Trump and the Middle East:‘Barking Dogs Seldom Bite’


Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 3, 2017

When the 45th President of the United States was sworn in after a lengthy, heated, and highly emotional campaign, few commentators
and analysts in the West believed that Donald Trump had the personality, expertise, or experience to lead the most powerful country in the world. In the Middle East, however, policy makers and commentators were ironically less critical of the business tycoon from New York who had repeatedly lashed out verbally at Arabs and Muslims alike. Despite this rhetorical abuse, Middle Easterners from Egypt over the Levant to the Gulf hoped that a more hawkish and militaristic U.S. President would bring an end to Obama’s policy of multilateral retrenchment, soft power diplomacy, and indecisive overseas commitments.

After a hundred days in office, however, it remains to be seen to what extent Trump can actually meet these expectations. Without a clearly formulated foreign policy strategy, and hampered by an overreliance on the Pentagon and a disintegrating State Department, the Trump administration has so far been unable to show any sign of radically rewriting U.S. policy in the Middle East. Quite the contrary, Trump seems to return to old American orthodoxies in the region: embracing the myth of authoritarian stability, as well as an almost unconditional support of Israel and the Arab Gulf amid a containment policy against Iran. This policy unfolds against the backdrop
of the Obama legacy, which had “rightsized” America’s role in the Middle East, leaving local partners and allies widely to their own devices to solve their own problems.

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