Biden’s warmth towards the EU, even to the point of warning the UK against a hard Brexit may end up short-lived as their approaches to the Middle East are sure to clash.
The Biden Factor has already started to take hold in the Middle East. Change is certainly expected to sweep across this region after four years of Trump’s incoherent policies and flip flops. And one issue will have far reaching affects, right across the Middle East and North Africa region, extending as far as Morocco: human rights.
Basing Biden’s interaction with these countries marks him out as a conservative in every sense of the word, which swiftly dispatches the myth that the new Democratic president is left wing.
But going back to the days when human rights were important and countries were singled out by Washington as pariah states which should not be recipients of aid-n-trade, comes with a price, once the party is over and someone has to clean up in the morning.
Until a few days ago, before US sanctions were announced against Turkey, it all looked rosy. Turkey had taken the lead in getting off to a good start with Biden from day one.
Not to be outdone, Turkey’s regional foe, Saudi Arabia is trying to claim via the press that its long running dispute with Ankara is over, as a theme of ‘sticking together’ seems to permeate from the fog of the region’s geopolitics.
Saudi Arabia, will be anxious not to be singled out as the enfant terrible of the entire region, when Antony Blinken gets his feet under the table.
As a new dad myself, I'm revolted by the idea of being inspired by @ABlinken, who pushed to transfer more weapons to Saudi Arabia to kill thousands of innocent children in Yemen. https://t.co/obpJpnfd6z https://t.co/uJ8TIAtBU1 pic.twitter.com/naincklTfp— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) November 23, 2020
Once the envy of the entire Arab world as being the doyen of modernity and human rights reform when the European Union gave it a special status in 2007, Morocco has since become a ‘Midnight Express’ of North Africa whose elite appear to have lost control and lost the plot completely when it comes to human rights.
Today, Morocco is in the crosshairs of human rights agencies for locking up journalists either on trumped up charges or for merely ‘liking’ a post on social media. The four years of Trump’s term in office didn’t help.
The United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan all got big payoffs from the US government for normalizing relations with Israel. If the Saudi crown prince is bargaining for "some leniency" about his abysmal human rights record, the answer should be no. https://t.co/KYCF2jHMNY pic.twitter.com/rEGIkHXHC9— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) December 16, 2020
But there’s a catch.
What Biden’s administration doesn’t know and what is hardly known even within close circles of seasoned journalists is that the EU’s reprehensible objectives in the region are on a collision course with this rather quaint US doctrine.
France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel both see eye-to-eye with Biden on a number of human rights records in the region - and this can be extended, to some extent, to Saudi Arabia and the EU’s wish that the war in Yemen was ended. But at this point, the EU’s longer term agenda right across the region crashes head on with Washington’s.
It may be hard to imagine for many to grasp, but the EU is in its worst ever crisis and has, since its last elections in 2019, vowed to embolden itself with a beefed up foreign policy (perhaps with its own army), bigger budget and a broader outlook generally. In short, it sees its own crisis due to being a super power in name only and needs to think big.
One of the main reasons why the EU dishes out billions of cash aid to countries in Africa and the Middle East is for the sole purposes of buying instant, off-the-shelf fake hegemony.
For years, even its own supporters have been left aghast as to how it preaches human rights around the world, but then supports dictators and despots in Africa with financial aid - while swelling the numbers of immigrants heading towards Libya. Or in cases like Mali, feeds terrorism by pushing the very poor towards ISIS (Daesh) affiliates.
Rescue in the Mediterranean Sea. A migrant prays on the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship Topaz Responder after being rescued around 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya, June 23, 2016. (Photo by Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters) pic.twitter.com/0k83WDymjH— SIBOMANA Jean Bosco (@sibomanaxyz987) December 22, 2020
With North African countries, its agenda is equally nefarious and at odds with what Biden will champion. In these countries it wants more bang for its buck. It is no longer enough just to merely plaster all over the country the huge signs with an EU emblem on them hailing the latest highway being built by Brussels.
Or for the tacit approval that the EU’s hegemony in the region is never to be questioned. Now, the EU is seeking a stronger and more incestuous relationship with these states as it is taking to the next level how it keeps their regimes in power and sustains their human rights records.
Recently, it was revealed by a journalist with the London-based Qatar-friendly news website Middle East Eye, that the EU has actually been conducting training courses for the regimes of both Morocco and Algeria in how to improve their current disinformation campaigns to stay in power.
The investigation lifted the lid on how the EU helps security forces in Algeria and Morocco create fake news through using social media accounts which will give those regimes the edge when it comes to dealing with trumpeting the ‘alternative version’ of their own scandals which make the headlines.
In short, the EU is pushing fake news in a big way in these countries to support the present regimes or elites. We can assume, of course, that the same training program is being carried out in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia or Libya for the singular purpose of buying more support from those governments and unsigned deals on immigration flows.
The EU and the US have very different ideas on state building it would seem.
Consequently, It’s hard to imagine Biden’s people allowing this to continue and at some point, it is likely that the honeymoon that Biden’s administration will have with the EU, will fade in the second half of his term when Washington wakes up and smells the coffee.
The real problem with human rights in the Middle East and MENA region is traced back to a panicky EU which is worrying more and more that it will lose its relevance with its voters post-Brexit.
When this collision of these old allies happens two key questions will present themselves. What happens to these Arab countries which are being pulled in both directions? And will the Biden administration assist the EU in its crisis or let it implode?
Martin Jay is an award-winning British journalist based in Beirut who has worked for a number of international media titles including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera as well as reporting on a freelance basis for the UK’s Daily Mail, The Sunday Times plus TRT World.
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