What can Biden change? - YASIN AKTAY

What can Biden change?

There’s a saying that goes: “U.S. elections are not only U.S. elections.” The results of a global superpower’s elections are naturally followed closely worldwide, because the outcomes concern all countries. There is no place or country that it does not impact. Therefore, there is no country that the election results are not expected to change. The Federal Reserve (Fed) raising interest rates by a quarter point, increasing it or keeping it fixed has a direct impact on world economies. Hence, there is no corner of this world that can claim these elections do not concern them.

In fact, there is also a rote or a prejudice that the U.S. does not make a major difference especially with respect to institutionalized foreign policy options. If this is the case, then the elections should not change much or not be expected to have an effect.

It might be true. The U.S. has an election history of every new president being worse than the former regarding Israel and Middle East policies. Former U.S. president, Republican Donald Trump gave Israel the greatest support in history. He did what no other previous president dared to do, he made a compromise none ever attempted, and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He recognized Israel’s annexation of occupied Golan Heights, and legitimized the establishment of new settlements. He pressured Arab countries in order to normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries, and he made it happen.

He paid no mind to the fact that Arab states taking these step towards normalization were so behind on democracy and human rights, that they commit war crimes. It is true that U.S. policies on Israel and the Middle East have an institutional continuity, however, it is likely that no U.S. president could have taken on such a policy that is so reckless and insensitive towards the Islamic world’s sensibilities.

Though president Biden may not follow a pro-Israel policy with the same recklessness as Trump, particularly with respect to this matter, nobody should expect him to reverse the policies made by Trump on behalf of Israel. Perhaps Biden will play good cop on behalf of the U.S. in the Middle East. Of course, regardless of the perception, this too will make a huge change.

In addition to this, no matter the amount of power attributed to it, the claim that institutionalization is not affected by leadership, in other words, from the elected presidency, is not at all true. Considering the tremors caused in U.S. politics by Trump alone, foreseeing the other tremors it can cause in the case of their continuity, clearly shows that the presidency is not without any leverage.

If U.S. presidents want, they can change a great deal – both within the system and in foreign policy. However, most find it more reliable for themselves to immediately submit to a certain establishment and, thus, further strengthen that institutionalism.

It is certain that Biden will follow a path different to Trump’s in the Middle East, but it is impossible to expect him to work against Israeli interests, and all that Trump had lavished on Israel. This is not because he is not brave, but because his emotional, sensible, and political worldview is no different than that of Trump’s.

The anti-Erdoğan statement he made regarding relations with Turkey in an interview with New York Times editors offers only a clue about the mental background of his Turkey policy. However, we are in a position to evaluate how much attention we need to pay to this.

We had discussed it ahead of the elections as well. Ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan via a coup or other non-democratic means and plots is not something the U.S. had never before attempted – with or without Biden. Starting from the call on the National Intelligence Organization undersecretary on Feb. 7, 2012, to testify, the Gezi Park events, Dec. 17-25, the Oct. 6-8 Kobane events, July 15, the support for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)/Democratic Union Party (PYD) terrorism in Syria, and the numerous consecutive economic operations, were all attempts to maliciously oust Erdoğan through non-democratic ways. In fact, the U.S. had a primary role in every one of them.

All of these attempts failed. If it were in the past, even one of these were enough to change the government in Turkey, however, this is all the influence the U.S. now has against a Turkey under Erdoğan’s presidency.

There is adequate experience now to predict Biden’s likely shooting range against Turkey.

Of course U.S. policies have an effect on Turkey; one would be lying by saying it does not. However, since the shooting range of these policies is also obvious now, there is no other option but to evaluate relations within the context of reciprocal benefits. It is inevitable that Biden, with the crown on his head, will eventually understand this and see that maintaining good relations with Turkey, the only democratic country in the region, is the only way forward in terms of U.S. interests.


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