LAST week, US presidential candidate Donald Trump
delivered the longest speech given by a nominee in the
history of the Republican National Convention. Despite this, he didn’t help us much in understanding what his foreign policy will be if he wins. His whole speech echoed his previous statements, saying that he will cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran because he considers the US the losing party in it and that he will not provide protection to his allies, like Saudi Arabia, unless he gets something in return.
These two points, if we assume they are truly in his agenda when he wins, are not necessarily bad. I noticed many are happy with Trump’s stances, particularly by his threat to cancel the agreement with Iran. They think that even if he can’t revoke it, he will at least not be enthusiastic in implementing it or in adopting a rapprochement policy with Tehran.
Does Trump have a political orientation that is totally different than that of current President Barack Obama towards Iran and the rest of Middle Eastern affairs?
Truth be told, we don’t know Trump’s orientations, intentions and concerns. I don’t know if anyone knows anything about them. He came a long and exhausting way in the presidential race within the party and he won the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency. There are less than four months before finalizing the battle between him and his competitor, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, we know a lot about Clinton and her orientations, opinions and those who work with her. There’s a long record of political work, participation and statements that help us draw an image of how the next four years will play out. We do not expect she will be enthusiastic in cooperating with Iran or enthusiastic about the nuclear deal. At the same time, we do not expect she will obstruct it and she may use it as a base to achieve a more expanded regional policy. We expect Clinton to be less enthusiastic than George W. Bush, but livelier than Barack Obama.
If Trump becomes president, he may align completely with Gulf states against Iran and restore the policy of curbing the Iranian regime on the regional level – a policy which existed before Obama came to power – and enhance the power of his allies in the region. But he may also do the complete opposite and be open to Iran and grant it more than Obama politically and commercially promised it. Not intentionally mysterious Lack of clarity in Trump’s policy is not intentionally mysterious but it’s due to the fact that he’s never practiced political work and never participated in any activity that may indicate his political interests and orientations towards countries other than the US. Trump is a businessman who has built an investment empire and he’s dealt with many institutions, companies and businessmen from across the world, including the Arab world. A friend who has done work with him once told me that Trump knows the region well and has many partnerships with Arabs but he was never interested in political talk.
Lack of clarity in Trump’s policy is not intentionally mysterious but it’s due to the fact that he’s never practiced politics
When he talks about trading American military power in exchange of supporting any ally, like Gulf countries, he doesn’t seem to understand that diplomatic ties, which have lasted for 70 years, were based on mutual interests, not personal relations or charity work. The US as a superpower has interests all over the world, and it gives as good as it gets. This is an international relations custom which is mostly based on mutual interests and, in part, ideologies.
Despite the racist remarks attributed to Trump against Muslims, Mexicans and others, these statements have not made many in the Arab world angry or worried yet. American elections have always gotten us used to political bidding. What Trump says against extremist Muslims is being said out loud by Muslims themselves today. The world needs cooperation to eliminate terrorism and target its presence and resources. This is a mutual interest.
[Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed].