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Dreyfuss writes: "Does Donald Trump want a new Middle East war, pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran in a conflict that could lay waste to the world's oil region and drag the United States into a conflict that would make the war in Iraq look like a minor skirmish? It sure looks like it."

An Iraqi boy covers his face with his hands while weeping as people survey the destruction in a neighborhood following an airstrike. (photo: Faris DLIMI/AFP)
An Iraqi boy covers his face with his hands while weeping as people survey the destruction in a neighborhood following an airstrike. (photo: Faris DLIMI/AFP)


Does Trump Want a New Middle East War?

By Bob Dreyfuss, Rolling Stone

11 November 17


The president appears to see Saudi Arabia as a vital part of his ill-conceived anti-Iran jihad

oes Donald Trump want a new Middle East war, pitting Saudi Arabia against Iran in a conflict that could lay waste to the world's oil region and drag the United States into a conflict that would make the war in Iraq look like a minor skirmish? It sure looks like it.

In his September address to the United Nations, Trump took aim at the six-power accord that froze Iran's nuclear program, calling it "one-sided" and "an embarrassment to the United States" and lambasting Iran, in typically over-the-top Trumpian rhetoric, as a "rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos." A few weeks later, Trump unilaterally decertified the deal, threatening to kill it once and for all. Now, Saudi Arabia – Iran's foremost regional adversary – has upped the ante, with a series of actions that have dramatically raised area tensions. And the Saudis, who run the world's leading dictatorship, are doing it with the full encouragement of the White House.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia threatened military conflict with Iran following a missile strike into the country from neighboring Yemen, where for the past several years the Saudis have been engaged in a brutal war against tribal forces allegedly aligned with Iran. Referring to the missile attack, the Saudi foreign minister – who used to be Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States – said, "We see this as an act of war. Iran cannot lob missiles at Saudi cities and towns and expect us not to take steps." Yet Iran has no troops in Yemen, and Tehran provides only modest support to the so-called Houthi forces there, making it highly unlikely that the missile was Iranian-sent. And four days before the missile was launched – it was shot down, causing no damage – the American-supplied, Saudi-led military coalition bombed a market in Yemen, killing at least 26. Since the civil war began in 2015, Yemen has suffered under a reckless bombing campaign by Saudi Arabia's air force that has caused thousands of civilian casualties.

On the same day, November 4th, Saad Hariri, the Saudi-backed prime minister of Lebanon, flew into Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to announce he was resigning his post. Hariri coupled his resignation with a bitter attack on Iran and on Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, which exercises significant power inside the tiny country. Until Hariri's move, which was widely seen as something done at Saudi Arabia's bidding, Lebanon had spent the past two years with its politics carefully weighted between Sunni, pro-Saudi forces and Shiite, pro-Iran forces. His resignation could conceivably plunge Lebanon into the kind of civil war that has already devastated both Yemen and Syria, Lebanon's next-door neighbor. In the Seventies and Eighties, Lebanon was racked by a civil war that left tens of thousands dead, but since then it has existed in a fragile balance.

Finally, and also on the night of November 4th, an unprecedented crisis erupted in Saudi Arabia. In what's been described as a Saudi-style "night of the long knives," King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his son, Mohammed bin Salman without warning launched a stunning purge of dozens of princes, elite businessmen and military commanders. Among those arrested – many of whom were reportedly held in a makeshift "prison" at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh – were Alwaleed bin Talal, perhaps the richest billionaire in Saudi Arabia, and Mitab bin Abdullah, the son of the last Saudi king and the commander of Saudi Arabia's powerful National Guard. The sweeping wave of arrests stunned the country, signaling an iron-fist effort by Mohammed bin Salman (known by his initials, MBS) to consolidate virtually all power in the oil-rich kingdom under his control.

Until the coup by MBS, for decades Saudi Arabia has existed as a harsh and unforgiving monarchy that governed by consensus among various factions of the enormous ruling family's many subgroups and clans. Now, for the first time in the country's history, virtually the entire regime, including its three military branches, has fallen under the dominance of one small part of the family, the Salmans. And since the aged king cleared the decks for his youthful son to succeed him, MBS has engineered a new Saudi foreign policy, including a rapid escalation of the war in Yemen and a much more aggressive attitude toward Iran.

Though the threats against Iran, the renewed Lebanon crisis and the Saudi political purge triggered worldwide alarm, President Trump lost no time endorsing the actions by King Salman and MBS. "I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing," Trump tweeted from a stop on his Asia trip. Rather than question the extrajudicial arrests and detentions, which were made without any charges being filed and without any details being released about the number and identities of those swept up, Trump endorsed the purge, too. "Some of those they are harshly treating have been 'milking' their country for years," he tweeted.

Indeed, it's reasonable to suspect the Trump administration had a direct hand in Saudi Arabia's newfound muscular policies. Just a few days before all of this unfolded, Jared Kushner – Trump's son-in-law, who's been given a vast portfolio for Middle East policy – made an unannounced and still unexplained visit to Saudi Arabia, where he powwowed with Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner, 36, and MBS, 32, reportedly spent long hours, just the two of them, deep in conversation. "MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent," wrote David Ignatius in The Washington Post. "It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner ... made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy."

You'll recall that last May, Trump made a lavish state visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met with leaders of the kingdom and its allies, including Egypt's military dictator and the oil potentates who control the United Arab Emirates. During that visit, his first foreign trip as president, Trump cemented a close working relationship with Saudi Arabia, its king and MBS. (It was during that visit that an eerie photograph was taken of the president, the Saudi king and the Egyptian general with their hands all touching a glowing orb.) It was immediately after that visit that Saudi Arabia launched an all-out campaign of intimidation and an economic embargo against tiny Qatar, a nearly oil sheikhdom that, the Saudis charged, was leaning too close to Iran. Trump endorsed the anti-Qatar outburst from Saudi Arabia, too.

It seems clear beyond any doubt that Trump, who has a penchant for foreign dictators and authoritarian rulers – see Russia's Putin, China's Xi, Turkey's Erdogan and the Philippines' Duterte – sees Saudi Arabia as a vital part of his ill-conceived anti-Iran jihad. Perhaps Trump and Kushner, neither of whom have the slightest experience in world affairs, believe that by buddying up with the Saudis they can put pressure on Iran to reign in its actions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. But it's a risky strategy, since Iran is certain not to accede to Saudi threats and bluster, and it's very possible the two Persian Gulf powers could find themselves quickly entangled in a regional war that would draw the United States in on Saudi Arabia's side.

Meanwhile, when both Trump and Saudi Arabia are involved, it ought to be taken for granted that there's lots of cash at stake. In this case, however, the amounts are staggering. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Salmans are poised to seize as much as $800 billion in cash from the accounts of those being arrested under MBS' crackdown, many of whom are likely to be charged with corruption. (In Saudi Arabia, princely corruption is not unusual; it's how the system works.) On top of that, sometime in 2018 Saudi Arabia will offer worldwide investors the chance to bid on an initial public offering for its gigantic, government-owned oil company, Aramco. When they do, it will be the largest IPO in world history, with a value of $2 trillion. And President Trump is paying attention, shamelessly urging Saudi Arabia to list the offering on the New York stock exchanges.

"I want them to strongly consider the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq," said Trump, speaking on November 4the – yes, the same day as the Saudi crackdown and other events of that day – from an air force base in Japan. "I just spoke to the king a little while ago, and they will consider it." To make sure everyone got the point, that day Trump also tweeted about it. "Important to the United States!" he wrote.

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+13 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-11-11 18:43
I think the blame for a new war against Iran should be pinned on the neo-cons. They now control Trump. I doubt Trump has ever given it much thought and I don't think he knows much about Iran or Saudi Arabia. He is under the spell of the US neo-cons and the hard right wing war-fascists in Israel. These two groups are pretty much the same thing, given that so many of the US neo-cons are dual US-Israeli citizens or just fundamentalist right-wing American Jews.

There are other forces in the middle east at work. Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq have a loose coalition that is opposed to the US backed Saudi Arabia and Israel. The two super powers -- Russia and the US -- are on opposite sides. An attack on Iran or Lebanon might bring Russia into the fight. Now the question would be whether or not Trump was willing to go directly against Russia. He was not in Syria. He conceded the war to Russia.
 
 
+4 # lfeuille 2017-11-11 23:59
And Trump is a neocon on most issues. His affinity for Israel and Saudi Arabia make it about impossible for him to be otherwise. Only on Russia does he diverge from the neo-con line. I wish Putin would take advantage of his man crush to explain to him the reason why he should not be going after Russian allies in the middle east.
 
 
-2 # librarian1984 2017-11-12 14:20
When they have talked they've reached agreements, most often peace initiatives. Undoubtedly why the MIIC wants to pressure against such meetings.
 
 
-2 # lcotler 2017-11-12 17:18
Russia and the US are NOT on opposite sides. They're on the SAME side of history, the same side of CAPITALISM.

There are forces in Russia, however, that are trying to bring back Soviet Socialism (such as it was). There are forces in the US trying to transcend Capitalism and move to a more sustainable and just system.

But…the Deep State is the emerging consciousness of the System that more and more runs things.

I tell you…it’s about what the Deep State instinctively wants. The Deep State is the emerging consciousness of the System that more and more runs things.
 
 
+17 # bread and butter 2017-11-11 19:29
We've been at war with the entire Middle-East (other than the nation behind 9/11), for 16 years already. Trump inherited that disaster. Yes. Just like most of the other candidates from both parties, he's feeling empowered to continue the bloodshed for money.

He's a lunatic.

That's what we elect.
 
 
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-11-12 09:54
B&B -- the really sad things is that candidate Trump seemed to understand that the middle east wars were wasteful and not winnable and he wanted to get out. Now president Trump has fallen under the control of the war party in the US. He sounds a lot more like Hillary now than he did in the campaign.

My bet is that in 2020 the candidate who promises to end the wars will win. People are sick of the slaughter of innocent people just so that the military-indust rial-banking-is raeli complex can grow and prevail.
 
 
0 # librarian1984 2017-11-12 14:31
Remember when everybody in the world, and even the US, knew it would be disastrous to do more than tiptoe in the ME because their histories made it such a volatile tangle .. and then FauxMacho W and Darth Cheney brilliantly got US in and set the place on fire?

They also allowed NK to get a nuke. And they allowed the greatest attack ever on American soil. But they were 'tough on terrorism'. lmao. And then they tortured people, established secret prisons, gave ISIS its start, sent soldiers to a custom-designed war without body- or vehicle-armor. But they're not in prison. They're allowed to walk free while honest people languish in prison or exile. They're allowed to call themselves human beings, to prance about on two legs, demanding respect. I'm surprised they didn't get the Peace Prize. (Maybe they will. Because Trump.)

All while we kiss Saudi Arabia's arse. Well, to be fair, W holds their hand.
 
 
+1 # kando@ltidewater.net 2017-11-12 12:01
Let's not forget that another war (especially in the Middle East oil region, is great for Tillerson's Exxon-Mobil and the oil industry because it will raise oil prices. That will make possible to exploit reserves now impossible to exploit profitably -- like the Arctic and Canadian tar-sands.
 
 
0 # chrisconno 2017-11-12 14:23
"Trump took aim at the six-power accord that froze Iran's nuclear program, calling it "one-sided" and "an embarrassment to the United States" and lambasting Iran, in typically over-the-top Trumpian rhetoric, as a "rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos."

This is a description of us, the US ill-begotten foreign policy. We are the aggressors. We are the torturers. We are the embarrassment. We are the warmongers. Of corse the pimple-n-chief wants to wield his arsenal and show just how all powerful he is.
 
 
-1 # lcotler 2017-11-12 17:15
But…it’s not about what Trump wants. It’s about what the Deep State instinctively wants. The Deep State is the emerging consciousness of the System that more and more runs things.

I tell you…it’s about what the Deep State instinctively wants. The Deep State is the emerging consciousness of the System that more and more runs things.
 

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