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By: Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay*.

First: Motives of Donald Trump’s Visit

The visit by the US President Donald Trump in the last week of May 2017 represents a primary indication of the broad outlines of his Middle East policies, which can be identified under three main orientations:

1. The priority of the financial-trade dimension over the political dimension in relations with the Arab countries.

2. The priority of linking regional instability to the Iranian role, rather than to the repercussions of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories.

3. The priority of Arab normalization with Israel at the expense of the political settlement of the Palestinian issue.

Before the analysis of these priorities and their implications for the future, it must be pointed out that Trump is seeking to make foreign policy achievements in ‘easy regions’ such as the Middle East, to contain his internal woes arising from allegations regarding the Russian role in his electoral success, an issue that refuses to go away. He is also attempting to improve his bad image in the eyes of the US public, promoted by US and Western media, in addition to the accusations regarding his unfitness for the post by 35 leading American psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, who signed a statement to this effect.[1]

Trump’s woes do not stop there, as a number of professors of constitutional law in American universities have called for launching an impeachment investigation,[2]  not to mention his confrontations with immigration authorities and federal courts, and the large discrepancy between his campaign and presidential speeches on several domestic and foreign issues where he has been caught lying in more than 76% of his claims as we will explain.

Based on this internal situation, Trump chose the Middle East, to try to score achievements to improve his internal position, and coopt influential pressure groups in the American body politic, such as the Military-Industrial Complex, Israel’s lobby, Christian fundamentalists, and neo-conservatives and the top tier of American capitalists.

Second: The First Stage of the Tour

Trump’s trip began in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which organized an Arab Islamic American summit in Riyadh. Trump and Arab leaders addressed the summit, which concluded with the “Riyadh Declaration” on which the following observations can be made:[3]

1. There was an absence of any reference to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian issue or the occupation of Arab territories. Despite the fact that general and ambiguous references were made to the settlement of conflicts in the region, the Palestinian issue was completely eclipsed by the Iranian issue, which indicates clearly the nature of the alliance and strategic partnership set forth in the statement in subsequent paragraphs.

2. Since the United States is the central party to the conference, Trump’s speech can be considered part of the conference official documents. Trump pointed out in his speech that Hamas (and Hezbollah and implicitly Islamic Jihad Movement of Palestine (PIJ)) are all terrorist organizations, which were referred to several times in the statement, (I forecasted this position a year and a half ago, in an article published on 17/10/2015, in which I said that Israel and the US will target in the counter-terrorism campaign Hamas, PIJ and Hizbullah).  This should be linked to other aspects of the statement, namely:

a. The statement indicates that the establishment and the declaration of the accession of participating countries in the Middle East Strategic Alliance will be completed in 2018. We must note that the name of the alliance is the Middle East Strategic Alliance and not the Arab-Islamic American Alliance. The first name allows Israel to sign up in contrast to the second, which was referred to as a partnership between Arab and Islamic countries and the United States. What would happen if Israel applies for membership? The statement refers to two frameworks, namely, “Middle East Strategic Alliance,” which could include Israel, and the “Arab-Islamic-American partnership.” The former label is broader than the latter in terms of membership and functions assigned to it, and even the degree of commitment to an “alliance” is higher compared to a “partnership.”

b. The statement touts a possible agreement on cooperation in combating terrorism and to “dry up its sources of funding.” through the establishment of a “global center.” Since the central part of the agreement is the United States, this means that any Arab aid to Palestinian organizations could fall within the designation of financing terrorism. Accordingly, Hamas and the PIJ specifically, must prepare for further fiscal restrictions on them, both from individuals in the Gulf or from the Gulf states. This is while noting that the crackdown will take an institutional character, as stated in the text of the statement. This means every Arab or Islamic step involving Palestinian armed resistance movements and their members will be tracked down as financing terrorist organizations according to the American interpretation.

c. The statement calls for “countering and preventing terrorist attacks.” Based on the context of the conference and its formulations, this language no doubt covers acts of resistance against Israeli occupation, as long as Trump places armed Palestinian organizations on terror lists. Therefore, the statement commits the signatories to punish Hamas, PIJ, or others in the event they carry out any operations against the occupation.

d. The statement announced the establishment of a “global center” (and the term “global” and not Arab or Islamic allows for including Israel and others) to counter extremism. Will the role of this center extend to satellite channels and other media? Such a center would have the potential to pressure Arabsat and Nilesat to shut down Hamas and PIJ satellite stations (as was the case with Al-Manar TV). It may even prevent the distribution of newspapers, magazines or the work of research centers that support the positions of these organizations. It may designate any protest or Intifadah in the occupied territories as “incitement to and promotion of a culture of hatred.”

There is no doubt that such a statement will be met with great satisfaction in Israel’s lobby, which Trump feels that he desperately needs in his internal confrontations with the forces that we mentioned above.

Third: The Commercial and Financial Dimension in the First Phase of the Tour

Trump succeeded in snatching a deal to sell US arms to KSA and bring Saudi investments in US infrastructure, bringing the value of the deal to about $400 billion. The deal will please the US Military-Industrial Complex. It is enough to know that 15 of the top Pentagon and other officials appointed by Trump have direct ties to the US Military-Industrial Complex (such as Jared Kushner, Benjamin Cassidy, Jonathan Hoffman, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Patrick Shanahan, Heather Wilson, Keith Kellogg, Chad Wolf, Laura Ries, Michael Catanzaro, Justin Mikolay, etc.). The first sign of relations between Trump and the Military-Industrial Complex emerged when Trump pushed an increase in military spending by about $ 54 billion.[4]

The Saudi-American agreement, which provides for the purchase of US arms worth $350 billion over the next ten years, starting with an immediate deal worth $110 billion, means that the Military-Industrial Complex (revealed more than half a century ago by American writer C. Wright Mills and cautioned against by the late US president Eisenhower in the sixties) will lead to the fueling of international conflicts (without direct involvement, clear from Trump’s speech at the Riyadh conference indicating the “the nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves”) to allow room for more arms sales to the warring sides. This is evident from the volume of US military sales globally, in general, and in the Middle East in particular, with most of the regional wars being fought with US arms by the two parties or one of them.

Add to the arms deals news about the KSA readiness to invest about $40 billion in US infrastructure, not to mention already existing Saudi investments in US markets.

But it is important to recall that former President Obama had already signed with Saudi Arabia a $115 billion arms deal, but the Obama administration nixed the sale of the precision-guided munitions it had originally agreed to put in the deal to try to coerce the Saudis into curbing the atrocities in Yemen.[5]

Saudi Arabia is trying to head off what “it sees as Iranian strategic options” in the region, and a Saudi ambition to become a pivotal state in the Middle East could be strengthened by such military deals. However, we would like to recall that although the Soviet Union was the second military power in the world, it was its internal structure that determined its fate, while the Shah of Iran was one of the pillars of the region, but the internal situation had the final say nonetheless. Hence, Saudi policy and aspirations will face several obstacles:

1. How will US pressures for a more Saudi military spending be reconciled with KSA’s declining revenues from oil sales, which is the central artery of the Saudi economy?

2. How will Saudi Arabia reconcile a “regional ambition disguised behind arms deals” with an expanding regional economic poverty belt that surrounds it in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Iraq?

3. Will the KSA benefit from this deal in blocking the implementation of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA) Act passed by the US Congress?

On the other hand, it is clear that the KSA is trying to complete the elements of regional ambition through some procedural steps with other major powers by:

1. Agreeing with the Russians to continue oil production policies, to ensure the stability of oil prices and prevent their deterioration.

2. Continuing to top the list of oil exporters and importers of goods for the Chinese economy.

3. It is clear that the directions of French President Macron will make the Saudi diplomatic movement more “wild.” So will these Gulf trends in general be complemented by a kind of soft pressure on the Palestinian Authority as a prelude to amending the Arab peace initiative, especially on the issue of refugees and borders, and the legal nature of any proposed Palestinian political entity, let alone the process of Arab normalization with Israel? This must be dealt with seriously.

Fourth: The Absent Dimension in the Second Phase

In the second phase, Trump travelled directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel, where he visited the Western Wall. In his speeches with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu he emphasized the American-Israeli strategic relationship and his commitment to Israel’s security, before meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud ‘Abbas.

A number of points are worth considering regarding this stage of the tour:

1. All Trump’s statements were devoid of any specific commitment to the framework within which the desired settlement between Palestinians and Israelis would take place. He said he was committed to “peace” without specifying its international framework (UN resolutions, Quartet resolutions or the Arab initiative), or even the US framework (The establishment of a Palestinian state as endorsed by former President Bush).

2. Contrary to the declared US position on settlements and occupation, Trump avoided mentioning any of the issues pertaining to the Palestinian issue except to call for peace using a rhetorical language implying the desire to disown any previous American commitments.

3. The issue of the transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem remained in the shadow, despite some test balloons fired by the Israelis before the arrival of Donald Trump, suggesting some evasiveness as analyzed in Al-Zaytouna Centre’s recent Strategic Assessment on the issue.

Fifth: Future Implications

While acknowledging that political institutions in the American political system are stronger than individuals, the role of the individual remains significant in the context of institutional interactions with the local, regional and international environment. Trump’s personality must therefore be taken into account when trying to understand his future policy and their implications and how to deal with them

1. Trump’s Personality

What is striking is that current President Trump has had an unusual amount of attention regarding his psychology; something previous presidencies have not known with such intensity and expansive debate. Dozens of American newspapers and specialized journals ran analyses on this subject, reflecting concerns on the matter, mostly by “academic” parties, including a statement by 35 American psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers run by The New York Times newspaper, The Atlantic magazine, the Daily News newspaper  questioning Trump’s fitness.[6]

The statement said “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.” Dr. John Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School believes that “Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President,” adding that he is “psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President.”[7]

All agree on the “narcissism” of Donald Trump, but they differ over its extent and impact. A majority of analysts believe Trump has eight properties of pathological narcissistic characteristics (among nine characteristics of narcissism), while others believe that Trump exhibits only four. The characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:[8]

a. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
b. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
c. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
d. Requires excessive admiration.
e. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
f. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
g. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
h. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
i. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Most of the information gathered by the author from American studies on Trump’s personality since his childhood throughout his history in the world of business and finance, and his personal relations and other interactions that political psychology is concerned with, indicates the following:

a. Trump is insecure. A number of researchers attribute this to three factors:

1.  His history in military academy, which instilled in him a sense that the other is the “enemy,” in that he is always training himself on how to confront another party, which makes his sense of anxiety very profound.

2. His immersion in the world of finance and business, has made him feel that the hidden hand that economists know is always around the corner, often leading to the collapse of economic empires, corporations and giant banks, Trump himself having tasted some of this.

3. His childhood indicates that the level of praise he expected of the parents was never satisfied. In spite of his wealth and sheltered life, Trump has not received the praise he expected, making him perpetually anxious.

b. Lying: A study of Trump’s statements during his campaign gave the following results:

• 2% True.
• 7% Mostly True.
• 15% Half True.
• 15% Mostly False.
• 42% False.
• 18% Pants on Fire

Which means that 75% of his statements were closer to lying, compared to 29% of statements by Hillary Clinton.[9]

c. He is extremely narcissistic (as explained above): An analysis of Trump’s writings and interviews indicates that he has a high degree of narcissism, evident from his over use of his own name, his sense that he can achieve what others cannot do, and his appreciation of praise (which is evident in his hatred of the media because most did not praise him). His view of others suggests little empathy, given his inclination to smear his opponents.

d. Negotiations: Researchers interested in Trump’s negotiating tactics concluded that:

1. He fiercely deploys all his power from the very start of negotiations.
2. He drowns the other party in the smallest detail, no matter how simple or trivial.
3. He tends to put the opposite party in uncomfortable negotiating conditions by defaming them as we have already mentioned, and creating a frustrating negotiating environment that makes it easier to accept Trump’s terms.
4. He does not feel guilt regarding others in the context of negotiating.
5. If he feels that his intransigence may lead to loss, he will retreat and does not see this as detrimental.

e. What does all this mean for the Arab negotiator?

1. The Arab negotiator must bear in mind that Trump will not hesitate to lie to him. This means that the Arab negotiator should not take what Trump says seriously, except within a threshold of about 30%.
2. If the Arab negotiator is forced to praise Trump, this should not include praising his political positions, because he will always expect for those who deal with him to praise him whatever he does.
3. Trump will not hesitate to blackmail the Arab negotiator, be this politically or financially, and even immorally.
4. Anyone who disagrees with his opinion will be slandered in all his statements and positions.
5. If Trump feels like he will lose completely, he will retreat and see nothing wrong with this (e.g., his positions with China, North Korea, the US home front, NATO, and even with KSA, etc.).

2. Trump’s Major Orientations and Implications for the Arab Region

The US military spending package announced by Trump, with an increase of $ 54 billion reaching up to a total of $639 billion (more than the defense spending of the next seven countries combined), calls into question how to reconcile this increase with Trump’s promises to revive the US economy. The United States, which accounts for 4.3% of the world’s population, accounts for 37% of global military and defense spending.

The most important engine that stimulates US economic growth is the military industry, and it is important to pay attention to some indicators as follows:

a. 68% of US research expenditure goes for military purposes.
b. 46% of wars (international and internal) in the world are fought with American weapons by the parties to the conflict, and 43% wars in which one of the parties to the war is using American weapons.
c. The US share of arms sales was 33% of global sales during 2011–2015.
d. Periods of economic stagnation or recession in the US (1929, 1970, 1987, and 2008) were often followed by an increase in military spending, as this contributes to the absorption of unemployment, the development of technology, the promotion of arms trade, etc.

The Trump project guarantees a reduction in external spending, housing, the environment and many federal projects to offset some military spending, in the service of the Military-Industrial Complex. It is enough to look at the backgrounds of some leading figures in Trump’s administration to understand this. Although Trump has justified this citing terrorism and aggressive powers like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, it is the Military-Industrial Complex that drives the increased spending. Suffice to say that one of the representatives of the Military-Industrial Complex has suggested that Trump was brought to serve them.[10]

The Mega-Trend of American Policy (Long-Term Future)

It is not possible to study US policy in the Trump era in isolation from the mega-trend of the United States status, which is gradually declining globally, according to the estimates made by a large number of experts (such as Paul Kennedy, Johan Galtung and others).

Therefore, an analysis of US policy must be based on two dimensions: the immediate term (Trump period) and the long term (ten years or more). Since the scope is limited to tackle here long-term indicators, we will refer to some of them briefly, to monitor the prospects of US policy in the short or near term in the Arab region, especially on the Palestinian issue:

Johan Galtung was one of the first whose work and models we have followed, especially since he combines sociology and mathematics (he holds doctorate on both subjects). What draws our attention is his record are the predictions he has made. Perhaps his most striking model is the one found in his “Synchronizing and Mutually Reinforcing Contradictions” model, in which he studied the rise and fall of ten empires and predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse in 1990 (occurred ten years later).[11]

Galtung’s credibility is illustrated by his other predictions: his prediction of the Iranian revolution, the 1989 Tiananmen Square riots, the global economic crises of 1987 and 2008, and the September 11 attacks in the United States. But his study most relevant to the United States was published in 2009, in which he predicted two important developments:[12]

1. The United States will decline in about 25 years, a conclusion reached based on monitoring 15 indicators of contradiction in the American system, the most important of which are:

a. Economic contradiction: Surplus in production, with unemployment, and increased pollution costs.
b. Military contradiction: Disagreements with allies in NATO and elsewhere about who bears the costs of war (issues being raised now by Trump).
c. Political contradiction: the contradiction between the roles of the United Nations and the European Union, and the American role.
d. Cultural contradiction: the contradiction between the Jewish Christian component and the Islamic component and other minorities (a subject that is now coming to the fore).
e. Social contradiction: The growing gap between the American dream held by every citizen and the erosion of the middle class (a trend strengthened by the election of Donald Trump).
f. International contradictions appear in US rivalry with China and Russia (now clear in many areas).

2. The distinguishing mark in this course, according to Galtung, will emerge “”when the periphery elites no longer want to fight US wars, no longer want to exploit for the center,” which indicates the beginning of the collapse of the empire. This is today evident in NATO’s current position on the American role (the United States intervened militarily since 1945 in 37 countries in wars that killed 20 million people). Galtung believes that “the decline of American power on the world stage would probably have a domestic impact that would undermine the internal cohesion of the United States” or it may become a “confederation rather than a ‘union’.”

Galtung saw that “15 ‘synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions’ afflicting the US, which he says will lead to US global power ending by 2020.” He “warned that during this phase of decline, the US was likely to go through a phase of reactionary ‘fascism’.”[13]

3. The Near Future

Accordingly, we believe that the near future could have the following features:

a. The preference for Arab normalization with Israel over the political settlement of the Palestinian issue.
b. The attempt to unravel the alliances of some Palestinian armed forces or their close relations with the axis of resistance will be subject to further pressure.
c. The proponents of a peaceful settlement will face a great deal of frustration, making them more vulnerable.

Based on the above, the Palestinian resistance must exercise the utmost caution and try to take advantage of Arab factional and popular forces (regardless of their flaws) because they will be its protective wall. It must not become involved in internal Arab conflicts, and must try to restore its relations with “all” those who may give it a helping hand.


It is necessary not to rule out that the accusations and internal investigations into Trump “may” overshadow the above analysis and change all calculations. Trump’s dismissal of FBI Chief James Comey and the Senate Democratic Leader’s call for an independent commission to investigate Trump’s relations with Russia suggests that turmoil continues to haunt the US administration. It must be recalled that the Watergate scandal began in mid-1972 and ended 26 months later when Nixon resigned after feeling that his conviction had become certain… If history repeats itself, however, Trump could be further pressured to fuel external crises to absorb the effects of his internal crises and shaky image, and the Middle East may be the ideal place to start.

⃰   Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay: Professor of Political Sciences at Yarmouk University, Jordan, and a member of the board of trustees of al-Zaytoonah University of Jordan. He taught at several universities, and is former head of the Department of Political Sciences at Yarmouk University.

[1] Catherine Caruso, “Psychiatrists Debate Weighing in on Trump’s Mental Health,” site of Scientific American magazine, 15/2/2017, click here
[2] click here
[3] Site of Saudi Press Agency, 21/5/2017, click here
[4] John Nichols, “Donald Trump Goes All In for the Military-Industrial Complex,” site of The Nation, 28/2/2017
[5] Alex Ward, “What America’s new arms deal with Saudi Arabia says about the Trump administration,” site of vox, 20/5/2017, click here
[6] Catherine Caruso, “Psychiatrists Debate Weighing in on Trump’s Mental Health,” Scientific American, 15/2/2017.
[7] Site of Lance M. Dodes, M.D., 13/2/2017, click here;  and  May Bulman, “Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference,” site of The Independent newspaper, 21/4/2017.
[8] Steve Bressert, Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms, site of PsychCentral, click here
[9] Site of The Atlantic magazine, June 2016, click here
[10] Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), pp. 100-150; see also Peter Dale Scott, The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S Democracy (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014), passim.
[11] Site of Raw Story, click here
[12] Johan Galtung, The Fall of The U.S Empire-And Then What (Transcend University Press, 2009), passim.
[13] Nafeez Ahmed, US Power Will Decline Under Trump, Says Futurist Who Predicted Soviet Collapse,” 6/12/2016, click here

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies & Consultations, 1/6/2017