Trump, boots on the ground in the Middle East

Obama’s Middle East politics is now undergoing an accelerated U-turn onto a bumpy road that Trump is taking with two separate but not necessarily contrasting gestures: on the one hand a vigorous warning to the Islamic Republic of Iran accompanied by pressing sanctions, and on the other a warning to Israel: “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace” (unlike former President Obama’s approach), says the White House spokesman Spicer, “the construction of new settlements may not be helpful in achieving that goal”.

This statement seems to be in contrast with what Trump said during the presidential campaign when he declared his total neutrality with regard to the settlements, announced that the US embassy would be relocated to Jerusalem and demonstrated his indignation for the UN’s persecution against Israel.

Backtracking? It doesn’t look like it. Iran is well worth a couple of new settlements while you confirm the rest with a mild language and attitude. Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he wants to replace the Amona settlement whose inhabitants have been dispersed by the Israeli forces after it had been declared illegal by the High Court of Justice.

The High Court is the untouchable source of every juridical ruling, and the shock, tears and pain of this umpteenth evacuation has occupied the mind, the heart and the headlines of the country while the evacuation was being enforced as a vigorous but non-violent drama. Someone recalls Gaza: leaving their homes in despair but staying united could have been the motto of that time, and of this too.. Most probably the Prime Minister announced the new settlement homes under construction to alleviate the popular pain as well as the political rage.

The American statement about settlements will be discussed when Netanyahu meets Trump for the first time on February 15th. On that occasion Trump will probably discovery publicly that not all settlements are the same (Bush’s letter to Sharon in 2004, for example, said that “it was unrealistic to expect a return to the armistice lines of 1949”), that some are key to the protection of the life of Israel, while others can be negotiated by “the two sides”.

Because most likely this is Trump’s ultimate goal: to force the Palestinians to go back to negotiate, without expecting the usual gift package promised by Obama, the 1967 boundaries, his “not even one brick politcs”, and the political insisted repetition of Netanyahu resonsabilities in not achieving peace.

As for Iran, after 12 experimental missile launches Trump has disavowed that irenic atmosphere that replaced reality during Obama’s administration: the former president had decided to make it the hallmark of his foreign policy, his “legacy”, and for this he sacrificed the dissidents of 2009, the fight against terrorism, the sanctions, while the agreement was sealed while leaving the doors open, over time, to the accumulation, setup and construction of an atomic power that had been slowed down but never destroyed either materially or ideologically by the Ayatollah.

Time has uncovered violations as well as repeated experiments with missiles that are unusable for anything else but their ballistic purpose, and whose execution had been accompanied by displays of hostility towards the United States, by promises of destruction of the State of Israel, by rumors of cooperation between the Islamic Republic and North Korea, by attacks to the American boats.

With its actions and presence in that area Iran compromises at the future of Syria and of the rest of the Middle East. Iran, that is the largest supplier of weapons and logistic support to the Hezbollah, is the most active warrior in the field thanks to Russia, but it fights for itself and nobody else: the war against ISIS has given it enormous space for maneuver in Syria, in Iraq and in Lebanon, has armed the Shiite minority in the Gulf, has mobilized the Revolutionary Guards, has extended its appeal on Islamism far eastern integralists.

Russia uses it to uphold its positions, but knows very well that in the long run this presence terrorizes every Sunnite in the area, radicalizes them or turns them into masses of refugees. Its interests will turn against anybody’s, and are becoming ultimately unsustainable also because its presence in the area makes enemies out of the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Saudi Arabians and in the end will be used to launch its attack on Israel and on the West.

It’s a long road and Iran is not in a hurry, and the agreement and connivance with America and Europe will at length just facilitate the final aim of a religious conquer of all the world.

Now Iran, thank to the Trump administration, is once again under the microscope, and Israel, is still and before any settlement issue, the best ally of the USA in the fight against terrorism, a war that Trump looks like wanting to fight.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (February 4. 2017)
About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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