The U.S. Presidential Election and its Impact on the Kurds and the Region
The outcome of the upcoming U.S. presidential election is far from certain. Polling for this election has shown no consistency and seems to depend more on the political bias of the pollsters than on an honest attempt to discern the true feelings and atmosphere of the electorate. The polls are mixed, so it is difficult to say for sure who will win. Looking at the overall national trends it would appear that Trump is going to be reelected, but trends can change overnight. There are many reasons to anticipate a Trump reelection, the greatest reason looks to come from private polls in battleground states that show the top concerns are the economy and law and order. Frequent messages that Donald Trump hammers home on the campaign trail.
The Biden campaign continues to lean toward healthcare and the perceived incompetence of the Trump administration. He also leans heavily on the assumption that the nation is consumed by issues of racial injustice. There is also the issue of undecided voters caught between a dislike for Trump and a distrust of Biden and his policies. The economic issue resonates as the number one issue that people state will drive their vote. The left has attempted to blame Trump for all problems based on his perceived lack of leadership in fighting COVID-19. Many Americans accept the fact that this is a pandemic that hit the world with speed and lethality. On the other hand, they also know that prior to the pandemic, Trump had advanced the economy and working conditions across the board. White, Black, and Hispanic Americans were shown to have the lowest unemployment in history as well as growth in Black and Hispanic business.
Biden has locked himself into the position that healthcare is a major concern for most Americans. A recent Pew Research poll showed that while 68% of the respondents showed healthcare to be a major factor in their voting decision, 79% indicated the economy. Another indicator of Biden missing the tempo of the country is that in the same report, which came out in August, racial issues and immigration came at the lower end.
In regards to foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular, the question comes to how the two candidates will impact policy. With a Trump victory, there will likely be little change. Trump has made no secret of the fact that U.S. domestic policy is his number one issue. He feels that regional issues are best left to regional players. Trump recently made headlines by brokering historic treaties between Israel and several Arab nations. Biden on the other hand has talked a great deal about wanting peace yet is heavily tied to the Iran nuclear agreement where Iranian sanctions were lifted, and billions of dollars were released to Iran. This money has been used not to benefit the Iranian people but to increase Iranian hegemony. Biden is invested in reestablishing the Iran deal and lifting sanctions that have been in place since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the flawed agreement.
Recently, the UN, over the objections of the U.S., lifted restraints on Iran selling military hardware. A rearmed and strengthened Iran is a danger to the Kurds in the entire region. The Obama administration was no friend of an independent Kurdistan and those people that were in the Obama administration will likely return in a Biden administration
As we have said we do not see a major change in administration policy for the region, there are however developments that could force a change. One of the biggest problems the next administration will face is the increased belligerency of Turkey, not only in Syria and the Iraqi Kurdish region but also in the Mediterranean and with Greece. Should Turkey keep this up, actions that have drawn the attention of the UK and France, the U.S. will be forced to engage. Additionally, should Iran increase its activities, a Trump administration will need to show some resolve. This again is only a Trump administration; Biden will likely do nothing to halt Iranian aggression.
American policy will continue to support Baghdad. American policy remains locked in the belief of a “One Iraq.” This has been true since the Bush administration and will continue through any American administration. While many in the U.S. Congress give lip service to the concept of an independent Kurdistan it is unlikely that support will rise to the point that policy will change. Trump’s support to Turkey’s Erdogan is well established, however many in Congress and in both the State and Defense Departments are counseling a different approach including Mike Pompeo.
The biggest impact this election will have will be in the United States. While it is true that all elections impact the country in which they are held, the difference in the two candidates and their respective parties as well as the increasing division within the U.S. will likely cause a seismic shift regardless of the outcome. The American media has made much about their claim that Trump will not accept the outcome if he loses, something that has never come from Trump, but considering the way the election is being conducted it is doubtful that Biden and his team will readily concede.
From an international perspective, should the election not be decided at the ballot box it will have a severe impact on the world economy. Wall Street and other major markets abhor uncertainty, and this will be reflected in any problem with the election. This will not be the same as the 2000 Bush-Gore election toss-up since at this time both sides have staked a claim of voter fraud against the other. There is also a very good possibility that there will be a repeat of 2016 where Trump will win the electoral college but lose the popular vote. This will allow Turkey, Iran, and Russia an opportunity to take advantage of a perceived power vacuum and move to consolidate power in what they consider their spheres of influence.
We must anticipate a longer than usual period before results are released. Trump is trending toward re-election, but the race at this point is tied. A Trump victory will result in a status quo while a Biden victory will result in a return to a weakened U.S. position in the world.