A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump and the Middle East: First Thoughts

Trying to figure out what to say about the implications of Donald Trump's election on US policy in the Middle East, I am reminded of an old line sometimes applied to the region: in the Middle East a pessimist is someone who says, "things are so bad they can't possibly get any worse," while an optimist says, "don't worry, of course they can."

With ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria,Yemen, and Libya; with the US directly engaged in he first two and holding the coats for and arming its GCC allies in the latter two, it would seem hard to make things worse.  But the incoming President's total lack of foreign policy experience (aside from building hotels and golf courses), and his reliance during the campaign on advisors such as John Bolton and Walid Phares suggests he may get interventionist advice. His pledge to scrap the Iran nuclear deal has been highly publicized, though how to do that unilaterally in an agreement with seven signatories including Britain, France, and Germany, has not been explained. On the other hand, and despite the rhetoric on ISIS, Trump has been critical of greater intervention in Syria,

Field Marshal Sisi has said he was the first foreign head of State to congratulate Trump; the Saudis and Netanyahu were close behind.You may draw your own conclusions.

I am willing to wait and see; perhaps the inflammatory rhetoric was just empty words. Certainly US policy since at least 2003 has made things increasingly more dangerous. But like the "optimist" in the quip above, I'm pretty confident that things could still get worse.

As the Foreign Policy and National Security appointments are made, I'm pretty sure I'll have a lot more to say.


Anonymous said...

Trump's victory may well end the long standing charade of the US as an honest broker between Israel and Palestine.

David Mack said...

Like most incoming U.S. presidents, I expect that Trump hopes to avoid most of the Middle East hot spots and only focus on one or two goals that seem to promise success that will advance his domestic popularity. He will probably find out that Middle East problems have a way of reaching out and forcing Washington to get involved, usually when we are least prepared.