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By MATTHEW LEE and WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Should former Vice President Joe Biden win the White House in November, America will likely be in for a foreign policy about-face as Biden reverses, dismantles or severely curtails many of President Donald Trump’s most significant and boldest actions.

From the Middle East to Asia, Latin America to Africa and, particularly, Europe, and on issues including trade, terrorism, arms control and immigration, the presumptive Democratic nominee and his advisers have vowed to unleash a tsunami of change in how the U.S. handles itself in the international arena.

With few exceptions, Americans could expect Biden to re-engage with traditional allies. Where the iconoclastic Trump has used blunt threats and insults to press his case, Biden, a former senator, would be more inclined to seek common ground.

Historically, U.S. foreign policy hasn't changed drastically as the presidency shifted between Democratic and Republican administrations. Allies and adversaries stayed the same and a non-partisan diplomatic corps pursued American interests.

That changed with Trump. Under his “America First” policy, he viewed both allies and the foreign policy establishment with suspicion, while speaking warmly of adversaries like North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

But Trump found it hard to make swift changes. Academics often say that American foreign policy is like an aircraft carrier: easy to order a wholesale change of direction from the bridge but far more difficult and time-consuming to alter course.

Trump saw that when he was unable to extricate the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal for more than year. His well-publicized withdrawals from the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization won’t actually become final until after the Nov. 3 election, if ever. His decision to redeploy thousands of troops from Germany could take years.

Trump's initial problems may have reflected a lack of governmental experience by both him and his top advisers. That created a steep learning curve that was complicated by their intense distrust of national security institutions.

Biden, with his Senate and White House experience, may be better positioned to deliver on change swiftly.

Biden told reporters Tuesday in Delaware that he knows “how to get things done internationally.”

“I understand the national security and intelligence issues,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life. Trump has no notion of it. None.”

Biden’s campaign also has assembled an experienced team of foreign policy advisers: Jake Sullivan served as deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and policy planning director at the State Department. Nicholas Burns had high-level foreign policy positions under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Tony Blinken was deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser to Obama.

Susan Rice, national security adviser and U.N. ambassador under Obama, is a finalist for vice president. If she isn't selected, she could become a key adviser if Biden wins.

The Trump campaign casts Biden's foreign policy experience as a weakness.

“Joe Biden’s record of appeasement and globalism would be detrimental for American foreign policy and national security, and after decades of the status quo, President Trump has made it clear that the United States will no longer be taken advantage of by the rest of the world," deputy press secretary Ken Farnaso said in a statement.

For decades, the first and often only foreign policy shift that new presidents of both parties directed on their first day in office, and Trump was no exception, was abortion-related.

Like clockwork, Republicans enacted the so-called “Mexico City” language — known by opponents as the “global gag rule” — to prohibit the use of U.S. foreign assistance for abortion-related services. Democrats rescinded it and should Biden win, he has promised to follow suit.

But he’s also pledged to demolish other Trump policies on Day One. They include reversing Trump’s ban on immigration from mainly Muslim countries, restoring U.S. funding and membership to the WHO and halting efforts to oppose the Paris Climate Accord. He’s promised to call top NATO leaders and declare of U.S. foreign policy, “We’re back” while convening a summit of major heads of state in his first year.

One area that will require more nuance is China, which Trump has placed at the top of his foreign policy agenda and on which he has painted Biden as weak.

After previously boasting of warm ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Trump has relentlessly attacked China, blaming it for the coronavirus outbreak that threatens his reelection prospects.

Biden has been slower to directly criticize Trump’s recent actions against China, but his campaign questions whether the president will eventually undermine his administration’s tough actions of late by personally striking softer tones toward Beijing

“The administration has a history of talking very loudly but not producing results," said Jeff Prescott, a campaign foreign policy adviser,

Biden also has said he would immediately restore daily press briefings at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, events once deemed critical to communicate U.S. policy that the Trump administration has all but abandoned.

Biden and his surrogates say they intend to act quickly on the following:

- Middle East: Restore assistance to the Palestinian Authority that the Trump administration has eliminated as well as to agencies that support Palestinian refugees. Biden hasn't said he will reverse Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital or return the embassy to Tel Aviv.

- United Nations: Restore U.S. membership in U.N. agencies such as the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and possibly the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

- Europe: Tone down rhetoric Trump has used to berate and insult European allies. Biden can be expected to try to warm relations among NATO partners.

- Africa: Try to raise America’s profile on the continent, which has become a new battleground for competition with China.

- Asia: Revert to a traditional U.S. stance supporting the presence of American troops in Japan and South Korea. Biden has also criticized Trump's personal relationship with Kim.

- Latin America: Cancel Trump administration agreements that sent asylum-seeking immigrants to Mexico and other countries while they await court dates and halt all new construction of the southern border wall. Biden also wants to restart Obama-era engagement with Cuba.


Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Would a New Iran Deal Be Tougher Than the One Trump Left?

(Bloomberg Opinion) — Speaking at a fundraiser in California over the weekend, President Donald Trump predicted that he would have a new nuclear deal within four weeks if re-elected in November. In one sense, this is typical bluster from a president who has recently mused that his face should be carved on Mount Rushmore. At the same time, it highlights both a risk about a second Trump term and a truth about the Iranian regime his administration has pressured since taking office.

First, consider the risk. Trump has always explained his maximum pressure campaign as an effort to coerce Tehran to submit to better terms. By itself, there is nothing wrong with that. The 2015 nuclear deal forged by Trump’s predecessor was weak. Key limitations on the technology and scale of Iran’s enrichment program expired over time.

And Trump’s campaign has steadily increased pressure on the regime. The remaining loopholes in U.S. sanctions against Iran have been closed, and Iran’s most important general has been killed. Meanwhile, the U.S. is planning to introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October.

But Trump is also prone to flattery, and has expressed desperation for a diplomatic win. As former National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote in his memoir this year, the president was interested in “making a deal he could characterize as a huge success, even if it was badly flawed.”

Now consider the truth about the Iranian regime. Veterans of former President Barack Obama’s administration and America’s European allies have been scathing about Trump’s maximum pressure policy. In part they defend the 2015 deal, but they also say Trump’s current policy is not the way to get a better deal with Iran.

Nonetheless, this is exactly the approach that Obama took against Iran — although he did not call it a “maximum pressure” campaign. After discovering a hidden uranium enrichment facility in 2009, the administration and Congress increased sanctions over time in a gambit to bring the Iranians to negotiations. When the first preliminary deal was struck in 2013, only some of those sanctions were lifted. Economic warfare was waged to get a better deal.

Story continues

Presidential elections are, of course, a binary choice. If you are worried about what kind of deal Trump may negotiate with Iran, then you might also be concerned that former Vice President Joe Biden would simply re-enter the one that Trump exited.

But Biden has been more cautious than one might expect. The Biden campaign has not pledged, for example, to re-enter the deal unconditionally. “If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations,” Biden told the New York Times last spring, the U.S. would re-enter the 2015 agreement. He also added that this would be a “starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.”

For voters who have supported Trump’s tough line on Iran, this presents a dilemma. Who would make a better deal with Iran: a mercurial president who has shown little interest in details and policy, or a former vice president whose administration negotiated a weak one in the first place? Put another way: Do you go with the devil you know, or the devil you once knew?

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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