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October 31, 2016
With a little over a week until the United States picks its next president, regional observers and editorials continue to worry over what has been an unpredictable and unconventional election season. Most of this is due to the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, a property mogul known for his partisan tirades. But Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, has her share of detractors in the region. Despite Clinton’s leading in the polls, few observers in the Middle Eastern media seem to consider the election outcome a foregone conclusion, which explains why so many op-eds and editorials continue to contrast the two candidates in an effort to identify who would be a better partner for a given country.
The story of the apparent reopening of an FBI probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server is still developing, but some have already expressed their views on the timing. The Khaleej Times editorial staff called the FBI director “reckless,” declaring the episode a reflection of a campaign season unprecedented in its vitriol: “Will the FBI's bombshell effectively damage Clinton's chances in an election in which she has staked everything? Has the FBI been premature in the disclosure and timing of the new information?...the revelation might alter the course of the election.... Ideally the FBI should have continued with its time-tested history of exercising extreme caution in the run up to elections so as not to influence the results. But in a season marked by recklessness, it appears that everyone — including the FBI — has thrown caution to the wind.”
Jerusalem Post’s Susan Rolef wonders whether the worrying state of the U.S. presidential election is an isolated case or a wider phenomenon that is slowly spreading through Western democracies: “With just over a week to go until election day in the U.S. one cannot help wondering whether the wacky process that is leading up to these elections is merely a reflection of a festering malady in the American political system, or whether it reflects — in an extreme manner — a general phenomenon that has afflicted Western democracies in what was expected to be a new golden age of democracy in the post-Cold War era....The political establishments in many Western democracies seem to be at [their] wits end when it comes to offering real solutions to the security, economic and social problems of our day and age, rather than just taking care of their own interests....With the experience of the past few months, I wonder if, were a restart of the whole election process in the U.S. possible to before the primaries, the results would be any different. Probably not.”
Given the increased uncertainty of the race in the context of the FBI probe, many observers have begun reassessing what the election of either presidential candidate would mean for their country. For example, Al-Masry Al-Youm, a columnist for the Egypt Independent daily, says: “The prospect of a Clinton presidency raises questions about the future of Egyptian-American relations, especially with the Middle East region witnessing tensions and conflicts in which regional and international powers interfere. With Clinton in the White House, will there be a significant improvement in U.S.-Egyptian relations or just more tension? There are a great many factors to consider, including human rights, the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process, and the fate of U.S. military aid to Cairo....Relations between Cairo and Washington have been rocky since the January 25 revolution, reflecting the changes in Egypt's political fortunes, and whoever becomes the next U.S. president will have to pick up the pieces.”
Hurriyet Daily News’s Yusuf Kanli, on the other hand, examines the question from Turkey’s point of view, suggesting that a Trump presidency might be received more favorably in Ankara: “Turkey would very much like to see Trump as president, purely for opportunistic reasons. Very much like the case [of] Russia, it is a fact that there is a very high rate of compatibility, bordering indeed on histocompatibility, between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and leaders who have an ‘I did it my way’ style....One problem, perhaps the most important one, will continue to be the issue of freedom of expression, press freedom, independence of the judiciary and issues pertaining to the unfortunate situation of the separation of powers in Turkey....Under Trump’s presidency, these issues would perhaps pose less of a problem between the two countries because of the atypical political platform the Republican candidate holds....Foreign policy disorientation or confrontation between Turkey and the U.S. in a potential Hillary presidency, unfortunately, might extend to an unprecedented existential crisis.”
Rasheed Abou-Alsamh offered a view from Iraq in a recent op-ed for Arab News, arguing that, regardless of the outcome of the election, the United States must remain committed to stabilizing Iraq: “Without the protection of the Americans, northern Sunnis allowed Daesh to settle there as a form of protection against the central government in Baghdad and the Shiite militias. Little did they know they were accepting a pact with the devil. Now it is not a question of whether Baghdad will regain control of Mosul, but when. The biggest challenge will come later and will be how the central government will manage to keep the peace in Mosul and not allow it to fall back into the clutches of Daesh. For this to work, Americans and their allies must leave military advisers in Iraq to assist the Iraqi government and to train local forces. Without this essential and ongoing help, Iraq will see Daesh arise again, and sectarian tensions and violence will continue to scar the country.”
Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at email@example.com.