Question: Why did the Saudis treat President Trump so graciously?
Answer: They’re scared. Even though the Saudis are as responsible as any party for radicalizing Sunni Islam, they did so believing it would make them safe. It was an attempt to buy the extremists off, thinking they would never bite the hand that fed them. In addition, the royal family is divided – with some more extreme than others. They realize two things: Iran represents an existential threat to the kingdom, and so does the ISIS brand of terrorism. The only force on earth than can help save the kingdom is long-time ally America. In addition, the Arab and Muslim world respects strength, which they see in President Trump. There’s one more thing: In the past, the Saudis have sought to buy favor with U.S. presidents with millions of dollars in endowments after they left office. These include Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. They are wise enough to know Trump, a billionaire, cannot be bought off this way.
Question: Is there really potential for the Saudis to reform and join the fight against ISIS, al-Qaida, Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah?
Answer: The Saudis don’t have to be convinced to do everything in their power to fight Shia Iran and Hezbollah. The Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting each other for a thousand years. More difficult to answer is the question of whether the Saudis will ever actually take on Sunni terrorism. More likely is a cutoff of some of the funding provided to Sunni al-Qaida, ISIS and Hamas – all three Sunni terrorist organizations.
Question: Are you suggesting the Saudis could change their stripes and their Wahabbi ways?
Answer: Again, the royal family is divided. It’s possible that King Salman is sincere in his pledges to President Trump, but only time will tell. And then there is the problem of his successor. Trump is betting on this king’s sincerity because he is isolated and has nowhere else to turn for help. Trump’s predecessor sided strongly with Shia Iran, putting the nation in position to achieve nuclear power status in the near term. Iran and Saudi Arabia are already in conflict in Yemen, and there is no sign of tensions easing between the two Muslim Middle East powers.
Question: Should Saudi Arabia be trusted?
Answer: Ronald Reagan’s old adage about dealing with the Soviet Union apply here – “trust but verify.” Trump is surrounded by some advisers who understand Saudi Arabia’s insidious and duplicitous actions of the past – including its connections to the 9/11 attack on America. That’s why he is emphasizing a fight based on “mutual interests.” There’s no question that the two nations share mutual interests.
Question: What makes you think Trump is handling this diplomatic foray admirably?
Answer: All the earmarkings of these meetings and speeches suggest he hit the right tone. It’s imperative to show strength in dealings with the kingdom. It’s imperative not to show subservience. It’s imperative to develop the proper quid pro quos based on national interests, not personal interests. Trump has seemingly done this more artfully than most of his predecessors. He really does understand negotiations, having authored “The Art of the Deal.” Another good sign was the king’s treatment of the women in the U.S. entourage – with Melania and Ivanka Trump and other women being treated with respect and dignity. This is something “feminists” should note, but probably won’t because most are leftist ideologues who have a conflict in their gut between “multiculturalism” and the inherent rights of women.
Question: How would you sum up the success of Trump’s first major foreign trip?
Answer: Masterful. He pulled no punches, but showed the necessary diplomacy and respect.
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