By Mohammad Mazhari

Riyadh, Abu Dhabi lost a valuable ally: American journalist 

November 14, 2020 - 10:56

TEHRAN – An American journalist says that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia lost Donald Trump as a “valuable ally” as he lost the November 3 presidential election to Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate.

 “There’s no doubt that the UAE and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman lost a valuable ally with Donald Trump’s electoral loss,” Eli Clifton, an investigative journalist at The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, tells the Tehran Times.
However, according to Clifton, the U.S. will keep “various forms of intelligence sharing” with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf region.

Saudi Arabia along with Israel cheered Trump’s exit from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Though nothing except hostility is expected from Israel, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran did not expect such behavior from Saudi Arabia. 

Iran has been a vocal critic of the Saudi-led war on Yemen, advising rulers in Riyadh to stop the war on the fellow Arab nation.  

Under Trump, the U.S. has been selling advanced weapons to the Saudi kingdom in its war on Yemen. The U.S. has even been providing logistical support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

Clifton says though Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and vowed not to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia it is unlikely to happen.

“Cutting off arms sales is easier said than done when there are billions of dollars in signed contracts,” the investigative journalist says.

 The following is the text of the interview:

Q:    Do you think that under a Biden administration, hawkish influencers in the U.S. will be sidelined?

A: Biden supported the JCPOA and is likely to seek a U.S. reentry to the agreement alongside the removal of many of the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump’s administration. Without a doubt, Biden’s presidency will seek to engage in greater diplomacy with Iran than that undertaken under Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy. That said, promoters of a hawkish U.S. foreign policy will not disappear, particularly in the Middle East. Many Washington think tanks and the U.S. Congress will remain areas where hawkish influencers can still gain sympathetic audiences, and donors supporting U.S. military primacy in the Middle East (West Asia) will continue to provide funding generously.

Q:     Do you think the policy of exporting democracy by force like what we saw in Iraq is still popular among American politicians, both Democrats, and Republicans?

A: No, it is unpopular across both parties. Both parties’ presidential candidates offered their visions about how to end the U.S. military roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American public is tired of bearing the costs of military interventions around the world. That said, there is still widespread support for keeping U.S. forces based in Iraq and Kuwait. As long as there is a considerable U.S. military presence based in the Middle East (Wes Asia), policymakers will be under pressure from other countries in the region as well as domestic U.S. interest groups to intervene militarily to resolve regional disputes. 

Q:    How do you see the future of relations between the U.S. and Persian Gulf Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia?

A: UAE and Saudi Arabia’s warm relationship with the Trump administration put both countries in a difficult position following the election. In a debate last November, Biden pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” and said he would not sell them weapons, and promised to make them “pay the price” for the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. What all that looks like in practice is a very different matter. Saudi Arabia and the UAE run effective P.R. and lobbying campaigns in Washington and have persuaded many policymakers that their national interests are synonymous with U.S. interests in the Middle East (West Asia). No doubt, various forms of intelligence sharing will continue between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, and cutting off arms sales is easier said than done when there are billions of dollars in signed contracts. But there’s no doubt that the UAE and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman lost a valuable ally with Donald Trump’s electoral loss and will be working hard to mend fences in Washington.