President Trump has made it clear: Iran cannot have nuclear weapons, and Islamic extremists must be destroyed. This is a major shift from President Obama’s policy. This past week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the world saw the Arab world applaud this courageous change in US policy. The bombing in Manchester, UK is another tragedy that points to the urgency of fighting this existential war.
The Obama legacy of freeing the evil terrorists has destabilized the Middle East and released the cancer of death across the world. One can believe it was not President Obama’s intention to create chaos, but it is a fact that the resulting chaos indeed sprung from his selfish personal goal to achieve an agreement with Iran. Obama lacked understanding of the Supreme Leader of Iran’s theological position which has placed our allies and friends at great risk. The delivery of hard currency in the middle of the night to Tehran destroyed any trust and respect for Obama by our Arab allies.
King Salman’s greeting to President Trump and the First Lady at Riyadh Airport, as well as the largest summit of Muslim leaders, was not just theater but important statements of the regained respect for the United States by the Gulf Cooperative Council. One only needs to know the culture and customs of the region to fully appreciate the unprecedented welcome by King Salman. The festivities and the highlighting of the American-Saudi partnership pushed new boundaries. Just a few weeks ago, for example, authorities in Saudi Arabia came under fierce attacks over activities organised by the newly-established General Authority of Entertainment. High-profile clerics openly criticised the activities. Saudi Arabia’s partnership with the US has been a source of extremists’ anger with the kingdom for two decades. It was the key factor behind Al Qaeda’s terrorism in the early 2000s. It was not surprising, then, that Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son, who Al Qaeda seems to be grooming to lead it in the future, chose the event to call for a revolt in Mecca. Al Qaeda has also released an article describing the Saudi rulers as apostates for their open alliance with the US.
As many Saudis will say, organising the summit and the bold commitment to fighting extremism with the help of the West meant proponents of change in Saudi Arabia won the day.
President Trump has mobilized the Muslim world around two critical issues: Iran and religious extremism. The strategic goal is peace between Israel and Palestine led by the Middle East leaders. The Arab leaders can deliver a deal for Israeli and Palestinian peace. The key is to have Arab and Israeli leadership instill a vision of opportunity and sense of respect and tolerance for all people. The Arab coalition will need to deconstruct the cycle of hate being promoted by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. The Arab leaders can make this happen by starting to turn minds and hearts in a new direction. In return, the US will build a wall of isolation and neuter Iran’s nuclear ambition and their domination of the Middle East. This is the deal the world needs for survival!
The 2030 Vision of Saudi Arabia is a path to modernization for the people of the Kingdom. The planned improvements in the daily lives of the Saudi people mirror the actions of their neighbors in the United Arab Emirate, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. This plan will provide a reformation of thought and create new hope in their personal lives for a brighter future. Like Saudi citizens, the Palestinian people and neighboring Jordanian and Egyptian citizens can become empowered by education, access to healthcare and family-sustaining jobs. The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Kuwait Fund and Qatar Charity are examples of regional generosity to better the lives of many caught in poverty. The current situation calls for a regional focus of these funds to replace Iran’s funding of terror with resources that will empower individuals. All investments need to be done in an environment of transparency and honesty so the people of the region will benefit directly. This action needs to be sustained for decades to overcome the indoctrination of hate promoted by Iran-funded groups.
Eight years ago, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Crown Prince, penned an article in the Washington Post, urging Arab leadership to appeal directly to the Israelis’ hearts, to persuade them that not every Muslim wants to throw them into the sea. He added that the interests of the Gulf states in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict require that they extricate Israel from its fortress mentality. This year’s Ramadan season is a time for all Middle Eastern leaders to reflect on God’s gifts to their lands. What greater gift to the world could they give than Palestinian and Israeli peace and the destruction of extremism!
The gifts of peace and removal of Iran’s threat to peace-loving countries will be celebrated by the world. King Salman and the Gulf Cooperative Council countries’ leaders know that President Trump’s pledge to never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon will be enforced.
David Printy is a healthcare executive who lived in the Middle East from 2006-2014, leading and advising in the delivery of health care in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. He currently advises Arab Gulf Region and India based Private Equity and healthcare organizations.