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As the world watches the 2020 US presidential election, political experts weighed in on how the result of the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden will affect US policies in the MENA region and vice versa in a joint webinar hosted by the Brookings Doha Center and Arab Barometer on Monday.
Titled ‘How Will the 2020 Presidential Election Shape US Policy in the Middle East?’, the discussion also touched on how the Arab public view a Trump or a Biden presidency.
Michael Robbins, director of the nonpartisan research network Arab Barometer, shared the result of their latest survey in five countries in the Middle East and North Africa showing a substantial percentage of Arab citizens who think the foreign policy of Biden is better for the MENA region as majority in the Arab world express unfavourable views of Trump’s approach.
He pointed out the decline in how the Arab public generally view the image of the US under Trump presidency, citing how the American leader who is “deeply unpopular across the MENA region” has affected their views on the US.
He also said the survey even show that relatively few, one in 10 persons, support a second Trump victory.
Further on the survey, Robbins said a number of respondents such as in Lebanon and Algeria, stated it doesn’t matter who wins as they see the US policy unlikely to change, while other citizens, such as in the case of Jordan, remain undecided on who would be a better candidate for the region itself.
“About half says Biden will be better or they don’t really know. So, there is a chance for a Biden presidency to change attitudes of ordinary citizens across the region,” said Robbins.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, underlined Biden’s message throughout his campaign that democracy and American values will be at the heart of his policy at home and abroad.
She pointed out that given that this will be the platform for Biden to engage other countries on democracy and human rights and to strengthen a community of democratic states, there will be more focus on human rights in the Middle East.
Wittes said shifting the American foreign policy back toward diplomacy, economic engagement and other civilian tools of foreign policy is especially important in the Middle East. She added that while Middle East will remain a matter of importance to the US, the country, under a Biden presidency, will likely focus more of its energy on other concerns, particularly the domestic front.
“I think Biden realises that this campaign has revealed such deep divides in American society that he has an opportunity to be a transformational leader domestically, strengthening our society and our civic community,” Wittes said.
“The challenge for the US is how to continue to protect its interest in the region when it has competing priorities and constrained resources,” she added. Samer S. Shehata, professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said a Biden foreign policy will be coherent, based on diplomacy and much deeper engagement with allies in foreign policy issues and significantly different from Trump approach.
Maha Yahya, director at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, raised how Biden, if he wins, will negotiate and navigate the chasms that have opened up under the current administration and turn this into an opportunity to really lay the ground for more lasting peace in the MENA region.
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03/11/2020
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