US administration has US President Donald Trump’s first foreign visit after assuming charge to Saudi Arabia, Israel and others countries from May 20 to May 27 is in fact an attempt to score some brownie points on the foreign policy front to shore up his popularity and credibility back home.
The new been working for some months now to accelerate the Middle East peace process to find a lasting solution to Israel-Palestine problem that has been festering for over decades. Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner has been working for months in the region meeting Israeli, Arab and Palestinian leaders to find ways to give boost to the peace process.
For this, Trump made himself ready to swallow his own words!
What the US 45th President said on the Saudi soil while addressing the 50-nations summit of Muslim leaders was just the opposite of what he has been saying during the presidential campaign and thereafter. Almost immediately taking over the US presidency, he even went to the extent of issuing an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from coming to America.
Trump, who had said once that “Islam hates us”, called it “as one of the world’s great faiths. The US President, possibly sobered by huge responsibilities of being in office or a need to produce some result, said the war against terrorism was not a “battle between different faiths”, but a fight “between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion.” He appealed the summit leaders to drive these barbaric criminals “out of your places of worship,” “out of your communities,” “out of your holy land,” “out of this earth”.
In a yet another reversal of his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy, Trump has chosen to side with Sunni sect of Islam while snubbing Shia sect represented by Iran. Iran, he said, was a threat because of its support for militias in Lebanon and Yemen and for its backing of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The Trump administration’s preference for Saudi Arabia is possibly related to the purchasing power of Petro-Dollars. During his stay, an arms deal worth nearly $ 110 billion was signed between the US and the Saudi Arabia. Now Trump can tell his people that he has saved jobs for the US citizens. In the process, the US is arming Saudi Arabia to the teeth thus sowing seeds of possible future conflicts in the region.
For the lure of money, the US President has preferred to side with Wahhabism, the fundamentalist Sunni Islam orthodoxy that provides legitimacy to Saudi Arabia’ royal family. Wahhabism has been the source of inspiration to ISIS, Al Qaeda and other regional terrorist outfits and Riyadh has been the source of funding for some of them. Trump overlooked glaring inconsistencies in Islamic nations and instead chose to heap praise on Riyadh noting Saudi Arabia’s attempt at “empowering women”. He seems to be least bothered about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at home and disastrous military interventions abroad.
It seems that Trump has also endorsed the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA), created only recently by Saudi Arabia as a force against Shia Iran though it is being claimed that it is a force against terrorism. The IMA’s commander is Pakistan’s recently retired Army chief Raheel Sharif.
The new US Middle East policy rather return to the old approach of keeping both Israel and Saudi Arabia in good humour and abandonment of Obama’s step of taking Iran on board to resolve the intractable Palestinian problem is like putting the clock back. Iran is a reality that needs to be accepted. It is the demand of time and changed circumstances in the region.
Appeasing Israel and sidelining Iran has not produced any results in the past and if the same would, break new ground is highly unlikely.
Trump’s Middle East policy has thrown up new challenges for New Delhi. Treatment meted out to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the summit where he was not even invited to speak may give some sadistic pleasure to some of the policy makers in the South Block but this may be just prove to a short term joy. India will need to do a very tightrope walking balancing between Iran and US-backed Saudi Arabia.
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