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Five Key Questions on Biden's Middle East Policy


Examining key issues for the new US administration such as the Iran nuclear deal, Iraq crisis, chaos in Libya and Syria, and Israeli-Palestinian relations.

1. How is a Biden victory perceived across both sides of the Gulf?

Dr Sanam Vakil

Iran is well-placed to benefit from Joe Biden’s victory as his stated objective is to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – known as the Iran nuclear deal – based on mutual compliance whereby sanctions would be lifted provided Tehran reverses its nuclear breaches.

This process is harder than it looks considering Biden’s constraints in Congress so, to get there, the Biden team should declare its intent to return to the JCPOA and establish a phased confidence-building process of sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran’s compliance.

To create a more sustainable deal this time, the Biden team would need a second process addressing nuclear timelines and regional issues – this step will require Iranian buy-in as well as collaboration between the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), Israel, and the US Congress.

With such an ambitious agenda, Biden’s election is less welcome across the GCC states which are concerned he may emulate Barack Obama’s regional policies that left them out of JCPOA discussions and resulted in Iran's empowerment at the expense of their own security concerns.

Efforts will also certainly be made to resolve the Yemen war, but Biden will also publicly elevate human rights – a move unwelcome across the GCC – but as the Biden team has suggested they intend to be more collaborative on regional issues, the GCC may have an opportunity to engage productively.

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