EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: President Donald Trump, in shrugging off allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman may have been responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, described the world as a dangerous place. Gulf leaders are likely to share that perception in response to the president’s seeming unwillingness to fully take their interests into account, particularly in the wake of his announced US troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan. The vacuum created by Trump risks fueling greater Gulf assertiveness, with potentially messy consequences.
As far as Gulf leaders are concerned, President Donald J. Trump demonstrated with his announced US troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan that his insistence that the “world is a dangerous place” has never been truer.
The troop withdrawals, coupled with Trump’s praising of Saudi Arabia’s alleged willingness to foot the reconstruction bill in Syria – moves that emphasize his lack of geopolitical interest in the Middle East – leave only Iran and a shaky Afghan peace process primarily standing as the common interests between the US, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.