AMERICA’S ELECTION: POSSIBLE IMPACTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
In the wake of Joe Biden’s razor-thin victory in the November 3 presidential election, speculation is wide about the impact of a new administration next year on U.S. foreign policy in the turmoil-plagued Middle East.
In his initial remarks on November 7th after winning a clear majority of votes, President-elect Biden said: “The presidency itself is not a partisan institution. It’s the one office in this nation that represents everyone. And it demands a duty of care for all Americans. And that is what I’ll do.”
THE U.S. AND A TUMULTUOUS MIDEASTAs Council of Foreign Relations analyst, Steven A. Cook put it, writing on the eve of the U.S. election, concentrated on the attitudes of Washington’s Arabian peninsula partners, as well as Israel.
“The United Arab Emirates, for example, wants to lock in its acquisition of promised U.S. F-35 jets.” So far, Reuters reports, new arms sales by Washington to the Middle East is a notification to Congress that the Trump administration is planning to sell 18 sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to the UAE worth $2.9 billion.
According to Reuters, ”Israel hopes to purchase more F-35s and even more military assistance for agreeing to allow the Emiratis to acquire the planes. Israel, as well, won an agreement that will foster U.S.-Israeli scientific cooperation in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
” Meanwhile, Turkey has been pressing to insert itself further in the Eastern Mediterranean without fear of a response from the United States.”
In Mr. Cook’s view: “It was always a myth that politics ended at America’s shores, but once upon a time, there seemed to be a consensus about its role and purpose in the world: to serve as the anchor of a liberal world order.
“Now, leaders in the Middle East have sought to leverage the whiplash between Democratic and Republican foreign policy — as opposed to U. S. foreign policy — to their advantage, at least temporarily. That is why they are now hedging, making it harder for a Biden administration to reverse course.”
As CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi sees it: “People in the region have been weighed down by the strain of economic crises, youth unemployment and deepening distrust for their leadership — all exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s Arab Youth Survey found that a majority of young Arabs in crisis-wracked states support anti-government protests. Nearly half of young Arabs, the survey revealed, have considered leaving their countries.
“Biden has said that he would seek to restore the Obama-era nuclear deal (negotiated five years ago and known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, which President Trump withdrew from in May 2018. Since then,” Tamara Qiblawi notes, “Iran has buckled under the weight of some of the toughest sanctions it has ever faced. A year after Trump’s pullout, Tehran re-started parts of the nuclear program that the JCPOA had mostly dismantled under the JCPOA.
However, Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on election eve that if Iran moves back into compliance with the nuclear obligations outlined in the JCPOA, “I would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.”
That assumes, of course, that the allies would accept a U.S. appeal to rejoin the JCPOA. As Biden reportedly told the CFR, “Doing so would provide a critical down payment to reestablish U.S. credibility, signaling to the world that America’s word and international commitments once again mean something.”
Debate on the GOP side about Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election may persist. But it’s clear that U.S. foreign policy in the always tumultuous Middle East remains a topic of ongoing debate regardless of which major U.S. political party is in the White House. May bipartisanship be strengthened in the years ahead.
A VASTLY NEW COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT
It’s a strikingly different multi-channel information world that characterizes 2020 and the decades to come. As Public Diplomacy Council President Sherry Muller put it in a November 8 weekly newsletter to her colleagues:
“Who would have ever imagined, when Edward R. Murrow first coined the phrase (in people to people communications) that “the last three feet” would be the distance between our own eyes (in face-to-face communications) rather than the ZOOM rooms on our computers?”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More