Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential race has more than domestic implications. The Middle East has been a major focus of US policy-making in the post–Cold War period. George W. Bush arguably engaged with it more than any other part of the world. Despite Barack Obama’s desire to rebalance toward East Asia, he was repeatedly pulled back into the Middle East by the 2011 youth revolutions and their aftermath, and by the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. What impact will Trump’s policies have on the region?One difficulty in answering this question lies in the quixotic character of Trump himself. He has often taken both sides of a controversial question. For instance, he criticized his predecessors for becoming too entangled in the Middle East, then at one point last March suggested sending in a division (20,000-30,000) of US troops to fight ISIL. As it happens, ISIL as a territorial state could already have been defeated by the time he takes office. Another question is whether, given his erratic statements and behavior, Trump’s cabinet and the permanent Washington bureaucracy (the “deep state”) will actually let him change the direction of US foreign policy radically. But let us assume for the sake of argument that where he repeatedly voiced a sentiment, he will have a policy bias toward it, and that he may actually be allowed to implement it.
How Will Trump Reshape the Middle East?