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Trump administration’s policies toward Arab countries transactional

May 30,2019 - Last updated at May 30,2019

US President Donald Trump is about to authorise the sale of $8 billion worth of arms, mainly to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, by citing a federal law allowing him to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress, which opposes the war on Yemen and has halted supplies of some weapons.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the national emergency has been created by the threat to regional stability and US interests posed by Iran. He argued the deliveries must be made "as soon as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East".

Nevertheless, Trump's initiative is likely to be met with resistance in Congress, where Republicans as well as Democrats are beginning to resent his practice of bypassing the legislature. Trump ally, Senator Lindsey Graham said he would oppose the administration if it tries to get round Congress again. If Trump goes ahead with his plan, this would be the second time he has declared a national emergency to get his way on a policy rejected by lawmakers. The first example was to circumvent Congress over funding for his wall along the US-Mexican border.

News of this decision coincided with the announcement by Trump that he was sending an additional 1,500 troops to the region to augment the thousands of US forces already deployed in the region. His claim is partially fraudulent, as 600 will stay put and another 900 will be added. In any case, this deployment will not make a serious difference to the heavy US military presence in the region.

Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan declared intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft will also be deployed alongside a fighter aircraft squadron and Patriot missle defence system.

The US claims these actions are defensive, but to Iran, Washington's chosen enemy, they look offensive and aggressive, particularly since the US is a rank outsider, throwing its weight around in this highly sensitive and uniquely strategic region.

It is significant that Shanahan, appointed early this year, was employed for 30 years at Boeing, assuming management roles for missile defence systems as well as commercial airliners. Therefore, he is in an excellent position in the business-fixated Trump administration to pedal arms to the Pentagon. Few suggest that his elevation to this post could involve a conflict of interests.

Shanahan belongs to the clique of manufacturers the 34th US president Dwight Eisenhower singled out in his 1961 farewell address. He said the US must "guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex", and urged the US to "maintain balance" between defence spending and the requirements of the civilian economy. He knew what he was speaking of, as he was a top general who became allied commander in Europe during World War II. He also attempted to prevent the nuclear arms race between the US and the Soviet Union, and promoted peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Iran's first nuclear reactor was supplied by his administration in the "Atoms for Peace" programme.

Trump administration’s policies toward the Arab countries are transactional: motivated by his determination to sell arms. Trump has made this very clear. After his visit to Saudi Arabia in 2017, he boasted he had concluded $110 billion in weapons deals. He described such sales as a means to provide jobs in the US: billions of dollars for arms manufacturers and jobs for the boys.

In 1796, the first president of the US George Washington warned in his farewell address against political partisanship in foreign affairs, and decried long-term alliances with other nations.

The US ignored Washington's warning when the 33rd president Harry Truman launched an indefinite alliance with Israel, by recognising its foundation in war in 1948. Since then, there has been only one president, Eisenhower, who has taken firm stands against Israel. He condemned the 1956 British-French-Israeli tripartite aggression against Egypt, and in 1957 forced Israel to withdraw from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, occupied during  that war.

Eisenhower's successors one and all have wobbled when confronted by Israeli brutal misdeeds and territorial conquests in Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. The US has given Israel a strategic military edge over all its Arab antagonists by providing hundreds of billions in financial and arms aid, and full political support. Trump's immediate predecessor Barack Obama made a half-hearted attempt to press Israel to accept the dying "two-state solution" involving the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel, but he failed within six months.  Consequently, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, and the Palestinian people are stateless, living either under unending Israeli occupation or in exile.

While Eisenhower's successors have toed the Israeli line whenever required, Trump's administration is not only subservient to Israel, but has also totally identified with one Israeli leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a family friend of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. During his brief time in office, Trump had gifted Netanyahu with recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the US embassy there, cut $500 million in contributions to the Palestinians and accepted Israel's unilateral annexation of the Syrian Golan. Trump is also proposing a "deal of the century", designed to wipe out the Palestinian people by forcing naturalisation of the refugees by host countries and granting Palestinians money to develop economically if they surrender to permanent Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have rejected his deal even before it has been put on the table, arguing: "We are not for sale."

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