THE obscenely opulent reception arranged in Donald Trump’s honour, with Arab autocrats lining up to pay homage to the American president, forgetting his inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and his likening of the Saudi royal family to ‘slaveholders’ in the past, did not come as a surprise. Nor did the US leader’s softened tenor as he addressed the so-called Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh last week.
Indeed, there was no mention in Trump’s speech of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, a term he often used during his election campaign. But what excited the Saudi and Gulf kings gathered at the forum was Trump’s tirade against Iran which he declared was the centre of terrorism and extremism. In the midst of their insecurity, these remarks struck a chord. In the new American president, the Arab despots found a trusted ally and protector that they had missed in his predecessor.
What was supposed to be an alliance against terrorism and extremism has virtually turned into an anti-Iran coalition further widening the regional geopolitical divide. By citing Tehran as the centre of gravity of terrorism, the American president has encouraged sectarian warfare among the Muslim-dominated countries thus diverting attention from the actual sources of extremism plaguing the region and beyond.