The Gulf states are looking forward to the Trump era:
Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump’s short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East.
Unfortunately, the Gulf states have good reason to be encouraged by the start of Trump’s presidency. Not only is he surrounded by Iran hawks, but his nominee for Secretary of Defense is known to be a supporter of close ties with these states. Considering the extensive, unprecedented level of support the Obama administration gave these states, the U.S. certainly shouldn’t be giving them any more backing than they already receive, but that may be what ends up happening. It has become the hawkish conventional wisdom in Washington to assert that Obama hasn’t done enough to support the Saudis and the other Gulf states, and there is no evidence that anyone in the administration disagrees with that view. On the contrary, the new administration seems less likely than the last one to call the Gulf states out as “free riders.” There is almost no other group of states in the world that could be better described as “free riders,” but Mattis has already dismissed that description of them as “nuts.”
Since I assume Mattis’ judgment will be especially important with respect to decisions on military support for the Saudis and their allies, that doesn’t bode well for an end to U.S. backing for the war on Yemen. The changes Trump makes or doesn’t make to the current policy of backing the coalition will tell us a lot about what we can expect from the administration in the future. If the U.S. continues to provide arms, refueling, and intelligence for the Saudi-led war on Yemen, or if it increases that support, we will have a very clear answer that the Trump administration will keep indulging and enabling the Gulf states in their worst behavior.