Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Saudi stop on DJT's first trip abroad as prez

There was the whopping sale of very fancy military equipment:

The United States sealed a multi-billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the White House announced on Saturday, a move that solidifies its decades-long alliance with the world's largest energy producer just as President Donald Trump begins his maiden trip abroad as leader of the free world.
The agreement, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as "a significant expansion of…[the] security relationship" between the two countries.
There is the fact that Melania got rave reviews in the Saudi media, even as her head went uncovered.

There are the deepening business ties:

U.S. and Saudi Arabian companies signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday during a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, as Riyadh seeks help to develop its economy beyond oil. 

National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion of agreements with U.S. firms. Energy minister Khalid al-Falih said deals involving all companies totaled over $200 billion, many of them designed to produce things in Saudi Arabia that had previously been imported.

Business leaders on both sides were keen to demonstrate their talks had been a success, so there was an element of showmanship in the huge numbers. Some deals had been announced previously; others were memorandums of understanding that would require further negotiations to materialize.

Nevertheless, the deals illustrated Saudi Arabia's hunger for foreign capital and technology as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Low oil prices in the past couple of years have slowed the economy to a crawl and saddled the government with a big budget deficit.

"We want foreign companies to look at Saudi Arabia as a platform for exports to other markets," Falih told a conference attended by dozens of U.S. executives.
But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the visit was his speech:

“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity.  If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned,” the speech says.
He will also emphasize that Muslim countries must “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.” 
In case anyone missed the implications of the whole tone of his visit, he rather explicitly drove them home:

One of his high points came near the end where he reminded his audience of the three Abrahamic religions and called for a new era of tolerance between them. But after all of his complimentary comments about other Muslim nations, Trump took a decidedly critical tone when he called out Iran in particular and Syria to a lesser extent. Invoking “murderous attacks” and a humanitarian crisis, Trump talked about the people of Iran enduring “hardship and despair” under a brutal authoritarian regime. This was another risky move, because he seems to be looking to further isolate Iran even among their own neighbors. 
Then there were his concluding words:

“God bless the United States of America.”
The case can be made, of course, that this wasn't the most diplomatic way to wind up his remarks, that he ought to have signed off with a nod toward his host country. Then again, considering the wet-noodle kumbaya-ism with which the Most Equal Comrade used to conclude speeches in Muslim countries, it is refreshing in its own way.

Yes, it's important to remember that the wahhabist school of Islam has its home in Saudi Arabia, that most of the 9 / 11 hijackers came from there, that Saudi Arabia has funded some unsavory militias in the Syrian mess. On the other hand, broad gestures can signal new eras of strategic alliances. We live in a world in which an Iran-Syria-Russia axis is a reality. That gives certain other countries a set of common interests. It's noteworthy, for instance, that the entourage will take a direct flight from Riyadh to Ben Gurion International Airport.

On balance, given what I've learned so far, looks like a productive first stop.

Memo to the president: Now, let's not sully it with a bragfest on Twitter, or dumb moves on other stops that counteract what you've put in place.


  1. Dennis (snow flake dove wussie) says:

    What is going on here? Saudi Arabia, which has been directly connected to 9/11, is receiving a total of $460 billion dollars in arms from the United States, under President Trump, on top of the nearly $100 billion it received during President Obama's term. Saudi Arabia promotes and funds radical Islamic terrorists, ISIS and Al Queda. These arms will be used immediately in Yemen and also in Syria, bringing the US closer to an open conflict with Iran and Russia. Meanwhile, the long-term cost of the war against Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11), could exceed $4 trillion dollars.

  2. I note these considerations above, and the argument can be made that they mitigate against the tone and substance of the visit. But I also not the strategic stakes in that region and for the US.

  3. Two years ago Donald Trump, then just a reality TV star with political ambitions, decided to tweet about the First Lady Michelle Obama's decision to not wear a head scarf during a trip to Saudi Arabia.

    "Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies," he posted.

  4. Trump has been flamboyantly chasing salvation from the moment he stepped out on the campaign trail. That’s largely why he picked Mike Pence, a darling of the religious right, as his running mate. It’s behind his recent instructions to the Internal Revenue Service to give religious groups leeway for political lobbying. Last Saturday, for his first commencement speech as president, he chose Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., told the crowd, “I do not believe any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefited the Christian community in such a short time span as Donald Trump.” Then Trump got up and marveled at the size of the crowd he’d drawn, because his particular brand of spirituality is heavy on self-veneration. He articulated loftier thoughts, too. “In America,” he said, “we don’t worship government. We worship God.”

  5. But my favorite of his spiritual musings came when he was asked, on the Christian Broadcasting Network, “Who is God to you?” “God is the ultimate,” he answered. “Nobody, no thing, there’s nothing like God.” The angels wept. And the evangelical voters indeed came around, a phenomenon on which we’ve lavished analysis. We’ve remarked less on the audacity of Trump’s pantomime of godliness, given his core. It illuminates perhaps his greatest gift, politically speaking, which is his readiness to strike any pose he deems necessary, no matter how ludicrous, and his certainty that he can sell it. The past is no tether. Reality doesn’t intrude. And no arena, not even religion, is sacrosanct. He will bend it to his purposes. He will claim it as his own.


  6. You do realize you're preaching to the choir here, don't you? LITD has made a point out of bringing Trump's spiritual shallowness, as well as his glaringly flip-flop pronouncements, to the fore.

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  9. Wahhabis and wannabe President Trump are well suited

  10. That photo of the fawning Netties speaks a million more words than even this:

    "We tell [the people of Israel] how great you are and they love you," Sara Netanyahu tells President and First Lady Trump as they arrive in Israel.

  11. Meanwhile, stateside, some of us think we know what's up:
    "The analogy is pervasive among his critics: Donald Trump is like a child. Making him the president was like making a 4-year-old the leader of the free world.
    But the analogy is profoundly wrong, and it’s unfair to children. The scientific developmental research of the past 30 years shows that Mr. Trump is utterly unlike a 4-year-old."

    And the Netties are power hungry ass kissers!

    1. Stunning! (yeah, right):

      "I have come to the sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the state of Israel."

  12. Again, you are preaching to the choir. LITD is on record as full-throatedly asserting that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. But there he is. And, because he has done a great number of things right so far, we can conclude that he does listen to some people with sound judgement.

  13. If a President impedes investigation of his watch, this is obstruction of justice. It does not really matter how many legal briefs presented, it remains the same. Then the question is, is this treason, lot of happy lawyers looking for work happy here. If your intention is to avail at what ever costs including the coordination with foreign parties then this may be considered treason. There we trust in our constitutional system to avail us of such parties.