Washington – United States media on Friday turned the spotlight to the first foreign trip by US President Donald Trump, who chose Saudi Arabia to be his first stop.
Newspapers pointed out that Trump seeks to rally a strong coalition against extremism. Statements by White House officials said Trump will leave Washington on May 19 to Saudi Arabia and then to Jerusalem.
Trump is also scheduled to participate at the NATO meeting to be held in Brussels on 24 May. He then will depart for Sicily, where he will meet G7 leaders on May 26.
The New York Times published a piece by Mark Landler and Peter Baker which pointed out that President Trump tour visits the three epicenters of Abrahamic religions.
When Trump announced Thursday that he would visit the centers of three great religions on his first foreign trip, his advisers presented it as a sign that the United States planned to marshal a powerful coalition against the forces of intolerance.
Trump’s stops — in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome — are equally revealing as a contrast to the first trip to the Middle East made by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, Landler and Baker wrote.
The stark differences between that trip, in June 2009, and Trump’s later this month speak to how the world has changed in the last eight years and how this new president plans to confront it, they added.
Brookings Institution Executive Vice President Martin Indyk reviewed Trump’s approach as to positively interact and discuss with Arab leaders, and not address the people like Obama’s strategy tended towards.
“Obama’s approach was to build support with the Arab public through his Cairo speech,” said Indyk. “Trump’s approach is to deal with the Arab leaders, not speak to their people, which is much more comfortable for the leaders,” he added.
The trip was announced a day after Trump hosted President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority at the White House, the latest of his meetings with Middle Eastern leaders, including those from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung wrote that Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican is an effort to unite Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the common cause of fighting “intolerance” and radical extremism.
Trump is getting a later start going abroad than his most recent predecessors, who made earlier foreign trips. His decision to make the Middle East his first destination also represents a sharp break from recent tradition, DeYoung wrote.
The Post’s reporter also cited Trump’s apparent willingness to deal with authoritarian governments without pressuring them on human rights, Trump said, “our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the Middle East.”
DeYoung also wrote that in the peace process and the fight against terror group ISIS, Trump is depending heavily on Saudi Arabia — the country granted his first presidential visit. Often exasperated with what they saw as President Barack Obama’s dithering on Syria and soft treatment of Iran, the Saudis have enthusiastically reached out to Trump, including a visit here by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March.
Trump “wants to restore the American role in the world . . . destroy terrorism . . . push back on Iran. And so do we,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said in a meeting with reporters Thursday in Washington.
Trump’s visit will be historic “by every measure,” Jubeir said, noting that Saudi Arabia is the indispensable partner for Trump’s regional goals, in addition to being a key US investor and trading partner.
Jubeir said there will be three separate summits with Trump in Riyadh, the Saudi capital — with King Salman, with the Gulf Cooperation Council of Persian Gulf countries and with a broadened group including other Arab and Muslim countries that he declined to name.
Administration officials said they foresaw a number of agreements to be announced after the meetings, where discussions are expected to include a new military coalition among friendly Muslim states.