By Mohammad Mazhari 

The difference between Biden and Trump is a matter of style: professor

December 15, 2020 - 11:25

TEHRAN - A professor from Hamline University doubts that the Joe Biden administration would make strategic changes in U.S. foreign policy.

“It is not clear that the Biden administration views U.S. strategic interests that much different than the Trump administration,” David Schultz tells the Tehran Times. 

After Biden defeated his rival, Donald Trump, in the presidential race, political observers have focused on American new policy under the Democratic president.  Will Biden make a big shift in U.S. political behavior in the world in general and West Asia in particular?

Israel and Saudi Arabia developed a close relationship with the U.S. administration under Trump's presidency. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Trump as "the best friend of Israel” after he congratulated President-elect Biden.
He thanked the outgoing Trump for raising relations between Israel and the United States where it reached its climaxes.

I do not see the basic relationship between Israel and the U.S. to change.  However, the U.S. may seek to re-balance its relationship with Israel, especially if there is a new prime minister.” Saudi-U.S relations witnessed their honeymoon during Trump’s term. In May 2019, the Trump administration issued an emergency declaration to push through an $8.1 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan without congressional approval. 

However, it is expected that the president-elect to adopt a more traditional policy, return to the JCPOA (the official name for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal), and focus on human rights that have been grossly violated by Saudi Arabia against its citizens and Yemenis as well as by Israel against Palestinians during the Republican president. 

“A lot of distrust”

Biden has pledged to rejoin the JCPOA that Washington agreed to when he was vice president if Iran also agrees to return to full compliance. However, diplomats and analysts say it is unlikely to happen smoothly because skeptical adversaries want additional commitments from each other. 

Nevertheless, “there is a real possibility of the Biden administration wanting to enter a re-negotiated treaty with Iran on its nuclear program. Remember, Biden was part of the Obama administration and he was critical in the original deal,” Professor Schultz notes. “However there is a lot that needs to happen on both sides of Iran and the U.S. to make it happen.  There is a lot of distrust between the two countries.”

Meanwhile, it seems unlikely to expect the Biden administration to cherish the deal with Iran overnight or predict that Biden would turn his back on Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Asked about the possibility of change in U.S.-Israel ties, Schultz says, “I do not see the basic relationship between Israel and the U.S. to change.  However, the U.S. may seek to re-balance its relationship with Israel, especially if there is a new prime minister.” 

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), has enjoyed absolute freedom in light of his personal relationship with Trump, but the prince who is in charge of running affairs in the kingdom will have to walk in a more cautious way after the Democrats take over January 20. 

However, the American political expert believes that “the relationship with Saudi Arabia will probably not change much with it viewed as a check on Iran (at least from the U.S. perspective).”

Regarding Iran-U.S. tensions after the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA and imposed sweeping sanctions on Tehran, the question is that if Iranian authorities would trust the U.S. again what would guarantee that the upcoming U.S. next administration won’t behave like the Trump administration?  

Noting that the best predictor of the next president’s foreign policy is to look at the previous president’s foreign policy, Schultz says, “It will not be easy for Biden to make major changes, at least immediately, and it is not clear that the Biden administration views U.S. strategic interests that much different than the Trump administration.  It will be more a matter of style.”

Anyway, Iranians blame the U.S. as the main source of the problem in West Asia as Washington has been supporting Israel blindly and follows a policy of Israel “First”. 

In this regard, the American academic is of the opinion that the U.S. and Israel are historic allies with many political, economic, cultural, and religious connections.  

“Those connections seem to be powerful definers of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East (West Asia) and until Israel adopts a different perspective on its security needs I do not see much change in U.S. policy toward the region,” Schultz concludes.

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