Hillary vs. Donald: Who is better for the Middle East?

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column


The presidential elections in the United States have always attracted the attention of world media, as well as of experts, politicians and journalists far beyond the United States. Sometimes, citizens of different countries of the world are interested in the US elections more than some citizens of the United States. The current election is no exception. At the last presidential election, Americans surprised the whole world by electing the first African-American US president. After two terms in the presidency, Barack Obama leaves the White House, and, according to some American experts, leaves behind a very contradictory legacy.

The current election can well spring a surprise. For the first time the US president could be a woman.

The former first lady and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is competing with an eccentric businessman Donald Trump for possession of the Oval Office. If Clinton is widely known among the international political establishment, the same cannot be said about Tramp.  In a way, Trump may be called an outsider of this election. Trump’s inexperience in matters of international policy and political issues in general is a two-way street. If, on the one hand, this inexperience does him a disservice and is criticized and ridiculed by the Democrat camp and journalists close to them, then, on the other hand, his previous uninvolvement in international politics and big politics of Washington, does not allow competitors to associate his name with any failure or failures, which, of course, gives him a certain advantage.

Foreign policy is one of the important components of the presidential race in the United States. In this endeavor, of course, Clinton is the undisputed favorite.

In all this, I am of course interested in Middle Eastern topics. Which candidate would be the most optimal for the Middle East?

Let’s start with Trump. Either Trump hasn’t hired decent advisers on foreign policy, or he does not listen to their advice. The Republican candidate was remembered by attacks against Muslims, which received quite nervous response from the Middle East. Some business partners of Trump in Muslim countries have strongly criticized the billionaire. Trump also stood out by his attacks against some Middle Eastern countries, causing anger and criticism from the representatives of the elites in those countries and the media under their control. So much so that the influential Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal and Donald Trump have exchanged tweets that instantly caught the attention of the media. Prince via Twitter urged Trump to withdraw from the U.S presidential race, stating that he is “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America”. The apogee of Trump’s verbal attacks against Muslims was his call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. With those words, Trump has earned himself the status of an Islamophobe, both in the Middle East and among Muslims living in the US.

If Trump elected president, considering his lack of experience in foreign policy, there are only two ways this plays out. The first option is where Trump will leave foreign policy at the mercy of the State Department and his advisers, and this option will inevitably lead to a clash of interest between the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department on the one hand and Trump’s advisers on the other. This option would bring chaos in already complex US Middle East policy and would ultimately deprive it of any sign of effectiveness.

The second option is where Trump himself will deal with foreign policy, without or not enough listening to his advisers, and the Department of State will become the voice of the president’s will. In this scenario, the US foreign policy risks becoming illegible, sporadic and ineffective, this ultimately will result in the foreign policy disaster for the United States and its allies in the region. The place of the US in the Middle East can be taken by such countries as China, Russia and partly Iran.

And if the presidency goes to Hillary Clinton, who is well versed in matters of foreign policy and is familiar with the region, we should expect an increase in the activity of American diplomacy towards the Middle East. And especially, on the Syrian track. It is worth noting that, unlike Clinton, President Obama holds a softer stance towards Iran and Russia. But at the moment the relations between Russia and the United States almost reached the boiling point due to disagreements on Syria.

With Clinton we should expect further deterioration of relations with Russia. Moscow is well aware that Russia is not able to withstand a long confrontation with the United States. Which is exactly why Moscow is betting on Trump; major Russian media, controlled by the Kremlin, compete in praising Trump.  This desire to be more Catholic than the Pope looks comical. One might even think that it will be Russians voting in the US presidential election, and not American citizens. It should be noted that the ability of Russian propaganda to influence elections in the United States is microscopic. In this case, the Russian side cannot be helped even by a propaganda channel “Russia Today”, on which, despite the crisis in the country, the Russian government has spent and continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

It’s a different story when it comes to hacker attacks against Democrats and Hillary personally, which, as suggested by some experts and Clinton herself, are backed by the Russian government. These attacks and the materials obtained this way managed to harm Clinton and become one of the arguments in the hands of Trump. However, Trump’s inability and inexperience, his almost rustic ignorance, does not allow him to take full advantage of these “trump cards” against Hillary.

If we analyze the activities and connections of Clinton and Trump, it can be said that both of them are one way or another linked with the elites in the Middle East. Trump does business with billionaires from the Gulf region, and the Clinton Foundation receives money from Saudi Arabia. We can assume that in the framework of the American elections different countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia or Israel, are playing their own game, trying to help “their” candidate to win.

Well, democracy is not perfect, but we don’t know any better.

On November 8 this year, US citizens will go to the polls and elect their new president. Their choice will be important for their country, as well as for many countries in the Middle East.

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