King Salman of Saudi Arabia presents President Trump with highest civilian honour

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 25, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump's first trip to Saudi Arabia, which kicked off on Saturday, aims to strengthen the U.S. ties with its Mideast ally and destroy the terror group Islamic State (IS).

Ivanka Trump has been accused of nepotism and ignoring the plight of women in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates jointly pledged $134m (AUD) to her pet female empowerment project following high level diplomatic meetings.

The President chose Saudi Arabia - home to the world's two holiest Muslim sites - for his first overseas stop in what his top aides have described as an overtly symbolic gesture.

While hosting Abbas at the White House in March, Trump boldly stated that achieving peace is 'something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as hard as people have thought over the years'.

"This is what we are trying to do: To give him a real picture of Saudi Arabia and Muslims", he said.

"Based on what we know, there's no reason to believe that those two things did not happen". We believe you're willing.

Trump has called the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers "the worst deal ever", and the U.S. is now evaluating whether to remain in the accord.

A White House official later said the president did raise women's rights in his private meetings with Saudi officials, and noted that administration officials broached the topic in their talks in the lead-up to the trip. Many however, interpret both of the aforementioned initiatives, at least in part, as being both out of a shared concern between Israel, the Gulf States and the U.S. of a rising Iran.

Mr Trump has handed son-in-law Jared Kushner and long-time business lawyer Jason Greenblatt the assignment of charting the course toward a peace process. The White House reached a more than $100 billion arms deal with the Saudis ahead of the trip.

Although Israeli officials cheered Trump's election, some are now wary of the tougher stance he has adopted on on settlements - urging restraint but not calling for a full halt to construction.

President Trump was also careful to emphasize the threat from the Iranian government as another core aspect of the US strategic partnership with the Arab world, but he also focused on the Iranian government and not the Iranian people, many of whom clearly do not support its extremism.

"In order that he would consent to participate, the cursed Trump demanded Al Saud to offer almost half a trillion dollars (500 billion dollars) as a price for the Hubal [moon god] of the age, America, to commit to defending their thrones and making them and their sons secure in ruling Bilad al-Haramein", they said, using their name for the land of the mosques of Mecca and Medina. "It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this very room".

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he did not elaborate and it was not clear how big the plan is.

He notably refrained from using the phrase "radical Islamic terror", which had been a staple of campaign speeches and which he had chided predecessor Barack Obama for refusing to utter.

"In Jerusalem, you will be at the Western Wall, and visit the holy Church, and then you are going to the Vatican", he added.

Israel considers the entire city to be its capita while the global community says the future of east Jerusalem, claimed by the Palestinians, must be resolved through negotiations.

On Tuesday, he is set to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and deliver a speech at the Israeli Museum.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured while rallying across the West Bank on Monday in support of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli detention on hunger strike for more than a month.

Following a tumultuous ten-days for the president where he faced calls for impeachment from some democrats for sharing classified information with Russian Federation and a deepening crisis over his relationship with former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, Mr Trump's team has been keen to cast Mr Trump as a credible global leader as he prepares to make a series of visits to potentially politically charged regions such as Israel, the Vatican and Brussels.

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