Saudi looks to assert regional role with Trump summit

Vincent Carr
May 19, 2017

On his first foreign trip as US President, Donald Trump is leaving behind a White House suffocating in scandal.

"Can he move forward with his own agenda?"

"What President Trump is seeking is to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress and prosperity", he told reporters. There is enormous pressure on his advance teams of young, inexperienced staffers who negotiate the stagecraft of Trump's encounters with foreign leaders and prepare agendas of meetings.

"He's already on thin ice after his attempt to defend the president's discussion of intelligence with the Russians, and he urged the president to do this trip, which may have been a bad idea", said one USA official.

If the President wants to, he can use the trip as a way to break out of a debilitating period for his administration, to try to win some positive headlines for a change and even to engineer a morale boost for himself.

"I think both sides have high expectations of this summit, as they are expected to discuss the most pressing issues for both of them like the conflict in Yemen, the war in Syria and the war on ISIL", he said.

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers including the United States was a major step toward ending Tehran's global isolation but raised serious concerns in Arab capitals.

Al-Jubeir said Trump has been "very clear about the need to push back against Iran".

Apparently, Trump's other intention of his Saudi visit, to cement relations with an important client state, is to clinch the Saudis' commitment to spend tens of billions of dollars on USA infrastructure projects, thus making the Saudi royal family into solid partners for Trump's "America First" vision.

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For Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned over U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Trump has already strayed from the economic nationalism of his campaign to a more typical Republican foreign policy.

A fourth summit - which Trump will not attend - will will be a consultative meeting between members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

King Salman is convening more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders for the summit in Riyadh on Sunday.

Iran and Syria were not invited to the summit and they are not part of an Islamic military alliance that Saudi Arabia is establishing to fight terrorism.

The initiative relies on solid bases with Saudi Arabia's unified effort and strategic coordination with Washington and the Islamic world to combat terrorism.

"If he doesn't, the Saudis will have gotten the better deal", McCants said.

Due to their decades-old alliance, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on the United States for security and other issues. Trump has vowed to stimulate the USA economy by boosting manufacturing jobs.

That seems a long-shot anyway.

Among the invitees is President Omar Hassan Bashir of Sudan, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes, including genocide, although it remains unclear whether he will attend or, if he does, whether he will meet Trump.

Other reports by BadHub

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