It‘s hardly a surprise that the upcoming Trump’s first overseas tour, that is scheduled on May 19, has attracted a lot of attention from all sorts of analysts. It should be noted that on the first day of the tour, the 45th US president is to arrive to Saudi Arabia, in order to travel to Tel-Aviv and Vatican from there. At the end the tour, Trump is about to visit two summits – the NATO one in Brussels and the G7 meeting in Sicily.
Certainly, it’s no coincidence that Riyadh has been chosen as the primary destination of the upcoming tour since Washington has been trying to do its best to manifest the pivotal role that the kingdom plays in its designs. Despite of a number of outright hostile statements against Riyadh that Trump made back in the days of his election campaign, he has become a lot quieter now, since he must have received a number of briefings from the so-called “informed people” that hinted him that Washington has everything to gain from its interactions with the Saudi Kingdom.
Without revealing any actual secrets behind this trip, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recently told the media that among the goals of this Trump’s tour one can find find the need to demonstrate to regional players America’s position on the need to establish a common front against Iran . The top US diplomat would claim:
I think there is broad view and broad consensus among all in the region, among all Arab nations, among Israel and among others of Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, This has to do with standing up in unity against Iran as opposed to any particular religious overtone.
According to some reports, a number of Arab world leaders are to gather in the course of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. In his speech before the visit to the Middle East, Donald Trump mentioned that the purpose of this visit would be to gather a coalition of friends and partners who share the desire to fight terrorism and ensure security and stability in the Middle East. Of course, what he meant was that the goals would be modified in accordance with America’s national interests.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that on April 18, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis paid a visit to Riyadh that was designed to confirm Washington’s readiness to sell billions dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, but also the need its determination to put an end to the supply of Iranian missiles to Yemen, that in turn could use those to launch strikes against the Saudi territory. Mattis has also confirmed that Saudi Arabia has been a key security ally of the United States in the region for more than seven decades, pointing out that the kingdom continues to be the backbone of the security system that Americans constructed in the region.
According to individual statements by representatives of the Pentagon, among the goals that are to be pursued by Trump’s tour one can also find the need to secure military bounds that the United States established with the countries of the Middle East and Africa a long while ago.
In turn, Trump’s visit to Israel, is going to be a pretty regular one, with Trump verbally encouraging Palestinian-Israeli peaceful settlement, notes Shlomo Shamir on the pages of the Maariv newspaper. Certain forces in the Middle East were encouraged by Trump’s unexpected peace initiatives and his meeting with the head of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas. However, there’s no ground to expect any real steps that could encourage this process in the near future, since declarations are pretty much that we are going to get. Worse still, most diplomats and politicians in New York and Washington are convinced that the actual chances for the resumption of Israeli–Palestinian peace process are more than slim. And if Trump is to announce the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem at some point during his stay in Israel, then one can basically forget about any progress to be achieved in this matter.
To sum it up one can note that if Trump travels to Saudi Arabia for business purposes, including the signing of multi-billion dollar arms deals, then his visits to Israel and Vatican are only pursuing PR purposes. Undoubtedly, the US president will in every possible way try to emphasize the importance of the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is even possible that Trump really sincerely wants to become someone who will be able to resolve the long-standing conflict in the Middle East and bring peace to the people of the region. But we must not forget that his predecessors in the White House have also been dreaming of going down in history as peace lovers and peace keeps. There has been not a single American administration that wouldn’t invest its effort and energy in the reconciliation attempts, but to no avail.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”