U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a huge arms deal with the Saudis despite the monarchy’s atrocities in Yemen. How would this deal and Trump’s actions affect the region?
William Hawes: This will only embolden the Saudis to ramp up their war against Yemen. And remember, it’s not just weapons and technology that the US is providing. The US and the UK have military officers in Saudi Arabia providing intelligence, military strategy, satellite imagery, etc. So, the Americans and Brits are really a driving force behind this war. Even with all their high-tech death gadgets, the Saudi military is hopelessly inept, so any gains are soon taken away by the toughness of the Houthis.
The losers, of course, will be the Yemeni people, who are already enduring massive hardship, thousands of deaths, starvation and childhood malnutrition, mass poverty, many people whose lives have been shattered. It’s an absolute tragedy.
Also, Tehran will be watching very carefully and taking calculated, defensive steps to counteract this buildup of military hardware in the region.
Since Trump’s inauguration, he has conducted massive military attacks in some Middle Eastern countries including Syria and Afghanistan. What’s your take on his foreign policy regarding the Middle East?
William Hawes: To say that the Trump administration has any decipherable foreign policy at all is a stretch. American foreign policy spreads death and chaos around the globe, and at a pace which seemingly gets worse every year. I believe I just read recently that Trump’s “amazing generals” are conducting something like four times the amount of drone strikes compared to Obama. And Obama launched more strikes than Bush Jr. The “leaders” in Washington are mindless killers, war criminals, with no moral compass. US foreign policy is becoming increasingly divorced from reality, with extremely dangerous implications for the entire world.
In his campaign, Trump made various statements which gave a sliver of hope that he would not intervene in the Middle East. It seems now that has changed, as the rhetoric coming out of Washington is increasingly anti-Assad and anti-Iran. You can bet that the sniveling, cowardly regimes in Tel Aviv and Riyadh are pleased.
In terms of a wider view, US foreign policy hasn’t changed much since 2001. Wesley Clark was told around 2003 that the US would be “taking out” seven countries in five years, and while here we are sixteen years later, they’re still in the process of trying to do that. So the foreign policy is to divide and conquer, keep any potential regional power from rising and establishing hegemony in the Middle East, even a peaceful rise, whether that’s Turkey or Iran. This was spelled out in the Yinon Plan, authored by a former Israeli policymaker, which described how the Middle East could be balkanized by dividing its peoples along ethnic and religious lines.
What’s your take on the recent row between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Washington’s role in it?
William Hawes: I’d say at this point Washington’s role is still hazy. There have been differences and conflicts between Riyadh and Doha for a long time now. The Saudis might be feeling brave because they assume they have special relationship with the Trump administration, and want to extract concessions from Qatar. It’s no secret the Saudis oppose the populist political Islam that the Qataris are engaged in, between Al Jazeera’s popularity and Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Trump has also tried to ban citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The list, however, excluded Saudi Arabia. What does that tell us?
William Hawes: This tells us the ban is ideological, and based on ignorance, racism, and fear, rather than logic. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi Arabians, but there was no travel ban imposed after the attack. What it says it that the US doesn’t care about human rights. As long as you sell America oil, buy our weapons, and are aligned with US geostrategic imperatives (i.e., dominating the world), US leaders don’t care if you start wars with your neighbors, oppress women, or torture and behead your own citizens.