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The President, the Vaccine, and the Heated Weeks

The President, the Vaccine, and the Heated Weeks

Monday, 19 October, 2020 - 07:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

There is no exaggeration in saying that “heated weeks” are ahead. The US election does not concern the Americans alone. The man, who will achieve victory in the polls, will be considered the policeman of the “global village,” even if he refuses both the description and the role.


The date of the US election is more important than all other dates. It’s more important than political events in other parts of the world, and more significant than all sports and artistic competitions that steal people’s attention in various continents.


These are “heated weeks” because the wait is difficult for the leaders of large and small countries alike. Vladimir Putin cannot ignore this date. The name of the US president affects his country, its image, its military spending, and its position in the world.


President Xi Jinping cannot forget that Donald Trump refers to Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” The latter also asserts that China will have to pay the price for what it has done. The master of Beijing cannot deny that Trump has imposed new rhetoric in addressing his country.


He also forced China to make some commercial concessions in order to avoid an open round of punches. Trump’s stay in the White House would present Mao’s party with very difficult choices.


These are tense weeks in Europe as well. Covid-19 has re-launched its attacks on the Old Continent. It has killed more people, exhausted the health system, and shaken Europeans’ confidence in their countries and institutions.


The pandemic has compounded the pain of a continent already suffering from British betrayal, Turkish blackmail, and open fires on or near the Mediterranean.


The Continent is mired in confusion. Europe is afraid of the US president especially when he acts like a soloist, disrupting the Western orchestra with his individualistic and selfish attitude. It is also afraid of becoming hostage to Russian gas or the sanctions imposed by the Tsar against his opponents, the last of whom is Alexei Navalny.


These are also “heated weeks” in the Middle East. It is no exaggeration to say that Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei is counting the hours until the election. He cannot forget that Trump has exhausted the Iranian economy, forcing the regime to practice brutal repression against the citizens, who were fed up with the deterioration of their living conditions, their national currency, and the weakening of the country’s role.


Khamenei cannot forgive Trump for making the decision to remove General Qassem Soleimani from the equation. This move was bolder than the decision to kill Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also does not forget that his country has not yet dared to undertake a response equivalent to the scale of the assassination, despite its pledge to do so.


Turkey is also concerned with the anxious wait. The policy of blackmailing Europe with the waves of refugees, interfering through mercenaries, and penetrating maps without permission has raised Europe’s fear about the “recklessness” of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior and increased the conviction that he should be punished. Thus, Ankara is waiting for the results of the US elections to know the extent of the damage to its relations with Washington after it has introduced Russian missiles into the Atlantic house.


Israel is waiting, too. It fears that the new master of the White House would be hostile to the Jewish state or be prepared to curb or limit its policies. Israel wants more than that. It wants to deal with the region’s events and its future with the same vocabulary.


Riyadh is also concerned with the US election. The Trump administration’s strict policy towards the widespread Iranian attack in the region deprived Tehran of resources that it could use to expand the attack. The Trump administration understood Iran’s attempts to besiege Saudi Arabia, especially through the Yemeni side, and the role it has assigned to the Houthi militias there.


Saudi Arabia has an interest in maintaining strong relations with the US administration, regardless of the president’s name. On the other hand, America has a real interest in establishing a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia as a country with economic weight and political influence, especially in the Arab and Islamic worlds.


Cairo is concerned with the results as well. It does not want to see in Washington an approach similar to that of Barak Obama and his reading of changes in the region.


The tension of the “heated weeks” is mounting in countries that have turned into open arenas for exchanging messages, especially with America. In Beirut, many believe that the new Lebanese government will not be born before the US election, despite the speculations that rose after the launch of technical negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel.


In Syria, many believe that Damascus’ exit from its international isolation depends on the results of the US election, especially if the confrontation with Tehran is reduced.


The “heated weeks” are evident in Iraq. Non-state forces do not allow Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to catch his breath. Missiles targeting the Americans or the Green Zone… Bombs and threats... The re-awakening of Shiite-Sunni sensitivities, particularly through the massacre in the district of Balad in Saladin Governorate. All this comes in parallel with tension in the relationship with the Kurdish component.


The US election, which is scheduled to take place in the first week of November, also comes as the whole world painfully waits for a vaccine for Covid-19. Many believe that the date is approaching based on recent remarks by Trump and Putin. The pandemic has shaken maps and swallowed up budgets, triggering waves of funerals and unemployment. It also shook institutions, convictions, habits, education, medicine, and investment.


The world is longing for joyful news announcing the arrival of a vaccine. But the American “heated weeks” are another story.


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