quotes What will a Biden presidency mean for the MENA region?

19 November 2020
Short Url
Updated 19 November 2020

What will a Biden presidency mean for the MENA region?

President-Elect Joe Biden will move into the White House next January at the age of 77. Although Biden is only three years older than current US President Donald Trump, some Republicans have exploited his age, saying that Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris might soon rule the US. There have been many leaders, like late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who have taken office at an older age. Unlike Churchill, however, Biden exercises regularly and does not smoke. Taking office at an older age has its advantages, most notably the accumulation of experience.
During his election campaign, Biden said he would return to the nuclear deal with Iran. It is proven, however, that the regime currently ruling Iran benefited from this agreement in its territorial expansion in the region, using militias to impose its will on more than one Arab capital. It is thus expected that Biden will not enable Iran to exploit this policy of indifference created by the Obama administration. Managing the conflict with Iran will require new tools and a different logic. Therefore, before he thinks about returning to the negotiating table, Biden should consider passing a law to eradicate militias loyal to Iran from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
During his campaign for the 2016 presidential elections, Trump was seen to be prejudiced against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to a greater degree than Joe Biden might be today. This soon proved to be untrue once Trump moved into the White House and realized Riyadh’s strategic importance for Washington.
Biden knows very well that his personal relations with leaders will reflect on his stances toward their countries, and, according to the testimony of those who know him or have met with him, he understands the MENA region more than others. Therefore, it is likely that he believes in political realism and will be closer to the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is considered a basic pillar for the stability of the region, and it has international experience and leadership that the US needs in order to confront political Islam and terrorist groups, in addition to its economic importance and Islamic weight.
The volume of trade exchange between the Kingdom and the US, according to 2018 statistics, is close to $37 billion. Of this amount, the share of Saudi exports to the US reaches $24 billion, or 66 percent.
The Kingdom’s investments in US Treasury bonds are estimated at $184 billion, in addition to being the largest market to receive US exports. Both countries depend on each other.
I think that Biden will be closer to Jimmy Carter in his policies and to George H.W. Bush in his experiences and solutions. This combination of qualities makes him eligible to achieve influence and success in difficult files. It appears to me that Biden is open and balanced in his policies, and this is a positive factor that may allow the US to regain its leading political role after it took a back seat for 12 years.

• Dr. Bader bin Saud is a weekly columnist in both Al Riyadh and Okaz newspapers.