A new age of diplomacy

A new age of diplomacy, Israel Hayom, Prof. Abraham Ben-Zv, April 5, 2017

The character of the new American diplomacy is slowly becoming clear, both in terms of style and essence, and especially as it pertains to the Middle East. We are being given the impression that U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to adopt the management style of late U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who tended to bypass his secretary of state.

Preliminary signs indicate that Trump sees his current wandering adviser and envoy, Jared Kushner, as a confidant and trustworthy emissary for sensitive diplomatic missions. This is clear from his mission to Baghdad at the beginning of the week and in his ongoing involvement in advancing the peace process in the Palestinian arena. Kushner is also expected to take part in the U.S.-China summit (set to take place in Florida this week), reflecting his role as moderating figure in the charged relationship between Trump and the Chinese leadership and indicating his growing power.

While a young and energetic Kushner hops between continents as the president’s representative, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lags behind him, excluded and disconnected from the big decision-makers.

This gives a good idea of style. As for the essence — when it comes to the Middle East in particular, we are seeing a sort of diplomacy that is radically different than former U.S. President Barack Obama’s approach. This is especially true regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to establish a Sunni anti-Iranian axis led by Cairo and Riyadh. While the Obama administration abandoned the United States’ traditional partners on this front, and instead, worked tirelessly to reconcile with Iran, the current White House is signalling unequivocally that it is determined to at least turn over a new leaf in its relationship with these regional powers and to upgrade strategic cooperation with them in order to uproot terrorism.

While Obama’s relationship with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was characterized by coldness (in contrast to the warmth he showed to Egypt’s previous leader, Muslim Brotherhood member and sworn Hamas supporter Mohammed Morsi), Trump’s approach is quite different. El-Sissi’s state visit to Washington this week was marked by extraordinary warmth and cordiality on the part of the American president. This was an effort to erase the remnants of the recent past — especially the memory of punitive and alienating policy led by Obama against the Egyptian leader — from the Egyptian consciousness.

A similarly dramatic improvement can be seen in U.S.-Saudi relations, wherein strategic cooperation has also been upgraded recently, especially (but not only) regarding fighting on the Syrian front and in the struggle against the Houthi militias operating in Yemen with Iran’s help and support (against al-Qaida forces in the field). This follows the deep ebb in their relationship due to Obama’s tireless efforts to appease the Ayatollah regime in Iran, the sworn enemy of the Saudi royalty. Regarding Syria, in 2013, Obama abandoned the civilian population there to its fate, remaining, despite his declarations, completely passive even after Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed all the red lines by using murderous chemical weapons against masses of civilians. On Tuesday, too, Assad’s forces carried out a major chemical attack, harming many civilians, in the country’s destroyed and divided north. Based on the growing military involvement and the Trump administration’s determination to deal with the “axis of evil” there too, we can assume that the White House will have a different response to this war crime.

Finally, regarding U.S.-Israeli relations, we are witnessing the expression of exceptional support and identification, reminiscent of the golden age of late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (during which time then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg’s speeches reflected the strength and resilience of the “special relationship”). While the Obama administration focused on efforts to settle the conflict, which it defined as a core issue of utmost local and regional importance, the Trump administration is demonstrating a much more relaxed and relevant approach to the complex situation. On this front too, there is real change in the form and style of American diplomacy in the Trump era.

Explore posts in the same categories: Jared Kushner, Trump agenda, Trump and China, Trump and Egypt, Trump and Iran, Trump and Israel, Trump and Middle East, Trump and Saudi Arabia

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