Middle Eastern leaders react to the election of Trump
Middle Eastern leaders have congratulated Trump on winning the presidential election (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)
Leaders all around the world have been quick to offer their congratulations to President-elect Trump, including European prime ministers and, of course, Putin, who is expected to have an unprecedentedly close relationship to the new President.
What, though, of the Middle East? It is undoubtedly the case that there are few other regions where America has quite so much power to pull the strings. Its unsurprising, then, that several local politicians quickly tried to turn the victory to their advantage. Certainly Israel’s leaders have rushed to hail Trump’s election as a victory for their country. Elsewhere, in the Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, it is a more complex story:
Among the fastest to respond was Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with a statement which read:
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is looking to see Donald Trump’s presidency pump new life into the course of Egyptian-American relations, and more cooperation and coordination that will benefit both the Egyptian and American peoples, and promote peace and stability and development in the Middle East region, especially in the face of the huge challenges that it faces”
Trump has previously suggested, at a meeting with Sisi at the UN in September, that “the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on.”
It will be interesting to see how American-Egyptian relations play out, after a period of cooling between them following President Obama’s temporary decision to suspend arms sales in 2013. Trump will have to compete with Russian interests in the country, with plans for the building of Russian military bases there.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking in Ankara has said that “We congratulate Mr. Trump and wish him success.” He followed this by calling on Trump to extradite Fetullah Gulen, who is blamed by the Turkish government for the failed July coup attempt.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also mentioned Trump's victory during a speech in Istanbul, saying that “the American people have made their choice and a new term begins in the United States with that choice” and adding “I wish that the American people’s choice will lead to new steps within the scope of fundamental rights and liberties, democracy and developments in our region.”
The Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also congratulated Trump in the following tweet:
We congratulate @realDonaldTrump, President-elect of the USA. We desire to reinforce with the USA our strategic cooperation based on trust.— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) November 9, 2016
It is not clear how American-Turkish relations will be under Trump, given the tensions that emerged between the two countries over Syria, and particularly the role of Kurds in the fighting. Trump has previously said in an interview when asked about the Kurdish question: “Well, it would be ideal if we could get them all together. And that would be a possibility. But I’m a big fan of the Kurdish forces. At the same time, I think we have a potentially — we could have a potentially very successful relationship with Turkey. And it would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together.”
What has been the response, then, of the Kurds of whom Donald Trump claims such a big fan? Well, the head of the Kurdish Security Council Masrour Barzani has congratulated Trump on his victory and expressed hopes for “increased support to the Peshmerga and Kurdish people as the most reliable, effective and trusted ally in the war on terrorism” in a statement shared on Twitter.
With Trump having made some controversial comments on the Iran situation, calling the nuclear deal “one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history” during a debate with Hillary Clinton, and adding last week that he would impose new sanctions on Iran, it is interesting to see the response of Iranian leadership to his election.
The Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by Tasnim news agency on Wednesday as saying that "the United States should fulfil its commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the nuclear deal) as a multilateral international agreement."
Arabia channel has also reported that the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani has announced that “Trump’s victory will not cancel the nuclear deal, and with not change Tehran’s policy”
We come, then, to Iran’s greatest opponent in the region, Saudi Arabia, which is the US’s closest Arab ally.
Trump has previously blamed Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 attacks: “Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi – take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” he told Fox News in February.
Moreover, in March he suggested that he would consider stopping oil purchases from the country if they did not provide ground troops against Isis. He has also criticized the Kingdom for failing to take more refugees, despite his own strict proposed policies against immigration to America.
Nonetheless, King Suleiman bin Abd al-Aziz has congratulated Trump on his victory, Tahrir News reported. Indeed, it is unlikely that Trump will compromise America’s closest relationship to a Middle Eastern country.
The Iraqi government announced that Trump’s election would not impact upon its bilateral relationship with the United States. An Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told Kurdish media Rudaw that: “The Iraqi-American strategic agreement, including the economy and war on terror are all mutual files between the two countries and these ties will remain as they are and will not change anything between Iraq and the United States” He added that “there are common interests and mutual relations between Iraq and America and I don’t expect any of this to change with Trump’s victory,”
That is what has been said so far, but we’ll have to wait and see how Trump’s presidency works out in practice for the various nations of the region.
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