Could President Trump Be The Middle East’s Savior? – OpEd


By Faisal J. Abbas

What does a President Donald J. Trump mean for the Arab World?

How are Muslims worldwide reacting to his election?

What will become of the Iran nuclear deal and how will Trump handle Syria, Iraq, Libya and Daesh?

It is no surprise that all these questions have emerged all at once in the past few hours. After all, unlike Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, Trump has been unpredictable and not committed to the Washington playbook.

The 2016 race for the White House was in no way predictable. If anything, it has put reputable pollsters, analysts and commentators to shame.

Until only a few months ago, nobody thought Trump — whose controversial statements managed to upset quite a large, and diverse, number of people — would even become the Republican party’s candidate.

The adage “who laughs last, laughs most” applies perfectly. And on November 9, 2016, Trump showed that he always knew how to secure the last laugh.

True, his campaigning methods were certainly unorthodox, but he is not the first politician to use such methods to pocket a win.

That said — and having heard the change if tone during his victory speech — I am inclined to believe that President Trump, whose lack of experience was used to discredit his campaign, might surprise us even further by proving to be a far better politician than his predecessor.

Indeed, Trump sounded like a completely different person as he praised Clinton, called for unity among Americans and reassured countries of the world that the US is willing to work and cooperate with them.

Actions speak louder than words

Whatever “nice things” President-elect Trump said during his victory speech, and the nasty ones he uttered before his victory, does not really matter. All what matters now is what he will do as the 45th POTUS.

One thing we have learnt (the hard way!) from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign is that setting high expectations, sugar-coating matters and then under delivering does not really cut a legacy. Nor do good intentions compensate for political failure.

I say this coming from the Middle East, and as a person who was once a great Obama supporter. Yet the lesson we, in the Arab World, learned after his famous 2009 Cairo speech — when he promised a “new beginning” and better understanding — is that actions speak louder than words.

The sad reality is that Obama leaves our region in a far worse situation than he inherited it.

Of course, we — Arabs and Muslims — need to accept that most of our problems are self-inflicted, the result of our own mistakes, but there is no question that backtracking on the chemical weapons “red-line” only encouraged the Assad regime to commit more atrocities in Syria.

Similarly, the controversial nuclear deal with Iran, while successfully delaying Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, has left unshackled a government that Obama himself described as a “state-sponsor of terrorism”, a government able to do more harm to the region and US allies in the Gulf.

Arab countries must now seize the moment, learn from previous mistakes and work closely — and seriously — with the new American administration to rectify mistakes that happened over the past eight years.

It will be an interesting four years to watch.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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