Criticized By “Experts,” Trump’s Outreach To Saudi Arabia Is Working
When newly-elected President Trump decided to make Saudi Arabia his first stop, on his first trip abroad, he was roundly criticized as naive, however, latest developments have shown that Trump’s outreach is already paying big dividends in bringing the Saudis into the Western fold.
In that initial trip back in May, Trump had received criticism for many things. Chief among these were the fact that he chose the Middle East at all as the place where he would make his initial trip. Why? Most presidents preferred to visit strong allies. In other words, take a softball tour among friends. Trump wanted to show that he was setting forth on a new, and bolder foreign policy, that would seek out new strategic alliances, while fighting a global nemesis: radical Islam! He wanted to go right to the source of the problem, the Muslim Middle East, and invite those nations to embark on a new path towards not only rejecting radicalism, but taking active steps to oppose it, and eradicate it.
To accomplish these changes Trump signaled that he was ready to embark on a new economic partnership with the nations of the Middle East, at least with those who were willing to join with the United States in its efforts to fight and destroy radical Islam. Experts scoffed at such notions, and many chose to blame Trump for looking at the past sins of Saudi Arabia in particular, by signing a $100 billion arms deal with the Saudis in a show of good faith. After all, this was the nation that produced most of the 9/11 hijackers, and Osama bin Laden, because of their support for Wahhabism, a radical and violent sect of Islam.
As recent events in the Saudi kingdom have shown, Trump’s faith was well-placed, and his foreign policy aspirations in the region are bringing about tremendous results.
Newly crowned Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s gave a speech last month promising sweeping changes to the country as a part of a rebrand. The reforms are aimed at transforming the way the world sees Saudi Arabia, wean it off of oil, and remake the Gulf kingdom into a hub of international business, finance and technology. Part of those reforms included allowing women to drive. There are also plans to build a $500 billion, 10,000-square-mile futuristic business and tech zone dubbed NEOM.
At a three-day Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh back in October—dubbed “Davos in the desert—he made pronouncements on Islam and radicalization. Among the panelists were Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Larry Fink, the chairman and CEO of the world’s largest asset manager, Blackrock.
In his statements, Salman pledged to destroy extremism and return the kingdom to “moderate Islam,” in fulfillment of pledges made in Trump’s initial visit.
We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world. We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today.
Dashed hopes are a big machine for revolutions
Eugene Rogan, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Oxford University who was in Riyadh at the same time as the conference described the guest list as a “big deal.”
When I look at who came they really were pulling in some of the heavy hitters of the global economy and if they’re coming to Saudi Arabia it’s because they think they can make a buck here.
During that summit, the country’s public investment program announced plans to invest $1 billion in Richard Branson’s space companies.
Now, the Saudi kingdom was back in the news this past weekend, as an anti-corruption body run by Salman, detained 11 top princes, including prince Alwaleed bin Talal, four former ministers and dozens of former ministers. There is some indication that Trump had a direct hand in these events as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made an undisclosed trip to meet with Salman the week prior to the crackdown. Trump himself had signaled he was going to take steps against Alwaleed during last years elections,
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