Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Outside the Corral Trump's First Trip Abroad Raises Myriad Questions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Outside the Corral Trump's First Trip Abroad Raises Myriad Questions

Article excerpt

There are a few things wrong with the Middle East portion of President Donald J. Trump's current walk outside the corral.

The first is the major question mark that hangs over his credibility as a spokesperson for America. He has shown himself during his candidacy and his first four months as president to be, basically, a liar and untrustworthy. These are not the qualities that people like the Saudi king, the Israeli prime minister and even the Egyptian caudillo are prepared to accept as a basis for their own foreign and domestic policy decisions, upon which rest their futures and the futures of their nations.

They may be willing to take a gamble, such as the Saudi $100 billion-plus arms purchases, on Mr. Trump's concern for financial interests, but even they have to be aware of his record of chiseling contractors out of their payments. Does King Salman want Riyadh to come to look like Atlantic City?

The second, basic point about Mr. Trump's honesty so far is that he was clearly elected on the basis of what he promised to the "forgotten" American people, those in Rust Belt towns and cities, unemployed, reluctant to move, in principle in quest of jobs, who thought that the allegedly successful businessman-president would see to their needs. But he hasn't delivered yet. Instead he has fiddled with their health care, turned a greedy, rich businessperson loose on public education, and has yet to launch the big infrastructure project he promised -that which should at least result in job creation.

As a result, anything he promises the Saudis, Israelis, Pope Francis, NATO or the G-7 leaders, they have to assume at this point that he can't deliver at home, given the snarl and the weak, uncertain leadership he must work with in the Republican Congress. He would risk even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell jumping ship on him if he hadn't put Mr. McConnell's wife in the Cabinet.

Now, the really crazy part is that Mr. Trump, by signing on with the Sunni Muslims against the Shiites in his Riyadh extravaganza, has involved America unnecessarily in the centuries-old Sunni-Shiite Islamic split. There are 1.5 billion Sunnis in the world and 250 million Shiites. Saudi Arabia, roughly, leads the Arab Sunnis; Iran, the Shiites. The Sunnis have more money, although Iran, since the nuclear accord, has contracted for billions in purchases of Boeing aircraft.

Iran just had semi-democratic elections, with the more reasonable of the presidential candidates, Hassan Rouhani, having won with 57 percent of the vote. More reasonable - as opposed to clerical - candidates also took virtually all of the Tehran municipal council seats. Saudi Arabia has a king and a lot of princes. Saudis' involvement in financing the 9/11 attack on the United States still remains murky, nearly 16 years later. …

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