Ronald Reagan foreign policy towards middle east Essay

                                Ronald reagan foreign policy towards middle east


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            Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States between 1981 and 1989.Before becoming the President, Reagan was the Governor of California between 1967 and 1975.His popularity in the United States grew due to his career in television and film making. He implemented various new economic and political initiatives which were characterized by reduced government spending, controlled inflation and reduced business regulation. After his landslide win in 1984, Reagan’s second term was marked efforts to address the Middle East conflict. The bombing of Libya, the Cold war, and the Iran-Contra affair revelation occurred during Reagan’s second tern in office. In this paper, Reagan’s policy towards the Middle East will be discussed.


            One of the best features of Reagan’s foreign policy towards the Middle East conflict involving Palestine was the Reagan Plan (The Reagan Plan, Jewish Virtual Library, np). This was a new diplomatic initiative in the region that was meant to renew the peace process and improve the Israel-Egypt relations. The plan was also developed and implemented in order to deal with Palestine matters and enable Jordan to take part in the peace process. That plan aimed at pleasing the Arab nations that had accepted Palestine Liberation Organization evacuees who had come from Beirut. To some extent, the Reagan plan expressed the US government dissatisfaction with the fact that the evacuees had left Beirut and that there was need for an overall solution. Israel seemed to reject the plan because it was not involved in the development of the plan. The conflict in Lebanon was recognized by Reagan who appreciated the involvement of the United States in achieving peace in the region. Arab nations and Israel have continued important forces in the   Arab-Israel conflict. The Arab states   supported the establishment of a new Palestinian state and failed to recognize Israel. This promoted hostility between Israeli’s and Palestine’s.

            Reagan’s foreign policy encouraged the United States to initiate peace in the Middle East through diplomatic missions in the region (Bartels, p 464).The agreement made in Lebanon was in efforts by the US to restore peace in the Middle East. The policy emphasized on the need for America to play an active role in bringing peace in the region and based on the policy, the US government developed great interest in developing a workable and fair process that could ensure there was long lasting Arab-Israel peace(Citron, p 32).The  development  of the policy was based on the conviction that the US involvement in Middle East peace matters was a moral imperative due to the connection between the country’s economy to the stability in Middle East. Reagan’s foreign policy embraced the guidelines that had been laid down by his predecessors in the office.  In addition, the policy addressed peace in Lebanon as well as a solution to the conflict that was witnessed between the Israelis and the Arabs. The US Foreign policy supported the use of negotiation in Middle East to reconcile the security concerns of Israel while at the same time providing a solution to the claims made by the Palestinian people (Little, p 152). To ensure there were successful negotiations, Reagan recognized the importance of the Camp David agreement as a foundation and a source of a language that would promote successful negotiations. The agreement recognized the rights of the Palestinian people and their just demands (Gelvin, p 76).

            Reagan’s foreign policy advocated for cooperation and support with Israel and demanded that the PLO recognizes Israel. Although Reagan’s policy opposed the sale of sophisticated US weapons to nations that refused to recognize Israel, Reagan supported the selling of AWACS in 1981 to Saudi Arabia. The American government support for Israel was deterrence to the aggression of the Soviets. Reagan rejected the annexation or permanent control of Gaza and West Bank regions by Israel but also failed to support the creation of a Palestinian state in these regions. The policy advocated for an anti-soviet rationale in the Middle East as symbolized by the 1983 strategic cooperation agreement the US made with Israel.  Reagan’s policy considered Israel to be a strategic asset of the US and the Middle East process important for the US.

            The US policy during the 1980s challenged Syria and this increased hostility between Syria and the US. Syria had failed to support the existence of peace resolutions in the Middle East as stipulated in the UNSCR 242 and 338.With the assistance of the US, the creation of the Joint Security Assistance Planning Group and the Joint Political Military Group (JPMG) were meant to respond to Israel’s economic crisis and to counter Soviet threats in the Middle East respectively. In 1987, Israel became a non-NATO ally of the US hence its industries could compete with those of NATO countries and other US allies for contracts to produce defensive items. By the time he left office, the US foreign policy promoted peace between Israel and Palestine, joint training exercises with Israel, cooperative military endeavors and co-development of the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile. The Iran-Contra Affair implicated Reagan due to his approval of sale of arms to Iran through Israel. This was considered to be a threat to peace in the Middle East.

            It was important that the Arab states recognize the right of existence of Israel and its legitimacy (Bickerton, p 43). Reagan’s policy was in harmony with the United Nations Security council Resolution 242 and Reagan reaffirmed the importance of this resolution in efforts to restore peace in Middle East. Any proposal that would threaten Israel’s security was opposed by the policy. The US Foreign policy considered the conflict in Middle East to be a challenge to the economic status of the region and the whole world. Ronald Reagan failed to support Israel when it carried out a raid in Lebanon. In this case, Reagan held up the delivery of fighter plans and suspended the strategic cooperation agreement earlier signed with Israel. This showed Reagan’s strong position about the Middle East matters.


     The United States has always been concerned about the conflict witnessed in the Middle East. Ronald Reagan who is one of the most popular presidents in the United States was concerned about the Middle East in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Reagan’s foreign policy aimed at promoting and restoring peace in the Middle East through negotiations. Although the policy supported the existence of Israel, Reagan opposed the annexation of Golan Heights by Israel. The policy was developed based on the argument that the United States had a responsibility to ensure that there was peace in Middle East for economic development of the region and the whole world. The Arab states have for a long time opposed the existence of Israel who they considered to be conquerors and invaders. The West Bank and the Gaza regions are two regions that Israel and Palestine have claimed ownership to. The two sides have failed to compromise and give up their dreams of taking control over the regions.

Works Cited

Bartels, Larry.Contituency Opinion and Congressional Policy Making: The Reagan Defense      Build Up. The American Political Science Review 85(2)457-474, 1991

Bickerton, Ian. Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Prentice Hall, 2004

Citron, Sabina. The Indictment: The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Historical Perspective. New            York & Jerusalem: Geffen Publishing House, 2006

Gelvin, James. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: 100 Years of War. New York & Cambridge, Eng.:             Cambridge University Press, 2005

Little, Douglas. American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since      1945.Chapel   Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002

The Reagan Plan, Jewish Virtual Library,

Accessed on June 5, 2009