Home / Political News / Biden victory should bring ‘optimism’ to Middle East, says leading analysts

Biden victory should bring ‘optimism’ to Middle East, says leading analysts

Biden victory should bring 'optimism' to Middle East, says leading analysts

People celebrate in the streets after it was announced that Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be the next US President, in Times Square on November 7, 2020 in New York City. Image: Getty Images


Published in Arabian Business on Nov 08th, 2020, By Bernd Debusmann Jr

President-Elect and his incoming administration will continue to work closely with the UAE and other key US allies in the Arabian Gulf

Tens of thousands of people held impromptu street festivals in major cities across America on Saturday following news that former Vice President Joe Biden was declared to be the 46th President of the United States.

Earlier on Saturday, media outlets reported that Biden was projected to win the election after wins in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Nevada, putting him over the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win.

The announcement soon sparked celebrations in cities across the country including New York City, Philadelphia, Denver, Austin, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

In the US capital of Washington DC – where over 93 percent of voters cast their ballots for Biden – tens of thousands of people quickly descended on the White House. Traffic slowed to a standstill as police closed roads and thousands of people marched through the streets of the city’s downtown area.

The gatering quickly took on the atmosphere of a party, with residents blasting music, dancing atop bus stations, honking car horns and popping champagne bottles amid the packed, jubilant crowd spread across several blocks of the city’s downtown.

“This is the day we’ve all been waiting for,” DC resident Bobbi Ramsay told Arabian Business while standing in Black Lives Matters Plaza, just north of the White House. “These four years have been a nightmare. Now we can get past this all and get back to healing and coming together as a country. But for now, we’re going to celebrate.”

Another local resident, Miguel Correa, said that he’d “never seen Washington DC celebrating like this.”

“I knew that the President was disliked here, but this [the celebrations] really show the level of hostility,” he said. “Biden may not have been everyone’s first choice, but we’re glad to be rid of Trump. Now we can rebuild and have the important conversations we need to be having. A weight has been lifted.”

President Trump, for his part, has refused to concede the election. In a statement following the announcement, the Trump campaign vowed to continue to legally contest the results in the days ahead.

Despite the rhetoric from the President and his supporters, pro-Trump protests were relatively muted across the country. In Washington DC, they were limited to a few dozen pro-Trump protesters near the United States Capitol, some holding signs saying “stop the steal” and “Make America Great Again.”

Congratulations pour in

While the crowds danced and chanted their way through Washington’s streets, messages of congratulation for Biden began pouring in from world leaders, including many in the Middle East.

Among the first to send a message to Biden was Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who wrote on Twitter that the UAE was sending its “sincere wishes for further development and prosperity for the American people.”

“The UAE and USA are friends and allies with a strong historic partnership that we look forward to strengthening together,” he added.

Dubai Ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum also tweeted a congratulatory message to Biden, which included two pictures of the pair shaking hands and conducting a meeting.

“We look forward to strengthening our five-decade enduring and strategic relations,” he said.

Eyes on the Middle East

Following news of Biden’s victory, Middle East analysts working in the US capital expressed optimism that the incoming administration will continue to work closely with the UAE and other key US allies in the Arabian Gulf.

“As a candidate, Biden was supportive of the three normaliSation deals between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan,” said Mohammad Soliman, senior associate with the Middle East and North Africa practice at McLarty Associates, a DC-based strategic advisory firm. “Moving forward, the Biden administration will be supportive of future peace deals.”

Biden’s victory, Soliman added, is likely to lead to Arab states and Israel to prepare for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal.

“[That] could drive Tel Aviv and Gulf capitals to work closely together,” he added.

Sarah Elzeini, the CEO and founder of SMZ International Group, a DC-based global advisory and strategic activities company, said that the Biden administration’s strategy in the Middle East is likely to be very distinct from that of the early years of the Obama administration in which he previously served.

“I certainly believe President-Elect Biden will have a more vocal approach to the region, but he will not forgo government relationships, especially as the US operates in an international space of superpower insecurity,” she said. “The US [is entering] against a different backdrop…much has changed.”

Among the most urgent regional issues that Biden is likely to address, Elzeini added, is growing Russian influence, the ongoing fight against ISIS and the role of the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

“He needs participation and stability from all Arab countries,” she said. “But the US and the region are not in a position of comfort to play around.”

In a previous interview with Arabian Business, Aaron Cutler, a Republican Washington lobbyist at international law firm Hogan Lovells, said that there will likely be some concern about Biden in the Gulf stemming from his role in the Obama administration, particularly with regards to Iran policy.

“Obviously, Biden was a part of that administration and was someone President Obama went to for foreign policy matters, for advice,” he said.  “He was certainly in the loop on those matters. Folks in the Gulf should be concerned some of those policies should be reinvigorated.”

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