The world is still trying to recuperate from the news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US election, more so in West Asia which took up a considerable amount of attention in his speeches during his campaign.
Trump has blurted out controversial utterances ranging from racist, to misogynist, to hateful comments. But he has also made some divisive statements about US policies in West Asia.
The president-elect started off his campaign by promising to be neutral toward the Israeli regime, expressing doubt over US splurging of billions in annual military aid to Tel Aviv. However, he was quick to retreat from the path he pledged to follow.
After the draft Republican platform was leaked, Trump said: “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism… We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier.”
Trump even showed support for continuing Israeli expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Syria and ISIS
Much to the chagrin of the Obama administration and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Trump has repeatedly stressed that Assad is fighting terrorism in Syria.
“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” declared Trump during the second presidential debate.
This fact lead him to articulate that removing Assad from power was far less important than defeating ISIS, contrary to what US policy in Syria has been centered around.
“Assad is secondary, to me, to ISIS,” he said.
However, Trump also spoke of plans to obliterate the terrorist group by destroying their main source of revenue unlike the current US-led aerial campaign which has so far failed to hinder the organization’s activities.
“ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil camps, certain areas of oil that they took away… That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left,” Trump said in an interview with CNN.
Iran and the nuclear deal
Concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran, Trump has proven to be quite antagonistic, particularly when it comes to the nuclear deal which was struck with the p5+1.
Earlier this year, the multi-billionaire rambled on about the ‘disastrous’ deal which he claimed he would “rip up” should he come to power.
“[The deal was] one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated in [my] entire life,” said Trump as he claimed it puts Iran on a “path to nuclear weapons.”
Even more controversy was stirred when Trump fiddled with the main US ally in the Persian-Gulf. The new president of the United States had insinuated that Riyadh was merely a “source of cash” for the Americans. While this is probably true, the Saudis were offended at this stance despite Trump’s promise to protect Saudi Arabia in case of war with Iran.
“Well, I would want to help Saudi Arabia. I would want to protect Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically. They were making, before the oil went down, now they’re making half, but they were making a billion dollars a day,” Trump said.
Yet, one cannot take the word of a presidential candidate for major issues regarding foreign policy simply because it is not a matter of that one person’s choice, even if that person is regarded as the highest authority in the country. Once a candidate reaches the presidency his promises become a thing of the past and he becomes under the mercy of the “system.” This system—which is highly influenced by lobbies—then determines the country’s main strategic approaches to foreign policy. The president is the vessel through which the system declares these decisions.
In an opinion piece published by The Independent, Robert Fisk states that US policies would not have changed in the West Asia (Middle East)—wherever that is—no matter who had won the 2016 presidential election.
“Of course, it will be no change in the Middle East. The one thing which always united Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – despite Trump’s nonsense about Muslim immigrants – was that large area of land between Algeria and the Pakistani-Indian border. Or is it Morocco and the Pakistani-Indian border? Or the Iranian-Pakistani border? Heaven knows where the ‘Middle East’ actually is in the minds of American politicians. Or Trump,” Fisk wrote.
“So Trump’s Middle East is likely to be pretty much the same as Hillary’s Middle East might have been. Uncritical support for nuclear Israel and its chaotic prime minister, constant bombast about terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror…and support for “moderates” – be they rebels (of the Syrian variety), presidents and kings (of the Sissi of Egypt/Abdullah of Jordan variety) and our friends (Saudis/Qataris/Kuwaitis) whose dead kings will usually be worthy of a flag at half staff,” Fisk described the main points in a nutshell.
This assertion, however, is not a mere presumption but rather based on facts. President Barack Obama who served two consecutive terms can serve as proof.
Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize winning site, kept track of Obama’s promises throughout his tenure. An “Obameter”, shows his failure to keep numerous promises especially when it comes to foreign policy. Launching robust diplomatic effort with Iraq and its neighbors, including Iran and Syria to ensure the stability of the region is one such broken promise. Another is forming an international group to help Iraqi refugees displaced due to violence. He also failed to provide a promised $2 billion dollars to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries. Another major failure is ending the war in Afghanistan by 2014.
But perhaps the most notable broken promise is that which Obama made to the Palestinians.
In 2010, Obama called for the establishment of an independent state during his UN address. However, one year later he vowed to veto a statehood bid by the Palestinians at the UN.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Obama called for a Palestinian state during his 2010 UN address but a year later vowed to veto a statehood bid by the Palestinians at the UN.
Again, during his eighth and final address at the UN, Obama declared that the Israeli regime “cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land”. He promised to squeeze every ounce of “change” out of the remainder of his term. He only has until January 20th, 2017 to take any action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many, however, are skeptical of this.
And yet, promising $30 billion to the Israelis was a piece of cake.
“Implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade — investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation,” this was on Obama’s agenda and was well implemented.
It is not difficult to see how the President of the United States of America can have his hands tied at critical moments. Promises that he makes to his people and the world at large can be reduced to ashes because at the end of the day, there is a system that controls him. With Trump, it is unlikely that the situation will change but it remains to be seen which promises will make it through and which ones will be broken, particularly when it comes to the plans he has in store for West Asia or whatever he thinks the Middle East is.