The Trump administration's Middle East policy has become impulsive and inconsistent, as with its intervention in Qatar's dispute with Saudi Arabia, other Gulf Cooperation Council members and Egypt. The United States is also leaning towards intensified confrontation with Iran – especially over Syria. In any case, the administration's policy is unlikely to lend needed stability to the region.

US President Donald Trump made his first trip to the Middle East in late May. The visit was significant because it established the framework for the new administration’s policy towards the region. Although in some respects this framework represents continuity with the policies of the Obama administration, it departs from them in other ways. The trip also coincided with an open rupture among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where Saudi Arabia and other GCC partners – along with Egypt – economically and diplomatically isolated Qatar over its connections with Iran and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and in which the White House and the US Department of State intervened in apparently incompatible ways.

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Al-Qaeda’s evolution since 9/11

Al-Qaeda appears to be gaining momentum after a period of relative quiescence, notably in Syria. Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's son, is a charismatic and increasingly prominent al-Qaeda leader, and is focused on Syria.

The North Korea crisis

The Trump administration should consider diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang before its nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capability becomes a fait accompli.