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Editorial: Middle East policy turnaround not based on long-term strategy

  • May 25, 2017
  • , Nikkei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

U.S. President Donald Trump visited the Middle East on the first leg of his first overseas tour.  

 

The U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel became strained under President Barack Obama. The pledge to increase pressure on Iran that Trump made during his visits to these two nations demonstrates a shift away from the Obama administration’s policy toward the Middle East.

 

The U.S.’s engagement is indispensable in ensuring stability n the Middle East. However, a long-term strategy will be needed to tackle the complex, multifaceted problem. Unbalanced, haphazard involvement by the U.S. will only end up deepening the schisms in the region.

 

In Saudi Arabia, Trump proposed the creation of a new security cooperation mechanism to counter Islamic extremism before the leaders of Muslim nations. The engagement of Muslim countries is indispensable to fight the spread of Islamic extremism and the threat of terrorism. The proposal deserves credit but it also entails problems.

 

Trump emphasized that the U.S. will “isolate Iran and deny it of funds for terrorism.” The people who attended his speech were from Sunni Islam nations. If his intention is to consolidate the Sunni forces, which are at odds with Shiite-controlled Iran, for the purpose of security cooperation, sectarian strife may intensify and the Islamic world could be divided further.

 

In his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Trump showed a willingness to mediate in peacebuilding efforts in the Middle East. The Palestine issue comprises the core of volatility in the Middle East. Past U.S. administrations have been involved in the peacebuilding process as mediators, but failed. We hope his determination yields results.  

 

President Trump stopped short of setting forth a concrete vision or roadmap for peace during his first Middle East trip. The President is said to favor Israel as he once suggested that his administration would not be bound by the existing policy of pursuing the coexistence of Israel and an independent Palestinian state. It is important for him to play the role of an impartial mediator. We hope he will take a persevering approach to peacemaking in the region. (Abridged)

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