President Trump’s decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies by withdrawing U.S. forces from the Turkish region ought give to all allies of the United States great pause. The precipitous, spontaneous decision by the President—apparently without any consultation or staffing on the diplomatic or the military side—clearly suggests a grave potential internal threat to America’s national security posed by the President. If Trump is prepared to continue to conduct U.S. foreign policy based on personal telephone calls with leaders or on irrational, spur of the moment political motivations, no global ally can have confidence in where U.S. policy will move nor should any U.S. diplomat or military brass have a clear picture as to how to proceed.
There appear to be three components to the President’s behavior. First, his America First doctrine is being applied selectively as various ideas strike his fancy and not based on a thorough, thoughtful plan. Second, President is being driven by personal interests and political interests not national interests. Finally, Donald Trump believes that he will successfully leave his mark on American history based on how many decisions reached by previous Administrations he can overturn and reverse; regardless of the consequences. This is clearly becoming true in the Middle East vis-à-vis Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
President Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran agreement of 2015. As a result, the U.S. has increased economic sanctions on Iran but in response Iran apparently has violated some of the restrictions on its nuclear developments and escalated its dangerous military activities in the region.
With respect to Turkey, the removal of U.S. troops based on Trump’s conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have begun. U.S. troops are stepping down, Turkey has attacked the Kurds, and Erdogan is coming to meet the President in Washington.
The U.S.—Saudi relationship appears to have underpinning of personal economic interests for the U.S., the Saudis, and Donald Trump. The nonchalant handling of the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi was a transparent cover-up and disregard of human rights. There is an apparent willingness to see potential escalation between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the Yemen conflict without any sense of the consequences. Finally, increased weapons sales to the Saudis will likely produce eventual business for Trump, Inc.
How Israel will fare in the Trump style determinations of U.S. security interests carries potential serious military consequences for Israel vis-à-vis Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinians. Regardless of who Israel selects to be its next Prime Minister, he may one morning find Israel deserted as an American ally. Israel needs to reexamine the reliability of its relationship with the U.S. as it has seen the rapidity that Trump has turned things around in Turkey. As quickly as the President found it opportune to do Turkey’s bidding, presumably at the behest of Russia, it is not clear who or what will motivate the President to back off from serving Israel’s interests. The next time Russia may believe that its Syrian friends want Israel to back off from Iraq or Iran, Israel may be baited into a war. It is not clear what will be the President’s priorities. In addition, Israel’s recent linkage to Trump and the Republican Party has and will affect the old, reliable confidence in Congress’ assured bi-partisan support for Israel—even in crisis. For Israel as well, there is the potential that President Trump may place withdrawing the U.S. from the world as a higher priority than political support from his right-wing Evangelical Christian base support. This is something which would even be an irrelevant consideration for Trump in a second term.
It is becoming clear that Donald Trump is not committed to maintain global. He does not recognize the need to have allies. For the President it is about his view of the world and his belief in his virtually unstoppable power.