The election of Donald Trump as the next American president has added a major new element of uncertainty to a Middle Eastern picture that had already achieved its highest state of confusion, violence, and uncertainty in its modern history. The factors that will determine the policies Trump will pursue there are many, and they are all moving in unknown directions at the same time. Trying to predict the implications of the Trump presidency for the Middle East is a fascinating game that involves numerous Middle Eastern players and foreign powers, is mostly anchored in guesswork, wishful thinking, and conspiracy theories, and mostly ends up reflecting a lot of wild speculation.
It may be more useful to try to identify some key arenas, principles, and actors to watch in order to glimpse what may happen in the region in the years ahead. Maybe the key underlying point here is to note that most Arab states are broadly seen as dispensable entities whose condition, or even disappearance, make little difference to the rest of the world.
Energy-producing countries are the exception to this idea, of course, because the world economy would stumble badly if gas and oil flows from the Middle East were to be disrupted—though even this idea is not pervasive, given the disruption to oil exports from Iraq, Syria, and Libya in recent years, with little reaction from the region or the world other than to pour more money and arms into the wars there that disrupted the energy flows in the first place.
Arab countries matter little to the world or to each other, it seems, because they have little to offer the world in strategic terms—and strategic self-interest, rather than any romantic notions of shared values or friendship, are the cold, hard currency that drives the global system. As long as oil and gas exports keep flowing and Israel is safe—two realities that prevail these days—then little else in the Arab countries matters to the world, which watches the region degenerate into multiple civil wars and proxy wars in broken and fragmenting countries.
The Arab condition is embarrassing. Once powerful and pivotal states like Syria and Iraq are in deep distress and active warfare. Large and consequential Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are frantically trying to assert themselves across the region in any way that would gain them some credibility, but mostly unsuccessfully. Others like Algeria and Sudan are busy trying to hold their societies together in the face of serious internal stresses; and the many smaller Arab states are all seeking niches that offer them protection courtesy of any available regional or global power.
This is a distinctly Arab weakness and problem, because the non-Arab countries in the region—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—are doing fine in the business of statehood. The degree to which each of them interferes in internal Arab affairs is a sign of Arab weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and we should keep an eye on improving relations among them. The other important non-Arab actors that play significant roles in the Middle East are Russia, which is steadily improving its strategic links in the region; the United States, which is continuing to engage in assorted wars while saying it wants to disengage from the region; and assorted groups of Kurds, in Syria and Iraq mainly, that valiantly continue to fight for their safety and national rights. The European Union could play a more decisive role, but chooses not to, and individual countries like Great Britain or France make occasional cameo appearances with their fighter jets, but mostly they seek commercial contracts rather than strategic leverage in the Middle East.
Syria, Iraq, and Yemen may be the most consequential places to keep an eye on in coming months for signs of what may happen in the region, and how the new American president will act there
The most intense competition is between Sunnis and Shiites. This is a political rivalry that has been enshrined in the division of power in states across the region, from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq in the north, to Bahrain and Yemen in the south. More broadly, it also afflicts Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Every turn in the regional collapse has ineluctably stoked the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.
As a consequence, the Arab world has been pulverized. Iraq and Syria are, for all intent and purposes, no longer nation-states in control of their territories. Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates have been spared the worst of the upheaval. But after long relying on America for their security, they now lack the capacity to manage the region on their own. Saudi Arabia’s strength has also been sapped by low energy prices, uncertain leadership, and its taxing war in Yemen.
Power in the Middle East has moved from its Arab heartland to Turkey and Iran. Turkey weathered a failed coup, but does not seem to have lost a beat in aggressively pursuing its regional agenda. In a replay of the erstwhile Ottoman-Safavid division of the Middle East, Turkey and Iran are now poised to step into the regional vacuum. The two frequently coordinate their positions on the Kurds, and have signaled a willingness to shoulder some of the burden that Washington either cannot take or does not want.
Turkey’s efforts to cultivate regional influence have had mixed success. Its hopes of swaying power in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, were dashed early on, but President Erdogan’s Ottoman ambitions remain strong. Whereas America’s Arab allies have largely shunned direct military involvement in Iraq and Syria, Turkey has sought a greater role in operations to push ISIS out of its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Its primary focus is to contain Kurdish nationalism, but it also sees itself as protector of Sunni interests in Iraq and Syria.
Iran is an even more important factor in the region’s future. It has long sown regional instability, while also doing much of the fighting against ISIS, emerging as the sole regional power wielding influence in Baghdad, Damascus, and Sanaa. It is in Washington’s best interests that Iran use that influence constructively. Russia is already following this strategy, engaging both Iran and Turkey in planning for the endgame in Syria.
Some sort of collision between the US and Iran looks possible or even likely, a battle which will probably be carried out by proxies and will not be fought to a finish. This is because Trump’s approach to the outside world is a blend of American nationalism and isolationism. The former produces belligerent threats and the latter a wish to avoid getting entangled in any new Middle East war.
This could be bad news for the US because, if it cannot use its massive military superiority, it will become bogged down in the sort of part military, part political struggle in which the Iranians are past masters. “They have a PhD in this sort of warfare,” said an Iraqi friend with long experience of dealing with them. It is doubtful if either the US or Iran would come out the winner in any new confrontation, but Iraqis would certainly come out the losers. Washington think-tankers and retired generals warn of Iran opening up “a land corridor” to the Mediterranean. “The Iranians are under the impression that others want to topple their regime,” an Iraqi politician stated. “The Iranians are very smart. They do not send their armies abroad. Once you do that you are lost. They fight by proxy on many fronts outside their borders, but this destabilises everybody else.” Once again Iraq would find itself in the front line.
It’s clear at this point that the recent visit of US President Trump to Saudi Arabia and Israel was about setting events into motion in order to fundamentally alter the present balance of power in the entire Middle East to the greater advantage of the United States and US energy geopolitics. As with most everything that Washington tries to do to rebuild its rapidly declining global dominance, this latest move by Washington to incite the Saudi Kingdom to ignite regime change in Qatar and escalate a form of oil war disguised as a Sunni-Shi’ite power conflict already looks in serious trouble.
As to the future, it appears that Qatar is not about to rollover and surrender in face of Saudi actions. Already Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is moving to establish closer ties with Iran, with Turkey that includes Turkish military support, and most recently with Russia. Kuwait and Oman are urgently trying to get Saudi to backdown on this, but that is unlikely as behind Saudi Arabia stands the US and promises of tens of billions of dollars in US arms. This foolish US move to use their proxy, in this case Riyadh, to discipline those not “behaving” according to Washington wishes, could well be the turning point, the point of collapse of US remaining influence in the entire Middle East in the next several years.
When the Washington Arab Spring could not bring down Libya’s Qaddafi by peaceful protests as in Tunisia or Egypt, Washington opted for a military solution using France and NATO bombs as the up front actor. However, when they then tried the same in Syria against Bashar Al Assad, who opposed the Washington agenda, they were unable to do so, mainly because of UN security council vetoes by Russia and China. After September 2015 when Russia answered Assad’s plea for help against foreign terrorists and Russia brilliantly and swiftly responded, it exposed for all the world to see that Washington had been lying about trying to defeat DAESH or the so-called Islamic State.
The real story behind the rise of so-called Islamic Terrorism is the increasingly desperate attempt of the Anglo-American Deep State to control the rise of Eurasia, especially of China in combination now with Russia, and increasingly with Iran and Central Asian republics as well as South Asian. Without understanding this, none of the recent events in the Middle East make sense.
Washington strategists today foolishly believe that if they get choke point control of all Middle East oil and gas, they can, as Henry Kissinger stated back in the 1970’s “control the oil and thus, control entire nations,” especially China and Russia and also Germany and Europe. Their strategy has failed but Washington and the Pentagon refuse to see the reasons for their repeated failed wars. The hidden reality of American global power is that the American “giant” today is a bankrupt superpower, much like Great Britain after their Great Depression of 1873 up to 1914. Britain triggered a world war in 1914 to desperately try to retain their global power. They failed.
Today for much the same reasons–allowing the power of US financial conglomerates to supersede the interests of the national industrial economy– America’s debt, national, private, corporate, is out of control. Debt does matter.
Eight years after the greatest financial crisis in history, the US real estate crisis of 2008, the US Central Bank is unable to raise its interest rates above 1% without risking a new financial meltdown.1 That alone suggests the degree of the dollar system crisis. Private economists estimate that real US unemployment today is near 23% of the workforce not the mythical 4-5% cited by the US Government.
Washington wants conflict in order to divide and rule. US policy has been to break the control of Arab national monarchies and the threat from the rising wealth of oil-based Arab sovereign wealth funds which were threatening to go away from the dollar.
Case in point, in 2010 under initiative from LIbya’s Qaddafi, Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak and Libya were planning to issue an Arab Gold Dinar and to demand payment for their oil exports in gold dinar and not US dollars, the seed of a Pan-Arab Bank. That would have spelled the end of the dollar, the key pillar of US hegemony. The released emails of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to her private Libya adviser, Sid Blumenthal, confirm this as the reason for Washington urgency in removing those three–Bin Ali, Mubarak and Qaddafi in their so-called “Arab Spring.”
Rather we are in the midst of the disintegration of the old world order, an order dominated for the past two hundred years since the British victory at Waterloo, by first, a British Empire, and after 1945, by an Anglo-American syndicated empire based on soft power, control of NATO, control of the IMF and World Bank and supreme or nearly supreme military power.
That order today is bankrupt. The downfall of American power began in August 1971 when President Nixon tore up the solemn Bretton Woods Treaty obligations of the United States and shut the Federal Reserve Gold Discount Window. Since then Wall Street money power has made a silent coup in transforming the United States from a more-or-less functioning democratic republic into an Oligarchy where money controls all, from Presidents like Obama or Trump to Congressmen who make the laws. That is a very dangerous state of affairs for Americans and for the entire world.
Resort to terrorism to advance national interests by any nation is a sign not of fundamental strength but of pathetic weakness. Today our world is in the midst of the most profound paradigm shift, a truly tectonic geopolitical shift away from a system where one nation dictates to the entire world, the US version of globalization and New World Order as the late David Rockefeller proudly called it. That system may well have died with him and his long-time adviser Brzezinski.
Now the nations of Eurasia are building up a new world with huge investment in economic growth, investment in infrastructure, high-speed rail links, new deep water ports, all connecting the peoples of all Eurasia from Beijing to Moscow to Bremen or Rotterdam, to Teheran, perhaps to Istanbul and beyond. For more than the past two decades all the USA has offered the world is a foreign policy of wars and destruction of any and all threats to her power, to her failing hegemony. Now the world has a chance for the first time in several centuries to build up and develop our civilization in truly positive ways. It’s our choice which alternative we take.
The Gas Wars:
There is a hidden thin red thread connecting the recent US Congress’ sanctions against Iran and now the Russian Federation, with the decision of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies to sanction Qatar. That red thread has nothing to do with a fight against terrorism and everything to do with who will control the largest natural gas reserves in the world as well as who will dominate the world market for that gas.
For more or less the past Century, since 1914, the world has been almost continuously at war over control of oil. Gradually with the adoption of clean energy policies in the European Union and most especially in China’s agreeing to significantly cut CO2 emissions by reducing coal generation, itself a political act not a scientific one, as well as advances in natural gas transport technologies, notably in the liquefaction of natural gas or LNG, natural gas has finally become a globally traded market as is oil. With this development, we now are in an era not only of wars for control of major oil reserves around the world. Now we have the dawn of the age of natural gas wars. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. For the full story on these gas wars, please refer to the 3-part series called “Gas Wars”, in Volume 1, issue number 11,12 and 13.
In terms of geopolitical actors, no political power has been more responsible for launching the recent undeclared gas wars than the corrupt Washington cabal that makes policy on behalf of the so-called deep state interests. This began markedly with the Obama Presidency and is continuing with a vengeance under the current Trump-Tillerson dog-n-pony show. Donald Trump’s recent trip to Riyadh and Tel Aviv to nudge along the idea of a Sunni Arab “NATO” to fight “terrorism,” which Washington now defines as Iran, has ignited a new phase in the emerging US global gas wars.
In order to control the emerging world energy market around “low-CO2″ natural gas, Washington has targeted not only the world’s largest gas reserve country, Russia. She is now targeting Iran and Qatar. Let’s look more closely at why.
We’ve written before about the infamous meeting on March 15 2009 between then-Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani in Qatar with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, at that time still considered a reliable friend of the Emir. Reportedly when Sheikh Hamad proposed to Assad construction of a gas pipeline from Qatar’s huge Persian Gulf gas field through Syria’s Aleppo Province on to Turkey aimed at the huge EU gas market, Assad declined, deferring to his long-standing good relations with Russia in gas issues and to not wanting to undercut Russian gas exports to the EU with Qatari gas.
That Persian Gulf gas field, the Qatari part called North Dome and the Iranian called South Pars, is estimated to be the largest single gas field in the world. As fate would have it, the field straddles the territorial waters between Qatar and Iran.
Then in July 2011, reportedly with Moscow’s nod of approval, the governments of Syria, Iraq and Iran signed a different gas pipeline agreement called “Friendship Pipeline.” That agreement called for construction of a 1,500 km long gas pipeline to bring the untapped vast Iranian South Pars gas to the emerging EU market via Iraq, Syria and to the Mediterranean by way of Lebanon. That pipeline is obviously on hold since NATO and the Gulf states opted to destroy Syria after 2011. They opted to destroy Assad and a unified Syrian state through various false flag terror entities they have variously named Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, then called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, then simply IS, or in Arabic DAESH. For NATO and the Gulf Arab states a Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline would have changed the energy geopolitical map of Eurasia, and the political influence of Iran over Saudi domination.
The proposed gas pipeline from Qatar via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey to Europe.
Not surprising, when the mysterious ISIS exploded onto the scene in 2014, it moved to occupy Aleppo where the pipeline to Turkey from Qatar was planned. Coincidence? Not very likely.
The proposed Qatar-Syria-Turkey-EU pipeline (red) would go through Aleppo Province and the alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria (blue) via Lebanon to the EU gas markets. and Syria and then under the Mediterranean Sea.
Pipeline from Iran via Iraq and Syria to Europe.
The year 2011 was the point that Qatar began pouring as much as $30 billion into her war against Assad, backed then by Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf Arab states, and then also by Turkey, which saw its geopolitical European and Asian gas hub ambitions vanishing. The very next month after announcement of the Iran-Syria “Friendship Pipeline” agreement, in August, 2011, in the UN Security Council the US demanded that Syria’s Assad step down. US Special Forces and CIA began covertly training “Syrian opposition” terrorists recruited from around the Sunni -influenced world at secret NATO bases in Turkey and Jordan to drive Assad out and open the door for a Saudi-controlled puppet regime in Damascus friendly to their gas pipeline ambitions with Qatar.
These plans apparently had Russia’s blessing, possibly because it could exert more influence over Iran, which, unlike Qatar, did not host a US air base.
Assad signed off on the Iran plan in 2012 and it was due to be completed in 2016 but it was ultimately delayed because of the Arab Spring and the civil war.
Many countries supporting or opposing the war against Assad have links to these pipeline plans.
Major Rob Taylor, an instructor at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College wrote in the Armed Forces Journal in 2012 that the rival pipelines were influencing the conflict in Syria.
“Viewed through a geopolitical and economic lens, the conflict in Syria is not a civil war, but the result of larger international players positioning themselves on the geopolitical chessboard in preparation for the opening of the pipeline,” he noted.
Just as the 2003 Iraq War has been linked to oil in the Persian Gulf, Syria is to be all about gas.
WHY DOES TURKEY CARE?
One of the countries that has a lot to gain from getting rid of Assad is Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been vocal in calling for the Syrian President to step down and has also been accused of helping Islamic State, something it has rejected.
While Turkey could have other reasons for supporting the rebels in Syria, such as Assad’s support for the Kurds, the gas would definitely be one reason it was opposing the regime.
Turkey, which stands at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, is an aspiring member of the European Union, and some consider it to be the best option for facilitating the movement of gas supplies from the Middle East to Europe.
As a hub, Turkey would benefit from transit fees and other energy-generated revenues.
It could also insure, with US support, that all gas suppliers in the Middle East could freely export their product.
Qatar’s plans put Turkey at the centre of its plan.
As one of the countries relying on Russia for gas, freeing it from this dependence would be an added bonus.
But none of this can be realised if the pipeline bypasses Turkey and if Assad becomes instrumental in approving an alternative that does not involve it.
Now that Russia is stepping in to help the Assad regime in Syria — possibly to protect its own dominance in the gas market — Turkey is facing a formidable barrier to its aspirations.
When Turkey downed a Russian plane earlier this month, some speculated it may want to weaken any potential co-operation between Russia and the US which could see Assad continue his leadership.
Russia’s motives for its air strikes have also been questioned.
There is not much basis for US-Russia co-operation due to opposite interests in gas issues and Iran, until the secret Putin-Kissinger meeting in Moscow in mid-December last year (2016), when a deal was made , on various issues.
Geopolitical stupidity in Washington and Riyadh
How does that all fit the demonization today by Trump and by Saudi Prince Salman of Iran as “the number one sponsor of terrorism” and Qatar as a backer of terrorism?
It all fits together when we realize that the current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, son of Sheikh Hamad, being a more pragmatic sort and realizing that Qatari dreams of a pipeline through Aleppo into Turkey on to the EU had gone up in flames once Russia stepped into the Syrian war, quietly began talks with…Teheran.
In March of this year (2017), Qatar began talks with Teheran about finding a compromise on exploitation of the shared South Pars-North Dome gas field. Qatar lifted its moratorium on exploiting the field and carried out discussions with Iran over its joint development. Reportedly Qatar and Iran had come to an agreement on joint construction of a Qatar-Iranian gas pipeline from Iran to the Mediterranean or Turkey that will also carry Qatari gas to Europe. In exchange, Doha agreed to end its support for terrorism in Syria, a huge blow to the Trump-Saudi plans to balkanize a destroyed Syria and control the gas flows of the region.
To prevent that geopolitical catastrophe as Washington and Riyadh and Tel Aviv view it, the unholy three have teamed up to blame Iran and Qatar, ironically home to the Pentagon’s most important bases in the entire Middle East. Qatar they announced is the ‘Evil Knievel’ of world terrorism, with US Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis actually declaring that Iran was the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism,” while Qatar’s crime allegedly was as key financier of Hamas, Al Qaeda and ISIS. That was maybe then. Today Qatar is pursuing other aims.
Washington conveniently whitewashes the role of Saudi Arabia which has reportedly funneled more than $100 billion in recent years to build networks of Jihadi terrorists from Kabul to China, from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kosovo and Syria and even in Iran and Russia.
Doomed to Fail
Like most recent neo-con Washington strategies, the Qatar-Teheran demonization and sanctions is blowing back in the faces of its backers. Iran responded immediately with offers of emergency food and other aid to break the blockade, reminiscent in a very different context of the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift.
As well Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has just met with the Qatari Foreign Minister in Moscow and China and the Chinese Navy has just landed in an Iran port to engage in joint Iran-China naval exercises in the hyper-strategic oil chokepoint at the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran at the opening from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Oman, is undeniably the most strategic water choke-point in today’s world with more than 35% of all seaborne oil passing through it to China and other world markets.
Iran is a candidate to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization now that US and EU sanctions have been semi-lifted, and is already an invited strategic participant in China’s One Belt, One Road, earlier known as the “New Economic Silk Road,” far and away the world’s most impressive infrastructure project to create economic linkages across the states of Eurasia including the Middle East.
Qatar too is no stranger to either China or Russia. In 2015 Qatar was officially recognized by the Peoples’ Bank of China as the first Middle East center for clearing transactions in the Chinese currency, the yuan, now accepted by the IMF in its SDR basket of currencies, a major boost to international acceptance of the renminbi or yuan. That renminbi clearing status allows Qatari companies to settle their trade with China, for example in natural gas, directly in renminbi. Already Qatar exports significant LNG to China.
According to recent reports out of Amsterdam, Qatar is already selling China gas denominated in renminbi rather than US dollars. If true, that spells a major tectonic shift in the power of the US dollar, the financial basis of its ability to wage wars everywhere and run a federal deficit and public debt over $19 trillion. Iran already refuses dollars for its oil and Russia sells its gas to China in rubles or yuan. Were that to significantly shift in favor of international bilateral trades in renminbi or Russian rubles and other non-dollar currencies, that would be twilight for America’s global superpower. Lights out, basta!
Trump & Saudi Arabia:
|US President Donald Trump has arrived in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his first foreign trip since taking office.|
In a red-carpet airport welcome, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud greeted Trump, his wife Melania and his entourage shortly after they landed in the capital, Riyadh, on Saturday, May
Trump held a series of meetings with the king and other Arab and Muslim leaders on Saturday and Sunday, before jetting off to Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy in a nine-day tour across the Middle East and Europe.
During the two-day visit to the kingdom, Trump signed a major weapons deal, give a speech on Islam and discuss the battle against “terrorism” with more than 50 leaders.
It is the first time a US president has chosen Saudi Arabia as the first stop on a maiden trip.Trump’s visit is seen as highly symbolic, as he looks to repair Washington’s ties with its closest Arab ally.
During the final years of Barack Obama’s US presidency, “relations had undergone a period of difference of opinion”, according to Saudi officials. These differences were largely centered around the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Obama administration’s cautions to the kingdom about the civilian toll of the war in Yemen.
“The Saudis want a reset of the relationship with the US. They were not happy with Obama, and they were not happy with the US policy in Yemen and in Syria.” Ahmed Alibrahim, a Saudi political analyst, commented that the Saudis see this as a “great day” for relations with the US.
“We think President Trump’s cabinet does understand the Saudi challenges and does understand the challenges the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] faces.” He added that the kingdom would like to see more “decisive statements, actions and sanctions on the Iranian regime”.
Americans have long been infatuated with kings and the kingdom. But King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman seem to have set a new land speed record in convincing the Trump administration that they hold the keys to war, peace, and the transformation of the region.
It didn’t take much convincing. To be sure, the Saudis had some natural advantages over other possible partners that put points on the board in the White House: seeming stability and strength, an authoritarian streak, tons of money, and a desire to flatter and please. But above all, the new romance reflected a timely coincidence of strategic imperatives: Trump was eager to distance himself from his predecessor’s pro-Iranian inclinations and repair U.S. tensions with Saudi Arabia and Israel from the Obama years; the Saudis, meanwhile, were determined to exploit Trump’s preternatural allergy to all things Barack Obama and to push Washington into a more aggressive posture against Iran.
That Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia was unprecedented. Indeed, it’s stunning to consider that Trump’s four immediate predecessors made their first foreign trips to either Canada or Mexico. The Middle East is usually a place where U.S. schemes and dreams for transforming this broken, angry, and dysfunctional region go to die. But the Saudis turned Trump’s first foray outside the United States into a veritable love fest and string of hyperboles: He cut “tremendous” deals and expressed his pride in the new relationship and the “like-minded” goals the two nations share. The Saudis, having mesmerized and disarmed the president and official Washington with their glowing orb, were given a series of blank checks and a margin to maneuver in the region — without giving much in return.
To be sure, previous administrations dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt have adopted consistently pro-Saudi policies. After all, the Saudis have long been an important security partner and critical energy supplier. But this president’s willingness to fawn all over the Saudis, bless their domestic and foreign policy, and trust that these policies make sense for American interests is truly head-exploding. In fairness to the more levelheaded thinkers in the Trump administration, no U.S. president has ever encountered a House of Saud this ready to act in transformative ways.
Instead, the president has ramped up support for the Saudi campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen; willfully and publicly taken the Saudi side in a largely failed campaign to pressure Qatar to align its policies with Riyadh’s; Indeed, in response to Mohammed bin Salman’s large-scale purges last week of well-known royals, government ministers, military and business leaders, and media figures, Trump publicly endorsed the campaign, indicating that Saudi Arabia knows exactly what it’s doing. That Kushner was in Saudi Arabia on an unannounced visit before the crackdown raises some suspicion that he was informed of what was coming and didn’t object. In short, the president seems to have turned Saudi Arabia into a kind of fulcrum of Western civilization — a bulwark against Iran and a key force in the administration’s yet-to-be-announced policies on the peace process, all without considering how Saudi policies support U.S. interests or the region at large.
That’s a big bet. Assuming Saudi Arabia survives this turmoil, Mohammed bin Salman could be king for 50 years. Clearly, Saudi Arabia needs to change. Weaning the country off hydrocarbons to a more diversified economy (the central piece of Mohammed bin Salman’s massively ambitious Vision 2030 plan
Abroad, the Saudis are engaged in a cold war with an opportunistic Iran that’s exploiting their missteps in Yemen and Qatar and exacerbating a dangerous Sunni-Shiite sectarianism in the region.
|Trump was welcomed in Riyadh on Saturday by Saudi’s King Salman [Mandel Ngan/AFP]|
Before the trip, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the visit will “bolster the strategic partnership between the two countries”.He added that “several agreements will be signed, including political agreements … and big economic agreements”.
Arms deal :
On Saturday, Trump announced an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth more than $500bn, in what could be the biggest such agreement in history.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, US officials familiar with the package told the Associated Press news agency that the deal would include Abrams tanks, combat ships, missile defence systems, radar and communications and cybersecurity technology.
Much of the package builds on commitments made before Trump took office, although some elements are new, including weapons designed to help Saudi Arabia in an air campaign it has led in war-torn Yemen, officials said.
The Trump administration separately informed Congress on Friday that it will sell some $500m in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. These include laser-guided Paveway II bombs and JDAM kits for converting unguided bombs into “smart bombs”.
Also on the agenda in Riyadh is a summit of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders, including those from the six nations that form the Gulf Cooperation Council, to discuss the fight against “extremism”. Troops from these 50 Muslim nations have also formed a Arab version of NATO, called the “Islamic Army”. This army is based at Tabuk, in the north-western part of Saudi Arabia.
Announcing the meeting, the Saudi foreign ministry said the “historic summit” should be the start to “building a partnership between the Arab and Muslim worlds and the United States at various levels”.
According to Al Jazeera’s Bays, the meeting also included talks on Trump’s promise to restart peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
“Everyone agrees that a fresh approach could be helpful in solving this long-running conflict and President Trump certainly brings that – but Arab leaders will want to hear more than optimism, they’ll want to know the US president’s plan to move forward,” Bays said.
There are no plans for Trump to bring the two leaders together, a senior US official told the Reuters news agency, saying the administration does not believe it is the “right time just yet”.
The foreign trip comes as Trump faces growing criticism at home.
As the US president jetted off to Saudi Arabia, reports by US media emerged that a senior adviser to Trump was a “person of interest” in a probe of possible collusion with Russia during last year’s election campaign and that the US president had boasted to Russian officials after firing former FBI Director James Comey in May.
On Thursday, Trump also denounced the announcement of special counsel to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with Trump’s team. More on this aspect in the next article.
Trump & Israel :
After leaving saudi arabia, Trump landed at Tel Aviv in Israel. He came to Nethanyahu that Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians.
For years, Mr. Netanyahu has sought to recalibrate relations with Sunni Arab nations in a mutual bid to counter Shiite-led Iran, while subordinating the Palestinian dispute as a secondary issue. But as Mr. Trump arrived in Jerusalem after meetings in Saudi Arabia, the president indicated that he and those Arab states see an agreement with the Palestinians as integral to that new regional alignment.
“On those issues, there is a strong consensus among the nations of the world — including many in the Muslim world,” Mr. Trump said. “I was deeply encouraged by my conversations with Muslim world leaders in Saudi Arabia, including King Salman, who I spoke to at great length. King Salman feels very strongly and, I can tell you, would love to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians.”
Mr. Trump added that line to the remarks prepared for him, in effect tying the future of the anti-Iran coalition to the Palestinian issue despite Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime efforts to unlink the two. “There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran, and it is indeed a threat, there’s no question about that,” Mr. Trump said. But to unite with the Arabs in the coming fight with Iran, then Israel has to make concessions to the Palestinians, otherwise it would not be possible to proceed.
After months of negotiating, the United States and Israel have signed a huge, $38 billion deal for military aid to the Jewish state — with some changes from previous pacts between the countries.
The 10-year agreement is the largest in U.S. history, with a significant portion of the money expected to be used to upgrade Israel’s air force to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter aircraft.
But while the actual memorandum of understanding hasn’t been officially released by either country, it has a number of conditions that are different from previous U.S.-Israel aid deals.
Most importantly, it’s structured so that more Israeli defense spending goes to U.S. companies. Israel’s long-standing special arrangement for funds from the United States previously allowed Israel to spend 40 percent of the money in Israel — on Israeli-made defense products. But that provision is being phased out over the first five years of the deal.
Sources on Capitol Hill with knowledge of the agreement said the deal states that Israel can’t lobby Congress for more money unless a war breaks out. It says that funds for missile defense are included in the $38 billion — previously, that money was negotiated separately. And it states that Israel can’t use any of the U.S.-provided funds for fuel, meaning more of the aid comes back to U.S. defense manufacturers.
This arms package deal was not to Israel’s liking. Israel was told, in no uncertain terms, to either take it or leave it. This time, Washington made sure that Israel would not be able to use this military package had certain strings attached. Before, Israel used to take 40% of this aid to develop its own arms industry. This package was conducted in the last few months of Obama’s presidency.
The changes are ringing alarm bells within the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli military industry, which fear it will hurt the country’s war footing, quality control, product development .Strengthening a domestic defense industry has been a top priority for the Israeli government for decades. Israel learned the hard way in the late 1960s and early 1970s what happens when a main supplier of arms cuts off defense aid. Washington is making sure that when Israel is involved in another war, then Washington will be able to exact a heavy price from Israel, when more arms are needed to replenish its inventory.
It was the first time in 30 years that Washington could do this to Israel. The anti-Israel feeling in Washington was running very high. Remember that the Mossad killed the son of Obama’s boss 9 Richard, David Rockefeller’s son) in June 2014, leading to a complete break between the two families. America is in a hurry to ignite the blow-up of the Middle East. Thus, it is arming all the adversaries in the region, including Israel and the Arab states.
Throughout the 1960s, France was Israel’s biggest supplier of weapons until it abruptly declared an arms embargo just before the Six Day War in 1967. Israel defeated Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon in the fighting that followed. But in the six years between 1967 and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel lacked a relationship with a steady and powerful arms supplier, while the Soviet Union showered arms, intelligence equipment and training on the Arab states.
Despite ongoing U.S. military support, there is always fear in Israel of being cut off. Israel is the largest recipient of American military aid. The country began receiving an allotment for defense spending in 1985, shortly after Israel and Egypt signed a landmark peace deal. Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid.
Israel also spends its own funds on its military. Its budget for the past year, not including U.S. aid, was approximately $16 billion, or 5.4 percent of Israel’s gross domestic product. By comparison, the United States spends just more than 3 percent of its GDP on defense.
The next article on Trump details the reasons behind his Jerusalem decision, and the whole true story of Hillary Clinton, and “Russia-gate”. Stay tuned, folks.