Dec. 15, 2015
Policy Recommendations on the Middle East for the Trump Administration – Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya’alon (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
- The U.S. administration’s decision to play a reactive rather than a proactive role in the Middle East created a vacuum in the region that was filled by elements that worked against the interests of the U.S. and its regional allies. U.S. policy, which was perceived in the region as an abandonment of allies (Egypt and the Gulf states), coupled with its closer ties with Iran, created a crisis of trust with the Sunni regimes.
- There is no doubt that President Obama’s decision to refrain from striking the chemical weapons stockpiles and manufacturing plants in Syria, despite the fact that the Assad regime had crossed the declared American red line, substantially eroded U.S. deterrence, as did its nuclear agreement with Iran.
- Furthermore, the American response to Iranian provocations, as well as to the missile tests, the seizure of U.S. Navy ships, the harassment of American ships in the Strait of Hormuz, and the firing by Houthis in Yemen of Iranian-supplied missiles at a U.S. naval ship exacerbated the erosion of U.S. deterrence.
- Russia took advantage of the American weakness to seize a leading stance. Most of the region’s leaders visited Moscow more times last year than they did Washington and began purchasing weapons from Russia.
- I believe the U.S. will have no other choice but to take a grand proactive strategy in the region – both in order to regain its standing as a world power and in order to distance the Middle East threats from America, Europe, and elsewhere.
- Such a strategy will require a change in policy toward Iran. The Iranian regime is the most significant destabilizing factor in the Middle East, and therefore should not be seen as if it were a key element in stabilizing the region, since it is not part of the solution, but rather is the essence of the problem.
The writer is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff.