Millions of US citizens turn out on Tuesday to polling stations to vote for the 45th president of the US. The elections will conclude a bitter battle, full of vitriol and hostility, between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The months-long debates that were loaded with scandals and mutual accusations have come to an end, with global stocks in a fright and bankers’ eyes wide open as they described Trump’s winning as “catastrophic” to the world’s economy.
Both candidates have demonstrated clear stances towards the turmoil in the Middle East, amid speculations that Clinton’s policies will not be different from Obama, and a lack of prediction of what Trump is planning to do.
The candidates meeting Al-Sisi: what it says about their stances on Egypt’s president
In September, both candidates met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during his participation in the UN general assembly in New York. During Trump’s meeting with Al-Sisi, they both agreed on the importance of combating terrorism in the region. Following the meeting, Al-Sisi said that Trump would definitely make a strong leader. Similarly, Trump described Al-Sisi as a “fantastic guy”. Al-Sisi was the only Arab, or Muslim, leader Trump met with while he was campaigning.
On the other hand, in Al-Sisi’s meeting with Clinton, the latter touched upon the deterioration of the human rights situation in Egypt. She brought up the case of Aya Hegazy, an Egyptian-American citizen who has been detained for over two years after she established an organisation called “Beladi” as a rehabilitation programme for street children. Egyptian security forces raided the headquarters of the organisation and arrested Hegazi, along with her husband and other volunteers. Hegazi is facing charges of child trafficking among others.
Political analyst Saeed Sadek told Daily News Egypt that the possibility of Trump winning the elections is weak; however, Egypt’s interest will be in Trump’s winning the elections.
Sadek said that Trump is against the Muslim Brotherhood and there was a bill in Egypt that Obama rejected that sought to label the Brotherhood as a terrorist group. He further added that Trump has no strong knowledge of foreign policy, so he will be consulting experts and the possibility of interventions in the Middle East is low.
On the other hand, Clinton’s policy will be similar to Obama’s; however, she will attempt to be more active than Obama was. Sadek assumed that she may pressure Egypt to bring back the Brotherhood.
The Islamic State and how the candidates are planning to deal with it
Islamic State (IS) issued a statement on Monday, calling on its supporters to kill the Americans who vote in the presidential elections. The statement, titled “The Murtadd (Apostate) vote”, read: “We have come to slaughter you and smash your ballot boxes”.
The two candidates had their say on how they are planning to fight IS. According to Trump, IS is a group of “thugs and terrible people, not masterminds”. He hasn’t specified a plan on how to fight them, saying that it would eliminate the element of surprise. Trump added that he would “bomb the hell” out of IS, saying that it could take about 30,000 US troops to defeat the terrorist group. Trump further threatened that if Clinton wins, IS will take over the US. However, he added that if he wins, he will be “IS’ worst nightmare”. He said in August that he will “aggressively pursue” IS and military operations will be carried out to crush and destroy them.
Trump further suggested a modification to international law that prohibits the military’s use of torture to deal with terrorists. The Republican candidate previously suggested killing family members of terrorists, but later backtracked from his comments when he came under fire over them. Trump also seems to be giving power to Russia over Syria. He said that it can stabilise the region. Unlike the opposing stance of the US from Russia, Trump said that Russia will be better in carrying out significant changes in the region.
On the other hand, Clinton has demonstrated a more independent attitude from Russia, as she insisted on the no-fly zone over Syria, which is opposing what Russia is currently doing there as it has carried out several airstrikes that reportedly killed about 4,000 Syrian civilians since May 2015.
In November 2015, Clinton said that IS should not only be deterred or contained, but rather defeated and destroyed.
Russia favours Trump over Clinton, as the former has demonstrated a more tolerable attitude towards Russia’s policies. Russian-American bilateral relations have generally been stable following the cold war; however, relations strained significantly in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The tension reached its peak in 2015 when Russia led a military intervention in Syria against anti-Assad groups.
Professor of political science Hassan Nafaa told Daily News Egypt that most probably Clinton will win the elections, unless any sudden surprises happened last minute. However, Nafaa said that Trump’s visions and strategies will continue even after the elections conclude.
Nafaa commented that American citizens are now shifting towards right-wing perspectives; there is an obvious increase in racism against Muslims, Latinos, and any minor ethnicity. Regarding the situation in Syria, Nafaa predicted that Clinton’s foreign policy will be an extension of Obama’s policy, but it will depend more on her ability to achieve progress in the Syrian file.
Mohammad Bassam Al-Malek told Daily News Egypt that neither of the two candidates are good choices, and whoever is going to win, it will be the worst president in the history of the US.
Al-Malek, however, added that Clinton is the lesser of two evils, and at least she was the secretary of state and she has proper knowledge in foreign policy. He added that to Syrian people, Clinton maintains an important point of view, which is halting aerial bombardments over Syria.
Al-Malek also said that he is predicting very close results in the elections, noting Arabs generally hope that Clinton wins as Trump has demonstrated a rather defensive attitude towards Muslims and refugees.
Regarding IS, Al-Malek said that the organisation was originally created by the US, Bashar Al-Assad, and Nouri Al-Maliki, and they won’t be eradicated from the region unless Israel wants for it to happen, due to the very close relations between the US and Israel.
Israel remains the US’ biggest ally and best friend
In March, Trump said that when he becomes president of the US, the days of treating Israel as a second class citizen will be over starting from day one. Trump demonstrated a supportive stand towards Israel when he criticised the US nuclear deal with Iran. He called Israel “America’s biggest ally in the region”.
Although Trump hasn’t delegated a clear position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said that he will remain neutral in any peace talks. These statements have led to concern from Israeli officials, which led Trump to backtrack from such statements of neutrality and comment that it would be hard to be neutral.
Clinton has adopted a similar stance on Israel. She said that the US and Israel may not have always been able to agree on several issues; however, the US is committed to the security of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.
Abdel-Alim Mohamed, political analyst associated with the Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt that it doesn’t matter if Trump or Clinton wins, because there is an ongoing, historical agreement between the US and Israel that maintains Israel’s security. The US will continue to provide Israel with financial and military aid.
He added that the situation of Israel has been the same under the Obama administration, Ronald Reagan, and pretty much any president that ever ruled the US. Mohamed further added that if there is any progress to happen in the Palestinian case, it will only happen if the Palestinians want to make it happen.
“Mosul battle came days before the elections in favour of Clinton,” says analyst
Regarding the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Trump severely criticised this move and said that it destabilised the Middle East. He further claimed that he was against the invasion decision when it happened; however, he received criticism over this claim as he was believed to have no clear stance back then.
On the other hand, in 2002, Clinton approved of the decision to invade Iraq while she was a senator from New York. She was severely criticised for this decision and has apologised for it profusely. When she visited Iraq as a secretary of state, Clinton slammed the Iraqi national army for failing to provide a secure state for its citizens.
In November 2015, Clinton said: “As part of that process, we may have to give our own troops advising and training the Iraqis greater freedom of movement and flexibility, including embedding in local units and helping target airstrikes”.
Abdel Motelleb Al-Nakeeb, an Iraqi journalist and political analyst, told Daily News Egypt the recent battle in Iraq’s city of Mosul came in synchronisation with the US elections in order to motivate people to vote for Clinton, also to show that she is more in charge than Trump.
Al-Nakeeb also said that IS was created by the US, which supports it financially and with military aid. He added that the Mosul battle was used to strengthen Clinton’s situation in front of her rival Trump.