Arabs doubt Joe Biden will bring Middle East peace

Leaders from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Oman and the UAE responded to Biden's projected victory overnight.

Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 14, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 14, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
Arab leaders congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory, but some people in the Middle East expressed cynicism over US policy even if he pursues diplomacy rather than President Donald Trump's blunt approach to the region's myriad problems.

“I was positive that Trump will not make it to a second term. He was too hostile almost towards everybody. He is (more) fit to be a mafia leader than a president of the United States," said Adel Salman, 40, a high school English teacher in Baghdad.

"Let’s wait and see with the Biden presidency. And I’m saying to all Iraqis don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Is Biden better for Iraq? Let’s wait and see his acts."

Biden may face some of his most complex foreign policy challenges in the region: from wars in Libya and Yemen to reassuring the United States' Gulf Arab allies that Washington can protect them from enemy Iran, even though he has said he would return to the international nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.

"Trump was our friend; he loved Saudi Arabia and protected it from enemies. He handcuffed Iran," said Mohamed al-Anaizy, a Saudi Uber driver. "Biden will let Iran free again and this will hurt us and the whole region."

While Trump had cozy relationships with what critics say are increasingly authoritarian leaders in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, Biden has promised to take a tough line on human rights.

Some critics of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed hope that US policy would change, reposting a tweet by Biden from July in which he criticized Cairo's crackdown on political activists, and pledged: “No more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator.’”

Sisi's government has denied accusations by human rights groups of widespread abuses.

Talk show hosts on Egypt’s tightly controlled TV channels have tried to play down the impact of a Biden victory, arguing that Egypt will adjust and adapt.

As of Sunday morning, leaders in Saudi Arabia had failed to express congratulations to Biden on his projected victory, as leaders from around the Middle East released statements congratulating the assumed winner.
Turkey will continue working with the new US administration on issues concerning the NATO allies, Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Sunday in the first Turkish comments since Biden was declared the winner of the US elections.
The decades-old partnership between the NATO allies has gone through unprecedented tumult in the past five years over policy on Syria, Ankara's closer ties with Moscow, its ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean, US charges against a state-owned Turkish bank, and an erosion of human rights in Turkey.
Speaking at an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7, Oktay said that while the friendship between President Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump had helped the countries tackle several of their issues, communications channels between Ankara and Washington would operate as before.

Sisi was quick to congratulate Biden and was the first Middle Eastern leader to express congratulations to the projected winner on Saturday night, in a statement published by the Egyptian presidency.

Sisi "affirmed the aspiration for cooperation and joint action to strengthen the strategic bilateral relations between Egypt and the United States, in the interest of the two friendly countries and peoples," according to the statement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday congratulated Biden in a statement that indicated the Palestinian leadership would drop its three-year political boycott of the White House.
"I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his victory as President of the United States of America for the coming period, and I congratulate his elected Vice President Kamala Harris," Abbas said in a statement issued from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
It added: "I look forward to working with the President-elect and his administration to strengthen the Palestinian-American relations and to achieve freedom, independence, justice and dignity for our people, as well as to work for peace, stability and security for all in our region and the world."
The Palestinians have been holding out for a change of US president for three years, hoping for a chance to hit the reset button on relations with Washington.
Abbas ended all political dealings with Trump's administration after Trump's December 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US Embassy there.
JORDAN'S KING Abdullah II congratulated Biden on Saturday night, saying that he looks forward to working with him on "further advancing the solid historic partnership between Jordan and the United States."
"Congratulations to President-Elect @JoeBiden and VP-Elect @KamalaHarris," tweeted the Jordanian king. "I look forward to working with you on further advancing the solid historic partnership between Jordan and the United States, in the interest of our shared objectives of peace, stability and prosperity."
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan congratulated Biden on his projected win on Saturday night, stressing that the UAE and US are "friends and allies with a strong historic partnership."
"Congratulations to @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris on winning the US elections," tweeted bin Zayed. "Our 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."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the UAE's vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai also congratulated Biden on Twitter on Saturday.
“Congratulations to the President-Elect of the United States Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris," tweeted bin Rashid. "We look forward to strengthening our five-decade enduring and strategic relations.”
Iraqi President Barham Salih also expressed congratulations to Biden on the projected victory on Saturday.
"I extend warmest congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden, a friend and trusted partner in the cause of building a better Iraq," tweeted Salih. "We look forward to working to achieve our common goals and strengthening peace and stability in the entire Middle East."
Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said sent a letter to Biden expressing "sincere congratulations to him gaining confidence of the US people and electing him as a president for the next presidential term," according to the Oman News Agency.
SUDAN'S PRIME Minister Abdallah Hamdok congratulated Biden and Harris in a tweet on Saturday, adding that he was "looking forward to working closely with them both to continue building bridges of friendship and cooperation between our two nations and countries."
Lebanese President Michel Aoun congratulated Biden and voiced hope for a "return to balance in American-Lebanese relations" during his term.

Nabil Boumonsef, deputy editor-in-chief of An-Nahar newspaper, told Reuters that the timing of the announcement of US sanctions on Friday against Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a prominent Christian politician, sent a message that Washington would continue to go after Lebanese politicians over accusations of corruption and aiding Hezbollah.

“Biden is more flexible and rational, but I do not expect fundamental changes, though there may be an easing of pressure with respect to sanctions until Biden’s Middle East team is in place," he said.

Ibrahim Matraz, a Yemeni journalist, was also pessimistic about prospects for a shift in US policy after years of conflict that have ravaged his country.

"We shouldn’t forget that Biden was vice president in Obama’s administration when the war began."

Trump's allegations of fraud in the election without providing evidence prompted some Arabs to say Washington had no right to preach about democracy in their countries, where leaders often win 99% of the vote in rigged elections.

"These elections show the real face of America, a country where elections are a farce with the loser not conceding defeat and [instead] claiming he won," said Adel al-Natour, an industrialist in war-torn Syria, where its leaders face stringent US sanctions.