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America’s Middle East Purgatory

The Case for Doing Less

Leaving on a jet plane: an F-18 on its way to the Persian Gulf, March 2017 John Gambrell / ASSOCIATED PRESS

When U.S. President Donald Trump talks about the Middle East, he typically pairs bellicose threats against Iran and the Islamic State (or ISIS) with fulsome pledges of support for the United States’ regional partners, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. But the tough talk is misleading: there is little reason to think that Trump actually wants the United States to get more involved in the region.

He pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal but has shown no eagerness for a conflict with the Islamic Republic. He has continued U.S. President Barack Obama’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen but resisted calls for deeper military engagement there. Despite his promise of a “deal of the century,” a U.S. proposal on Arab-Israeli peace remains on the shelf. His support for an “Arab NATO,” a security alliance among Egypt, Jordan, and six Gulf states,

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