New polls released on 25 July put Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race. What would a Trump victory mean for the Middle East?
Domestically, Donald Trump’s views towards Muslims are deplorable. His policy to completely ban all Muslims from entering the United States shows an incredible level of hatred and ignorance, as shown by his statement that “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad.” This generated justified anger among Muslim Americans, and led the Council on American-Islamic Relations to claim that we are entering “the realm of the fascist.” Hillary Clinton has not expressed views which are as extreme and rooted in apparent hatred and lack of awareness as those of Donald Trump.
Trump wishes to scale up the military role of the US to fight ISIS and is willing to send up to 30,000 troops to Iraq and Syria. Although Hillary Clinton has been criticised for being too quick to want military solutions and lacking the ability to think ahead, she does object to sending troops to Iraq, Syria, and Libya. She is willing to offer air support to the Iraq Army, but does not want to send in the US infantry.
Iran Nuclear Deal
Clinton is a strong supporter of the Iran nuclear deal while Trump has rallied against it. However, while Hillary Clinton has embraced Obama’s nuclear deal, she has included caveats and stated that it will only work “as part of a larger strategy toward Iran” to contain Tehran’s power as the sanctions are lifted. This shows that she does not see the nuclear deal as the beginnings of warm relations with Iran, and she has declared that “This is not the start of some larger diplomatic opening.” Furthermore, she called the Iranians “enemies” in a debate last October. This is unfortunate since good relations with both Iran and Russia could be instrumental to the chances of a settlement in Syria. In his reaction to the nuclear deal, Trump claimed that “The Persians are great negotiators” making an ethnic stereotype, and then continued to say that “They are laughing at the stupidity of the deal we’re making…We should double up and triple up the sanctions and have them come to us.” He sees the nuclear deal as a failure of negotiation, and wants to renegotiate the deal himself.
One somewhat favourable opinion of Donald Trump is his declaration of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would challenge the long-standing pro-Israel bias in the US. Although he has promised to protect Israel, he boasts his successful skills as a negotiator and claims that the negotiations will require a certain level of neutrality. Clinton, on the other hand, has shown herself to be strongly biased in favour of Israel. During her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March she proclaimed her desire to strengthen American-Israeli ties and her unwavering support of Israel and the Israeli government, regardless of their policies.
The Iraq War
Trump’s criticism of the Iraq War has been seen by some as another favourable view towards the Middle East. He said that the war caused instability in the region and fuelled Al Qaeda and the rise of ISIS. He also claims to have been against the invasion before it occurred, although this has been disputed. However, his criticism of the war includes a statement that the US should have stolen the Iraqi’s oil after destroying their country. He says, “I always heard that when we went into Iraq we went in for the oil. I said, ‘oh, that sounds smart.’ But, we never did…I would take the oil.” Clinton has also spoken out against the Iraq War, although as a senator she voted in favour of the invasion in 2002. Her initial support of the Iraq War has been used against her as evidence of her “hawkish” foreign policy.
The upcoming US presidential election will be a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils, and Hillary Clinton is the lesser when it comes to the Middle East. Unfortunately, she is very biased against Palestine, will do nothing to improve relations with Iran, and might be too quick to intervene militarily. However, unlike her opponent, she does not actively promote gross stereotypes and hatred, will not tear up the nuclear deal, and at least for now does not support sending US troops to Iraq and Syria. Hillary Clinton is not going to solve the problems of the Middle East, but at the very least she will allow Muslims to enter the country.