Ten years since the Arab uprising, widespread public grievances in the Middle East regarding the lack of political representation and Trump’s legacy of picking favourites amongst autocrats, President Joe Biden is looking to reshape US policy towards the Middle East. Despite the new administration’s positive messaging on promoting human rights and democracy, and moving away from Trump’s highly personalised relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel, the new policy on the Middle East is unlikely to have much to offer. Over the past decades, the US promotion of democracy has been tempered by its desire to keep the region stable and US-friendly.
Overarching concerns with preserving the unhindered flow of oil and keeping anti-US forces out of power continue to frame Washington’s thinking. Pursuing this agenda has become even more urgent, and at the same time complicated, with the growing assertiveness of regional players as well as Russia and China, which took advantage of Trump’s signals to extricate the United States from the region. This seminar will explore key pressure points and how they may affect Biden’s Middle East policy.
Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh (PhD) is the Convenor of Middle East Studies Forum and Deputy Director (International) of the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI) at Deakin University. He held the prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship on the Role of Islam in Iran’s Foreign Policymaking (2013-2016), and has published extensively on the Middle East. His latest publication includes the Routledge Handbook of International Relations in the Middle East (2020). T: @S_Akbarzadeh