Trump Administration’s Middle East policy is increasing the risk of unintended conflict between the US forces and Iranian forces & loyal militias. The policy is also making a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict impossible and a one-state solution more inevitable.
I found an article published by Aaron Miller and Richard Sokolsky in Politico on the policy of the Trump Administration in the Middle East to be both alarming and convincing.
Miller and Sokolsky said:
“The administration is focused like a laser beam on irreversibly burning U.S. bridges to Iran and administering last rites to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
They say that these two policy changes will be irreversible by a Democratic Administration.
A harder line than before
During his Presidential Election campaign, there were moments on the campaign trail when Donald Trump expressed interest in negotiating a better nuclear deal with Iran and brokering the “deal of the century” between Israelis and Palestinians, rather than killing prospects for both.
He even offered several times to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions to negotiate a new nuclear accord.
Then last year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out 12 extreme demands that Tehran would have to meet before the Trump administration would agree to re-engage with Iran.
These demands would have required Iran to give up all its rights under the Nuclear Accord it had reached with President Obama and to stop pursuing what Tehran sees as its legitimate interests in the region—for example, helping to stabilize Iraq and supporting the government of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq.
These orders were swiftly and angrily rejected by the Iranian government.
Miller and Sokolsky argue that the administration’s extreme demands have established a standard that will be used to judge any future nuclear agreement a Democratic, or different kind of Republican, administration might negotiate with Iran.
That means a president who fails to meet these standards would, they believe, be accused of appeasement, making a new agreement far more difficult.
The administration’s decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, once done, will be nearly impossible to undo.
A successor US administration, if it were to try to undo the designation, would find itself vulnerable to the charges of enabling state-sponsored terrorism.
The imposition of the total embargo on Iranian oil exports, if successful, will inflict even more economic misery on the Iranian people, hardening the perception that the U.S. government is an enemy not only of the ruling regime, but also of the Iranian people.
Miller and Sokolsky even argue that the Trump Administration is doing everything they can to goad Iran into a military conflict with the US.
There is a growing risk that US forces and Iranian IRGC units and Iranian-backed militias could stumble their away into an unintended conflict, especially in Iraq or Syria but also in Yemen.
Making a two-state solution impossible
Miller and Sokolsky also argue that the Trump Administration is doing all it can to kill and bury the long-standing policy of seeking a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
A two-state solution would return the majority of the West Bank to the Palestinians—based on borders from before Israel’s 1967 seizure of that territory—and a physically undivided Jerusalem hosting capitals of both states.
The two state solution would make it possible for Israel to be a Jewish state forever. A one State solution would turn Israel into a multiethnic state.
The US Administration is taking concrete steps that make the two state solution impossible, and the one state solution inevitable.
Over the past year, it has closed the PLO office in Washington, withdrawn U.S. assistance from the UN agency .
The administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and open an embassy there inflicted serious damage on US credibility as a mediator, and marginalized the Palestinian Authority as a key US interlocutor.
Making a one-state solution inevitable
The long-standing diplomatic assumption—that settlement activity would be constrained during the period of negotiations and that 70 to 80 percent of West Bank settlers who are in blocs close to the 1967 lines would be incorporated into Israel proper in exchange for ceding other land to Palestinians—has been undermined.
After an initial drop during 2017, Israeli settlement construction activity in the Occupied West Bank has increased 20 percent in 2018.
There is zero chance that any Palestinian leader—let alone one as weak and constrained as Mahmoud Abbas—will accept these conditions on the ground as part of a deal.
So, if a two state solution is rendered physically and geographically impossible by Israeli settlement activity, the only remaining option is a one state solution.
All Palestinians in West Bank to be given a vote in Israeli elections?
This would mean Israel annexing the entire West Bank, and, consequently, granting all the Palestinians living there Israeli citizenship and the right to vote in Israeli elections.
That is not something that either the Trump or Netanyahu Administrations want, but it is the logical outworking of the policies they are both following.
If Israel annexes the West Bank, I cannot see how it could deny all the residents there the right to vote.
I do not see how the United States, with its Civil Rights principles and its long struggle for the right to vote by African Americans, could support such a denial by Israel.
John Bruton was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland (1994-97) and the European Union’s Ambassador to the United States (2004-09). He had held several important offices in Irish government, including Minister for Finance, Minister for Industry & Energy, and Minister for Trade, Commerce & Tourism.