Skip to content

Notes from: Trump’s Middle East Policy: Lost In the Desert: KGNU Hemispheres “Middle East Dialogues” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince: January 24, 2017

January 30, 2017

us-bases

1.

Well, the Trump presidency has begun…

His election and the selection of his cabinet have already been described as “a corporate coup.” Instead of “draining the swamp” of corporate lobbyists and the like, he has replenished it and then some with a cabal of billionaires, extreme militarists pickled in conspiracy theories, and climate deniers.

His election and the selection of his cabinet have already been described as “a corporate coup.” Instead of “draining the swamp” of corporate lobbyists and the like, he has replenished it and then some with a cabal of billionaires, extreme militarists pickled in conspiracy theories, and climate deniers.

He has begun by instituting what is called the American version of “The Shock Doctrine” – a political blitzkrieg with the goal of radically restructuring the American body politic, restructuring the country, along cold, mean, uninhibited, uncontrolled, disaster capitalist lines…

Bypassing Congress where possible – even though it is Republican dominated – his administration started with a flurry of executive orders and Congressional maneuvers aimed at cutting social services, bolstering the military, cutting environmental regulations and attacking the federal civil service. President Donald Trump has announced to cut $10.5 trillion out of the federal government over 10 years by gutting federal agency budgets by as much as 10 percent while slashing 20 percent from the federal workforce and reducing the size of regulatory agencies by 75%.

A few examples suffice:

• 3. Besides beginning to gut the Affordable Care Act in the first hours after his inauguration, Trump has announced his intention of making sure that the DAPL pipeline – the Dakota Access Pipeline is completed, reversing Obama’s decision to halt construction of the project. The repression of the demonstrators at Standing Rock has already intensified.
• He has just placed “a gag order” on both the EPA and US Department of “Starting immediately and until further notice, Agricultural Research Service will not release any public-facing documents,” wrote ARS chief of staff Sharon Drumm. “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”
• On the foreign policy front, the American Sovereignty Restoration Act (H.R. 193), sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., would result in the United States formally cutting ties with the United Nations ending the 1947 agreement that houses the U.N. headquarters in New York City, end U.S. funding for U.N. peacekeeping operations and end U.S. participation in the World Health Organization, among other measures.
• There are indications that Trump will issue an executive order in the next few days banning travel to the United States from certain Muslim countries.

2.

Much of the news about the Trump moves have focused on the drastic domestic shifts, but what about foreign policy in general and it concerns the Middle East.

We don’t have much to go on…but we can give a few pertinent ideas of where he is headed.

Let’s talk about the man first and then the context…

He’s mostly a businessman, not necessarily tied down or believing in long nurtured and held alliances. His view of the world is not so much to defend these long-held alliances. As a businessman Trump thinks of the United States as simply one of a number of global competitors. In such a context the aim of U.S. foreign policy, in the Middle East as elsewhere is to advance American interests above all else, and frustrate the designs of all those who seek advantage at its expense.

Other governments will be judged solely by what they can do to either further U.S. interests or impede them – a kind of sum zero contest – they win, we lose, visa versa…like football. If it means irritating old allies, like the Germans, British, French, then so be it. In this competition, Trump will use every tool at his disposal to reward partners and punish opponents

Partners can expect…favorable trade deals and exemptions from human rights considerations; adversaries will face high import tariffs, diplomatic isolation and in case of extreme provocation, military action. Trump has assembled his political leadership team in such a way as to accomplish these “American First” goals. He has a secretary of state, Tillerson, a master at cutting political deals and rewarding partners with lucrative deals

He has a national security adviser and a secretary of defense with “rich experience” otherwise known as war crimes, who will be in a position to use military force if and when necessary and has committed to strengthen the already bloated U.S. military so that the military option can be employed. In pursuing such a narrow nationalist approach, he will find himself in all kinds of messes as we will elaborate.

– He’s mostly a businessman, not necessarily tied down or believing in long nurtured and held alliances…

– His view of the world is not so much to defend these long-held alliances…

– As a businessman Trump thinks of the United States as simply one of a number of global competitors. In such a context the aim of U.S. foreign policy, in the Middle East as elsewhere is to advance American interests above all else, and frustrate the designs of all those who seek advantage at its expense.

3.

Is there a specific Trump Doctrine beyond maximizing profits for American business? Hardly.

Unlike other presidential candidates Trump has not issued elaborate position papers or delivered lengthy speeches on the subject. True enough, Trump will not be able to go beyond certain well-defined boundaries, red lines of American foreign policy that fits in comfortably with other “doctrines”

– First pretty much every president since WW 2 has articulated a foreign policy doctrine…so there is a Truman Doctrine, Eisenhower Doctrine, Bush Doctrine and doctrines in between – statements of purpose policy. Although there are slight differences in these doctrines, they mostly boil down to the same approaches and principles guiding U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere

What are they

– the U.S. will do what is necessary to maintain global dominance…even as that dominance, from an economic viewpoint is weakening
– In the Middle East, at the heart of all these doctrines – control of global energy supplies in the region which still has the greatest percentage of easily accessible fossil fuels in the world
– Unwavering support for Israel, Saudi Arabia as regional pillars of its Middle East policies
– Over the past 15 years, attempts to break up, partition strong centralized Middle East states that might not bow to U.S. political dictates,,,Iraq, Libya and the failing attempts to do likewise in Syria.

We can expect that Trump will follow in these policies, with or without a clearly articulated doctrine.

4. Concerning a Trump Doctrine…What can we say? a number of things…

• First, that he has no foreign policy or Middle East doctrine beyond maximizing trade and profit advantages for American based companies, he is probably incapable of putting one together. Hard to develop a foreign policy doctrine tweeting after midnight.
• What little we know of his Middle East policies can be gleaned from some of his statements during the campaign and from his cabinet and staff appointments.
• We’ve talked about that in the last session, about Michael Flynn, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, his Middle East adviser son-in-law Jared Kushner and the new choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
• All this is shaping up to be the George W. Bush Middle East team regurgitated in the Trump years, the so-called “neo-cons” – the ones who brought the American people – and the world the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Guantanemo, Abu Ghraib, etc. …
• What also stands out about the cabinet and foreign policy advisers are deep strains of anti-Islamic bigotry, antagonism towards any manifestation of Arab or Middle Eastern nationalism and an approach bordering on fanaticism to use military solutions to solve regional problems.

• First, that he has no foreign policy or Middle East doctrine beyond maximizing trade and profit advantages for American based companies, he is probably incapable of putting one together. Hard to develop a foreign policy doctrine tweeting after midnight.

5.

There are certain aspects of global geo-politics that Trump will need to deal with.

Obama tried, unsuccessfully to engineer a geo-political shift in U.S. foreign policy, concentrating on Asia, specifically China, and reducing the U.S. “footprint” as they call it, specifically in the Middle East…

This shift entailed relying more heavily on U.S. allies than in the past to implement regional policy, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt…thus permitting a partial military and political withdrawal from the Middle East…hasn’t worked.

If Obama did manage a few achievements in the Middle East, a careful look at his Middle East policies suggest that despite completing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (commonly called the Iran Nuclear Deal) – not approved by Congress, and not given into attacking Syria in 2012, that overall, U.S. Middle East policy during the Obama Years has been nothing short of a train wreck.

Nothing typifies this failed policy as the failure of U.S. policy in Syria, graphically illustrated by the expulsion of ISIS, Al Nusra mercenaries from Aleppo, where they suffered a crushing defeat..

As we have discussed, particularly since 2014, 2015 U.S. Middle East policy has been in something approaching shambles, “a train wreck” as we have referred to it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. John Buttny permalink
    January 31, 2017 3:25 pm

    hi rob, so great to see that you are still alive and well and fighting. onward. john buttny

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: