What does Biden’s presidency mean for West Asia and North Africa?

During the Trump Administration and before, the Near East has been dismissed and degraded for its politics and conflicts. Will the Biden Administration change this?

The Middle East, also known as West Asia, is comprised of countries such as Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. While it is usually referred to as the Middle East, it is actually a term invented by American historian and lecturer Alfred Thayer Mahan. 

This region is known for its beautiful attractions, scenery, culture, lifestyle, architecture, food and much more. It has, however, been portrayed as something far less than this. Too often the images we are shown are of a war zone, it is painted as a region that people should avoid. And even worse, because of this, some believe that we should not let people from these countries into the United States or Europe. 

During the Trump Administration and long before, the media has portrayed countries from this region as terrorized and threatened by conflict and violence, this portrayal is what excused U.S. interference in the region for all these years. For those of us in our 20s, seeing the United States in multiple countries in Asia and North Africa is something we have grown up with, and with minimum recognition from the actual situation of the countries. The amount of bombings committed by the United States and other western powers in this region resulting in the deaths of thousands have resulted in a lack of responses, and some people see these deaths as “casual” due to their placement in war zones. 

These countries are sometimes portrayed as a lost cause because of the amount of conflict that is occuring or the amount of places destroyed. With these wars, and the Iraq war especially, the United States is painted as a hero. With Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates being some of the top oil producers from the region, the region itself has been portrayed as a source of oil for the world. 

From the 2017 ban on Muslim majority countries entering into the United States to the countless bombs dropped in Syria in an attempt to drive out the Islamic State resulting in the loss of 10,204 civilians in 2017, West Asia is seen as an unprogressed place in the eyes of many. 

In 2017, the U.S. dropped 32,801 bombs across Iraq and Syria during their fight against ISIS, in 2016 that number was 30,743. 

Now in 2021, with the civil war in Syria waging on, malnutrition an ever present problem for children in Yemen, Israel still committing human rights violations against Palestinians and more refugees fleeing from countries, the question becomes: what is President Biden’s plans to change this or at least begin to solve the problems the United States created in the past? 

In his first two weeks in office, President Biden announced an end to U.S. support of Saudi-led operations in Yemen, pausing Trump’s foreign weapon sales in the region, according to Natasha Bertrand and Lara Seligman on Politico in their article “Biden deprioritizes the Middle East.”

With Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations against Yemen and thousands of civilians killed, these countries must be prioritized when it comes to the United States’ involvement, because there is a lot of neglect occurring towards these issues. 

The United States gives Israel 3 billion dollars annually, despite the Israel Defense Forces human rights violations against Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian homes. The Biden Administration announced that they will restore U.S. relations with Palestinians and renew aid to Palestinian refugees. 

“The acting US envoy to the UN, Richard Mills, told the Security Council that Mr Biden supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said BBC News on their article “Biden administration to restore aid to Palestinians.”

Despite the United States’ strong relations with Israel, I am hoping that during his term President Biden will encourage human rights practices that align with the United Nations to increase aid to Palestnians and restore what Israel destroyed in Palestine, giving back the rights to Palestinians that were violated by the Israel Defense Forces.

There is still so much to be done in the beautiful countries of West Asia. In the cities Aleppo, Homs and Raqqah in Syria, I am hoping to see them become rebuilt in the near future so civilians who became refugees as a result of the conflict can one day return to their homes in which they had to flee. 

Yemen should be prioritized more and any threats towards it should be worked on, especially with sending aid to the innocent civilians there. Abusive governments in West Asia must be put to a stop as soon as possible, because this will impact President Biden’s relations with the countries moving forward in the coming years.

I hope the beauty of Syria from Aleppo to Raqqah will be restored. I hope that Palestinians are able to freely pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque without harassment from the IDF. I hope that Yemen’s children will be taken care of so they can enjoy a happy trauma free childhood. I hope that whoever wants to visit our countries in this beautiful region will be able to do so and truly indulge themselves in the culture, food, artwork, architecture and experience the hospitality of the people.