ADSD examines the “ambiguity” of US policy in the Gulf & the shared interest of halting the Iranian project

US foreign policy in the Gulf region and president Donald Trump’s approach to handling key issues in the Middle East, specifically Iran, the nuclear deal, and the sanctions imposed on it, were the center of the discussions at the sixth panel of the fourth Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, titled “U.S. Policy in the Gulf: Troubled Cruise”.

The participants were: Ed Rogers, expert in political campaigns and former deputy assistant to the US president and executive assistant to the White House Chief of Staff, Dr. James Lindsay, senior vice president and director of studies and Maurice R. Greenberg chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Abdulrahman Al Rashed, Columnist for “Asharq Al-Awsat” Newspaper.

Rogers found that there is ambiguity and chaos in American foreign policy under Trump's administration; however, he said that there are key elements of the foreign policy’s structure: defeating "ISIS", restoring relations with regional allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel), halting Iranian expansion, achieving a settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis as part of what has come to be known as the "deal of the century".

He added that Trump’s administration is sending clear signals that it is open to listening to its allies, and wants to open new channels of communications. Rogers also highlighted the importance of Congress, stating that it is an extremely important element of decision-making in foreign policy, citing the example of Congress being the most active in implementing sanctions against Iran. Therefore, he stressed that GCC countries should communicate with leaders from both the democratic and republican parties in the US, as the democrats currently have the upper hand in Congress which means they play an important role in foreign policy.

Dr. Lindsay agreed with Rogers that Trump’s administration’s foreign policy is characterized by ambiguity and incoherence, citing the example of Washington’s dealings with the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the Arab Quartet – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

He found that the current “tone” of the US administration changed from that during the presidency of Barack Obama; however, he found that the core of the policies did not undergo a drastic change, aside from the stance regarding Iran. Dr. Lindsay said the Trump administration is facing a particularly hard challenge in dealing with Iran, since Trump did not tear up the nuclear deal as he claimed he will do during his campaign, and he doesn’t want to give up the deal; however, he will continue with the policy of implementing more sanctions.

Al Rashed stated that Iran is the common main factor in a lot of the crises in the region, and it is not possible to bolster security and stability in the countries experiencing ongoing struggles such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, without ending Iranian interference.

As for GCC countries’ interests with the US, Rogers said that for Gulf countries to get the support they want from Washington, they should convince the US that serving Khaleeji interests serves American interests as well, and that the key is examining American interests first.

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