Trump’s Saudi connection
One of the least reported yet most significant developments of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been its warm embrace of the ultra-conservative, theocratic Saudi monarchy. Immediately after he entered office, Trump made a pact with Saudi Arabia to escalate aggression in Yemen.
After a friendly White House meeting with Trump and Steve Bannon, the architect of Trump’s Muslim ban, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hailed Trump as “his Excellency,” describing him as a “true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim world in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote.”
Trump has also pledged to work with Saudi Arabia to create so-called safe zones in Syria. What exactly these would look like has been unclear. Hillary Clinton campaigned on the promise to create such zones, although in a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs, she conceded that safe zones could « kill a lot of Syrians. »
At the heart of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been diehard opposition to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s mortal enemy. The Syrian government is one of Iran’s closest allies.
In Yemen, U.S. and Saudi intervention has driven the growth of al-Qaeda, even while the U.S. carries out airstrikes against the extremist group. As the International Crisis Group reported in February 2017, thanks to « state collapse » brought on by war, the “Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQ) is stronger than it has ever been. »
U.S. intervention would be the last hope for Syrian rebels, and a shot in the arm to al-Qaeda, which has grown to record size thanks to America’s military meddling across the Middle East.