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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