BY SHASHI MALLA
*Trump’s Misguided, Racist Foreign Policy*
Ever since he took office, it became apparent that Trump was misguided and that his foreign policy was racist in nature. In fact, even beforehand, he had a definite inferiority complex vis-à-vis Barack Obama and tried his level best to disparage him and to encourage the conspiracy theory that he was not born in America and, therefore, not eligible to be US President – the so-called ‘birther’ conspiracy. It should have been unimaginable to all Americans that Trump could go so far as to attempt to destroy the Obama legacy – whether domestic or international – in its entirety.
But this is exactly what Trump set out to do, and he has been hugely successful – in a completely negative sense. He attempted to dismantle ‘Obamacare’, the successful healthcare system. He has taken the US out of various multilateral agreements, including the Pacific Trade Partnership, the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear deal. He is the veritable ‘evil genius’, who has ‘Made America Hate Again’. Unfortunately, he is supported by a solid base with ‘white supremacist’ tendencies, including the media channel “Fox News” which encourages him to the hilt, and a Republican Party that is cowardly and doesn’t have the guts to control a president gone haywire.
In the second batch of leaked diplomatic cables published by the British “Mail on Sunday”, the UK ambassador in Washington clearly said Trump ditched the Iran deal to spite Obama. In a damning manner, the vastly experienced Sir Kim Darroch wrote to his Foreign Office: “The administration is set upon an act of diplomatic vandalism, seemingly for ideological and personal reasons…it was Obama’s deal.”
The unfortunate part is that the Trump administration had no ‘Plan B’ whatsoever. Sir Kim also indicated there were divisions in Trump’s team over the decision, and criticized the White House for a lack of long-term strategy: “They can’t articulate any ‘day-after’ strategy; and contacts with State Department…suggest no sort of plan for reaching out to partners and allies, whether in Europe or the region” [Middle East].
In the latest domestic saga of his hate campaign, Trump has lashed out at four Democratic Congresswomen from minority communities – three of whom were born in the US – telling them to “go back” to where they came from and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places there. Trump’s “use of the nation’s most revered office to make such unequivocally racist remarks emphasizes how a presidency stewing in rage, fear and identity politics lacks boundaries” (CNN).
*US-Turkey Relations Degenerate*
The Soviet Union may be dead, but its weapons live on today in Russia. Turkey will now become the first and only member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – which sees Russia as the main antagonist in international affairs and security – to use Russia’s advanced S-400 missile system.
Russia has already started delivering components of its S-400 missiles to Turkey despite rigorous critique from Washington. The S-400 Triumph, introduced in 2007, is an anti-aircraft missile system that has a maximum range of 400 kilometers and can hit targets at an altitude of up to 27 kilometers. The system is mobile and includes the control hub and several missile launching elements, each of which compromises up to 12 launchers. The S-400 was developed to destroy fighter jets, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones.
Russia claims that the S-400 is superior to its French and American counterparts. The British military expert Richard Connolly of Birmingham University is of the opinion that “the Russians and before them the Soviet Union were always leading in missile technology,” and was developed as a counterweight, since “the Americans and the West produced better aircraft.” The S-400 is supposedly flexible and can be used with several types of rockets. It is also cheaper according to Connolly, the “S-400 is at least twice as cheap as the US system Patriot-2 (Deutsche Welle/DW).
Russian military expert Alexander Golz believes that opting for the Russian-made S-400 was a “purely political decision” and that it was a “signal to the US and other allies about Turkey’s sovereign approach to defence” (DW). Turkey is only the second country in the world to be supplied the S-400, after China. India has already signed a US Dollar $ 5 billion contract and is awaiting delivery. Several Gulf countries have also expressed interest.
The S-400 has the basic advantage of being designed to be part of a comprehensive nationwide anti-aircraft system. It also has the advantage of being able to operate independently – the feature that is advantageous to Turkey as it can be utilized without integrating it with NATO’s defense network. Turkey also wants to manufacture parts for the S-400 and gain access to Russian technology. However, Golz put a damper on such aspirations: “This might be [merely] symbolic” and [ironically] : “Three nuts and two bolts would be produced on Turkish territory.” [!]
Moreover, the full utility of the S-400 has been dampened by the fact that Russia has rejected Turkey’s request for electronic codes and settings of the S-400, including its “friend-or-foe” recognition system. In addition, the S-400 may be considered cutting-edge for now, but it will soon be overhauled by the “S-500 system”, designated “Prometheus” [in Greek mythology, the Titan who returned the fire, hidden by Zeus from man, to earth], which is expected to be launched as early as 2020.
*Royal Family Drama in Dubai*
At the end of this month, a London court will be the stage for an unusual legal battle between Dubai’s powerful ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and his estranged sixth wife Princess Haya. She is now living in the British metropole after dramatically escaping the Gulf Emirate and her billionaire husband. She took her two children with her when she left Dubai and the court case is expected to focus on their custody.
Princess Haya, 45, is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and was educated in British private schools and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. Jordan’s current monarch, King Abdullah is a half-brother. She is a former Olympic athlete and competed in equestrian show jumping in the 2000 Sydney Games, effectively breaking a taboo for women from traditional Muslim countries. She has thus long been prominently different from other wives of Gulf Arab rulers. For one, she has often been seen in public and photographed by her husband’s side, and not only at humanitarian events.
Sheikh Mohammed is not only the ruler of Dubai, but also the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a highly influential leader in the Middle East. He is a prolific poet and frequently posts poems on his website. In fact, the latest incident came out after his poem, “You Lived and You Died” about betrayal was published on-line:
“You betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed,Your time of lying is over and It doesn’t matter what we were nor what you are.”
The harsh words have fueled speculation that the princess might be endangered.
Her fate is closely linked with that of her step-daughter Sheikha Latifa, 33, (the ruler’s daughter from another wife), who tried to escape dramatically last year what she said was a suffocating existence in Dubai. She made it on a yacht in the Indian Ocean, headed for India and finally the U.S., but was intercepted by armed Emiratis and returned to Dubai. She was criticized for arranging a meeting of her friend Ms Mary Robinson, a respected former president of Ireland and United Nations human rights commissioner, with the Sheikha, to give the impression that she was alive and well. In fact, photographs showed Sheikha Latifa as dazed and inert. International authorities are currently investigating wrongdoing by Sheikh Mohammed and also human rights violations in Dubai.
For now, people are wondering about the poetry-writing (in Arabic and English) Middle Eastern leader and his romantic anguish:
“O sweetheart, there’s nothing more to say Your deathly silence has worn me out.” & “You no longer have a place with me I don’t care if you live or die.”
*Saudi Arabia Paid Price for Khashoggi Carnage*
The British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that Saudi Arabia has paid the diplomatic price for the brutal murder of Saudi journalist and “The Washington Post” columnist Jamal Khashoggi. He delivered a keynote address at the “Global Conference for Media Freedom” in London, saying governments acting together can “impose a diplomatic price” on states who kill or imprison journalists. On the sidelines, Hunt was asked by TIME magazine whether Saudi Arabia had paid a big enough price for its actions, and he replied: “I think they have paid a big reputational price and there have been profound diplomatic consequences.
Hunt errs on the side of optimism. In general, journalists the world over – whether in the Philippines, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Russia or even Nepal – face an uphill task going about their legitimate business. In actual fact, Saudi Arabia has already turned the corner and been fully welcomed back on the world stage.
The Trump administration is still defying the US Congress and pushing through arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Even the UK government is challenging a court-ordered ban on its own arms sales. At the recent G – 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the CIA accuses of personally ordering the Khashoggi butchery, was greeted warmly by President Trump. As a final reward – horror of horrors – Saudi Arabia has been granted the right to host the economic summit next year in Riyadh by the world’s 19 most powerful economic nations and the European Union. Salman’s role has been completely whitewashed!
The writer can be reached at: [email protected]