Trump gets Middle East policy off to a chaotic start

Statements of Trump confused Iraq’s government, with Abadi saying he was at loss as to what Trump was get­ting at.

His actions have nothing to do with na­tional security

2017/01/29 Issue: 91 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Thomas Seibert

Washington - With a flurry of ex­ecutive orders, statements and in­terviews convey­ing a wide array of sometimes contradictory messages, US President Donald Trump gave a chaotic and controversial start to his Middle East policy during his first week in office.

In one example, Trump hinted at a possible fresh US intervention in Iraq, telling an audience at CIA headquarters that it had been a mis­take not to place Iraq’s oil wealth under US control after the invasion of 2003.

“I don’t want to go into Iraq but I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong… So, we should have kept the oil but OK. Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he said.

The remarks came one day after he stated in his inaugural address that the United States no longer sought to “impose our way of life on anyone”.

Trump’s statements confused Iraq’s government, with Prime Min­ister Haider al-Abadi saying he was at a loss as to what Trump was get­ting at.

The new president has repeatedly said that fighting Islamic militancy would be one of his top foreign policy priorities but he has provided few details of what action the United States would take in the Middle East to implement that policy.

With regards to the Syrian con­flict, Trump did not send a del­egation to peace talks in the Ka­zakh capital Astana but hinted at a stronger US involvement in Syria. Speaking to ABC News, Trump said he “absolutely” was going to create safe zones in Syria that could pro­vide shelter for refugees within the war-torn country.

News reports said a draft for an executive order directed the De­partment of State and the Penta­gon to come up with a plan for safe zones “in Syria and in the surround­ing region”.

Syria’s ally Russia, which has re­jected the idea of safe zones, said it was not consulted about the plan and warned that Washington should be careful not to “exacerbate the sit­uation with refugees”. Moscow said Trump should “weigh all possible consequences” of such a step.

Trump outraged Muslim and Arab Americans by preparing meas­ures to suspend legal immigration from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Su­dan and Yemen and to ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States.

“The actions taken by President Trump have nothing to do with na­tional security — they are based [on] Islamophobia and xenophobia,” the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) said in a state­ment. Several associations said they would fight Trump’s Muslim bans.

Thomas Seibert is an Arab Weekly contributor in Istanbul.

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