Candidate Briefing: What a Cory Booker Presidency Could Mean for the Gulf

Joining three of his already-declared Senate colleagues, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced that he would be launching a campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020. Prior to joining the Senate Mr. Booker was Mayor of Newark, where his social media savvy cemented his rise in the Democratic Party. After Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 left a Democratic leadership vacuum headed into 2020, Booker opted to join the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, a sign seen by many that the young Senator was burnishing his Commander-in-Chief credentials ahead of a White House bid.[1] During his time on the committee, Senator Booker’s Gulf-related policy has largely been in-line with the Democratic party’s norms including criticism of Trump’s relationship to Saudi Arabia, votes to block certain weapons sales to the region and continued support for the Iran Nuclear Agreement. However, although it may not be a high-profile issue, Senator Booker has carved a unique niche for himself within Gulf issues by using his position as Ranking-Member of the Africa & Global Health Subcommittee to draw attention to Gulf policies in Somalia and the Greater Horn of Africa region.

While leading a hearing on U.S Foreign Policy in Somalia, Senator Booker perhaps evidenced the cross-regional approach he takes to Somalian instability, equating violence and corruption in Somalia as being tied to similar violence in Yemen and Syria. At the hearing, Senator Booker outlined five factors he saw as contributing to Somalia’s instability – the last of which was “competitions between Qatar and the U.A.E.”[2] Senator Booker’s comment speaks to a nuanced understanding of the Gulf Crisis’s regional effects and is in-line with experts who have observed that the Emirates have increased funding of separatist Somali factions due to a perception that members of the central Somali government have Qatari sympathies.[3] Later in the same hearing, Senator Booker expanded on his initial comment, implying that it would take an American-led negotiating effort in order to diminish the Qatar-Saudi-UAE rivalry playing out in Somalia.[4] Overall, Senator Booker has expressed concern that under the Trump Administration, the State Department has no strategy to effectively create an environment that could foster Somalian stability.

While more prominent issues such as US support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen or the Khashoggi Affair may be the most prolific issues Booker (along with other Democrats) have championed, his spearheading of Somalian and African issues indicate that a Booker Administration may bring a renewed focus to a continent that is too often disregarded. From the perspective of the Gulf, this may not be a welcome development, as Booker’s background indicates he would bring renewed scrutiny of growing Qatari, Saudi and Emirati actions across the African continent.



[1] Seung Min Kim, “Warren and Booker Polish their 2020 Resumes,” Politico, December 16, 2016.

[2] Cory Booker, “Sen. Cory Booker Leads Subcommittee Hearing on U.S Foreign Policy in Somalia.” Filmed [March, 2018]. YouTube Video, 14:12. Posted March 14, 2018.

[3] Robert Malley, “What Happens in the Gulf Doesn’t Stay in the Gulf: A Year After the Qatar Crisis Began, It’s having Potentially Dangerous Reverberations in the Horn of Africa,” The Atlantic, June 7, 2018.

[4] Cory Booker, “Sen. Cory Booker Leads Subcommittee Hearing on U.S Foreign Policy in Somalia.” Filmed [March, 2018]. YouTube Video, 14:12. Posted March 14, 2018.



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