Trump Speech completely ignores Pakistan
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he sensational events of 11 September 2001 for the first time awakened the United States and the West to India’s lonely decades-long fight against Islamist terror, whose menace has only grown since. India, however, found only a mention among victims of Islamist terror in US President Donald Trump’s 33:58 minute speech in Riyadh. Addressing a virtual summit of 50-plus Sunni leaders (mainly from the Gulf and Africa), Trump explained his vision of US-Muslim equations and demanded de-radicalisation of (Wahhabi) Islam, and continuing the policy of predecessor regimes, identified Shia Iran as Washington’s main enemy.
The unchecked Saudi export of Wahhabi ideology all over the Muslim world (currently to Bangladesh) has created offshoots in response to local politics;
As Shia Iran and Sunni Afghanistan share India’s vexation with jihadi groups nurtured by Pakistan, de-radicalisation of India’s neighbourhood seems a remote possibility. On the flip side, Pakistan, which is changing western masters for Chinese overlords, was cold shouldered at the summit; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not invited to speak and Pakistani victims of terror not acknowledged.
Although extreme versions of Islam threaten even Muslim regimes, it is difficult to see how these can be tackled without striking at the root of the Wahhabi ideology from which the Saudi monarchy derives legitimacy. The unchecked Saudi export of Wahhabi ideology all over the Muslim world (currently to Bangladesh) has created offshoots in response to local politics; the plethora of terrorist organisations (Al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State) all have had links with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]G[/dropcap]ulf potentates want to de-radicalise their domestic populations, but without investing in democracy it is impossible. The intolerance to bloggers demanding freedom of speech (Raif Badawi) reduces the effort to a non-starter. Although President Trump urged his audience to stand up against the “murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians”, he ignored the issue of human rights. He also took no notice of India’s Saudi-backed preacher, Zakir Naik, who has radicalised Muslims in India, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
He(Trump) lauded the Saudi kingdom for pledging $400 billion of investments in both countries, which would create thousands of jobs in both America and Saudi Arabia.
By equating Hezbollah with Islamic State and Al Qaeda, President Trump sent a pointed message to Iran which sees itself as guardian of the Shia world (Syria, Lebanon, Yemen). The $110 billion arms deal with Riyadh underwrites US commitment to Sunni dictatorships; this will trigger a reaction from Iran, which recently held the region’s freest election.
Extolling his first foreign visit “to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith”, Trump vowed, “America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust”. He lauded the Saudi kingdom for pledging $400 billion of investments in both countries, which would create thousands of jobs in both America and Saudi Arabia. In short, Washington, like London, finds security with Muslim despotisms.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]rump appreciated King Salman’s new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology as an important initiative to combat radicalisation in Muslim-majority countries. He dodged the issues of democracy, human rights and tolerance for different faiths and sects (Shia), asserting, “We are not here to lecture – we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all”. The common goal “that transcends every other consideration”, he insisted, is “to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism”.
He(Trump) studiously ignored Pakistan.
But can Wahhabism enable young Muslim boys and girls to grow up “innocent of hatred”? What kind of “peace” can the Middle East have if Iran is designated enemy number one?
Recalling the terror attacks suffered by the United States, countries of Europe, Africa, South America, India, Russia, China and Australia, as also the deathly tolls inflicted on innocent Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations, President Trump piously noted that perhaps 95 per cent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim. He studiously ignored Pakistan.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Middle East with its natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and historic treasures should be a global centre of commerce and opportunity, a place where people flock, not flee. He mentioned Egypt as a thriving centre of learning thousands of years ago, as attested by the wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria; extolled the beauty of Petra (Jordan) and Iraq, and the modern rise of the United Arab Emirates. Lying at the centre of the world’s key shipping lanes – the Suez Canal, Red Sea, and Straits of Hormuz – the region has a rich demography with 65 percent population under the age of 30. The battle, he said, is not between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations, but between barbaric criminals and decent people, between Good and Evil.
The unexpected victim of the summit, however, was Islamabad. Pakistan’s role (whatever that might be, seen from India) in the ‘war against terror’ was totally eclipsed…
Getting down to nuts and bolts, Trump said the first task for Muslim countries is “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil…. ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil”, and also deny access to funds (ISIS sells oil, jihadi fighters are paid, and reinforcements are smuggled into jihadi theatres). For this purpose, Washington set up the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, to be co-chaired by the US and Saudi Arabia, and joined by all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The GCC and Saudi Arabia have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation and placed sanctions on one of its senior leaders.
Trump’s tour encompasses Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Vatican, the holiest sites of the three Abrahamic Faiths (Mecca-Median ruled out to non-Muslims); he professed hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. But his core concerns exclude large swathes of the world, from non-monotheistic societies such as China, India, Japan and Buddhist Asian nations, Orthodox nations like Russia, and the Shia world.
In fact, he blamed Iran for much of Muslim terrorism, which is simply untrue, though Tehran is protecting Shias in the region. Nor is the crisis in Syria the handiwork of Iran or even Russia. It is clear that all talk of ISIS notwithstanding, Washington and Riyadh are gunning for Iran.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he unexpected victim of the summit, however, was Islamabad. Pakistan’s role (whatever that might be, seen from India) in the ‘war against terror’ was totally eclipsed; apparently Washington realises that Pakistan has no interest in helping it in Afghanistan. Yet, Pakistan’s former army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, is heading the Saudi Arabia-led 34-nation military alliance ‘against terrorism’. Worse, the targetting of Iran has the potential to plunge Pakistan in sectarian Shia-Sunni conflicts as 20 per cent of its population is Shia and it shares a 900-mile border with Iran. Its new godfather, China, is unlikely to be of use in this fight.
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