New Delhi: Pandering to his voter base and donors, Donald Trump has provoked turmoil in the Middle East by recognizing disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel ignoring Palestinian claims to its eastern section. US presidents before Trump have ordered assassinations and regime change and he is scarcely more abominable than them. But if turmoil leading to bloodshed and war is thrown into the equation, Donald Trump indubitably establishes his own brand of grotesquerie. Worse, recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does incalculable harm to United States foreign policy. Even by the low standards of US presidents, few of Trump’s predecessors have privileged personal gains over national interest to quite this brazen extent.

Rushing to control the damage, White House officials aver it is not as bad as it appears. They say that faced with the threat from Iran, Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt cannot afford to sustain antagonism against the new status for Jerusalem for any length of time. After a cooling period, they imagine that Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies would be compelled to bow to Trump’s decision. Since they would need to save their collective faces with enraged Arab populations, not to speak of Muslims worldwide, it would be appropriate at that point for the White House to unveil its scheme for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Trump White House is convinced it is on top of the situation. It banks on the United States’ Great Power status to have its way.

The White House has correctly read the psychology of Arab leaders who have dwindling interest in the Palestinian issue. For their own security and for fear of Iran and its proxies such as the Bashar al-Assad regime of Syria, the Hezbollah which shares power in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels of Yemen and so forth, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have deep and enduring ties with Israel. In itself, this is hardly objectionable. Linkages which strengthen the case for Israel’s right to exist within legitimate borders are welcome. Since the linkages are provided by Arab states, it is even better. But strong ties with Israel bring their own downsides. As an insurance against Iran, Sunni Arab populations may grudgingly accept it. But if Arab leadership ties with Israel compromise Palestinian interests radically and irreversibly, it would pitch Arab populations against their rulers. As it is disenchantment against them runs high exemplified by such movements as the Arab Spring. The Saudi crown prince who is attempting some very dubious reforms could find himself suddenly in hot water with Trump’s rashness. Most of the House of Saud that has turned against him for incarcerating and humiliating its princes would not lose an opportunity to settle scores. This presents an opening for Iran. Arab Sunni populations turning against their rulers on Jerusalem is God-sent for Iran. The more Arab leaders take cover behind Trump, the darker will turn their political futures. The White House has got it all wrong.

And Trump’s Jerusalem blunder is akin to the disaster of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussain. Just as the first decision played into the hands of Iran, so will the second. Iran is battling Trump’s prejudice and sees no silver lining in the rest of his term. It will strive to rally the entire Middle East -- and not just Sunnis -- against America and its decision on Jerusalem. Going forward, Sunni Turkey is not unfriendly to Iran and definitely aligned on Jerusalem. By ostracising Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the other regimes have pushed it into Iran’s orbit, a clear case of prophetic self-fulfilment. Iran’s aim now would be to go for the jugular of embattled Arab regimes and bring to bear unbearable pressure on Israel whose last military encounter with the Hezbollah ended in defeat.

The situation can only be retrieved (and then, maybe not) if the rest of the world resolutely opposes Donald Trump’s decision and compels the United States informally to go slow on shifting base to Jerusalem. Trump’s principal cabinet secretaries, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, are not in favour of unravelling the status quo. If the US Congress could somehow act in unison with them by stalling its own directive and persuading Trump furthermore to keep his peace, the United States might preserve its neutrality on the Palestinian question and still be able to act as honest broker. Its capacity to influence the world as a Great Power is intimately linked to this. On the other hand, if Trump is adamant on breaking china, America will lose its traction in geopolitics.