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Oct 06, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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Hasan Ayoub - Without functional nation states, instability will dominate international relations

Hasan Ayoub, assistant professor at An-Najah National University in Palestine, discusses shortcomings of American foreign policy in the Middle East Hasan Ayoub at the SSASA program on America's Changing Role in the World

The discussion of US foreign policy would not be complete without considering America’s relationship with the Middle East. Hasan Ayoub, assistant professor at An-Najah National University in Palestine, offered insight into the impact of US foreign policy in the region.

Ayoub, who was a participant of the latest Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, touched on strategic mistakes of American foreign policy, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the potential impact of the future US administration in an interview with Salzburg Global during the session.

“I would say that in the last maybe two decades, it seems like what Winston Churchill said once about American foreign policy - that America does the right thing all the time, but after exhausting all other wrong options - seems to hold in this case.” Mistakes made by American administration in the Middle East, said Ayoub, are having impact in regional conflicts, including the failure of states and new alliances which serve to further exacerbate tensions.

“In some respect, foreign policy of the US in the region in the last 20 years was counter-productive,” he said, adding that trying to figure out the best course of action for these complex tasks will not be easy. “I don’t believe the United States can with one prescription solve all those problems.”

At the heart of the matter, though, said Ayoub, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In order to stabilize and maintain a balance between national interests and the interests of those in the region, new approaches will need to be taken. “Maybe it’s time for the United States to think of the Palestinians not as a liability,” he said, “but as a nation who deserves the full attention of the United States and the full recognition of the United States.” Without addressing this question, said Ayoub, there is little chance of success in the region.

Looking to the US presidential elections next year, Ayoub reflected on the potential impact a Republican administration would have on the legacy and impact of Obama’s foreign policy, which was marked by a stress on less interventionism and more reliance on allies to ease tensions and conflicts. A Republican administration, said Ayoub, would reduce the accomplishment and impact of strategies like the recent Iran nuclear deal or a new openness to Cuba.

To maintain national interests and a global balance, the answer may lie in the delicate balance between the basic units of the international community, or the nation state, said Ayoub. “There’s no single state that can isolate itself today apart from the effects of…the foreign policy of other states, [the] interests of other states.” Appreciation and understanding of this interdependence then is necessary in balancing the national and the global, he said.

Listen to him discuss US foreign policy in the Middle East and more in the interview below.


Hasan Ayoub was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America's Changing Role in the World, which was held by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here: