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Op-Ed: Has US President Donald Trump become a paper tiger?

In the wake of the hasty US withdrawal from Syria, the lack of a US reaction to Iran’s attack upon Saudi Arabia and Trump refusing to assist the Iraqi protests, many people in the Middle East claim that Trump is a paper tiger who says many things against Iran but does not have the courage needed in order to wage a systematic struggle against the mullah’s regime.   

US President Donald Trump has always claimed to be tough on Iran.  He withdrew from the Iranian Nuclear Deal.  He has imposed sanctions not only against Iran but also its prominent terrorist ally, Hezbollah.   Under US President Trump, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was declared to be a terrorist organization.  Furthermore, Trump has threatened that if the Iranians attack anything American, they will be met with “obliteration.”  However, in recent times, a lot of the positive work that the Trump administration has done in confronting the Iranian regime has been unraveled. 

For starters, according to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a prominent Middle East scholar at Bar Ilan University, the US did nothing when the Iranians attacked the Saudi oil industry and this was a major foreign policy blunder: “It was definitely against the US national interest for Saudi Arabia to be presented as a weak country that cannot defend its most important industry, the oil industry.  Trump even tweeted about the ridiculous and endless struggles in the Middle East.  Countries in the Middle East now know that they cannot rely upon America when trouble comes.”

Additionally, Trump’s decision to withdraw hastily from Syria has been disastrous for the Kurds. In the areas of Syria controlled by Turkey, jihadists have called Kurdish women “whores” and Kurdish men “pigs” while executing people en masse.  According to Dr. Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post, Future Party leader Hevrin Khalif was dragged from her car by her hair, shot and had her body stamped upon. Her body was then covered in dirt as jihadists praised Allah for helping them to murder an unarmed woman.  Already in the areas controlled by Turkey in Syria, jihadists have sprayed graffiti on the homes of Christians and are calling for discriminatory taxes to be imposed upon them, thus relegating them to the status of being second-class citizens. 

However, President Trump’s response to these atrocities is just to tell his former Kurdish allies to relocate to the areas where the oil fields are for the US plans on staying there.  For the Kurds, this is a major insult for the oil fields are located in the middle of the desert hundreds of miles away in an Arab populated area, far from the traditional Kurdish homeland.  Thus, Trump’s offer of granting the Kurds this area has an uncanny resemblance to the Uganda Plan, which was rejected by the Zionist Movement since it ignored the historic attachment of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.  All of this is a major victory for the Iranian axis, which systematically cooperates with Turkey.    

As Syrian Kurdish dissident Sherkoh Abbas proclaimed, “Defenders of this unabashed retreat decry endless commitments—conveniently forgetting Korean and German deployments—and ignore the instability that Trump created, leading only to the empowerment of America’s regional enemies (Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Islamic State), who are opportunistically and expeditiously filling this vacuum; the NATO Charter does not mandate impotence when a member nation seeks to ethnically cleanse a neighboring region, attacking America in the process.”

However, Saudi Arabia and Syria is not the only arena where Trump is actually strengthening Iran.  Iraqi protest leader Dr. Nakeeb Saadoon, who heads the National Rally Call of Iraq, stated that the Trump administration refuses to support the Iraqi people in their struggle to boot Iran out of Iraq, “We are surprised by this administration.  On the one hand, they are against Iran but on the other hand, they are with the Iraqi government, which is loyal to Iran.  This makes the Iraqi people worried.  99 percent of the Iraqi people are ready to get rid of Iran from Iraq.  This is the last chance the US has.”  If the Iraqi government falls, then instantly Iran and Hezbollah will become weaker for Tehran would lose lands essential for the Shia Crescent.  However, this fact is not enough in order to convince Trump to help the Iraqi protesters.  

Professor Richard Landes of Boston University noted, “I think that at this point Trump seems to have gone rogue or always has been rogue.  He is now behaving in ways that upsets even people that support him, like the Kurds.  There is a curious parallel between the Kurds and the Iraqis.  The American precedent is famous for missing opportunities.  Obama behaved atrociously in 2009, when there were demonstrations in Iran against the government and he refused to step in.  From that point on, I could not trust him, just as Trump can’t be trusted after he abandoned the Kurds.  We behave like a paper tiger.  One of the ironies of Trump is in my mind, he was the only person to pursue a sound policy related to Iran but he doesn’t seem to have the character to persist in it systematically.  He is not a great strategist.  I do think there is a bizarre phenomenon where if Trump ever had any nerve, he lost it.  We don’t know if he had his mind before and then lost it or never had it.  I am speechless. It is so depressing.” 

The repercussions of Trump’s latest policies can be felt across the Middle East region.  “Nobody here in the Middle East thinks that America is a good ally,” Dr. Kedar concluded.  “Former President George W. Bush was the last one to speak out about America’s friends and allies.  Bush maintained respect by visiting this region twice per year.  He saw people and talked to them.  His involvement in the Middle East was to get rid of Al Qaeda.  Bush believed that the Middle East should maintain a relationship with the US.  But Obama and Trump wanted to get out.  Obama got out of Iraq in 2010 without a real plan.  Iraq is now a dysfunctional country.  Obama made a mistake in the way he left Iraq.  Now, Trump is making the same mistake by running away from people that could be allies.”

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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