Saudi Arabia against Iran and that the (very brief) era of the U.S. withdrawing from the Middle East is over.

It is impressive how MBS has played Biden. He is successfully pushing the U.S. president to reverse the many policies Saudi Arabia opposed — rejoining the JCPOA, reducing U.S.-Iran tensions, and bringing American troops home from the Middle East.

In return, Israel gets normalization while it continues to annex Palestinian land. And America gets to once again enjoy the short straw of having to live on the verge of war with Iran.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 Responsible Statecraft