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The Year Ahead 2019

The Trumping of the Middle East

No region is more vulnerable to the disruptive effects of the “Trump doctrine” than the Middle East. While Barack Obama’s timid policies left the region a mess, his successor has turned it into a powder keg.

TEL AVIV – US President Donald Trump may be mercurial, but he does have a doctrine. As his speech in September at the United Nations General Assembly again confirmed, Trump rejects multilateral institutions and liberal values in favor of the nation-state and power politics. But understanding the “Trump doctrine” – with its support for abandoning America’s longstanding role as a global arbiter – does not make it any less disruptive, especially for the already-unstable Middle East.

It is no surprise that the Middle East has been particularly vulnerable to the unsettling effects of the Trump doctrine. After all, the timid policies of Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, significantly exacerbated the region’s dysfunction, opening the way for Trump to introduce what can only be described as mayhem.

For starters, the Obama administration utterly failed to make progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a failure Trump promised to correct with the “deal of the century.” Instead, Trump has unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US embassy there, and ended financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which supports more than five million registered Palestinian refugees. One must be extraordinarily ignorant to believe Trump’s claims that these actions amount to taking two of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “off the table.”

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