Trump’s policies take extremists by surprise

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

I believe nothing has angered extremists, be them regimes or organized radical groups, as much as the policies of US President Donald Trump has done.

Trump surprised them with his policies and speed of movement in the Middle East, and that is quite the opposite of what his predecessor did; the former president’s approach was to keep his government passive and neutral, and later on, he tried to reconcile with extremists.

Since his first day in the White House, Trump chose government officials who agree with his intention to target extremism, including governments, such as the Iranian. The other surprise is that the president has immediately embarked on the missions in Iraq and Syria, as well as Yemen; thus it was not just an election speech.

When analyzing the new US policy, some believed that Trump would be controlled by the nuclear deal binding his country, and that he would be against Muslim countries without distinguishing between them. However, his Government had accepted to respect the deal and insisted that Tehran should abide by its strict implementation.

Obama rule

Trump did not want to be controlled by the deal, unlike Obama who has been silent on the serious abuses that Iran has done, whether through its military expansion in Iraq and Syria, by the oppression in the waterways when it fired at US naval forces and others, or by smuggling arms across the sea to Yemeni or Bahraini militias.

Washington considers that all of the above are unacceptable and will be dealt with accordingly. Thus, Tehran’s regime did not use the nuclear deal as an advantage in imposing its interests and programs at the expense of others.

Since his first day in the White House, Trump chose government officials who agree with his intention to target extremism, including governments, such as the Iranian.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

On the other hand, President Trump is determined to deal with terrorism, not only as a security issue but as an integral political movement. He surprised everyone with his project and actions that began when he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the White House; a program was drawn up to determine the allies he plans to cooperate with.

He decided later on to send an important message when he said that his first visit would be to Riyadh and he decided to come to the Islamic world to hear from and listen to their leaders. They will consequently begin joint actions to control extremism and terrorism.

The relations project, in which the Emirates played an important role, within the bilateral Saudi-Emirati cooperation on all levels, is unprecedented and very important in terms of type and size. The visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to the White House comes also in line with these actions.

Trump’s approach

Now Trump is taking his first step towards his grand project: eradicating terror in terms of ideology, organization and networks. At the Riyadh Islamic summit, which will be attended by 50 Islamic countries, almost all of them agreed to attend and dialogue with the US president. This is a serious step that cannot be compared to what former President Obama did; he made a couple of speeches to urge the cooperation with the Muslim world and that was it.

There is no doubt that Obama’s speech was beautiful, but the mistake was that he did nothing else. He thought that neutrality was the best policy for his country. During the long absence of the US, ISIS grew stronger and more dangerous than al-Qaeda. Violence spread throughout the world, threatening everyone.

We are witnessing a collective project, Muslim governments and individuals are involved in it, and that is the difference. Trump’s policy lies in transferring responsibilities to the international community, especially to Muslim countries. This is the right step, instead of dropping the accusations through the media and be limited to security pursuits.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.