The American parasites of the Middle East
The White House has become resume fluff; public service a smokescreen for side hustles.
It's tempting, as more about the Trump administration's corruption comes to light, to lump it all together.
"This administration is evil," though perhaps easy to understand or cathartic to mutter to friends and family, is a disservice to the sheer multiplicity of harebrained schemes, the veritable Great Barrier Reef of species of failures, that presently call the White House home.
As one reads about the excruciating atonement that the Trump administration continues to be for America, it's important to remember that its hucksters, grifters, sophists, Nazis, Wall Street plants, Islamophobes, plagiarists, contrarians, money launderers, hypemen, corporate raiders, quacks, zealots, hypocrites, wanted criminals, and "jet fuel can't melt steel beams" conspiracists each have goals to achieve, enmities to see to, and their own business deals to get off the ground.
Instead of a "right hand not knowing what the left is up to", imagine a human made entirely of hands, all of them in an arm-wrestle to get what they want out of the brief moment of international acknowledgement that a White House tenure brings.
Imagine a game of musical chairs at a family reunion, except everyone is that drunk uncle that's strangely competitive and unafraid to use his teeth.
Imagine an international relations equivalent of a fatal Black Friday stampede, not only in the mass hysteria and misplaced desperation but also in that it probably could've been avoided had the shoppers stayed home and gone online.
Abhorrence of Arabia
This is a necessary preamble to understanding the Trump administration's policy (or, more accurately, policies) in the Middle East.
Even before the election, key denizens in Trumpworld were knee-deep in Middle Eastern conflicts of interest, and their time in the White House seems to have only deepened the ties.
|Unfortunately, tyranny, suffering, and lives lost are the side-effects of these deals|
Presidential wunderkind and inveterate novice Jared Kushner was already a frequent contributor to an Israeli West Bank settlement group, and the recipient of multiple loans from Israeli banks. Just before Trump's ballyhooed visit to Israel, though, Kushner's Baltimore properties received around $30 million from Israeli insurance company Minora Mivtachim.
Former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn used his position as Trump campaign insider to push a Russian-supported scheme to provide nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile in the White House, he worked to advance the interests of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, going so far as to help plan a kidnapping of Erdogan's bete noire, Fethullah Gulen, in exchange for an American detained in Turkey.
Read more: Trump's UNRWA cuts hold Palestinians hostage
Not to be outdone, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon represented Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal in his finance days, and, after leaving the White House, a company he's affiliated with admitted post-hoc to taking $330,000 from the UAE to assist in labelling Qatar a terrorist pariah - in a wholly manufactured casus belli aimed at stripping the state of sovereignty.
The many different and conflicting financial ties to various actors in the region is a feature, not a bug.
The various power-holders in the administration work independently of each other, to advocate policies that happen to help their financial interests, and Trump, trusting them to do the footwork he's too lazy to even try to understand, lets them.
It's no wonder the Trump administration's intentions in the Middle East are opaque to laymen and diplomats alike: They're the collateral damage of money-grubbers competing for returns on investment.
In this read, the petulant ogre that's nominally the head of the executive branch is reduced to an obstacle in the way of a gold rush of Middle East consultancy, a brat to be mollified with sword dancing and arms deals that don't exist while his advisors broker trades to fatten their off-shore tax-haven nest eggs.
No doubt extra cash will be handy for when Special Counsel Mueller comes knocking with conspiracy charges, as he did with former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
A bridge too FARA
Unfortunately, tyranny, suffering, and lives lost are the side-effects of these deals. The emboldened conservative wing of Israel convinced Trump to declare Jerusalem the capital, putting the stillborn two-state solution out of its misery and booting Palestine from the negotiating table.
Continued American connections with and support for Saudi Arabia legitimises the culling of Yemen. And, as the Qatari blockade episode showcases, the rank opportunism in the Trump administration is being taken advantage of to redraw borders and consolidate power, particularly by Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
|The Trump administration's intentions in the Middle East are the collateral damage of money-grubbers competing for returns on investment|
While somewhat heartening reports that $330,000 in consulting by Cambridge Analytica for the UAE is being reported out of fear of prosecution by Special Counsel Mueller, this rash of expedient deal-cutting and its geopolitical ramifications are symptoms of a far more insidious disease: An amoral set of policy consultancies and corporate powerhouses in the US that give power and legitimacy to autocrats in the Middle East, helping oppressive regimes shape reality to better fit their ambitions.
I wish I could hope that this would end soon, but, as Roxane Gay writes, there's not much we can do but sit in the pain of this grotesque political moment.
In time, with the knowledge of these horrors in hand and the Trump carnival over with, perhaps Americans can begin to take responsibility for their part in the chaos roiling the cradle of civilisation.
Nicholas Morley is a researcher and graduate of Brown University. He lives in Burlington, VT.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.