Nearly a year into his presidency, Donald Trump’s Middle East policy could best be characterised as one of neglect and confusion.
Mr Trump never misses a chance to criticise his predecessor. Yet he is repeating some of his mistakes. Mr Obama was accused of pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran at all costs, and ignoring Iran’s meddling in Syria and Iraq. Now Mr Trump seems obsessed with reneging on the deal, which would weaken the curbs on Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb, and is doing little (apart from a few more sanctions) to contain Iranian influence.
He is enabling autocrats in Egypt, and losing the confidence of close allies, such as Israel and Jordan. Meanwhile the Saudis are free to pursue destabilising policies, and the future of Syria is largely in Russian and Iranian hands. “This is not a time for the US to be absent,” says another Western diplomat. “We need some supervision.”