Written by: Danielle Schmitz
Foreign policy under the Trump administration has often been unpredictable. This is especially apparent in the Middle East, where there has been no coherent policy initiative and often the policies have been seen as controversial and unpopular by the leaders and publics in the Middle East. Rather than build relationships and foster peace, the policies instead have worked to isolate Middle Eastern countries and their people. Given the rocky start that the Trump administration has already experienced, the recent appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor merely adds a new layer of complexity to an already messy situation. It further shows that the Trump administration is not interested in diplomacy with the Middle East.
John Bolton was chosen recently to replace H.R. McMaster as head of the National Security department and is expected to take office starting April 9th. Although it was expected that McMaster would be getting a replacement in the upcoming months, the choice of Bolton is concerning on a number of foreign policy issues in the Middle East. Working as a Fox News analyst, Bolton has created a lot of controversy and fear in Washington due to his advocacy for the use of military force across the globe, notably in support of the previous war in Iraq. He is also in support of going to war with Iran in order to keep them from acquiring nuclear capabilities. Additionally, Bolton opposes the Iran nuclear deal and is in favor of tossing it out completely. However, the list of reasons why Bolton represents bad news for any Middle East diplomacy plan doesn’t end there.
Bolton has also expressed opposition to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, most explicitly through a Washington Times article he wrote. Tossing aside the widely held goal of an eventual Palestinian state alongside Israel, Bolton instead advocated for what he deemed a “three-state solution.” This consisted of the Gaza strip being handed over to Egypt and the West Bank falling under control of Jordan, thereby eliminating the creation of a Palestinian state. Bolton further argues that this proposition would actually benefit the Palestinian people in these two territories who, as he claims, “have no particular history of either national identity or economic interdependence.” Bolton’s views on this divisive topic alienate him from most of the Middle East leadership and public, and signify that he will merely contribute to the chaos regarding any Middle East policy that the current administration has fostered.
As National Security advisor, Bolton will have significant influence over Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. Although not empowered with the ability to set foreign policy, the role of the National Security advisor is to conduct and analyze research on foreign policy issues pertaining to national security and then make recommendations to the president. Fear over Bolton’s appointment stems from the belief that it will give Bolton unrestricted access to Trump, therefore influencing the president to adopt highly controversial policies. With a record of refusing to listen to information that challenges his beliefs, Bolton’s highly controversial views are unlikely to change. His appointment could be a disaster for U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, as he influences a president who has already proven that diplomacy is not a priority.