Most American presidents have dedicated a chapter in their diaries to their role in resolving crises in the Middle East. President Barack Obama has two books which will be released. Jeffrey Goldberg, who has long accompanied Obama, is working on one of them.
President-elect Donald Trump also confronts many conflicts in the Middle East, the number of which the U.S. has perhaps not known since the days of Dwight Eisenhower during World War II. There are many wars and ongoing turmoil, so will Trump adopt the policy of his predecessor, Obama, and refuse to manage crises or will he resort to other proposals made by leaders of his Republican parties, such as those suggested by Senator John McCain who calls for intervening and not letting chaos and terrorism threaten the world and the security of the U.S.? Current crises are the result of the collapse of the international balance of power which was established after WWII and as a result of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
When he was inaugurated eight years ago, Obama launched his era with encouraging change in the Middle East but he changed his mind when the winds of change blew and chose a seat among the audience. In 2009, when he delivered two famous speeches in Istanbul and Cairo about openness and moderation, demonstrations erupted in Tehran to protest against the flawed presidential elections and calling for openness. The authorities in Tehran confronted these protests with persecution and murder and the American administration did not do anything – such as tighten sanctions or impose new ones to confront the situation.
Two years later, uprisings erupted in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. The administration once again adopted a stance in support of change but then it practiced the same policy of observing developments from afar. When the crises worsened, the Obama administration chose to favor Islamic groups in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq, all at the expense of an aspiring civil society.
The president-elect may sit and watch the chaos like Obama did but the price will only become higher and the threats will only expand. Wars and the activity of terrorist organizations may increase and the humanitarian disaster will worsen. The possible chaos that may erupt in Iraq threatens 10 million people. It’s also possible that millions more will be displaced from Syria, in addition to the 12 million who are currently displaced. Chaos may expand and reach stable areas. Developments have proven that the American policy of isolation towards the Syrian crisis is erroneous and it has cost the US and the world a lot.
The president-elect may sit and watch the chaos like Obama did but the price will only become higher and the threats will only expand.
What’s noticeable regarding the current wars in Syria, Yemen and part of Iraq is that they have one thing in common and it is Iranian military intervention. Iran’s role has escalated as a result of ending the “policy of containment” which prevented the regime from expanding beyond its borders.
Consecutive American governments adopted this policy in response to Iran’s foreign terrorist activity which reached Europe and Latin America. However, as a result of the nuclear agreement in favor of Iran, restraints on the latter’s foreign activities were cancelled. Instead of having Iranian celebrities who play football or music, we have generals in the Revolutionary Guards taking pictures as they participate in the fighting in conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
So will Trump’s administration draw limits on Iranian chaos or will it continue to adopt Obama’s policy of isolationism? Is it possible to revive the alliance of moderate countries with the US which used to include Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan, as it’s been attributed to Trump’s advisers? And later, will it be possible to propose a collective project for the region to stop chaos, restore stability and prevent regional intervention?
Does the president-elect desire to restore Iraq, a country in which change cost the US 4,000 American troops and a trillion dollars? Washington is expected to refuse Iran’s interventions and to insist on Iraq’s independence and sovereignty so it can become a free state that does not submit to the directions of religious clerics or the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
However, why do we expect Trump to reform the region when he criticized the invasion of Iraq? The reason lies in the significance of his country’s higher interests, including the ones related to economy and security. Iran, and not Washington and certainly not Baghdad, is currently reaping the fruits of that invasion. Supporting Libya’s unity and stability will prevent the collapse of North Africa, decrease threats in southern Europe and pave the way toward the opening of huge economic markets.
During the past six years, Obama’s government tried to ignore these crises and the result is that threats were aggravated. The new administration cannot continue to adopt the same ideas which led to the worst tragedies in the region.