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First tour of President Trump: How the US forms a new alliance against Iran

Author : Marianna Belenkaya

15:36, 24 May 2017
First tour of President Trump: How the US forms a new alliance against Iran

Author : Marianna Belenkaya

For the sake of fighting Tehran, the US is ready to turn a blind eye to what is happening to human rights in the Gulf countries, and the Gulf monarchy in turn is ready to give up the rights of the Palestinians

15:36, 24 May 2017

Read the original text at Carnegie.ru.

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Saudi Arabia and Israel - from these two Middle Eastern countries, the first foreign tour of US President Donald Trump began. For the first time in American history, the Middle East is honored with such attention. Until now, debuts of US presidents in the international arena took place in Europe, Canada or Latin America. The only exception was Dwight Eisenhower. Immediately after his election, before the inauguration, he went to the war zone in Korea. Two more innovations - never before the first visit of the American president to the Middle East took place with a stop in Israel and none of the current US heads visited the Old City and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Trump surprised everyone.

Both points of Trump’s MidEast program unite confrontation with Iran. For the sake of fighting the Iranian threat, many of the countless disagreements between the Arab world and Israel have been forgotten. Both need Trump as an intermediary for concluding a deal against Tehran.

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Over the years, Saudi Arabia and Israel have been Washington's main allies in the region. However, during the presidency of Barack Obama, the trust between these countries and the United States was undermined. Both the Saudis and the Israelis could not forgive Trump's predecessor the conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran and insufficiently active resistance to the growing influence of Tehran in the Middle East (responsibility for this also on with Barack Obama and his administration). Now, both sides expect the same from the new president of the United States - active opposition to Iran.

Beginning of a new era

Trump's visit is the beginning of a new era, virtually all regional media emphasize. Yes, the US President himself in his speech in Riyadh, addressed to the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world, said about the "new chapter" in Washington's relations with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries. "We are not here to give lectures, to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be and who to worship. Instead, we offer a partnership based on common interests and values, to achieve a better future for all of us," Trump said.

And this is indeed the beginning of a new era of pragmatism, when the US renounces statements about the need to respect human rights for the sake of an alliance against a common enemy (in this case, there are several enemies: Iran, Islamic State, Al Qaeda; both terrorist organizations are banned in the Russian Federation) and mutually beneficial financial transactions.

Related: Trump is first American president to visit Wailing Wall

Arriving in Riyadh, Trump hastened to give up everything he had said for many years, until his victory in the presidential election, when he called Saudi Arabia the main sponsor of world terrorism and claimed that "Islam hates us." In addition, Trump accused the Saudis of bribing American politicians, it was both about the Bush clan and the Clinton clan. Given Trumps’s Islamophobia and Saundophobia, the Saudis really supported Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign and did not expect the victory of a man whom one of the Saudi princes, the world's largest investor al-Walid bin Talal, called the infamous spot of the Republican Party and the whole of America.

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Now the situation has changed dramatically. Washington and Riyadh agree on joint counteraction to the terrorist threat, including on monitoring sources of financing of terrorism, and discuss joint investment projects.

As a result of the visit, the United States and Saudi Arabia signed a package of cooperation agreements worth about $ 400 billion, including a defense contract for a record $ 109.7 billion. These agreements provide for the development and modernization of the armed forces of the kingdom - in particular, the improvement of Saudi air defense systems and smart weapons, production of other types of weapons. In addition, the United States signed a memorandum of intent to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons worth $ 350 billion over 10 years.

Related: Trump's spy scandal: Consequences for the United States in the Middle East

For Riyadh, the point about the localization of production is of great importance in these agreements, and it is not just about armament. For Washington it is important to secure contracts for the US defense complex, and also to guarantee Saudi investments in the United States. For example, it was decided to create a joint US-Saudi fund, which will deal with investments in infrastructure projects primarily in the US territory. The initial volume of the fund is $ 40 billion, but its participants believe that the amount of investments will exceed $ 100 billion. Also according to media reports, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ready to contribute $ 100 million to the future fund of Ivanka Trump, who plans to support women entrepreneurs in the Middle East. Donald Trump did not fail to thank the Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud for "large-scale investments in America, its industry and jobs."

Related: Trump explains Lavrov why he could not cooperate with Moscow

Touching upon the defense deal, many experts note that today the Saudi army is not able to “digest” the volume of armaments that can fall on it. There is no real need for this, and the Saudi military does not have sufficient skills to use this arsenal. But there is Iran, with which Saudi Arabia is measured by force. And for this pleasure the Saudis are ready to pay.

It is no coincidence that Tehran reacted very painfully to the concluded agreements and to all the statements that were made by Saudi and, most importantly, American politicians from Riyadh. "Iran immediately after the present elections was attacked by the American president in this stronghold of democracy and moderation. Foreign policy or just pumping from Saudi Arabia $ 480 billion? " Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Tweeter, quoting the words from the speech of Trump, where the latter spoke about the need to isolate Iran and acknowledged the Saudi King for investments.

The US and the Islamic world against Iran

Through the efforts of Saudi politicians, Iran was opposed to the rest of the Islamic world in Riyadh.  Saudis timed two more events to the visit of Trump: a meeting between the US president and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf (apart from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), as well as the Arab-Islam-American summit, which gathered more than fifty leaders from Muslim countries. Virtually everyone except Iran.

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"The Iranian regime has been and remains at the forefront of world terrorism since 1979, when the Shah was overthrown," the King of Saudi Arabia said in his speech at the Arab-Islamic-American summit. Trump has similar rhetoric: "From Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen, Iran finances, arms, terrorists, militants and various extremist groups that carry destruction and chaos throughout the region. For decades, Iran has fomented interfaith conflicts and terror. "

To counteract these threats, King Salman announced the launch of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCCEI). This center, headquartered in Riyadh, will monitor the activity of terrorist groups in cyberspace, monitor the propaganda of extremism, recruit new activists, and correct the distorted vision of Islam and strengthen the foundations of traditional and moderate religious teachings.

Also at the meeting of the US President with representatives of the Gulf monarchies, an agreement was reached that the countries would jointly monitor the sources of financing terrorism. The United States and Saudi Arabia will become co-chairs in the future Center for Combating the Financing of Terrorism. All these structures will target not only terrorist groups, but also Iran.

Related: Lavrov says he did not discuss Comey’s dismissal with Trump

Arab NATO

In addition, in the final communiqué of the summit in Riyadh, the leaders of the Islamic world said they were ready to form a reserve contingent of servicemen of 34,000 men for anti-terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic military alliance or the Arab NATO, which the Saudis have been talking about recently, exists mostly in words.

In total, about thirty countries were invited to this structure, mainly with the Sunni majority. Obviously, in many respects it is being created to oppose Iranian expansion in the region. It is difficult to imagine how in reality this military force, assembled from states defending sometimes directly opposite interests, will wage war against extremist groups, many of which, albeit behind the scenes, are supported by the leadership of the same countries.

The idea of creating inter-Arab armed forces for the last time in 2015 was proposed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, but then it failed. Too conflicting were the interests, and Riyadh did not like the initiative of Cairo. Now the ideological leaders are the Saudis themselves, with the support of the United States.

Related: Trump made his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia

Message to Israel

During the summit in Saudi Arabia, both Trump and King Salman touched the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement very gently. The US president only casually mentioned the prospects for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis and his forthcoming meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas. The Saudi King, in turn, said: "We emphasize the need to achieve peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis ... which requires joint sacrifices and honest determination in the interests of all." No traditional for the Arab and Islamic summits statements about Israeli aggression and Palestinian rights, but only a hint of the need for mutual concessions.

Until now, the Palestinian problem was part the mandatory program of all major international meetings, where the problems of the Arab world were touched in one way or another. But Iran ousted it. Moreover, the Iranian threat unites Israel and the Persian Gulf countries, which have long been secretly cooperating in the security sphere. Now the question is how to expand this cooperation.

A few days before Trump's visit to the region, The Wall Street Journal claimed that the Gulf monarchies offered Israel to establish closer ties, primarily economic ones, in return for progress in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. It is assumed that Trump and his team brought more specific proposals from Riyadh to Israel.

Related: Meeting of US President Trump and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin in White House

The question is whether they can be accepted. After all, most likely, the demand for concessions will concern the cessation of settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. Netanyahu can hardly agree on this, because then he would lose a significant part of his electorate.

However, ahead of the events, the Israeli prime minister nevertheless expressed readiness for concessions, without waiting for the arrival of the American president. According to Haaretz, the government approved such measures as facilitating the passage between the West Bank and Israel at the checkpoint for Palestinians who have the right to work in Israeli territory, the 24-hour operation of the checkpoint at the border between Israel and Jordan, the provision of permits for thousands of houses already built Palestinians and so on.

Such measures might be sufficient for Trump, but what about the Persian Gulf? However, the fact that the US president flew to Israel from Saudi Arabia was very important for the Israeli leadership. "I hope someday the Israeli prime minister will be able to fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh," Netanyahu said, meeting Trump at the airport.

In the evening, the Israeli prime minister said that for the first time in many years he sees a real chance for change. The American president is confident of the success of the peace process. Before him, Barack Obama was equally optimistic about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Although, unlike his predecessor, Trump can make unexpected moves and seek mutually beneficial solutions, even if they differ from his original position. This was demonstrated by his visit to the Middle East.

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Trump became much more cautious than before taking office. Apparently, the US president decided to abandon his pre-election statements about the transfer of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In any case, he did not plan to state this during this visit. And it is understandable why - such a decision would be a slap in the face to the King of Saudi Arabia, the keeper of Islamic shrines, who is considered the defender of all Muslims. This would cause unnecessary now either the US or the Arabian monarchs a wave of resentment among the population in the Arab countries.

The Arab street, which, unlike the high offices, does not like the Sheikhs of the Gulf, and without that evaluates the results of Trump's visit is very ambiguous. In Arab social networks, caricatures diverge as Americans climb into Saudi pockets, and Trump in the clothes of an Islamic sheik urges the Arabs to open their safes for the sake of fighting Iran. Transactions of high street policy are not interested - many more people are worried about jobs, worthy earnings and respect for their rights.

For the sake of fighting Tehran, the US is ready to turn a blind eye to what is happening to human rights in the Gulf countries, and the Gulf monarchy in turn is ready to give up the rights of the Palestinians. This is how the street message of Trump's Middle East tour perceives the street. And disappointment with the new American president can come as quickly as it was in the days of Obama, who, like Trump, at the beginning of his presidency appealed to the Islamic world with the words about the beginning of a "new era". Era, which turned into even greater chaos in the Middle East.

Related: Viktor Medvedchuk communicated with Trump allies during electioneering

Trump became much more cautious than before taking the office. Apparently, the US president decided to abandon his pre-election statements about the transfer of the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In any case, he did not plan to state this during this visit. And it is understandable why - such a decision would be a slap in the face to the King of Saudi Arabia, the keeper of Islamic shrines, who is considered the defender of all Muslims. This would cause unnecessary now either the US or the Arabian monarchs a wave of resentment among the population in the Arab countries.

The Arab street, which, unlike the high offices, does not like the Sheikhs of the Gulf, and without that evaluates the results of Trump's visit is very ambiguous. In Arab social networks, caricatures diverge as Americans climb into Saudi pockets, and Trump in the clothes of an Islamic sheik urges the Arabs to open their safes for the sake of fighting Iran. Transactions of high street policy are not interested - many more people are worried about jobs, worthy earnings and respect for their rights.

For the sake of fighting Tehran, the US is ready to turn a blind eye to what is happening to human rights in the Gulf countries, and the Gulf monarchy in turn is ready to give up the rights of the Palestinians.

Related: Trump: Lieberman one of top runners for FBI director

This is how the message of Trump's Middle East tour is perceived by the people. And disappointment with the new American president can come as quickly as it was in the days of Obama, who, like Trump, at the beginning of his presidency appealed to the Islamic world with the words about the beginning of a "new era". Era, which turned into even greater chaos in the Middle East.

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