Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Middle East Forum Communications Coordinator.
In his first 100 days, President Trump has successfully reasserted America’s long-standing role as the Middle East’s great power.
Whereas the Obama administration sought to create a “hegemonic equilibrium” – a balance of power between the regional powers – the Trump administration has charted a different course, re-embracing America’s allies and casting off its foes. This has included,
- Increased military support to Washington’s regional allies, be it an improved aid package to Israel, munitions to Riyadh to maintain an edge against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, or direct arming of the Kurdish defense forces battling ISIS.
- Demonstrated readiness for direct military action, including wider leeway for anti-ISIS/al-Qaeda attacks, increased airstrikes and drone strikes, and the deployment of U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq and Djibouti.
- Diplomatic engagement with key allies shunned by the Obama administration, notably Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.
- Insistence on the attainment of Israeli-Palestinian peace through direct negotiations between the two parties with Washington playing only a supportive role.
A potential downside to President Trump’s increased engagement has been his outreach to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the referendum formally confirming him as dictator for life. Whereas Tehran can be seen as today’s “problem child,” Turkey may well become tomorrow’s trouble spot.
Ultimately, however, the reassertion of Washington’s hegemonic position in the Middle East supports President Trump’s broader goal of strengthening the U.S. abroad in order to keep Americans safer at home.