With the US Presidential elections set to take place in a year’s time and with the growing disillusionment with the Obama administration and troubles in the region; to the GCC, understanding who may win is of vital importance. Most of the perceived damage caused by President Obamas’ regional inaction will be passed on to his successor, who will hopefully take on the hard task of helping find lasting solutions with the GCC states, who are amongst the best allies the US has internationally. Furthermore, the future President may simply follow the precedent set by his predecessor, or may take action which further affects the region in a negative manner.
Marco Rubio: Senator Marco Rubio is one of the few leading candidates who includes a foreign policy mandate on his website. Far from being what is perceived as non-interventionist (read: Obama) Senator Rubio has pushed for a more leading and proactive United States in World Affairs. Analyzing comments from his many interviews Senator Rubio has pushed for increased relations with the GCC States, has recognized GCC actions in confronting and fighting terrorism and has vocally opposed the Iran deal. On the issue of Syrian refugees, while initially being open to the idea that the US would and should accept refugees, like many other recently the Senator has now come out and said that the US is not in a position to accept Syrian refugees due to security risks.
Ted Cruz: Senator Ted Cruz like most Republican GOP candidates has vociferously challenged the Iran deal. He has also recently shared similar views as Senator Rubio regarding Syrian refugees. The Senator has also stated that the US should increase its support and relations with “Sunni countries” in the Middle East to help them fight terrorism ideologically and militarily. The republican candidate like many of his peers has also pushed for a more proactive nation that tackles threats such as terrorism and Iran head on.
Donald Trump: Trump has been by far the most controversial and outspoken candidate regarding almost every issue. While his campaign caption is “Make America great again” and has stated that he would like the American military to continue to be the most technologically advanced and strongest in the world, in addition to a more front-leading nation; his views regarding the issues in the Middle East are worrisome. He has suggested that leaving Bashar Assad in power may not be such a bad idea, due to the risks associated with the rebels. He has also gone on to claims recently that Russia wants to get rid of ISIS and that America should let events in the region fester while America stays back and out of it.
It is proving to be quite hard to predict which Republican candidate does make the final push towards Presidency and there is a significant chance due to the unpredictable nature of such processes that none of the three candidates mentioned above even make it. From a GCC point of view, it also proves harder to judge which candidate may be a good nominee. While all the three candidates above have been extremely vocal in their displeasure regarding the deal with Iran and with Iranian actions in the region and abroad, it is hard to tell what sort of impact their policies would have on any of the GCC states. While most of the candidates have recently increased their discussions regarding events in the GCC and potential policy options, most of their attentions (understandably) is dedicated to domestic issues.
It should be noted that George W. Bush – who was adamantly against Iran and included them in his “axis of evil” – pursued policies which have directly and indirectly brought the region where it is today and given Iran the influence it wields today. Today, Iran fields much more influence all around the Middle East unlike before the Iraq debacle. In the past Iraq was always seen as a bulwark against Iran and today that is no more the case. Not to forget that the “global war on terrorism” has utterly failed and just led to the further proliferation and expansion of the very terrorists the United States sought to destroy. Groups like Al-Qaeda and its associates have expanded their reach and influence all across the map, while ISIS rules and controls vast portions of Iraq and Syria and is capable of highly devastating attacks on foreign soil (for e.g. France). Though, out of the three candidates mentioned, Donald Trump based on what he has said in various interviews, does seem to be the candidate that would be the least beneficial to the GCC, especially his views regarding current events in the Middle East and Syrian refugee crisis. It should also be noted that the lack of a well-articulated foreign policy could perhaps suggest that views expressed in public by the candidates are likely to be revised if they are to win the elections. Out of the leading Republican candidates, Senator Marco Rubio has dedicated the most time to foreign policy issues.