There has been much speculation about the impact of a Biden presidency on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The president-elect is perceived by many to be a stabilizing force for the region following four years of unpredictable US policy under the Trump administration that saw a significant reduction of US military presence, the signing of the historic Abraham Accords, the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ with Israel and Palestine, and Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA) signed by the US, Iran, China, Russia and E3 countries.
The Biden administration is expected to reverse a number of these policies and revert to long-standing US approaches centred around multilateralism, diplomacy, respect for human rights and counter-terrorism. Many in the region would welcome a more coherent and predictable policy by the US but others, who benefited from President Trump’s transactional approach and disregard for human rights issues, are worried about future relations with the US.
With the worsening domestic economic and health crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other foreign policy priorities like China, it is unclear whether Biden will be able to put the MENA region very high on his agenda.
Will the US return to the JCPOA, under what conditions and how would this be met by leaders in Iran, the GCC, Israel and the broader region? How would Biden address the rift in US-Palestinian relations and build trust with both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And will the US administration work on having a positive impact in continuing crises in Iraq, Yemen and Libya?
Tim Eaton, Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Renad Mansour, Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme and Director, Iraq Initiative, Chatham House
Yossi Mekelberg, Senior Consulting Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Sanam Vakil, Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House
Moderator: Lina Khatib, Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House