Middle East fantasies and failures

May 18,2017 – JORDAN TIMES – Rami G. Khouri

My last week in the United States following the run-up to US President Donald Trump’s visit later this week to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican has only confirmed that the erratic, impulsive nature of Trump’s domestic policymaking also seems to apply to his Middle East policies.

As far as one can tell from many press accounts that are based on discussions with Washington and New York insiders, Trump lacks decisively clear Middle East “policies” right now, and has only attitudes towards major issues in the region — and these attitudes could change any day, and change again a few days later.

Several noteworthy aspects of Trump’s Middle East attitudes seem to be clear, at least they were by Tuesday this week: his apparent determination to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts; his wish to explore the creation of an Arab-Israeli-American “Middle East NATO” alliance against Iran; his desire to forge normal Arab-Israeli ties across the region before resolving the Israel-Palestine core conflict; his continued use of military force against Daesh, without addressing the underlying drivers of Daesh’s support; his happy friendships with Arab, Turkish and Israeli autocrats, alongside his non-focus on human rights and rule-of-law issues in these countries; his enthusiasm for massive new weapons sales to Arab states, perhaps totalling over $300 billion by most reliable press accounts; a vague desire to promote Islamic-Christian-Jewish interfaith cooperation in the service of regional and global peace.

This is quite a list of decisive and ambitious goals.

It would appear to be far beyond the analytical or implementational capabilities of the Trump administration, but it is impressive nevertheless.

About half of it is sensible. The other half is delusional, and the entire package in almost every instance repeats the consistently failed policies of the past three American administrations under Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama.

The broad goals of these policies have all been tried before.

Not only have they not succeeded in resolving conflicts or promoting stability and prosperity for the people of the region, they have also directly contributed to bringing the Middle East to the current dire conditions of violence, fragility, terrorism and mass refugeehood.

More pro-Israeli policies, focus on war making and bomb dropping, bolstering autocratic and corrupt local regimes, ignoring international human rights standards, expanding income and rights disparities within Arab countries, hastening the dysfunction of incompetent Arab regimes that focus on elusive security and massive arms purchases before most other priorities, and heightening tensions between Arabs and Iranians have all pushed several hundred million Arabs into conditions of despair and even dehumanisation.



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