Telephone diplomacy between King Salman, President Trump
The objective behind the phone calls was to discuss, at a political level, what must be done in the region
Some inciting voices have condemned not including Saudi Arabia in the recent American travel ban list. American President Donald Trump did not categorize Saudis as terrorists and did not ban them from entering the country. Above all that, Trump called Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to discuss the region’s affairs.
What was made public about the phone call represents a significant transformation in relations between the two countries. According to statements issued by both, Saudi Arabia and the US, the King and the President, talked about establishing safe zones for the Syrian people, cooperating in fighting terrorism in the region and confronting Iran’s foreign activities.
It was also the first time they speak about the Muslim Brotherhood as a party that’s also responsible for terrorism. They discussed bilateral topics such as economic cooperation. What confirms Washington’s new policy in the region in general is the fact that Trump made a similar phone call to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. These are not customary phone calls, and they’re also not phone calls to congratulate Trump as that has already happened.
The objective behind the phone calls was to discuss, at a political level, what must be done in the region. Gulf-American relations needs patch up following the coldness that dominated the former administration of Barack Obama. The features of these relations are: unifying visions in resolving the region’s affairs in hopes of ending chaos which has spread since 2011 and agreeing to fight terrorist organizations which are spreading like cancer in the region.
Trump’s administration considered Iran as part of the problem while the previous administration insisted that Iran was part of the solution. All these are significant developments that aim to end chaos in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq and unite powers to chase and combat terrorist groups.
Trump’s administration considered Iran as part of the problem while the previous administration insisted that Iran was part of the solutionAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The Muslim Brotherhood
Discussing the Muslim Brotherhood during the conversation with Trump is as important as considering Iran the source of chaos. During the chaos of the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood played a negative role as it was the party which corrupted the Syrian revolution due to its insistence to transform the revolution from a civil one to a religious one. It was the Muslim Brotherhood that sought to exploit its electoral victory in Egypt to dominate power and violate all institutions.
Its sister organization, the Ennahda party in Tunisia, tried to do the same. However, foreign threats made it retreat and commit to democratic rules. Chaos in Libya is mostly due to armed, extremist and religious groups which are affiliated with al-Qaeda affiliates such as the Libyan Fighting Group, Ansar al-Sharia and others which do not recognize the state. Chaos has ripped the region apart owing to the role played by organizations that have a lot in common including extremist ideology and foreign references.
Meanwhile, the former American administration adopted a policy that does not hear, does not see and does not do anything. It considered chaos as local struggle and viewed it as a phase of historical transition the results of which it was willing to accept.
However, developments on the ground showed signs of danger and threatened the world. As unrest expanded, planting terrorist groups in countries which collapsed became easy. Today, there is international consensus that this approach was wrong and there exists a collective desire to cooperate to end chaos, eliminate terrorism and reconsider the approaches and alliances.
Trump’s government says that it is willing to do so and is in a hurry to engage in a plan to put an end to chaos and deter terrorism. Trump who has only been president for 10 days now has declared his intention to establish safe zones for Syrian refugees. Former President Obama rejected establishing these zones for the displaced Syrian people whose number reached 12 million in and outside Syria.
Stances of others toward Trump, his administration and his foreign and domestic policies must not affect us. We must not make prejudgments. What’s more important is that we form our vision based on the issues and solutions which Trump administration proposes for our region and based on the new administration’s willingness for positive cooperation.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on January 31, 2017.
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.