Reading Trump’s Middle East Policy

Could Retrenchment Trigger a Realignment?

A pro-Trump poster in Tel Aviv, November 2016. Baz Ratner / Reuters

Leaders in the Middle East wasted no time in congratulating Donald Trump on his surprise election victory. Given Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, that might seem surprising. But it should not be, since few in the region were particularly thrilled at the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton perpetuating the Barack Obama administration's policies toward Iran and Syria. At the same time, the region’s leaders remain uncertain about Trump’s intended Middle East policies, giving rise to endless speculation about whether he will stay in or back out.

Conservative Arabs and Israelis alike hope that the incoming Trump government will reverse the Obama-era policy of leading from behind. In particular, they want clear signals of U.S. commitment to its traditional allies. Yet U.S. conservatives—as opposed to more hawkish neocons—have traditionally sought to avoid entangling alliances, including in the Middle East. If Trump follows suit and makes

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