With the hottest topic of discussion being Donald Trump winning the 2016 U.S. presidential race, I will be talking on how a Trump presidency will affect regional affairs and more so, how will it play out for Gulf-U.S. ties.
How will presidential transition for the superpower nation influence its relationship with Middle East’s Saudi Arabia?
The platform shared between the U.S. and Arab Gulf countries encompasses the international fight against terrorism, and the war crises in Yemen, Syria and Libya. The two share no disputes and bilateral affairs have kept a good standing throughout Barack Obama’s time in the oval office.
What is said on Trump’s stances on Islam, Saudi Arabia, or even trading off ties is simply untrue— it’s very unlikely that Trump has predisposed standpoints on which he will build his future policy.
Yet on the other hand, Obama will be handing down Trump a delicate and very complex relationship case file on U.S.-Saudi and gulf ties.
Gulf-U.S. ties have experienced unprecedented tensions with the Obama administration on U.S. foreign policy used in places such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria– and less so, Yemen.
When Obama unveiled the initiative on the Iran nuclear deal, it unleashed a wave of lukewarm reservations by Gulf States—although most countries did not reject the deal, but they had bluntly warned the aftermath of making a deal that would bestow more freedom upon an extremist regime allowing proliferation of proxy warfare, and compromising security of ally nations.
The question is, will Trump walk in Obama’s footsteps, allowing Iran to threaten the national security of Arab Gulf states?
Other than the internationally-recognized convention, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump, by no means, is legally bound to uphold the Obama administration’s policymaking approach.
Iran will still enjoy trade benefits in return for its abstention on nuclear plans, but Trump does not have to carry on with the stalemate against Iran and Russia leading beyond-border wars.
Perhaps this is why Tehran has been stepping up its campaigns in each of Aleppo, Syria, Mosul and Tal Afar in Iraq in hopes of advancing its agenda before President elect Trump is fully transitioned into power.
Gulf States are greatly determined to end all foreign military interventions in regional conflict zones. Iranians might protest and argue on Turkey’s intervention in the Syria-Iraq counterterror efforts, and against Saudi Arabia’s efforts to restore legitimacy in Yemen. However, if Iran rolls back its agenda for the region, even those interventions might be stepped down.
All efforts led to end the Yemen crisis were diplomatic to begin with, and under U.N. sponsorship—it wasn’t until Iran, exploiting its local allies, had taken over the Yemen government forcing a Saudi and Gulf intervention.
Chaos wreaking havoc on the Middle East is a global threat, and a national security threat to the U.S., and it is only natural for Gulf states to focus their future discussions on Tehran being the source of all commotion. They would also revive the rhetoric on the outstanding U.S.-Gulf ties playing a dramatic regional role that offsets military outbreak, and fights against it by building alliances next to diverse efforts.
Gulf countries would not have even opposed the Obama venture on opening up to economic and political exchange with Iran, had it not been for the clear overlooking of Iran’s military endeavors. As the Obama term draws to an end, Iranians have secured military dominance over four vital Arab countries; Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iranian hunger for regional expansion had also extended a threat to Arab Gulf state, Bahrain.
In light of the disorder portending sectarian strife, terrorism will further flourish and spread, which is a process that cannot be reversed by simply dislodging ISIS from its Iraq and Syria strongholds. The tense circumstances lived by Gulf countries are the same bringing in more countries into the regional conflict, and threatening more problems for Europe.
Gulf States look forward to playing their traditional and influential role, minus the arms race, as Trump’s power is instated, especially on a regional platform.
On stretching terrorism and extremism, Saudi Arabia is the first and foremost effective U.S. partner in the fight against international terrorism- which is a role that cannot be filled by Iranians who had tried convincing the Obama administration, only to later fail in proving it.
The notable efforts of Gulf countries in going after extremist ideological groups, have long been targeted by Western administration, will later prove that such groups must not only be chased down in Gulf and Islamic countries, but also in Western countries where they enjoy greater freedoms than what is made available in Gulf states.