Since the news about Donald Trump winning the presidential elections is highly topical, I will discuss how it will affect our regional issues, the main one of which is US relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
Most of the common issues between the two sides, the US and the Gulf, are in fact related to other countries and issues such as terrorism, wars, Yemen, Syria and Libya. There are no disagreements related to bilateral relations; they have been on good terms during President Barack Obama’s presidency.
What is being said about Trump’s stances on Islam or Saudi Arabia and its interests is not true. I don’t think that Trump has presuppositions upon which he decides his policies. President Barack Obama will pass on controversial, complicated and dangerous case files related to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states to Trump. The Gulf has never been at odds with Washington up until Obama’s era. The problem was Obama’s policies in Iran, Iraq, Syria and to a lesser extent, Yemen. The Gulf countries did not negatively react when Obama revealed his greatest secret agreement with Iran to halt its nuclear program. The Gulf did not reject it but expressed reservations regarding its political framework as it included a very dangerous deal that freed the extremist regime of all restrictions and allowed it to intrude in the region without taking into consideration the safety of US allies.
Gulf countries look forward to playing a pivotal role with Trump’s government in addressing the situation in the regionAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Will Trump follow in Obama’s footsteps and let Iran threaten the security of the Gulf? In my opinion, Trump would not commit to any previous non-binding agreement. He will only carry on with the JCPOA obligations because it is an international plan of action and not just a bilateral deal between the two countries. Iran will continue to manipulate the world with its nuclear project but Trump does not have to remain silent regarding the Iranian and Russian interference in wars outside their borders. This explains the rush of the regime in Tehran to wage large-scale wars in Aleppo, Mosul, Tal Afar and others - Iran wanted to strike before the arrival of the new American president because it cannot guarantee his position.
I believe that the Gulf States are eager to stop military interventions in conflict zones. The Iranians will object under the pretext that Turkey has interfered in Iraq and Syria and Saudi Arabia has interfered in Yemen, although these supposed interventions would stop if Iran were to stop its interferences. The efforts in the Yemeni crisis were purely diplomatic and sponsored by the UN until Iran, through its allies, took control of the government by force. This is what led the Saudis and their allies to intervene. The chaos in the Middle East threatens the whole world as well as the security of the United States. It is normal that the Gulf will focus on Tehran being a source of instability in the upcoming discussion. The relations between the US and the Gulf can revive the common traditional role that rejects military adventures through alliances and diverse efforts. Gulf countries objected to Obama’s project to open up to Iran economically and politically because it turned out that Obama turned a blind eye to Iran’s military adventures. By the end of Obama’s presidency, the Iranians are on the verge of militarily dominating four important Arab countries, namely Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen and it is threatening Bahrain as well. This situation worries Gulf governments because it will drag more countries into the conflicts in the region and threatens to exacerbate the problems in Europe. It is certain that amid the chaos fueling the sectarian conflict, terrorism will grow and will only be eradicated once Mosul and Raqqah are liberated from ISIS.
Gulf countries look forward to playing a pivotal role with Trump’s government in addressing the situation in the region as they have done for the past decades without resorting to military solutions.
Finally, what about the problem of terrorism and extremism? Saudi Arabia is the number one partner of the United States in the fight against international terrorism. The Iranians will not be able to play this role and they have already convinced Obama’s administration that they can do so but failed in the end. Everybody will notice that the Gulf countries are deploying great efforts to exterminate extremist groups that the US government is constantly objecting to but these groups should not only be persecuted in the Gulf and Islamic countries, but also in Western countries where they can find greater freedom.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 10, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed