Saudi Arabia First Stop of Trump International Trip

Cheryl Sanders
May 17, 2017

Saudi Arabia's powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Salman Saud met Mr Trump in Washington in March in a visit hailed by a senior Saudi adviser as a "historical turning point" in US-Saudi relations.

Trump's administration - which includes many generals who have had bitter personal experience with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon - has vowed to push back against Iranian influence across the region.

One of the officials mentioned that "sanctions" would be part of Trump's approach, but declined to provide details.

President Barack Obama skipped a visit to Israel during his first trip to the Middle East in 2009, an opening slight in what became a sour relationship during his tenure in office.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited Trump to visit during a phone conversation soon after Trump was elected in November. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Francis was critical of Trump's plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

Faggioli says, "It is not clear who could prepare Trump for the meeting and how, given the personality of the president and of those who shape his foreign policy - people with a background in hard power (the military and CEOs from the business world)". Saudi Arabia, along with other Arab Gulf nations, then felt neglected when Obama brokered a deal with Iran over its nuclear weapons, leading to fears the United States was realigning its interests in the region.

Officials in Washington are reporting that the USA and Saudi Arabia are conducting negotiations for a multi-billion-dollar arms deal.

Notably, however, the signing ceremony, which Trump scheduled to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, opened with prayers from three clergymen - two Christians and a Jew, but none of them Muslim. Abbas was speaking at a reception that his diplomats organized for U.S. Middle East scholars and Jewish and Arab American community leaders. In Twitter-land, they've been portrayed as kind of virtual nemeses, which makes me wonder how they'll get along in flesh and blood. The president will arrive in Rome after visiting the Middle East in an attempt to highlight his promises to defeat the self-fashioned Islamic State and bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Trump has been slow to leave the USA in his presidency. "Never ever", he said, adding that tolerance is the cornerstone of peace.

During Thursday's briefing, a reporter asked the aides why Trump, who has confronted other leaders in public, kept the matter of payouts to families of terrorists behind closed doors.

Last month, Trump said he was looking "very much forward" to meeting with Francis, and it appears that both sides made an effort to make the meeting happen.

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