Trump's Middle East policy at one year

By Gerald M. Feierstein | Director for Government Relations, Policy and Programs | Mar 27, 2018
Trump's Middle East policy at one year


One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, few tangible shifts have been made from the policies of former president Barack Obama. The shifts that have been made, however, are undermining regional cooperation and stability. Trump’s agressive counterterrorism strategy has failed to include the critical soft-power tools that will help counter future extremism; Iran continues to expand its influence through proxies in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon; and  American policies in Israel and Palestine have only intensified Palestinian rejection of any peace deal brokered by the U.S. With so few successes from the president’s first year in office, Trump’s campaign promises to eliminate violent Islamic extremism, contain Iran, and broker an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are highly unlikely to be met.

Key Points

  • While a short-term emphasis on kinetic action has effectively countered ISIS and al-Qaeda, the absence of a “whole-of-government” approach to counterterrorism will leave space for future extremism to take root.
  • Trump’s focus on the Iran nuclear deal has impeded international cooperation on other issues, including Iran’s regional ambitions and status quo revisionism. Russia and China are filling the leadership gap.
  • The administration’s Palestine policy has made the PA increasingly unlikely to take part in a U.S.-led peace plan, and has complicated the intercessory efforts and regional credibility of the U.S.’s Gulf allies.
  • Regional leaders are hedging their bets on the U.S. and turning to Russia and China to safeguard against U.S. inconsistency.

Read the full policy focus here.