President Trump’s dancing with swords with the Saudi government is much like the president’s thumbing of his nose at CNN with the now infamous video, his rendering of a physical attack on a news organization depicted in its cartoonishness. Dancing with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, wearing gold bestowed on him by a monarch who understands Trump’s own desire for king-like adoration from his people, should unsettle us all just as much as that video.
The Saudis have recently isolated and sanctioned Qatar for alleged support of Sunni radicals, including the ISIS associates alleged to reside there. Our national conversation regarding the Middle East still does not discuss that perhaps in the Kingdom’s attempt to preserve its own system of repressive government, it has also sided with ISIS allied charities to prevent the rise of a Shi’ite resistance movement. And still our government does not discuss that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
That bumbling dance gave the Saudi government a green light to take off the gloves, to push more actively and dramatically in the direction it has quietly been moving—a brutal confrontation with Iran over which of the two countries, and which sect of Islam, will dominate the region. The first Saudi target was Qatar’s support of Turkey’s air base in Doha. The second was Qatar’s relationship with the government of Iran, with whom they share gas fields and fund Islamic forces opposed by the Saudis.
Within weeks of Trump’s foolish dance, with gold around his neck and a glittering palace in the background, the Saudis had gone after Qatar. Any restraint they had exercised after the extensive carrot and stick diplomacy of presidents from Bush 41 right on through Obama was thrown out the window. They had the green light to act as they saw fit.
We have seemingly lost any hope that the war in Yemen, the brutal campaign against civilians, of rape and starvation and destruction, will cease. It continues unabated with little global media coverage. American tankers refuel the war planes of the Saudis, enabling shelling of the country and resulting famine below. Saudi warplanes also guarantee that the port closest to the problem of the famine will be closed to humanitarian efforts of supplying food and water.
Another ally of the dance was Bahrain, whose civil courts were just ousted by military courts to handle the political differences there. Most citizens in Bahrain are Shi’ite. The government is Sunni, thus representing a minority of the populace. Leadership of the Shi’ite community are killed regularly in this land by torture and executions.
As an American, I wonder if the appropriate committees in Congress have endorsed this signal to Saudi Arabia as the leader in the Middle East. I’m left with the question we have perhaps all considered, at one point or another, since January 20 of this year. Is anyone with the experience so desperately needed paying attention? Is Congress? Surrounded by advisers with backgrounds in business who seem to have understood that, in order to keep their heads, they will have to praise the king, this President seems to have no source of morality, far less of wisdom.
In my view, a wiser approach would be to achieve a political balance between the Iranian and the Saudi governments, and to stop supporting the carnage in Yemen which is quickly becoming the Vietnam of Saudi Arabia.
While the brutal video of CNN received well-deserved national attention, it was that video of our president in the gilded castle, dancing like a palace fool, that really unsettled me.