David Ramadan column: Trump has a fresh opportunity to enhance U.S. relationship with the Arab and Islamic world
Maintaining a strong relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the other four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is more important now than ever before — and these relationships are decades old.
President Trump’s upcoming historic visit to Saudi Arabia to participate in a GCC summit — which is unprecedented — offers our nation the opportunity to send a clear and powerful message that the United States values its allies in the Arab world.
It also offers the president the opportunity to work with the leaders of the Arab nations to promote peace in the Middle East, fight terrorism, and counter Iran’s expanding political influence in the area.
The GCC for more than 35 years has promoted regional cooperation, and has the resources and the will to do whatever is necessary; thus the GCC is the right partner for the USA.
As with all our allies, there is a need for frank discussions among the United States and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the rest of the GCC countries.
This summit provides the opportunity for such discussions. Trump can address the mutual need to improve deterrents to terrorism and gain consensus on how to do so. It is in everyone’s interest to send a clear message that the U.S. and the Arab world stand united against extremism. Further, this trip could — if Trump plays his cards correctly — signal a fresh start between Trump and American Muslims.
Our partnership with the Arab world is most critical today given the threats facing our nation, posed by Iran, ISIS and political upheavals in the Middle East.
This is a strategic partnership based on common vital interests and cooperation.
For example, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates strongly backed Western interests against the former Soviet Union and fought as part of a coalition against Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait.
Both countries continue to cooperate with the USA on national security issues.
After repeated failures in Syria, the Obama administration in the last few years practically withdrew from direct and active involvement in the Middle East — which opened the door for Russia and Iran to exert their influence and expand their dominance in the region. What’s more, as Obama moved forward with a nuclear treaty with Iran — a treaty that has short-term gains but could be devastating in the long term — he basically legitimized Iran’s nuclear program.
Our partners in the Arab world were left with the promise of a nuclear Iran threatening their existence. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the other GCC countries were forced into a nuclear race that they clearly did not want.
It is important for Trump to make clear to our Arab allies that the United States is back and fully engaged in the Middle East. Visiting Saudi Arabia and attending the GCC summit is an excellent start. The president must also make clear that the U.S. is willing to stand up to Iran and protect our Arab allies against any threat, including a nuclear one.
This visit offers the opportunity to show America’s allies and the rest of the world our desire to maintain and advance our vital partnerships with the Arab and Islamic countries.
David Ramadan is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2012-2016) and an adjunct professor at George Mason University. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.