THE Great White Father came to Saudi Arabia recently to harangue some 50 Arab and African despots on the glories of Trumpism, democracy and the need to fight what the Americans call terrorism.
Having covered the Middle East for many decades, I cannot think of a more bizarre or comical spectacle. Here was Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, hosting the glad-handing US president who hates the Middle East with a passion.
I was amazed to learn that Trump’s speech to the attendees had been written by pro-Israel ideologue Stephen Miller, a young senior White House staffer from California who is an extreme Zionist. How bizarre.
Not only that, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are strongly pro-Israel, were with him. So too was the powerful commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, another ardent pro-Israel cabinet member. Billionaire Ross performed the traditional Saudi sword dance with skill and verve.
Listening to Trump and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, blast Iran as the font of terrorism provided another big joke. Trump’s tirade against Tehran was delivered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy that holds no elections.
Iran has the freest political system in the Middle East except for Israel. Iranian women have rights and political freedoms that are unknown in Saudi Arabia. Iran just held a fair and open national election in which moderates won. Compare this to Saudi Arabia’s medieval Bedouin society. I was once arrested by the religious police in Jeddah just for walking down a street with an Egyptian woman.
Today, US and British equipped Saudi forces are laying waste to Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation. As a result of a Saudi air, land and sea blockade, the UN reports that famine has gripped large parts of Yemen. US and British technicians are keeping the Saudi air force flying; the US and Britain supply the bombs.
Trump arrived with a bag of US$110 billion worth of arms (some approved by the Obama administration), and a promise of US$350 billion worth in 10 years. There was nothing new about this arms bazaar: for over a decade the Saudis have bought warehouses of US arms in exchange for keeping oil prices low and fronting for US interests in the Muslim world. Most of these arms remain in storage as the Saudis don’t know how to use them.
Many of America’s most important arms makers are in politically important US states. The Saudis were so deeply in bed with the Republicans that their former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, was known to one and all as “Bandar Bush”. Saudi money and influence has flowed far and wide across the US political landscape. That’s how the Saudis get away with mass killing in Yemen, funding IS and ravaging Syria with hardly any peeps of protest from Congress.
By now, it’s perfectly clear that the long secret relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates has finally come into the open. Israel and its rich Arab friends all hate Iran, they oppose Palestinian rights, and fear revolution in the Arab world.
The two most reactionary Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are now close allies, though they compete over who will lead the Arab world. Neither despotic regime has any right to do so. Trump lauded the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sissi who overthrew Egypt’s first ever democratically elected government, gunned down hundreds of protesters, jailed and tortured thousands. Suspects in Egypt are routinely subjected to savage beatings and anal rape.
As I tried to explain in my second book, American Raj, the brutal, corrupt regimes westerners have imposed on the Arab world and Africa are the main cause of what we call “terrorism”. So too the wars we have waged in the region to impose our will and economic exploitation. It’s blowback, pure and simple.
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia.