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Trump expected to tone down anti-Muslim rhetoric: Former ambassador to UAE

Bernd Debusmann Jr. (Chief Reporter)/Washington
bernd@khaleejtimes.com Filed on November 10, 2016
Trump expected to tone down anti-Muslim rhetoric: Former ambassador to UAE

(Agencies/Supplied)

The American recipient of UAE's Order of Independence believes his demeanor is likely to change once he is in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump is unlikely to continue offending Muslims with controversial remarks once he takes office, according to former American ambassador to the UAE Marcelle Wahba.

Wahba - who now serves as president of the Arab Gulf States Institute of Washington, a DC-based think tank - was ambassador in the UAE between 2001 and 2004, when she was awarded the UAE's Order of Independence by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al  Nahyan.

In an interview with Khaleej Times, Wahba said that she believed that Trump's demeanor is likely to change once he is in the Oval Office.

"At the end of a political campaign things do change, and he's now the president-elect. After the inauguration, like any new American president he's going to look at the facts, consult with advisors, and act in the American national interest, everywhere," she said. "I think a lot of the rhetoric we heard in the election campaign will disappear."

Many questions remain regarding the specifics of Trump's foreign policies, Wahba added.

"We saw a lot of headlines from Trump during the campaign, but what we didn't see, especially on foreign policy, was a laid-out platform on how he was going to handle some of the questions and issues that he raised,"

Trump's worst comments about Muslims

-Called for a ban on Muslims coming into the United States until the country "can figure out what is going on"

-Said that Syrian refugees in the United States "could be one of the great Trojan horses"

-Claimed he saw "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey cheering and celebrating on September 11, 2001. Fact checkers have thoroughly debunked this claim.

"But no president relies on himself. There will be people around him, advisors," she added. "That will tell us more about the direction of his (foreign) policy , once we see who he appoints.I would not jump to any major conclusions about foreign policy until those appointments, and see him in the position of the president."

Wahba also noted that it is "natural" for countries - including those of the Gulf - to have some concerns about his relative lack of experience in international affairs.

"He's an unknown entity. He's never been in politics and he's never been in public office, so the concern that our allies have overseas, whether in Europe or in the Middle East or the Gulf, I can understand," she added. "People don't really know him, except for those who had business transactions with him, but that doesn't say anything about how he's going to be president."

Regarding Trump's inflammatory comments about Muslims - which at one point included calling for a ban on all Muslims coming to the U.S. - Wahba said that many longtime American allies in the region realize "that a political campaign is a different environment than actually holding office."

"But no doubt, those comments were very difficult for people to hear, as were the comments about Mexico and Mexican citizens," she said. "It was in many ways a very ugly election, and it did not bring out the best in our politicians."

Given what many fear might be isolationism on the part of the US, Wahba said that increased "people to people" contact from the Arab World is vital.

"It's important, especially for countries in the Middle East and the Gulf, to not isolate themselves from the United States, and be more active on people to people communication," she said. "To build relationships, not just on the government and executive level, but to spend a lot more time than they normally do establishing relations with American civil society."

"That means going beyond Washington," she added. "That means encouraging exchanges and using the assets that (Gulf countries) have in the United States, such as students and grad students, to interact with Americans and encourage them to be more active in their communities, so that Americans know who Emiratis, Saudis and Kuwaitis are."

bernd@khaleejtimes.com

author

Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Originally from Mexico City, I've been in Dubai since January 2015. Before arriving in in the UAE I worked as a general news reporter in TV and print in Mexico City, NYC and Washington DC. I'm interested in defence issues, politics, technology, aviation and history. In my spare time i enjoy traveling and football - I'm a keen fan of Chelsea FC. I developed an interest in the Middle East traveling through Jordan and the West Bank. I have a BA in Political Science from Dickinson College in the USA and an MA in International Journalism from City University London.





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