Last week, the US intelligence community disclosed that Russia is hoping US President Donald Trump will prevail over former Vice President Joe Biden in the coming general election, while both China and Iran desire the opposite outcome, with Beijing officials describing the incumbent as “unpredictable.”
But as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) observes, “They’re not equivalent,” given Russian government officials are doing far more than just crossing their fingers for a Trump re-election victory. Instead, they’re “using a range of measures” to “undermine” Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, and are “actively engaged in efforts that are reminiscent of the Kremlin’s attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election,” according to statement made by a top US intelligence official.
Moscow is interfering in the election because Trump has advanced its strategic interests.
In short, Moscow is interfering in the election because Trump has advanced its strategic interests, specifically in the way he has weakened traditional alliances, particularly in Europe, while sowing chaos and division within the US.
From the vantage point of the Kremlin, a Biden presidency will reverse all that Russia has achieved during the past four years, including putting an end to the payment of bounties to the Taliban in exchange for dead American soldiers.
Conspicuously absent in the discussion regarding foreign interference and the respective motives of the actors involved, however, are US Arab Gulf partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is remarkable given both are set to lose more status and influence in Washington DC than anyone else under a Biden presidency.
Significant also is the fact it’s alleged both Saudi Arabia and the UAE violated US campaign finance laws by illegally and covertly funnelling millions of dollars to the Trump 2016 campaign.
“The UAE is emblematic of the foreign influence industry as a whole but they are also exceptionally good at it.”
“The UAE is emblematic of the foreign influence industry as a whole but they are also exceptionally good at it,” Ben Freeman, the Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the nonpartisan Center for International Policy, told The New York Times. “And this is an example of just how far they are willing to go to get the job done: the leader of an alleged US ally who directly violated US campaign finance laws to funnel money to our politicians — that is crazy to me.”
Saudi Arabia’s oversized influence among US lawmakers and policy elites has been well documented, particularly its funding of DC-based think tanks and what is an army of paid lobbyists. But the monarchy’s uncomfortably close relationship with Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner has effectively granted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) veto power on US foreign policy decisions.
After it was determined MbS ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump administration not only refused to condemn or sanction him but also let Kushner hold informal talks with the defacto Saudi ruler, advising him on how to best handle the public relations backlash against him.
The Trump administration’s shameful and shameless participation in the cover up of the killing of Khashoggi has typified the way in which it has granted both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi cover to pursue their strategic interests in the Middle East unfettered, even when their respective policies and actions contradict or run counter to the strategic and national interests of the United States.
When Riyadh and Abu Dhabi wanted weapons, the Trump administration showered them with record breaking arms deals.
When Riyadh and Abu Dhabi wanted weapons, the Trump administration showered them with record breaking arms deals. When they demanded a rescinding of the Iran denuclearization deal, the Trump administration damaged the reputation of the US by walking away from its signed commitments to the six-party agreement, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. When the US congress passed a bipartisan bill, a rare occurrence in Washington, to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, Trump vetoed it.
Seemingly, the only condition Trump has placed on his respective relationships with Saudi Arabia and the UAE is that they both provide Israel tacit and sometimes implicit approval to do whatever it wishes in the Palestinian Territories.
Biden, and the ever-growing anti-Saudi faction within the Democratic Party, are assuring an almost 180-degree turnabout on US-Arab Gulf relations, including an end to US military involvement in Yemen, a mutual return to the Iran Deal, and recommitment to democracy and human rights, both of which serve as an anathema to Arab rulers still traumatized by the Arab Spring protests.
A draft of the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform promises to support political and economic “modernization” efforts in the region, but states “no interest in continuing the blank check era of the Trump Administration, or indulging authoritarian impulses, internal rivalries, catastrophic proxy wars, or efforts to roll back political openings across the region.”
If Bernie Sanders represents the spirit and sensibility of younger and more progressive voters and Democratic lawmakers, then Arab Gulf rulers have even more to worry about, given he has described Saudi rulers as “murderous thugs.”
Further worrying are polls that show an overwhelming majority of Americans hold an unfavourable view towards the Saudi government, with only 22 percent viewing the Kingdom as an ally. These are the political winds that will blow the sails of a Biden presidency and Democratic majorities in either the Congress, Senate, or both.
A Biden and landslide Democratic victory will be read by both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as nothing short of an existential threat.
As such, a Biden and landslide Democratic victory will be read by both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as nothing short of an existential threat, and thus each government is likely to employ any measure within their means to influence the outcome of the election.
Case in point: The UAE announcing on August 13 that it had agreed to “normalize” relations between it and Israel in return for Israel suspending its plan to annex the West Bank, a craven publicity stunt meant only to create an illusion Trump had attained a “historic” foreign policy victory, while providing Emirati rulers diplomatic cover, or rather insurance, in the event of a Israel-friendly Biden administration.
With Trump’s election campaign turning down the final stretch, and with the incumbent trailing by almost double-digit points in the polls, these measures are likely to be increasingly more desperate than they are now and were in 2016, when Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE interfered in the election to help Trump.