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Is war with Iran being planned?

Photograph by Bandar Algaloud—Saudi Royal Council
President Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during his first official visit to Saudi Arabia.
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The $110 billion sale of US military equipment to Saudi Arabia, negotiated during President Trump’s Middle East trip, is the first installment of a total $350 billion, ten-year arms deal.
 
These huge weapons sales to Saudi Arabia shift the Middle East balance of power toward Saudi Arabia, heightening fears in Iran that it is threatened by anti-Iran sentiments in the U.S.
 
Why would the U.S. forge such an alliance with Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, does not hold elections, and has documented human rights violations and legal restrictions on women’s activities.
 
Meanwhile, historic vilification of Iran by many U.S. conservatives, and now the Trump administration, make Iranians and activists for peace in the Middle East nervous.
 
President Trump’s National Security Council is peopled with anti-Iran appointments. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agrees with opposition to the six-nation nuclear agreement with Iran and has said Iran’s government should be overthrown. Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, national security adviser, has long-standing resentments against Iran. Derek Harvey, senior director for the Middle East at the council, is considered an Iran hawk. Michael D’Andrea, now heading the CIA’s Iran Division, was appointed to implement Mr. Trump’s anti-Iran policies. And, according to multiple defense and intelligence officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, White House liaison to all intelligence agencies, has told other administration officials that he wants to use American spies to help overthrow the Iranian government.
 
Such dated hostilities toward Iran contrast with those today who see Iran as a young and modern country seeking good relations and trade. Seventy percent of Iran’s population is younger than 30. Iran’s universities graduate more women than men.
 
Iran recently re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, the pro-Western moderate whose 2013 election was considered a rejection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s confrontational, anti-Western style. Voter turnout in Iran’s elections exceeded 70 percent, and Rouhani won a 60 percent majority, solidifying his popularity and highlighting Iran’s evolving democracy.
 
By contrast, Saudi Arabia’s ultra conservative religious mischief is a concern. Respected Middle East observer Fareed Zakaria is critical of Trump’s tilt toward Saudi Arabia. In a New York Times editorial, he reminded readers, “Osama bin Laden was Saudi, as were 15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11.”  He asserts that for 50 years, Saudi Arabia has spread its puritanical and intolerant version of Islam across the world.
 
In addition, Saudi Arabia has been quietly providing financial, military and logistical support to radical groups in the region -including ISIS- and in Europe. Saudi Arabia supports the expansion of its brand of Islam by funding religious leaders, mosques and schools that disseminate their fundamentalist, intolerant beliefs.
 
Considering that Saudi Arabia, not Iran, is the Middle East’s chief supporter of radical terrorism, the Trump administration’s Middle East policies and directions appear based on obsolete historical ideologies rather than today’s realities.
 
While Trump was in Saudi Arabia he was treated like royalty. They granted him the $350 billion arms deal, another trade deal worth $380 billion, and announced a $100 million donation to Ivanka Trump’s favorite charity. Was President Trump taken in by the Saudis?
 
The US has been misled into too many Middle East wars based on bad information and gross miscalculations. We must not allow that to happen again.
 
Nathaniel Batchelder is with Americans Against the Next War.  This group has met Fridays for the last five years. It is a group of central Oklahoma activists primarily concerned about Middle East military actions as they might be sponsored by the U.S.

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