In the Middle East, is Trump the anti-Obama or Obama 2.0?

Strikingly, however, observers on both ends of the U.S. foreign-policy spectrum saw parallels in Obama’s and Trump’s views on the hard limits to expending American blood and treasure in the Middle East. As Obama’s former Mideast adviser Philip Gordon told me, Trump in a sense represents not “a repudiation of Obama” but a “doubling down of Obama.” Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a supporter of the Trump administration’s hard-line Iran policies, similarly characterized Trump as “Obama 2.0” in wanting to disengage militarily from the Middle East, though he cited as an exception Trump’s views on Iran.

Pompeo delivered his message of reassurance to Israel and the United States’ Arab partners in damage-control mode during a nine-nation tour of the Middle East. Just a few weeks ago, his boss blindsided those allies by announcing plans to yank troops out of Syria and leave others to mop up what remains of the Islamic State there, noting that the Iranians could “do what they want” in the country and that it was time for the United States to terminate its “Endless Wars” and “come home & rebuild.” Pompeo and National-Security Adviser John Bolton have since fuzzed up the timeline and the conditions under which U.S. forces will leave Syria, but leave they will, assuming the president has his way.

In another sign that the president isn’t exactly preoccupied with reasserting the United States’ “traditional role” in the Middle East, there is no U.S. ambassador in more than half of the countries Pompeo is visiting on this trip, including Egypt.

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