eyes on the U.S.

Trump Threatens The American Dream — That’s A Global Problem

Donald Trump's brand of xenophobic patriotism belies basic values on which America was founded. Given the U.S.'s cultural sway, his election would weign on other countries facing similar issues.

A Trump supporter in Iowa
A Trump supporter in Iowa
Eduardo Barajas Sandoval


BOGOTÁ â€" Donald Trump could very well be a clear and present threat to the American dream. His style, his values and his discourse have changed the tone and content of an immigration debate that is happening in many Western democracies, even as polls suggest he has become untouchable.

What the billionaire-turned-politician has brought to politics, quite shamelessly, are calculations that belong to the everyday world of business. That may not be new, but these values used to seep into politics more discreetly and gradually, so they would have both credibility and time to be embraced as "civic values."

Beyond the interests of big business and its drive to organize everything around it, Trump began fueling strong emotions among base Republican voters from the beginning of the campaign. He hopes to do the same now nationally, as the other far more boring and complacent candidates fail to have the same effect.

It's often been observed that Trump gives voice to the dreams and disgust of millions of innocent, isolated and fairly ignorant voters. He manifests himself in a boundless, disorderly fashion, like someone willing to say the things others have contemplated at some point but never had the opportunity or courage to shout out. Therein lies the success of his discourse and a momentum that is proving difficult to check.

Among the stands he's taken, Trump has said that he would be the only candidate who could close the borders and stop more Latin Americans from changing the country's composition and culture.

The terminator

Moreover, he boasts, he would put the overconfident Russian President Vladimir Putin in his place, ensure that the European Union toes the American line, crush ISIS, force Muslims to stay where they are, silence Kim Jong-un once and for all. The list goes on.

His supporters have the impression that Trump would be the savior of the American Dream, believing that several generations will have better lives with him in charge. His message, characterized by the most basic and opportunist populism, has boosted his support and brought him to the brink of becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

From now on, it seems that all he has to do is seize on the hidden or barely hidden feelings of millions of American voters, regardless of party affiliation.

So far, all he has managed to do is to polarize. In a country founded by immigrants, he has managed to raise doubts about whether the United States should remain a welcoming place for migrants. He has forced rivals such as Ted Cruz to take even harsher political positions.

Trump's rise seems to be questioning the viability of the American dream â€" the right of all to pursue happiness and demand equal opportunity, regardless of race or origin. It's a dream in crisis in a country with a changing demographic.

But a dream based on optimism and enterprise can't be represented by prophets of doom. Falling for this calamitous discourse and hurtling in fear toward a society that discriminates and strikes at liberties may harm not just the United States, but also the world.

It's up to the American voters. They must choose how to react to the changes affecting both their country and their own dreams. To know the future, the rest of us are left to follow that other star of the electoral show: the polls.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020


Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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