A few weeks ago, Iran’s moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani won a second term in Iran’s Presidential elections after getting 57% of the vote. With a voter turnout of 73%, the Iranian electorate chose to give Rouhani another term as opposed to electing his hardline opponent Ebrahim Raisi, who had the backing of the conservatives. Rouhani worked closely with the Obama administration in conceptualizing and penning the Nuclear Deal which limits Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for “significant economic incentives from the West“.
The very next day, American President Donald Trump accused Iran of spreading destruction and chaos throughout the Middle East region. Trump was speaking in the capital city of the country which was the destination of his foreign trip as the President of the United States – Saudi Arabia. Trump’s anti-Iranian rhetoric drew applause from the Saudi Arabian establishment as well as its King Salman. The same day, he signed a landmark 110 billion$ arms deal with the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the Al-Saud family for many a century. Being a monarchy, Saudi Arabia has never held elections. It also has an excessively abusive human rights record. Over the past several decades, Saudi Arabia has poured millions of dollars into funding religious institutions that preach a message of hate. From Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Morocco in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives in Asia, the Saudi kingdom has planted the seeds of its poisonous Wahhabi ideology that has inspired the modern terrorist.
In fact, it was one of the three countries in the world, along with Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, which recognized the murderous Taliban regime as the legitimate government in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Furthermore, 16 of the 19 hijackers responsible for 9/11 were Saudi Arabian citizens. The point is clear – Saudi Arabia is the harbinger for global extremism.
So here was Donald Trump, in a country with an atrocious human rights record, no democratic ideals and a clear history of propagating an extremist ideology, blaming Iran for doing exactly the same.
He is not the first one to do so though. Successive Republican and Democratic Presidents have cozied up to Saudi Arabia over the past decades.
Early American reliance on Saudi Arabia necessitated out of the country’s energy needs. Saudi Arabia has been the leading producer and exporter of oil in the world for a really really long time. And the United States has traditionally imported most of its oil from the biggest Gulf nation.
However, owing to its recent shale gas revolution, America’s dependency on Saudi Arabia for oil has dwindled. In fact, America’s oil imports from Saudi Arabia have fallen drastically from 1,703 thousand barrels per day in 1991 to 1,097 thousand barrels per day in 2016.
Despite America’s recent energy self-sufficiency, it continues to cozy up to the largest Middle East nation. The United States sees Saudi Arabia as a strategic counter-balance to an Iranian regime that is backed by Russia. The Kingdom is America’s key military ally in the Arab Peninsula, giving it strategic leverage in the region.
Hence, for these reasons, the United States willingly turns its eye away from all the abominations committed by the Saudi regime and chooses to demonize a moderate, democratic Iran instead.
And Donald Trump… is no different.