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Trump team looks to box in Biden on foreign policy by lighting too many fires to put out

November 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

President Donald Trump's order of a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq is the latest foreign policy move on a growing list in his final weeks in office that are meant to limit President-elect Joe Biden's options before he takes office in January.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump's order of a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq is the latest foreign policy move on a growing list in his final weeks in office that are meant to limit President-elect Joe Biden's options before he takes office in January.

In other areas, they say the Trump team may be confusing style with substance -- that the difference between Trump and Biden isn't a matter of the end goal, such as a departure from Afghanistan or a nuclear-free Iran, but simply a matter of how each leader wants to get there.

Pointing to the same baseline goals for a nuclear-free Iran, a withdrawal from Afghanistan and a way to manage the relationship with an increasingly assertive China, Parsi said, "The Biden administration is likely to continue many policies, but just with a different style. "

China hawks in the Trump administration believe there are actions they can take now that will box Biden in, one administration official said.

People close to Biden's transition team dismiss that tough talk, saying that Trump's China policy has been largely toothless, with the President making concession after concession to President Xi Jinping, until the campaign made it politically expedient to look and talk tougher.

More visible are the administration's efforts to stymie Biden's pledge to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump rejected in 2018.

"The calculation of the Trump team is that will be too politically costly and that will deter the Biden team from even trying, but a lot of Democrats will be unhappy to see Biden not undo this," Parsi said.

This month, the Trump administration authorized $23 billion in advanced weaponry sales to the United Arab Emirates that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East -- a deal the Biden team has expressed reservations about.

"That was something the UAE very much wanted the Trump administration to do before leaving office, and they did it very quickly and they notified even a much bigger potential package than what had been expected," said Michele Dunne, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Trump's top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, is expected this week to pay the first visit by a US secretary of state to an Israeli West Bank settlement, capping an administration approach that has bucked traditional US policy and international consensus.

While the Trump administration has ignored settlement expansion during his term, Biden has been critical in the past.

He may soon be successful, two State Department officials tell CNN, and if so, the move could handicap Biden's ability to develop his own policy in Yemen, because rolling back a terrorist designation is not easy, the officials said.

One State Department official said Pompeo sees the designation as part of the maximum pressure campaign against Iran and doesn't care if it puts the Biden team in a challenging position.

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