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President-elect Joe Biden
January 7, 2020: Former Vice President & Democratic hopeful Joe Biden made foreign policy statement at Current on Pier 59


President-elect Joe Biden received congratulatory messages from leaders across the MENA region. The most notable delayed congratulatory messages came from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, and finally Turkish President Erdogan. 

Arab media outlets discussed the results of the U.S. Presidential elections and the impact on the region. According to a news roundup published by BBC Arabic, a number of Arab writers argued that President Trump and President-elect Biden are “two sides of the same coin” with regards to foreign policy changes toward the region, adding that any “change will be limited.” Abdul Hamid Othmani of Algeria’s Echorouk claims that “the only difference” between Republicans and Democrats “lies in the procedural approach to implementing America's foreign policy” adding that Republicans “often tended to adopt the logic of 'American power',” with all its implications for interventions “Military, preemptive wars and rough policies, such as what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq as a model,” while the Democrats tend “to 'soft power' under the titles of negotiation (Iran) and diplomacy (Camp David and Oslo) and even bargaining, containment and the international umbrella, to market America's moral image.” Another columnist writing in Al Quds Arabi, Said Al Shihabi argues that little will change in the U.S. foreign policy in the region. However, he adds that the “rulers of the Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have wagered on Trump's victory, which they see as the main motive for the normalization of their relations with Israel. Undoubtedly, his loss disappointed them, even though Biden will not abandon Israel. They saw Trump as a support in their conflict with Iran and their rapprochement with Israel, as well as in their confrontation with their people calling for a democratic transition.”

Writers including Abdel Bari Atwan (Al Rai Al Yawm) and Amira Moustapha (Jordan’s Addusour) also noted that Biden will be preoccupied with domestic issues, particularly given the divisions in American society, that the MENA region will not be a priority. Meanwhile, Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, opined that even though they are not expecting much from Biden’s presidency, that he will be much better than Trump, which the paper described as “blindly aligned with the occupation.” 

Elsewhere in the region, leaders congradulated president-elect Biden with a mix of caution and optimism -- no doubt weighing the implications of a new administration on their regional agendas. Iranians leaders approached the news with cautions optimism. President Rouhani welcomed the possibilities of a new American administration, framing it as an opportunity for the U.S. to reestablish its prestige through a return to multilateralism and cooperation. The spokesperson for the Iranian regime echoed these sentiments while emphasizing how the Trump administration's approach tarnished America's credibility abroad. Meanwhile, Turkish president Recep Erdoğan swiftly congradulated Biden but Turkish analysts speculated that the regime had hoped for a Trump's reelection - the two leaders enjoyed direct contact. In Israel, both Benjamin Netanyahu and Beni Ganz were rather delayed in their welcoming remarks. Netanyahu's troubled leadership and support for the settler movement received unconditional support from the Trump administration. Now he has to navigate Biden's administration, who pushed for settlement freezes while vice president under president Barrack Obama. 

In terms of the main challenges that reigonal analysts expect the Biden to face in the MENA region; they include U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia (particularly in relation to the war in Yemen and human rights abuses in the Kingdom), Iran, its nuclear program and proxies across the region, peace and reform in Syria and Libya, and a new approach to the Israeli-palestinian conflict. 


ِAlgerian press reacted to the election results, running stories of Biden’s victory and introducing people to the president-elect and his running mate. Opinion pieces went in opposite directions, with contributor Lahouari Addi on Liberté celebrating the fall of Donald Trump while the Abdel Hamid Othmani writing for Echorouk doubting that US foreign policy will change under the weight of special interests. Elwatan discusses the role of the US in Africa, highlighting relations between the continent since the Obama administration, and noting that China is quickly displacing the west in economic power there. 


Bahraini news outlets reported that King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa had sent a congratulatory “cable” to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamla Harris, “expressing the Kingdom of Bahrain's pride in the strong and extended historical relations with the United States of America for more than one hundred and twenty years, and its keenness to continue constructive cooperation at all levels to enhance these strategic relationships.”


Al-Ahram reports that Egyptian President El-Sisi congratulated Joe Biden for his win in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The official statement released by the Egyptian government read: “The president asserted on this occasion that he was looking forward to working and cooperating with the new president-elect to boost the strategic bilateral relations between Egypt and the United States for the best interest of the two countries and their friendly people.”

Al-Ahram offers an analysis of the election: “At pivotal moments of 2020, Trump failed to win over doubters.” The incumbent president “let his concerns for the economy outweigh everything else and failed to meet the enormous challenges facing the country in 2020.” Faced with three separate crises - the coronavirus pandemic, the ensuing economic collapse, and protests against police brutality - Trump had the opportunity to unite large swaths of the American population. Instead, he chose to focus on his divisive rhetoric, which earned him a strong following and won him the presidency the first time around. In 2020, however, it wasn’t enough, and Trump lost key states, which, ultimately, cost him the office. 

Al-Monitor reports that news of Biden's election victory has been met with both elation and dismay in Egypt. Pro-democracy activists are hoping a Biden presidency would ease the repression in Egypt while government supporters fear Biden will push for inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood.


Two days after the announcement of Biden’s projected victory, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, ‘Trump is gone in 70 days, but we’ll remain here forever’. Zarif urged the region to stop “betting on outsiders” to provide security and called on them to turn to dialogue to “resolve differences”. 

Islamic Republic News Agency reports Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claims the US presidential election results indicate the world is not alone in opposing the policies of the incumbent US administration, stating, “the very US public has been beset by such policies. Now the field is clear for new US elected leaders to grasp the message of their people and translate this determination into their foreign policies and their ties with other countries and states”. The IRNA also reported Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei believes the next US administration is expected to be a good representative for the people of the country, adding he hopes the president-elect Joe Biden will remember he had been critical of his predecessor for violation of international agreements. 

Al-Jazeera reports Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the Trump administration, which he alleged aimed to overthrow Iran, has been “abjectly struck down” by its own people in the 2020 US elections. He added, “The regime that dreamt of the Iranian establishment’s downfall has been itself abjectly struck down, and today all countries – except the few that have always followed the regime – see different circumstances in front of them.”


News outlets carried the congratulatory message from Iraqi President Barham Salih to president elect Joe Biden. “I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, who we have known as a reliable friend and partner during the process of building a new Iraq. We look forward to working together to achieve the common goals and interests of our peoples, and to enhance the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.”

Agence France Presse (Arabic) reported that Iraqi officials and politicians are worried as they witnessed pro-Iranian factions in their country welcoming Biden’s victory. Officials raised fears that a possible US-Iranian understanding could enhance the influence of these factions in the country.


The Jerusalem Post reports that President Netanyahu waited twelve hours before congratulating president-elect Joe Biden on his win. The president found himself “between a rock and a hard place.” On the one hand, Netanyahu needs to win favor with Biden in order to continue a close working relationship with the U.S.; however, Trump is one of Netanyahu’s closest allies and will remain in office until the presidential transition in January 2021. 

Haaretz writes that the damage Trump has done to the United States’ foreign policy in the Middle East region will be tough to repair. Biden’s liberal worldview and traditional positions on the Palestinian conflict are sure to reorient the current U.S.-Israel relationship. However, Haaretz also reports Jerusalem City Hall and the Israel Lands Authority have been identifying and expediting approval of building plans beyond the Green Line over the next two months, to prevent them from being stopped once Joe Biden enters the White House in January. Once the administration in Washington changes, the municipality and the Lands Authority expect a construction freeze.

Al-Monitor writes Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Benny Gantz were both among the last world leaders to congratulate Biden and avoided using the president-elect title in their message in order to avoid angering the incumbent. The goal set by Netanyahu and Gantz this time is to be included in the process and to “help” Biden avoid a return to Obama’s goodwill toward Iran. “We are hoping that the president-elect does not squander the achievements of Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy,” a senior Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity.


The Jordan Times reported that the Jordanian monarch took to Twitter on Saturday to congratulate US president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on winning the presidential election: “Congratulations to President-Elect @JoeBiden and VP-Elect @KamalaHarris. 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,” His Majesty tweeted.

Analysts expect that the “hidden tensions” between Amman and Washington will likely ease with President-elect Joe Biden. Former Jordanian Minister of Information Sameeh Ma’ayta told Al Jazeera that Jordan expects that with a Biden administration there will be a focus on reviving the two state solution and movement away from the “peace for peace” formula that Trump championed. In general, analysts note, moving the Palestinian-Israeli process forward will not be easy and will require a unified Arab and Palestinian stance toward Israel. However, while a Biden administration will not be an ‘absolute supporter’ of the Arabs, it is likely to be “less biased and less impulsive than the Trump administration.” 


The Kuwaiti news agency, KUNA reported Saturday that the Emir of Kuwait Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris for their election victory. 

Al Qabas newspaper notes that according to analysts and experts it interviewed after the Biden victory, Kuwaiti-American relations will be further enhanced in the Biden era for several reasons, most notably Kuwait’s balanced regional and international policies especially given its mediation role in Gulf disputes. The good news, analysts noted, is that Kuwait will feel less pressure to establish diplomatic relations with Israel from a Biden administration.  


The Daily Star reported that Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, took to Twitter on Sunday to congratulate U.S. president-elect, Joe Biden, and vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris, on winning the presidential election: “Heartfelt congratulations to President-Elect @JoeBiden and Vice-President-Elect @KamalaHarris. I am confident that the historic friendship between our two countries will continue. New energy to bring solutions to the problems!”

The New Arab reports Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah praised the "humiliating downfall" of Trump, describing his administration as "among the worst, if not the worst" in US history. He accused Trump of having shown "arrogance and aggressiveness" during his four-year term and warned regional allies to be on the lookout for acts of "folly" during the president's final weeks in office.

The National writes that Joe Biden’s victory was welcomed in Lebanon after Trump’s 'maximum pressure' campaign on Iran and Hezbollah. Mr. Biden is widely expected to try to revive the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers in 2015, and abandoned three years later by Mr Trump, who imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. Joseph Bahout, director of the Issam Fares institute at the American University of Beirut believes the effect of Mr Biden’s presidency on Lebanon will be a “byproduct of what happens between the new administration and Iran.” Reopening talks with Iran would also probably loosen the noose around Iran's main ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, which the US considers to be a terrorist organization.


Al Marsad newspaper reported that head of the UN-backed government in Libya Fayez Serraj “rushed to send a message to Joe Biden as soon as the American media announced his victory in the American presidential elections” adding that official Libyan media affiliated with the presidency said, also expressed, in his letter to Biden and his deputy, who will formally take power early next year, to his "aspiration to work with them to achieve a civil democratic state in Libya."


In Morocco, press outlets reported Biden’s victory and his efforts to heal the soul of the USA. Le Matin also referenced the celebrations in Kamala Harris’ ancestral village in India. Adhath Info, referenced analysis from the European Council on Foreign relations that Biden will set out to return to a more traditional American foreign policy in the Middle East, walking back the impulsive approach of President Donald Trump. The King of Morocco, Mohammad VI, still has not publically congratulated president-elect Joe Biden on his victory. 

The widely circulate daily, Assabah carried a profile of Biden’s history of public service and personal struggle. The distinguished paper also discussed Morocco’s interest in the US election, noting Biden’s visit to Marrakesh in 2014 as Vice President, speaking at a conference on entrepreneurship. However, the story also highlighted commentary of analyst, Abdel Samad Balkabir, who expressed concern that a Biden administration would become more interventionist in the region, and that he represents the “deep state” that opposed president Trump. 


The Times of Oman reports that  His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has congratulated Joe Biden for winning the U.S. elections. His Majesty sent Biden a letter expressing “his sincere congratulations for winning the confidence of the American people and for his elections as President for the upcoming presidential term.” 

Palestinian Territories

Al Quds Al Arabi reports that the announcement of Joe Biden’s victory has ended, for the Palestinian Authority, four years of pressure from the Trump administration. In his statement that was intentionally published on Sunday rather on Saturday, President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated President-elect Biden and his vice presidential nominee noting: “I look forward to cooperation with the President and the strengthening of relations between the United States and the Palestinians to achieve freedom, independence and Justice is for the Palestinian people.” The news report notes that officials in Ramallah believe that Biden “will take a number of positive steps towards them, such as restoring economic assistance and strengthening security cooperation, perhaps also opening the US consulate in East Jerusalem, and supporting projects in the West Bank.” However, they are aware that these decisions will not be implemented right away as Biden will be busy with domestic issues. 

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes for Al-Monitor that Palestinians cautiously optimistic after Biden win. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered his congratulations to Biden on Nov. 8 with a two-paragraph report on the Wafa news site. Ziad Abu Zayyad, a Jerusalem-based attorney and former Palestinian legislator, told Al-Monitor that, “Palestinians need to resume contacts with the new administration and bring it to recognize the State of Palestine and call on the president-elect to stand by his promise to reopen the US Consulate in east Jerusalem and recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), explains another reason Palestinians are pleased with Trump’s loss is he has been “a fierce enemy of the Palestinian people, insulting Palestinians and attempting to deny their legitimate national rights.”

Saudi Arabia

News outlets reported that Saudi Arabia “congratulated Joe Biden on Sunday over his election victory, more than 24 hours after he defeated Donald Trump.” The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) issued the congratulatory note on Sunday, rather than Saturday. 

CNN Arabic reports that a new hashtag #crownprince was trending right after the Biden win was announced. Saudis took to twitter to show their support for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. For example, one tweet noted: “ ‘Very happy’ is a phrase that was repeated in the coverage of the channels affiliated with the (Muslim) brothers betting on Biden!!” hence reiterating support for MBS.

Al-Jazeera reports the Biden Administration could end the near-unconditional support that Riyadh has enjoyed over the years. “Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia], end US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil,” Biden said in October. However, there is often a difference between promises made on the campaign trail and the reality of life as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth – one that has historically always sought to remain friendly with Saudi Arabia.


Citing international newspapers, the Syrian Arab News Agency reports Trump lost elections due to his reckless policies domestically and globally. 

According to Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper, an advisor to the Biden campaign told Syrians in the US that a Biden administration will make clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there can be no American (or European) support for the reconstruction of Syria in the absence of political reform, and that reform must be meaningful. Adding it will support credible movement on the main humanitarian and accountability issues, “stressing” the need to release prisoners, while keeping the US sanctions in place on the Syrian regime and the entities that deal with it, including the Russian one.”


The US elections were closely monitored by the “Sudanese street” particularly in light of the decision taken by President Trump to remove Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list, which in turn was enacted in 1993 under a Democratic administration. According to a news report on Sky News Arabia, the Sudanese people are divided between a team that sees a Biden victory as an opportunity to promote civil transformation and those that believe that Trump would guarantee the completion of procedures for removing Sudan from the state-sponoring of terrorism list. As the Biden victory announcement came in, questions were raised in the Sudanese press about removing Sudan from the list. Former Sudanese Ambassador Al Tarifi Ahmed was quoted saying that "Historically, the democrats have included Sudan in the list of terrorism, imposed a comprehensive siege on it and targeted the Shifa factory in Khartoum, but Biden will proceed on the same path that Trump started in relations with Khartoum” adding “We expect that the new US administration will go ahead in support of the transitional government in Sudan to fulfill the promise made by Washington in supporting the democratic transformation in the country."


Turkish newspapers reported this week that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan congratulated Biden and wished the election results to be beneficial for the “friendly and allied” people of the U.S., according to Turkey's Communications Directorate. "I congratulate you on your election success and express my sincere wishes for the peace and prosperity of the people of the United States of America," he said. "Today, the challenges we face at the global and regional level require us to further develop and strengthen these relations based on common interests and values," Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan also, on Nov. 10, thanked his outgoing U.S. counterpart for the "sincere and decisive" vision he put forward for the development of the bilateral relations between the two countries. "On this occasion, I sincerely thank you once again for your accustomed warm friendship and express my sincere wishes for the peace and prosperity of the people of the United States of America," he added.

Turkish analysts opined that political circles in Turkey “were hoping for Trump’s win although ties between the two allies were not free of turbulences and crises during the four-year term of the outgoing president.” There were two main reasons why Ankara favored the republican win, according to their analysis: “A candid personal dialogue between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Trump and the outgoing U.S. president’s decision to avoid sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of S-400 air defense systems from Russia. Trump was also not in favor of sanctioning Turkey’s Halk Bank over alleged attempts to evade Iranian sanctions.”


Tunisian President Qais Said congratulated Biden the day he was announced winner of the elections. According to Tunisian news sources the President, “mentioned the historical relationship between Tunisia and the United States, and reiterated his readiness to work to strengthen the partnership between the two countries.” Adding that the “Tunisian president appreciates the support provided by the United States to his country in building a democratic society.”

President of the Tunisian Parliament and President of the Ennahda Party, Rached Ghannouchi, said that Joe Biden's victory in the presidency of the United States of America represents a positive message for democracy in the world, according to Tunisian news outlets. 


Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani congratulated President-elect Biden on social media: “Congratulations to President-Elect @JoeBiden and Vice President-Elect @KamalaHarris. My best wishes to the people of the United States and I look forward to working together to continue strengthening the friendship between our countries.” 

United Arab Emirates

The UAE Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed congratulated the new president elect on Saturday on twitter “Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on winning the U.S. elections. 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.”  


Al Jazeera reports that Yemeni politicians have expressed caution, some fears and a bit of hope after the announcement of Joe Biden’s victory. The question that preoccupies them more than others is whether the new White House resident will put an end to the war in their country that has been ongoing for 6 years. On both sides of the Yemeni war (UN-backed government and the Houthis), the report adds, the positions oscillate between those who do not bet on a clear change in Washington’s Yemen policy and those who expect Biden’s term to be an important beginning to end this war.

Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more