Why Iran will top Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia

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The White House on Thursday announced that the US President Donald Trump will visit Saudi Arabia on May 23, and senior US administration officials said they are working to build a framework in the Middle East to counter ISIS and Iran, and provide a security blanket for America’s allies in the region.

Iran must be confronted, they said and the new National Security Council and Trump are placing the Iranian threat within the strategic threat posed by Russia.


The Americans see Iran's actions and goals as similar to those of Russia’s. Both Tehran and Moscow seeks to replace US influence. In addition, the Americans see Iran as a “potential for Russia”. It is difficult for Russia to keep Bashar al-Assad in power without Iran. Iran can also help Russia gain a wider influence in Iraq at the expense of the Americans.

Since his election campaign days and subsequent poll victory, the US president has decided to confront the Iranian influence, and now this confrontation has come into sharper focus. The Trump Doctrine does not want to change the Iranian regime. It wants the Iranians to mind their own business and stop interfering in the affairs of neighboring countries and particularly, they want to prevent Iran from repeating Hezbollah-style interference in Iraq and Yemen.

Related: How Mohammed bin Salman visit to US helped reset ties

The United States is now conducting a comprehensive review of Iran’s policy, including the Iranian nuclear deal. It is necessary to see that the US president still considers the Iranian agreement as a bad one. But the main problem in the agreement is that Iran has taken advantage of the removal of sanctions to receive funds, and used the money to continue its interference in the affairs of its neighbors and to fund the organizations that Washington has placed on the terrorist list, such as the Hezbollah.

The US is strengthening its ties with Saudi Arabia as it is seen as the only regional power capable of defeating Iran’s meddling activities in the region.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies and the Director of the Institute for Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia at Princeton University, in a recent article said, “Tehran tried to dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and take advantage of chaos in those countries.

It mobilized its considerable resources to indoctrinate, train and arm Shiite groups such as Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Hashd al-Shaabi whose aim is to undermine local stability and American influence”.

Related: ‘A historic turning point’ as Saudi Deputy Crown Prince meets Donald Trump

Haykel also said that Trump’s key advisers have made clear that Iran’s activities must stop and that Obama’s policies of appeasement are over.

He added, in the margin of the meeting between Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and US President, that President Obama rejected Saudi warnings and turned a blind eye toward Iran’s interventionist policies in the Middle East.

On Iranian meddling in Gulf countries, he said this has fueled Yemen’s civil war and created vacuums that al-Qaeda and ISIS have been able to fill.

“Nonetheless, a strong US-Saudi statement that Iran’s intervention in Yemen will no longer be tolerated is much needed.
The future of Yemen and security in the Middle East are at stake,” he said.

Prior to the announcement of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, US officials had revealed that elaborate discussions were taking place within the new administration that intends to provide more assistance to the Gulf States in their war against the Houthi militias and their Iranian allies.

Related: The seven things Trump administration needs to know about Saudi Arabia

The new US administration is aware that the conflict in Yemen has been stirred by Iranian interference, which has become an obstacle in the war on al-Qaeda and threatens the strategically important Bab al-Mandab strait.

Observers confirm that Iran is helping to raise the level of proficiency of guerrilla fighters. The commander of the US Central Command’s Marine Corps believes that the militias have weapons they did not have before the war, including long-range ballistic missiles.

"Everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran," Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters recently, in Riyadh after meeting senior Saudi officials.

"We will have to overcome Iran's efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it," Mattis added.

Also, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson described the landmark Iran nuclear deal as a failure, only hours after the State Department said Tehran was complying with its terms. But the top United States diplomat stopped short of threatening to jettison the 2015 agreement that was brokered by world powers, or saying whether the Trump administration would punish Iran with new sanctions.

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