BARACK OBAMA tried to pivot to Asia, but the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war, Islamic State and Iran’s nuclear programme kept dragging him back. For all the noise Donald Trump made about ending the “forever wars”, he edged towards war with Iran. He dispatched 14,000 troops to the region and, in the end, did not much change the sprawling American military commitment there. Now, even more than his predecessors, President Joe Biden is signalling an intention to downgrade the Middle East among America’s priorities.

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He took so long to make his first phone call to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, felt compelled, in response to a reporter, to declare the president meant no “intentional diss” (as though an unintended oversight might not

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He also announced he would direct states to prioritize teachers in their vaccination plans, reemphasizing a commitment to returning students to classrooms amid a confusing administration stance on when and how classrooms can reopen.

The new date does not mean all Americans would receive shots by May 31; issues with distribution and personnel mean it could take much longer for all doses to be administered.

But the speedier estimate, helped along by a new partnership between major US drugmakers, makes for an optimistic target as millions of Americans wait to receive their first doses. The timeline speeds up by two months the administration’s previous goal of having enough shots by the end of July.

“That’s progress,” Biden said in remarks from the White House, warning there could still be delays in getting shots in Americans’ arms and suggesting the country would not return to full normalcy for much longer.


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