Last Tuesday, Michael Scott Doran, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and former Senior Director in the National Security Council in the Administration of President George W. Bush, shared his views on the presidency of Donald J. Trump and its impacts on policies related to the Middle East. The event, “Trump and the Middle East: A new US policy toward Iran, ISIS and the Arab-Israeli Conflict?”, took place in the European Parliament in Brussels and was hosted by MEP Anders Vistisen (ECR, Denmark) and the AJC Transatlantic Institute.
Some months after Trump’s inauguration, a rather “traditional” foreign policy seems to emerge and to cut short the rather radical campaign statements. For Mr. Doran, while relations with Germany are improving, a move from NATO does not seem to be on the agenda. The critique of the new US President’s unpredictability was largely exaggerated, according to Doran, since most of Trump’s controversial statements were destined first and foremost toward their domestic audience, as opposed to an international one. Leaving aside the ultra-mediatisation of domestic politics – and particularly of US politics, ‘national’ elections statements were, according to Mike Doran, not yet to be taken as a ‘real’ foreign policy line.
He seemed rather optimistic on Trump’s presidency. On ISIS-related threats, military efforts are announced to be increased. On the question of Israeli-Sunni relationships, Doran already noted some improvements. Arguing that Obama tilted US foreign policy too heavily toward Iran, Doran pointed out that if the former administration left aside the most traditional allies of the United States, Trump’s foreign policy will instead revolve back around the ‘Golden triangle’, composed of Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
However, reality might require some compromises, notably on adjusting the aggressive position toward Iran to the efficiency of the fight against ISIS. Trump also works toward better relations with Russia; although this has been complicated by the US military strike in Syria beginning of April.
But above this interesting realist dilemma that Mr. Trump is facing and will be facing during his mandate, and above the timely discussion on Trump’s stance toward Turkey, it is on the Israeli-Palestinian question that EPMED took a closer look.
After his largely discussed view that the two-state solution might not be the only possible solution, Trump actually spawned in the general debate a question that has been pending and almost invisible in the discussion: the question of alternative sources of conflict resolution. However, according to Doran, the peace in the Middle East should not count too much on the new US Administration. The latter indeed rather acts as it would be “nice” if we can do it (i.e. ‘solve’ the conflict), and not as this matter was any central to the US foreign policy agenda. Doran expects though a better treatment for Israel than under the presidency of Barack Obama.
For him, the parties are too far away from each other to be any close to a peace agreement – both far more away than what people tend to think, and than diplomatic positions suggest. US and EU diplomats cannot ignore newspaper headlines and the fact that all actors, including diplomats and representatives of the international community, are too afraid of being blamed for failures. Following this line, the US seems then more likely to focus on management, rather than resolution, of the conflict. If Doran grants Trump the title of best negotiator “since President Nixon”, this quality, assumedly based on the President’s calculative and realist mind, brings the US administration a little step further from being of any help, and from taking any part in a constructive debate on the future of Palestine and Israel.
Reported by Olivier Loose, EPMED Contributor, and Salomé Ietter, EPMED Co-Director
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