THROUGH his own actions, United States President Donald Trump has diminished his status as Leader of the Free World and eliminated himself as an honest broker. America’s allies and adversaries are appalled by his decision to throw a grenade into the Middle East by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish State.
The special relationship between the United Kingdom and America is in jeopardy. Furious parliamentarians are calling for the US president to be banned from visiting Britain.
In an unprecedented move, the UK, France and Italy joined with five other countries to demand an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to air their condemnations. However, there will be no UN Resolution due to America’s power of veto.
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel dispensed with diplomatic norms saying ‘The US no longer sees the world as a global community, but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage’. ‘Even after Trump leaves the White House relations with the US will never be the same,’ he added.
This reckless act by a dangerous/self-absorbed individual has killed all hopes of peace. His motivation was either to pacify his right-wing pro-Israel base with his plunging approval ratings in mind or was designed to provoke violent reactions within our region to justify his anti-Muslim policies.
Hamas has called for a third Palestinian uprising. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Vice-President Mike Pence who will shortly be dispatched to the region to undertake damage control.
Worse, his declaration has fed into the narrative of extremist groups. Al-Qaeda, al-Shebab, the Taleban and others have made calls to arms.
Trump’s loyalties do not lie with America’s interests or with Israel’s. In fact, he has made the world a far more dangerous place for Israeli and American travellers by putting targets on their heads. His gross provocation is a gift to terrorist recruiters and could spark lone wolf attacks in Western and Arab cities.
He is aware of the potential repercussions which is why he has ordered US Marines to guard embassies and the US Department of State has advised Americans in the Middle East to keep a low profile.
Trump is a ‘me-me’ man who uses every speech to trumpet his own achievements, both real and imaginary, or to disparage his presidential rival Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with whom he harbours a weird vendetta-like obsession.
It was a populist wave that swept this underqualified president to power, giving him free reign on not only his country, but the entire world.
Initially his candidacy was written-off as a joke. Voters tired of political dinosaurs cast their ballots in his favour despite his often racist statements, disreputable behaviour towards women and acclaim from white supremacist groups.
Disappointed in former US president Barack Obama’s pro-Iran stance and his affiliation with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, before I discovered the flaws in Trump’s character I had high hopes that a businessman could invigorate America’s economy and bring a fresh perspective to US Middle East policy.
I quickly realized my mistake and wrote several columns strongly advising the American voters not to elect this erratic individual.
Unlike the US media that savaged him from the get-go, and still goes for his jugular, I nevertheless chose to give him a chance, primarily because the US is up there with the countries I most admire and many of my dearest friends are American.
I wanted Trump to succeed for the sake of the American people and hoped he would strengthen the relationship between the US and the Arab World.
Alarm bells rang loud when he displayed a nepotistic streak by granting his own daughter Ivanka security clearance complete with an office in the West Wing before appointing her politically-inexperienced real-estate developer husband Jared Kushner as his senior advisor and Middle East envoy.
It soon became evident that he had surrounded himself with disreputable characters, not least his short-lived chief strategist, the Machiavellian bully Steve Bannon known for his incendiary anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
His even shorter-lived National Security Advisor Mike Flynn admitted lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador and is now cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling with the US election to save his own skin.
In just over a year, 14 top-level officials within his administration have either been fired or have quit. At least nine Trump associates are being probed for collaboration with Moscow. The rogue’s gallery is expanding fast.
Trump’s America First mantra was disconcerting when the US has traditionally been seen as a force for good worldwide. I soon understood its core implications — the rest of the world does not count.
True to his word, he binned liberal democratic free trade principles by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and threatening to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Almost the entire international community was shocked and dismayed by his ditching of the Paris Climate Accord and since, his executive orders have illustrated his disregard for maintaining a healthy environment and preserving wildlife.
Within pro-Western Arab nations, the strikes against him were mounting until his wildly successful visit to Saudi Arabia where he discussed ways of combating terrorism with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and other Arab leaders in a warm celebratory atmosphere.
Trump’s criticism of Qatar’s funding of terrorists and his support for the Saudi-led quartet’s political and economic distancing — contingent upon the Amir’s acceptance of 13 demands — persuaded me that for all his faults we could count on him as a staunch ally.
That was until his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heaped praise on Qatar for its fight against terrorism while criticizing Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt for what he termed their ‘blockade’.
From my own perspective, the US president has three major strikes against him:
Strike one: On Iran, he has failed to keep his campaign pledge to pull America out of the woeful Iran deal, merely opting not to certify Tehran’s compliance. He has done nothing to halt Iran’s aggressive actions towards its neighbours.
Strike two: Following a US military assault to clear Raqqa of DAESH, he has seemingly handed Syria back to the Iranian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime and its Russian protector.
Strike three: He has betrayed the Palestinian people, reneged on America’s commitments under the Oslo Accords and trampled upon UN Security Council Resolutions endorsed by his predecessors to the effect only a final status agreement can determine Jerusalem’s status.
With all my respect to the American people and to their amazing nation, this time voters got it badly wrong. Donald Trump does not think before he speaks and does not heed advice. The danger is that his mammoth ego could easily envelop not only the US but much of the planet in a nuclear conflagration. He is no aficionado in the Art of the Deal but rather an expert in the Art of Bullying.
His latest act of treachery, reported in The Washington Post on Friday, was a message to Saudi delivered by Tillerson. America has been a fully-fledged partner in the Saudi coalition’s efforts to beat back Iranian-supported Houthis to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.
Now it appears the US is ‘taking a tougher stance’ against Saudi Arabia’s ‘role’ there, while urging the Saudi-led coalition to ‘completely lift the blockade’, and to wage its military campaign in a more measured fashion. That must be music to the ears of the Iranian mullahs and the primitive Houthi rag-tags who slaughtered former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
I must, therefore, appeal to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan to adopt independent policies free of American restraints or promises as long as the Trump White House exists. We cannot rely on a loose cannon to defend our interests let alone defend us from aggressors, especially one who regularly rips up agreements.
We must be united to project power in order to protect our part of the world that has suffered so terribly from foreign interference and we should show our displeasure by collaborating with other world powers while diversifying our suppliers of aircraft, weapons, technological items etc.
If Trump is hell-bent on keeping the US in a cosy bubble with Israel, he cannot demand the loyalty of any other nation. He has created a dog-eat-dog atmosphere in which it is every country for itself.
In the meantime, we Emiratis should work closely with our trusted friends to repair the damage done by his folly to ensure Jerusalem will always be the capital of Palestine in our hearts — and, if God wills, in reality.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor – UAE Businessman