Saudi Arabia Plays Trump on Iran to Tilt Middle East Balance

Saudi Arabia’s royalty went all out in greeting US President Donald Trump with pomp and circumstance, exaggerating the visit as “historic” and a “landmark event.” The Trump team more aptly describes relations as going through a reset: Trump has backed away from his campaign criticism of the monarchy, and the United States, under Trump, is shying away from urging democracy and human rights for Saudi Arabia as former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush once did, explains author Dilip Hiro. Instead, Trump has capitulated to Saudi leaders, selling arms while offering unquestioning support in their struggle to maintain regional inequalities and a dangerous rivalry with Shia Iran. Trump’s criticism of Iran is a disappointment for Iranian voters who reelected Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani by a large margin. Shias are a minority in the Muslim world, 15 percent compared with Sunnis’ 85 percent, and a target for extremists like the Islamic State. Iran’s steps toward integrating with the world and limiting its nuclear program deserve praise rather than condemnation. Shortsighted policies showing little regard for democracy or human rights are treacherous for the entire Middle East. – YaleGlobal