National Security Advisor General McMaster has talked up the importance of President Trump’s first stop, Saudi Arabia, on his first foreign trip.
President Trump is seeking [is] to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity. He will bring a message of tolerance and of hope to billions ... [he] will encourage our Arab and Muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those, from ISIS to al Qaeda to Iran to the Assad regime, who perpetuate chaos and violence...
While McMaster’s words masquerade as information, the background and the likely fallout of Trump’s Saudi visit tell a very different story.
This trip to Saudi Arabia has been concocted by Jared Kushner (Trump’s Middle East czar) and Mohammed bin Salman (Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia). The stated purpose is to create an “Arab NATO” (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as founding members) with the U.S. playing a supporting role to fight terrorism and to confront Iran, to sell a massive number of the most sophisticated U.S. arms, and to promote U.S. exports to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries with the help of U.S. CEOs accompanying the president. But instead of “promoting peace” and eradicating terrorism, this trip will increase human rights abuses in “Arab NATO” countries, produce more recruits for the likes of al Qaeda and ISIS, fuel further tension and conflicts, drag the U.S. into the biggest war ever in the Persian Gulf, and provide the Trump-Kushner Empire with riches beyond their dreams.
There are a number of reasons why the Al-Sauds of Saudi Arabia are resurrecting the shelved idea of an Arab (or Muslim) NATO, reasons nowhere to be found in McMaster’s “beautiful” words. What the Al-Sauds fear most is internal turmoil in the Kingdom and in other GCC countries, secondarily followed by threats from Iran and Iraq. The arms they seek will be used against their own people (it doesn’t hurt that massive arms purchases also translate into massive commissions for the Al-Sauds). In turn, U.S. arms mean U.S. advisors and if needed U.S. soldiers to fight for the Al-Sauds at home or abroad. As the Al-Sauds feel more secure with more U.S. arms and especially with more U.S. advisors and Arab military from Jordan and Egypt, they will be emboldened to crack down on domestic dissent in the name of “fighting terrorism” and to confront Iran. Their domestic crackdown coupled with Wahhabi religious extremism will provide an army of recruits for al Qaeda and ISIS, something we have already seen proof of in the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudi nationals. In turn, America’s alleged noble support for human rights will receive another black eye and Washington will be seen as a duplicitous supporter of client dictators, increasing the likelihood of terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland.
The likelihood of emboldened Saudi confrontation with Iran will not “promote peace” in the region but will instead encourage more conflicts and lead to a number of developments that could suck the U.S. into a prolonged and disastrous war. The Al-Sauds fear the rulers of Iran because of their baseless belief that the mullahs are intent on their overthrow. But instead of diplomacy and confidence building initiatives, they prefer to hide under the U.S. protective skirt and do all they can to promote a conflict with Iran with the U.S. at their side, something they believe they can bank on. Because after the liberation of Kuwait the Al-Sauds decided that the U.S. was a mercenary country that they could count on for military support as long as they paid. A so-called “Arab NATO” will increasingly trap the United States into supporting Saudi Arabia in an armed confrontation with Iran.
What will Iran do? Understandably Iran feels threatened not so much by the Saudi military but by a U.S. that already has bases encircling Iran. Iran will recall Saddam Hussein’s atrocities, which were supported by the U.S., Europe and Saudi Arabia, and will not want to find itself in that position again. Iran has little choice but to militarize as never before, to do all it can within the bounds of JCPOA to develop its nuclear capabilities and have a nuclear deterrent as soon as it can. Iran could also encourage Iraq to take their cooperation with Iran to a more formal level and to expel all U.S. military advisors and personnel.
Why has President Trump been so keen to appoint his son-in-law as a Middle East czar? Why are Trump and his son-in-law fixated on doing Saudi Arabia’s bidding? Simple, Saudi largess! Leaders of Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia do not shower ex-U.S. presidents, members of their cabinet and ex-senior lawmakers with donations and large consulting/advising contracts, but that is the way of life for the Al-Sauds. Just look at Saudi (and other GCC) donations to the Clinton foundation, at their advising contracts for former cabinet members and for other ex senior U.S. officials and at U.S. universities. The Trump-Kushner partnership knows the big bonanza that awaits them when they leave office and probably hopes for some rewards even while they are in office. And being “astute” businessmen, the Trump-Kushner team could take this foreign influence peddling thing to another level. The Clintons, the UK’s Blairs and other ex-senior politicians from the U.S. are amateurs in soliciting Saudi largess. It is time for the pros!
Should the U.S. put its future and that of the Middle East in the hands of 31-year-old Mohammad bin Salman and 36-year-old Jared Kushner—two opportunists with personal motives?