The Middle East After Trump: A Guarini Institute Discussion

On March 17 2021, the JCU Guarini Institute for Public Affairs hosted an online event called “Il Medio Oriente dopo Trump.” The discussion focused on the course of events that unraveled in Middle Eastern countries, following the end of Trump’s presidency, and the possible beginning of a new era with a shift in objectives in the newly-elected Biden administration. The speakers were renowned experts on the Greater Middle East – including Egypt, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq – in the wake of  Trump’s presidency and the scheduled Israeli election on March 23.

The Middle East

The Middle East

The Director of the Guarini Institute, Federigo Argentieri, kicked off the discussion by introducing the topic and the guest speakers. Giovanni Quer, a researcher at the University of Tel Aviv, was the first to start the debate on the future of the Middle East, in relation to recent changes in the U.S. Administration by giving an in-depth analysis of the current scenario regarding the upcoming Israeli election. Quer highlighted the political and societal shift that Israel has been experiencing in light of its upcoming elections. Lately, increasing attention has fallen upon the Arab electorate and the security of Israeli minorities, which signals a greater societal change and a possible shift in the Arab-Hebrew divide. Nevertheless, this 24th Israeli election is predicted to be in favor of current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Enrico Molinaro considered there to be a greater issue concerning these elections: one of identity. Molinaro believes that calculated tensions between social groups have been orchestrated to maintain division within Jerusalem, specifically between three monotheistical agents: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The growing tension between these groups renders the ‘Trumpian’ view of their peaceful coexistence in Israel practically impossible. Molinaro suggested that international law could offer various paths for change in Israel’s capital, however, the greater problem would have to do with communicating such change to the relevant parties.

Pratishtha Singh further explored the complexities of Israel’s international relations, by examining the strategic relationship between India and Israel. According to Dr. Singh, the alliance between the two countries is based solely on India’s extreme leftist desire to obtain an ethnic democracy, which Israel firmly supports. Dr. Singh underlined the strategic nature of this alliance, arguing that the people of India do not necessarily support Israel’s initiatives – such as the January 2021 attack on the Israeli embassy in New Delhi. Dr. Singh then went on to connect the current genocide occurring in Armenia and Azerbaijan to Russia and Turkey’s interest in furthering the war rather than stopping it. This would render Turkey’s membership in NATO questionable- a notion which was echoed in Benedetta Argentieri’s analysis of Syria and Turkey. Argentieri’s analysis considered the different relationship that the Kurdish population could have with the Biden Administration as opposed to the one it had with the Trump Administration.

Doaa Motaal compared the current state of the pandemic in the West with the situation in the Middle East. Motaal explained that only a total of 75 countries had access to the Covid-19 vaccine, while 115 countries had yet to receive a single dose. This scramble for vaccines has exposed varying levels of inequality and nationalism in international relations. This is evidenced by, for instance, exportation restrictions concerning medical supplies imposed by many countries, including 43 WTO members. For this reason, a WHO initiative known as COVAX, has implemented a program intended to vaccinate a substantial portion of the population in underdeveloped countries with vaccine contributions from developed countries. The moral and political ramifications of this initiative, however, have demonstrated that countries, like Canada, are not willing to contribute vaccination resources based on nationalist pretenses. In the Middle East, countries like Iran are turning towards the notion of protectionism by attempting to produce their own national vaccine.