Journal of Political Science and International Relations

Submit a Manuscript

Publishing with us to make your research visible to the widest possible audience.

Propose a Special Issue

Building a community of authors and readers to discuss the latest research and develop new ideas.

The Unpredictability of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Increase and the Impact on the Region’s Security

This paper discusses the (un)predictability of US foreign policy in the MENA region and the impact of this (un)predictability on the region’s (in)security in the light of some IR approaches with a focus on Iran's nuclear program during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. The analysis of Obama’s and Tump’s policies towards Iran’s nuclear program reveals that there were reoccurring fluctuations and inconsistencies in US policies not only across administrations, but it was also noted during the same administration. These fluctuations and inconsistencies made US policies uncertain and difficult to predict, which affirms the notion of ‘behavioral repetition’ in IR theory. Furthermore, the analysis reveals that the way regional actors responded to US unpredictable policies implied a mixture of fear and confusion, which endorses the realists’ and cognitivists’ understanding of the notion of uncertainty in IR respectively. Last but not least, we concluded that these responses destabilized the region or risked to destabilize it. The advancement of Iran's nuclear program, the war in Yemen and its destructive effects, the outbreak of mutual attacks between Iran and Israel, the risk to destabilize Iraq again and the deepening of fissures between members of the GCC are all cases in point. This conclusion is in line with Quincy Wright’s argument which highlights the importance of predictable political behavior and trust in maintaining the international order. In the same vein, Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA and the conflicts it created support one of the premises of the liberal thought in IR, which highlight the importance of international institutions and international agreements in reducing conflicts and uncertainty.

USA, Foreign Policy, Unpredictability, Middl East, Insecurity

Fouad Touzani. (2023). The Unpredictability of US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: The Increase and the Impact on the Region’s Security. Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 6(3), 80-86.

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. UN Security Council, Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) [on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear programme], 20 July 2015, available at: [accessed July 3, 2023].
2. Rathbun, Brian. “Uncertain about Uncertainty: Understanding the Multiple Meanings of a Crucial Concept in International Relations Theory.” International Studies Quarterly (2007) 51: 533.
3. Buzan, SeeBarry. From international to world society? English school theory and the social structure of globalisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
4. Bull, Hedley. The Anarchical Society. A study of Order in World Politics, 3rd ed. New York: Palgrave, 1977.
5. Wright, Quincy. The Role of International Law in the Elimination of War. Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1961.
6. Quero Jordi and Andrea Dessi. “Unpredictability in US foreign policy and the 8 order in the Middle East: reacting vis-à-vis a volatile external security-provider”. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Online), 2019
7. Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio. Politics and Uncertainty. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
8. Waltz, Kenneth N. Theory of International Politics. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1979.
9. Mearsheimer, John J. “The False Promise of International Institutions.”International Security 19 (3), 1994. 5–49.
10. Grieco, Joseph M. “Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest Liberal was Institutionalism.” International Organization 1988. 42 (3), 485–507.
11. Oneal, John R. and Bruce M. Russett. 1997. “The Classical Liberals WereRight: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950-1985.” International Organization 41 (2), 1997. 267–295.
12. Obama, Barack. “President Barack Obama Inaugural Address”. The White House. January 21, 2009 Accessed July 7, 2021.
13. Obama, Barack. “A New Year, A New Beginning”. The White House. March 19, 2009 Accessed April 20, 2020.
14. H. R. 2194 - Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. 111th Congress (2009-2010). accessed September 22, 2020.
15. U. N. Security Council Resolution 1929. June 9, 2010 Accessed July 7, 2021.
16. “Iran's new leader Rouhani urges 'serious' nuclear talks”. BBC News. August 6, 2013 Accessed July 7, 2021.
17. Lebow, David. "Trumpism and the Dialectic of Neoliberal Reason". Perspectives on Politics. Cambridge University Press. Vol. 17, Issue 2 June 2019, pp. 380-398.
18. Deb, Sloan. “Donald Trump sticks to the script in AIPAC speech”. CBC News. March 21, 2016 accessed September 22, 2021.
19. Trump, Donald. ”Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”. The White House. May 8, 2018 Accessed July 7, 2020.
20. Landler, Mark “Trump Abandons Iran Nuclear Deal he Long Scorned. The New York Times. May 8, 2018. Accessed July 9, 2020.
21. Pompeo, Michael. “Remarks on the Creation of the Iran Action Group”. US State Department. August 16, 2018 accessed September 22, 2021.
22. “Trump at UN: Iran 'sowing chaos, death, destruction”. BBC News. September 25, 2018 accessed September 22, 2021.
23. Pomeroy, Robin and Amiri, Mitra. “Defiant Iran plans big rise in nuclear enrichment”. Reuters, June 8, 2011 accessed September 22, 2021.
24. “Full Transcript of Netanyahu Speech at UN General Assembly”. Haaretz, September 27, 2012 accessed September 22, 2021.
25. Teitelbaum, Joshua. Saudi Arabia, Iran and America in the Wake of the Arab Spring. BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 140, May 23, 2011.
26. Kausch, Kristina. Competitive Multipolarity in the Middle East. Istituto Affari Internazional. Working papers 14. September 10, 2014.
27. ACLED’s full report released on October, 31, 2019 Accessed July 8, 2020.
28. “Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen Remains the Worst in the World, Warns UN”. UN News, February 14, 2019. Accessed July 9, 2020.
29. “Yemen's War-Scarred Hospitals Gear Up to Combat Coronavirus Threat”. Reuters. April 16, 2020 Accessed July 9, 2020.
30. “Yemen’s al-Qaeda: Expanding the Base”. International Crisis Group. Middle East Report N°174, February 2, 2017. Accessed July 9, 2020.
31. “Oil prices soar after attacks halve Saudi output". Financial Times. September 16, 2019 Accessed July 9, 2020.
32. Hafezi, Parisa. “Iran says no limits on enrichment, stepping further from 2015 deal: TV”. Reuters. January 5, 2020 Accessed July 9, 2020.
33. Sanger, David and Broad, William. “Iran Crosses a Key Threshold: It Again Has Sufficient Fuel for a Bomb”. The New York Times. March 3, 2020. Accessed July 9, 2020.
34. Holmes, Olive. “Israel retaliates after Iran 'fires 20 rockets' at army in occupied Golan Heights”. The Guardian, May 10, 2018. accessed September 23, 2021.
35. Katzman, Kenneth; McInnis, Kathleen and Thomas, Clayton. “U.S.-Iran Conflict and Implications for U.S. Policy”. Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2020, pp. 13-14.
36. Da Silva, Chantal. “America Warns Iran: 'Any Attack on U. S. Interests or on Those of Our Allies Will Be Met With Unrelenting Force”, Newsweek. May 6, 2019 accessed September 23, 2021.
37. Shear, Michael; Schmitt, Eric; Crowley, Michael, Haberman and Maggie. “Strikes on Iran Approved by Trump, Then Abruptly Pulled Back”. New York Times. June 20, 2019 accessed September 23, 2021.
38. “US to deploy more troops to Saudi Arabia after attack on oil industry”. The Guardian. September 20, 2019 accessed September 23, 2021.
39. “Remarks by President Trump to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly”. United Nations Headquarters, September 25, 2019 accessed September 23, 2021.