It would be funny if it were not so sickening. US President Donald Trump’s whirlwind tour through the Middle East was a “triumph” of make-believe rhetoric over reality. Donald “the peace-maker” is sowing decades of further violence in the war-torn region.
The horrific repercussions of American foreign policy are all around us, from the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories to the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, to the latest terror attack in Britain where 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester.
With a typical inane understanding of the web of international terrorism that American foreign policy has generated over many years, Trump glibly condemned the bombing atrocity in Manchester as the work of “losers.”
Trump – on his first overseas tour as president – regaled Middle East leaders with florid words about “peace and prosperity” and a faux pretense of historical appreciation, referring to the region as the “cradle of civilization,” a “sacred land” and “rich heritage.”
There were minimal details in how Trump would achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, or defeat terrorism in the Middle East. It was all the just feel-good rhetoric that papered over the systemic causes of conflict and terrorism.
The one tangible takeaway was the American president’s mammoth arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia – $350 billion-worth over ten years. It was hailed as the biggest ever weapons contract, with an initial payment of $110 billion. Put in perspective, Trump is selling the Saudi rulers a total three times what Obama managed to achieve over his two administrations – some $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, which itself was a record high.
The proposed weapons supply is truly staggering, not least because of their destination to a regime up to its eyes in terror sponsorship.
During his next stop to Israel, Trump’s entourage visited the Wailing Wall abutting East Jerusalem, thus giving Washington’s imprimatur to the creeping annexation of the entire city by the state of Israel. Moves are underway to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in what would sound the death knell for Palestinian aspirations to claim East Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the capital of a future independent state.
That would also signal the abandonment of long-standing US policy avowedly advocating a two-state solution. Something which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing Likud government are lobbying for. Everything about Trump’s kowtowing indicates he is a willing patron to Israeli expansionism.
From Jerusalem, Trump drove to the Israeli-occupied West Bank where he met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Families protesting the incarceration of hundreds of hunger-striking Palestinians by Israel were kept at bay, while Trump delivered the ultimatum: “Peace can never take root where violence is tolerated.”
Trump would never have the integrity or understanding to deliver the same ultimatum to Saudi and Israeli leaders. Even though the admonishment of “not tolerating violence” there is manifold more pertinent and meaningful.
During the past fifty years since the Six Day War, America has condoned the relentless illegal annexation of land by Israel. The last round of futile “peace talks” ended in failure in 2014, when then US Secretary of State John Kerry adopted the usual policy of turning a blind eye to Israeli settlements and military occupation. The Trump administration is prepared to capitulate even further.
The Saudi and other Arab rulers are also jettisoning any pretense at pursuing a just peace accord for Palestinians. They utter not a word of protest over Israel’s land grabs and moves to kill off Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem – the site of Islam’s third holy mosque.
Trump’s visit to the Middle East – ahead of his trip to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and then NATO leaders in Brussels – is yet another sign of a geopolitical realignment. It seems an antiquated notion that Saudi Arabia and allied Arab regimes are somehow in opposition to Israel. As if the former are defenders of Arab and Muslim rights.
What’s going down is a tawdry tie-up in the region between American-backed client regimes. This has nothing to do with forging peace and all about consolidating Washington’s hegemony over the oil-rich region. That hegemony is primarily underpinned by Washington’s militarization and saturated selling of weaponry.
Significantly, the $350 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia caused no concern for Netanyahu’s government.
“How can it hurt?” Amos Gilad, a former Israel defense official, told the Times of Israel. “For now, there’s an alliance between the US and the Arab world against Iran,” said Gilad.
The Times also quoted Yaakov Amidror, the former national security adviser to Netanyahu, as saying, “Israel has no reason to worry about the massive Saudi-US arms deals.” He added that the latest Saudi arms deal “could help pave the way for Israeli-Arab cooperation in the future.”
Besides, Washington’s strategic doctrine is that Israel will always be given US priority to retain a so-called “qualitative military edge” over all other states in the region. That means US arms transfers to its Arab allies will be met with ever-more military aid to Israel, which currently clocks about $3.8 billion a year.
In other words, Trump’s arms dealing are a win-win for the US, more than ever. Mammoth sales to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab monarchies will drive up American weapons business with Israel. But a virtuous circle for Washington is a vicious cycle for the region whereby an already militarized conflict zone is being deluged with American firepower.
Given that the US-backed regimes are in various ways indelibly connected to territorial strife, sectarian conflict and in particular the sponsorship of Wahhabi terror groups it is almost certain that Trump’s reckless weapons trading will fuel more violence. It is well documented that Saudi Arabia serves as a conduit for American weaponry to Al-Qaeda-affiliated terror networks in Syria and elsewhere.
Still more ominous is how Trump’s military racket is pushing the region into a war with Iran. This fatuous president is giving full vent to Israeli and Saudi propaganda accusing Iran of “fueling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” in the region, citing Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This is a breath-taking inversion of reality, given the nefarious role of Saudi Arabia in those same countries.
In the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Trump called on assembled Arab regimes to “stamp out” terror by targeting Iran for regime change.
While in Jerusalem, Trump said: “There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have a common enemy with you in the threat posed by Iran.”
Israel premier Netanyahu also remarked that “old enemies [sic] have become allies against a common enemy.”
We can be sure that the “common enemy” spoken of is not terrorism, but rather Iran.
Donald Trump, the business tycoon-turned-president, never stops boasting about his prowess on boosting the “bottom line.” He may well boost the profits of American weapons manufacturers by flooding the Middle East with ever-more military arms. But the bottom line for the region and beyond is more wars, destruction, and bloodshed.
By Finian Cunningham