Presidential Leadership and the US Foreign Policy in the Middle East

Topic: International Relations
Words: 1919 Pages: 7


The Middle East has drawn the attention of US foreign policies for centuries. However, there are several conflicting arguments as to why the implications of USFP are far-fetched and significantly felt in the Middle Eastern nations compared to other parts of the globe. According to scholars and historians, political leaders in the US and their agendas have played major roles in shaping US foreign policies in the Middle East. However, the implications of specific leaders are often challenging to decipher because they must shift their objectives to accommodate the policies already in place. Nevertheless, some US presidents took the initiative to advocate for notable changes, some with positive and others with negative implications. Thus, the following passages describe the US foreign policies propelled by presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, and George H. W. Bush in the Middle East and their implications.

President Jimmy Carters USFP in the Middle East

President Jimmy Carter is one of the US’ most eminent and exceptional leaders due to his high moral standards, personal dignity, beliefs, and perpetual efforts to promote peace and human rights all over the globe. In the Middle East, Jimmy Carter is known for resolving the longstanding conflict between Egypt and Israel as he played a major role in the success of the Camp David Accords, which paved the way for significant development in the Middle East and an end to the conflict between the two countries (Anziska, 2020). After assuming the presidential office in 1977, Jimmy Carter made it his mission to propel the Middle Eastern peace initiatives, which had been stalled for more than a year by presidential campaigns. Thus, one of his most notable achievements in the Middle East is overseeing the Camp David Accord, which took about fourteen months of mediation efforts and diplomatic talks between Israel and Egypt (Rubin, 2019). On March 26, 1979, the two nations signed a treaty in Washington DC, thus bringing a halt to their longstanding conflict.

President Jimmy Carter’s initiatives to make peace between Israel and Egypt have several positive and negative reparations in the Middle East. First, the treaty transformed the relationship between the two nations for the better. However, the idea was not readily welcomed by other Arab nations in the Middle East, thus encouraging them to seclude Egypt. Nevertheless, the immediate implications were notable since Israel withdrew its troops from Sinai and Egypt opened the Suez Canal to Israeli crews and their ships, thus benefiting the two nations politically and economically (Werner, 2020). Although ending the Egyptian-Israel conflict was meant to enhance America’s security interest and powers in the region, the revolution was exposed to several challenges, thus eroding the value of its initial initiatives (Oren, 2007). For example, the Iran-Iraq war ensued during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, resulting in heated criticism of his approaches due to his failing USFP. Nevertheless, in Afghanistan, President Carter devised reliable strategies that helped the nation defeat Soviet Union forces in the Cold War. Therefore, his leadership helped establish democracy and economic benefits in the Middle East and other nations across the globe.

Jimmy Carter’s policy decisions are still relevant to USFP today because they significantly altered America’s relationship with Middle Eastern countries. Jimmy Carter was a key player in the Camp David Accord. Therefore, he paved the way for great development and progress in the Middle East since the Israel-Egypt conflict interfered with several economic initiatives. Jimmy Carter advocated for a peace treaty and resolutions aimed at diminishing people’s suffering and sustaining human rights. Eventually, the president gained allies in both nations and a better opportunity to advance US security and economic interests. Unfortunately, several powers interfere with the political and social stability of Middle Eastern countries (Oren, 2007). Thus, the region is characterized by several issues that disrupt development. Although Carter was successful in restoring sanity in the Middle East, most Republicans and some Democrats perceive his tenure as a failure. Carter was hesitant to respond to the Iranian hostage crisis and did not use military force when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (Werner, 2020). As a result, many individuals perceived him as a president who was incapable of dealing with global issues. However, his USFP goals and objectives had significant implications for the United States’ relations with Middle Eastern countries and Israel’s empowerment.

President Ronald Reagan’s USFP in the Middle East

President Ronald Reagan is acclaimed for spearheading the implementation of some of the most assertive USFP in US history, especially in the Middle East, due to his adoption of military tactics. When Ronald Reagan became the US president, he supported the Afghanistan government against the Soviet Union, thus undermining its powers (Sigler, 2019). Consequently, as the Iran-Iraq conflict intensified, Reagan intervened and supported both nations at various times when it initially vowed to be neutral in the conflict. During Reagan’s term, Washington occasionally combated forces in the Middle East and engaged them in military attacks (MacKoul, 2021). Although President Reagan used force to oversee most of his initiatives, his decisions were important to USFP as they asserted US power over other nations. Subsequently, the US can successfully intervene in global matters and aid in decision-making at an international level. Thus, it is better positioned to attain its obligation of sustaining global peace as a superpower country.

Regan’s administration faced unique challenges and reparations due to their dealings in Middle Eastern countries, starting from the bombing in Lebanon, responsible for taking the lives of about 241 military personnel. In late 1983, anti-American terror groups intensified their attacks on the US. In December of the same year, one group bombed the Kuwait US embassy. A year later, another group killed two Americans after hijacking an American Airliner (MacKoul, 2021). In the following years, several terrorists attacked Americans in other nations and held hostages. Furthermore, the US relationship with Libya significantly deteriorated during Regan’s leadership, prompting several military encounters and a series of attacks. Subsequently, the loss of life was insuperable, especially for Americans. The most fatal blow was when terrorist groups with ties to Libya blew up the Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, leading to the death of 270 people (Sigler, 2019). Therefore, it is fair to conclude that Ronald Reagan’s policies were dangerous and resulted in more atrocities and suffering for Americans and individuals in Middle Eastern Countries.

President Ronald Regan is presumed as one of the most conservative presidents of the US because his vision of America’s role in the global scene was based on his Republican beliefs. As a result, his USFP in the Middle East are still relevant because his achievement of making the US a superpower has stood the test of time, thus encouraging leaders to be firm against threats. The president prioritized protecting America’s strength in the Middle East and other parts of the globe by using military force and rhetoric against the implications of communism on America’s security (Oren, 2007). According to his supporters, his strategy was beneficial since it allowed him to win a second term and end the Cold War. In addition, Reagan is hailed as one of the few presidents to withdraw military personnel from a war zone. After the Lebanon bombing, the president limited American involvement in the conflict, thus saving the US money, time, and lives. However, his opposition argues that he was wrong based on the remarks of terror group leaders like Osama Bin Laden, who saw the move as a sign of weakness.

President George H. W. Bush’s USFP in the Middle East

George H.W. Bush was the 41st president of the US, responsible for overseeing the First Gulf War or Operation Desert Shield. Bush amassed US troops in Saudi Arabia and launched a coalition against Saddam Hussein to prevent the leader from invading Saudi Arabia after his occupation of Kuwait (Sanchez, 2019). Although the operation was successful, the president did not attack Iraq to capture Saddam Hussein. Later, he suggested that such a move would have made him a martyr and the US a public enemy in the region (Sanchez, 2019). Nevertheless, the 100-hour operation cost the lives of 148 US soldiers. In 1992, the president advocated for a ‘no-fly zone’ in the south of Iraq to protect the Shia and Kurdish populations. These zones allowed for the development of the Kurd’s regions, which paved the way for continuous calls for independence and development in the region (Powaski, 2019). Moreover, George H.W. Bush rejected Israel’s initiatives to settle refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. However, his decision raised heated criticism and significantly angered American Jews and Shamir. They claimed that the president held an anti-Semitic position that undermined and discriminated against Jews.

President George H.W. Bush propelled foreign policies that had significant long-term implications, especially in the advancement of Israeli interests. During his tenure, he advocated for the abolition of the 1975 resolution that associated Zionism with racism, thus further legitimizing initiatives to settle Jews in their promised land. Moreover, he took advantage of the outcomes of the First Gulf War to plan the Madrid Conference that unified Israel and all its Arab enemies to discuss peace initiatives with Palestine (Yasmine, 2021). Therefore, he allowed Israel to become more stable and establish ground as a nation with an independent government. Moreover, he facilitated stronger bonds between Israel and powerful nations, including Russia and China. Thus, Zionists would believe that he played a role in fulfilling God’s promise of restoring his people to a land where they will thrive and build generations (English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Ezek. 20:41). Thus, his foreign policy approaches played a major role in resolving disputes in the Middle East and paving the way for collaboration and positive development.

Although George H.W. Bush served as the US president for one term, his policy decisions and actions hold great importance in US history and are still relevant for diplomacy. For example, George H.W. Bush was the first president to get involved in the Middle East on a large scale after he sent us troops to restrain Saddam Hussein’s advancement into Saudi Arabia after he invaded Kuwait (Powaski, 2019). As a result, he opened the way for several other heavy security and financial investments that have allowed the region to prosper. However, critics argue that deploying a large number of US troops to Saudi Arabia was the root cause of the issues the US experiences today (Sanchez, 2019). For example, many individuals were against the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia, including terrorists like Osama bin Laden, who was one of the principal organizers of the September 9/11 attacks. However, George H.W. Bush paved way for notable developments and helped minimize conflicts in the region.


The US has had close ties with Middle Eastern countries since it gained independence in 1776. Nevertheless, its relationship with Middle Eastern countries is dynamic and scrutinized for being based on selfish interests. The US has changed its foreign policy toward the Middle East several times. However, the most significant factors that propel these changes are the need to assert US power, secure its borders from attacks and terrorism, and reap economic benefits. Even so, the tactics used by the US to achieve its goals have largely reflected in the quality of its leaders and their visions for world peace. Compared to Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, Ronald Regan asserted force but achieved notable milestones during his leadership. Similarly, George H.W. Bush left an unparalleled legacy as he significantly enhanced security in the US by collaborating with other countries and championing peace.


Anziska, S. (2020). Preventing Palestine: A political history from Camp David to Oslo. Princeton University Press.

English Standard Version Bible. (2001). ESV Online. Web.

MacKoul, M. J. (2021). Reagan, Central America and the Human Costs to Waging the Cold War (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech).

Oren, M. B. (2007). Power faith, and fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the present. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Powaski, R. E. (2019). Ideals, interests, and US foreign policy from George HW Bush to Donald Trump. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rubin, B. (2019). US policy on the Middle East in the period since Camp David. In the Middle East since Camp David (pp. 59-76). Routledge.

Sanchez, F. (2019). The Life and Legacy of George HW Bush. History in the Making, 12(1), 14.

Sigler, J. H. (2019). Evaluating Reagan’s Middle East policy: A first term balance sheet. In Superpower involvement in the Middle East (pp. 249-262). Routledge.

Werner, M. (2020). The power of narrative in US foreign policy: competing perspectives on the Salvadoran Civil War and the role of the United States from 1979-1985. [Master’s thesis, McGill University]. McGill University.

Yasmine, D. (2021). The Israel Lobby and the US Foreign Policy in the Middle East During the Second George. W. Bush Administration Case Study: Hostility towards Iran [Dissertation, University of BISKRA]. University of BISKRA.

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