The Alliance against Iran that emerged after the nuclear agreement hopes that the new US Administration will consult it if it resumes negotiations
The election of Joe Biden as president of the United States last November raised concerns in the Middle East, especially in the anti-Iranian alliance forged by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Israel under the aegis of Donald Trump. Nonetheless, the Arab leaders have shown pragmatism and directed their efforts to maintain channels of influence. With Biden already installed in the White House, his hope (and his obsession) is that the new Administration will not be a version of that of Barack Obama, from whose ranks many of his positions come.
“The next four years of President Biden should not be a mere return to the mandate of Barack Obama,” suggested the editorial in The Gulf News, the largest newspaper in the UAE, last Wednesday, the day of the presidential inauguration . The same reflection has been repeated by other publications and commentators in the region, where state control of the media makes them a speaker for official positions.
Obama did not leave a good memory in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates felt that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was made behind their backs and supported with Israel Trump’s decision to abandon it in 2018. But the Democrat’s approach to his arch-enemy was not the only reason for disagreement. Autocrats in the region also did not forgive him for letting Hosni Mubarak fall in 2011 under pressure from popular Egyptian revolts. At the same time, his lack of support for them also disappointed those who were deluded two years earlier with his A New Beginning speech delivered in Cairo.
“In our survey on the priorities of the Arab world for the next Biden Administration, 53% of those consulted said that Obama left the region in a worse state and 58% that Biden should distance himself from some of the policies of the Obama era,” Faisal J. Abbas, the editor of the Saudi daily Arab News, recalled this week in a cover story titled The Biden Team is off to a good start.
At least that is what the Arab analysts who have been quick to find signs of hope in the first steps of the new Administration are interested in highlighting . They celebrate America’s return to the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement. But above all, they applaud any gesture that qualifies Biden’s declared willingness to reactivate the nuclear deal .
“The nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken , has said that he will consult with the Gulf states and Israel before negotiating again with Iran,” Abbas said. Blinken’s words at the Senate confirmation hearing last Tuesday sounded like heavenly music in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, for whom an eventual negotiation must include Tehran’s support for the Shiite militias in the Middle East and their missile program . The candidate assured that stopping the Islamic Republic is going to be one of the axes of Biden’s agenda in the Middle East and that there is still a “long way” for the US to rejoin the nuclear pact signed in 2015.
Along the same lines, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan, has been convinced that relations with the new White House will be “excellent”. Biden’s appointments, he told the Al Arabiya network, show “his Administration’s understanding of common problems.”
Despite being central, Iran is not the only Saudi concern. His spokesmen have also expressed concern about indications that the new president plans to reverse the designation as a terrorist group of Yemen’s Huthi rebels , adopted on Trump’s last day in the White House, and cease his support for the war that the Kingdom of the Desert pound in that country .
Another area of potential conflict is human rights. Biden said he was not going to ignore the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi , as his predecessor did. Now his nominee to head the National Intelligence Agency, Avril Haines, has declared before the Senate that, if confirmed, he will make public the secret report on the case prepared by the CIA and that, according to leaks to the US media, he holds the Saudi heir responsible. , Prince Mohamed Bin Salmán .
“It is not possible to know for sure what the next steps will be. But the fear may be exaggerated, as well as considering that Biden’s policies will be an extension of Obama’s, ” writes Abdulrahman al Rashid, former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat , in view of the return of many familiar faces . Al Rashid considers it “almost impossible to return to the state of things left by Obama” because since the end of the last term of the Democrat there have been important changes in the region, among which the entry of Russia into the conflict in Syria, the Iranian attacks to US interests in Iraq , the Iranian threat to maritime oil transport and the Gulf alliance with Israel in front of Tehran.