Trump, Saudi Arabia, And Iran

Al-Arab, London, November 23

Those who keep up with U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements know that for the first time since George Bush Senior’s administration, there is finally another U.S. administration that understands something about the Middle East and the challenges that it is facing. Although he often fails to drill down into the details of his plan, Trump seems to hit the nail on the head. His statements jump straight to the point, without political correctness. His remarks last week, for example, began by addressing Iran directly, stressing that Tehran is “waging war by other means” on Saudi Arabia from Yemen. The president’s remarks were not limited to Yemen. Trump went over Iran’s behavior in Iraq and Lebanon, where it provided support for Hizbullah, and in Syria where it aided Bashar al-Assad in killing millions of Syrians. Trump concluded the introduction to his statement by saying “Iran is at the forefront of the sponsors of terrorism” in the world. The entire White House statement was a comparison between Iran’s behavior and the behavior of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president analyzed Saudi policy and demonstrated how the Kingdom was an ally of the United States, sharing its efforts to fight terrorism and extremism. Trump mentioned that Saudi Arabia is prepared to invest about $450 billion in the United States, and warned that if Riyadh doesn’t buy American weapons, these arms deals will go to China and Russia. This statement is a monumental milestone in the relations between Riyadh and Washington. Trump clearly refused to follow the footsteps of his predecessors by ignoring the Iranian involvement in the region. He was clear in his intentions to strengthen his country’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Yes, the crime of killing Jamal Khashoggi cannot be justified in any way. This is certain. But it is also not natural to exploit this crime to directly target Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump therefore found no fault in admitting that the Saudi crown prince may have had foreknowledge of the crime, but refused to allow this incident to strengthen Iran. Will this American conviction finally register with Iran? Will it pic up on the message and finally understand that the U.S. administration has a clear strategy against its expansionist ambitions? In 1991, Iran tried to dupe the world by taking control over Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War. It deployed sectarian militias and elements of the Revolutionary Guards in an attempt to topple the Iraqi regime. The administration of George H.W. Bush had enough wisdom to prevent this, despite everything Saddam Hussein’s regime had done. It was George Bush Senior, Secretary of State James Baker and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft who knew what the fall of Iraq would mean that Iran could undermine the regional balance. Although Bush Senior shouldn’t be compared to Trump, especially in the light of the former’s experience in global politics and the latter’s lack thereof, it cannot be ignored that the current U.S. administration is the first in many years to finally look the Middle East reality in the eye and call it as it is. –Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

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