President-elect Donald Trump and diplomats from the Middle East might seem like strange bedfellows, but Arab diplomats gathered at a conference in Morocco said they'd rather deal with the former businessman than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
The diplomats' attitudes might seem surprising to some, given Trump's campaign pledges to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. and the rhetoric he frequently used during the election.
The Republican president-elect has also rattled some career U.S. diplomats by picking hardliner David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, notes Jerusalem Post. This choice will face intense scrutiny and opposition from senators, some of whom have vowed to block the appointment.
But ambassadors from Muslim and Arab countries told The Daily Beast that Trump's appeal goes beyond his words.
One of the biggest reasons those diplomats say they welcome a Trump administration is Trump's stated distrust of Iran, and the nuclear deal Obama brokered with the Shi’ite Muslim Iranian government. That deal is already in question after Iran signaled its intent to violate parts of the agreement by building nuclear-powered navy vessels -- a project that would require the country to enrich uranium past the purity allowed by the pact.
While a nuclear Iran might not pose a direct threat to the U.S., the country is viewed as a regional power that would be unchecked if it possessed nuclear weapons. Without the sanctions that were crippling its economy, Iran is flush with cash and has been meddling in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, the officials told The Daily Beast.
An American president who views Iran with intense skepticism is preferable to one who trusts the Iranian regime, they said.
“They prefer someone who hates Islam to an administration that loves Iran,” said one "high ranking" diplomat, who was not named in the report.
Foreign ministries in Islamic countries "recognize campaign rhetoric," the diplomat continued, saying he expects Trump's stance to soften as he assumes office in January.
Other ambassadors meeting in Morocco said they're frustrated by Obama's lack of progress in brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as his failure to halt the civil wars raging in Syria and Yemen.
Trump's pragmatism could spur action in ways that Obama's more cautious approach did not, said Lebanese politician Fouad Makhzoumi, who described Trump as "a transactional president who will be dealing with reality."
“He is very clear on the issue of Syria. President Obama was not,” Makhzoumi said. “[Syrian President Bashar] Assad cannot stay, but removing Assad doesn’t deal with the ISIS problem. The fundamentalist movement is against us all. So let’s solve the bigger problem and then we go back to the dictatorship.”
Others said they've already met with Trump's advisors on foreign relations and the Middle East, and said they believe a Trump administration will be more receptive to negotiations than the Obama administration has been.
“Trump is spelled D-E-A-L,” another unidentified official said. “He is interested in making a better deal for the United States… but both sides have to agree to the deal.”
In a separate engagement, Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares met with ambassadors from Arab countries at the Arab League offices in Washington on Dec. 15 to answer questions about the president-elect's plans for Middle East policy, CNN reported.
"We invited him as an adviser to President-elect Trump," one of the ambassadors said. "We wanted to know what Trump's vision is for the region."