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Policy Analysis

Policy Notes 88

A New West in the Middle East: Toward a Humbler, More Effective Model of Transatlantic Cooperation

Charles Thépaut

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October 2020

U.S.-European cooperation in the Middle East may not rank high in American voters’ minds, but the issue will demand close policy attention in the months ahead. If Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, European leaders should not allow their undoubted relief to lapse into complacency. And if Trump prevails, they should continue seeking opportunities to deepen the partnership in areas such as counterproliferation and defining the operational contours of Great Power competition. Either way, the dynamic requires a full reset. As one continental diplomat lamented, “Under Bush, Europeans agreed less with the U.S. but were more consulted. Under Obama, they agreed more but were less consulted. Under Trump, they disagree and are barely consulted.”

In this new Policy Note, Charles Thepaut deftly assesses the transatlantic dilemma explaining why the post-election period will call for a strategic reckoning between European capitals and Washington. From shared priorities, a fresh approach can emerge in the Middle East, coupled with the pursuit of achievable goals and rooted in a more thoughtful division of military and political tasks.


Charles Thepaut is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute and a career French diplomat who has worked in Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Belgium, and Germany. His book, Le monde arabe en morceaux: des printemps arabes au recul américain [The Arab World in pieces: from the Arab Spring to the American pullback], was published in March 2020.