Trump, Merkel. Picture of Syria
Gage Skidmore / Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0, ; European People's Party / Flickr - CC BY 2.0, ; Patrick Nicholson / Caritas Internationalis / Trocaire / Flickr - CC BY 2.0, (Montage)

, Analysis: Trump, Merkel and the Middle East: Cooperation needed

War in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, social protests and the refugee question: Europe and the USA face multiple challenges in the wider Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), which is arguably the most crisis-ridden in the world. What next with new US-President Trump?

Even if the new US-President Donald Trump seems to prefer bilateral agreements, addressing  those challenges requires multilateral approaches which go beyond the fight against the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS). Transatlantic cooperation is suggested to foster entrepreneurship and to create jobs in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). Furthermore, Washington, Moscow and Brussels should offer assistance building up a system for security and cooperation in the Gulf region, which could ease tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

As Trump takes office on January 20, questions remain about the future of the United States' global involvement and in particular its commitment to collaborate with Europe in addressing challenges in the MENA.

How will the USA and Europe work together to respond to the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa, specifically Russian involvement in Syria, the role of Turkey, future relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, the refugee question as well as the evolving threat of jihadist groups including ISIS?

Our discussion paper from the series "Newpolitik" explains the German foreign policy approach that supports multilateral solutions. Furthermore Christian Hanelt, the author and Bertelsmann Stiftung's Middle East expert, suggests, even if President Trump may count on bilateral agreements and concentrate on fighting ISIS only, joint transatlantic projects supporting entrepreneurship and building up a system of security and cooperation in the MENA region are needed.

Nearly the entire region needs social peace and cohesion, economic competitiveness, jobs, good governance and an inclusive and modern education system. Youth unemployment is high and birth rates continue to grow. In many countries, young people are visibly taking their fate into their own hands. They are establishing start-ups, small businesses and non-governmental organisations. When these pioneers and young entrepreneurs ask for foreign assistance, they should receive support through development cooperation, which should be better coordinated among Western donor institutions in order to be more effective.

Conflicts, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are made worse by the two regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran. Dialogue and cooperation is needed to end wars and calm tensions in the region. Even if President Obama has reduced the United State's involvement in the Middle East, and even if its successor Trump has announced that he will focus on fighting ISIS, the USA are still an important and influential political and military actor in the MENA region. Russia has increased its influence in the region by militarily intervening in Syria. There are prospects that Washington and Moscow could agree to jointly work on building up a system for cooperation and security in the Gulf region. The European Union – even if it may not be as important politically and militarily – could influence them to act in this direction.

About the series "Newpolitik"

The series "Newpolitik" is offered by the Bertelsmann Foundation North America. It outlines the German approach towards global security, Russia, migration and European Integration.



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