In a foundational speech made on the campaign trail in Youngstown, Ohio, then businessman Donald Trump outlined his policy on Islamic extremism among other pledges relating to foreign policy.
Has Trump kept his promises? Do these first seven months indicate what we can expect to see in the coming years?
Clarion Project gives our readers an overview of now President Trump and his policymakers in the first seven months of this administration in light of those promises.
Convene an international conference to halt the spread of radical Islam and “take on the ideology of Radical Islam” including “speak[ing] out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith”
The president got off to an impressive start in a ground-breaking keynote speech he made four months after his inauguration at the Arab Islamic American Summit held in Saudi Arabia in May 2017.
The summit was true to his promise of convening an international conference to halt the spread of radical Islam.
Trump delivered a bold speech in which he clearly laid out to the heads of Muslim states that they had arrived at a pivotal moment:
It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.
In concept and execution, the Trump Administration used the summit to mark a clear U-turn away from the Obama doctrine of embracing Iran at the expense of America’s Sunni Arab allies.
During the trip, Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, more than ironic considering the historical role of Saudi Arabia’s extremist form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fomenting terror and radicalism around the world.
Work “side by side with our friends in the Middle East…”
The trip to Saudi Arabia was followed by a positive visit to Israel where Trump affirmed his friendship with the Jewish state and used his time with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to excoriate Abbas for lying him during Abbas’ earlier trip to Washington about the role of the P.A. in inciting the Palestinians to violence against Israelis.
A good start. What has happened since Trump’s opening volley to the Muslim world?
On the very positive side, an alliance of Gulf and other Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and including Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen and others severed all relations with Qatar because of Qatar’s funding of terrorism (Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taiban and Al Qaeda) and Qatar’s ties with Iran and Turkey.
Yet, while Trump himself expressed support for the Arab World’s unprecedented pressure on Qatar and described Qatar as a major terror-financier, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly criticized Saudi Arabia, called Qatar “very reasonable” in its reaction to the pressure, said the U.S. is “mystified” by their complaints and made moves towards Turkey (who was aiding Qatar in the crisis).
Tillerson then signed a counter-terrorism agreement with Qatar, spitting in the faces of the Arab countries fed up with Qatar’s support of terrorism.
(Perhaps Tillerson’s favoring of Qatar has something to do with the close relationship he had with the Qatari government as a businessman with ExxonMobil, which has a decades-long association with Qatar’s rulers.)
Immediately after signing the deal, Qatar reiterated its commitment to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the U.S.
The Trump administration agreed to sell 36 fighter jets to Qatar right after the Arabs launched their campaign.
Tillerson also signaled his opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in mid-June.
“Our great ally Israel”
In his Youngstown speech, Trump vowed to work side by side “our great ally Israel.” The State Department, again under the leadership of Tillerson, recently issued its annual country by country terrorism report. Shockingly, it put the majority of blame for Palestinian terror on Israel.
The report makes the blatantly false claim that the Palestinian Authority’s calls for terrorism are “rare.” The report flies in the face of facts, particularly the incessant incitement against Israel, Israelis and Jews by President Abbas and on his state-run media.
From paying salaries to terrorists and their families to naming schools, sports facilities and the like after the most brutal Palestinian terrorists to running TV shows for young children that glorify killing Jews, the P.A. has been responsible for mass incitement of its population for over a decade. Such incitement has been highly documented.
The report also flies in the face of the positions of Trump who forcefully called out Abbas over this incitement in a face-to-face meeting during the American president’s recent trip to Israel.
While the State Department plans a 28% cut in foreign aid to places around the world, the department is planning to increase aid to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority reportedly uses the equivalent of half of the foreign aid it receives to sponsor terrorism. It is increasing its compensation for terrorists in Israeli prisons by 13% and its financial aid to families of killed terrorists by 4%.
“We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan…”
King Abdullah was singled out by Trump as one of America’s partners who realize the “ideology of death must be extinguished.” Yet, in a speech Abdullah gave to the U.N. General Assembly in which he addressed “extremist terrorists” and their desire to “erase human civilization, and drag us back to the dark ages,” he chided Western officials, media leaders and policy makers for not understanding the “true nature of Islam,” which he said “teaches that all humanity is equal in dignity. There is no distinction among different nations or regions or races. The Qur’an forbids coercion in religion. Every citizen is guaranteed the state’s protection for their lives, families, properties, honor, privacy, and freedom of religion and thought.”
Clearly, part of Trump’s challenge with such “American partners,” is their failure to acknowledge the extremist parts of Islam that contribute to Islamist terror – namely the lack of religious freedom in Islamic societies including Jordan (as well as a host of others who are called “American partners.”)
Islamic blasphemy is on the books in Jordan. Also, in Jordan, Jews are not even allowed to pray in private or wear hidden articles of Jewish significance.
During the recent crisis on the Temple Mount in Israel – in which Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the mount after weapons were smuggled inside and used to kill Israeli police officers guarding the site for all worshipers — King Abdullah sided with the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the site and which demanded the metal detectors be removed. After the crisis was resolved (through Israel removing the detectors), Abdullah promptly pledged $1.4 million to the Waqf, which refuses to allow any prayer at the site except Islamic prayer.
“We will seek to starve funding for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah”
Unfortunately, Trump’s recent agreement with Russia regarding a ceasefire in Syria empowers Iran, and hence Hezbollah, which expands its reach through the Syrian war.
In terms of Hamas, Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster chose as his top adviser on Israel Kris Bauman, who is known for blaming Israel and the West for failing to see “Hamas’ signals of willingness to moderate.” Bauman advocates a policy that includes “Hamas in a solution,” dismissing Hamas’ oft-stated pledge to destroy Israel and kill Jews until the end of time.
“Establish a Commission on Radical Islam”
In Youngstown, Trump vowed that “one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam – which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community … This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators and immigration screeners.”
Unfortunately, such a commission has not been established and those voices have largely not been heard in the White House.
Instead, an Islamist coalition of Muslim Brotherhood front groups was recently invited to the State Department and boasted they were asked to provide their perspective on the Temple Mount crisis.
At the same time, anti-Islamist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was scheduled to present a paper on radical Islamic terror at the National Security Council, was banned by McMaster and his senior director of counter-terrorism, Mustafa Javed Ali.
Hirsi Ali was also reportedly banned from visiting the White House.
A source reported, “Mustafa Javed Ali said she was Islamophobic, and that the only way she could present her paper would be to have someone from CAIR come in to refute her work.”
McMaster himself is against even using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he says is counterproductive, however his boss (Trump) still uses the term.
“Aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS”
With the improved help of the American coalition under Trump, the president is well on his way to success in keeping this promise — at least in Iraq and Syria. Particularly commendable is the decision by America to arm the Syrian Kurds, a worthy slap in the face to Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has used every opportunity to fight ISIS as an excuse to attack the Kurds.
The Kurds have arguably been the most successful fighting force against ISIS to date. It remains to be seen whether or not the Trump administration will back them in any future bid for independence.
Worldwide, however, ISIS will not be crushed until those in power address the ideology that drives the terror group and come up with a workable plan to stop the ideological radicalization of Muslim youth. Ideology. Merely concentrating on countering violent extremism is too little, too late.
Clearly, the apparent power play within the Trump administration between those who recognize this reality and those who don’t will be pivotal to whether or not the president will be able to keep his Youngstown promises.