Biden Admin’s Silence on Middle East Invites China to Fill Power Vacuum: Sen. Lankford

By Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
Andrew Thornebrooke
National Security Correspondent
Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
March 24, 2023Updated: March 24, 2023

Communist China is amassing economic and diplomatic power throughout the Middle East because the Biden administration has failed to articulate a cogent strategy for the region, according to one senator.

China’s communist regime is finding success expanding its influence with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other nations, according to Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), because President Joe Biden has not demonstrated the nation’s commitment to peace and prosperity in the region or to countering the threat posed by Iran’s authoritarian regime.

“No one in the region knows where America stands with Iran,” said Lankford during a March 23 national security conference hosted by the America First Policy Institute, a conservative think tank.

“And the clear question… [Middle East] leaders will ask me privately is, ‘What is America’s plan?’ Or, more specifically what they would say is, ‘What is America willing to do?’”

Lankford said that many leaders in the Middle East had “no idea” what the Biden administration’s plans for the region were, and felt abandoned by the administration’s decision to remove resources from the Middle East for use in the Indo-Pacific.

The situation, he said, had ironically created a power vacuum which China was now filling.

“While we were ‘pivoting to Asia,’ Asia was pivoting to the Middle East,” Lankford said.

“If [leaders in the Middle East] don’t know what America is willing to do, they’re going to turn to China, they’re going to turn to somebody else, they’re going to figure out how they can just survive because there’s no clear plan.”

US Has ‘Responsibility’ to Promote Rights of Iranian People

Lankford said that there was a general consensus in Congress that the United States’ Middle East policy was ‘drifting’ under the Biden administration, with no clear positive vision for the future.

The related failure to isolate Iran’s regime and elevate the Iranian people struggling for freedom, he said, had helped create the circumstance required for China to broker a historic diplomatic deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“Unfortunately, the administration is speaking almost none to the people of Iran,” Lankford said.

To that end, Lankford said that the Biden administration should prioritize doing more communication with people on the street in Iran, and focus less on trying to woo the authoritarian power into arms control agreements it has no intention of honoring.

“You cannot go and negotiate with the Iranian government when the Iranian people are in the street begging for freedom,” Lankford said.

“We have a responsibility to be able to say that we’re the United States, [and] we not only believe that the rights we enjoy are American rights, we believe they are rights given by God to every person.”

As such, Lankford said that one of the single greatest problems in U.S. Middle East policy at the present moment was that the Biden administration was “silent” on numerous critical problems in the region, including human rights issues and key peacekeeping missions.

“Every president since Jimmy Carter has brought a peace plan before the Israelis and the Palestinians—until this one,” Lankford said.

“The ‘foreign policy president,’ President Biden, has been absent on some of the most significant foreign policy issues that we have as a country and as a world.”