During the second day of his trip to Saudi Arabia Trump held a speech to leaders of the Middle East, calling for a unified struggle against Iran. The speech was held on a summit in Riyadh with more than 50 political and religious figures of Muslim countries attending on Sunday, May 22, which followed a exclusive meeting of Trump and the leaders of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member nations.
During the meeting the US struck numerous deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arabian Emirates (UAE) and met arrangements for further prospective trades. In total Trump’s trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) brought the US deals with a volume of about half a trillion US Dollars. Alone the arms deal signed with the KSA on Saturday already amounted to $110 billion, the biggest arms deal ever arranged by the USA.
Combined with investments aside the military sector, deals worth $280 billions were made with the KSA on Saturday and others worth $160 billion with the rest of the GCC. In addition the KSA and the USA agreed on a memorandum on weapons supplies to Saudi Arabia worth $350 billion over ten years.
Trump framed these deals in his speech as cooperative steps of the USA and Middle East nations for a better, prosper and peacefull future, all around the world, calling them a landmark agreement and historic event. But only after defining the common goal, “a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.”
The argument Trump provides within his speech, then goes on that to achieve this goal especially the Muslim-majority countries, which were numerically the biggest victims of terrorism must “take the lead in combatting radicalisation” and terrorist groups, namely “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas”.
Chiefly Saudi Arabia, so Trump, had taken demonstrative leadership in the fight against and the $110 billion arms deal “will help Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.” Oddly Saudi Arabia aside Qatar was named in leaked secret US documents as a supporter of terrorism. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote 2014 in a leaked email to her long time affiliate John Podesta, that it is “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
In a secret cable 4 years earlier, also published by Wikileaks, Clinton singled out Saudi Arabia’s role in the funding of terrorism: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” It appears, that Saudi Arabia indeed has a leading role in the Middle East in the context of terrorism, especially with US General Martin Dempsey’s testimony during a Senate hearing on ISIS in mind: “I know many Arab allies who fund them.”
In his speech on Sunday Trump deemed judgement as unpractical means to achieve their common goal. Instead of rigid thinking and inflexible ideology gradual reforms should be applied. “We must seek partners; not pefection-and to make partners of all who share our goal.”
Iran though, the US President judged in his speech on Sunday, is the one nation in the Middle East supporting the wrong side in “the battle between Good and Evil.” It gives terrorist groups “safe harbor, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment.” Therefore Trump concluded, adressing the summit including the all members of the GCC, “all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”
While this speech seems alarming since it echoes the rhetoric used by George W. Bush to mobilise US allies for the invasion of Afghanistan and Irak in 2001 and 2003, it loses it’s thrill when one considers the fact, that back then Iran was also implicated as part of the ‘axis of evil’ and turned out to be too big to swallow for the US, as no attack was launched against it.
The Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, one day after the Presidential election in Iran, faced the voiced threats with a laconic tweet implying for Trump’s latest move to be a means of justification for the latest arms sales: “Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?”
In Isreal on the other hand, the US core ally in the region, seems not to be amused. Yuval Steinlitz Minister of Intelligence and Minister of Strategic Affairs from 2013-2015 under Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted saying, that Israel will be interested to “hear the explanations” for the arms deal, because Saudi Arabia “is still a hostile country and nobody knows what the future holds”. Following his trip to Saudi Arabia, Trump will visit Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday in Isreal.