How Trump could help a broken Middle East

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National Post, 23 January 2017

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Egypt want a Middle East dominated by Iran. They might welcome Trump’s skepticism over the nuclear deal. The Gulf states consider Israel a greater force for security and stability than the various Iranian proxies in the region, and would welcome American diplomacy that did not seek to isolate Israel.

As President Donald Trump plans for his first year in office, he will not have to make space in his calendar for a December trip to Oslo. Unlike Barack Obama, he will not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for just marvelously being Obama. Neither will he be grandiosely addressing the “Muslim world,” as Obama did in Cairo during his first months. But he might be rather more welcome in the capitals of Muslim countries than one might expect. 

Even in the Trump world of employing reckless hyperbole to make a general point, the campaign promise to “temporarily ban” Muslim immigration was inexcusable. Likely he meant that admitting 10,000 Sunni Muslims from an ISIL-controlled refugee camp in Syria poses different security issues that taking 10,000 Christian software engineers from Kerala, and to pretend that all immigrants from all parts of the world are identical is both false and foolish. Certainly Canada’s selective immigration policy has never taken that view.

Nevertheless, the Muslim ban is fairly cited as evidence that Trump’s relations with the Islamic world will be rocky. Perhaps. But as Obama takes his leave it is fair to ask what happened to the great religion-and-politics project of his presidency. Obama thought that his Muslim father and his childhood years in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, would endear him to Muslims and lead to a rapprochement with the West. Yet much of the Muslim world today is worse off after Obama.

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