by Irina Tsukerman and Dr. Frank Musmar
Dr. Frank Musmar is an expert on the Middle East Politics, a Non-resident research associate at BESA Center and an Advisory Board Member at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC).
Irina Tsukerman is a human rights lawyer and national security analyst based in New York.
The Israel-UAE latest normalization agreement is an indication of the shifting in the Middle East enemies-alliances infrastructure from Israel vs. Arab campaigns to Israeli-Arab vs. Iran (Shia crescent) and other growing alliances such as “Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia and Qatar” alliance and East of the Mediterranean “Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, France, and UAE” alliance. The Gulf monarchies were alarmed by the Arab spring and the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood that threatened their crowns; therefore, UAE was the first monarchy to realize the threat and the shifting of alliances in the rea, which led to the normalization deal with Israel. Accordingly, the result of the 2020 American election is significant for the Middle East, especially that each candidate has a different vision that will affect the area and America’s national security.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden is an extension to former president Obama’s Middle East failure policies such as embracing the Muslim Brotherhood, and particularly the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which extended the Iranian influence in the area. During an interview with CFR, Biden’s answer to the question, “Would you rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)? Was: “If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I will reenter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.”
The Iranian nuclear deal was a drastic deal to America’s Gulf allies. The deal freed Iran’s hands to pursue their ambitions in the region. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia and UAE opted to launch a destructive intervention on Iran’s allies in Yemen, the Houthi, at tremendous cost, in part because of U.S. disengagement and U.S. policy toward Iran. Trump’s administration regains the trust of Saudi Arabia and UAE of the U.S Middle East policies after re-imposing sanctions on Tehran, which resulted in a historic normalization agreement between Israel and UAE.
The nuclear deal with Iran is one of many foreign policy issues on the Democrat’s agenda after winning the White House. Biden, supported by progressive Democrats, is planning a drastic cut in the defense budget. According to Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., one of the co-chairs of the caucus, the progressive caucus is planning a handful of amendments that address spending in the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act. Such actions will lead to Multinational – rather than unilateral – military actions that cause shifts in foreign policy. The U.S. disengagement in the Middle East will limit the United States’ ability to shape its trajectory and shift resources currently in the Middle East toward Asia.
Biden said that he would reverse Trump policies in concern to Israeli-Palestinians two states, especially reinstating aid to the Palestinians and re-engage in diplomatic discussions with Palestinian over Jerusalem. In May 2020, Mr. Biden stated: “A priority now for the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace should be resuming our dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel not to take actions that make a two-state solution impossible. I will reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem; find a way to reopen the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump Administration stopped.” Trump’s peace proposal “Peace to Prosperity” shake the Middles East and created a momentum for peace that started with the Israeli-UAE normalization deal, which stretched the Middle East to the East Mideterenian region and inspired another normalization, the Serbia-Kosovo deal. Trump’s support for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, his stance toward Iran created the peace momentum and an end to the “endless wars” in the region, which will enable the withdrawal of U.S. troops safely – at least that is the position of the administration and its base on the matter. Biden will follow the footsteps of Obama of disengagement in the Middle East, which will halt the peace momentum, and the normalization agreements will become meaningless.
The difference in visions between the two candidates is best illustrated by Jared Kushner’s and Secretary Pompeo’s trips to the Middle East.
Analysis for Jared Kushner & Mike Pompeo Latest Trips to the Middle East
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner visited in his last trip ( August 31, 2020- September 3, 2020) Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and England, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited in his last trip (August 24, 2020-August 28,2020) Israel, Sudan, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman. Experts expected both visits a push to commit the visited country leaders to attend the Washington signing ceremony. Previous peace signers with Israel, Egypt, and Jordan are expected to participate at several diplomatic levels.
Pompeo’s visit prepared the ground for Kushner’s visit that started from Israel and then headed to the designated areas along with the delegation team led by Jared Kushner, Israel National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, US National Security Council Adviser Robert O’Brien, and U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook. Accordingly, was visiting those countries necessary for the ceremony? And what did these visits accomplished?
Pompeo assured Israel that Washington is committed to preserving Israel’s military edge in the Middle East and urged Arab countries to join the United Arab Emirates in forging formal ties with Israel. Secretary Pompeo aimed for Evangelical Christians’ support for President Donald Trump’s foreign policy record in a Republican National Convention speech with an iconic view of Jerusalem’s Old City in the background. Kushner’s achievements at the Middle East peace level is enormous in the process of getting Donald Trump reelected. Accordingly, Brian Hook accompanied Kushner to the UAE to highlight the Iranian threat. Simultaneously, Meir Ben-Shabbat and Robert O’Brien will most likely propose a joint American Israeli military base in UAE and Bahrain.
Pompeo had initially failed to secure a statement from Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa about normalized ties with Israel. However, Kushner succeeded in making the deal. On Friday, September 11, 2020, President Trump announces that Israel and Bahrain have agreed to full diplomatic relations marking Bahrain the second Arab Gulf nation to peruse ties with Israel and encourage the shy and hesitant other states to join the alliances in the Middle East. According to President Trump, Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khallaf will join Israel and the UAE for the signing ceremony next Tuesday. The Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu, commented on the peace agreement with Bahrain as follows: “It took 26 years to get from the second peace agreement with an Arab country to the third agreement, and it took 29 days to go from the third peace agreement with an Arab country to the fourth, and there will be more.” Most importantly, Bahrain is a tiny island that follows, to some extension, Saudi Arabia diplomacy, and the Bahraini normalization deal might be a test case for a future Saudi-Israel deal.
The deliberations between Sudanese and Israeli officials have been going on for months, which paved the way for Secretary Pompeo to be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Sudan since 2005. The trip was the first direct trip between Tel Aviv to the Sudanese capital Khartoum. Even though Sudanese desperate to have sanctions lifted by the U.S. as a terror sponsor, the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said he was not mandated to normalize ties with Israel and asked that the issue not be linked to discussions with the U.S. on the country’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism or incentives from the U.S. The Israel-Sudan bilateral relationship is deepening since the military-civilian government overthrows Omar al-Bashir and start ruling the country.
Pompeo did not mention any success besides mentioning the generosity and good relations with Oman. However, On September 9, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Oman’s leader, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, to follow up with Pompeo, Kushner visits. Oman welcomed the Israel-UAE normalization agreement as a sign that Oman might be eyeing a similar pact, especially by commenting on the deal as a fulfillment of aspirations to the peoples in the region in the right path of sustaining pillars of security and stability. Dov Waxman, director of UCLA’s Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, said that the Gulf States are dependent upon the domestic reaction and reaction across the Arab world to the Israeli-UAE agreement to determine which one will be next to normalize. Accordingly, the momentum is there, especially after the Bahrain normalization announcement, which will encourage Oman to be next in line.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Kushner in Doha and stated that Qatar remained committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which Arab nations offered Israel normalized ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will open their airspace to allow all flights of Eastward travel to and from Israel; the Authorities declared its opposition to normalization without Palestinian statehood.
Kushner met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and discussed the Middle East Peace Process following Mr. Kushner’s recent visit to the region. They welcomed the historic Israel-UAE normalization deal. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were clear about their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution.
The common thread to these visits involved an attempt to integrate the region with the common purpose of countering Iran. In that respect, the Trump administration’s vision relies on two pillars. The first is the normalization of Arab and Muslim states with Israel as a way to streamline defense and economic strategies and to allow for direct contacts and open political alignment. The second is the reunification of GCC, splintered by the tensions between Qatar and the Anti-Terrorism Quartet (KSA, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain) over the 13 demands given to Doha as conditions for removing the boycott.
The normalization efforts are well on their way with UAE and Bahrain have already signed a series of MOUs and business, intelligence sharing, and research partnerships with Israel following the ceremonial Abraham Accords concluded in Washington; many other states are in talks and is rumored to be in line for establishing full diplomatic relations. Sudan is one of the countries thought to be nearing an agreement following a meeting with the US, Israel, and the UAE. Questions remain about countries like Oman, which has a very close ideological kinship with Iran and is economically dependent on business and trade with the Islamic Republic. Still, a diplomatic agreement would ensure that in the event open hostilities break out, Oman will not attack Israel nor openly facilitate combat efforts by Iran.
This week, the United States entered a series of agreements with Qatar, including a significant cultural agreement that would designate 2021 as a year of Qatar-US Culture aimed at “fostering mutual understanding” with Qatari delegations slated to visit U.S. metropolises. Secretary Pompeo has also engaged with Qatar in the annual US-Qatar business dialogue (which is believed to encourage Qatari investments in the U.S. for the benefit of the administration’s priority in building a strong economy and generating new jobs). The administration is reportedly considering giving Qatar a full Non-NATO ally status, a largely symbolic position, also shared by several other states like Jordan and Morocco.
Presumably, this upgrade in relations would be predicated on many concessions such as Qatar’s agreement to curtail its ties with Iran, putting a stop to the financing of terrorists, and ending its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. The timing for this offer is consistent with the framework for trying to appease all sides. These presumed conditions would be in line with the demands imposed by the Anti Terrorism Quartet and would presumably satisfy the requirement for having the boycott lifted and putting Doha on the same page as the rest of the GCC concerning Iran.
Some scholars such as Hussein Ibish, believe that UAE (with a green light from Riyadh) would not push for the full capitulation, but, gratified by the promise of F-35s and a newly concluded peace deal with Israel, would work with the administration to reach a reasonable compromise. The reality, however, is that no number of signed agreements by Doha would satisfy the demands of ATQ, given Qatar’s history of violating such agreements, not the least of them being a similar set of demands they had agreed to meet under the Riyadh Agreement which the newly installed Emir Tamim at the time had proceeded to violate almost immediately. Furthermore, given the increasing evidence of Qatar’s continuing support of Hezbullah and other groups (in violation of a counterterrorism agreement Doha had signed along with the U.S. and the rest of the GCC), it is hard to imagine that Qatar, which has not been publicly taken to task for that by any government, would not continue to do so while enjoying the benefits of a closer relationship – and thus some level of protection from scrutiny – with the United States.
The rumor mill about the likely success of this latest endeavor comes from the same usual suspects – Doha’s proclamations through various outlets. The United States, too, maybe engaging in some level of wishful thinking in that regard, believing that Qatar, through a series of positive incentives and good-faith outreach, could be motivated to give up bad behavior and get in line with the rest of the GCC. Several factors are being discounted here: First, Qatar has the ability and the means to continue playing all sides, and its geopolitical agenda precedes the current administration by decades. It has become adept at exacting concessions from others in exchange for meaningless agreements and clandestine maintenances of dangerous activities. Second, in the best-case scenario, none of these concessions could happen overnight; there are too many relationships deeply intertwined.
Qatar has created an organized crime network and has become dependent upon it; even if the U.S. agrees to guarantee some level of security to Doha, Iranian or Islamist masterminds will not let the royal family getaway with blatant betrayal and will find a way to keep Qataris in their fold. Third, there is no evidence of Qatar turning over a new leaf. Anti-Semitic and anti-Saudi/Emirati propaganda and pro-Islamist rhetoric continue to emanate from the Qatari media conglomerates even as these negotiations are ongoing. Can any country that won’t pause its drive onwards even when it is in its own best interests to do so be trusted with doing so after it had gotten what it wanted?
Fourth, even if Qatar had miraculously agreed to all the conditions and ceded its role overnight, other GCC actors – including Oman and Kuwait – remain a problem. There is no real enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance with proposed conditions. The administration is struggling with doing so even with Iran and Hezbullah. Oman, a host of secret Iranian military and intelligence bases, will not easily give up its relationship after spending years building up the networks. And with Turkey’s increased encroachment and closeness inside the country, it has even less incentive to abide by any such promises.
These efforts to put back together the Humpty Dumpty of the GCC are at best naïve, at worst deluded and misguided.
Outsourcing MENA Policy to Turkey
It is further complicated by the inconsistent U.S. policy on Turkey, another close counterpart to Qatar and Iran. Erdogan has come to dominate or divide international institutions, becoming an increasingly active player in the region. Erdogan’s Turkey, despite its mass internal purges and incarcerations, and aggressive external policy, is now at the helm of the U.N. General Assembly presidency. Turkey, despite its aggression in Libya, has succeeded in keeping itself in place while having the Field Marshall Khalifa Hafter backed by most of the country, agreeing to lift the oil blockade (which prompted a rejection of that offer from a Libyan commander). Part of the reason for Turkey’s gains in Syria and Libya is its amenability to negotiate and cut deals with Russia.
Despite apparent setbacks and escalations, both countries are pragmatic when working out mutually beneficial short term or even longer-terms proxy-related arrangements. Turkey has also succeeded in furthering divisions between the U.S. and other NATO members on this issue, and in this manner, can safely continue to manipulate all involved. The reason for that is that many of the European actors in this war theater are heavily invested in continuing business with Iran. In contrast, the U.S. foreign policy establishment continues to see Turkey as a potential bulwark against Iranian influence. Furthermore, as a pragmatic state that can take over many of the necessary operations, the U.S. is unwilling or unable to engage. Where the administration sees opposition to Iran in the Middle East in a cohesive way, its overall understanding of the geopolitics – as opposed to the realpolitik – of dealing with the Islamic Republic is leading to similar miscalculations elsewhere.
Turkey, however, is happily working with Iranian Houthis in Yemen, recruiting followers and making friends with the local Islamists, finding counterparts in Oman, and even targeting Lebanon – putting international waterways in danger. Without U.S. presence, the games of chicken Erdogan is playing in the Eastern Mediterranean, and elsewhere may soon turn deadly.
To the US, Iran-related foreign policy is mostly limited to the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe. Therefore, all other issues are viewed as separate and distinct, whereas from Iran’s perspective and that of other allies, no case can be easily separated from one another. This tunnel vision extends even to Afghanistan, where Iran is backing the Taliban to get the U.S. out of the region as quickly as possible. However, the proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which took place before the action shifted to the Cold War focus on the Soviets, would lead one to recall abandoning the region to non-state actors backed by states with hegemonic agendas never a right call. Qatar’s brokering of these latest peace talks and willingness to host and back terrorists only adds insult to injury, and Turkey, too, is not too far away. Whatever Turkey’s differences with Iran, Qatar, Russia, or others, all these states agree that it is in their best interests to keep the U.S. out of the region and downplay and limit its influence. Where the U.S. may be enamored with the idea of letting others assume control of the situation, none of that strengthens the U.S., but rather allows rogue regimes room to maneuver and fill up the vacuum of power. With a globalized network of aggressive active measures and terror, none of the action relegated to states like Turkey and Qatar is too far away from the home front.
This view of the foreign policy by the administration may be short-sighted and misinformed, and the steps that are being taken may be seen as bound to backfire sooner or later.
Biden’s foreign policy would actively enable Iran without solving any of the other issues
However, they are part of a comprehensive and precise framework for delineating a particular foreign policy. The policy aims to further restrain U.S. interventions and active military involvement in the Middle East by strengthening its allies. This is a polar opposite to Joe Biden’s efforts, which seek to continue President Obama’s policy of strengthening Iran and “democratic” moderate Islamists and handicapping traditional Sunni allies and Israel.
Biden’s position on Iran fails to acknowledge any of the criticisms of the Obama policies, which have since then become readily observable to all but the most hardcore of ideologues. His recent op-ed extolling the pursuit of a relationship with Iran while claiming to be pro-Israel ignores the obvious: one cannot be dedicated to the defense of Israel while cutting deals with a regime that has repeatedly and explicitly demonstrated genocidal intent. It ignores Iran’s repeated breaches of the nuclear agreement, dedication to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, continued use of proxies to target U.S. forces, regional and global aggression, internal oppression and extensive human rights abuses, targeting of U.S. allies in the region, and installation of corrupt, incompetent, self-serving puppet regimes everywhere it gains influence. Iran’s extensive soft power and the patient and consistent ground game have paid off to some extent. Still, even its former allies eventually grow weary of the heavy-handed approach by the militias and the unabated graft and destruction everywhere.
Iran’s presence, therefore, is consistently characterized by the use of violence and force, divisiveness and paranoia, because those are the only means for the regime and its proxies to retain a hold in the long term over their miserable populations. That Biden would wish this system to remain in place is less shocking if one considers his advisory team. He is being joined by approximately 1000 of Obama’s former foreign policy mavens, many of whom had all the extensive foreign policy gravitas of Ben Rhodes – a National Security Council spokesman with a venerable background in fiction writing – the primary salesman for the nuclear deal, who nevertheless continue being lauded as experts by the media, NGOs, universities, and elites despite the record of being consistently and spectacularly wrong on every major foreign policy issue, including Iran, Israel security, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the U.S. Embassy move, and prospects for normalization.
None other than Trita Parsi, one of the best known pro-Iran mouthpieces, responsible for the push for the nuclear deal, is on Biden’s foreign policy team. Parsi is best known for losing a defamation lawsuit against a journalist who provided ample evidence that Parsi, is in fact, an unregistered foreign agent for Iran. The conflict of interest here is self-evident – Biden is employing as an adviser someone who represents a regime which has been promising the same networks that had backed in the past influence, money, and social standing, which may be lost in the event their reputation suffers from being proven wrong, ineffective, and even disastrous.
Parsi meanwhile continues preaching the same line he and his ilk have been pushing since the Islamic Revolution, and which time and time again has not come to fruition – than any stringent measure against Iran – from the withdrawal from JCPOA to the designation of the IRGC as terrorists to the liquidation of Qassem Soleimani, to, now, an attempt to implement the snapback sanctions – would result in a disastrous bloody war with Iran. It is undeniable that with Biden in office, the policy would revert to the appeasement of Iran. Already, the Biden team is seen as being opposed to the effort to reimpose snapback sanctions, despite the proliferation and increased aggression of Iran-backed proxy groups and their organized crime contacts globally, not just in the Middle East. Biden, it is widely believed, will attempt to return to the negotiation table with Iran, at far less favorable terms to the US than even under Obama.
On the other hand, despite Biden’s harsher rhetoric against Turkey’s aggression, in the 47 years, he has spent in Washington, Turkish lobbyists have become entrenched and embedded in every major foreign policy institution, and the Obama administration made no effort to undo that damage, but on the contrary, had welcomed Erdogan as a “moderate” Islamist. There is also no significant daylight between Biden and Qatar since Qatar has managed to recruit political allies on both sides of the aisle.
A more significant number of Democrats have been spouting a pro-Qatar line on various regional issues ranging from support for Iran to an attempt to withdraw the U.S. from Yemen to attacking KSA, UAE, and Bahrain via different resolutions, to seeking to curtail U.S. defense relations with the anti-Terrorism Quartet, than Republicans, however. And it was under Obama that U.S. sales of weapons to the Saudis was frozen, creating distrust and pushing Riyadh to consider closer relations with China.
China and Russia
The Trump administration has recognized China’s threat and has worked to uncouple the United States from its financial dependency on Beijing. Trump likewise had authorized various sanctions against Russia at multiple times and has authorized the killing of over 200 Russian mercenaries in Syria. However, by and large, both countries have managed to gain a foothold in the Middle East. For China, that has foothold has mostly come by way of Iran. However, the various Gulf States, including Israel, had been willing to engage in economic and business relations with Beijing.
China has also become much more militant in Africa and the Middle East, with a greater than ordinary interest in Syria and other matters. Disturbingly, it appears to be getting the best of the U.S. in potential military confrontations due to its aggressive gains in artificial intelligence, modernization of the navy, and improvements in aggressive technical surveillance.
Russia has utilized Obama’s fake “red line” and the consequent ejection of the U.S. from Syria, followed by the various inconsistencies of the Trump administration, to present itself as a pragmatic, if not always – or at all – desirable broker. Still, besides wanting business deals and aiming for displacing the U.S. as the political influencer and final authority on regional security, Moscow seeks control of the waterways and naval bases all over the region, including gaining direct access to the Gulf through Ahwaz. After the British had given that land to the Pahlavis for annexation, this dream seemed to have met a legacy of ashes; however, Russia’s rapprochement with Iran, ability to get the best of Tehran In the Caspian deal, and aggressive pursuit of its interests unchecked by the U.S. intervention, has positioned it well in that regard.
This is where both the Trump administration and the Biden administration converge. Trump’s initial isolationism has led to the continuity of some of the Obama policies in Syria, Africa, Yemen, and elsewhere, which gave ground to aggressors. Biden is certainly not looking to change the status quo. While the Trump administration has focused single-mindedly on countering Iran, it has developed no concrete plan to counter the worst of Iran’s and China’s rumored plans for the region, treating its Cold War with China and its dealings with Iran as separate and distinct matters. While the administration has not encouraged Russia’s moves in the Middle East and Africa, it has not developed a plan of action to counter and oust Moscow from these unwelcome entrenchments. Despite the Democratic apoplectic obsession with Russia’s active measures in the U.S. and investigations concerning Trump’s alleged involvement, when the push comes to shove, the Democrats have not taken any steps that would provide a blueprint for diminishing Russia’s foothold anywhere where it would matter.
Biden has been subservient to China and has represented the sort of elitist thinking that has made China’s presence a fixture in most U.S. institutions that is now being slowly untethered by the administration and the push from Senate. The apology for China on the domestic front, given Biden’s conflicts of interests, is hardly a vote of confidence for an aggressive foreign policy position to counter Beijing’s pro-Iran interventionism in the Middle East. Given that Biden has not proposed any fresh ideas on ridding Syria, Iraq, Libya, or other unstable areas of Russian presence and involvement, he can hardly be expected to come with a groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting strategy after taking office. Therefore, the role of these actors remains a gray area that neither candidate has succeeded in addressing.
Neither candidate has a plan to address Muslim Brotherhood. While President Trump has been open to discussing the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, he has not prioritized this issue, which has been stymied by the opposition inside the State Department. Moreover, US-based affiliates and front organizations such as CAIR, continue to receive federal funding under this administration at a rate rivaling Trump’s predecessors. Furthermore, the administration remains vaguely supportive of Libya’s Government of National Accord, many of whose officials are affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood.
However, the administration has not openly promoted nor shown preference for Islamist candidates in other countries, nor for the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda in the Middle East or elsewhere. On the other hand, a significant portion of Obama foreign policy team has been at the forefront of openly advocating for Islamists and played an active role in promoting them during the Arab Spring. There is also the issue of security and other government agencies, often traditionally favoring left-leaning candidates, benefiting from contacts with Islamists when they were in power in Muslim majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Corruption, fixation on a “revolutionary” form of populist direct democracy that gives “power to the people” no matter the cost or benefit to national interests of the US or the countries where such processes takes place, and a long history of links between left-leaning and Islamist movements in opposition to monarchies, classical liberalism and conservatism, and populist right-wing candidates, are just some of the reasons behind this increasingly open positioning. Finally, the Iran deal once again ties into place. Muslim Brotherhood has been a natural ally of the left in promoting the nuclear deal and opposing tough action on Iran. Allied with Iran on key political issues, Muslim Brotherhood may be behind the circumvention of the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic prior to JCPOA and following the withdrawal.
While confronting the Muslim Brotherhood has not been a centeral issue to the 2020 presidential election, the growing number of Islamist candidates on the down tickets across the country reflectss the underlying political tension between the visions of the two parties, increasingly polarized far beyond the individual candidates in question. If Biden comes to power, a more open backing of Islamists in the public sphere and in the international arena overall can be expected, as well as a tougher stands against the MENA states, such as the Anti-Terrorism Quartet, that has cracked down on the BRotherhood, its affiliates, and similar movements. If this were to happen, this will further empower Iran, China, and Russia and cause additional deterioration between the United States and those countries. The return to power of Islamists in some of these countries could imperil the growing relations with Israel, the attempts to counter Iranian aggression, the increasing openness and human rights reforms in Muslim majority states, and bring back the spread of conspiracy theories which had emanated from Islamist regimes and ISlamist-controlled or influenced media outlets and mosques.
It’s a matter of plan or no plan, rather than a good plan or a bad plan
Normalization with Israel, proposed by Trump, is bound to lead to some level of better coordination, more efficient intelligence sharing, and possibly less chaotic communication among the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies. The push for the integration of the GCC may inadvertently lead to a greater exposure of issues that the U.S. needs to prioritize and deal with if it is serious about countering terrorism and the proliferation of extremist ideologies. Neither, however, will fully resolve the core issues, especially since two of the elephants in the room – China and Russia – remain beyond the scope of the framework articulated and pursued by the Trump administration.
For all the limitations of the current administration’s foreign policy vision, at least exists. The same cannot be said of the Biden proposal, which rests on the now infamous legacy of the Obama administration without addressing any of the devastating criticisms or adding anything innovative or remotely appealing.
The Trump administration has a track record of meandering, but in some cases, pursuing course correction when a particular track fails. The Biden administration sticks to its guns after all the arguments, and all efforts have been exhausted and buried. Its most significant failure is to complete divorce from facts on the ground and absolute commitment to ideology despite the evidence. The results speak for themselves.