The election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States has created a sense of uncertainty and fear in the West Asia region in the light of his anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric during the Presidential campaign.
His naming retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser; Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, R-Alabama, as Attorney General; and Rep. Michael Pompeo, R-Kansas, as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency has heightened the fear as all three have hardline views that support Trump’s agenda on the Muslim community, immigration, as also use of force.
Although official reactions to Trump’s election was expectedly diplomatic, with all countries in the west Asian region hoping to have good ties with his regime, there is frenetic deliberations in the corridors of power to understand what his Presidency portents for the region, given his unclear, varied and often contradictory statements on the Middle East.
Observers in the region, however, feel that Trump will be hard on Iran as he had called the US-negotiated deal on Teheran’s nuclear program “a disaster” and “the worst” ever negotiated. He has promised to scrap the agreement, which according to him would lead to a “nuclear holocaust.” The deal was negotiated by US President Barack Obama to control Iran's nuclear programme. The collapse of the deal will not only batter Iran’s economy once again but would also give the hardliners in the country opportunity to take to the streets with their "death to America" slogan again.
While taking any final call, Trump would definitely be watching Iran if it adheres to its commitment to stop supporting terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah.
Israel, which is delighted by Trump’s victory, is obviously happy with his stand so far on Iran’s nuclear programme as its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vehemently against the nuclear agreement. While calling Trump as “a true friend of Israel” Benjamin has said he is looking forward to working with him to advance security, stability and peace in the region.
Middle East observers feel that Trump would possibly not get involved in the wider regional crisis mainly in Syria and Yemen where the Gulf countries would like the US to defend their interests.
Trump has talked tough against the Jehadist group ISIS promising to “bomb the hell out of them” and but observers say that he is silent on the civil war in Syria where an estimated 400,000 people have died in the last five years.
His pulling back from the ongoing interest in ending the civil war may have disastrous impact in Syria and Iraq where ISIS is very active, they said.
However, Josh Kraushar, Politics Editor of the US-based National Journal, sees the induction of Flynn, Pompeo, and Mattis as the biggest shift from US President Barack Obama to his successor, that this ‘’will be an increased urgency in defeating ISIS, both rhetorically and in its overseas engagement.
Their appointment “also means that the new administration will be taking a much harder line with Iran, viewing very sceptically the nuclear deal President Obama struck”, he is quoted as saying by the journal.
(M Shakeel Ahmed is former Editor, PTI. He has also served as West Asia Correspondent for PTI, based in Bahrain from 1988 to 1995. The views expressed are personal.)