Saturday 23 September 2017

He tried to stick to the script in Saudi Arabia and Israel, but Trump's about to mess up in the Middle East with a war on Tehran

President Donald Trump talks with Saudi King Salman. Photo: AP Photo
President Donald Trump talks with Saudi King Salman. Photo: AP Photo

Robert Fisk

In Riyadh, Donald Trump couldn't mention where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from or whose Sunni cult-faith was the inspiration for Isil - nor which country chopped off heads with Isil-like relish. (Answer: Saudi Arabia).

And when he arrived in Israel yesterday, Mr Trump was faced with a new censorship protocol: don't mention who was occupying whose property in the West Bank or which country was outrageously and continuously stealing land - legally owned by Arabs - for Jews and Jews only. (Answer: Israel).

So bingo, in the biggest Middle East alliance ever created, the Saudis and the other Sunni Arab dictators and America's crackpot president and Israel's cynical prime minister have all agreed on the identity of the devil country they can curse with one voice, inspirer of "world terror", instigator of Middle East instability, the greatest threat to world peace: Shia Iran.

So within a few minutes of landing at Tel Aviv airport, the Trump speechwriters (for he surely cannot write this stuff) were churning out once more their hatred of Iran, of Iran's "terror", of Iran's plots, of Iran's continuing desire to make a nuclear bomb. And all this when Iran has just re-elected a sane president who actually signed the nuclear agreement two years ago that substantially reduced Iran's strategic threat to Israel, the Arabs and America.

A Martian who might also have landed at Tel Aviv at the same time would surely conclude that Iran was the creator of Isil and that Israel was already bombing the cruel and violent cultists of the Islamic caliphate.

And Martians would thus be much amazed to discover that Israel has been bombing the Iranians and the Syrians and their militias, but has not once - ever - bombed Isil.

No wonder Mr Trump tried to stick to his prepared script. Otherwise he might do something sane. Like congratulate Iran's new president on his electoral victory and for promising to stick to the nuclear agreement; like demanding an end to Israeli occupation and Israeli colonisation of Arab land; like telling the tired old dictators and princes of the Arab world that the only way they can rid themselves - and America - of "terror" is by treating their people with dignity and preserving human rights.

But no, that's far too sensible and fair and just and moral - and far too complicated - for a man who long ago fell off the edge of reality into Twitterworld. So there he was talking of the "ultimate deal" between Israel and the Palestinians - as if peace was just a commodity to be bought or sold. Like the one he'd just fixed in Saudi Arabia: guns for oil and dollars.

But then, sitting next to Benjamin Netanyahu, he went off script. To the relief of all, he returned to the nuclear agreement with Iran, the deal that was "unbelievable", a "terrible thing" which the US had entered into. "We gave them a lifeline - and we also gave them the ability to continue with terror."

Mr Trump, in his weird innocence, believes that the Sunni Muslim world's desire to destroy Shia Iran and its allies is the key to Arab-Israeli peace. Maybe that's what he meant when he said that his visit marked "a rare opportunity to bring security and peace to this region, to its people, defeating terrorism and creating future harmony and peace" - that bit was in the script, by the way - in what he called "this ancient and sacred land". He meant Israel, but he used the same phrase about Saudi Arabia and would no doubt do so about Switzerland, Lesotho or, well, North Korea if it brought any advantage. Or Iran, for that matter.

Who knows if Mr Trump's going to be able to face up to Jewish colonisation, land theft and Palestine's own little dictator when he meets Mahmoud Abbas today. Or human rights. Or justice. His speech in the Israel Museum afterwards is going to be a humdinger if he wanders off script. But bets are closed on the content: the unity of Sunni Arabs in their hatred of Shia Iran - he'll mercifully leave out the "Sunni" and "Shia" bits in case this gives the game away - the closer relations between the Gulf dictators and their princes with land-grabbing Israel, the need for Palestinians to end "terror" against their occupiers - the word "occupiers" must also be left out, of course - and America's eternal, unending, sacred love for Israel right or wrong.

On Sunday, CNN headlined a "reset" with the Arabs. Yesterday, the BBC headlined a "reset" with Israel. What they both meant - but dared not say - is that Mr Trump thinks he can get the Arabs and Israel to destroy the power of Iran after the horrid, moral years of Barack Obama. That means "war", preferably between Muslims. The "ultimate deal", indeed. (© Independent News Service)

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