Saudi Arabia counting down the seconds until Trump arrives

Author

17 May, 2017

Trump is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January.

However, it is not clear if the host country would consider the American position or insists on its invitation for its economic partner and military ally in the Saudi-led coalition.

President Trump's first overseas trip as commander-in-chief, slated to kick off Friday, will include a Twitter forum with young Saudis, a "direct" speech about Islam and numerous one-on-one and group meetings with foreign heads-of state.

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The US has been the Saudi kingdom's major arms supplier, delivering F-15 fighter jets, command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. "If he says too much about it, he could conceivably offend some of those who are there", Abrams said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Candidate Trump promised to rip up that deal if elected, which has not yet happened, but officials in both Israel and Saudi Arabia see a new direction.

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In the wake of the previous U.S. administration's participation in the historic nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia is now seen to be attempting to restart positive relations with Washington.

While much of the White House's rhetoric on the Middle East has centered on the Iran nuclear deal and the fight against the Islamic State, the president's visit could open the door to USA involvement in the Saudi-backed war against Houthi separatists in Yemen. The attacks on Syria and Afghanistan and the sabre-rattling against North Korea suggest that the President could launch a pre-emptive assault on Iran.

Two key questions are whether Trump will voice support for a two-state solution and if he will take steps toward his promise of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

He will also hold talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and President Sergio Mattarella. Many countries do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

His presence will shake up the group, particularly on trade, where he has turned away from worldwide trade deals, and is he also expected to push U.S. allies for help in North Korea, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Trump has frequently been accused of fuelling "Islamophobia" but aides described his decision to visit Saudi Arabia as an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world. While at the Vatican, he will meet with the Pope, a senior administration official told Politico.


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