It can’t be denied that Donald Trump’s biggest selling point in the 2016 election was his remarkable and uncompromising stance on illegal immigration. But while that position was given the lion’s share of the overall attention, his promised policies on the Middle East and broader national security concerns was also a big departure from those of the Obama administration. In fact, they were just as significant a departure from Republican Party orthodoxy. Under a Trump administration, the Republican nominee promised, the U.S. would not bog itself and its military down in fruitless Middle Eastern wars, would not needlessly take sides in the Israel-Palestine peace process, and would not make the mistake of seeing enemies as friends.
In this last point, the primary name was Iran. President Obama didn’t necessarily consider the Islamic Republic an ally, but he did think they were trustworthy enough to sit down at a bargaining table and hammer out a historic nuclear agreement that some – including Trump – have called one of the worst deals in the history of global diplomacy.
While Obama continued to treat Iran as a rogue nation throughout the negotiations and continued to encourage sanctions against them for their ongoing missile testing, those nods toward Iran’s true nature were undermined by the fact that he handed them billions of dollars in previously frozen assets. Think about that for a minute: Obama gave billions of dollars to a recognized and obvious state sponsor of terrorism just so they would sign this worthless nuclear agreement. Just so they would “postpone” their nuclear ambitions for a few years. Unreal.
What’s done is done, but in his National Security Strategy speech this week, President Trump made it clear that he did not view Iran through the rose-colored glasses worn by his predecessor.
“For generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region,” he said Monday. “Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”
These are not words of war, as some of Trump’s critics have suggested, but words of reality. And reality is something that has been sorely lacking in our foreign policy for a long, long time. In one paragraph, Trump easily defended his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his decision not to certify the Iran nuclear deal, and his decision to drive a wedge between Russian and Iran despite the former’s alleged election meddling. These are the decisions of a pragmatic, wise leader and they put our country on firmer international grounding than we’ve been in years.