Hillary Clinton and Don­ald Trump won’t walk in Obama’s foot­steps

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [Raghida Dergham is Colum­nist, Se­nior Diplo­matic Cor­re­spon­dent, and New York Bureau Chief for the Lon­don-based Al Hayat news­pa­per since 1989. She is dean of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia at the United Na­tions. Dergham is Founder and Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man of Beirut

IRAGHIDA DERGHAM T is still early to draw the fea­tures of the for­eign pol­icy of any of the pre­sumed can­di­dates for the US pres­i­dency. How­ever, it is pos­si­ble to de­fine some broad out­lines, es­pe­cially since both the pre­sumed Demo­cratic can­di­date Hillary Clinton and pre­sumed Repub­li­can can­di­date Don­ald Trump are set to di­verge from the poli­cies of the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East and the Gulf re­gion.

The iso­la­tion­ism of Don­ald Trump, for one thing, will be dif­fer­ent from Barack Obama’s ver­sion, al­though both men agree on leav­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in the driver’s seat when it comes to our re­gion. Both men are not fond of the Arab Gulf states, though Obama is quite fond of Iran while Trump’s ha­tred for Mus­lims cov­ers both Sun­nis and Shi­ites, and he could well re­peal the nu­clear deal with Iran. For her part, Clinton’s po­si­tions sug­gest she in­tends to re­store tra­di­tional re­la­tions with the tra­di­tional al­lies of the US, with­out nec­es­sar­ily un­do­ing the nu­clear deal.

How­ever, Clinton must re­al­ize Gulf con­fi­dence in her poli­cies is shaky. She had shown en­thu­si­asm for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood rule in Egypt. She rushed to help over­throw Gaddafi, drag­ging Libya into a spi­ral of chaos, vi­o­lence, and ter­ror­ism. She turned her back on Syria when she could have pres­sured Obama to rec­tify his mis­guided poli­cies. In truth, this is ex­actly what Hillary Clinton did in Iraq when Obama with­drew too early, leav­ing the coun­try open to sec­tar­ian war and dom­i­nance by Iran, to which his pre­de­ces­sor Bush had given Iraq on a golden plat­ter.

The wiser choice: De­spite ev­ery­thing, Clinton will be the wiser and more ra­tio­nal choice com­pared to Trump, when it comes to forg­ing re­spon­si­ble and re­al­is­tic re­la­tions with Gulf lead­ers. One of the most im­por­tant chal­lenges for Pres­i­dent Clinton would be turn­ing a new page in Arab-Ira­nian re­la­tions, given that con­tin­u­ing the poli­cies pur­sued by Obama and his ad­min­is­tra­tion would fuel Is­lamic sec­tar­ian ex­trem­ism, which could ex­pand be­yond the Arab and Is­lamic re­gion to the United States it­self, hav­ing now reached Euro­pean cap­i­tals.

The ap­proach to fight­ing ISIS and sim­i­lar groups un­der Clinton could change from those seen un­der Obama, who has de­lib­er­ately played the sec­tar­ian card to fuel Sunni-Shi­ite hos­til­ity, help­ing un­leash the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards in Syria and Iraq while claim­ing they are a nec­es­sary part­ner needed to de­feat ISIS.

Na­tional se­cu­rity has cal­cu­la­tions that go be­yond the per­son of the pres­i­dent, and it is usu­ally drafted and de­fined for decades rather than 4 or 8 years. In­ten­tion­ally or in­ad­ver­tently, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion fun­da­men­tally en­cour­aged Iran to cre­ate mili­tias such as the Pop­u­lar Mo­bi­liza­tion in Iraq and Syria, to sup­port the govern­ment of Haider al-Abadi and be­fore him Nouri al-Ma­liki in Bagh­dad, to weaken and marginal­ize tra­di­tional armies, thus help­ing un­der­mine the in­sti­tu­tions of Iraq and Syria in one of the most frag­ile and brit­tle phases in the two coun­tries’ his­tory. This is how ISIS’s ob­jec­tive of de­stroy­ing the Arab coun­tries con­verged with Iran’s plans with sup­port from Wash­ing­ton.

This is a very dan­ger­ous equa­tion, be­cause it leads to a vi­cious cy­cle of vendetta be­tween Sunni and Shi­ite ex­trem­ists – both of whom are no per­haps they suc­ceeded through Bush’s war in Iraq and Obama’s non­war in Syria. But this is a tem­po­rary recipe and a seda­tive with de­struc­tive ef­fects in the end, not only for the Is­lamic world, but also for the Euro­pean and US home­lands.

Don­ald Trump, based on what we know about his char­ac­ter, will be in­dif­fer­ent un­less the threat ma­te­ri­al­izes on US soil. He will not be drawn into sym­pa­thy with NATO al­lies and will barely blink if the killing ma­chines in the Arab re­gion carry on, re­gard­less of who kills or of who is be­ing killed. He will not care even if Tehran mo­bi­lizes mili­tias as an al­ter­na­tive to na­tional armies, and if Qassem Soleimani, head of the Ira­nian Qods Force, be­comes a hero for Shia Mus­lims ev­ery­where and not just Iran.

But, once again, the strate­gic de­ci­sion concerning what is best for the US in­ter­est will not be in the hands of the new pres­i­dent. Na­tional se­cu­rity has cal­cu­la­tions that go be­yond the per­son of the pres­i­dent, and it is usu­ally drafted and de­fined for decades rather than 4 or 8 years. Ac­cord­ingly, even Don­ald Trump will have to abide by the dic­tates of the rul­ing mil­i­tary and civil­ian es­tab­lish­ment. The United States is not the Rus­sian fed­er­a­tion, where Vladimir Putin’s pow­ers go fur­ther than those of the in­sti­tu­tions.

Don­ald Trump will not be able to be­come a strong­man like Putin, no mat­ter how ar­ro­gant he may be, or good at ne­go­ti­a­tions and deal-mak­ing as he claims. His fickle, ar­bi­trary, and su­per­fi­cial po­si­tions and his ar­ro­gance vis-àvis the US con­sti­tu­tion and the Repub­li­can Party are al­ready af­fect­ing him.

The top lead­ers of the Repub­li­can Party are an­gry and de­ter­mined to teach Trump an im­por­tant les­son: Ad­just course and learn hu­mil­ity, or you will not get our sup­port. In other words, Trump is be­ing threat­ened by his own camp to­day: don’t force us to hurt you like you’ve hurt us. Don’t force us to se­cretly sup­port Hillary for pres­i­dent. Enough is enough.

—Cour­tesy: AA

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