Mideast visit scores Trump easy points

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/22 23:08:39

US President Donald Trump arrived in Israel Monday, the second stop of his maiden overseas trip as president.

It surprised the public that Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the first destination of his presidential visit. Given his anti-Muslim rhetoric, the relationship between the US and the Islamic world doesn't look promising to many. Trump once again demonstrated his way of doing things.

Observers are busy analyzing his strategic intentions and purpose of visiting the Middle East at this time, but they may over-interpret this trip. If Trump followed his predecessors to first visit either Canada or Mexico, it would not be his style. Saudi Arabia was chosen, at least partly because of its proximity to the Italian island of Sicily where the G7 summit will take place. More importantly, the country has a $110 billion deal to sign with Trump.

Trump's Middle East strategy has yet to take shape. Instead of talking endlessly about strategy, Trump prefers to pursue a results-oriented approach. During this trip, he managed to consolidate the Washington-Riyadh alliance and made an important connection with the Islamic world, plus the special relationship between the US and Israel was highlighted. Trump has scored some easy points through this trip.

 The short visits helped strengthen Washington's two important alliances, which were both weakened during the Obama era. At least in these two days, Trump showed better skills at maneuvering than Obama.

The Middle East is full of major issues and contradictions, which Trump tried to circumvent on this visit. While he is harsh on Iran and Syria, he hasn't moved to annul the Iranian nuclear deal. He claimed he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but didn't repeat it on this trip.

The general posture of the former Obama administration was to withdraw from the Middle East, while Trump kicked off his first foreign visit there, leaving the impression that the US intended to return. However, this impression is not necessarily true. He is more likely to reap some benefits from the region and then walk away. It is hard to believe that he will input more strategic resources to the region than Obama did.

During the Cold War, the US attached high importance to the Middle East mainly due to its rich oil resources. Now with declining reliance on Middle Eastern oil, the US is primarily concerned by anti-terrorism and geopolitics in the region.

The US does not have the ability to manage the chaos in the Middle East. Trump's strengthening of US relations with several key partners in the region contradicts Obama's retreat, however they both aimed to make the region favorable for the US. The two presidents just made efforts in different directions.

Obama wasn't able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, eliminate sectarian conflict, or clear up the mess of the Arab Spring. Trump probably does not even want to try. He may only want to sort out the interests of the US from these complex issues so as to reduce inputs but gain more benefits. He has talked much about counter-terrorism as terrorism poses direct threats to his administration.

Saudi Arabia and Israel topped Trump's first presidential trip, but it doesn't mean Middle East tops his agenda.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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