We’re rather familiar with “the Squad,” but what about “the Quint” and “the Quad?” For now, the latter two are more likely than the former to have importance to a potential Biden administration.
With the announcement of Tony Blinken as secretary of State and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, the anti-Israel far left is at bay for now — both men are known to be personally reasonably disposed toward Israel. But if the Quint has an impact on the administration’s Middle East policy, both regarding Israel and Iran, and the Squad joins in, the U.S. position in the region will suffer.
The Quad, on the other hand, offers the potential for a far-reaching and long-lasting alliance in the Indo-Pacific if a new administration is willing to take advantage of the groundwork laid by its predecessor.
First, the Quint. Announced by the British Foreign Ministry in October of last year, the Quint (the U.K., Germany, Spain, Italy and France) is a response to the collapse of the anti-Israel coalition of the European Union (EU). EU resolutions have to be unanimous, and Israel’s burgeoning relations and understandings with the Visegrad Countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) as well as the Baltic States and parts of Southern Europe collapsed the wall.
The first crack actually appeared in May 2018, when Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania blocked an EU denunciation of President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. France, the Netherlands and Ireland, among others criticized the move individually, but the impact was not the same.
In February 2020, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josip Borrell tried to push through a resolution condemning the Trump Middle East peace plan after meetings with Iranian officials — but six of 27 members refused, including Italy, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. In April, he posited: “The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. The EU reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law.” The resolution failed and an Israeli diplomat noted that the largest number of EU delegates to date had been opposed.
The Quint’s raison d’etre is to criticize the building of houses for Jews east of the 1949 armistice line (i.e., “settlements”), to restore the pre-1967 separation of the eastern and western parts of Jerusalem, and to advance the “two-state solution” much loved by the Europeans and American Democrats. The Quint is much closer to the Squad vision than the Trump vision.
A Biden administration clearly would be determined to upgrade and advance relations with “old Europe” — as seen by the appointment of John Kerry as “climate envoy” with an apparent mandate to return to the U.N. Paris Climate Pact that mandates American funding for U.N.-operated climate programs. Should that desire to cooperate/appease Western European countries extend to Middle East policy, the Squad and the Quint will find common ground.
The Quad is entirely different in form and function.
In 2007, the U.S., India, Australia and Japan created the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue which, in the view of Japanese then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was supposed to establish an “Asian Arc of Democracy.” Countries would ultimately include South Korea, the Philippines, Southeast Asian and even possibly Central Asian countries. Taiwan was unmentioned but ever-present. China was understood as a long shot, and consequently, the Quad was viewed — even by some State Department officials in the Obama administration, as aggressive toward China. It is. In the same way NATO is aggressive toward Russia.
The Quad went through several permutations over the years, but last year, the Trump administration posited an Asian NATO to confront increased Chinese aggressiveness in the region — and several countries were responsive, including Australia. India was more reluctant to be openly aligned with the U.S. and Australia against China, having had border skirmishes this past summer that came disturbingly close to all-out war.
Much of Asia understands that China ultimately intends to control the shipping lanes through which it imports oil — the same shipping lanes through which America’s Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea, import oil. China’s building and arming of an island chain to the east of the continent has a purpose.
The idea that China could close those lanes, or charge exorbitant tolls, on top of disillusionment with Chinese buying and stealing technology, and hiding the problem of the virus that began in Wuhan, and Beijing’s refusal to include democratic Taiwan in the conversation about the pandemic — plus the incarceration and abuse of more than a million Turkic Uighurs — makes America’s friends in Asia nervous. And will continue to do so as 2021 approaches.
The Trump administration saw shared values with Europe in NATO — and worked with our allies to increase their defense spending and NATO commitment — while forging a separate path on Israel and Iran. It has likewise been committed to shared values with our Asian allies, and it would be wise of an incoming team to capitalize on the framework the Trump administration bequeaths to it.
The Quad over the Quint and the Squad.
• Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.
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