Biden’s Summit for Democracy: Israel and Iraq in, Egypt and Turkey, out

The themes of the virtual meeting of some 100 countries in December are defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A list of guests for President Joe Biden’s virtual Summit for Democracy on December 9-10 was publicized Monday and the invitation-only event has some American allies with elected leaders in, and others, out.

For example, Israel and Iraq will represent the Middle East, while Egypt and Turkey were left in the cold. While the latter two do hold parliamentary elections, they are considered authoritarian regimes with questionable human rights records. Yet Iraq has also been on shaky democratic ground ever since Saddam Hussein was toppled by American-led forces in 2003. On the other hand, the U.S. has a vested interest in keeping in the fold the oil-rich country for which it has bled men and much treasure.

The administration very much wanted all regions in the world to be represented, a senior official speaking on background told the Foreign Policy website.

“What we’re trying to do through the Summit for Democracy is to galvanize democratic renewal worldwide. Because of that, we’re seeking a really inclusive, big-tent approach,” the official said.

One of the summit planners told Reuters, “This was not about endorsing, ‘You’re a democracy, you are not a democracy.’ That is not the process we went through.”

There were also no preconditions for any country to come, officials said.

The ‘process’ has to do with the Biden administration’s concerns regarding its main adversaries, one advocacy group said in reaction to the list of invitees.

“Clearly, strategic considerations about countering China are at play in inviting very troubled, backsliding democracies like India and the Philippines that are in China’s neighborhood,” said Amy Hawthorne, research director at the Project on Middle East Democracy.

“The same might be true for inviting deeply flawed democracy Iraq, the neighbor of U.S. adversary, the Iranian theocracy,” she added.

As announced by the White House in August, there will be three principal themes for the summit: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. In a year’s time, the leaders will be invited again to present the initiatives they took in order to advance their commitments in each area.

Political leaders are not the only invitees, the statement said. Heads of civil society, philanthropy and the private sector will also come, to help “drive international collaboration and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy so as to collectively strengthen the foundation for democratic renewal.”

In keeping with the self-critical phase that the United States seems to be going through at present, the official speaking to Foreign Policy added that America recognizes its own imperfections in this sphere as well.

“We come to this summit as the U.S. also with humility. We understand we have had challenges, and we are seeking to address our own challenges.”