Monday, 20 May 2024

Leadership in the Middle East Matters

Stuart Jolly By Stuart Jolly | March 25, 2024 | United States

What a difference 4 years can make. 

In 2020, the Middle East, the most volatile region in the world for the last half century, was finally at peace.

In fact, when I landed my Blackhawk helicopter as an aviator in the 101st Airborne Division in the region in 1991, I would never have dreamed that within a generation after the Gulf War that the Middle East could become so stable.  

In 2020, our nation’s close ally and the only true democratic republic in the region, Israel, was safe and secure.

Early in his administration, President Trump had done something promised by presidents of both parties for 30+ years but never actually done: he moved the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to its rightful place in Jerusalem.

So called “foreign policy experts” howled that it would destabilize the region, but in fact the opposite happened. 

The historic Abraham Accords normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Bahrain had been signed.

This courageous step by the Emirates and Bahrainis was in part a demonstration of their confidence in the reliability of a strong United States led by Donald Trump. Normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel were not far off.        

The most destabilizing regime in the region, Iran, was boxed in and held at bay. Early on, Trump had reversed President Obama’s disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal. He slapped the highest level of terrorist designation on Iran’s radical proxy in North Yemen - the Houthis - which allowed broad range of action against these terrorists and resulted in their causing little trouble outside of Yemen during the Trump years.

Most importantly, the vital shipping lanes through the Bab al- Mandab Strait and into the Red Sea, off Yemen’s coast, remained safe for the world’s commerce.     

When the Iranians persisted in fomenting trouble in Iraq and Syria by building up their proxies’ military capabilities, Trump acted decisively by killing Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike outside of Baghdad. Iran bellowed out threats but ultimately backed down from a confrontation as the United States demonstrated its superior military capabilities and a determined resolve to act.

Today, the Middle East is literally aflame. Iran is resurgent and flush with cash as the Biden Administration has doggedly pursued a policy of appeasement that they thought would bring the Iranians into the world community as legitimate partners. It’s been a complete failure.

In fact, with the breathing space and funding gained by the Biden approach, Iran has strengthened its terrorist proxy groups across the region.

We are seeing the dangerous results. The Hamas terrorist attack on Israel has forced Israel into a war on its southern border in Gaza.

On Israel’s northern border, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, has threatened and actually fired into Israel forcing the Jewish State to maintain strong reserves in place to deal with the far greater threat of Hezbollah, which controls most of Lebanon. Iran has been the chief trainer, weapons provider, and funder for both terrorist organizations.  

One of President Biden’s first foreign policy moves upon taking office was to remove the terrorist designation from the Houthis, the Iranian backed and funded terrorist organization controlling much of North Yemen. Today, these same Houthis are making shipping through the vital Bab al- Mandab Strait and Red Sea a perilous venture.

This is one of the busiest and most important shipping corridors in the world as it leads to the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Houthis, using Iranian missiles, drones, and guidance systems are costing the world billions of dollars and further driving up inflation for average people.

In much of Syria and across the southern Shia region of Iraq, the Iranians are funding, training and providing weapons for localized militias, terrorist groups, and the remnant of the Assad regime.

Iran’s goal is as always: strengthen its own power projection, expand its influence at the expense of its regional “enemies” like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and work to destroy Israel.

Sensing an opening, China has moved aggressively into the region as a partner with Iran. You can see and sense China’s money and military in the region more today than at any time in modern history.  

As a young man, I fought in the Middle East alongside many allies from the region. For years now, I’ve worked in and travelled across the cities, deserts, mountains and waterways in this vital part of the world. Never have I seen a starker difference between the positive impact that the Trump Administration made, and the disastrous impact being made even now by the Biden Administration.


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