The US Presidential Election and its Impact On the US And the Middle East

By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis

Currently the outcome of the upcoming Presidential election in the United States is far from clear.  Polling for this election has shown no consistency and seems to depend more on political bias of the pollsters then on an honest attempt to discern the true feelings and atmosphere of the electorate. The polls are mixed, so it is difficult to say for sure. Looking at the overall national trends it would appear that Trump is going to be reelected, but trends could change overnight. There are many reasons to anticipate a Trump reelection, the greatest reason looks to come from private polls in battleground states that show the top concerns are economic and law and order. The Biden campaign continues to lean toward health issues and a perceived incompetence of Trump which is being rejected by the undecided voters. He also leans heavily on the assumption that the nation is consumed by the problems of racial injustice. There has also been a recent study that indicated that many of the undecided voters are caught between a dislike for Trump and a distrust of Biden and his policies. The economic issue resonates as the number one issue that people state will drive their vote. The impact on the economy, as the results of Covid-19 shutdowns, have affected many of the traditional Democrat base as well as, in many “Blue States,” attempts at draconian rules and regulations are anathema to many Americans. The left has attempted to blame Trump for all problems based on his perceived lack of leadership in fighting Covid-19. Many Americans accept the fact that this is a pandemic that hit the world with speed and lethality. On the other hand they also know that prior to the pandemic Trump had advanced the economy and working conditions across the board, White, Black and Hispanics were shown to have the lowest unemployment in history as well as growth in Black and Hispanic business.  America watched as violence has erupted across the country in cities that then took little to no action to restore order. Law and order are a main concern to most and Trump has established a strong position on this issue.

As we said above Biden has locked himself into the position that health care is a major concern for most American. A recent Pew Research poll showed that while 68% of the respondents showed health care to be a major factor in their voting decision 79% indicated the economy.  Another indicator of Democrat party candidate missing the tempo of the country is that in the same report, which came out in August, Racial issues and immigration came at the lower end.

In regard to foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular the question comes to how the two candidates will impact policy. With a Trump victory there will likely be little change. Trump has made no secret of the fact that US domestic policy is his number one issue. He feels that regional issues are best left to regional players. While he has recently made headlines by brokering historic treaties between Israel and Arab nations UAE and Bahrain were the first two Arab nations to recognize Israel in over 25 years and it was recently announced that Sudan will join this group. Peace in the Middle East is good for America. Biden on the other hand has talked a great deal about wanting peace yet is heavily tied to Iran and under the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) where Iran sanctions were lifted, and Billions of dollars released to Iran. This money has been used not to benefit Iranian people but to increase Iranian hegemony. Biden is invested in reestablishing the Iran deal and lifting sanctions that have been in place since Trump pulled out. Recently the UN, over the objections of the US, lifted the restraint on selling Iran military hardware.  A rearmed and strengthened Iran is a danger to Kurds in the entire region. The Obama administration was no friend of an independent Kurdistan and those people that were in the Obama administration will likely return in a Biden administration

As we have said we do not see a major change in administration policy for the region, there are however things that can force a change. One of the biggest problems the next administration will face is the increased belligerency of Turkey, not only in Syria and the Iraqi Kurdish region but also in the Mediterranean and with Greece. Should Turkey keep this up, actions which have drawn the attention of US allies Brittan and France, the US will be forced to engage. Additionally, should Iran increase its activities a Trump administration will need to show the flag. This again is only a Trump administration; Biden will likely do nothing to halt Iranian aggression.

American policy will continue to support Baghdad. American policy remains locked in the belief of “One Iraq.” This has been true since the Bush administration and will continue through any American administration. While many in the congress give lip service to the concept of an independent Kurdistan it is unlikely that support will rise to the point that policy will change.  Trumps support to Turkey’s President Erdogan is well established, however many in congress and in both the State and Defense departments are counselling a different approach including Sec. State Pompeo.    

The biggest impact this election will have will be in the United States. While it is true that all elections impact the country in which they are held, the difference in the two candidates and their respective parties as well as the increasing division within the US will likely cause a seismic tremor regardless of outcome.  The American media has made much about their claim that Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses, something that has never come from Trump, but considering the way the election is being conducted it is doubtful that Biden and his team will readily concede.

From an international perspective should the election not be decided at the ballot box it will have a severe impact on the world economy. Wall Street and other major markets abhor uncertainty, and this will reflect in any problem with the election.   This will not be the same as the 2000 Bush-Gore election toss up since at this time both sides have staked a claim of voter fraud against the other. There is also a very good possibility that there will be a repeat of 2016 where Trump will win the electoral collage but lose the popular vote. Should this happen there is a great likelihood of violence in the streets of America by extreme left-wing radicals. At this point Turkey, Iran and Russia could take advantage of a perceived power vacuum and move to consolidate power in what they consider their rightful territories.

In conclusion we must anticipate a longer then usual period before results are released. Trump is trended toward re-election, but the race is in fact at this point tied. A Trump victory will result in a status quo while a Biden victory will result in a return to a weakened US position in the world.               

Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish-American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.


Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army and was a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.

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