(Reuters) The images from the same night broadcast around the Middle East speak as loudly as the words. On the one hand: the young people of Iran, dancing in the streets to mark the re-election of a pragmatist, men and women together.
On the other: the president of the United States, swaying through an all-male “sword dance” under the stars with the absolute rulers of Saudi Arabia, where publicly calling for any form of political change risks prosecution.
President Donald Trump told admiring Arab absolute monarchs and military strongmen in a gilt chamber at the weekend that he wanted “peace, security and prosperity”, and the United States was not there to tell them how to run their own countries.
He joined them in berating their arch-foe Iran, and signed a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that put him firmly on one side of the sectarian divide fuelling most of the Middle East’s wars.
The contrast between the two scenes was noted by Iran’s newly re-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, who has sought to reach out to the West while batting back hardliners at home.
“Buying arms or building weapons won’t make a country powerful,” Rouhani told a news conference on Monday.
“The foundation of power is national strength and this only happens through elections. Trump saw millions of Iranians took part in an election, but he visited a country whose people have not seen a ballot box and don’t know what an election is.”