The real Mideast deal

By Christopher Harper

Donald Trump has built the most effective strategy in the Middle East EVER.

Having covered the Middle East for many years as a reporter, I’ve never seen such successes. The administration has convinced the first Arab state in decades, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to recognize Israel. Another predominantly Muslim country, Kosovo, has established diplomatic relations with Israel.

Although Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for opening a dialogue with Muslim countries, he and Joe Biden frittered away eight years of watching the Middle East devolve into a region dominated by Sunni and Shia extremists.

Civil war raged in Libya and Syria. The Islamic State reared its ugly head in Iraq and Syria. Then the 2015 Iran nuclear deal compounded the problems.

Known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement was intended to delay Iran’s development of an atomic bomb. Instead, the lifting of economic sanctions emboldened Iran to expand its reach to solidify a Shia alliance that stretched through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Terrorists launched operations across Europe, leaving hundreds dead.

That’s the landscape that Trump and his administration inherited.

Trump scuttled the nuclear deal with Iran. After that, a military coalition cut the Islamic State down to size. Although remnants of ISIS continue to exist, its leadership was left either dead or in disarray, with little income and land from which to launch terrorist attacks.

After that success, Trump and his team turned their attention toward the peace process that resulted in the agreements between Arabs and Israelis.

That process continues this week in Qatar as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are meeting with officials from Qatar to sign agreements on cultural and economic cooperation.

Qatar has had ongoing disputes with its Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia. This week’s agreements are seen as a way toward settling those arguments and perhaps bringing both countries toward official recognition of Israel. Simultaneously, the first face-to-face talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban began in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The naysayers point to the lack of any new agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israel-Palestinian-first strategy has left the Middle East without any significant movement on peace and a spate of violence since the Oslo accords of 1993.

Trump’s new approach to the Middle East has created an environment in which the Palestinian leadership, who almost always miss an opportunity to gain more recognition of their rights, may start negotiating as they see their Arab backers make peace with Israel.