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Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will cost them nearly $1/2 trillion; good economics?

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia will cost them nearly $1/2 trillion; good economics?

Some Arab media commentary on Trump’s visit to KSA

The Saudi rulers relish heads of governments with legitimacy deficit. When the first wave of protest popularly known as the Arab Spring pushed out the Tunisian authoritarian, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, no other country in the world was willing to offer him a home. Saudi Arabia offered him a sanctuary and the rulers of the kingdom ignored repeated requests to extradite him to face charges in Tunisia. When Egyptians rose up against another authoritarian, Housni Mubarak, the Saudis offered to take him in, he refused, preferring to stay and die in Egypt. The Saudi rulers lashed out at the Obama administration for not doing enough to save their ally and “moderate” leader. Yemeni people rose up against another Saudi backed leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi rulers intervened and engineered a deal that transferred the presidency to then vice president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with the condition that he will be replaced by an elected president within two years. With the possibility of Saleh or some other figure winning the elections, an uncertain outcome for the Saudis, the elections never happened and the Saudis decided to keep Hadi as the only “legitimate” ruler of Yemen. The Houthis and their allies decided to overrun the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi to resign and flee to Riyadh. The Saudi rulers launched a military campaign to reinstate his Hadi and his government. They are still working towards that goal. In Iraq, then Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki was considered by the Saudi rulers as being too close to the Iranian government. They pressured their Iraqi allies to replace him. Instead, Maliki’s coalition won the 2014 elections and he was set to start a new term in office as Prime Minister. Saudi Arabia pressed harder, forcing him to step aside in favor of Haider al-Abadi. In Syria, when the peaceful protest tuned into an armed rebellion, the Saudi rulers immediately took the side of the rebels, including UN-designated terrorist organizations like Nusra and ISIL. The pattern is clear: only rulers accepted to the Saudi rulers are legitimate. That position is reflected in their unprecedented generosity with an American president with the lowest public approval rating since such a record was first recorded. Sounds weird? It should not; it makes perfect sense: a regime that lacks legitimacy naturally gravitates towards like-minded regimes. Birds of the same feather flock together. In the long run, this Saudi approach is a terrible strategy for leading a nation in a rapidly changing world.

In return for the “honor” of being first stop for a US president, an honor perhaps no other country in the world wants to pursue, the Saudi rulers will have the US military and diplomatic protection that they did not lose in the first place. But they will have to pay for this sold-twice shield with money in the form of military hardware and services, investment in US “red states” economies, and propaganda for Trump as “Muslim’s Best Friend Forever”.

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