Trump sworn in as president, vows to ‘eradicate’ radical Islam

There are far more questions than answers about what Trump’s presidency will mean for Mid­dle East.

Former US president Barack Obama (R) greeting President Donald Trump

2017/01/22 Issue: 90 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mark Habeeb

Washington - It’s official: Donald J. Trump, billionaire New York real estate magnate, in ceremonies Janu­ary 20th on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, has been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Entering office with the lowest ap­proval ratings of any president since polling on the issue began, Trump pronounced “a new decree” in his inaugural address. “From this day forward,” he said, “it’s going to be America first.” He pledged to “seek friendship and goodwill” with the other countries of the world but would put US interests first.

Foreign leaders do not normally attend US presidential inaugura­tions but Russia’s ambassador to the United States was there as was Nigel Farage, former leader of the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party. Rumours that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would attend proved unfounded.

Trump enters office with only a small governing team in place as most of his cabinet nominees have yet to be confirmed. He has not named hundreds of other presiden­tial appointees, such as the staff of the National Security Council (NSC) — including those who will over­see Middle East policy — with the exception of its director, retired US Army lieutenant-general Michael Flynn. Many important deputy sec­retaries and under-secretaries at the departments of State and Defense have also not been selected.

There are far more questions than answers about what Trump’s presidency will mean for the Mid­dle East. In his inaugural address, Trump vowed to “unite the civi­lised world against radical Islam, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth”. During the campaign, he claimed to have a “secret plan” to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS) quickly.

When he will unveil that plan, however, is itself a secret.

Trump, who had admonished Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Coop­eration Council (GCC) countries for not paying their share for US securi­ty guarantees, said the United States no longer would “subsidise the ar­mies of other nations”. He also has expressed hostility towards Iran, the nemesis of Gulf Arab states.

Trump has said that he would like to be the president who resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but has nominated as his ambassador to Is­rael a man who supports Israeli an­nexation of the West Bank.

Observers will watch closely the role of White House advisers who will have Trump’s ear on a daily ba­sis, including Flynn; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (who the pres­ident has said will focus on Middle East policy); and Steve Bannon, for­mer editor of the far-right Breitbart News website who is to be senior counsellor to the president.

Many White House insiders do not see eye-to-eye with Trump’s cabinet nominees on several issues, including policies towards Russia, the wisdom of revoking the nuclear agreement with Iran and attitudes regarding Muslim immigration to the United States.

There are fights ahead but final policy decisions now rest with Don­ald Trump.

Mark Habeeb is East-West editor of The Arab Weekly and adjunct professor of Global Politics and Security at Georgetown University in Washington.

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