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What can Biden do to help democratize the Arab world?

The Washington Post was published An article By Ezz El Din Shukry Fasher, in which he presented proposals for the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden, which will take over power in the United States on January 20 next.

The writer reviewed some ideas that he believes would help the new US administration establish democracy in the Arab world.

Fasher – who works as a professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College and is based in Hanover, New Hampshire – said that President-elect Biden has repeatedly indicated his intention to adopt a policy that differs from the one adopted by the outgoing President Donald Trump and its laxity – if not support. Frankly – for violating democratic values ​​and norms by US allies.

“There are no blank checks anymore for Trump’s favorite dictator,” Biden wrote on Twitter, criticizing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Biden’s selection of Anthony Blinken to be the Secretary of State in his administration confirmed this position after the arrest of a group of human rights defenders in Egypt last November.

As Biden’s nominee for National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, that stance reflects an aspect of a broad policy that puts values ​​and democracy at the core of US foreign policy. It is also consistent with Biden’s electoral promise to create a global coalition of democracies and stop the regression toward authoritarianism, a proposal that he intends to put before a global summit expected to be held during the first year of his presidency.

But to what extent can Biden pressure his allies from among the Arab rulers, “despots who are indispensable to achieving his goals on a larger scale in the Middle East?” The writer wonders.

In answering the question, Fischer believes that Biden will not be able to do much in this aspect, because he will face a region that is witnessing more polarizations than was the case in 2016, as the US allies are more determined to chart their own path.

Any change Biden makes in policy toward the Middle East – whether it is related to Iran’s nuclear program and its regional excesses, the Arab civil wars, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – will face stiff resistance from a number of regional leaders.

Given the dangers threatening Arab leaders and the diminishing desire of Washington to invest in the Middle East, it seems clear – according to the Washington Post article – that Biden faces more difficult choices than previous US presidents have been exposed to.

According to the writer, it seems unlikely that Biden – with his limited resources – will be able to force those leaders to respect democratic values, especially in light of the meager results achieved by the US policy of promoting democracy during the administrations of former presidents George Bush Jr. and Barack Obama.

And with the passage of nearly two decades since the attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and Washington, and a decade after the Arab Spring revolutions, the prevailing idea now is that democratization in the Arab world will not come through Washington, if it is achieved at all.

However, this does not mean – according to the author of the article – that the Biden administration will stand idly by in the face of “horrific” violations, as it will almost certainly denounce these violations, demand compliance with democratic values ​​and will be conservative in its relations with the worst aggressors of human rights.

By threatening to impose limited sanctions, the new US administration can also impose clear measures to hint at its reluctance to follow Trump’s policy of collusion.

However, these measures alone will not change – in the opinion of the writer – the human rights situation in any meaningful way, let alone democratize the region. “And if this is all in the Biden administration’s quiver, it will rather turn the United States into a power that relies on rhetoric rather than a pioneer of democracy as it preaches.

The article advises the next US president not to choose between wasting scarce resources by exerting fruitless pressure on the rulers, or simply issuing statements of denunciations and denunciations, and achieving small gains.

The writer adds that there is a third option, noting that rebuilding public institutions in Arab countries with fragile regimes is a “necessary and logical matter – if not a prerequisite – to give them a successful democracy.”

Perhaps this gives the new US president a chance to win over these Arab leaders to what the author calls a “voluntary partnership” that gives them a way to eventually join the “coalition of democracies.”

Such a partnership should be an option, not a ruse in promoting democracy. However, this does not necessarily mean “dumping new resources” into the Middle East. The author concludes that establishing such a partnership requires skill and creativity greater than hard power, qualities that the Biden team does not lack.

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