Will Ricciardella, DCNF
Donald Trump’s leadership is favored over Barack Obama’s in the Middle East, according to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a claim he made Monday in an interview with Politico that received very little media attention.
“‘Clarity,’ the prime minister says, and the hope for a more decisive approach, is the reason why he and other Arab leaders prefer Trump” writes Politico’s Susan B. Glasser. “[I]t helps explain why the gilded palaces of the troubled, war-torn region are the few places on the planet — outside Russia — where Trump has been more popular than the president he succeeded.”
Many in the establishment media, who have framed Trump as “anti-Muslim,” have largely ignored Trump’s favorability in the Arab world. Perhaps they see the Lebanese prime minister’s claims the Mideast region favors Trump’s leadership to Obama’s as a threat to their narrative.
In June, USA today asked the question in a headline if “Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim words” will hurt his travel ban in court. During President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May, The Washington Post published a piece titled “I think Islam hates us,” referring to a Donald Trump interview with Anderson Cooper, then proceeded to list his “anti-Muslim” comments.
During the same trip, The New York Times published an articled titled “Donald Trump discovers Muslims.” The article claims Trump “walked back his anti-Muslim rhetoric” and “seems to have discovered something called the Palestinians.” Newsweek published a story headline “young Arabs say Donald Trump is anti-Muslim” claiming his “anti-Muslim rhetoric” will not only hurt relations with the Arab and Muslim world, but actually create more terrorists.
In reality, Hariri holds “a pretty scathing view” of Obama’s foreign policy in the in the Mideast region, and believes Trump will be a better partner, despite what Glasser calls “President Trump’s Muslim-bashing rhetoric.”
Hariri, no stranger to radical Islam, as elements of his own government incorporate the terrorist group Hezbollah, has as his main concern a power vacuum that has been seemingly filled by Russia under President Obama’s watch. He called it “[t]he unfortunate consequence of not acting.” Another reason according to Hariri, is the expectation of a more hawkish approach towards Iran, who along with Russia, are Syria’s largest backers and a major threat to stability in the region.
Hariri “repeatedly” brought up Obama’s conciliatory approach towards Iran when pursuing his nuclear deal with the country as an example of how the “U.S. lost its way in the region.”
“Much of Hariri’s critique of Obama comes down to naivete — and the big gap between America’s inspirational rhetoric and its actions” writes Glasser. Hariri points to Obama’s inaction in Syria after Assad crossed his “red line,” of using chemical weapons against his own people. Instead of a bombing campaign, Obama made a deal with Syria to remove the chemical weapons relying on Russian inspections to ensure the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime followed though.
“We know their actions. We know their lies… So, when Bashar al-Assad says that, you know, he’s going to get rid of the chemical weapons, he’s not…” Hariri said. Obama’s tepid response rather than an enforcement of his red line, sent a message of weakness to our allies and enemies in the region.
In response to another chemical weapons attack in April under the Trump administration, the president ordered a military strike, launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase where the gas attacks originated from. Both the Russians and the Assad regime condemned the attack.
Hariri was clear about his opposition to ISIS, calling Lebanon a “buffer zone to ISIS towards the Mediterranean.” Lebanon’s shared border with Syria gives Hariri a unique insight into the refugee crisis, with Lebanon bearing most of load.
Despite this, the Mideast remains optimistic about President Trump’s presidency, according to Hariri.
[T]he thing is, in the Middle East, we appreciate the leadership of President Trump, and I think this is something that we see that it has an impact on the region.
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