January 25, 2021
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Each week Robert L. Wise, Ph.D., explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.
TRUMP IN THE MIDDLE EAST
A MIXED BAG
Historians are already at work assessing the impact that the last four-years had on the Middle East. Countries such as Israel have begun to identify the differences that the next four years might make. There will be ups and downs, depending on one’s perspective. Donald Trump broke with bipartisan convention in his Middle East policy. Some say he overturned stagnant conventional wisdom that rewarded foes while punishing allies. Others argue that the former president damaged American interests and abandoned its long-standing commitments in the region.
Let’s consider what the experts are saying.
Professional Daniel Byman of Georgetown University studies the Middle East. He says, ”Donald Trump broke with bipartisan convention in his Middle East policy. President Trump, with many Americans behind him, openly derided longstanding US commitments, such as the security of Saudi Arabia when Iran attacked it with missiles. Trump’s Israel policy was focused on US domestic audiences, not on Israel’s role in the region. Many regional leaders appreciated Trump’s hostility to Iran, and many Israelis welcomed his uncritical support. In the future, however, all states will have to reckon with the possibility that the United States is less engaged in the Middle East and may elect leaders whose policies vary widely.”
On the other hand, Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security writes, “The Trump administration also proved that the Palestinian issue is NOT the central conflict and a real barrier to better relations with Israel. The Trump administration also proved, by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, that a large part of the Arab world can live with Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Trump administration continued signaling that the US is diminishing its commitment to be the policeman of the Middle East.”
Of course, one dimension of Trump policy was obvious. Trump leaned heavily in the direction of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates: he did not complain about their human rights records, triggered their renewed conflict with Qatar, continued the Obama administration policy of supporting the war in Yemen, helped when they needed it to raise oil prices, and protected the Saudi Crown Prince from accusations of murder.
We might conclude that whereTrump changed the Middle East most was Iran. He literally upended the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in one stroke. The assassination of Qassem Soleimani was probably the most significant act of his presidency. The green light that he gave Israel to target Iranian assets in Syria and beyond was also immensely important. Iran appeared feckless and unable to respond in most cases. One gets a sense that Iran is still on its back foot.
Trump did not exactly change the Middle East as much as he brought new realities out of the shadows.
We now watch to see whether the Biden administration takes advantage of the leverage that Trump has gifted him.
Let the miracles begin!
My latest books:
I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!
by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)
You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.
82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!
You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.
by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)