One can almost certainly predict that the victory of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will change many American equations. US President Donald Trump has overturned US foreign policy in many areas related to China, Europe, Iran, Syria and Palestine, just as he has negatively reversed equations concerned with global trade, climate and the environment.
If he wins, the Democratic candidate will have to work to make a fundamental change in US foreign policy. The change that will pervade US foreign policy if Joe Biden is elected is inevitable.
With the election of Biden, the US will discover that US popular opinion is opposed to involvement in new wars, and US public opinion has a narrow horizon for military intervention in other countries due to the economic and security burdens of these interventions. Therefore, the Democratic term will witness more truces with regional countries such as Iran and Turkey, along with China and other countries. Of course, it will not be closer to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the change in the ruling staff will restore relations to the pre-Trump level. At the same time, we do not know in which direction US Congress will go regarding the relations with several Arab countries, especially if the Democratic Party sweeps the congressional elections that will take place at the same time as the presidential elections. On the other hand, the pace of the US call for democracy and human rights may be higher and stronger if the Democratic Congress and the Democratic president come at the same time.
Since the election of President Donald Trump, the entire US media has turned into an authority watching the White House. Given the developments during Trump’s presidency, the many mistakes, resignations and miscalculations in dealing with events (coronavirus and the popular movements), only Fox and small stations with little influence remain in support of him, and of course some evangelical stations. Therefore, it is expected that the US media will regain its status, pluralism and role after the elections.
The US will also discover that it will not be able to lead the world alone, and that the unilateral moment of the US has passed. It will not be able to manage other countries as it wants, but will be forced into international cooperation and regional cooperation, especially as the priority in the new foreign policy will be to handle the economic effects of coronavirus, and to deal with all issues associated with trade and improved economic performance. With the new administration, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s perceptions about sanctions on Iran, for example, will not be as he thought or even the best option. Moreover, it will be difficult for black and white perceptions to continue when dealing with China and Europe, as the US will find that cooperation and negotiation are preferable to boycotting and distancing.
In the next stage, Europe will increase its economic dependence on China, as China in the next stage will be a strategic and economic partner for Europe. This will mean that Europe will relatively reduce its dependence on the US. Furthermore, the coronavirus has revealed many things, and this will become clear after the epidemic has passed and the new president is elected. Europe can no longer tolerate the impact of the US withdrawal from the climate agreement, from the nuclear agreement with Iran and from other agreements, including the relationship with NATO.
It is worth noting that Europe, and especially Germany, have discovered over time that President Trump sees Germany as an economic competitor that must be dealt with. Therefore, Europe will seek balance so that the US does not have the ability to drain it in the coming stages. At the same time, it will welcome a president with whom they can reach an understanding. The decline in US-European cooperation on Iran and European security prompted Europeans to consider new measures and new balances.
Let’s take the Iranian issue, for example. The US president cancelled the Iranian nuclear agreement and increased cooperation with Israel in a way that exceeded the previous forms of cooperation. However, the US president did not succeed in solving the Iranian problem, which still remains, just as he did not succeed in solving any of the other problems of the region. This includes the ongoing Palestinian issue that may explode at any time, or the Gulf crisis, just as he was unable to influence the war in Yemen, the Libya war and other conflicts.
With a new president, the US is expected to change its behaviour firstly towards Iran. This shift will occur with the Iranian regime remaining in place. This is why the US will find that it needs a calmer situation with its thorny issue with Iran, and therefore will remove the current sanctions and stop the exaggerated pressure on Iran. While part of the US conflict with Iran revolves around specific concerns such as the nuclear issue and Iran’s role in the region, the US under a new Democratic administration will be less keen to thwart the Iranian role in the region, and keener to reach a settlement with Iran. Alliances may emerge that aim to create calm and change Iran’s behaviour without direct confrontation. These are potential possibilities that contradict the Trump administration’s general line.
As for the Palestinian issue, it is clear that the US will not return the embassy to its place in Tel Aviv, but it will also not support annexation, occupation and continued settlement construction. The US position will be affected by the regional atmosphere, and the extent of the ability of the Palestinians to build a new movement confronting the policies of settlement and annexation.
In the next era after the elections, the US role will witness a further decline, but that does not mean the end of its global role, but rather it will mean a decline of this role and its use of the language of alliances and cooperation. The US will remain an influential major country, but its role will not be as before, and its capabilities will not allow it to be the world’s police.
Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi 15 July 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.