Since the election most of the political dialog in the U.S. has related to “peaceful” issues like tax reform, trade policy, immigration and the economy. But very soon the new administration will need to explain to the world what it will do about the never ending problems in the Middle East.
President-elect Trump must still select a Secretary of State to round out his national security team, which is probably why so little has been said about the Iran nuke deal, Syrian military efforts, the plight of refugees, the Israel/Palestinian conflict and continuing Arab Spring implications to embedded regimes .
Also our national security is directly related to the aforementioned as the U.S. is under constant threat of terrorist violence by jihad perpetrated by individuals indoctrinated by violent Islamic organizations in the Middle East and in America.
The Secretary of State bake-off is still under way. More names have been added to the list of candidates. Hopefully our next president is learning more each day from the interviews. These discussions will likely be the foundation from which American policy for the Middle East emanates.
The following is an abridged review of the most important issues that will soon rise to the top of the new administration’s agenda.
Iran Nuke Deal. Congress is already working to extend the U.S.’s ability to impose greater sanctions on Iran if it does not live up to the terms of Obama’s deal ( highly probable because Iran cannot be trusted). The real question is whether Trump will abrogate, renegotiate or just tear up the current deal.
As expected Iran leadership is acting aggressively as if it has any influence over U.S. actions. It is threatening very serious consequences to any new sanctions imposed and says Trump cannot tear up the existing arrangement. Iran continues to misbehave every day in the region fomenting terror and attempting to gain more influence over the Arab world. Just imaging its bargaining strength if and when it has a nuclear weapon.
Hopefully Trump and his new security team will respond to Iran by tossing the current nuke arrangement, which is truly the worst deal in recent history, and impose more sanctions on Iran that will bankrupt the country and destabilize the current regime.
Israel and Palestine. Bibi Netanyahu, PM of Israel, has been very quiet to this point. The day that Trump takes office he will rev up his campaign to garner support for increased Israeli security. New settlements will be one of the primary areas of discussion along with a renewed debate about whether a one state or a divided Israel is the best course. So long as Iran and the other Arab countries support violent Palestinian activities, conflict will not abate. Yet the U.S. should immediately and unequivocally support Israel’s positions regardless of Arab considerations.
ISIS. So far every national security position in the new administration has been filled with hawkish candidates. This suggests that the Trump administration will be very aggressive in its efforts to root out and kill ISIS.
But there are some huge hurdles that must be dealt with. For instance the hub of ISIS activity is Syria, and its despot, Bashar al-Assad, is being supported by Russia and Iran. Most endgame assessments have Assad regaining control of his country in spite of his murderous ways and the creation of a refugee crisis that impacts every country in the region and Europe.
American policy, which has been difficult to assess under the Obama administration, appears to call for the U.S. to stand down and avoid any leadership roles in the Syrian conflict, although the elimination of ISIS is still an objective. Will Trump’s national security team change U.S. behavior and reinstate the original goal of deposing Assad? No one knows yet, although Trump seems to think he can deal effectively with the Russians (fat chance).
Making matters worse are Turkish aspirations. In a few words it wants to eliminate ISIS, dethrone Assad, stop immigration into Turkey and obliterate Kurds. Turkey’s actions prospectively could have a meaningful impact on the Syrian situation.
There are many other important issues for the Middle East. It will dominate a great deal of the new administrations efforts. One specific item is worth mentioning as it will define U.S. actions moving forward. Will the U.S. employ ground forces to finish off ISIS? And/or will the U.S. support/participate in bombing activity in Syria that results in great collateral damage? If neither of these become American policy, the ISIS threat will continue to plague the region for a long time.