President Trump and The Middle East

Since 9/11 the US military has now been on operations in the Middle East for almost two decades.


Since 9/11 the US military has now been on operations in the Middle East for almost two decades. America’s new President faces a region beset by deepening troubles, civil war, economic collapse and jihadi terrorism.

Mr Trump has made it clear that dealing with Islamic State is urgent. It is believed that he wants to ramp up what President Obama has already done and seek:


“International cooperation to cut off their funding, expanded intelligence sharing and cyber warfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.”

Mr Trump has also made overtures toward President Putin, signalling a thawing of relations. 

Barack Obama has reportedly been critical of Russia and Putin's conduct. However, under Trump's administration things could look very different.

Trump has expressed admiration for Putin, especially his "very strong control" over Russia.

The Russian leader has called Trump "brilliant" in the past.

But could a Trump Presidency see Moscow and Washington also work together militarily to defeat IS?

Xenia Wickett, from Chatham house, believes there are two deals we can imagine seeing fairly early on in Trumps administration:

"One is a deal with Russia, where the United States and Russia will come to some agreement on how they are going to deal with Syria, which would focus on IS".

Trump also vowed to target al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, using military, cyber, financial and ideological warfare during his campaign.

“My administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS,”

Analysis by Forces TV Westminster correspondent Simon Newton.

Donald Trump’s foreign policy instincts may be isolationist but no US President in modern times has managed to avoid involvement – either political or militarily - in the Middle East.  

As he enters the Oval Office, America’s new President will discover an in-tray bursting with complex briefs on the Middle East.

From jihadi terrorism to economic collapse and civil war, it is a region beset by crises.

Most pressing and the one he says he will deal with first is the defeat of so-called Islamic State or Daesh.

As Iraqi forces slowly make their way through Mosul US military commanders are already turning their sights on Raqqa, the Syrian city regarded as the terror group’s HQ.

Donald Trump has signalled he will continue the fight on IS, even step it up.

His overtures towards Moscow has even led some to suggest he will seek a military alliance with President Putin, directing both US and Russian firepower on the jihadists.

But to achieve that alliance the new President would almost certainly have to agree to the Assad’s political survival. The question is how that would play out with America’s allies – Britain included.

Mr Trump is regarded as a pro-Israel and urged Obama to veto the recent UN Security Council resolution on settlements.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he is known to favour a two-state solution and says he will use his negotiating skills to bring a long-standing solution – something no President before him has ever managed.

An issue where the new President is likely to take a far tougher stance than his predecessor is Iran.

Mr Trump has been highly critical of the 2015 nuclear deal struck by the Obama Administration which partially lifted sanctions on Tehran.

He is expected to push for a tougher inspections regime and UN resolutions outlawing missile development.

Some suggest he might even push to get the deal scrapped.

However much Mr Trump would like to pivot the US away from the complex problems of the Middle East there is little chance of it happening. 

The saying goes what happens in the Middle East rarely stays in the Middle East. A fact Mr Trump is likely to find out very quickly once he takes office.

On Israel, Mr. Trump is a vocal supporter of Tel Aviv. He’s appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has no diplomatic experience, as his Middle East envoy.

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald Trump

Jason Greenblatt, Trump's chief legal officer and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, who is Trump's adviser on Israel, commented on Israel's Army Radio that, in the next four years, there:

"Would be a stark departure from the long-time American stance that Israeli construction in areas captured in the 1967 Six-Day War makes it more difficult to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians".


Which could be interpreted as; Trump is very unlikely to pressure Israel to slow down settlement construction on Palestinian land.

On Iran, Trump has been highly critical. Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment programme in return for sanctions relief. Trump labelled this the:

"Worst deal ever negotiated".

What America does in the Middle East always impacts on her allies, Britain amongst them.

RAF jets flying from Cyprus are part of a US-led coalition and are by far the largest contributor the US shapes the overall mission.

If Mr Trump decides to up the fight on Islamic State, or even change tactics, that will undoubtedly impact on the missions being flown by British pilots. 

Cyprus Jets

Cyprus Jets

During his campaign, Mr Trump famously said he’d like a temporary ban on Muslims from some countries entering the US. 

The Republicans have defended the ban, insisting the ban was about Americans’ "safety" and not about discriminating against religion. Videos and speeches defending the ban remain on the Trump campaign website but the statement has since disappeared. 

However much the new President would like the US to pivot away from the Middle East analysts say it’ll prove impossible. 

From Yemen to Iraq and the Gulf, it’s a region that’s fully occupied generations of Presidents. 

Mr Trump – whether he likes it or not – is likely to be no different.

More - President Trump: The View From Across The Pond

More - How President Trump Could Affect NATO