American Policy in the Middle East: Moulay Hicham Alaoui’s Predictions

5 January 2021
American Policy in the Middle East: Moulay Hicham Alaoui’s Predictions

During a webinar organized by the University of Geneva, Moulay Hicham Alaoui, a researcher at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, shared his perspective on American policy in the Middle East under the future American president, Joe Biden. According to him, Biden’s foreign policy will follow a doctrine of restoration that resembles a selective reversal of some aspects of American foreign policy.

For Moulay Hicham, this observation does not mean that Biden will try to bring back doctrines that governed American foreign policy in the past, such as Clinton’s liberal interventionism or George Bush’s neo-conservatism. “In my opinion, Biden’s foreign policy will return to what Barack Obama put in place, namely a doctrine of pragmatism.

In the Middle East, such pragmatism will revive hegemonic aspirations and lead to American domination,” assures Moulay Hicham. This means that the United States can achieve certain unilateral objectives when certain factors are met, such as the departure of Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring. This will not prevent Biden from continuing the American policy of withdrawal from the region. “American human rights and democracy policy will be marked by restoration, but will, in my opinion, be timid as it will not work on all fronts for democratic reforms and changes in the region. It will not be an active advocate in this regard. It will be symbolic and will surely defend certain persecuted activists. American diplomats will be more active in this area, but will not go beyond certain limits,” predicts Moulay Hicham Alaoui.

This means that the United States will not trade stability in the region for the uncertainties that would come from Arab revolutions: “I think the Arab Spring is a permanent dynamic, it is not an event. We are still in the middle of this process because the political, economic engine, and popular discontent are still there. There will be other contractions and spasms. When this happens, Biden will try to minimize American commitments and reduce instability,” he adds.

Opportunities for defending democracy will be balanced by realpolitik. The Israeli-Palestinian dynamic is another example of restoration: Biden will reverse the abandonment of the two-state solution and unconditional support for Netanyahu, but that does not mean that the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem or the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan will be abandoned. Biden will not upset the balance that favors Israel over Palestine. If normalization continues, the Biden administration will applaud.

Furthermore, the attitude towards the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia is a third point. The United States will criticize the attitude of these two countries towards Yemen. Washington will not turn a blind eye to everything.

One last point: Iran. Biden has shown a desire to restore the nuclear agreement and return to the negotiating table. The success of real engagement will depend on Iran’s reaction to the assassination of the father of the Iranian nuclear program. A détente with Iran will reduce tensions in the region.

With Russia, the United States will adopt a co-management approach, looking elsewhere at what is happening in Syria, for example, and in other countries in the Middle East.

With Turkey, there will be the same logic with variations. Biden will seek to weaken Ankara’s relations with Russia and try to keep Turkey in NATO.

Finally, China is very important in the region. A cold war with China will bring tensions back to the region and cast doubts on democracy.

In summary, “the abandonment of Trump’s populism will be an example of democratic restoration, which will inject more energy into the momentum of change in the region,” concludes Moulay Hicham Alaoui.

In other words, American foreign policy will be measured and defined by a number of constants. Trump’s legacy will be canceled in several aspects of American foreign policy, moving towards more realpolitik and pragmatism.


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