Commentary / World

Iran and the Saudi deflection campaign

It's time for the West to understand that Saudi Arabia is the — far less favorable — mirror image of Iran

by Stephan Richter

The Globalist

The net effect of U.S. President Donald Trump’s sycophantic support of Riyadh is that it absolves the Saudis of any of their own responsibility for terror.

The Saudi attempt to pin all the blame on Iran, and point to Qatar as its supposed chief subcontractor, flies in the face of what’s really going on in the world.

Iran is anything but blameless, far from it. And Qatar is to blame as well. But if we look at Saudi money paths and Wahhabi indoctrination, it is clear that Saudi-sponsored terrorism is more virulent than ever before.

Simply put, the threat of Iranian-sponsored terrorism is so … 1980s. In contrast, what is very 21st century is Salafist terrorism.

And although Qatar sponsors or assists its share of that in Libya, the Sahara and Syria, the principal source of support, financial and ideological, that Salafist terrorists use has Saudi Arabia written all over it. It is Saudi-inspired and -educated machinations of deviousness that keep hitting Western targets.

Where does it end?

Thus, in the most charitable interpretation, what Trump’s “laissez faire” translates into is that, instead of acknowledging Saudi terror sponsorship — a key step if Trump really wanted to fight global terror — he has given them not just a pass, but his blessing. That is not just completely idiotic, but dangerous.

Whatever Iran’s faults, and they are plenty, unlike in Saudi Arabia, the Iranian regime’s religious superstructure and hard-line military are not representative of its people.

As we know from opinion polling and elections — yes, Iran has those — two-thirds of society, broadly speaking, embraces the universal notions of Western freedoms. If the number were to surpass 10 to 15 percent among Saudis, it would be astonishing.

Time to open our eyes

It is high time for the entire West to understand that Saudi Arabia is the — far less favorable — mirror image of Iran. Below the very thin veneer of an extremely cynical, U.S.-friendly royal regime, the Saudi population is deeply hostile and explosively reactionary.

That is so because those same Saudi rulers see to it that, in its mosques, as in as many mosques of the world as possible, the United States (and the rest of the West) is seen as the fountain of all evil.

For that reason, the U.S., under Trump, has not just aligned itself one-sidedly, but — if a choice were to be made — also on the wrong side of the equation.

But at least the rest of the Western world should not close its eyes before all that limitless acid the Saudis are ready to spew.

In Trump’s defense?

Perhaps the most stunning fact in all this is that Trump probably hasn’t realized any of this. His mind works on a much planer level.

One part of the explanation is that Trump, forever craving affirmation, thoroughly enjoys playing America’s meddler in chief. That is why he loved playing “big man” during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, where his hosts played him like a fiddle. They even pumped up his needy ego with huge banners of his face.

The other part is the U.S. president probably just wanted to do the Saudis, a longtime U.S. ally and excellent customer for U.S. military goods, a favor.

In Trump’s world, that is an entirely rational act: The customer is always right (provided he also pleases Trump).

No wonder then that, after his return and in view of the looming Saudi blockade of Qatar, Trump dutifully took to the tweet waves to sanctify the Saudi action.

Meddler in chief

What is indisputable is that, with Trump in the Oval Office, a dangerous amateur gets to play games the real meaning of which he does not comprehend.

The sad news is that Trump, the veteran pitchman for whoever will put his name and face on their product or service for a ludicrously high fee, has now effectively made himself the chief Saudi lobbyist not just in the U.S., but the world at large.

Amazingly, for that to happen, the U.S. president did not even have to be hijacked or taken hostage. He volunteered for the job.

Quid pro quo?

One wonders why. Trump doesn’t have a lot of good sense, but he ain’t stupid. It is hard to imagine that he acted out of conviction.

As far as we know, Trump does not currently receive any compensation from the Saudis for that pivotal role (other than the proceeds from some hotel bookings in Washington).

But as he knows full well, that is not what matters. As commercially minded and transactional as both he and the Saudis are, one can rest assured that there will likely be some big condo deals for the Trump organization throughout the Gulf as well as other niceties.

Based in Berlin, Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, a daily online magazine based in Washington that focuses on the economics, politics and culture of globalization and aims to present analysis and perspectives on wide-ranging global issues.