Trump’s business in the Middle East

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HARDLY ever the world has agreed on the greatness of a politician — for a good reason. A philosopher, once, listened to a eulogy of a great statesman. “Here’s lie a decent honest, man,” the eulogist announced. The philosopher commented. “Oh, I didn’t know there were two men in that coffin!”

Men of principles have always been rare commodity in political circles. Few were allowed to lead — Prophets included. In modern history, we were lucky to have such men during great challenging events, such as wars, conflicts and depressions. They inspired, unified and led their nations — and the world beyond. In America we had Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodor Roosevelt. In Europe: Charles De Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Joseph Tito. In Africa, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Seretse Khama. In Asia Mahatma Gandhi, King Abdulaziz Bin Saud.

Ideology is like pure rain — so fixed and uncompromising. Politics, however, is like oil — slippery and greasy — very tricky. The problem is oil and water doesn’t mix.

So when an idealist, like John F. Kennedy, an ideologist like George W. Bush, and an academic, such as Barack Obama, take over the helms in the White House, our relationship suffers. They tend to change America's priorities beyond its basic frameworks and venture into uncharted waters. Religious and other fixed principles turn US rational foreign policies into crusades to change the world, Saudi Arabia included, to fit their personal views and perceptions. US religious, democratic and economic values, for example, have led to intense political, financial and military campaigns to remake our way of life and governance system. Aggressive interventionist strategies, like neocon’s “Creative Chaos,” democratizing the Middle East, and supporting revolutionary changes, under fancy names like “The Arab Spring,” were backed by US military might.

Saudi-US relations have started in 1930s with the discovery of oil, in our eastern region. It was formulated in the agreement between King Abdulaziz and President Theodore Roosevelt, establishing a comprehensive cooperative partnership. It has guaranteed security for the free flow of energy from the Gulf to the rest of the world. Cooperation included supporting the development of the rising young Kingdom in all relevant matters, such as administration, infrastructure, education, training and military. Saudi Arabia has supported the US during the Cold War, and recently in its campaign against terrorist organizations and their sponsors.

Most US presidents honored the agreement and appreciated the alliance. The list includes Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Reagan, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton. Then came the ideologists from the extremist right and left in the last 16 years and decided not abide by basic terms. Such breach has brought catastrophic consequences to the region, achieved no benefits to either US or Saudi Arabia, and burdened America with enormous financial, political and military costs. The US invasion of Iraq, against the best advise of their Arab allies, Saudi, Egypt and Jordan, is a clear example of such disastrous ideological adventures.

Sixteen years of such policies have opened “the gates of hell” in the Middle East and ignited the worst refuge crisis since World War II, dealing a blow to US credibility, power and prestige, for the first time ever, and bringing its status lower than that of Russia and Iran. At the same time, sentiments of isolationism and protectionism are ignited at home.

Here comes President Donald Trump, a businessman who understood the limits of US power. He knew what it could or couldn't achieve in our region. A realistic leader, he took America back to basics, and listed doable goals. They were prioritized as securing America and serving its interests by fighting terror, confronting Iran’s destabilizing behavior, protecting traditional allies, and bringing home lucrative deals. The renewed cooperation with Saudi Arabia helped securing the cooperation of 22 Arab countries and 57 Muslim nations.

With this administration, “idealism” is dead, “realism” is back, “international liberalism” and “neo-conservatism” are out “realpolitik” is in. America hasn’t changed ... it just regained its senses and true self. Welcome back, the United States of America.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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