In yet another interesting twist in the ongoing saga of U.S. President Donald Trump’s fight against immigrants from several Middle Eastern countries (but conveniently not those with which he has business ties), the U.S. State Department just approved an enormous sale of military arms to Saudi Arabia–a deal brokered by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. One of Trump’s hotels was also the recipient of about $270,000 tied to Saudi Arabia. Unrelated or not, it must be good to be the king.
If the deal doesn’t fall apart, Saudi Arabia will be provided a number of military weapons and equipment over the next decade, while a U.S.-guided training program will help bolster security along the country’s borders. Although the Trump administration is quick to prop itself up over the deal, other officials acknowledge that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have a long history spanning seven decades, and it has always centered on security. This is nothing particularly new.
In fact, others go one step further, saying that the deal is just a copycat rehashing of a number of deals previously made by the Obama administration. Many of the arms that appear as a part of the new Trump deal were already approved before Obama left office. One former member of the CIA, Bruce Riedel, joked that the new deal is “fake news.”
Either way, Trump is successfully fulfilling his promise to better relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia–even though he has in the past contested the nation’s dependence on U.S. deals which he views as unfavorable to the U.S. That’s because Trump still
believes that Saudi Arabia is a nation filled to the brim with riches, when in fact it’s economy is crumbling more and more with each passing year due to collapsing oil prices and other factors outside of its control.
Not everything else is going according to plan, though. While Trump and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cozy up with one another, the latter was involved in a freshly invigorated feud between several other Middle Eastern countries and Qatar over its alleged support of terrorist organizations.
What’s more interesting is what Chief Alaeddin Boroujerdi of Iran’s National Security Commission thinks caused the rift in the first place: Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, when the arms deal was still being negotiated. According to Boroujerdi, the arms deal gave Saudi Arabian leadership the leverage it needed to try to influence Qatar. After all, better relations with the U.S. means the U.S. must have Saudi Arabia’s back, right? Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations have long since tried to influence Iran, Qatar and several other Middle Eastern nations they’re at odds with, so this new rift is technically nothing new–it’s just an unprecedented escalation of tensions that already existed.
Diplomatic realities get increasingly murky when you factor in Qatar’s support of Hamas. While the U.S. is allied with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it is closely involved with the international fight against radial terrorism and views the Hamas faction as a terrorist group.
The U.S. government continues to push these parties toward the negotiating table, hoping that officials from the countries involved will sit down in order to find actionable solutions rather than enabling new escalations that could further destabilize the region and push it into chaos. What will actually happen is still anyone’s guess.