Donald Trump’s first overseas visit to his most loyal allies in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia and Israel – was accompanied by an unprecedented promotional campaign. Western journalists, mostly from the U.S., touted as if on demand the results of the meetings of the head of the American administration with the Saudi king and the Israeli prime minister. “Trump Creating Arab NATO,” “‘Iran Will Never Have Nukes’ Says Trump,” “Trump Vows to Reconcile Israel and Palestine,” “Trump Signs Historic Arms Deal” … These are just some of the headlines that have graced the front pages of foreign newspapers. In actuality, not everything is as clear-cut as the West’s gossip about it.
For starters, Trump hasn’t created and won’t be able to create any “Arab NATO.” The conflicts in the Arab world, even among the closest Middle Eastern neighbors that profess Sunni Islam, are too intense and intractable. That includes the conflicts among the four countries at the core of the would-be alliance – Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia – concerning Israel, for example, or the development of democracy. Though it’s a stretch, it’s possible to call Egypt and Jordan secular states, but even with the greatest of imaginations it’s quite impossible to place Saudi Arabia among such countries, especially given its anti-democratic laws and its barbaric customs of public executions and stoning women. Even putting the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh looks like a mockery of common sense. It’s like putting a fox in charge of the hen house.
Promising that Iran won’t have nuclear weapons is like breaking through an open door. Tehran renounced them by signing the applicable documents with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the six negotiators, which included the U.S. If Trump doesn’t like the deal and destroys it, he would in fact push Iran to resume its work enriching uranium to weapons-grade. The Senate and Congress would hardly allow him to do so. And as far as “peace between Israel and Palestine” is concerned … Does the new American president’s administration know, for example, how to stop the settlement practice in Tel Aviv, which builds homes for its own people in occupied Palestinian territories? And that’s one of the main obstacles to peace in the Holy Land.
However, the multibillion-dollar arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that was signed during Trump’s visit to the country can certainly be credited to the new American president. But even here not everything is clear-cut, if only because at present there aren’t any contracts as such. Only protocols of intentions were signed. But that’s nothing to sneeze at. Trump, who promised in his campaign speeches to create new jobs in America and provide American arms firms and their specialists with new high-tech orders, is steadfastly keeping his word. And here Riyadh is a most reliable assistant. The foreign press is reporting that in the coming years, the Saudis will get four warships from Lockheed Martin, 150 S-70 Blackhawk helicopters, 40 CH-47 helicopters, 115 M1A2 Abrams tanks, the THAAD and Patriot anti-missile systems, systems for conducting cyber operations … The assembly of some types of weapons may be carried out in factories in Saudi Arabia.
Why the U.S. wanted the deal is clear. Besides providing its leading arms giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Motors, and others with multibillion-dollar orders, there’s also the goal of arming its ally to the teeth to oppose insubordinate Shiite Iran and Syria with its pig-headed Bashar Assad. But why the Saudis want so many weapons – they promised Trump additional contracts over the next 10 years worth $350 billion – is the question. Their small-in-number (75,000 “bayonets” for a population of 26 million) and poorly-fighting (in three years it hasn’t been able to get the better of Yemen’s Houthi tribes) army is already up to its ears in the most modern of military equipment. Its arms inventory is perhaps the most powerful in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel. What more could they want?
But then for the Saudis, buying new American weapons is, on the one hand, like getting the latest supercar model – a Lamborghini, for example – covered in gold and diamonds (it’s not very convenient to drive, but for prestige and showing off, it’s just the thing). And on the other hand, it’s simply an ordinary bribe for its closest and most powerful ally. Washington and its press can have grievances against any other country in the Arab world (and not just the Arab world) regarding the quality of the democracy functioning in the state, but not against Saudi Arabia, where, for example, to this day a woman is a second-class citizen. Is it really possible to think ill of a regime that can provide you with the cheapest oil and arrange, if for some reason you need it, an “oil default,” while at the same time placing such generous orders for weapons? Of course not. And Trump isn’t the least embarrassed that Saudi Arabia isn’t very fond, to put it mildly, of his beloved Israel. And Israel isn’t embarrassed that the U.S. president made his visit to Jerusalem right after visiting Saudi Arabia.
Any other national, if he were to fly to Ben Gurion International Airport with a stamp in his passport from a visit to Riyadh, might be unceremoniously barred from Israel, but Trump was met there with open arms. And not just because he promised peace between Tel Aviv and Ramallah (although Palestinians consider east Jerusalem their capital, for the time being it’s Ramallah). Besides promises of peace, the U.S. president also brought new arms deals to Israel – to be more precise, loan guarantees to buy American military hardware. It’s made available to the country, as well as to Egypt, to the tune of between $2 billion and $4 billion a year. This time, Trump brought Tel Aviv a confirmation that its purchases of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet would continue. None of Israel’s neighbors have such jets, nor will they in the near future.
By no means will all of the words Trump uttered during his couple of days in the Middle East come true, but all of the arms contracts are certain to be fulfilled. He will carry through on his promises to his country without fail.