In a Lecture Organized by the ECSSR, Al-Farraj: “Biden to Maintain Historical Ties with Gulf Countries Should He Win”

On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) organized lecture 757, titled ‘US Elections and Their Implications for the Middle East’, delivered by Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Farraj, Assistant Professor at King Saud University, and writer, academic and researcher on political affairs and international relations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The lecture, which attracted a wide audience, was broadcast on the ECSSR’s YouTube channel and Twitter page.

In his lecture, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Al-Farraj discussed the upcoming US presidential elections and the ways in which the results will impact issues in the Middle East. At the beginning of the lecture, Dr. Al-Farraj explained the strategies that underpin policies in the US, where well-established institutions set policies for decades to come. As a result, US presidents are often unable to deviate from pre-set policies, although they can alter policy, in terms of its application, in a way that does not contradict the overall context.

Dr. Al-Farraj cited US policy on Iran as an example. He described Iran as a long-standing enemy of the US, but made the point that US presidents have adopted different methods when implementing policy on Iran. Former US president Barack Obama took a soft policy stance, while Donald Trump has a hard line on Iran, demonstrated by imposing sanctions and the killing of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force. Despite these differences, Dr. Al-Farraj explained that the approaches taken by US presidents in relation to Iran do not contradict overall US policy.

The lecturer also proposed scenarios in the event that Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, wins the US presidential elections. He predicts that Biden is likely to return to Obama’s policy approach on Iran, while being careful to avoid the mistakes made at the time. Dr. Al-Farraj also noted that despite Obama’s shift on Iranian issues, he emphasized that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf remain historical allies of the US, and that they would not be negatively impacted by the nuclear deal with Iran. As a result, although Biden may not be as hostile toward Iran, or as close to the Gulf states as Trump has been, Biden will maintain strong historical US ties with the Arab Gulf states, even if he chooses to pursue Obama’s policy approach.

The lecturer also considered Biden’s position on the Muslim Brotherhood, explaining that Obama’s strategy was based on a theory presented to him by writer Fareed Zakaria, which claimed the Brotherhood was best placed to govern the Arab world, and in the best position to combat terrorism. Trump took no action against the group, despite calls to designate it a terrorist organization, but Dr. Al-Farraj is hopeful that the Muslim Brotherhood will be placed on terrorism lists should Trump win a second term. He added that, if Biden wins the elections, he is unlikely to follow Obama’s approach on the Brotherhood, particularly as the group’s ties to extremist, terrorist organizations, such as Da’esh and Al-Qaeda, have now been established.

At the end of the lecture, Dr. Al-Farraj described the peace accord between the UAE and Israel as a historic step, particularly as it serves the interests of peace and national security.