Riad, Arabia Saudita (CNN) — Both global allies and enemies of President Donald Trump are bracing this G20 week for new foreign policy scandals launched by an irate president who refuses to accept his electoral defeat.
As Trump fights a legal fight in the US over what he falsely claims is electoral fraud, the president announced a precipitous reduction of US troops in Afghanistan, recklessly fulfilling a campaign promise.
The Afghan government fears that the move will put their country in danger of being invaded by the Taliban, while even some in the president’s own party have questioned its intention. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger condemned the order as “an attempt to hamper the next administration.”
Kinzinger, a former American airman who flew combat missions in Afghanistan, warned that the remaining soldiers in Afghanistan can do little more than protect themselves. “With 2,500 soldiers, all you have left is enough to defend the remaining troops”, he told CNN’s New Day on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, where Trump also ordered troop withdrawals, talks between the US general in charge of coalition forces and the Iraqi government on how and when to do it have been held back by Iraqi concerns about the implications. of security.
The G20, Saudi Arabia and Trump
Anticipation of what Trump could do in the near future will be building this weekend when Saudi Arabia will host the G20 summit of the world’s major economic powers in the Kingdom’s futuristic city, Neom.
Trump will save himself from the humiliation of being portrayed in person as a loser to other world leaders, and the summit will be held virtually due to the covid-19 pandemic. It is not even clear yet whether he will speak via video link, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be there.
A virtual summit is not what Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, generally known by his initials MBS, and his elderly father, King Salman, would have liked. Despite MBS’s bad reputation on its rapid consolidation in power and, according to the CIA, responsibility for the assassination of The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (a charge consistently denied by the Saudis), Saudi Arabia under his de facto leadership has advanced on many fronts.
MBS has sidelined the religious police, paving the way for previously illegal music concerts, and has relaxed guardianship laws for women, giving them the right to drive. The G20 would have been a great opportunity for MBS to showcase these changes and retouch its image, so tarnished around the world.
With Joe Biden on his way to the White House, even more changes are possible. As a senior Saudi diplomat told CNN, some prisoners, including the Canadian-educated women’s rights activist, Loujain Alhathloul, could be released.
Middle East concerns rise over possible Trump actions
But in the region concerns are mounting that Trump, who boasted to biographer Bob Woodward that he “saved the ass [de MBS]“After Khashoggi’s murder, you may be about to give another favor to the royal family. This could be a move to designate the enemies of the Saudis in Yemen, the Houthis, a terrorist organization, which takes advantage of Biden’s influence over Saudi Arabia and further complicates its dealings with Iran.
The Houthis toppled the democratically elected Yemeni government – inept but internationally recognized – in 2015 and have been locked in a war with the Saudis ever since. Saudi fighter pilots pursuing Houthi targets have killed civilians. In response, the Houthis have fired Iranian-made cruise missiles at the densely populated Saudi capital Riyadh and other cities. So far, US-made Patriot missile batteries have neutralized most of the threats.
In Yemen, aid workers who already fear famine for much of the impoverished population believe that the US decision to designate the Houthis as terrorists puts many more lives at risk due to shortages of additional food, fuel and cash. .
However, the Saudis may be disappointed if the joint summit communiqué is cut down due to difficulties in meeting during the pandemic.
Climate change: another point on the G20 agenda, one where Trump has failed
Addressing COVID-19 and its economic impact, as well as climate change, are among some of the declared goals of the G20 summit, both characteristic failures of Trump’s leadership. The United States leads the world in infection rates and deaths from coronavirus, while the president has in the past refused to sign G20 communiqués until language on climate change was diluted or eliminated.
But even if he refuses to show his face, even virtually at the top, that doesn’t guarantee controversy will be avoided. Still, Pompeo will be present and in person to further his boss’s sometimes unpopular wishes.
The question on the minds of the G20 leaders this weekend will be how much damage Trump could do in the last major international outing of his administration.