WW3 hotspots: Which conflicts are top priorities for Joe Biden?

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Former US president Donald Trump lashed out at his successor Joe Biden on Sunday during his first speech since leaving the White House. The Republican criticised Mr Biden saying “we all knew the Biden administration was going to be bad, but none of us even imagined just how bad they would be”. But aside from recent hints about Mr Trump gunning to take Mr Biden down in 2024, what other conflicts are top priorities for the Democrat?

President Joe Biden has now been in office for more than a month, but his political agenda is only just coming into focus.

Right out of the gate, President Biden identified two main priorities: fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and promoting inclusive economic recovery.

But as the country attempts to grapple with this rampant virus, many other priorities will become central to his political agenda.

Express.co.uk speaks to global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit Cailin Birch about which conflicts are a top priority for the 46th US leader and which are at the greatest risk of escalating.

Cailin Birch said Mr Biden is likely to focus on reducing US military presence abroad.

Ms Birch told Express.co.uk: “Broadly, we expect the Biden administration to take a more multilateral approach than the US has in recent decades while seeking to minimise its military engagements abroad.

“However, Mr Biden is also likely to honour the US’s existing security partnerships and remain engaged in current conflicts, if withdrawal would risk deteriorating conditions on the ground.

“An example of the latter is in Afghanistan, where we no longer expect the US troop presence to be completely wound down, as the former president, Donald Trump, had previously ordered.”

The War in Afghanistan is an ongoing war which began after the Taliban Government refused to hand over al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

The US Government and Taliban signed a peace agreement in February 2020 which set out a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

However, there has been no official cease-fire despite the agreement.

The agreement outlines how the US will drawback all its troops over 14 months.

In return, the Taliban has vowed to prevent territory under their control from being used by terrorist groups and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in March 2020.

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Despite focusing on the withdrawal of US military presence abroad, Ms Birch believes the US will be required to monitor several ongoing conflicts.

She said: “That said, there are a handful of brewing conflicts that the administration will continue to monitor.

“The first is the heightened risk of conflict with Iran, as part of ongoing regional proxy battles in the Middle East.

“For example, the US conducted targeted missile strikes on a convoy of Iranian-aligned Iraqi militias operating in Syria on February 25.

“These were retaliatory strikes, which followed recent attacks on US interests in Iraq, which the US government believes were conducted by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.”

According to the Global Conflict Tracker from the Council on Foreign Relations, there are an estimated 500 US troops in Syria and 2,500 US military personnel in Iraq.

Ms Birch added the US and Iranian relations have worsened in the last year and therefore it is a top priority for Mr Biden.

In the past few years, tensions between the US and Iran have escalated, with the nations having had no formal diplomatic relations since April 1980.

Since 1995, the United States has had an embargo on trade with Iran and during Donald Trump’s term as president, relations between the two nations worsened with war almost breaking out during the 2019/2020 Persian Gulf crisis.

Under the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, the US and other world powers agreed to lift crippling economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on the country’s nuclear program.

Former US leader Mr Trump pulled the country out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed those sanctions.

The worsening of relations between the US and Iran could have global economic, political and security implications.

If military conflict were to break out, Iran could try to block the Strait of Hormuz, a region responsible for the passage of 30 percent of the world’s oil.

This would have a resultant impact on global oil prices.

The economist added Mr Biden has made it clear he intends to de-escalate tensions with Iran.

She told Express.co.uk: “Tit-for-tat attacks between US forces and Iranian proxies in the region have multiplied in the last year.

“It is likely they will continue in the coming months, even as the US and Iranian government attempt to reopen discussions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Mr Biden has made it clear that he would like to de-escalate tensions with Iran, and potentially ease US sanctions if a new nuclear accord can be reached.

“However, we expect little real progress to be made in the next six months, and the risk of isolated, tit-for-tat attacks in the region remains very high.”

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