President Trump has gotten off to a spectacular start on his Middle East trip. He established the conditions on which he will foster closer ties with the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia. This in turn should have a domino effect on other serious issues in the region.
Trump’s speech on Sunday was historic from several perspectives. For one thing he definitively asserted that the greatest impediment to peace in the Middle East is the irresponsible behavior of the Iran government. The rogue state is the leader of the Shiite sect and works untiringly to destabilize Sunni regimes in an effort to dominate the Arab world. The radical leadership in Iran encourages unrest in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and all places where Sunnis have a foothold.
Exacerbating the situation was President Obama’s folly in believing that arming Iran with nuclear weapons was the way to bring peace to the region and to temper Iranian aggression. This ill-conceived notion created an existential threat to Israel (which is duly recognized by many experts) and Sunni countries. The dismantling of the foolhardy treaty with a dishonest and calculating government is high on the list of Bibi Netanyahu, the Gulf state’s sheiks and the Trump administration. When Trump expressed his objectives relating to the Iran nuke deal he ingratiated himself to the Sunni Arab community of nations, not to mention the Israelis.
The president has decided to side with Sunnis against Iran and all radical elements. In the past the U.S. has unwisely attempted to remain neutral in the feud between Sunni and Shiite factions. This strategy ultimately resulted in two wars with Iraq, the evolution of Al Qaeda and ISIS and an environment that has become increasingly threatening to Israel. The move by Trump to ally with Saudi Arabia against Iran is genius.
Supposedly Iran has moved towards moderation by electing a new president. I hope the Trump administration is not fooled by this subterfuge. The radical ayatollahs are still in control of the country. The dream of fair elections and more liberty has stirred common Iranians. It will never become a reality so long as the radical clerics are in power.
Trump also backed away from American ethnocentrism. The U.S. should not be imposing its standards on others and demanding democratic elections. The Arabs are steeped in centuries-old values not understood by either the U.S. or westerners. Who are we to judge others given that our values and principles are only two hundred plus years in the making?
Moreover foisting democracies on others is a tired and unproductive pipe dream. In many situations aggressive despots best govern violent places in the world. Democracy is not the perfect solution for every nation.
By minimizing conversations about all but serious human right atrocities and allowing other countries to govern as they see fit, the U.S. will be able to build more relationships overseas. Trump said in his speech that he was not going to tell Arabs how to live their lives. It is a staggeringly important new policy for America.
The logjam that has made peace between Israel and Palestine impossible could finally be broken. With the help of the Saudis and the exclusion of Iran, real negotiations could be possible. There are no historical precedents that should give us too much confidence of signing a peace treaty, but the odds of one coming together would be greater.
For years the Palestinian/Israel conflict has been a nagging sideshow to the rudimentary causes of unrest in the region. The influence of a friendly Arab titan like Saudi Arabia could dramatically pave the way to a resolution of this generational problem.
Let there be no misunderstandings about Saudi Arabia. The country has many radical elements. Some were allegedly involved in the 9/11 attacks. Women are treated unfairly. Other religions are not welcomed in the country. These issues can be more effectively addressed after the trust between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is nurtured.
Trump is likely to have a successful foreign tour. Hopefully the circus here in the U.S. does not diminish his accomplishments. And hopefully the liberal press and Congress will endorse good things that Trump negotiates.