US President Donald Trump has described his planned visit to Saudi Arabia as “historic.” The president’s first foreign trip will be to Saudi Arabia. The visit thus represents an unprecedented case as American presidents’ first foreign trips were usually either to Mexico or to Canada.
Trump has broken the mold and proven that he’s not a traditional president, but instead closer to being a “phenomenon.”
During the US presidential elections, Arab analysts warned Saudi Arabia of woe and intolerance if Trump is elected. However, electoral campaigns usually include a lot of propaganda as part of certain speeches and agendas to attract voters. Once the elections end though, American-Saudi relations go back to normal. The historic alliance between the two countries has existed since the days of Theodore Roosevelt up until today.
During his visit to Washington, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman managed to put relations back on their right and normal track. During his most recent interview, he said former President Barack Obama wasted many opportunities regarding Syria and the region in general. Thanks to the chemistry between Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the American administration’s visions towards the region’s problems were identical to Saudi Arabia’s. Riyadh and Washington have work to do towards the future of social peace and national security. Trump’s visit to the kingdom will most likely include or pave a way towards joint cooperation agreements. This is in addition to intentions to work together to address thorny issues in the region.
Both countries confront the Iranian challenge which threatens national security and empowers bloody practices in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
The Iranian file will be the most prominent affair on the visit’s agenda especially since the Trump administration – unlike Obama’s – believes that Iran is the number one sponsor of terrorism, not just in the region but in the entire world. The Trump administration also thinks that US interests will be in the heart of danger if Iran’s interferences in the affairs of independent countries are not curbed.
Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a historic precedent; however, it’s not only a visit to the kingdom but also a message to Muslims across the worldTurki Aldakhil
America’s national interests have been affected during the past eight years due to the decline and passiveness of the former administration. The US therefore wants to restore its striking power and influence to the vital Middle East region.
Obama and Hillary Clinton used to say that becoming influential in Asia was more important than all Middle Eastern affairs and that being engaged in the Middle East exhausted America’s energy for almost nothing worth mentioning in return. Trump completely contradicts this as he believes resolving the Palestinian cause is a priority. He also thinks that a solution in Syria and the rebels’ commitment to international resolutions in Yemen are a priority that cannot be given up.
Saudi Arabia and the US must also address major economic matters. The cooperation which stumbled in the past will be better resumed especially amid the economic fluctuations in the world. The two countries are one of the richest and most influential in the world and the US is well-aware of the significance of the Saudi Vision 2030 projects. American experts and companies can contribute to the economy and to future developmental plans in Saudi Arabia.
Trump believes that Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Islamic world and that it has the virtue of serving the two holy mosques. This strategic weight made Trump mention the holy sites in Saudi Arabia while he announced he will visit the kingdom. This was intended by Trump to reassure Muslims that the US plans to empower dialogue among civilizations and religions and to show that accusations that he hates Islam were merely “electoral manifestations” that have nothing to do with his effective political programs and that recent American measures do not target “the civilization of Islam” as they are just technical procedures with pure security aims. There is clearly no hostility towards any religion or nation or civilization.
Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a historic precedent; however, it’s not only a visit to the kingdom but also a message to Muslims across the world – a message which stipulates that we are with you and not against you and that partnership and dialogue are important. This is the cultural message behind the visit.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 9.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.