Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A shameful bargain

President Donald Trump returned for Memorial Day from a nine-day, three-nation tour that saw him being played by the Saudi dictatorship like never before. Outside of all the pomp and gallantry, Trump has all but handed over America's Middle East policy to the Saudis, both in policy terms through a wholesale adoption of the Saudi posture towards Iran, as well as in military terms through a $110 bn sale to the absolute monarchy that is responsible for much of the world's Wahabbi terrorism. Ironically, the sale was facilitated by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner without a squeak from the Senate, which should have a say on such a large sale to a country that is currently at war.

Trump's complete and total servitude to the Saudis was on clear display, and gives an excellent template for other countries to sucker him - impress him, lavish him, and he'll sing like a canary. No wonder then that, after such a 'successful' trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump has caused a major diplomatic row through his tweets on Germany, which was not all to kind to him during the NATO summit (smaller countries are obviously too scared to even take him on, although on paper they disagree with him on several things). But perhaps the most memorably asinine part of the Saudi Arabian tour was Trump, and later his SecState Rex-T, condemning Iran's elections and calling for reforms, while sitting in a country that is an absolute monarchy where women are second-class citizens, by law. The irony is simply too much to miss.

I supported Trump during the campaign, so why am I whining now? Two reasons. Trump has already performed his most important function - defeating Hillary Clinton, for which we must all be thankful. Indeed, the spectacle in Saudi Arabia would've actually been along expected lines under a President Clinton. But more importantly, Trump was supposed to speak from his heart, and say uncomfortable facts - such as the fact that a majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, or that Saudi-funded imams have been radicalizing Muslims across the world, or that Saudi money has buttressed extremist groups, or that Saudi Arabia is causing a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Instead, we got a Trump who inaugurated an incongruent anti-extremist center in Riyadh - which is only less ironic that calling for free elections in Iran from Saudi Arabia.

Trump has been suckered. So was Obama, but he eventually saw through the Saudi (and Pakistani) double-game. How long will #45 take? 

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