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Why Arab Autocrats Haven’t Confronted Trump

You’d think, given the harsh anti-Muslim Trump administration in Washington, that the Arab kings and dictators would be lining up to condemn the ruthless sectarian laws being drawn up by an American President who approves of torture. All that claptrap about “bad dudes” and “Islamic terror”. Pretty sinister stuff. Not a bit of it. The potentates have been overwhelming the White House switchboard with calls, both Egypt’s Sissi and the Gulf Arabs. The Emirates actually expressed approval of Trump’s policies. The Jordanian monarch, who of course got to Washington first, is being followed in quick succession to the Trump throne room by Benjamin Netanyahu.

It’s quite a palaver. The Europeans squirm and tut-tut and even meekly condemn the new US government, while the principal victims of the new Trump regime – will we not, after all, soon be calling it a “regime”? – stay either fawningly silent or nod approval at his anti-Muslim shenanigans. Maybe it was just as well that poor old Mahmoud Abbas of “Palestine” didn’t get his three phone calls returned.

As we all predicted – and it performed on cue – Isis reacted by condemning Trump. So did al-Qaeda, whose reference to the “fool” in the White House might be the first time in modern history when the reaction of those who committed the 9/11 crimes against humanity was precisely the same as about half the people of the United States of America. The Algerians also congratulated Trump, by the way – not long after congratulating Bashar al-Assad for his tremendous (their words) “victory against terrorism” in eastern Aleppo. But there’s more than meets the eye in all this.

Sure, Isis can gloat that Trump really is anti-Muslim and that the corrupt Arab dictators are just as heedless of their people. But the response of the Arab regimes to the new American regime – yes, let’s refer to it as that – is also indicative of how close they all are. Most Arab potentates have been feeding their populations for years on “fake news” and “alternative facts”. They were always promising final victory against the “Zionist entity” while scattering their fury against their allies. The Saudis have repeatedly attacked Iraq and Syria, the Emirates and Egypt have bombed Libya, the Saudis and Emirates have assaulted Yemen.

It’s a weird and odd fact that both Arabs and Trump use clichés. If it’s not the “bad dude”/“Islamic fascism” mantra of the Trump regime, it’s the “only-we-stand-against-Islamic-terror” nonsense of the Arab regimes. Dictators and violent governments in the Middle East have been trading this garbage for years. We’ve had the Sadats and Moubaraks and Sissis and the Assads and the Saddams and the Gulf Kings all bellowing fantasies at their own people and threatening anyone who disagrees with them.

Indeed, the cowardly, pro-government press of much of the Middle East looks very much like the kind of compliant journalism Trump believes in. For Egyptian State television or Syrian TV, watch Fox News. Arab security cops have the kind of powers that the US government envies and would like its own police to possess. In the Middle East, minorities are repressed, judges are brow-beaten, politicians threatened – and its rulers believe in torture. Remind you of anyone? Welcome to TrumpWorld!

I remember how old Mubarak of Egypt would provide constantly fake elections for his people – a subject dear to Trump himself – and then receive presidential congratulations, from Republican and Democrat alike, after winning the poll by well over 90 per cent. Sean Spicer, Trump’s extremely odd amanuensis, and his luckless aides have their counterparts in every Arab ministry of information, temples of truth whose “Spicers” are forced to repeat the fantasies and petty anger of their masters. The parallel is complete, since Arab ministries of information contain absolutely no information at all.

I’d have to say that since Trump and TrumpWorld are almost interchangeable, there is one way in which they do clearly deviate. The Arabs are often accused of being anti-Semitic because they are anti-Israeli. But Arabs are also a Semitic people. Given Trump’s refusal to mention Jews on Holocaust Memorial Day and his evident distaste for six Arab Muslim nations, the US regime might be accused of being anti-Semitic about both Jews and Arabs.

But let’s be fair. If Trump toured those Arab dictatorships not currently at war, he’d feel very much at home. Great security, fantastic police, lots of torture, extremely dodgy elections and massive economic projects which damage the environment but prove absolutely useless. And if he joins his sons Eric and Donald Junior in opening the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, why – then Trump will actually be in TrumpWorld.

The Arab potentates and kings and vicious autocrats really should gather in Washington for their next summit. They’d find the atmosphere quite familiar. Not to mention the President.

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 


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