One of the areas of foreign policy in which the Trump administration has had significant success is in the Middle East – and especially in terms of Iran. The question now is whether a Biden Administration will build on those successes or go back to the Obama administration’s Arab-centric policies that enabled Russia to expand its influence through its principle client-states of Iran and Syria and enabled the rise of ISIS.
The fundamental flaw in the old diplomacy was to put the creation of a Palestinian state as a pre-condition for any far-reaching peace agreements – the so-called “two-state solution.” Since the Palestinian movement is headed by the Hamas terrorist group – and they have maintained their refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist – the stalemate could not be broken. That had been the situation for decades – even before the Obama presidency. However, President Obama worsened the situation by shifting American policy and pressure against Israel by seeking a virtual unilateral agreement to surrender the West Bank.
Obama also diplomatically retreated from the Middle East with his oxymoronic “lead from behind” policy. This created the vacuum for Russia to move in and ISIS to emerge.
The Obama policies – crafted in large part by then Secretary of State John Kerry – led to the Nuclear Deal that provided Iran with billions of dollars to sponsor terrorism throughout the region. The weakening of the American commitment led directly to the creation of the incredibly brutal ISIS Califate that took control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. The Nuclear Deal – even if adhered to – would not have prevented a nuclear Iran in the future.
In order to maintain some semblance of stability – even though status quo was not favorable to American interests and security – the United States had to maintain the boots-on-the-ground that Obama promised to withdraw. America was in the unfortunate position of fighting two wars at the same time – Afghanistan being the second. But these were long wars of attrition – never executed to win.
By the end of the Obama administration, terrorism was in full bloom – with daily televised reports of the most unimaginable and horrific acts of gruesome terror. Russian/Iranian-backed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was on the verge of crushing the rebel forces that Obama had promised to back – until he didn’t. The use of chemical weapons was Obama’s red line – until it wasn’t.
As a direct result of Obama’s policies, Europe has been reeling from the largest and most tragic migration of humanity since World War II — as Syrians fled their country that was about to be taken back by the brutal regime in Damascus.
In short, America and the civilized world were losing in the Middle East.
After several good-faith efforts to bring about a resolution between Israel and the recalcitrant Palestinian movement, the Trump administration quietly abandoned the “two-state solution” and began negotiations to resolve Middle East hostilities without Palestinian leaders at the table.
First and foremost, Trump placed emphasis on the military defeat of ISIS – killing off its leaders and bringing down the califate. While rag-tag elements of ISIS still exist, the califate is gone and ISIS is a dying movement.
When al-Asaad used chemical weapons against his civilian population, Trump ordered a surgical attack on Syria. When Russian generals order American military aircraft out of an arbitrary no-fly zone, Obama acquiesced. Trump reversed the policy and resumed flights over the strategic territory at will.
Trump’s policy broke down the wall of opposition that existed between Israel and the Arab world. In his first foreign trip, Trump went to Saudi Arabia to meet with more than 50 heads-of-state of nations with large or majority Muslim populations. He then traveled to Israel. Those meetings created the first meaningful bridge of diplomacy between the rival sides.
Following the Iraq War, that nation became unstable under the increasing influence of Iran – and the Iranian semi-official terrorist army under the command of General Qasem Soleimani — who was targeting American interests with terrorist attacks throughout the country. In a bold move, American military killed Soleimani and immediately reduced Iran’s influence over Baghdad.
The crowning achievement of Trump’s Middle East policy was the peace agreements signed between Israel and three Arab states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. Others were expected to follow. This time Trump was correct when he said that nobody thought it was even possible.
If Biden were smart, he would take the counsel of the person most responsible for managing the details and negotiations that led to the success of the Trump Middle East policy – first son-in-law Jared Kushner. Unfortunately, the same irrational and obsessive Trump-hatred from the left and the media that refused to give Trump credit for these monumental achievements in the Middle East will prevent a Biden administration from capitalizing on the tremendous progress that was made in the past four years.
The only positive news is that Biden indicated that he would put Kerry in charge of getting back into the American-unfriendly Paris Climate Accords – which is bad enough – but NOT back into the Middle East issues – where he had struck the god-awful Iran Nuclear Deal and even gave aide and diplomatic advice to Iran during the Trump presidency.
We can only hope that the Trump initiatives have sufficient momentum that they cannot be too easily undone by a return to the old-world order diplomacy of weakness and appeasement.
So, there ‘tis.