Abdul Bari Atwan
The laughter that broke out when US President Donald Trump addressed the UN General Assembly — after his opening remarks in which he spoke about his economic achievements and his commitment to humanity and world-wide prosperity and stability — sums up the view of most countries about his administration’s policies: that they are leading the world towards chaos and devastating wars.
The speech can be divided into two parts. The first was addressed to the American public from the UN podium in a bid to win votes for his Republican Party at November’s mid-term elections. He spoke about having halved the unemployment rate, created an economic boom, and bolstered the US military’s defensive and offensive capabilities. The second part amounted to a declaration of war on most of the world’s other countries: economic war against China, Europe and Russia; a war against United Nations institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Human Rights Council (UNHCR); war on Iran; and finally a war on OPEC, which he threatened with dire consequences if it did not bring down oil prices.
Trump attacked almost everyone. He only had good words to say for his few friends in the world, or rather his acolytes, especially Israel and some of the Arab Gulf states. He pledged not to provide aid to countries that did not support his country’s policies, thereby inaugurating a period of political and military polarisation unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.
Leaving aside domestic and global issues and Trump’s attitude towards them, the parts of his speech related to the Middle East can be summarised as follows:
– First, the creation of a strategic alliance comprising the six Gulf states plus Egypt and Jordan to confront Iran or any threat to US interests in the region. This amounts to a revival of the Baghdad Pact of the 1950s, in both the political and military senses. It was noticeable that Morocco was not invited to join this alliance. The country was not mentioned in the relevant parts of the speech, for reasons that remain unknown – despite Morocco’s recent decision to sever diplomatic relations with Iran and break off all contact with it.
– Secondly, Trump voiced praise for three Arab states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar – for their role in combatting terrorism. This will have come as a shock to the Saudis and Emiratis, as it absolves Qatar of their charges of supporting terrorism and places the country in the anti-terrorist camp.
– Third, Trump devoted a large part of his speech to Iran. He accused it of spreading chaos and violence and of spending billions of dollars on causing wars in the Middle East to expand its influence. He said its military capacity had grown by 40% in the two years since sanctions were lifted due to the nuclear agreement, and swore to impose very harsh new sanctions against the country.
– Fourth: Trump threatened to declare war on Syria if its army ever used chemical weapons, and linked any permanent settlement and the attainment of security and stability to the complete termination of Iran’s military presence in the country.
– Fifth: He reiterated his earlier threats to OPEC, blaming the organisation for the recent rise in oil prices. He demanded it act to bring them down because of the damage high prices do to the US economy. He said he would not tolerate any further rise in prices, sending a signal in this regard to the main Arab oil-producers in particular, specifically Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Algeria.
– Sixth. His declaration of war on international organisations such as the ICC, UNHRC and UNESCO. This is entirely due to the fact that these organisations have spoken out against Israeli violations of international law and human rights and accused Israel of committing war crimes in Occupied Palestine and South Lebanon.
– Seventh: Trump deemed his moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to have contributed to peace between the Arabs and the Israeli occupation state. He did not say a word in support of a two-state solution or about the rights of the Palestinian people, adopting the Israeli position in full.
We cannot claim to be surprised by Trump’s speech expressing such hostility to the Arabs and their just causes. Nor to his plans to extort the Gulf Arabs and exploit Jordan and Egypt’s economic difficulties to create a sectarian Arab alliance to fight the US and Israel’s wars in the region – specifically against Iran. A couple of days before his speech, Trump wrote a tweet reminding these countries that they were indebted to the US for their protection, and that they would not survive for long without it.
In light of this speech, it is clear that we will witness more US extortion in various guises: whether ordering more purchases of US weapons, supporting the initial steps of the ‘Deal of the Century’ and those that are to follow, or complying meticulously with the blockade of Iran and putting up with the disastrous economic and security repercussions.
Finally, it should be noted that Trump’s demand that the Gulf states act to bring down oil prices means reducing their revenues, at a time when their populations badly need them following years of austerity, rising inflation, increased taxation, subsidy-lifting, and rising fees for services to pay for government deficits.
Trump has made his country the most hated on earth, and this will reflect in one way or the other on its allies. He could drag it into economic and military wars that lead it into a confrontation with the entire world. Other states have begun to join forces against it. This is a proven recipe for destruction and bankruptcy. Trump delivered a reckless, stupid and racist speech, liable to unite most of the world against him and his country. That may not be of practical help to the many who have been victims of American racism and injustice, but it might please them.