OPINION: After Middle East tour, how will Biden handle political Islamists?


by Dalia Ziada

The American president’s decision to go back to doing business with Arab leaders is wise and legitimate.

After a successful tour in the Middle East, the American president, Joseph Biden, got quarantined for a period of five days to deal with a COVID-19 infection. Fortunately, he is now recovered and ready to proceed working on the many files sitting on his desk. Yet, first, President Biden may need to handle the media aftermath aroused by the far-left movement around his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with certain Arab leaders. That is important to guarantee better performance for his Democratic Party candidates in the mid-term elections of the congress, scheduled in November. The far-left activists represent the majority of Biden’s electoral constituency, and their satisfaction with administration’s performance is crucial.

Hither comes an important question about the real reasons behind the far-left exaggerated dissatisfaction with Biden’s outreach to Arab leaders. Their media platforms have been reproving Biden for laughing with the Saudi Crown prince and calling the Egyptian president ‘a valuable friend’ during their meetings in Jeddah, in mid-July. The lack of state respect to human rights and democracy, in these two countries, is introduced as the only reason behind the far-left irritation. The undeclared reason, however, has much to do with the rising influence of the political Islamists on the American leftist activists.

We have not seen, for example, the American pro-left media criticizing Biden administration’s reach out to other Arab monarchies, that also deal with citizens’ civil and human rights as less priority, such as Qatar. On the contrary, when the Qatari prince visited Washington, in January, the media platforms, which described Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia as a ‘betrayal,’ celebrated and applauded Biden-Tamim summit. It is clear that the radar of the leftists turns on only when it comes to certain Arab leaders –Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman; Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi; and UAE president, Mohammed Bin Zayed.

Why these three Arab leaders in particular? Because they are the ones who had been the most active on chasing and smashing the Muslim Brotherhood group. Following the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, in 2013, several members and sympathizers of the most populous political Islamist group fled to the United States. There, they got welcomed by the political Islamist organizations and activists, who helped them to connect with pro-democracy groups to lobby against ruling regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, under the flag of human rights.

Then, under the pressures leveled by the former Trump administration’s rollback on minority rights, especially Muslim immigrants and American Muslims, the political Islamists seized the opportunity to merge into the then quickly rising American far-left movement. Muslim student associations and the young Muslim activists played an important role in this. The majority of the young Muslims in America are second and third generations of immigrant families, who have been born and raised in the United States. They are very active in their ethnic communities and more tolerant, compared to their parents, to the controversial issues of individual freedom that the far-left embraces.

Fast forward to this day, the political Islamists are abusing the electoral power of the American far-left to take revenge on the Egyptian, Saudi, and UAE leaders, by lobbying the U.S. administration against them. Since the early days of Biden’s electoral campaign, the far-left, which is deeply infiltrated by Islamists, have pressured to keep the new U.S. administration aloof to these three Arab leaders, in particular. They, even, lobbied to pressure president Biden to boycott and penalize them, under the flag of standing up for human rights in the Middle East. However, after eighteen months of hesitance, the U.S. leadership realized that its foreign and domestic success is highly dependent on positive engagement by Middle East leaders.  

Finally, U.S. president Biden, and his team, have decided to shake off this unprofitable approach towards the Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to focus instead on fruitful collaboration for the good of all. In an opinion article, president Biden explained: “As president, it is my job to keep our country strong and secure … To do these things, we have to engage directly with countries that can impact those outcomes. Saudi Arabia is one of them, and when I meet with Saudi leaders on Friday, my aim will be to strengthen a strategic partnership going forward that’s based on mutual interests and responsibilities, while also holding true to fundamental American values.”

The American president’s decision to go back to doing business with Arab leaders is wise and legitimate. The world is changing and the United States cannot remain on the top, as the most influential superpower, if it chooses to ignore or marginalize a region as important as the Middle East. Biden should expect high waves of criticism every time he engages with one of the aforementioned three Arab leaders, in the coming two years of his first term. Yet, he has to make sure not to let the Islamists indirectly dictate the future of the American nation through deceptive and manipulative interventions with the American far-left movement.

Dalia Ziada is Director of Liberal Democracy Institute. She writes on Militancy and Islamism, and about MENA affairs. She tweets under @DaliaZiada.

Article first published on The Levant News.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.

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