There are also major substantive caveats to Mr. Trump’s fanfare. For all of the White House’s talk of historic Middle East peace deals, Israel was not in an actual state of conflict with either the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain. The countries are merely consecrating a quiet alliance that had been developing for years, noted Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, who said that Mr. Trump was like “the rooster taking credit for the dawn.”
Aaron David Miller, who worked on Middle East peace negotiating teams for several presidents, said the nominations paled in comparison with the accomplishments of past recipients: “When you look at other Nobel Prize winners in the Middle East, what you see are mostly larger-than-life — even heroic — figures who expended huge amounts of political capital and took risks on enterprises that were truly challenging.” He added, “Sadat and Rabin paid for their Nobels with their lives,” referring to the slain leaders of Egypt and Israel, Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin.
When Mr. Trump hosted the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo this month to sign an agreement to normalize economic relations, a first step toward potentially friendly coexistence, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, declared it “a historic agreement” at a celebratory news conference.
Christopher Hill, a former career U.S. diplomat who played a central role in the American-brokered 1995 Dayton Accords, which brought peace to neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, derided the Trump administration’s current efforts in the region as “McDiplomacy” lacking “the serious work” required to achieve lasting progress.
The agreement also appears to have already run into trouble. It called for both Kosovo and Serbia to recognize Israel and open embassies in Jerusalem, with Israel returning the favor to Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and which Serbia does not recognize. But Israeli news reports say that Serbia is balking at Israeli recognition of Kosovo and will not open an embassy in Jerusalem after all if that happens. That threatens to unwind the entire agreement.
The Balkans look easy by comparison to Afghanistan, where Mr. Trump is pursuing a comprehensive peace agreement to allow for a total withdrawal of American troops there. But as talks opened on Saturday, even optimists acknowledged that a durable peace remains a distant goal amid surging violence and countless political obstacles.
And the announcement this week that the United States will pull nearly half its troops from Iraq, leaving 3,000 soldiers there, only reduces American forces in the country to about their level in 2015.