Middle East Christians awaiting to see the first moves of US President Donald Trump


The changes in foreign policy flaunted by US President-elect Donald Trump during his election campaign, prefigure a different approach to the Middle Eastern scenario – scarred by unsolved confrontations such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq, the aberrant violent terrorism of the Islamic State, along with tensions linked to regional players, Turkey and Iran, and to superpowers like Russia. The Christian minority in the Country hopes that the new course will bring the defeat of ISIS and the re-establishment of security, political stability and the rule of law. Now the spotlight is on the next moves of the US Tycoon.

The election of Donald Trump, the American tycoon, as President of the United States of America, was unexpected. After having defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, many US citizens have started wondering about the next moves of the US President, especially in terms of foreign policy, an area where predictions are difficult to make also given the new President’s lack of experience. For sure, his motto “Make America great again”, has made it clear that future US commitments abroad will be focused on national interests. The Middle East viewed as one of the most anticipated testing grounds given the US continual involvement in the region throughout the past decades. In his political talks and in many interviews granted during his election campaign, Trump expressed his ideas on the future situation of the region marked by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by the wars in Syria and Iraq, by migration waves from these two Countries, by the presence of the Islamic State, and by complicated relations with Turkey and Iran.

As regards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Trump make it clear that he intends to relaunch the peace process currently stalled, and announced that he plans to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.  Israel obviously welcomed this decision which was counterpoised by Palestinian opposition, although their representative in the negotiations, Saeb Erekat, expressed a note of optimism, were it only for the fact that “the George W.Bush was the first US President to speak of a Palestinian State. And therefore the issue could be tackled by the Republican Party today.” The deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, initiated by Obama, which Trump had opposed, is another controversial issue on the President-elect’s agenda. The intention is clearly to halt Iran’s attempt to impose itself as a major regional player. It remains to be seen how this goal will be achieved – given that Iran is an ally of Putin’s Russia (which Trump intends to reconcile with) in the war with Syria and ISIS. As for interventions against the terrorists of the Islamic State, the new US President has expressed his willingness to make alliances with Putin, loosening the grip on Assad. He equally expressed criticism about the offensive on Mosul that, he claimed, only brings advantages to Iran. The rapprochement between the US and Russia could benefit Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as well as Erdogan’s Turkey, presently experiencing a thaw in the relations with Moscow. There remains the thorny issue of the Kurds. Trump’s intention is to support the Peshmerga against the Islamic State: a decision Ankara disapproves of.

Also Christian and non-Christian minorities in the Region are waiting to see Trump’s next moves. Having been forced to flee the Islamic State, amidst sectarian conflicts, they hope their Countries will finally experience security and stability. For the Secretary of State of His Holiness Cardinal Pietro Parolin the situation in the Middle East “is tragic” and it requires an urgent solution. Syria has been afflicted by the armed conflict for far too long.

It is hoped that the changes brought about with the US election will usher in a negotiated solution repeatedly invoked by the Holy See. The Syrian crisis will not be resolved with weapons. We call for a negotiated solution.”

“All the elected representatives of a Country are expected to identify the best option for the good of their citizens –said Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches –

is there anything better for the United States than the assurance of peace, progress, democracy, support to those in need, notably the victims of terrorism, to those forced to flee from their home Countries? I hope this reality will serve to inspire the old and new political leaders of Western Countries.

A Trump-Putin alliance against terrorism is a responsibility that involves national government leaders – not religious leaders.” The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Monsignor Pierbattista Pizzaballa equally awaits to see what moves will be made by the US administration. “The Israeli-Palestine situation will take a long time to start moving again. The international community and the United States cannot change the situation without the determination of Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land. I see no elements on the horizon signalling an immediate change of course, but I hope I am wrong.” “Although we are no politicians, we are interested in the ‘polis’ of the city. We pray for Trump and for the world, that it may become a kingdom of justice and peace. May the new US President listen to the voice of the Church and of Pope Francis. No more war. A world without God is a world of wars. I hope that Trump is on the side of peace”, commented Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham. The vote shows how US citizens are tired of “unjustified wars, deaths, violence and destruction”, said Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako.”

There is widespread hope that “there might be a change in the interests of peace and stability.” In Iraq, a feeling of satisfaction prevails at the outcome of the election; however, the latter “has not wiped out a general sense of fear.”

 

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