Achievements and gaps of the Trump administration in the Middle East

Former president Donald Trump gives a press conference (Photo by Shutterstock)

One of the most prominent decisions of the former US president was the decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement in 2018, writes Ahmad Abdul-Rahman.

One of the most prominent decisions related to the Middle East taken by the administration of former US President Donald Trump was to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement in 2018, This happened despite fierce opposition, including the Iranian lobby, and the repercussions of the investigations related to the accusation of cooperation with the Russians. This decision was perhaps the second most important one after the US launched its partnership with the Arab coalition in 2017.

The withdrawal represented a severe blow to the regime in Tehran and a major challenge to the European partners of the agreement. Of course, the opposition political forces inside America, who support the Obama-Biden camp, responded with campaigns to isolate Trump and remove him from the White House.

However, the former president continued his policy of deterring Iran, placing the"Pasdaran" (the Revolutionary Guard) on the terrorist list in 2019. This happened after the Trump administration had previously included the Houthis on the list.

There were gaps in the general strategy of the Trump administration in its confrontation with Iran, most of which resulted from the influences of advisors and officials.These loopholes also came from lobby group pressures, and from some issues that had not been resolved. For example, some of the president's entourage did not manage to persuade him to take additional steps to achieve the final victory for America and its allies.

Among the issues that caused problems were the following:

First, the Trump administration did not withdraw from the nuclear agreement until the second year of his presidential term.

Second, his State Department took two years before launching the international coalition known asthe Warsaw conference which took place in February 2019, which sought to isolate Iran from the West.

Third, and perhaps the biggest strategic mistake, is that the Pentagon did not completely seal the Iraqi-Syrian border to cut off supplies between Iran, Damascus, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Despite the confrontation with the Iranian militias in the region, the failure to link the Al-Tanf region with Al-Hasakah, located between Iraq and Syria, led to severe losses of US forces.

Four, the biggest strategic mistake by the US was not supporting the Iranian opposition or recognising it officially, especially during the popular uprising in the fall of 2019.

Confronting Islamic extremist groups

During the 2016 campaign, and through several speeches during the administration,candidate Trump committed himself, and then as president, to confronting Islamic extremist groups, especially in the Middle East. His administration's ministries expanded their campaigns in several regions by hunting down terrorists and their cells. The Riyadh Summit, held in May 2017, was a historic event, as an American president stood before 50 Arab and Muslim leaders and urged them to stand resolutely against Islamic extremists, and to exert maximum effort to confront radical ideologies. The Trump administration participated in the launch of the Center for Countering Extremism in Riyadh in the same year.

Trump's presidency was characterised by rhetoric towards extremism and radicalism. It also laid the foundation for a new phase in the alliance with the Arab and Islamic world. For example, the platform that led to the signing of the "Abraham Treaty" was launched as a basis for peace and regional cooperation.

Trump succeeded in establishing moderation and prosperity in the region. First, Trump promised to put an end to the Brotherhood militias and their extremist networks, and committed to putting some of them on the terrorist list. He also requested a report from his administration to study this. However, his advisors and experts failed to put together a file that would settle the legal points.

Second, the Islamic lobby in Washington influenced this issue. In the Middle East, the policy of not confronting extremist organisations legally and politically led to the continuation and growth of militias and Brotherhood movements in the Arab world, from Libya to Tunisia and Yemen, and Syria.

Third, parts of the Trump bureaucracy continued to communicate and exchange with these organisations at the expense of allied powers and governments such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia,the UAE, Tunisia, Jordan and Israel. Hence, segments of the former president's bureaucracy were cooperating with the enemies of his administration to implement the policies of some senior members and advisors in the administration. This led to unprecedented mistakes that did not occur with either the Obama or Bush administrations.

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Friday, 02 June 2023