10 October 2016

(Washington) - Regardless of current policy, or who is sworn in as the next President of the United States, proactive engagement with the Middle East must be a top priority. On day one the next administration will be faced with a myriad of issues where our regional allies will be looking to the U.S. for guidance and leadership: from climate change and mass migration, to the continued threat posed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, instability brought about by wars in Syria and Yemen, and increased Iranian aggression and tension between Iran and Gulf Cooperation Council members.

In order to address these challenges, the U.S. must continue to be the go-to regional broker, and must engage and reinvigorate long-standing and powerful alliances with key Middle East partner nations. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Israel must be a part of an American-led effort to tackle regional issues that are in everyone’s vital interests. A top priority of the next administration should be to reinforce shared interests and common objectives with these partners, based on trust.

For example, it is imperative that the incoming president devise a more holistic approach to defeating extremism in the region. Military operations alone are an insufficient solution. They are too surgical and don’t address the root issues. Instead, the focus should be on economic development, diversification and furthering partnerships for the future of the region’s youth.

In Syria, the next administration must take a leadership role in brokering a viable political solution for peace that each party can buy into. And in Yemen, they need to take on a more assertive role in their two-pronged approach of defeating Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, while providing humanitarian aid and resources to rebuild this war-torn society.

However, these issues are not something the next president can tackle alone. He or she must work with regional allies, such as the UAE, to ensure success. No one has deeper ties and better understanding of the divisions facing the Middle East than those living amongst them. It is the knowledge and resources partners like the UAE bring to the table that the U.S. will benefit from if they engage proactively with the region.

They will also benefit from stimulating public private partnerships. Building entrepreneurial, high tech, knowledge economies is essential to helping solve these many challenges. These partnerships should be an essential focus for both the U.S. and its friends in the region.

In the end, we need a new administration that looks outward. Retrenching to a comfort zone isn’t an option. The next president must build partnerships and work together to ensure a bright future for the Middle East.

Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

© Opinion 2016