Monday, May 22, 2017

America: The Prodigal Sun

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil."
"That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds."
U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

"This administration is committed to a 180-degree reversal of the Obama policy on Iran." 
"They see the Iranian threat as fundamentally linked to the nature and behavior of the regime and its revolutionary and expansionist ideology."
Mark Dubowitz, chief executive, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, center, President Trump and others during a sword dance Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This new American president does nothing that previous American presidents newly installed in the White House have always done. Their first courtesy travels outside their nation have been to near neighbours as though to emphasize the diplomatic, social and trade relationships inherent in that neighbourliness. Instead, this new president put Canada and Mexico on notice that he is personally hugely dissatisfied with the trade relationship between all three in the North American Free Trade Agreement that served all three nations well, and integrated their economies.

While they're left confused and stewing in the wake of a man whose attention span and volatile attitudinal changes leave heads spinning everywhere, the new president decided in a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, the Vatican and Europe. Saudi Arabia is accustomed to other nations grovelling to it, but in this instance it was giant billboards with portraits of Donald Trump and fawning newspaper coverage of the First Lady that ingratiated the Kingdom to the American president; a billionaire-to-billionaire type of mutual admiration.

Old habits are hard to shake, and Saudi Arabia has been long accustomed to being the pet Middle East nation of America. When former President Obama shook his leg at Saudi clinging, preferring Tehran's cranky, nuclear-loving tyrants he pitted majority Sunnis against minority Shias and left traditional allies stunned. His successor appears to be reversing that trend. And calling on Saudi Arabia to rouse itself and its Sunni neighbours to form a Middle East-style NATO capable of facing Islamist terror and routing it.

Fact is, Saudi Arabia has assembled a Sunni coalition and it is humbling Yemen's Houthis in a proxy Saudi-Iran conflict battering the most impoverished of Arab Muslim countries. Fact is also that the Middle East already has its NATO. It's called the Arab League. It also has its Muslim United Nations, called the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which fairly well manages the United Nations, nudging it toward the OIC's point of view as Islam's interestsprevailing above all else.

While decrying the malevolent intent of the Iranian Ayatollahs, of Tehran's aspirations and support of terrorism as long as it expresses Shiite-Muslim interests, a blind eye as usual is turned toward Saudi Arabia's and Qatar's exportation worldwide of fundamentalist, destructive Wahhabist Salafist Islam breeding terrorist enclaves wherever oil wealth has invested in mosques and madrassas throughout North Africa, Europe and North America.

Donald Trump, American President, seems enamoured of Vladimir V. Putin's style of governance; he also assumes an attraction toward sharing intelligence with Russia, as a partner for peace in the world, and as a Utopian dreamscape, that's quite wonderful. On the other hand, naming Iran as the devil and once again courting Saudi Arabia, a proxy chess game appears to be unfolding, with the United States restoring its credentials with Sunni Islam, while Russia has firmly ensconced itself within the bosom of Shiite Islam, consorting with Syria and Iran.

There are so many levels of overlapping interests and confounding turnabouts with this new president who belabours the absurdity that he is the least bit interested in the man-on-the-street in America, putting the population to work again, restoring wealth that never left, and jobs that the man-on-the-street forfeited for the pleasure of buying cheaper products made in China, one's head spins.

So here we have it; no one produces more military hardware than U.S.-based arms-production multinationals, and the trip to Saudi Arabia came with a pricetag in the realm of an estimated $350-billion total of arms sales.

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