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Tuesday 22 October 2019

US will make up for the lost Middle East trust

Javed Ali. 

Love it or hate it, the United States under President Donald Trump is still the world’s biggest economic power. When he announced his abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, the US economy didn’t crash, the stock exchange is still stable and the pace of price increases remains modest.

As the world will move on to more serious matters, the Syrian fiasco will remain registered in its books but will definitely not affect the United States’ future engagements with its partners in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. 

With its economic might, the United States brings on the table a massive volume of investments. Whether the other party will remember the Syrian episode will hardly matter. The frequency of economic crises appearing in the world has left governments focused on addressing only the issues that are presently at hand. The past is now seldom a means of learning lessons. 

The other chip frequently on the table is the US sanctions. If I don’t like your 5G technology, I’ll sanction you. If I don’t like your immigration policies, I’ll sanction you. If I don’t like your response to my partnership request, I’ll sanction you. The second world that the Middle East is, will hardly be able to resist the US offers of mediation or engagement or partnership – whatever one may like to call them. Of course, the leverage with other parties has now increased but not to the level that they can practically dictate their terms to Uncle Sam. 

The latest contrivance of the US government is trade. Used most recently against China and Mexico, the US was able to bring both to the table and make them listen to the US demands. Although China responded in the same coin, Mexico had little sway. Using trade to regain its influence – or trust, as we may say – is not just predictable but will be very much natural. 

The influencing attempt over Ukraine apparently didn’t go much pleasant, however. President Trump with his impending impeachment is now more of a guest right now at the White House. He will take the blame of the Syrian debacle along with him when he leaves. And so he will take along most of the foreign policy failures that the US suffered during his period in the office. 

When the next US president takes charge, he will be seen as a visionary. After Trump, the US leadership standards have been pushed so low that the way forward only has an upward gradient. No matter how surprising his actions and no matter how irrational his decisions might be, the next US president will appear as a man of intellect for the world to judge in comparison. Not to forget that during the current presidency, the harshest of critics of Barak Obama are recalling his seriousness, compassion and integrity.

The pretext Trump gave for the withdrawal from Syria was his intention to bring American troops home but days later he announced beefing up the US force in Saudi Arabia. While the withdrawal didn’t go too well with Saudi Arabia, the kingdom did allow stationing of the additional US troops. No sign of lost trust and no sign of an unreliable partner. 

That is one indication of how the future will be like for the US in the Middle East. The intellectual circles will keep reminding the world about the Syrian disaster but realpolitik will continue to ensure US role in the region.

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