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Despite Trump, US Gulf policy ‘on track’

Panellists addressing Strategic Debate in Abu Dhabi say the US remains committed to key principles for the region

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Despite confusing tweets from US President Donald Trump on US foreign policy, Washington remains on track in pursuing a consistent international approach, Ed Rogers, an expert in political campaigns and former deputy assistant to the US president and executive assistant to the White House Chief of Staff, said at the 4th Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, titled “US Policy in the Gulf: Troubled Cruise”.

The key elements of US foreign policy remain, he insisted. These include: Defeating Daesh, restoring relations with regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel), halting Iranian expansionism, achieving a settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis in line with what is being called the “deal of the century”.

Rogers added the Trump administration is open to listening to its allies, and wants to start new channels of communications.

 The ‘tone’ of the US administration has changed since the days of Obama, but the core of the policies did not undergo a drastic change.

 

He also highlighted the importance of Congress, which is an important decision-maker in foreign policy and has been proactive in implementing sanctions on Iran.

GCC countries should communicate with leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties, as the Democrats currently have the upper hand in Congress, which means they play an important role in foreign policy, Rogers advised.

James Lindsay, senior vice president and director of studies and Maurice R. Greenberg chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed that the Trump administration’s foreign policy is characterised by ambiguity and incoherence, citing the example of Washington’s handling of the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the Arab Quartet.

Lindsay said the “tone” of the US administration has changed since the days of Barack Obama, but the core of the policies did not undergo a drastic change, aside from the stance on Iran.

Lindsay said the Trump administration is facing a particularly difficult challenge in dealing with Iran, since Trump did not tear up the nuclear deal as he claimed he would do during his campaign, and he doesn’t want to give up the deal.

However, he will continue with the policy of implementing more sanctions.

Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, columnist for the London-based Arabic daily Al Sharq Al Awsat, said Iran is the common factor in many crises in the region, and it is not possible to bolster security and stability in the countries experiencing ongoing struggles such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, without ending Iranian interference.

As for GCC-US interests, Rogers said that for Gulf countries to get the support they want from Washington, they should convince the US that serving Gulf interests serves American interests as well, and that the key is examining American interests first.

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