We are two weeks away from the election of the President of the United States, with the race pointing to a Joe Biden win after a fractious and highly contested contest.
The fact that Trump has turned up the background noise of political attacks against Covid scientists, former staffers who worked with him and Hilary Clinton, takes away from some of the small but significant achievements that he has made, despite the inflammatory and deeply divisive rhetoric that has consistently employed over the last four years.
Who can ignore or forget statements that ‘Mexicans (migrants) are criminals, drug dealers and rapists’.
Who can also forget his ‘Muslim ban’ against numerous Muslim majority countries. The language used was a dog whistle to xenophobic and far right groups who have been super charged and energised by his language.
Trump has been a touchstone for divisiveness, yet his risk-taking style has also produced some extra-ordinary results that cannot be overlooked.
Trump has the very risk-taking character that rubs up against many people, but which does produce in some instances, results that many thought were not possible.
All of the electoral polling show a significant loss for Trump based on his failures on Coronavirus.
It will be the tombstone on his political pitfall, though Trump’s administration managed to pull off major geo-political realignments in the Middle East by facilitating normalisation agreements between the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain.
This normalisation of relations has just seen delegates from the U.A.E land in Israel to develop closer trade, military and technological co-operation as a bulwark against Iranian influence in the region.
There is no doubt that these connections and contacts between these Arab and Jewish majority nations was continuing before normalisation, though a desire to challenge Iranian influence and hegemony in the region, and the need for the U.A.E to specialise in other sectors in their economy have been a significant driving factor.
Yet, nobody has really thought about what this presidential change may mean for how the U.S and its relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the U.A.E and the Lebanon may be affected.
Relations between the Obama administration were strained through the latter parts of his presidency, as the U.S sought to exit the region after the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Obama administration’s relationship with the Gulf States were strained, as Obama sought less economic reliance on petrochemical products and with his extremely poor relations with the Netanyahu administration in Jerusalem, any hopes of being the interlocutor in bringing peace to the Middle East vapourised long before Obama left office.
Furthermore, the flawed nuclear deal with Iran drove a further wedge with America’s traditional allies, contributing to the enrichment of violent Iranian proxies and tacitly accepting the spread of Islamism across the region.
The election of Biden will therefore resurrect these deep fears and concerns in Israel and in Gulf States, since Biden was integral to the Iran-Obama deal and can hardly reject the fundamentals of that deal whilst in office.
This will rub up against a buoyant and increasingly muscular number of Arab States who believe that they have to take the initiative and build alliances with nations who can strengthen their military and technological prowess and who jointly see Iran as a threat. Israel is therefore a natural ally in the fight.
A Biden administration should seek to continue to foster the good work of recent months by enabling these alliances to strengthen and flourish, rather than reverting to an Obama-era courtship of destabilising forces adhering to hard-line political Islam.
The best outcome for Gulf States and for Netanyahu will be a Trump re-election. Who would have thought that given the statements and comments that Trump has made about migrants and Muslims? Yet, Trump’s statements on a ‘Muslim ban’ and his views on such matters are not the primary concern for these Muslim majority states, who see a wider global geo-strategic alliance against an aggressive and murderous Iranian regime.
They have lost faith in peace agreements with Iran and ultimately seek the overthrow of this regime, and with a chastened Turkey whom they believe Trump can control over time.
The worst outcome would be a Biden win and a return to the foreign policy enacted by Obama which also took a softer approach to the Muslim Brotherhood and which sought to challenge violent extremism, without challenging the Islamist extremist narratives fuelled by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Whatever happens, of one thing I am certain. The normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab Majority states will increase into 2021 as fault lines develop. For this, Trump deserves some credit.