(GPA) Washington, D.C. – President Donald Trump took phone calls over the weekend from two key US allies to discuss the future of his administration’s Middle East policy.
Trump took calls from two of the major terror exporters this weekend, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It’s being reported now that both of the calls with the Gulf ‘royalty’ were to discuss ‘safe zones’ in Syria and Yemen as well as cracking down on Iran’s “destabilizing regional activities,” and the Muslim Brotherhood’s ties to people like Osama Bin Laden.
“Strictly Enforcing” the US Deal With Iran
The first point of agreement between Trump and the Gulf leaders was apparently that Iran is somehow out of control in the Middle East, although Trump and Salman seem to disagree on the exact extent of this threat. While Saudi Arabia would love to see Trump stick to his campaign pledge of “ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran” they did apparently reach an agreement “on the importance of rigorously enforcing the [nuclear deal] with Iran and of addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
It seems Trump has probably been talked down from the anti-Iran ledge, most likely by some of his top advisers such as James Mattis, who said in his confirmation that the US needs to honor treaties no matter who they’re made with. At the same time, the President’s willingness to consult with the Saudis on the enforcement may place an inequitable amount of pressure on Iran, which could cause them to feel the treaty is being violated via any loophole the US and their allies may find.
The War on Terror and Implementation of ‘Safe Zones’
There aren’t many details of the call between Trump and Crown Prince Zayed, but we do know they touched on one of the same subjects as King Salman. Both leaders agreed with Trump to continue to uphold the bloody alliance between the three nations in waging a ‘war on terror’ and dictating the future in the region.
According to the White House, Trump was invited by Salman “to lead a Middle East effort to defeat terrorism and to help build a new future, economically and socially.” Saudi Arabia in turn offered to “enhance their participation” in fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. This is despite the fact that the Saudis, along with Qatar were among the original donors to the now infamous terrorist organization.
Both Gulf states also apparently agreed that “safe zones,” which will most likely require US troops to enforce, were good ideas in Syria and possibly Yemen. This is of course the same idea Trump scoffed at on the campaign trail, saying it was likely to start World War 3 and put US troops in harm’s way. This idea was even suggested before the presidential race by Obama, which he was warned against by the Pentagon.
The Muslim Brotherhood and Bin Laden
It seems Trump also discussed the status of the Muslim Brotherhood’s designation as a terrorist group by both The UAE and the Saudis. The UAE news agency WAM, reported that the Crown Prince’s statement regarding the call seemed to refer to the Brotherhood when he warned Trump of “groups that raise fake slogans and ideologies aim to hide their criminal truth by spreading chaos and destruction.”
The White House statement says that the Trump administration is also considering designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist group and placing sanctions on the organization. According to a Saudi source, the king ‘reminded’ Trump that former al-Qaeda leader, “Osama bin Laden was recruited at an early stage” to the Brotherhood. Countries like Saudi Arabia see the Brotherhood as a possible threat to their autocracic rule designated by bloodlines. They have concerns the Brotherhood could win a popular victory following upheavals, similar to Egypt during the Arab Spring.
Saudi Arabia had the audacity to blame the Brotherhood for the rise of Bin Laden, and said that the former al-Qaeda head was supported by the Islamist party in recruiting Saudis for attacks like 9/11 to “destroy the Kingdom’s ties with the US.” This is an outrageous claim since Saudi Arabia supported al-Qaeda since it’s inception in Afghanistan under their partners, the Taliban. The recently declassified ‘28 pages’ of the US Senate’s report on 9/11 even showed that Saudi Arabia was the major financier of the attacks.
Both of these calls over the weekend show that the Trump foreign policy is beginning to look a lot like the proposed Clinton foreign policy. The US will never be able to adequately “fight terrorism” as long as they’re partnered with the nations that literally created these terror groups. Although many people expected changes under Trump, due to him opposing everything proposed by Clinton, it now seems that the usual mindset of US imperialism has settled in at the White House.
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James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.