Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

NATO-Like Arab Force in Mideast Meant to Support Israel, Counter Iran: US Analyst

 Tasnim’s interview with Dennis Etler which makes many of the same points I raised in my interview.

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – US President Donald Trump, in his Middle East tour, is seeking to create the Arab equivalent of the NATO military alliance to help the Zionist regime of Israel and contain the Islamic Republic of Iran, an American analyst said.

“He (Trump) now seeks to consolidate an alliance of Arab states under US tutelage by courting Saudi Arabia. The main reason for seeking an Arab coalition is to better support Israel in its contention with Iran and re-insinuate the US into the region as a backroom wheeler and dealer. The US position, however, is fraught with contradictions,” Dennis Etler, a professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, told the Tasnim News Agency.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: On Saturday, US President Donald Trump opened a nine-day foreign trip in Saudi Arabia. The past four US presidents, when making their first trips abroad, traveled to either Canada or Mexico. Donald Trump, by contrast, has traveled to Saudi Arabia. What is your take on Trump’s visit?

Etler: Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia while couched in terms of seeking peace and development in the Middle East is actually an attempt to shore up US influence in the region by supplying the Kingdom with an unlimited amount of arms to pursue its policy of military confrontation with Iran. The Trump administration views Iran as its principal enemy and Saudi Arabia as its principle ally in the Middle East, even though it is Iran which is fighting against Takfiri terrorism and Saudi Arabia which has been tacitly supporting it.

The reason for this is both ideological and economic. The US was founded as a settler state. The Pilgrims had the expressed purpose of setting up a New Zion on the territory they conquered. Thus the US has always been at heart an expansionist Zionist state. Its support for the Zionist regime of Israel, founded under the auspices of Anglo-American imperialism is a natural outgrowth of its history. Saudi Arabia is also the product of Anglo-American imperialism. Trump’s chief adviser Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is an orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have been the bulwark of US power projection in the region and serve as the staging grounds for US intervention and hegemony.

Trump has no concern for the issues dear to neo-liberals which are cast in terms of universal human rights, which more often than not results in cultural imperialism. While this has often served the purpose of providing a cover for US attempts at regime change to install governments more to its liking, it has also served as an impediment to maintaining good relations with some of its surrogates, such as Saudi Arabia which has an abysmal human rights record by US liberal standards. Trump in disregarding these concerns is able to deal arms to Saudi Arabia with complete impunity.

Trump’s first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel are part of his plan to reinvigorate the US position in the Middle East which is still the crux of US foreign policy, particularly as it is a potential choke point for China’s Belt and Road Initiative if US-China relations sour.

Tasnim: Trump is also scheduled to make a speech for 50 leaders of Muslim countries attending the so-called “Arab Islamic American Summit” during his two-day visit. It seems that Arabs are still excited about Donald Trump, even as the president’s position among his own people continues to collapse. What do you think? Do you believe Trump is looking for more respect abroad?

Etler: When US Presidents have troubles at home as Trump now has their natural inclination is to seek some sort of foreign triumph to distract attention from their domestic problems. In order to shore up his credentials in the face of the Russiagate scandal Trump has reversed his positions first on dealing with China and then on his assessment of Islam. He now seeks to consolidate an alliance of Arab states under US tutelage by courting Saudi Arabia. The main reason for seeking an Arab coalition is to better support Israel in its contention with Iran and re-insinuate the US into the region as a backroom wheeler and dealer. The US position, however, is fraught with contradictions. While attempting to forge an alliance with Russia against Takfiri terrorism it seeks to isolate and contain Iran, a vital ally of Russia and Syria in their fight against ISIS. Trump’s antagonism towards Iran serves only the geopolitical interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are the main logistical supporters of the terrorists Trump has vowed to fight.

Tasnim: According to a recent article published in the Atlantic, “US strategists have long dreamed of creating an indigenous military coalition in the [Persian] Gulf that could take some of the security burden off the 35,000 US troops stationed there—or perhaps free up some of those 35,000 troops to do jobs elsewhere in, say, the Asia-Pacific region.” Kindly share your thoughts with us.

Etler: Trump has long complained of the fact that the US has been footing the bill for regional security, with the countries who benefit from US largess getting a free ride. This is a half-truth at best but speaks to the fact that the US wants the countries within its sphere of interest to take on more of the burdens of imperialism. The US is more than willing to sell these countries arms so long as they shoulder more of the responsibility to protect US interests in the region.

Tasnim: As you know, since March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi Ansarullah movement in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former president Abd RabbuhMansour Hadi. According to Yemen’s Legal Center of Rights and Development, the Saudi campaign has claimed the lives of over 12,000 Yemenis and left more than 20,000 others wounded. Media reports suggest that Trump will use his Saudi Arabia trip to announce one of the largest arms sales deals in US history – somewhere in the neighborhood of $98bn to $128bn worth of arms. What’s your take on Saudi military aggression on Yemen and US support for it?

Etler: Saudi Arabian aggression against Yemen is akin to its aggression against both Iraq and Syria. The only difference being that Saudi aggression in Yemen is an example of direct intervention rather than surreptitious infiltration. For all its talk of human rights during the Obama administration, the US nonetheless supported Saudi aggression in Yemen and elsewhere. Under Trump, the US is now doubling down in its support of Saudi Arabia. This is simply raw power politics as the US tries to regain lost ground throughout the region.

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