Trump’s dys­func­tion can­not be con­tained

The Daily Observer - - OPINION - GWYNNE DYER Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

All the talk of spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors and the like will not bring the man to book. No amount of dys­func­tion in the White House will make it stop un­til early 2019 at best, even though a great deal of dam­age will have been done by then.

Some of the dam­age will only af­fect the United States. Don­ald Trump breaks all the un­writ­ten rules that reg­u­late the be­hav­iour of pub­lic of­fi­cials: don’t use your of­fice to en­rich your­self; don’t give plum jobs to your rel­a­tives; don’t fire the di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause he’s lead­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­bly trea­sonous be­hav­iour among your close as­so­ciates. Th­ese are do­mes­tic prob­lems. But the same reck­less­ness, brought to bear on for­eign af­fairs, may have far big­ger con­se­quences.

The Mid­dle East is more fright­en­ing than north­east Asia where most of the ma­jor play­ers around North Korea are grown-ups who don’t want a nu­clear war. In the Mideast, half the coun­tries are al­ready at war, none of the regimes re­ally feels se­cure and Trump al­ready has launched a mis­sile strike against the Syr­ian regime.

He jus­ti­fied it as re­tal­i­a­tion for the al­leged use of poi­son gas by the As­sad regime, but most peo­ple in the re­gion take it as a sign he is join­ing the Sunni side of a re­gion-wide Sunni- Shi­ite war.

This align­ment didn’t start with Trump, of course. For more than half a cen­tury the United States has seen Saudi Ara­bia, the ef­fec­tive leader of the Sunni bloc, as its most im­por­tant ally in the Mid­dle East, and for the past 40 years it has re­garded Iran as the root of all evil in the re­gion.

Iran is the leader of the Shi­ite bloc. In fact, it is the only big, pow­er­ful Shi­ite coun­try. Trump al­ready has ex­pressed hos­til­ity to­ward Iran, and his in­ten­tions to aban­don the treaty Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed to con­tain Iran’s nu­clear weapons am­bi­tions for the next 10 years. And on Fri­day Trump is mak­ing his first for­eign visit — to Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the de­facto ruler of Saudi Ara­bia and leader of the Sunni bloc.

Al­though Mo­hammed is al­most 40 years younger than Trump and is not as ig­no­rant as Trump, he is just as vain, just as im­pul­sive, and just as likely to start a fight he can’t fin­ish.

In an in­ter­view broad­cast this month on Saudi TV he said: “We will not wait un­til the bat­tle is in Saudi Ara­bia. We will work so the bat­tle is in Iran.” Why? Be­cause, ac­cord­ing to the prince, Iran’s lead­ers are plan­ning to seize Is­lam’s most sa­cred city, Mecca, in the heart of Saudi Ara­bia, and es­tab­lish their rule over the world’s bil­lion and a half Mus­lims.

This is para­noid non­sense. Only one-tenth of the world’s Mus­lims are Shi­ite. The only three Mus­lim coun­tries (out of 50) where they are the ma­jor­ity are Iran, Iraq and tiny Bahrain.

Iran sends troops to help the be­lea­guered, Shi­ite-dom­i­nated As­sad regime in Syria, and money and weapons to the (Shi­ite) Hezbol­lah move­ment in Le­banon. But in the 38 years since the cur­rent regime came to power in Tehran, it has never in­vaded any­body. And the no­tion that it could or would in­vade Saudi Ara­bia is laugh­able.

Nev­er­the­less, what mat­ters here are not the facts, but what Trump and Mo­hammed may be­lieve to be the facts. So the prospect of the two men get­ting to­gether in Riyadh will arouse dread in Iran, and in other quar­ters as well.

There is no chance that the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the U.S. Congress will im­peach Don­ald Trump be­fore the mid-term elec­tions in late 2018 no mat­ter what he does. Un­less there is a com­plete col­lapse in the Repub­li­can vote then, they won’t im­peach him ei­ther. It’s go­ing to be a long four years.

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