Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump assailed US President Barack Obama's Middle East policy Wednesday during a foreign policy address in which he said Obama spurned Israel while coddling Iran.
“President Obama has not been a friend to Israel,” Trump said in a speech at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel where he uncharacteristically read from a prepared text on teleprompter. “He has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power in the Middle East – all at the expense of Israel, our other allies in the region and, critically, the United States.”
Israel was one of only a few countries friendly to the US that Trump mentioned by name in the speech, calling it “our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East.” He said that Israel has been “'snubbed and criticized by an Administration that lacks moral clarity.”
Referring to comments made by Vice President Joe Biden last week at a J Street event, when he said the administration has sometimes had “overwhelming frustration” with the Israeli government, Trump slammed Biden for “again” criticizing Israel and saying it acted as “an impediment to peace in the region.” On the contrary, he said, Israel is a “force for justice and peace.”
The Republican candidate, who greatly enhanced his chances of securing his party’s nomination by comfortably winning five primaries on Tuesday, did not once mention the Palestinians or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his address. He raised eyebrows in jerusalem and among pro-Israel supporters in february by saying that he wanted to remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He also raised eyebrows in March saying that Israel should have to pay the US back for some of its military aid. Those fears were not allayed by his speech Wednesday, when he said “our allies must contribute toward the financial, political and human costs of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so.”
Israel is currently negotiating a memorandum of Understanding with the US government that is to govern the next decade of military aid, and is seeking a significant increase over the $30 billion ten-year package that expires in 2018
On Iran, Trump articulated a sentiment voiced over the last year by senior Israeli officials, saying that Obama “negotiated a disastrous deal with Iran, and then we watched them ignore its terms, even before the ink was dry.”
“In negotiation, you must be willing to walk,” Trump said. “The Iran deal, like so many of our worst agreements, is the result of not being willing to leave the table. When the other side knows you’re not going to walk, it becomes absolutely impossible to win.”
At the same time, he said, “your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.”
Trump said that Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, and that as president he would ensure that it never be allowed to gain one.
Trump also chided the Obama administration for not standing by Egypt, and allowing the Muslim Brotherhood take control during the reign of Mohamed Morsi.
“He [Obama] supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel – and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.”
With the presidential race looking increasingly as if it will pit Trump against Hillary Clinton, Trump linked the former secretary of state under Obama to what he said were the administration’s failures in the Middle East.
The “legacy of the Obama -Clinton interventions” in the region, he said, will be “weakness, confusion and disarray.”
“We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before,” he said. “We left Christians subject to intense persecution and even genocide. Our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS. And we’re in a war against radical Islam, but President Obama won’t even name the enemy.”
Clinton, too, refuses to say the words “radical Islam,” he charged.
Not only does Trump not shy away from the term “radical Islam,” he said a “long-term plan” is needed to halt its spread and reach.
“Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States,” he said. “Events may require the use of military force. But it’s also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the Cold War.”
Trump said that America's goals in the Middle East “must be to defeat terrorists and promote regional stability, not radical change. We need to be clear-sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies.”
Without spelling out how this will be done, Trump said that he would defeat Islamic State.
“I have a simple message for them,” he said. “Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable. But they’re going to be gone. And soon.”
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