The United States of...Arabia? Trump's America morphs into the Middle East

Published January 29th, 2017 - 02:01 GMT

Newly inaugurated President Trump has done little to hide his contempt towards the Middle East. One of his first acts as POTUS was to ban all visitors from a swathe of Muslim-majority countries in the region, including Syria, Iran and Iraq. Meanwhile, he has shown his disdain for the Palestinian cause by casually flirting with the inflammatory gesture of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as well as threatening to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. 
While he may seem to despise MENA, it has been pointed out that Trump is acting a little bit like some of the region’s most famous authoritarian leaders. The New York Times recently published an article calling Trump “America’s Sisi” and one Facebook user dedicated a whole album to Trump-Gaddafi comparisons. In fact, Trump’s America is looking increasingly like the Arab world (and not in a good way)... From fiery inauguration protests to media oppression, here are some signs that American may be sliding into a world of Arab despotism. 

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Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

What could be more Arab than to appoint your own son-in-law as an advisor? Saddam Hussein put his son Qusay in charge of the armed forces and Hafez al-Assad gave his progeny the reigns of the whole country. Now Donald Trump has made Jared Kushner, real estate investor and husband of his daughter Ivanka, a Middle East peace broker. Typical wasta!

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

External powers love intervening in the Middle East. Whether it’s the Saudi Arabia-Iran proxy war in Syria, or the UAE-Qatar rivalry shaping events in Libya, autonomy is rare for most MENA countries. So, when it was alleged that Russia had meddled in the recent US elections, the parallels between the US and the Arab world were undeniable.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

Like any good Arab dictator, Trump loves berating the media. The list of outlets he has accused of poor journalism (when they dared to criticize him) is endless and Trump has already banned several government agencies from speaking to the press. Perhaps he is inspired by Turkish President Erdogan’s crackdown on media freedom.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

Trump also has something of Syria’s al-Assad about him when he cries “fake news”. Trump has so far accused the CIA, NBC, New York Times and Washington Post of falsifying stories. Meanwhile, al-Assad regularly charges the Syrian opposition with producing fake images, including the iconic footage of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

Where Trump fails to live up to the reputation of a true Arab leader is in his lack of military experience. Unlike Egypt’s long line of officers-turned-presidents, the new POTUS has never worn khaki. But, no fear, he has made up for it by appointing a number of officers to high-ranking cabinet posts. He also loves a good military parade.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

The secret service's alleged involvement in the US elections is all too familiar in the Arab world. While the FBI inexplicably reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton just days before the election (potentially swaying the vote) our mukhabarat in the Middle East also has a habit of involving themselves in the election process.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

The over-simplified foreign media coverage of Trump has further strengthened an Arab sense of camaraderie with the US. Religious and political sectarianism has been heavily played upon: Urban versus rural, liberal versus conservative… almost like the Western media’s obsession with tribalism in the Middle East.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

From Mohamed Bouazizi who sparked the Arab spring by setting himself alight in Tunisia, to the Tahrir square demonstrations which ousted Mubarak, Arabs know how to protest and challenge state power. But Americans have recently been giving them a run for their money, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets after Trump was sworn in.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism

With protests, riots and tear gas characterising Trump’s first week at President, the scene is set for an Arab-style revolution. But how will Trump appease social discord? Will he step down like Tunisian President Ben Ali, take on a more brutal al-Assad approach, or depart from his counterparts entirely? Only time will tell.

Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
What could be more Arab than to appoint your own son-in-law as an advisor? Saddam Hussein put his son Qusay in charge of the armed forces and Hafez al-Assad gave his progeny the reigns of the whole country. Now Donald Trump has made Jared Kushner, real estate investor and husband of his daughter Ivanka, a Middle East peace broker. Typical wasta!
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
External powers love intervening in the Middle East. Whether it’s the Saudi Arabia-Iran proxy war in Syria, or the UAE-Qatar rivalry shaping events in Libya, autonomy is rare for most MENA countries. So, when it was alleged that Russia had meddled in the recent US elections, the parallels between the US and the Arab world were undeniable.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Like any good Arab dictator, Trump loves berating the media. The list of outlets he has accused of poor journalism (when they dared to criticize him) is endless and Trump has already banned several government agencies from speaking to the press. Perhaps he is inspired by Turkish President Erdogan’s crackdown on media freedom.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Trump also has something of Syria’s al-Assad about him when he cries “fake news”. Trump has so far accused the CIA, NBC, New York Times and Washington Post of falsifying stories. Meanwhile, al-Assad regularly charges the Syrian opposition with producing fake images, including the iconic footage of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
Where Trump fails to live up to the reputation of a true Arab leader is in his lack of military experience. Unlike Egypt’s long line of officers-turned-presidents, the new POTUS has never worn khaki. But, no fear, he has made up for it by appointing a number of officers to high-ranking cabinet posts. He also loves a good military parade.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
The secret service's alleged involvement in the US elections is all too familiar in the Arab world. While the FBI inexplicably reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton just days before the election (potentially swaying the vote) our mukhabarat in the Middle East also has a habit of involving themselves in the election process.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
The over-simplified foreign media coverage of Trump has further strengthened an Arab sense of camaraderie with the US. Religious and political sectarianism has been heavily played upon: Urban versus rural, liberal versus conservative… almost like the Western media’s obsession with tribalism in the Middle East.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
From Mohamed Bouazizi who sparked the Arab spring by setting himself alight in Tunisia, to the Tahrir square demonstrations which ousted Mubarak, Arabs know how to protest and challenge state power. But Americans have recently been giving them a run for their money, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets after Trump was sworn in.
Trump Arab Middle East Despotism
With protests, riots and tear gas characterising Trump’s first week at President, the scene is set for an Arab-style revolution. But how will Trump appease social discord? Will he step down like Tunisian President Ben Ali, take on a more brutal al-Assad approach, or depart from his counterparts entirely? Only time will tell.