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What will Joe Biden’s priorities be for US foreign policy?

Published: Updated:

Lists of potential names to fill key positions in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration started circulating shortly after US media declared the former vice president victorious over President Donald Trump.

These lists and articles discussing possible appointments will change and continue to be leaked and published, but one thing appears fixed: Biden’s foreign policy priorities.

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Al Arabiya English spoke to think-tank experts, former US officials and current advisers on the president-elect’s Middle East team.

A standard message was that Biden’s view on foreign policy is different from former President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama, with VP Joe Biden at his side (L), delivers a statement from the White House, Nov. 9, 2016. (Reuters)
President Barack Obama, with VP Joe Biden at his side (L), delivers a statement from the White House, Nov. 9, 2016. (Reuters)

“Biden likes foreign policy, and his inclination is to be involved in it. Obama saw foreign policy as a headache, while Biden thinks he’s more of an expert on it than anyone around him,” one think-tank expert said.

The president-elect previously chaired the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was influential in US policy in Iraq and Sudan.

And throughout his 40-plus years on Capitol Hill, including being a two-term VP, Biden was able to cultivate ties with leaders around the world.

His experience has given hope to European leaders that a once-thriving relationship with Washington will be revived.

In an op-ed published in January, Biden blamed “worsening relations with NATO allies under Trump” for making it harder to ask allies “to carry more of the burden in the Middle East.”

A senior adviser to Biden’s foreign policy team told Al Arabiya English that the number-one priority would be to reestablish ties with traditional allies, including NATO members.

Russia, China and Asian relations and trade will also be a top priority, the adviser added.

There will be two added elements that Biden will look to include in a potential new deal with Iran.

“The two additions to a deal will include Iran’s terrorist proxies and its ballistic and precision-guided missiles,” the adviser said, adding that it would be unacceptable to “just go back to the status” under the deal brokered by Obama.

In the Gulf region, Biden is anticipated to take a slightly different stance toward regional powers, but this includes a constructive relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“You cannot just walk away from them,” a separate Biden campaign official said.

“One thing you will see is that this will be very much a Joe Biden policy, and he’s got too strong of a team for it not to be,” the official suggested.

Names floating around to secure positions with Biden’s administration include Bill Burns, Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Wendy Sherman, Chris Murphy, and Chris Coons.

Burns is perhaps the most experienced name, being only the second serving career diplomat to become deputy secretary of state.

A separate piece by Al Arabiya English will look at the names and what positions they could assume.

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