20240606 trump
Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Image Credit: Reuters

With a long history of predictions over US presidential elections, the certainty of who will occupy the White House for the next four years, remains an unpredictable adventure. With just four months until election day, these months are often dubbed the ‘crucial four’ in the Middle East, spanning from now until November.

The world watches as the conflict between the two parties intensifies, reaching unprecedented levels of political animosity on one hand, and making promises on the other. There are two significant aspects to consider: firstly, the internal issues that are of utmost concern to American voters, ranging from the economy to various interconnected issues. Secondly, foreign policy, where the differences between the candidates are stark.

While foreign policy may take a back seat in importance for American voters, it holds immense significance for the global community, particularly for people in the Middle East. For many American voters, domestic issues such as the economy, health care, and education dominate their concerns, shaping their voting decisions and political priorities. However, the international ramifications of US foreign policy decisions are profound, influencing global stability, economic conditions, and geopolitical alliances.

Read more by Prof Mohammad Alrumaihi

In the Middle East, US foreign policy has historically played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s political and social landscape. Assuming Donald Trump wins the presidency, he is likely to radically alter US foreign policy over the past four years and turn it upside down.

Regarding Ukraine, he has been explicit in his election campaign, as he promised to address the issue directly with Vladimir Putin. And it is anticipated that Putin may make concessions to Trump, potentially leading to a ceasefire and territorial agreements in parts of Ukraine.

Resonating across the region

While this could benefit the US economy, it might provoke dissatisfaction among some Europeans. However, with right-wing leaders gaining influence across Europe, particularly those whose economies have been strained by the conflict, Trump’s approach could find support.

Nigel Farage, leader of the British Reform Party, has already suggested that the Ukraine war stems from NATO’s pressure on Russia, a sentiment increasingly echoed by Europe’s rising right-wing factions.

In the Middle East, Trump’s presidency has been marked by significant actions that resonate across the region. He is pro-Israel, having recognised Jerusalem as its capital and acknowledged the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Additionally, he relocated the US embassy to Jerusalem, among other actions.

Conversely, Trump’s administration ordered the assassination of Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, an event Iran linked to subsequent actions like the Oct. 7, 2023, labelled as Operation Al Aqsa Flood, seen as a response to Soleimani’s death. Moreover, he withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement (known as the Five plus One deal), negotiated during the Obama administration.

If Trump wins the elections, it would likely be seen as pleasant news for Israel’s right-wing government, which will expect to receive military and financial aid and political support from the US.

After November 2024, Trump may find a markedly different landscape in the Middle East compared to when he left office — potentially witnessing increased uranium enrichment activities in Iran, disruptions to navigation in the southern Red Sea, intensified conflicts in Gaza, and possibly southern Lebanon. These developments signify a broader Iranian expansion in the region.

With the stabilisation of the situation in Ukraine and the resumption of the flow of crucial raw materials, particularly the Russian oil and gas, into the European economy, the Russian Federation’s incentives for confrontation with a Trump-led America could diminish.

This potential shift might lead to reduced Russian alignment with Iran, Middle Eastern resistance forces, and even those in Africa. Such developments could facilitate Trump’s policies in both the Middle East and Africa.

Pre-emptive signals

These policies are backed by American public opinion, historically supportive of Tel Aviv and increasingly opposed to prolonged military engagements and wars. It is important to note that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan also reflects a Trump-era policy aimed at satisfying domestic factions opposed to prolonged military involvement.

On the global scale, many environmental conservation policies could be undermined as oil exploration in oceans resumes, potentially leading to an energy price drop due to increased supply, including Russian energy re-entering the market.

Therefore, the next four months are crucial for the Middle East, where regional powers, anticipating potential changes, may seek to expand their influence. Signs like the joint operation announcement between the Houthis and some Iraqi groups in the Red Sea, escalation on the southern Lebanon front, and advancements in the Iranian nuclear programme are all pre-emptive signals ahead of November.

These are indeed crucial times ahead, marked by four months of intense activity and significant geopolitical maneuvers. The period leading up to the November elections is fraught with uncertainty and high stakes. It is often said that those who do not plan for tomorrow risk losing the opportunities and stability they have today.

Mohammad Alrumaihi is an author and Professor of Political Sociology at Kuwait University