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Trump’s Middle East Foreign Policy: A Solidifying Relationship, Or A Clash of Interests?

Jordan

After his infamous track record of anti-immigration rhetoric and proposed ban on Muslim refugees from entering the U.S, is Trump likely to initiate discussion with King Abdallah on the refugees Jordan has taken in?

It seems this week the footsteps of powerful Arab leaders will frequent the floors of the White House. Egyptian President Al-Sisi met yesterday with President Trump, whilst King Abdallah of Jordan is expected to visit on the 5th of April.

A press briefing by the White House, held on the morning of the 31st of March, addressed Trump’s intention to “reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection the two presidents established”.

Despite the major shortcomings of the Egyptian economy and the heavy criticism of Al-Sisi that has stemmed from this, Trump praised Al-Sisi for “[initiating] courageous and historic economic reforms”. Moreover, the briefing mentioned, rather predictably, Trump’s intention to support Al-Sisi in efforts to defeat “a long-running terrorist threat of the Sinai” and to “develop a comprehensive counterterrorism approach”.

The president expressed his commitment to strengthening relations in the following tweet:

JORDAN

King Abdallah and Jordan-U.S. relations

The White House announced that the King is to meet Trump at the Oval Office for discussions followed by a working lunch. Once more, it highlighted the commitment to utilize bilateral relations to defeat ISIS and end the conflict in Syria. Having announced that matters relating to human rights violations will be discussed “in private”, it is unclear as to whether the discussion on Syria will encompass the humanitarian crisis side as well as the armed conflict one. Below is the official Press Secretary Statement regarding the meeting:

President Donald J. Trump looks forward to welcoming King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House on April 5.  President Trump and King Abdullah will exchange views on a range of shared interests in the Middle East, including how the United States and Jordan can best defeat ISIS, end the conflict in Syria, and advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The two leaders will also discuss how to further strengthen cooperation between the United States and Jordan and promote peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

After his infamous track record of anti-immigration rhetoric and his proposed ban on Muslim refugees from entering the U.S, is Trump likely to initiate discussion on the refugees Jordan has taken in? Or, even better, will he offer support, financial or otherwise, to contribute to the growing refugee crisis? It is currently unclear as to what exactly the administration’s stance towards Bashar Al-Assad is, and how this will translate into foreign relations and interventions.

Will Trump argue that Al-Assad should finally give up his position of power? The people of Syria have been suffering the disastrous and fatal results of the Syrian civil war, in which every domestic, regional, and international actor pursues their interests through interventions, for half a decade now. The issue of resolving the conflict in Syria should be on the top of every government’s list of priorities.

Jordan and the Palestine-Israel Conflict

It is no secret that Trump has made significant attempts to prove his support and dedication to Israel and his efforts to gain the support of the Israel lobby in the U.S. Last year, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, arrived in Washington DC to meet with president-elect Trump to discuss regional security matters. Considering the complex and integral role of Jordan in the Palestine-Israeli conflict, will either president bring up the decision to allow new settlements in the Occupied West Bank? Questions arise as to the possibility of a potential peace deal facilitated by the current administration, to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas alluded in his meeting with an envoy from Trump last March.

What next?

Although topics of discussion remain relatively vague, the visits are without doubt of great importance. They have been largely received as symbolic attempts by Trump’s administration to establish a particular kind of relationship with the Middle East, which no doubt will correspond to certain policies and goals he has discussed during and following his presidential campaign.

In the Middle East, the visits have been presented as an expression of the power of the leaders, and have raised many questions regarding two popular topics of discussion in the region: the Palestinian problem, and the problem of human rights abuses in Egypt.

Can we expect Trump to satisfy some loud public demands, or is it likely he will use military and development aid (to Egypt) as a kind of leverage? Are his own interests regarding Israel, Syria, and the refugee crisis likely to clash with those of Jordan’s? Only time will tell. For now, the three leaders have expressed a willingness to work on their relations and an effort to strengthen their bonds with the U.S.

 

Read more: What Can We Expect From The Egyptian President Sisi’s First Visit To The White House?

 

 

 

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About the author

Mona Elkateb

Mona Elkateb

Mona Elkateb is a Foreign Policy expert with a regional specialty in the Middle East. She is currently pursuing MSc degree in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science.