The Washington Post reports: In a speech intended to galvanize Arab and Muslim leaders against threats from extremists and Iran, President Trump demanded unity from his audience in Saudi Arabia, and focus.
“One goal transcends every other consideration,” he said to the assembled leaders in the Saudi capital, in an address that shifted between stark realism and startling optimism. “We pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East,” he said.
But instead of peace, the Middle East was battered by a wave of conflict in the days that followed, awash with recriminations and repression that suggested that, far from uniting the region, Trump’s words had only aggravated its divides.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia launched a bizarre and unexpected war of words that highlighted their longtime competition for regional influence and their often sharply contrasting visions.
As that dispute raged last week, the leaders of Bahrain and Egypt embarked on unusually vicious crackdowns on political opponents at home, killing five people and arresting hundreds.
And leaders in Iran, Saudi Arabia’s principal rival, where voters earlier this month reelected a reformist president, went on the offensive, condemning Trump’s announcement of billions of dollars in weapons sales to the Saudis while revealing the existence of an underground ballistic missile facility.
Analysts said the tensions were almost surely a consequence of Trump’s visit to Riyadh: a forceful American endorsement of Saudi leadership in the Arab world, punctuated by the weapons sales, which had stirred panic and anxiety among the kingdom’s competitors and enemies while emboldening its loyal and authoritarian allies. [Continue reading…]