I’m writing this as the former Vice President and Democratic nominee for Presidential candidate Joe Biden has just won the race for the US presidency, while Donald J Trump – the de-facto leader of America is still looking for his second chance or a less humiliating defeat through legal procedures. I’m also writing this as the American Pharma companies Pfizer and Moderna have announced that their vaccines have a 90 and 94.5% efficacy against the novel coronavirus, giving light to what had become a near dark world by lockdowns and restrictions. Both these precedents will have a huge impact on the course of human history for the next few years and perhaps more.
Well, the whole world was eagerly watching at the world’s oldest and largest democracy to unfold its election outcomes. This election was even more important because it came at a time when the whole world was shattered by the pandemic and was looking for a hope from the next – rather a sensible leader. It was even more important for Americans as it came at a time when the scourge of racism and racial discrimination haunted back the Americans on almost every American street.
Well, whoever be the next President of the United States he will have a great task ahead considering enormous uncertainty and destruction that the Pandemic has brought to the US and to the world. And certainly, it will be even more difficult to deal with one of the most volatile regions of the world- the Middle East.
The US foreign Policy towards the Middle East has been more or less similar regardless of Democrats or Republicans. The United States has had a tumultuous history with the Islamic world dating back to World War II. Before the World War II, it was Britain and France which enjoyed much influence in the region. It was only during and after the Cold War that US began to take the Middle East seriously. Throughout the Cold War the US Policy towards the Middle East had been to prevent Soviet influence in the Middle East. The US made sure this by supporting anti-communist regime throughout the Arab world. And even after the Cold War the US had quite an ambivalent position throughout these years changing its policies strategically. More recently it has become an ideal place to keep its imperial power intact.
Events and developments of the past two decades have shown that too much reliance on military power and blind invasions only lead to unending military entanglements and backfires in unknown ways. The hubris with which the Bush administration decided to invade Afghanistan and Iraq only came back to haunt next several administrations. The Obama administration was mired into the dilemma of withdrawal of its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
More recently, Donald Trump ran his 2016 presidential campaign saying “No More Wars” in the Middle East. He promised the American public to end the “Endless Wars” and bring American men and women back home. It’s almost near to his presidency but none of his claims turned out true, rather the number of troops in the Middle East increased during his watch. As for his relationship with the Muslim world — he banned people from 15 Muslim countries to enter the United States as soon as he assumed office. Not only this, he angered almost the entire Muslim populace by shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognising it as the capital of Israel. Both these decisions drew heavy anti-American and anti-Trump’s reaction from across the Muslim world. On Iran, America’s number one enemy in the region, Trump terminated and withdrew from what was famously called as the “Iran Nuclear Deal” spilling water on the hard work of Obama administration, and embarked on a policy of “Maximum Pressure” through tough sanctions and arms embargoes. A recent story by The New York Times also suggests that Trump even sought to attack Iran’s nuclear facility inside Iran but was dissuaded by his aides.
On the issue of human rights Trump gave a free hand to its Arab allies. He conveniently remained silent on the Saudi killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi and many other freedom activists imprisoned by the Saudi government.
Well, there is no denying that Biden will be the next President. As for Joe Biden he has promised to go back–where he and his then boss Barack Obama had left which is gradual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. On Iraq the Obama policy was to have Iraq a democratic government and deciding its own destiny without foreign interference from neighbouring states. On Iran, Biden has promised to go back to the nuclear deal provided Iran fulfils all its commitments. while for Iran it seems highly unlikely because Trump has deteriorated the relation by killing one of its top generals. A recent report by the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also suggests that Iran has enriched more uranium then the threshold set by the agreement.
Meanwhile, Biden has said that he will halt the defence purchases to Saudi Arabia if it continues to violate human rights. He also said that he will hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But still the US and Biden administration will continue to work with its Arab allies not only to put pressure on Iran but also to secure Israel’s national security in the region.
Well, Joe Biden will do what it takes to be the leader of a “free world”. But for America it is time to realise that mistakes of the past and the growing hostility in the Middle East complemented with the enormous challenge that great powers like China and Russia pose, it can no longer walk around lecturing the world on human rights. And it becomes even more difficult when the American society itself is divided deep on racial and cultural lines. The events like #BlackLivesMatter and the Covid pandemic have shown how fragile and unsustainable the US system has become, let alone enormous inequality and a generation of hopeless youth searching for the “American Dream”. Looking at the problems within and abroad the least thing the United States should do is to turn the entire Middle East into a permanent US enemy.
In a highly complex and multipolar world if the US really wants to lead the world once again like it did after the World War II, it cannot afford to leave behind more than a billion Muslim population which would otherwise only add to its gradual decline as the lone superpower in the world.