May 3, 2024 | FDD Tracker: April 5, 2024-May 3, 2024

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: May

May 3, 2024 | FDD Tracker: April 5, 2024-May 3, 2024

Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: May

Trend Overview

By John Hardie

Welcome back to the Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker. Once a month, we ask FDD’s experts and scholars to assess the administration’s foreign policy. They provide trendlines of very positive, positive, neutral, negative, or very negative for the areas they watch.

After months of foot-dragging, Congress passed the national security supplemental appropriations bill, which President Biden quickly signed. The legislation contains much-needed aid funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Indo-Pacific allies and partners. It also addresses other important national security priorities, including investments in America’s defense-industrial base. For Ukraine, the U.S. aid could not come a moment too soon, as Ukrainian forces are struggling to fend off Russian advances amid shortages of men and ammunition.

In mid-April, Iran launched an unprecedented missile and drone barrage against Israel. The United States played an important role in defending the Jewish state, which emerged from the attack virtually unscathed. At Biden’s urging, Jerusalem limited its response to a strike against a single Iranian air defense site — a calculated move that avoided escalation while demonstrating Israel’s capability to hit Iran harder.

In Indo-Pacific news, Biden hosted Japan’s prime minister for an official visit, during which the two leaders signed historic defense and technology agreements that will help the allies counter the threat from China. At the same time, Washington is struggling to convince Beijing to quit aiding Russia’s war machine and to stop undercutting U.S. producers by flooding global markets with cheap goods.

Check back next month to see how the administration tackles these and other challenges.


Washington dispatched two high-level delegations to Beijing in the hope of stabilizing relations while redressing various issues of concern. But like previous U.S. visits, the delegations returned only with stern lectures from Chinese leaders.

First, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, warning that China must scale back its plans to flood global markets with heavily subsidized products. Yellen emphasized that Washington would not “take anything off the table” to address Chinese overcapacity, specifically citing concerns that Chinese electric vehicle exports could undercut U.S. manufacturers. Beijing vehemently rejected Yellen’s warnings, decrying them as protectionist and aimed at suppressing China’s development.

Following Yellen’s visit, Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on his own journey to Beijing, briefly meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. During their exchange, Xi cautioned against Washington’s pursuit of “vicious competition” with China, stating that defensive U.S. policies could hinder China’s economic recovery and disrupt its ambitions for worldwide industrial leadership. Xi’s remarks underscore deep-seated anxieties in Beijing about China’s economic health and about the potential for a Western coalition to constrain China’s growing assertiveness. Blinken also warned that Chinese banks and other firms may face U.S. sanctions for providing critical support for Russia’s war machine.

Still uncertain is whether Beijing will permit TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the popular app to an American firm, as mandated by a newly passed U.S. law. If the Chinese refuse, TikTok may be banned from operating in the United States. Beijing will likely oppose a sale to avoid being seen as capitulating to Washington.


The new national security legislation that President Biden signed on April 24 included provisions forcing Chinese company ByteDance to divest from the popular social media app TikTok or face its removal from U.S. app stores. Lawmakers worried that Beijing not only can use TikTok to mine U.S. data but, more importantly, can alter its algorithm to manipulate the information American users see, as a form of information warfare. Showing its cards, the Chinese government reportedly lobbied Congress against the bill.

At the end of April, the administration issued a new national security memorandum updating a decade-old directive governing how government and industry secure U.S. critical infrastructure. While the update clarifies the role of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and brings a greater focus on risk-based assessments, it fails to acknowledge how critical infrastructure has changed over the past decade, ignoring the importance of space systems and cloud computing to national security and economic prosperity.

In other news, the Department of Homeland Security established the Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security Board. Consisting of leaders in technology, critical infrastructure, government, and academia, the board will provide recommendations on how best to prepare for disruptions related to artificial intelligence (AI) and on responsible adoption of AI technology.

Finally, the Treasury Department and European Union designated the Hamas leaders responsible for the terror group’s cyber warfare and production of unmanned aerial vehicles. Washington also sanctioned and indicted Iranian companies and individuals involved in malicious cyber activity targeting U.S. government entities and critical infrastructure.


President Biden on April 24 signed into law H.R. 815, the national security supplemental emergency appropriations package, providing billions of dollars in funding to help Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine defend themselves. Biden called the bill’s signing “a historical moment” and noted that the funding will also help modernize the Pentagon’s arsenal, create jobs in many states, and expand the U.S. defense-industrial base.

News broke in April that the Biden administration belatedly sent a “significant number” of longer-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine, including some with a unitary warhead. Since 2022, supporters of Ukraine have been calling for the administration to provide the missiles to Kyiv. Washington sent Ukraine a different ATACMS variant with a shorter range last year.

Iran and its terror proxies conducted a large-scale attack on Israel on April 13-14, launching more than 300 missiles and drones. Yet just a handful of missiles landed in Israel, causing only minor damage. That is because of Israel’s impressive integrated air and missile defense system as well as the support Israel received from the U.S. military and others. U.S. forces destroyed more than 80 uncrewed aerial vehicles and at least six ballistic missiles, according to U.S. Central Command.

The administration deserves credit for proactively posturing U.S. forces in the region to help and for providing clear orders to the Pentagon to cooperate with the Israeli military to defend the Jewish state. The Iranian attack was a genuine effort to kill Israelis, and it failed thanks in part to the administration’s decisions.

Europe and Russia

Congress finally passed long-delayed legislation containing $61 billion in Ukraine-related funding. President Biden signed the bill on April 24, and the administration immediately announced a $1 billion military assistance package. Issued under presidential drawdown authority (PDA), it provides Ukraine with much-needed artillery ammunition, air defense interceptors, and other materiel taken directly from U.S. stocks. In the weeks prior, the Pentagon had begun moving equipment to Poland and Germany to ensure prompt delivery. On April 26, the administration announced a $6 billion aid package under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. This authority allows the U.S. government to procure weapons from industry or partners, meaning they will take longer to arrive.

The administration revealed that as part of the new PDA package and a March 12 assistance package, it provided additional ATACMS missiles, which Ukraine has already employed successfully. Washington had previously provided a small number of the M39 variant, which has a cluster munition warhead and a 165-kilometer range. But Biden reportedly decided to send Ukraine 100 ATACMS with a 300-kilometer range, including missiles with a unitary warhead, long requested by Kyiv.

The new U.S. aid comes at a critical time. Exploiting Kyiv’s shortages of troops and artillery shells, Russian forces have recently made gains northwest of Avdiivka, which Russia captured in mid-February. They are also attempting to take Chasiv Yar, a small but militarily important city in eastern Ukraine. The resumption of regular PDA packages will ease Ukraine’s shell hunger, although Kyiv’s manpower shortage will take longer to fix. The next few months will be tough.


Washington scored a win against Chinese technology giant Huawei in mid-April when Microsoft announced it will invest $1.5 billion in G42, the UAE’s leading artificial intelligence company, in a deal brokered partly by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. As part of the agreement, G42 will remove Huawei equipment from its systems. This follows a separate move in February in which G42, under U.S. pressure, divested from Chinese firms, including TikTok owner ByteDance.

After the UAE normalized relations with Israel in 2020, the Trump administration promised to sell Abu Dhabi 50 F-35 fighter jets and 18 MQ-9B drones. But the Biden administration delayed the sale, although the MQ-9B deal is now moving forward and the parties resumed talks on the F-35. Washington’s objections stem partly from concerns about potential Chinese espionage via Huawei. In February, Huawei signed an agreement to upgrade the UAE’s 5G network. If Abu Dhabi reverses course, it could improve the F-35 deal’s prospects, although Washington also worries about the construction of a suspected Chinese military facility at an Emirati port. On April 29-30, the two sides held their annual joint military dialogue, although the Pentagon readout did not mention the F-35.

For their part, the Emiratis argue Washington must realize it is no longer the only game in town. “America is our first, but not only, ally,” the director of Abu Dhabi’s Sky News Arabia said recently. “Washington cannot deal with the Middle East the way it used to in the past,” by “demanding commitment from its allies toward its interests, but not reciprocating.”


In an unprecedented show of unity, President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a historic upgrade in security ties to counter China’s regional assertiveness. Kishida’s April 10 official visit — the first by a Japanese leader in nearly a decade — resulted in over 70 new collaborative agreements spanning several critical areas, including artificial intelligence. The two leaders also announced transformative defense posture upgrades, including integrating force structures to streamline joint military operations and establishing a military-industrial council to pave the way for co-production of defense systems. These moves represent a calculated response to Chinese aggression as well as a coordinated effort by both leaders to assuage doubts in Tokyo and elsewhere about America’s reliability as an ally.

Meanwhile, escalating tensions in the South China Sea have spurred the United States and the Philippines into action. The two countries, along with France and Australia, kicked off the annual “Balikatan” military exercises, which will involve more than 16,000 military personnel. Although Biden has reiterated Washington’s commitment to defend the Philippines, America’s oldest Asian ally, from illegal Chinese incursions into Manila’s territorial waters, Beijing’s conduct has not changed. China continues to harass Philippine vessels resupplying an outpost located at Second Thomas Shoal, which Beijing claims as its own even though it is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. As an initial step towards restoring deterrence, the administration should consider deploying U.S. personnel to accompany Philippine resupply vessels.

International Organizations

The Biden administration on April 18 rightly vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that sought to recognize a Palestinian state outside a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Had the resolution passed, U.S. law would have barred U.S. funding to the United Nations. But the Biden administration also opposed the resolution on its merits, sending an important message that the October 7 massacre would not be rewarded with UN recognition of a Palestinian state. However, while Washington did the right thing in vetoing, it appeared unable or unwilling to bring along other countries. The administration claimed it did not pressure allies to join the United States in opposition. France, a fellow permanent member of the Security Council, voted in favor, as did Japan, while the United Kingdom abstained. The administration may have pulled its punches due to controversy over a leaked diplomatic cable dated April 12 that details U.S. talking points for the Security Council vote.

Separately, after Taiwan announced it would send a delegation to the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in May, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the World Health Organization to reinstate Taiwan’s observer status. The administration has vowed three years in a row to fight for Taiwan’s inclusion at the WHO’s annual conference. Yet despite backing the organization’s director general for re-election and supporting his plan to diminish the influence of voluntary donors such as the United States, the administration has yet to obtain a single tangible reform.


On April 13-14, Tehran launched an unprecedented missile and drone attack against Israel in response to Israel’s killing of several officials from Iran’s Quds Force in Damascus on April 1. This was the first time Tehran has attacked Israel directly from Iranian territory. U.S. efforts significantly limited the strike’s impact.

Beforehand, the Biden administration publicized intelligence about Iran’s plans and deployed additional military assets to the region. Washington also coordinated an international effort to down the missiles and drones. U.S. forces alone downed over 80 drones and at least six ballistic missiles.

Afterward, the administration sought to restrain Israel’s response, with President Biden reportedly telling Jerusalem to “take the win.” Despite Iran’s use of ballistic missiles, the administration does not appear to be any closer to triggering the snapback of UN sanctions against Iran. These sanctions included an embargo on Iranian ballistic missile tests and transfers.

Washington did issue sanctions against networks supporting Iran’s military, drone programs, steel industry, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps cyber-electronic command. However, the administration also defended its recent extension of a modified $10 billion sanctions waiver for Iran. On April 24, Biden signed into law the national security supplemental bill, which contains four key Iran-related provisions containing reporting requirements for additional human rights sanctions, oil sanctions, counterproliferation penalties, and identification of regime assets.

Elsewhere, U.S. officials such as Abram Paley, deputy special envoy for Iran, and Jake Sullivan, national security advisor, quickly condemned Tehran’s decision to sentence Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death for criticizing the regime.


The Biden administration’s Israel policy remains torn between President Biden’s desire to support Israel and his political imperative to court far-left voters hostile to the Jewish state.

After Israel responded to months of Iranian aggression by striking an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps site in Syria on April 1, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared America’s commitment to defending Israel against an expected Iranian attack. On April 13-14, Iran launched over 300 missiles and drones at Israel, 99 percent of which were intercepted by Israeli, American, Jordanian, British, and French forces in a coordinated defense.

Despite the invaluable aid provided in Israel’s defense and additional U.S. sanctions placed on Iran and its proxies, President Biden pressured Israel not to respond, signaling timidity that could invite further Iranian aggression. Israel’s calculated response a few days later demonstrated Israeli military superiority without risking escalation.

The administration’s posture regarding Israeli human rights issues was even more harmful. At a Senate hearing, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “We don’t have any evidence” of Israel committing genocide — far short of a full-throated refutation of the slanderous accusation. In late April, the Biden administration accused several Israeli units of committing human rights abuses in 2022 but said it would not penalize them, as Israel had committed to discipline those responsible. The announcement’s timing, which makes Israelis more vulnerable to investigations by the International Criminal Court, demonstrated its political nature.

Meanwhile, the administration continued to oppose Israeli plans for an offensive against Hamas’s final stronghold in Rafah due to concerns about civilian casualties.


North Korea on April 24 sent a high-level delegation to Iran to improve bilateral economic ties, marking the first such visit by Pyongyang since the COVID-19 pandemic. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aims to enhance security ties with a range of U.S. adversaries, including Iran, Russia, and China, as part of what he deems “a new Cold War.”

The United States and South Korea agreed to hold combined tabletop naval exercises to simulate a response to a North Korean nuclear attack. Soon after, Pyongyang conducted drills to simulate a nuclear counterattack and send “a clear warning signal” to Washington and Seoul, which were undertaking combined air force exercises at the time. In addition, North Korea test-fired several ballistic missiles. South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman warned that the Kim regime “will face its end” should it use nuclear weapons. President Biden signaled support for a Japanese initiative to hold a summit with Kim to reduce security tensions. Meanwhile, U.S. and South Korean officials met in Hawaii to discuss cost-sharing for U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.

Despite Russia’s veto last month of the long-time mandate for a UN panel of experts tasked with reviewing global compliance with UN sanctions on North Korea, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Washington is exploring new mechanisms “both inside and outside the UN system” to provide continued monitoring. The UN panel provided substantive, independent reports twice per year.

Latin America

On April 18, the Biden administration reimposed sanctions on Venezuela after Caracas violated its commitment to hold a free and fair election later this year by disqualifying opposition candidates and rounding up senior opposition figures. Yet the sanctions appear to have had little impact on the Maduro regime’s calculus.

Mexico broke off diplomatic relations with Ecuador after Ecuadorian police raided the Mexican Embassy to arrest former Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas. Mexico had granted him political asylum after he was convicted of corruption while serving under a leftist ally of Mexico’s president. Washington condemned Ecuador’s raid. Ecuador has filed a complaint against Mexico at the International Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration and Mexico’s president are sparring over Mexico’s failure to implement a water treaty amidst a drought in Texas, with Mexico refusing to comply due to severe water shortages in the Rio Grande basin. Nevertheless, the two sides agreed to increase cooperation to stem illegal immigration.

U.S. efforts to strengthen relations with Argentina have continued apace since last year’s election of President Javier Milei. This is coming at the expense of China, which in April lost a bid to sell fighter jets to Buenos Aires. Argentina will instead buy U.S.-made F-16s from Denmark. On April 6, U.S. Southern Command chief General Laura Richardson visited Argentina — her third visit in less than a year — to attend the official handover of U.S. military transport planes to Argentina. Milei and Richardson met in Ushuaia, where Argentina hopes to open a joint naval base with the United States.


Hezbollah continues to launch attacks against northern Israel, while the Israeli military’s chief of staff says Israel is “preparing for an offensive” against the terror group. Yet although U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein met with Israel’s defense minister last week to discuss the border crisis, he has not visited Lebanon in over a month. This could signal that the Biden administration has given up on attempting to appease Hezbollah into accepting a ceasefire. Ending that appeasement strategy would be the right move, but the administration still has not made any effort to pressure Hezbollah to cease its attacks. This approach leaves in place an explosive situation that could escalate into a full war.

With its diplomatic efforts having yielded few results, Washington seems content to outsource the task of restoring calm to France. The French have offered peace proposals aimed at ensuring implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which requires that Hezbollah either disarm or at least remove its forces from southern Lebanon. But the French plan would only require the group’s elite Radwan Force to withdraw a mere 10 kilometers from the Blue Line, the UN-drawn provisional border between Lebanon and Israel. Not only would this leave the rest of Hezbollah’s fighting force deployed in south Lebanon and most of northern Israel in range of the group’s arsenal, but France has also yet to offer a credible mechanism to guarantee the permanence of even this minimal withdrawal.

Nonproliferation and Biodefense

The State Department declined to deny reports that the Biden administration is speaking indirectly to Iran about reviving a nuclear deal in return for U.S. sanctions relief, further reducing any remaining pressure on Tehran to cease its uranium enrichment and other provocative nuclear activities. Earlier in April, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi recently expressed concern about Iran’s proximity to nuclear weapons. A “very serious conversation” needs to be had with Tehran about improving its cooperation with the agency, Grossi stressed.

The IAEA confirmed that Israel’s April 19 retaliatory strike near the Iranian city of Esfahan did not target an Iranian nuclear facility. Jerusalem, however, likely sent a strong message to Iran about its ability to penetrate Tehran’s defenses and target such facilities in the future. Following Israel’s strike, Iran temporarily closed its nuclear facilities to UN inspectors, raising concerns that it could use a security pretext to do so again in the future and divert enriched uranium to a secret site. Meanwhile, as the United States moves to withdraw American troops from Niger, concerns mount that the country’s ruling junta will seal a deal to provide uranium to Tehran for its expanding nuclear program.

On April 24, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution outlawing the placement of nuclear weapons in space. The Biden administration is concerned about Russia’s development of a space-based nuclear anti-satellite capability, which may violate Moscow’s obligations as a signatory to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Sunni Jihadism

The United States agreed to withdraw its troops from Niger less than a year after a military junta seized power there in the summer of 2023. The U.S. military will lose access to the airbase in Agadez, which was serving as a center for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. Washington had invested more than $100 million in the base. Counterterrorism operations from the base had been severely restricted since the coup. The base’s loss, along with the ouster of French forces from Mali and Niger, seriously undercuts the West’s ability to surveil and strike Islamic State and al-Qaeda targets.

The U.S. military also withdrew an estimated 75 Army Special Forces personnel from neighboring Chad after a Chadian official threatened to suspend the agreement allowing U.S. forces to operate in the country. A Pentagon spokesman said the withdrawal may be temporary, and it is possible a new agreement can be negotiated.

U.S. and French influence has been waning in the Sahel after pro-Russian governments have staged coups in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State insurgencies have increased their footholds in these countries and elsewhere in the Sahel and West Africa.

In other news, General Michael Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said that “the reduction in collection, analytical resources, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance assets” in and around Afghanistan has hindered CENTCOM’s ability to monitor the threats posed by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. “[W]hile we can see the broad contours of attack planning, we lack the granularity to see the complete threat picture,” he warned.


Iran-backed militias resumed attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria after a pause lasting more than two months. On April 21, the militias fired five rockets at a U.S. base in northeast Syria. Less than 24 hours later, U.S. forces shot down two drones near a base in Iraq. After a drone strike in late January claimed the lives of three American troops, retaliatory U.S. strikes led the militias to pause their offensive. This time around, the president should respond with sufficient force to deter additional attacks before they prove lethal.

On April 24, the president signed into law the Illicit Captagon Trafficking Suppression Act of 2023 as part of a broad foreign aid package. A week earlier, the House voted 410-13 to approve the act as a stand-alone measure. The bill requires the president to impose sanctions on any foreign person involved in the trafficking of Captagon, an amphetamine-like drug produced and distributed by the Bashar al-Assad regime. However, the foreign aid package did not include the Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act, which the House passed 389-32 in January. That bill would have extended for eight years the tough human rights sanctions on Syria that went into effect in 2020 as part of the Caesar Act. The Washington Post reported that the White House blocked the inclusion of the Anti-Normalization Act despite bipartisan support since the Biden administration does not want to pressure Assad despite paying lip service to that goal. The administration has quietly encouraged Arab governments to reconcile with Assad since the summer of 2021.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly postponed a White House visit that had been tentatively scheduled for May 9. Erdogan likely decided to postpone the meeting for two reasons. First, he may have felt the reception planned by White House officials was insufficiently warm. In particular, Ankara reportedly took insult at the Biden administration’s delay in announcing the visit. Second, instead of being photographed with Biden, Erdogan chose instead to portray himself as the champion of Gaza. Hours before the postponement, the Turkish president criticized Congress’s decision to approve billions of dollars in military aid for Israel. Erdogan also referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the “butcher of Gaza.” On Apil 29, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, but it is unclear whether they discussed Erdogan’s potential visit.

Earlier in April, Ankara imposed trade restrictions on Israel, barring exports to Israel in 54 different product categories, including cement, construction equipment, and aviation fuel. In response, a bipartisan group of U.S. members of Congress wrote a letter to Blinken, urging the administration to consider sanctions against Turkey if Ankara cannot be convinced to rescind the export restrictions. The members of Congress also expressed concern about plans by Turkish aid organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood to launch an aid flotilla to Gaza intended to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the enclave. A similar Turkish flotilla in 2010 resulted in a deadly altercation with Israeli forces.


The analyses above do not necessarily represent the institutional views of FDD.