Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia was an awkward misstep

Rachel Marsden
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Posted: May 23, 2017 1:50 PM
Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia was an awkward misstep

The best way to describe the speech that U.S. President Donald Trump gave Sunday in Saudi Arabia is "Dr. Strangelove meets National Lampoon." I don't know how he was able to read it with a straight face.

Announcing a $110 billion Saudi weapons purchase, Trump said, "This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations."

Where is the incentive for Saudi Arabia to do America any favors now? This isn't a carrot and stick approach; it's a chocolate cake and more chocolate cake approach. Any economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia should be at least partly contingent on measurable anti-terrorism results from the Saudis. Besides, asking Saudi Arabia to help with anti-terrorist operations is like asking a pyromaniac to housesit. The only fires the Saudis are going to be putting out are the ones they don't start.

"I also applaud the Gulf Cooperation Council for blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror, and designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last year," said Trump, who also announced the launch of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center co-chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Oh, great, the pyromaniac is now opening a firehouse.

A State Department cable from December 2009, published via WikiLeaks, outlined the reality that "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT (the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba) and other terrorist groups, including Hamas."

An email published by WikiLeaks last year, purportedly sent from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email address in August 2014, made the case that "we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region."

Another gem from Trump's speech:

"Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology -- located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership."

There's no question that Saudi Arabia has always been committed to eradicating extremist ideology on its own soil, lest extremism become a threat to the monarchy. It's in the rest of the world where the Saudis facilitate and encourage jihadist self-expression.

Trump told the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority countries that "America is prepared to stand with you -- in pursuit of shared interests and common security."

For an example of such solidarity, consider the $500 million Syrian "train and equip" program. The CIA trained so-called Syrian rebels in Turkey, only to see them integrate terrorist groups sponsored by Qatar and Saudi Arabia shortly after deployment into Syria. The Pentagon acknowledged in September 2015 that only "four or five" trainees remained.

Here's the excerpt from Trump's speech that most interrupted my cardio routine, because I was laughing so hard that I couldn't breathe:

"The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil."

Does Trump really think Saudi Arabia doesn't have that covered? Unlike some naive European nations, the Saudis are well aware of the danger embedded in the migrant waves that have resulted from their sponsorship of the Islamic State. They're not going to let that threat in the front door to be permanently resettled.

Trump rounded out his speech in the capital of the country most responsible for today's terrorism by singling out ... Iran. I don't know how the Saudis kept a straight face when Trump said, "Among Iran's most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria."

The reality is that if it wasn't for Iran, Saudi-sponsored jihadists would have succeeded in removing democratically elected Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and creating a power vacuum for radical Islamic jihadists to exploit. Assad is no angel, but the alternative is worse.

"Iran has a rich history and culture," Trump added, "but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders' reckless pursuit of conflict and terror."

It's 2017, not 1979. Iran just re-elected the same progressive president who brokered a deal to open up the country to businessmen such as Trump. Iran's "hardship" comes from punitive rhetoric and actions encouraged by lobbyists working for Iran's regional foes, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel, who have managed to convince American leaders to do their bidding.

Trump's speech sounded like the product of a neoconservative think tank funded by military-industrial-complex donors. If Trump is serious about draining the Washington swamp, perhaps he should start with the people responsible for crafting that speech.