Foreign Policy

Trump can create a triangular partnership in the Middle East

The current turmoil in the Middle East, especially post-Aleppo, poses a difficult challenge for the incoming Trump administration. There are ongoing proxy wars that have destabilized the regional order and allowed for an unprecedented terrorism infrastructure to thrive and spread across borders. These sophisticated terrorist networks, operating under different names, are deeply interconnected from Iraq to Syria and from Libya to Yemen.

The conflicts of the Middle East have sparked a massive refugee and humanitarian crisis with security vacuums only exacerbating the problems. The current geopolitical dynamics make it impossible for the United States alone to successfully manage these threats without the help of reliable regional partners.

{mosads}In the Middle East, both Egypt and Israel stand as longstanding U.S. allies on which the Trump administration can and must rely if it is determined to seriously defeat the hideous forces of terrorism. There are other influential regional countries that claim to be fighting terrorism, but have become part of the problem with their support of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The direct and indirect financial, logistical, or weaponry support for rebels and terrorist organizations is unproductive and synonymous with playing with fire. One cannot be on both sides of the fence, support terrorism activities in one place for narrow political gains, while publicly claim to be fighting the vast terrorism infrastructure around the world.

The ambiguous differentiation between “moderate” and “extremists” armed organizations by regional countries like Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia pose a liability for the Trump administration’s future efforts to dismantle the complex terrorism networks across the Middle East. Therefore, Egypt and Israel stand as the two most reliable U.S. partners in the region with the capabilities to address the most dangerous threat of the twenty-first century. The recent meetings and phone calls by President-elect Trump with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdel Fattah El-Sisi indicate personal ties will significantly improve with the future U.S president compared to his predecessor.

The prospects of warmer relations between Trump and his counterparts in Egypt and Israel are significant and will create an atmosphere of greater strategic cooperation between the three capitals. The triangular partnership between Washington, Cairo and Tel Aviv comes at a crucial time and is possible due to the unprecedented degree of behind the scenes cooperation between Egypt and Israel. The Egyptian leader and the Israeli prime minister are in regular contact, sharing intelligence like never before, and the Israeli military continues to provide valuable assistance in targeting of militants in Northern Sinai. This provides Washington with a rare opportunity to use this alliance to advance peace and stability in the region.

Egypt and Israel have the two most powerful and advanced regional armies with years of experience in fighting terrorism, making them influential players and key U.S. partners. Especially Egypt, with the recent democratic election of President El-Sisi who stands as the only leader in the Muslim world, who courageously called for an Islamic Revolution that seeks to eliminate religious extremist man-made interpretations and understandings of Islam.

The initiative by Egypt’s leader sent shockwaves and faced resistance by hardline radical Islamist leaders. Therefore, the cooperation between the three different monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam through the triangular partnership would be a positive step towards supporting the real voices of moderate Islam and eradicating terrorism.

To unleash the full potential of the triangular partnership during President Trump’s tenure, the White House should designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, double military aid to the Egyptian Armed Forces, allow the Egyptian military to purchase the most advanced U.S. military technologies, and invite President El-Sisi to Washington. At the same time, President-elect Trump should also reverse Obama’s shortsighted decision of eliminating the decades old privilege of cash flow financing for the Egyptian military’s purchases of U.S. military equipment. These steps would be welcomed in Egypt, and would be reciprocated with good-will gestures and elevate the strategic cooperation between Washington and Cairo to new unprecedented levels.

The triangular partnership between Washington, Cairo, and Tel Aviv in the global fight against terrorism could also pave the way for an agreement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As someone who has spent a lifetime in behind the scenes negotiations with both the Israelis and Palestinians with frequent travels to Israel, I believe the triangular partnership under the leadership of President Trump, President El-Sisi, and Prime Minister Netanyahu offers an opportunity to reach a final and lasting peace agreement.

One has to always remember that the late President Anwar El-Sadat reached a peace agreement with his archenemy Israel at the time when nobody thought peace was possible. President-elect Trump has already picked some key national security post with distinguished individuals who would be able to guide this key triangular partnership forward and establish a more stable Middle East.

Ambassador Dr. Adel El-Adawy is the former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and previously served as Adviser to the late Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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