US signals less attention to Middle East but still interferes
Understood from the reluctance and from President Donald Trump's statement and tweets that the U.S. is less eager to keep its pivotal role in the region, it still directly interferes in regional affairs as it did in Palestine and recently in Iran
Since the Arab Spring or uprisings erupted in Tunisia, followed by Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Syria, the U.S. has been reluctant to take military action against autocratic regimes, seen as a sign that the Washington administration is not interested in maintaining its pivotal role in the region. Although the regime in Syria has repeatedly crossed U.S., red lines uttered by former President Barack Obama, there was no major step to force Bashar Assad to step down. Instead, Russia and Iran caught the opportunity to exercise their power both politically and militarily in the region as Russia saved the Syrian regime from a defeat by the opposition groups, established a military base in Egypt and become an actor in Libyan politics. Similarly, Iran has increased its role in the region through organizing armed militias in Iraq, augmenting its support for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah and confronting the Saudi-led Gulf in Yemen.
Upon the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidential post in the U.S., his arguments have intensified over decreasing his country's involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. His numerous tweets and statements have indicated his disinclination to deal with the troubles in the region, even finding support for the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the so-called combat against Daesh, a waste of resources and money.
However, his three moves against Palestine, Pakistan and Iran clearly demonstrated that the president or the U.S. administration, which, apparently, is not truly bound by the opinions of the state's head, is not strong-willed in abandoning the region. Instead, the tableau, drawn by Trump's steps in foreign policy, exhibits that the U.S. is not eager to contribute to the resolution processes of current conflicts.
Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy left a bomb that may explode anytime at the heart of the region. The president, prior to his election, promised that he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which, de facto, means that the U.S. was going to recognize the city, considered holy by the three Abrahamic religions, as Israel's capital. He has accused former U.S. governments with failing to find a solution in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and promised that he was keen to re-launch the peace process with a focus on the two-state solution. Just as he was expected to focus on the peace process, he not only changed policy, but also increased the harshness of his rhetoric, resulting in a threat to freeze U.S. aid to Palestinian refugees.
On Friday, the Axios webpage reported that the U.S. had frozen $125 million in funding for a U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees. "The sum, a third of the annual U.S. donation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, was supposed to be delivered by Jan. 1," the webpage reported.
However, a U.S. official, though making ambiguous statements, told Reuters that any decision as such had not been taken. "The State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: 'That (Axios) story is very misleading. Just because they were expecting the money on the first, and they did not get it at that time, does not mean it was suspended or canceled. Deliberations are ongoing, and we have until mid-January to make a final decision.' Asked if any preliminary decision had been made, the official replied: 'No. And reports to that effect are false'," the Reuters report said.
The U.S. also continues to provide support for the PYD in Syria. Despite Turkey's warnings and appeals to stop the aid, the Turkish media last month reported that more U.S. trucks had arrived in the PYD-controlled zones and brought new high-technology weapons. Despite claims that Trump was not in favor of spending millions of dollars to continue arming the PYD, taking the fact that Daesh has largely lost its control in Syria, into account, the PYD still gains power and seeks to expand its control zone.
Trump has also interfered in the recent protests in Iran, pledging clear support to the protesters. The U.S. said the protesters had to be supported. His main backer was Israel, which said Israelis and Iranians would become friends after the regime was ousted. Yet, the U.S.'s eagerness to interfere in Iranian politics did not receive much support as Turkey, Russia and France declared that they considered the issue an internal affair. The U.S.'s request to meet in the U.N. to discuss the protests was criticized by some other members. France's Ambassador to the U.N., Francois Delattre said: "We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished. However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be, they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security." U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Iran was "on notice."
"The Iranian regime's contempt for the rights of its people has been widely documented for many years," she said and added that the U.S. is together "unapologetically with those in Iran who seek freedom for themselves, prosperity for their families, and dignity for their nation. We will not be quiet. No dishonest attempt to call the protesters 'puppets of foreign powers' will change that." Despite her strong statements, no powerful regional or international actor responded positively to calls to increase pressure on the regime over the demonstrations.