The U.S. Departure from its longstanding policies in the Middle East under Former President Trump may have everything to do with the current situation there. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States pursued several diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East, including the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. This was seen as a significant achievement in the region and marked a departure from previous U.S. foreign policy approaches.
However, the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East was also marked by some contentious decisions, such as the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. These moves sparked criticism and concern among some regional and international stakeholders, and they were seen as complicating factors in the pursuit of peace and stability in the Middle East.
Critics argued that the Trump administration’s foreign policy approach lacked a comprehensive and nuanced strategy that considered the region’s complex dynamics and longstanding conflicts. Some analysts suggested that the emphasis on bilateral agreements and the sidelining of traditional diplomatic channels might have limited the potential for broader, sustainable peace initiatives.
Furthermore, the sudden changes in U.S. policy and rhetoric under the Trump administration generated uncertainty and volatility in the region, potentially affecting the dynamics of regional alliances and geopolitical balance. For example, according to CNN, Morocco became the fourth country in the Middle East and North African region to agree to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, an 11th-hour foreign policy achievement for the lame-duck Trump administration as it seeks to shore up regional support for Israel as a countermeasure to Iranian aggression. Mr. Trump’s approach to these bilateral agreements in the Middle East completely disregarded the dynamics as long as He scored a domestic political point and self-aggrandizement. The normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morrocco, spearheaded by Mr. Trump, came at a heavy tradeoff where Mr. Trump unilaterally recognized Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Why Did Morocco Leave the Organization of African Unity (OAU)?
Morocco withdrew from the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union (AU), in 1984 in protest of the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara. The Western Sahara conflict is a long-standing dispute between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the territory. Morocco has consistently claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara, while the Polisario Front has sought self-determination for the region through a referendum. Nigeria and South Africa, among other African nations, have supported the Polisario Front’s position, advocating for the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
The dispute over Western Sahara has been a contentious issue within the African Union, with member states divided over whether to recognize the SADR or to support Morocco’s claims over the territory. Morocco’s decision to withdraw from the OAU was a response to the organization’s recognition of the SADR and its support for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. While Morocco re-joined the African Union in 2017, tensions over the Western Sahara issue continue to persist within the organization. The differing positions of member states on this matter have led to ongoing debates and diplomatic challenges within the AU, reflecting the complexity of regional dynamics and the diverse perspectives on issues of sovereignty and self-determination.
Morocco returned to the AU because they were promised sovereignty over the Western Sahara as soon as Trump was elected president, which eventually came to fruition in 2020. The move irked South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, and others around the region. However, Mr. Trump did not factor in the historical context of this dispute before granting Morocco sovereignty over Western Sahara. Though successful, this hasty and chaotic diplomacy under Mr. Trump was never sustainable in the long run. If the above statement is true, then it makes sense that the Middle East is once again at a crossroads, which may end every possibility of normalization of diplomatic relations with the new aspirant countries. We already know the responses from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and others to the ongoing bombardment of Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip, and this is the impact of such a hasty foreign policy.
However, the full impact of these policy shifts on the broader U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is a matter of ongoing debate and analysis, as it involves assessing multiple complex factors and long-term consequences. It is crucial to follow up on current events and analyses to understand how subsequent administrations have approached the challenges in the Middle East and whether there have been any significant impacts stemming from the Trump administration’s policies.