By Steven MacMillan/The Analyst Report: 9 June, 2017
If anyone thought that the Trump presidency couldn’t get any more absurd, then think again. The Oompa Loompa-in-chief was in Saudi Arabia last month, on the first stop of a foreign trip that ended at a G7 (formerly G8) summit in Sicily. For any budding comedians out there, Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia was pure comedy gold, with other (serious) foreign leaders surely looking on in disbelief.
The Saudi cringe-fest began with Trump and other US officials participating in an offensively awkward sword dance, in a scene that was fit to grace any comedy TV show. That was followed by an utterly bizarre photo op, which saw Trump, the Saudi King and the Egyptian President, placing their hands on a glowing orb to mark the opening of an anti-extremism centre in Riyadh. The irony should not be lost on anyone, considering the fact that Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of extremism around the world (not Iran, as the Trump administration has repeatedly claimed), with the Arab Kingdom long been a major backer of ISIS.
As you can expect, the orb photo of the masters of the absurd set the internet alight with memes and jokes, as it literally looks like something out of a spoof or a sketch from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain. The totally bizarre trip also included Trump being awarded the highest civilian honour by the Saudi King, with the US President appearing to curtsy – something I thought was only appropriate for women to do – after receiving the award, despite the fact that Trump has previously criticized Obama for his infamous bow in front of Saudi royalty.
From a public relations perspective, Trump’s visit to Saudi was an epic failure. The US President has become the laughing stock of the world (if he wasn’t already), with even Roger Stone, the long-time Trump confidant, criticizing the move.
Behind the glaring comedy spectacle however, there is a far darker story to be told. One of the primary purposes of Trump’s visit to the home of extremism was to land over a hundred-billion-dollar arms deal with the country. As Zero Hedge reported in their article titled, Trump Signs “Single Largest Arms Deal In US History” With Saudi Arabia Worth $350 Billion:
‘When all other sources of economic growth appear tapped out, there is always the military-industrial complex coming to the rescue of US GDP with the sale of arms and equipment to the world’s biggest purchaser of weapons: Saudi Arabia. Because when one looks beyond the pageantry, pomp and circumstance of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the main purpose behind the president’s visit is precisely that: selling weapons, some $350 billion over the next decade, according to estimates…
According to a statement just issued by the White House, Trump “has just completed the largest single arms deal in US history, negotiating a package totaling more than $109.7 billion,” which will boost Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities, bolstering equipment and services in the face of extreme terrorist groups and Iran. The White House added that the deal will create defense jobs while also reaffirming America’s commitment to Saudi Arabia.’
More Bombs to Drop on Yemen
For over two years now, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of states that have waged a war on one of the poorest countries on earth; namely, Yemen. In response to the Houthi movement – a movement Saudi claims is Iranian-backed – taking control of large parts of Yemen, which resulted in the Yemini President, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, temporarily fleeing to Saudi Arabia, a coalition of Middle Eastern and African states intervened militarily in March 2015.
The Saudi-led military intervention has been fiercely criticized by many human rights activists around the world. Reports from last year indicate that Saudi Arabia has used deadly white phosphorous munitions in the conflict, with US officials admitting that they have supplied white phosphorous to the Saudis in the past. Saudi Arabia has also admitted using British-made cluster bombs in Yemen, a type of weapon that is considered illegal by the 100-plus states that have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty.
“Catastrophic Humanitarian Crisis”
In January of this year, the UN put the death toll of the conflict at approximately 10,000, with countless more maimed. The war in Yemen has led to one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in recent times, as the World Bank details:
‘The ongoing conflict in Yemen has caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. As of March 2017, an estimated 17 million Yemenis (about 60 percent of the total population) are estimated food insecure and a further 7 million severely food insecure. Malnutrition has increased by 57 percent since 2015 and now affects close to 3.3 million people, 462,000 of which are children under five.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that a child dies every ten minutes from preventable causes. About half of Yemen’s population of about 26.8 million live in areas directly affected by the conflict. Over 21.1 million Yemenis (80 percent of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance and 2.8 million Yemenis have been forcibly internally displaced.’
Additionally, a cholera outbreak has claimed the lives of over 300 people in the country since the 27th of April, with the number of suspected cases thought to be close to 30,000.
Although Trump ‘s visit to Saudi provided a lot of hilarity, it should not distract from the critical situation in Yemen, a situation in which the US President only seems too happy to exacerbate. During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump seemed far from the candidate that repeatedly criticized the barbaric Kingdom during the race for the White House; once again proving that there is often a massive distinction between what candidate Trump said, and what President Trump does.