As the dust settles from Donald Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, analysts have begun to predict the foreign policy implications of a Trump-led White House.
Although the Republican party’s candidate had never before held a political office, he has been vocal in recent months about recalibrating America’s foreign policy in a more isolationist direction. Additionally, on top of his apparent affection for Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin, Trump has been outspoken in his support for a wide range of strongmen throughout the Middle East.
Upon the release of the official vote count which showed that Trump had sealed his path to the presidency, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi called the president elect to express his hope that Trump’s election “will inject a new spirit into the trajectory of Egyptian-American relations.” President Al Sisi has been widely criticized for his government’s sweeping human rights violations and crackdown on civil liberties. In his campaign rhetoric, Trump struck a similar tone, banning apparently reputable journalists from his campaign rallies and threatening to arrest his then-opponent Hillary Clinton for her email scandal.
The Obama camp also has its own issues to worry about as Trump campaigned to rescind one of Obama’s major achievements, the Iran nuclear deal, which demilitarized Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of US-led sanctions. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif publicly announced his expectation that Trump would uphold the US end of the bargain and maintain the status quo. However, political pundits are at a loss for what Trump will actually do regarding the issue. Some Washington insiders believe Trump may fall in line with Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan’s agenda, which includes vehement opposition to the Iran deal.
Regarding Syria, Professor Ed Webb of the Political Science Department at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania believes “Trump will likely be less interventionist in the Middle East.” This could give Putin a green light in Syria, as “Trump could shift America’s stance toward the Syrian Civil War to one which allows Russia, Turkey, and other regional powers to take the lead.”
With regard to Syria’s neighbor, Israel, “the right-wing is happy with him,” says Professor Webb. Trump has been loud in his support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, an idea which has largely been out of the conversation of feasible solutions for solving the crisis between Israel and Palestine and is likely to inflame future negotiations.
For Tunisians, “Tunisian-American relations are unlikely to change in a major way. The two countries will still continue to cooperate on counterterrorism and trade,” Professor Webb believes. A year ago, President Obama nominated Daniel Rubinstein as Ambassador of Tunisia. He has been actively involved in continuing positive interactions between the two countries, so “benign neglect by Trump toward Tunisia” may actually have a positive result by allowing Rubinstein to continue his work without micro-management from above.
Overall, Trump’s future foreign policy is largely unknown, says Professor Webb, “but it is likely that heads of state like Sisi and Erdogan will take comfort from US democracy producing this result.”
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a journalist focusing on Tunisia. He also works in the Tunisian education field, promoting cross-cultural understanding.