By Javad Heirannia

Trump may seek military adventure to consolidate his presidency: professor

March 26, 2017

TEHRAN - Hossein Askari, a professor of international business at George Washington University, says Donald Trump may be seeking a military adventure in the Middle East region to “consolidate his presidency”.

Increasing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen or initating “a fight in the  Persian Gulf” may be his best bet, Askari remarked.

In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, Askari also says he thinks that the Saudis may intentionally initiate an incident with Iran in the Persian Gulf “in order to bring the U.S. fleet into the conflict” with the Islamic Republic.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: In an article in the Huffington Post you wrote that Donald Trump is presenting the United States as a mercenary for Saudi Arabia—pay and the U.S. will defend you against Iran. In your opinion, can such a policy go against Iran?

A: President Trump has said that he will defend Saudi Arabia from Iran and anyone else as long as Saudi Arabia pays. Such a policy is the policy of a mercenary. This much we know. But the details of how far he will go are unknown.

I believe that he will come to the Al-Sauds rescue if there is any dispute with Iran. I even think that the Saudis may intentionally initiate an incident with Iran—such as a shooting of a plane or a boat in the Persian Gulf or an incident on Abu Mussa or Tombs—expressly in order to bring the U.S. fleet into the conflict and put Iran on notice.

I also believe that Trump will come to support the Al-Sauds if there is any internal movement to overthrow them, i.e. a coup. In such a case it will be argued that Iran was behind the coup attempt or that it was terrorist inspired.

I think that the Al-Sauds feel very safe with Trump as President. There is no issue of pointing out Saudi abuses of human rights. They have had indirect business dealings with him. They know him. And they know that with money (and with promises for rewards when Trump is not in power) they can buy protection and even an ally if they pick a fight with Iran. To the Al-Sauds, this may in fact be the best time to start a war with Iran—assured U.S. support and with Israel lending a helping hand. We live in dangerous times!”

“Trump now supports Al-Sauds with an eye on potential business deals.”

Q: Why do you think Trump is compromising with Saudi Arabia?

A: I think President Trump wants to pick some foreign adventure to consolidate his presidency. Yemen may be his best bet. Or a fight in the Persian Gulf. He could support Saudi Arabia. He could teach Iran a lesson and set Iran back. And remember Iran is even less popular than Saudi Arabia in the United States.”

Q: Trump made a harsh criticism against Saudi Arabia during the presidential campaign. However, he has changed tact toward the kingdom since entering the White House. Why?

A: As I have said, Saudi Arabia is not popular in the U.S. So Trump attacked Saud Arabia to get votes. But Saudi Arabia has money and now, and especially when he leaves office, he and his family can do lucrative business deals with the Saudis. So he now supports them with an eye on potential business deals.

I must add something that I have said for over 25 years about Iran. The way Iran can become a force in the world, and for the good of all Iranians, is through economic development and prosperity. Sadly, Iran has failed to develop and grow its economy, as it should have done. The country has wasted 30 years since the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Iran has not built the institutions it needs. Iran has not addressed corruption and waste. Iran will not become an economic giant if it does not develop a sensible long-term vision for the transformation of its economy and social system.”

Q: What factors do influence Trump’s approach toward Iran?

A: As I have said above, Trump will support the GCC. He will do this because the GCC has money and can pay. But I also believe he will do all he can to separate Iraq from Iran. Iraq will have to decide whether to ally itself with Iran or the U.S. This will increasingly become a difficult choice facing Iraq. The U.S. may also want to reduce Iran’s influence in Lebanon.

I am also afraid that Iran presents a good target for Trump. Iran is unpopular in the U.S. Iran is economically weak and cannot afford another war. The GCC would love to see Iran weakened. The GCC may see now the best time with Trump in the White House to reduce Iran’s influence in the region.

Q: Let’s turn to the custodianship of Mecca and Medina. Do you think Saudis are capable of managing the two Holy Mosques?

A: Well, they have had a rough time of it. But they could be getting better at it. However, for me the bigger issue is that they have destroyed 1400 years of Islamic heritage. This is something that is IRREVERSIBLE. They have destroyed houses that belonged to the Prophet Mohammad’s family and companions AND they have built places and luxury hotels. This is not the Islam that I know. Such luxury! With rooms and suites that cost several thousand dollars a night looking down on the Kabaa for the rich and with the poor pilgrims living in poverty! Islam is all about sharing and justice, not opulence living for a few alongside poverty for the many.

Q: Isn’t it better to entrust the management of the two holy sites to the Islamic world through the OIC?

A: Yes. At least a committee of selected Muslims to oversee or at least advise. It is wrong for the King of Saudi Arabia to do as he wishes while 1.7 billion Muslims look on as spectators. But be careful, the OIC has in recent years taken sides with Saudi Arabia. The management or advisory committee should have no affiliation with any country or group.

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