You don’t need to be very intelligent or make any great effort to understand Donald Trump’s position on the current Gulf crisis, which is likely to last for months, if not years. The US president views it like a businessman who has always tried and is still trying to take advantage of the crisis in every possible way in order to achieve the greatest financial and economic gains.
He is actually taking advantage of the way that some Arab politicians and leaders were hanging on his coat-tails treating him like an emperor when he visited the Middle East. This was while he was still being viewed with distrust by his own country and media as “guilty until proven innocent”. Such apprehension about him appears to be justified given that he is being investigated in relation to “Russiagate”.
Hence, Trump has not dealt with the situation in the Gulf as the most serious political and diplomatic crisis in a region that has often been classified by Washington as one of the most stable and secure, and a strategic gateway for US influence in southern and eastern Asia. Instead, he has treated it like a game of chance, a gambling trifle, or as “the hen that lays the golden eggs”. He has sucked the economic and financial lifeblood out of the countries in conflict.
Like most of his allies in the region, Trump doesn’t seem to hold fast to any political principles; his appear to be up for auction to the highest bidder. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have realised this and they have exploited it. They have taken advantage of his ignorance and naivety and bought the backing of some of his advisers, exploiting their greed by offering them big deals in return for a statement here and there, using, ironically, the same far-right political discourse about Islam and Muslims for their own geopolitical reasons.
It has become clear that the more that Qatar controls itself in response to the crisis, the more its adversaries put pressure on Trump and his team to come up with a statement or tweet that complicates issues and turns the screw on the government in Doha. Trump’s reckless statement during his press conference with the Prime Minister of Romania recently, in which he called on Qatar to “stop funding terrorism”, is just one example of many.
The US president’s words were jumped on by the media and used to stir things up, including Al-Arabiya and Sky News channels, and the Saudi newspapers, which hailed his statement and used it in Saudi Arabia’s favour. However, not all of them paid attention to the official positions of the United States issuing forth from important institutions in terms of foreign policy, such as the State Department and Department of Defence, as well as the National Security Agency. It seems that every statement or tweet by Trump is followed by one from his officials which pours cold water on it and tries to correct the mistake and mitigate its effects.
Trump’s position on the crisis is in line with his naive and immature perceptions of the Gulf region, which he sees as nothing more than a giant oil barrel that must be exploited and an opportunity to drain the wealth from those who have it, without fully committing himself politically to any cause alongside them. He knows that every tweet will lead to cash, taking advantage of the way Gulf leaders and politicians rush to shift the power balance in their favour. They believe that having someone as ignorant and idiotic – that’s how they see him – as Trump in the White House is a golden opportunity that is unlikely to come up again.
However, it seems that US officials do not want to see anything wrong happening in the Gulf, especially since there is no need for it. Washington has strong relations with most of the Gulf countries and cannot really afford to lose any of them. Hence the federal institutions in Washington have tried, and are still trying, to counter the effects of Trump’s gambling in the Gulf crisis, because the last thing that they want is a war between their strategic allies.
Translated from the Arabic version published by Al-Araby on June 30, 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.