By Claude Salhani
Given the number of falsehoods uttered by US President Donald Trump it is difficult to believe what he says and tweets and to separate facts from fiction.
Trump, unfortunately, chooses to see only one side to every dispute — his. He professes to know more about every topic than the professionals trained to do the job.
This has been a constant with Trump in nearly all matters, including volatile ones such as the work by the intelligence community and delving into the complexities of the Middle East.
In the Middle East, Trump has demonstrated his ability to promote failure while falsely preaching success. The president’s so-called Middle East peace plan, intended to put an end to the more than 70-year Palestinian-Israeli conflict, was stillborn as Trump and members of his administration assigned to the peace project failed to consult the Palestinians and, in their political naivety, thought they could succeed in a few months where others, far more qualified at resolving conflicts, failed time and again.
Coming after the United States closed the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington, the recognition of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump’s plan showed the Palestinians that there was no room for their position in an eventual resumption of the peace talks.
Trump’s failure in the Israeli-Palestinian issue adds up to more shortcomings of US policies in the region.
The United States has been politically on the retreat in the Middle East as it reversed from decades of pushing diplomacy while discreetly relying on the might of the US military.
Since Trump found his way into the Oval Office, the United States’ foreign policy has been conducted much like the rest of the hot issues handled by this administration: by Twitter diplomacy, with the president making important decisions on his own, often without consulting his advisers and staff.
At best the United States has been spinning its wheels when it comes to the status of the US military in the region. At worst, the United States has lost much of the prestige it once commanded. The Trump administration has angered long-time allies and opened the door to long-time nemesis and Cold War foe Russia.
Under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, who has shown all the slyness of the KGB operative he once was, Russia wasted no opportunity to slip in while Trump tweeted US forces out of northern Syria.
Trump’s inadequate and confusing policies regarding Syria and the Levant allowed Russian and Turkish troops to move into northern Syria. This left the Kurds, a valuable and loyal US ally, open to retaliation by the Turks and Syrian government troops and put the Russian military on the shores of the Mediterranean, giving the Russian Navy year-round access to warm water and deep-water ports, something the Russians had been working towards since the days of the tsars. Trump’s laissez-faire attitude has muddied the troubled waters of the Eastern Mediterranean.
These developments raise questions regarding NATO’s playbook. For example, what would be expected from NATO if Russia were to attack Turkey, a NATO country? A prime clause of the NATO pact stipulates that an attack against one member is equal to an attack against all 29 NATO members.
To be sure, the Middle East has long been a basket of discontent with turmoil bubbling away but rarely has the area been so close to experiencing large-scale chaos.
This is hardly the end of the region’s problems. Given the US presidential elections in November, Trump will do whatever it takes to win votes and remain in the Oval Office for another four years. He is likely to pull US forces out of an area that requires their presence if it would win him votes.
It would not be a great surprise if given that the so-called peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, which are unlikely to yield concrete results, Trump would declare victory and return all US troops home.
His previous actions have shown that Trump will choose his personal interests before those of the country. Such a move this time would have a devastating effect on the region.