Hostility to the Trump administration is not policy

As long as the policies the administration of US President Joe Biden follows continue to be driven by a Trump administration complex, matters at home and abroad are likely to remain in limbo.
Monday 15/02/2021
A 2019 file picture shows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waiting to give remarks in Atlanta, Georgia.  (AFP)
A 2019 file picture shows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waiting to give remarks in Atlanta, Georgia. (AFP)

It is not possible to imagine US foreign policy in light of the current administration’s desire to settle scores with the previous administration.

here is no point for US President Joe Biden’s administration’s policies to remain solely focused on exacting revenge against the former administration of Donald Trump.

In clear terms, policy will not be effective when it is based on hostility to everything that the previous administration did. That administration was already held accountable by the American people for the mistakes it made on election day.

November 3 was the day the majority of voters decided to punish Trump for his behaviour at home.

As long as the Biden administration’s policies continue to be driven by a Trump administration complex, matters at home and abroad are likely to remain in limbo.

On the external front, it will be particularly difficult to build a coherent policy without acknowledging that the Trump team, headed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has contributed to shedding many complexes and breaking past a few red lines that were previously thought to be impervious to transgression.

It is true that the Trump administration was bad for the Palestinians, but it is also true that the Palestinian leadership shot itself in the foot by believing that boycotting America was an option and that it had what it takes to influence the Trump administration.

In the end, Israel’s permanent goal is to sever the relationship between the Palestinian leadership and Washington. It was possible, despite all that Trump and those around him did, to preserve a thin connecting line between Washington and Ramallah

One must recognise that there was a  need to break the mould considering the new facts born from direct Iranian threats to the countries of the region, whether in the Gulf or the rest of the Middle East.

Iran boasted, starting in September 2014, after the Houthis (a.k.a Ansar Allah) laid their hands on Sana’a, that it was in control of four Arab capitals — namely Sana’a, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

The spokesmen for the “Islamic Republic” went so far as to brag that Iran had become a world power, given that it also controlled two strategic straits — Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.

Fortunately, it found an Arab force capable of keeping it  away from Bab al-Mandeb in Yemen. Whoever controls Bab al-Mandeb and the Yemeni port of Mokha controls navigation in the Red Sea, as well as shipping lanes leading to the Suez Canal.

Peace agreements signed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel did not come out of a vacuum. Oman preceded them by receiving Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Muscat in the days of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Likewise, Sudan could not wait too long as it worked to return to the international community and shed the inhibitions stemming from international sanctions imposed on the regime of former leader Omar al-Bashir.

The Trump administration played an active role in facilitating everything that would create a new situation in the region after Tehran crossed all red lines in dealing with the countries of the Middle East and the Gulf, especially after turning part of Yemen’s north into an Iranian missile base.

On top of all of that, the Trump administration acted in a civilised manner in dealing with the contrived problem imposed on the Moroccan Sahara. It recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Moroccan land, nothing more, nothing less.

How is the United States to blame if there is an Algerian regime that suffers from a Moroccan complex, a regime that believes that escaping its borders guarantees its continued rule considering its inability to reconcile itself with its own people first?

There is an artificial problem between Algeria and Morocco that has been around since 1975. There is a practical solution on the table, which is the autonomy formula proposed by Morocco within the framework of expanded de-centralisation.

The Algerian regime wants the problem to remain unresolved indefinitely so that it can continue to oppress its people and deprive them of the country’s riches under the pretext of endeavouring to enable a particular people to exercise their right to self-determination?

One cannot ignore that the Trump administration has accomplished a number of achievements by breaking free of closed circles… even if it made mistakes that led to its resounding defeat to Biden. But it is not true that tearing up the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 was a bad thing after all.

The Biden administration should admit that what the Trump team, not Trump himself, did was a gigantic move against Iran’s expansionist project in the entire region, a project that threatens anything Arab there.

This is made clear by the impact of the Iranian project in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which aims to destroy state institutions through armed sectarian militias affiliated with Tehran.

Once again, there are good qualities to the Trump administration and there are grave mistakes it committed, too. In fact, Trump himself is not to be credited for the good qualities in question, especially those inherent to his foreign policy.

The former US president did not know much about what was going on in the Middle East, the Gulf and North Africa.

There was a working group whose skills cannot be underestimated, even if it is possible to criticise its bias towards Israel and its right-wing slant, especially with regard to the issues of settlements and Jerusalem.

However, the question that arises in the end is: Can a policy be based simply on objecting to everything the Trump administration stood for? Can this be called politics?

Reactions cannot constitute a policy. There is no doubt that Trump was a temperamental person in many cases who was difficult to deal with or work with, but the decisions his administration made on certain issues and in certain parts of the world were bold steps that required an out of the ordinary personality.

There is nothing wrong with keeping the good and dispensing with the bad parts of the Trump administration’s legacy.

In any case, one will need to wait a little longer before finding out whether the new US administration will remain captive to the previous administration or fashion a creative policy based on the fact that Biden knows the world much better than his predecessor.