Trump and the Middle East
By Chloé de Radzitzky
Donald Trump has been elected the 45th president of the United States on Wednesday, surprising the world. It will therefore be him who will be able to determine the country’s foreign policy regarding the Middle East. After the Obama’s era, what does the election of this eccentric billionaire means for the region? The candidate for the presidency emitted diverse opinions concerning the attitude that he would adopt towards the Middle Eastern states, attitudes which sometimes contradicts each others.
First of all, the Trump presidency is going to be a turning point for what concerns the US foreign policy towards Syria and the refugees issue. If president Obama showed himself inflexible towards the importance to evict Bachar Al-Assad, Trump thinks quite different. Hence, this one is more open to the possibility of cooperating with Russia, implying that the Syrian president could remain in power. He justifies this attitude by a more local understanding of the definition of what terrorism. It also means the end of th american support to the rebel forces. As regards the humanitarian situation, Donald Trump is opposed to the arrival of Syrian refugees (and more widely speaking, of Muslims) on the American territory. He believes that these ones must be taken care of by Arab states. He also also wants to charge them for the implementation of safety zones to reduce the migratory flow, but opposes the creation of no-fly zones as Clinton wanted.
Donald Trump’s attitude concerning Russia and the Syrian regime however contradicts the statement emitted by the future president against Iran. Trump thinks that the nuclear agreement concluded by Obama was a serious mistake, and thinks even of revoking it. His attitude towards this country, ally to the Russians and to the Syrian regime risks to problematic to his foreign policy.
The new acceptance of the notion of terrorism as being to be defined by the concerned states also implies a widened cooperation more with presidents considered as authoritarian such as Erdogan and Al Sissi. Donald Trump has indeed declared several times his respect to these two men whom it considers as being « strong ». It marks a departure of the general attitude of the West who recently deeply criticized these regimes for their violations of human rights.
The position of Trump concerning the Gulf States is also ambiguous. On one hand, he blames Saudi Arabia for financing the terrorism abroad; and wants to charge in Kuwait for the American intervention of 1991. On the other hand, he wants to strengthen their economic links with the United States.
The Palestinian situation also risks to be affected by the election of the republican president. Donald Trump’s manifesto makes a reference on no account to the implementation of a two state solution. Even if his presidency will doubtless mark a radical departure from the past American foreign policy towards Israel, and give a try where president Obama has failed by putting enough pressure on Netanyahou as regarding settlements, Trump does not seem to want to balance the situation. Moreover he proclaimed himself as being « extremely pro-Israeli » during its campaign, and risk to decrease subsidies to the Palestian Authorities.
In conclusion, if the foreign policy of Obama in the Middle East was quite isolationist, Trump’s one risks to strengthen the trend. It is not however guaranteed that his will to distance himself from the region will be held on the long term, given the geostrategic and economic importance of the region. The Trump presidency could be also interpreted as the beginning of a more realistic US foreign policy, less influenced by values such as the respect for human rights and of democracy. It is however difficult to emit any real prognostics on his foreign policy in the Middle East. We will have to wait that the beginning of his mandate to estimate if his acts really follow the rhetoric held during his campaign.