Victory for Joe Biden is likely to bring three big policy shifts in the region, opening new possibilities and challenges for Europeans. Many European governments hope that with Joe Biden as president the United States would re-embrace the transatlantic relationship in pursuit of common interests. But what would such a shift mean for US policy in the Middle East and North Africa and associated European interests? This is a region where a potential Biden administration is expected to both refocus US policy on issues such as Iran and push for respect of normative values across the region. But he is also likely to want to lower the level of US engagement. These positions will create openings and challenges for Europeans. ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa programme experts look at the most likely possibilities ahead if Biden is wins the US elections.
If the nuclear deal can be preserved until Biden’s inauguration, then the Iran file presents a natural area for renewed transatlantic cooperation. Biden has made clear he intends to re-enter the JCPOA (if Iran also comes back into full compliance) and to pursue diplomacy with Tehran on wider issues. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany (the E3) are likely to support this approach after spending the Trump years seeking to preserve the nuclear agreement and pushing for damage control in the Middle East.
But Europeans face major hurdles in this effort, knowing that politics in Washington and Tehran is likely to severely complicate progress. The Republican party, together with US allies in the Middle East such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, are likely to oppose the US re-entering the JCPOA. It is also unclear whether Biden will be willing to lift sanctions that are unrelated to nuclear matters and that the Trump administration introduced deliberately in order to it hard to return to the agreement.