US Mid-term Elections: Middle Eastern Perspective

P 14.11.2018 U Yuriy Zinin

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The results of US mid-term elections have evoked an animated response from Arab media outlets and expert circles. Writers are contemplating the potential effect of the new balance of power (Democrats won the majority in the House of Representatives, while Trump still controls the Senate) on the situation in the Middle East.

The Tunisian newspaper Al Chourouk describes the outcome of the mid-term elections as a slap in Trump’s face. A Kuwaiti scholar thinks that the Trump administration’s honey moon, during which it had a comfortable majority in both chambers of Congress, has come to an end.

The TV channel Al Jazeera reports that the US administration will now be facing pressure from the Democrats to halt US arms exports to Saudi Arabia, as a means of stopping the war in Yemen.

The Democrats will, probably, support a reduction in the military budget, which includes decreased financial backing of US involvement in Iraq and Syria.

There is speculation that this will urge Trump to publicize his plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means. The President has talked about this extensively, but he is yet to reveal any concrete details to the parties concerned. However, the negotiations on this issue may turn into a challenge for the Israeli side, which is not ready for significant compromises.

Other authors are not as categorical in their assessments. Nevertheless, they do forecast that from now on Trump’s political life in the White House will become more complicated. Trump’s opponents will throw a monkey-wrench into attempts to implement his decisions and initiatives.

According to Saudi Arabian reports, over the next two years the US administration will certainly be less engaged in international affairs, such as the situation in North Korea, the war in Afghanistan and sanctions against Iran.

Middle Eastern experts believe that the Democrats will surely focus on investigating all aspects of Trump’s life and his past. They will most likely start prying into affairs of the administration’s closest allies; establish various hearing committees, etc. In fact, House of Representative committees wield substantial power.

The Democrats will thereby focus on seeking compromising information that could damage the US President’s political standing. Still, the House of Representatives does not have the authority to persecute anyone. This is the responsibility of the Attorney General working for the President.

Hence, a number of analysts think that the Head of the White House possesses his own mighty reserves and powers in the ongoing tug-of-war. He has managed to avoid the political upheaval that the Democrats wanted to orchestrate. This experience will prompt them to act cautiously in the next two years, relying on their partial win, in order to avoid getting involved in a difficult and risky confrontation with the White House.

This confrontation is not in their interests, because as soon as the House of Representatives begins tying Trump’s hands, he can resort to executive orders in response. Such political battles are fraught with unexpected twists and turns, which could affect the situation in the Middle Eastern region.

Currently reminders about the large-scale democratic victory in the 2006 mid-term elections in the House of Representatives and the Senate, which prompted Bush’s Republican administration to increase the US war efforts in Iraq, abound.

There was a tangible reaction among the Middle Eastern regional media outlets towards the election to Congress of two Muslim women, of Somalian and Palestinian descent, for the first time in history. Many journalists interpret this development as a sign of the growing opposition to Trump’s policy course, with women, the younger generation and representatives of ethnic minorities determining the nature of the stand-off.

Having described the election results as positive, the newspaper Ar-Rai Al-Youm, published in London, urges Arabs to be weary. The newspaper reports that those in the Arabian Gulf who want Trump’s protection have begun feeling more confident in their positions. The publication includes a warning that the idea of establishing the Arab NATO is still on the table, which means inflaming a war against Iran, to be fueled by both Arabs and Iranians, is not out of the question either.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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