The founder and president of the Washington-based Gold Institute for International Strategies told the Star News Network that President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s foreign policy is doomed to fail, because unlike President Donald J. Trump, Biden treats the world as an extension of Washington’s Swamp.
“What President Trump realized is that Washington and the way Washington works is really only acceptable – I didn’t say good – I said it is acceptable – is on domestic matters,” said Eli Gold, who worked for worked in Washington’s think tank world for more than 10 years, before launching the Gold Institute May 2019.
“Trump realized that when you leave our shores and our borders, the rest of the world does not work in the same way Washington works,” Gold said. “By the way, Washington is broken domestically, too, but we can try to figure that out on our own because it doesn’t involve other people. We can decide if we can have Medicare-for-All or private insurance, that doesn’t impact, say Israel, but what Trump realized is that when it comes to foreign policy, you can’t work in a Washingtonian fashion.”
Biden’s foreign policy and methods are a throwback to failure
In this way, Biden differs from Trump in terms of both style and substance, he said.
“President Biden is reverting back to that Washingtonian method,” Gold said.
Before Trump, U.S. foreign policy objectives were stalled and failing because the American foreign policy establishment treats other countries like they are politicians negotiating legislation on Capitol Hill, he said.
“In addition, Biden is bringing back the leftwing policies, such as the ones that established or normalized relations with Iran, rather than holding people accountable and government accountable – a government who calls for ‘Death to America,’ – he would rather normalizing relations with them.”
It is a cliché to say that Biden’s foreign policy is Obama redux, but there is a similar dynamic at play in regards of Biden’s reconnecting with Iran – while paying for it by weakening America’s connection with Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Baltimore native said.
“Biden understands that he cannot normalize relations with Iran and hold Saudi Arabia and Israel in equally high esteem – it would negatively impact his ability to negotiate with Iran,” he said.
“Joe Biden’s policies in regard to the Israelis and the Saudis are going to be interesting at best, strained at worst,” he said.
Trump’s succeeded at foreign policy with a personal approach
Gold said Trump evolved into his own very personal way of working with people and institutions as a New York City developer outside of politics. “He, therefore, had a one-on-one foreign policy, which really offended and ticked off what we will call the establishment.”
The other reason Trump upset the establishment is he reclaimed presidential authority to run foreign policy, he said.
“What people fail to realize is the role of the president, and the role of the president is to run the country,” he said.
“He is our senior foreign policy guy and in my opinion in 2021, you do not even need a U.S. Secretary of State,” he said. “Why do we have a U.S. Secretary of State? Because when we founded this country, it would take you two months to have a conversation with the French.”
Trump spoke to his secretaries of defense and state, but he took personal responsibility for his policy, Gold said.
“This was the key to his running a one-on-one foreign policy,” he said. “Somehow between 1789 and 2016, the lines got blurred and it became the norm that the president must work by committee, run the country by committee, well, Iran doesn’t run its country by a committee – and this is what Washington fails to realize.”
Trump knew he had to engage other leaders, but there were lines he could not cross, he said.
“For example, he began negotiating and potentially normalizing with North Korea,” he said. “That all ended, when it was understood those lines that could not be crossed would have had to be crossed in order to pursue it – and it was the same thing with China, as well, in particular in the last year of his presidency because of COVID.”
It was fortunate that Trump got personally involved in the process and that led to the Abraham Accords, he said.
The Abraham Accords is a collection of agreements between Israel and Islamic countries, brokered by the United States, that plays on the fact that Christianity, Judaism and Islam all trace their beginnings to the Bible’s Abraham. Before the end of Trump’s first term, he facilitated a normalization of relations between Israel and Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain.
Of the four, Bahrain is the most significant geopolitically, because the archipelago kingdom is a client-state of Saudi Arabia, which led to speculation that the Saudis would be next up if Trump remained in office for a second consecutive term.
“I don’t know if it was as easy as just signing a paper for the Saudis to join the Abraham Accords,” he said. “Saudi is the ultimate prize. In my estimation, in order for the Saudis to formally normalize relations with Israel, there would have to be certain goals and certain metrics met. It would also depend on what happens with Qatar and what happens with the Houthis in Yemen.”
The Saudis back the Yemeni government against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Gold Institute fellows discuss ‘Iran and Their Proxies: The Current Situation’
Gold Institute senior fellows held a February 28 online seminar “Iran and Its Allies” that dealt with how following Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, Iran and its proxies have taken an aggressive approach within the region and U.S. interests, Gold said.
“Most recently setting a hard line with their commitment to restart or continue their unfettered nuclear program, and missile attacks against U.S. interests in Erbil, Kurdistan and in Baghdad,” he said.
Joining Gold, who moderated the seminar, were retired Army Brig. Gen. Ernie Audino, who is now a senior advisor to the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, and Matthew R.J. Brodsky, who is a Middle East expert, geopolitical analyst.
Gold Institute fellows are practitioners
Gold said he started his institute to bridge what he saw as a gap between policy and action that he witnessed in the meandering that took place before Trump intervened in the discussions that led to the Abraham Accords.
“What I noticed was that Washington think tanks often create policy, but lacked the ability to put forward a blueprint to implement that said policy,” he said.
Gold said a typical example of how Washington handles foreign affairs is the way the State Department tried to line up Middle East countries into an American-led alliance.
“I was talking to an ambassador from a Middle Eastern country – it was actually at a Washington hotel – and we talking about MESA, what President Trump was trying to set up as an Arab NATO,” Gold said.
“It started out at the Riyadh Summit and MESA, which is the Middle East Strategic Alliance, later became the Abraham Accords, but at the time I asked the ambassador to tell me: ‘Where does this stand?’ it was about two years ago, and he said they had yet to give him a blueprint for the proposed MESA.”
The ambassador told him that as a meeting at the State Department, he was pressured to sign up his country for MESA and the State official said: “Afterwards, we’ll sit down and figure it out,” he said. “It was just like Nancy Pelosi saying we have to pass Obamacare in order to find out what is in Obamacare – and the ambassador and his government said: ‘No, we are out, unless you can tell us what you want from us and what our role is, we’re done.’”
MESA was a great idea, but until Trump got hands-on and recognized the opportunity was achieve what became the Abraham Accords, nobody knew how to make it a reality, he said.
Gold said he sought the advice of colleagues and other thought-leaders, such as retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, and these conversations convinced him that there was no pro-Western think tank in Washington that had the practical know-how to convert concepts into action.
“We have 25 fellows and each one represents a different area of expertise,” he said.
“The institute is not an ‘American’ think tank,” Gold said. “It is a Western think tank – I am not a globalist by any stretch of the imagination or any definition of the word – we focus on Western civilization and Western values, so three of our distinguished fellows are sitting members of the European Parliament and a former British member of the European Parliament, who is a Commander of the British Empire.”
Other fellows live in Israel, the Kurdish region of Iraq, he said. “We have former members of Congress and former members of the National Security Council.”