Opinion

Trump's dysfunction cannot be contained

By Gwynne Dyer, Special to Postmedia Network

U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the White House, on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the White House, on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

All the talk of special prosecutors and the like will not bring the man to book. No amount of dysfunction in the White House will make it stop until early 2019 at best, even though a great deal of damage will have been done by then.

Some of the damage will only affect the United States. Donald Trump breaks all the unwritten rules that regulate the behaviour of public officials: don't use your office to enrich yourself; don't give plum jobs to your relatives; don't fire the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he's leading an investigation into possibly treasonous behaviour among your close associates.

These are domestic problems.

But the same recklessness, brought to bear on foreign affairs, may have far bigger consequences.

The Middle East is more frightening than northeast Asia where most of the major players around North Korea are grown-ups who don't want a nuclear war. In the Mideast, half the countries are already at war, none of the regimes really feels secure and Trump already has launched a missile strike against the Syrian regime.

He justified it as retaliation for the alleged use of poison gas by the Assad regime, but most people in the region take it as a sign he is joining the Sunni side of a region-wide Sunni-Shiite war.

This alignment didn't start with Trump, of course. For more than half a century the United States has seen Saudi Arabia, the effective leader of the Sunni bloc, as its most important ally in the Middle East, and for the past 40 years it has regarded Iran as the root of all evil in the region.

Iran is the leader of the Shiite bloc. In fact, it is the only big, powerful Shiite country. Trump already has expressed hostility toward Iran, and his intentions to abandon the treaty President Barack Obama signed to contain Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions for the next 10 years. And on Friday Trump is making his first foreign visit -- to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia and leader of the Sunni bloc.

Although Mohammed is almost 40 years younger than Trump and is not as ignorant as Trump, he is just as vain, just as impulsive, and just as likely to start a fight he can't finish.

In an interview broadcast this month on Saudi TV he said: "We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia. We will work so the battle is in Iran." Why? Because, according to the prince, Iran's leaders are planning to seize Islam's most sacred city, Mecca, in the heart of Saudi Arabia, and establish their rule over the world's billion and a half Muslims.

This is paranoid nonsense. Only one-tenth of the world's Muslims are Shiite. The only three Muslim countries (out of 50) where they are the majority are Iran, Iraq and tiny Bahrain.

Iran sends troops to help the beleaguered, Shiite-dominated Assad regime in Syria, and money and weapons to the (Shiite) Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. But in the 38 years since the current regime came to power in Tehran, it has never invaded anybody. And the notion that it could or would invade Saudi Arabia is laughable.

Nevertheless, what matters here are not the facts, but what Trump and Mohammed may believe to be the facts. So the prospect of the two men getting together in Riyadh will arouse dread in Iran, and in other quarters as well.

There is no chance that the Republican majority in the U.S. Congress will impeach Donald Trump before the mid-term elections in late 2018 no matter what he does. Unless there is a complete collapse in the Republican vote then, they won't impeach him either. It's going to be a long four years.

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.