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US relationship with Saudi, Egypt leaders would look 'very different' under Biden, says adviser

Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in April [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2020

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Biden's foreign policy advisor laid out the presidential candidate's intention to curb support for Saudi Arabia, but failed to outline a clear commitment to establishing Palestinian sovereignty.
The foreign policy adviser of Joe Biden has said that an administration under the Democratic presidential nominee would make US relationships with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other human rights violators in the Middle East "look very different".

Biden adviser Antony Blinken held a call with members of the Arab-American community on Thursday to lay out key policies concerning the Middle East as well as domestic issues concerning the Arab community.

The aide said that Biden would prioritise "human rights and democratic principles" while dealing with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, including ending any support for the war in Yemen.

"We would review the US relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia, to which President Trump has basically given a blank check to pursue a disastrous set of policies, including the war in Yemen, but also the murder of Jamal Khashoggi [and] the crackdown on dissent at home," the foreign policy adviser said.

Blinken added that Biden plans to invest in diplomatic solutions for ending Yemen's conflict, as well as restoring humanitarian assistance and making sure aid is not used as "political football" by anyone.

On US-Egypt relations, Blinken said that Donald Trump had "undermined" the US' moral standing by calling Egypt's President Sisi "my favourite dictator".

The aide, who previously held the position of deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama, also addressed the situation in Syria, saying Biden would he'll raise the cap on refugee admissions to 125,000.

When asked what lessons had been learned in Syria, Blinken said: "As someone deeply involved in Syria under Obama, I have to acknowledge that we failed. We failed to prevent death or displacement of millions. We feel a special debt and obligation to the people suffering in Syria now," he said.

However this was criticised by commentators in Twitter as a "non-answer".

Blinken's clarification of Biden's proposed action on Israel-Palestine also attracted criticism.

Although the Democratic nominee opposes Israel's planned annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, Blinken did not answer a question on whether he would reverse a potential US move to recognise Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian territory.

When asked how Biden sees the implementation of Palestinian sovereignty, Blinken admitted he did not have "a magic solution", but supported a period of do-no-harm and incremental steps to bring both Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table.

The aide reiterated that the former vice president "opposes any effort to delegitimise or unfairly single out Israel," naming both the UN and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

However, Blinken said the Biden would "protect the constitutional right of our citizens to speak freely", referring to Israel's refusal to allow congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib into the country for their support of the non-violent movement.

Read also: To defeat systemic racism, America must end endless war

Several US states have introduced laws that criminalise boycotts of Israel.

James Zogby, the director of the Arab-American Institute who took part in the call, told The New Arab that Biden's defence of free speech in relation to BDS as well as his defence of Omar and Tlaib, was a new and positive addition to the nominee's policy platform.

Defending free speech surrounding BDS is also a significant divergence from the stance of AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group in the US.

"While he didn’t provide provide details about what they would do differently this time, it’s clear that this is the problem and he admitted that there had been failings during their time in office. This is a start," said Zogby.

"The debate is changing on the Democratic side and we should recognise [this] and work to move this discussion forward," he added.


On Lebanon, Blinken said Biden's administration would provide aid to help restore the fiscal integrity of the country' collapsing banking system as well as boosting support for the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Lebanese-Americans make up the overwhelming majority of the Arab community in the US.

Biden would actively commit to including Arab-Americans in his administration in both community engagement roles and policy-making positions, said Blinken, who added that the community must be able to hold the administration accountable.

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