Trump highlights foreign policy wins as he woos voters

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President Donald Trump listens in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Washington. Bahrain has become the latest Arab nation to agree to normalize ties with Israel as part of a broader diplomatic push by Trump and his administration to fully integrate the Jewish state into the Middle East. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – In the past two weeks, President Donald Trump has notched a string of diplomatic wins he’s highlighting with voters in the run-up to the election, but his report card on the most serious threats to U.S. national security shows an “incomplete.”

The Trump administration will host the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday at the White House, where the two nations will formally recognize Israel. Trump officials also brokered an economic cooperation agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, bitter foes in the Balkan wars. And Trump has moved to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and held U.S. talks with the Taliban, which paved the way for fragile all-Afghan peace negotiations that began last weekend.

While acknowledging that these are all positive developments, William Wechsler, director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs, said they must be weighed against a much more “negative” set of actions by the president.

Among those he cites: deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin; the president's love-hate relationship with China; refraining from heavily punishing Saudi Arabia for the gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; and pushing U.S. relations with Europe to a low ebb.

On some of the most troublesome national security challenges facing America — nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea — Trump has failed to make deals. And the pro-Israel agreements with the UAE and Bahrain leave the far more contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict as intractable as ever.

The White House, for its part, casts Trump's recent flurry of foreign policy activity as evidence that long-sought initiatives are coming to fruition. It dismisses the idea he's trying to distract voters from matters such as the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest and the struggling economy.

“He’s not running on his foreign policy,” Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner told White House reporters last week. “He’s running on his track record as the president who built the greatest economy in our country and somebody who’s going to keep Americans safe and continue to get things done for them.”

Kushner helped broker the UAE and Bahrain agreements, which the White House has labeled the most significant steps toward peace in the Middle East in more than a quarter-century.