With the American elections closing in, the Middle East, not just the political classes of it, are holding their breath. The stakes for almost all countries of the region are enormous.
On the Persian Gulf, the most anxious are several of the ruling oligarchies, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These ruling families were for Trump as early as 2016. At least one of these regimes has had ties with people who have been associates of Donald Trump. While Trump’s claim that he would extricate the US from Middle East wars disappointed them, his strong promise to renege on the UN-sponsored Iran Nuclear Deal resonated with them. There was hope among the leaders and the palace elites that the promise meant Trump will wage another war in the Persian Gulf on their behalf.
They clearly overestimated his appetite for a new war in the region. He wanted their oil money, but he did not want to fight for them.
After the 2016 election they invested heavily in the Trump presidency. The Arab regimes promised Trump what they knew he, as a businessman of questionable acumen, could not resist. The media (all controlled) received orders to heap praise on him. Huge armies of social media accounts (called Electronic flies in the region) were dedicated to the praise of the new president, in both Arabic and English. English hashtags were circulated which indicated strong regime support for Trump. Hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons purchases were promised, with photos of Trump looking like a traveling salesman showing weapons on sale to the embarrassed Prince MBS.
When Trump and his clan made their first visit to Riyadh and he waged a war of words against Iran across the Gulf, the princes thought he was on the right track. They though war was coming, that Trump will hand them the keys to the Persian Gulf.
The Iranians have managed to withstand (somehow) Mike Pompeo’s economic war of “Maximum Pressure” that was supposed to bring them to their knees. They shifted gear to a long-term game of chess strategy that neither Pompeo nor Trump have understood. Waiting out their first term in office and expecting the return to sanity and normalcy to Washington in January 2021.
The Israelis, and not the just the Likud rulers, have strongly supported Trump for obvious reasons. He gave them all that they wanted. Even when Biden wins, Israel has nothing to fear. The Nuclear Deal will return, but many Israeli intelligence and military officials already realize that it was not as bad a deal as “some” of their political leaders claimed as they manipulated American political opinion. Besides, US-Israeli ties transcend partisan politics.
If the elections turn out as I believe they will, there will be sounds of dirges on one side of the Persian Gulf. Iranians, now set to elect a hardline president next year (thanks to Trump’s undeclared economic war), will be glad but not overly impressed. They have seen this film before.
M. h. Ghuloum