Trump in Riyadh

In Riyadh I watched Donald Trump do a little dance, shake a little sword and accept a big cheque in return for American-made weapons of mass destruction. Then it was off to bang his head against a wall in Jerusalem, mumble a few platitudes about the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, before heading off to the Vatican to meet the Pope.

I confess, at one point, as Donald Trump emerged from the dark interior of air force one and felt the full force of the Middle Eastern sun on his brow, I wondered whether he was wearing enough sunblock.

It was difficult to tell. Why do the little things attract so much of our attention? They do, don't they?

Allies and enemies in the war on terror

Enough of the incidental, let’s talk about the big stuff. Actually, I’m not going to talk I am going to ask a question, You can offer answers I'll never hear, nod in agreement, or shake your head in disbelief.

Trump has just visited Saudi Arabia to create an alliance with the Gulf states to fight against terrorism. Why is he forming an alliance with states accused of supporting terrorism to fight terrorism?’

John Podesta wrote in a leaked State Department email: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.’

OK let’s leave that question aside for a bit.

Trump went on to criticise ‘Iran’ for sponsoring terrorism - not Saudi Arabia or Qatar but Iran. On his visit to Jerusalem, the President said to the Israelis, that there was “a growing realisation among your Arab neighbours that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran”.

Here’s where I get confused. Weren’t the men responsible for 9/11 Saudi nationals and not Iranians?

Oh, and aren’t the Iranians fighting ISIS and other Sunni extremists in Syria and Iraq?

Andrew Curtis in his documentary ‘Bitter Lake’ offers some answers. At the end of the Second World War, Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia struck a deal in which America would be guaranteed Saudi oil in return for protection and wealth.

According to Curtis, Abdulaziz said to Roosevelt, 'We will take your technology and your money but you must leave our faith alone’ Bitter Lake 15.10. The faith that the West has left alone is Wahhabism, a strict, puritanical form of Islam; a faith intolerant of unbelievers and other more moderate Muslims - you may have heard of it.

Since then, successive American Presidents have ignored the threat of Wahhabism, a faith which has spawned the ideology behind ISIS. Trump appears to be continuing in the same vein. He too is happy to do a little dance, accept money for arms, and turn a blind eye to intolerance.

Today Air Force One flies the President to the Vatican City, I wonder whether the Pope will take his confession.