Donald Trump’s last push in West Asia | HT Editorial
President Donald Trump has given up on foreign policy except in West Asia. His administration is presumed to have had a role in the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last week. His son-in-law has flown to the Persian Gulf for one last diplomatic roundabout. Mr Trump’s team is tying up the loose ends of what it sees as its great foreign policy moment — getting a slew of Gulf Arab nations to recognise Israel and concretise an anti-Iran coalition.
West Asia’s deepest geopolitical fault-line no longer runs between Israelis and Arabs but between Shia Persians and Sunni Arabs. It was the Gulf monarchies which applauded Mr Trump ending the Iran nuclear agreement, initiated the Israel outreach and are now working to ensure all this will be fait accompli for President-elect Joe Biden. Mr Biden’s foreign policy supports the Arab-Israeli rapprochement. But it may be frosty towards Saudi Arabia and includes plans to resurrect the Iran nuclear agreement. The last won’t be easy. Iran has 12 times more low-enriched uranium than the original agreement allowed while Washington has zero diplomatic credibility.
The stakes are high. The Arab Street has no love for Israel. Iran’s informal empire remains intact but broke. Outsiders must tread this minefield carefully. India has even more reason to avoid a regional role and continue to maintain a set of bilateral relationships. Pakistan is struggling. The United Arab Emirates banned visas for Pakistan and others who opposed normalisation of ties with Israel. As West Asian politics becomes ever more cut-throat, Islamabad may have to choose between ideological sanctity and economic stability. Either way will be to New Delhi’s advantage.