During his first overseas trip as president, Donald Trump, signed a series of deals with Saudi Arabia which totals more than $350 billion over 10 years. That includes a $110-billion arms deal that takes effect immediately.
Trump is set to meet with a number of Arab leaders from, in his words, “all across the Muslim world.” Iran, however, is not on the list.
RT: Trump signed a $110-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. How do you think this is going to be received in the US and in the wider international community?
Sharmine Narwani: Not very well. We’ve seen what the Saudis have done with arms in the last six years or so. To understand why this administration is upping arms sales to the Saudis, we have to go back a little bit. In 2010, 2011 at the start of the Arab Spring, the Saudis signed contracts for over $65 billion at that time, the largest ever. And then here we are a number of years later. And the numbers are 110, possibly up to $300 billion. And the reason behind this is basically after the failures of the US intervention in Iraq and invasion of Afghanistan, the Americans were no longer willing to sacrifice blood and treasure, and moving forward they were going to use local proxies to fight their wars. And Saudi Arabia is willing and able to fight wars in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen on behalf of the American administration. But unfortunately, to no avail; these are not winnable wars. And at this point, I think Trump is looking at them as a cash cow.
Donald Trump’s ability to sign nearly $400-billion worth of contracts with the Saudi monarchy is going to be received very well by people in the US because that would create many jobs and improve the economy. And also he can use it as an achievement both on the international stage and absolutely inside the US to appease his detractors who [say] he is unable to conduct foreign policy. I think it will be a win for him. Nobody in the US is complaining about Americans making nearly $400 billion. – Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs
RT: Trump says he wants to help bring peace to the Middle East. But does striking such a huge arms deal right off the bat send the right signal?
SN: Peace is a relative term. What do the Americans and what does the Trump administration mean by peace, for starters? Peace means the status quo, it means the Americans continue to exercise hegemony over the region, and that is not possible with an empire in decline. So, I think right now what we are seeing with the Trump administration headed by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, spearheading an effort to create what they are calling the Arab NATO, which is a peace deal struck over the Israel-Palestine conflict in which the Saudis and the Gulf States and other Sunni states will agree to some kind of a solution there in order to cooperate with Israel to target Iran. So, in fact, we are going to see an escalation, not peace.
No one can deny the fact that not only the September 11 hijackers were Saudis, but the majority of the ISIS fighters and suicide bombers, the foreign-born in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other countries, are Saudis. The Saudi ideology is creating ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other similar groups. If the Trump administration gives the Saudi monarchy a pass on this, then we will see a continuation and expansion, in fact, of the terrorist movements in the Middle East. We will see the region being destabilized even greater than the current situation. – Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs
RT: Trump has slammed the country’s approach to women’s rights. Do you expect this topic to surface during the trip?
SN: I don’t, actually. I think this administration has made it clear that human rights is not on the top of their agenda. I am not sure it actually was before. But in this case, they are overtly claiming that it is not on the top of their agenda, that interests prevail and will continue to prevail during the course of this administration.
…as a businessman, which he keeps repeating, his mantra moving forward in foreign policy will be ‘where can he make deals to benefit US coffers’ and help with his program of ostensibly making America great again, efficient again, wealthy again. I think those things are absolutely at the forefront of his considerations with the Saudis in particular because he said before that he seems to think that the Saudis have untold wealth. He has even mentioned the trillion-dollar figure in terms of sucking every drop of cash out of that country. And I think he will do so because he has no value for the Saudis other than their money.
I think he thinks he can make a quick buck, a considerable buck of the Saudis now and use them to further his goal of isolating Iran and perhaps even attacking Iran and then turning that around to his benefit. He is going to find himself at a dead end like most American leaders have in the last few decades, trying to take on the Islamic Republic and trying to meddle in the Middle East.