I RECALL making a prediction in this column at the beginning of the year.
It was shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th US President and I stuck my neck out by saying that I thought Mr Trump was likely to fall foul of himself sooner rather than later, possibly before the end of his first year in office.
While Mr Trump’s political demise might still be some way off, the signs for the President are far from good and the “I” word – impeachment– is now being talked about more openly than ever before.
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Washington, it seems, is abuzz right now with what might be called “tipping-point talk” – the idea that Republicans may finally be on the verge of breaking with President Trump. Should this indeed happen, then for the sake of US democracy it cannot come fast enough.
Yesterday Mr Trump was doing what he does best, bleating with “great surety” about how no politician in history has been treated worse or as unfairly as he has been. It was the predictably nauseating reaction of a man who is congenitally narcissistic.
Evidently Mr Trump did not stop to consider that his claim of victimisation pales into insignificance alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela, or previous US presidents struck down by assassins’ bullets. The simple fact is that Donald Trump’s worst enemy is Donald Trump. Nothing has hurt this President and his prospects for governing a full term more than his own statements.
As CNN’s Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper observed the other day, Mr Trump is a man with a “propensity for self-inflicted wounds”.
Many Americans will lose little sleep over the President’s political self-harming, but will remain worried over his capacity to inflict collateral damage on American democracy at home and undermine its values overseas.
This weekend, in the midst of a growing number of scandals and controversies, Mr Trump is set to take his first major international trip in office. Yes, as if the region didn’t have enough grief already, his destination – deep breath – is the Middle East.
And this brings me to another prediction, though not one, should it play out, that will come as any great surprise.
My prediction is that by this time next week, Donald Trump will most likely have done as much for Middle East peace as Pol Pot did for human rights. In other words, his tour will be an unmitigated disaster.
How can it be anything other than bad when he will use it to announce one of the largest arms sales deals in US history?
That this deal in the region of $98-$128 billion is meant to be a cornerstone of Mr Trump’s proposal of creating an alliance that has been dubbed an Arab Nato, only adds to the potential combustibility of his visit.
Mr Trump’s attendance at the Arab-Muslim (Sunni) summit in Saudi Arabia, far from making the region more stable, will only exacerbate the Sunni- Shia conflict that lies at the heart of so much violence across the Middle East right now.
It’s not the first time an attempt has been made to create the equivalent of an Arab Nato. In the past, intra-regional stand-offs and centuries-old disputes prevented it from ever being established.
Why, then, given the current parlous state of the region would anyone imagine such a move would be any more successful?
Not only does Mr Trump’s proposal risk further alienating the region’s Shias, but it seems to ignore the fact that most of the Middle East’s “terrorism” right now in the shape of the Islamic State (IS) group or al-Qaeda has its roots and origins in the very Saudi Arabia Mr Trump is visiting.
It’s simply naive in the extreme to think that his arms deal largesse will do anything other than shore up Riyadh’s ongoing war in Yemen or support for the Saudis’ Sunni proxies elsewhere.
Make no mistake about it, this is a huge arms deal, said to include a missile defence system, armoured personnel carriers, long-range artillery, combat ships and possibly a controversial sale of laser-guided bombs.
The potential sale of laser-guided bombs, though, is the real cause for concern here.
Last December this same deal was suspended by the Obama administration because of what it described as “systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting” in its airstrikes in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s brutal bombing campaign has killed thousands of civilians, hitting hospitals, civilian residential areas and marketplaces in strikes many observers have said are tantamount to war crimes.
No sooner will Mr Trump deliver his speech this weekend in Riyadh about combating terrorism and making the region safer, than the Saudis in turn will be delivering the weapons to help prosecute the war in Yemen and shore up their shadowy shenanigans elsewhere in the Middle East. The bottom line here is that no good can come from a greater US role in the Yemen war or cosying up further to Riyadh.
All this, too, before Mr Trump visits Jerusalem, where the last thing Israelis or Palestinians need right now is a loose cannon US President swaggering around the tinderbox that is the Old City of Jerusalem. Already Mr Trump has said he intends to be the first sitting American president to visit the Western Wall. Any visit to this hotly disputed site tends to be a bit touch, to say the least, among Israelis and Palestinians.
This, too, in a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, when Israel fought off Egypt, Jordan and Syria in June of t1967 and Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City of Jerusalem, with its ancient Western Wall and the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif as Arabs call it.
Mr Trump insists that all this is part of an effort in connecting three of the world’s great religions and the cobbling together of some vague, undefined super deal for the entire Middle East region.
Now call me a pessimist if you like, but I just can’t help feeling that with Mr Trump on present form, something, somewhere, is going to come seriously unstuck during his efforts in this already super-sensitive region.
Not content with creating a political tipping point at home, Mr Trump is taking his “talents” to the cauldron of the Middle East. Sleep easy trusty readers.