World leaders closely watch the US presidential election, because soon the world will know who will become the new leader of America. Middle Easterners sometimes claim that they deserve to vote in America. After all, for decades, American presidents have waged wars, sanctions, and other activities in the region. The current US President Donald Trump was also no exception in this matter. Donald Trump’s first term was marked by a conflict with Iran, which led to assassinations, acts of sabotage, and an economic blockade, magazine The Economist writes.
With the upcoming elections in America, this conflict took a difficult pause. The whole region seems to be waiting. From the prospect of nuclear talks to the formation of a new Lebanese government, Iran and its allies have postponed major decisions until the Americans have made their choice.
However, the US presidential election may have less impact on the Middle East than the region’s leaders expect.
Trump took office promising to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and other states, easing economic sanctions in exchange for limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
However, Trump did not formally withdraw from this agreement until 2018, and his presidency was already nearing completion before the reinstated economic sanctions came into effect. That is why, instead of negotiating a new agreement, Iranian leaders decided to wait. They did not discuss much, because Trump could not clearly explain his demands. And the contradictory foreign policy of the Republican President of the United States only acted in favor of the Iranian regime, where anti-American sentiments began to dominate.
Nonetheless, Iran tried to avoid open confrontation with America by relying on proxies. Iraqi militias who attacked the US embassy in Baghdad have made no secret of their ties to Iran. But lately, even their freedom has been limited. After US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close the embassy, the militias agreed to a ceasefire. The truce will last until the elections, possibly even until the end of the year.
Three months after the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, Lebanese politics became “paralyzed.” The prime minister resigned after the explosion. In September, the president asked diplomat Mustafa Adibe to form a new government. His efforts fell short after America imposed sanctions on Shiite militias and Iran-backed Hezbollah, a political party. Some Lebanese politicians are nervous about the growing influence of Hezbollah. Lebanon desperately needs a new government to revive a painful economy, but its formation seems unlikely until after America’s elections.
All this gives the impression that Trump controls Iran: the country is under the influence of sanctions, Iranian allies are nervous about a potential “similar fate.”
President Trump also has ardent supporters in the Middle East who expect another four years of “maximum pressure” to completely rebuild the region – and fear that Democrat Joe Biden, if elected, will reverse this “progress.”
However, they may be disappointed. Whoever wins the US presidential election, Iran is likely to be forced to negotiate a new nuclear deal. But, most likely, none of the candidates will win many concessions on nuclear issues.
Supporting militant groups is not a trade coin for Iran: it is an ideological imperative and the core of its security doctrine. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is 81 years old and strives to ensure that his tough policies continue to reign in the country. The same goal has the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has increasingly dominated Iranian politics.
Whoever becomes the new president of the United States may not have much influence on the situation in the region. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi would like to “curb the militias.” But he fears that too harsh actions in the region could lead to bloodshed. Pressure from Washington may not change anything. And as Lebanon sinks deeper into crisis and instability, Hezbollah will only strengthen its position, filling the void. America still has great influence in the Middle East, but the region also has its own politics, the magazine concludes.