On 03 December 2020, the Brussels International Center held an online event on the implications of the US election results in the Middle-East and North Africa region. The event brought together a selected group of high-level experts, EU officials, and ambassadors to discuss and explore the geopolitical ramifications of the next four years of US foreign policy in the region.
The event opened with a presentation from Amb. Marc Otte, BIC President, who highlighted the key intersections and main topics to consider in foreign policy during the Biden administration. According to Amb. Otte “the MENA region increasingly serves as the perfect landscape to understanding the true meaning and value of modern diplomacy.”
The discussion then moved to the first speaker in the panel, Dr. Michele Dunne, who is Director and Senior Fellow Middle East at Carnegie Endowment for Peace (US). Dr. Dunne highlighted that large US troop deployments in the Middle East will remain a major issue during the Biden administration. According to Dr. Dunne, a withdrawal of troops will be confronted by complex geopolitics, regional instability and the need to support key allies in the region. Concerning the new administration “we will see a return to a regular policy-making process, soft-power and the reinvigoration of relations with transatlantic partners and international institutions” said Dr. Dunne.
Amb. Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Visiting Professor in Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University followed-up in the discussions and gave an overview of the main geopolitical dynamics to consider during the new US presidency. According to Amb. Kurtzer, the Biden administration now understands that not only “the problems within and outside the US are deep, but the possibilities and opportunities are quite significant”. The question now, as per Amb Kurtzer, is how to rebuild the US diplomatic engagement in the MENA region, especially when it comes to the Israel-Palestine issue, Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Libya.
On US foreign policy and US-EU transatlantic relations, Mr. Jamie Fly from the German Marshall Fund of the US highlighted the need for the United States to rise to the China challenge and rethink the JCPOA deal with Iran. Ms. Maja Urbanska from the EEAS went beyond the US cooperation in the MENA region, offering a wider perspective on other key US allies, especially the EU. According to Ms. Urbanska, relations with the US is still a priority for the EU, but structural changes are necessary to rebuild a new, more productive cooperation.
Representatives and participants closed the discussion by examining current global challenges ahead of the new US administration. The question of leadership was thoroughly discussed, as well as climate, economic recovery after the pandemic, water issues and terrorism.
The BIC will prepare an outcome report on the event, summarizing the contributions and listing the events final recommendations.