Wednesday, 24 May 2017



President Trump was a hit in Arabia. He seduced the Saudi elites with his mega-trade deals but above all because he attacked Iran. Demonised as a government that ‘speaks openly of mass murder, death to America’ and so on. Had he declared he was embracing Islam, they might have cheered him a bit more but, for a previously non-Islam-loving guy, it was a pleasing conversion of sorts.

‘Sunni Islam’, note. By knocking Iran, the supreme Shia’ power, Trump took sectarian sides. Rationale for that isn’t lacking. Shia’ are a small minority in the vast Muslim world. Further, Iranians aren’t Arabs. History, rivalry and ethnicity fuse together to override faith factors. In Christianity, after centuries of mutual hostility Protestants and Catholics are reconciled. Muslims clearly are not.

Actually, Saudis themselves are a kind of sect. The Wahhabi-Salafi variety. Spawning an intolerant, hatred-spreading, even murderous type of religion. Like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusrah and other jolly Jihadist movements. Now turning Syria and other chunks of the Middle East into a hell. Still, the Saudi rulers are custodians of the two sacred mosques, sites revered by all Muslims. That confers on them a special prestige and authority. Yet, you can’t duck the fact that Islamist terrorism emanates, ideologically and financially, not from Iran but from the Desert Kingdom.

After the late terrorist outrage, Manchester is in the news. The priest has been to Manchester. Invited by the local Shia’ community. I spoke to them about Imam Ali and the Ashura rites. They struck me as peace-loving, law-abiding people. You can bet your bottom dollar Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber, was not in the audience. The hideous criminal, like all terrorists who have carried out their dastardly deeds in Britain, was not Shia’. He was of Libyan, Sunni origins. You can trust he was culled, fostered and shaped by Saudi Arab-driven, Salafi ideas. Oh, yes, Libya. Another victim country. Invaded and badly messed up by Britain, France and America. Currently become a Jihadist paradise. ‘Whatever a man sows, he shall reap’, St Paul says in Galatians. Wretched Libya illustrates the Apostle’s moral very well…

‘Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS’, Trump of Arabia preached to Muslims in Riyadh. Curious how virtually the only forces in Syria seriously fighting ISIS are Shia’ Hezbollah and volunteer Iranian units. Turkey – a NATO member! – has long been colluding with ISIS. I personally saw Jihadi men openly welcoming incoming foreign fighters under the benevolent eyes of Turkish border police. America and Britain claim to aid ‘moderate’ rebels. Problem: the mythical ‘moderates’ hardly exist.

A puzzle: why does President Trump carries out his crusade against Iran? It doesn’t make sense to condemn a nation who is actively fighting terror. All right, the fiery ideology of the Iranian Revolution was once a threat to the bourgeois West but now Iran, whatever the official rhetoric, is a stable and orderly polity. I have been there, I can vouchsafe that. So, why? What’s behind Trump’s assault on a country that could be a valuable ally in combating ISIS and its terrorist offshoots?

The answer is one world: Israel. The Israel of Netanyahu and his Likud party. Iran vows ‘the destruction of Israel’, said Trump. That goes back to some injudicious words, partly mistranslated, of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But now President Rouhani is in charge. A thoughtful and rational cleric who has just won a democratic, general election. ‘Death to America’ is just a fusty slogan. How many Saudis, by the way, do mutter similar thoughts in their hearts? Even old King Salman and his sword-dancing princes might do a bit of ‘takiya’, concealment, when it comes to judging infidels. Remember: you can’t even bring a Bible into Saudi!

Netanyahu is paranoid about Iran. The country ‘should never be allowed to possess nuclear weapons’, Trump intoned. Why not? Pakistan, India and Israel do have them. Why not Iran? Given that nuclear weapons are sometimes the only guarantee you won’t be invaded and colonised by the West, why not? Besides, supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini has declared that such WMD are ‘unIslamic’. Was he doing ‘takiya’? Like about everyone else? Who knows? Charitably, I take him at his words. Anyway, Obama had no love for a nuclear Iran, yet he was happy to negotiate a sensible deal with them.

Hezbollah. The Lebanese Shia’ ‘Party of God’. A chief reason why Netanyahu hates Iran. Fact 1: Hezbollah is not a jihadi-like group advocating terror worldwide. It is a Lebanese resistance movement, opposed to Israeli occupation and encroachments. It managed to give Israeli army a bloody nose when years back they invaded Lebanon. Memory of that rankles with Bibi. Fact 2: Hezbollah fights ISIS in Syria and Netanyahu bombs them as much as he can. So directly aiding the Caliphate rapists and torturers. Who are the bad guys, really, eh?

Why can’t Trump restrain Netanyahu? Strike a fair balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran? Answer: he has plenty of trouble at home with Democrats and idiotic Republicans like McCain. Unlike the ceremonial Saudi swords, Trump’s internal enemy are ready to stab him for real. Taking on the mighty pro-Israel lobby would be suicidal. George Bush Senior did that a little bit – it costs him the re-election. Final fact: no US President or main politician can oppose Israel and survive. A melancholy but inescapable conclusion.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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