Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Saudi Arabia Found in America the Appropriate Partner

There's precedent for this: In 2016 when President Barack Obama traveled overseas, he was asked repeatedly - nearly exclusively it seemed - about the presidential campaign and then-candidate Donald Trump.

Obama's own first foray into the Middle East came in June, 2009 as his third foreign trip.

Trump's decision to make Saudi Arabia his first overseas stop sends a powerful message to the kingdom: the strained ties that marked U.S. -Saudi relations under President Barack Obama are over.

Ultimately, adds McBride, Trump's independent stops will depend on programs and locations where the USA has a relationship, but also her interests: Authenticity is key.

Iran's election on Friday is its own concern, regional rival Saudi Arabia said ahead of an "unprecedented" summit between US President Donald Trump and dozens of Muslim nations excluding Iran.

After visiting Saudi Arabia, Trump will fly to Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to the Vatican in Rome, where he will seek an audience with Pope Francis before heading to Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, talks with European Union leaders, and then a meeting of the G-7 industrial nations in Sicily.

However, a row erupted Tuesday over United States policy toward Israel days ahead of a visit by President Donald Trump, with fresh questions raised over the White House's approach to the ultra-sensitive status of Jerusalem.

"There will be significant investment from Saudi [Arabia] in the US but also there will be significant benefits to Saudi Arabia", the kingdom's finance minister, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, said in an interview with CNNMoney. They bitterly opposed the nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, a sentiment shared by Trump.

Trump's aides acknowledge the trip will not erase the political turmoil back home. The information, about an IS threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft, came from Israel and there were concerns a valuable Israeli asset could be in danger, a USA official said, requesting anonymity to discuss the sensitive material.

He also reportedly wrote Trump's inauguration speech.

Trump's trip was always going to be dramatic. In addition to the alcohol ban, unrelated men and women are segregated in public.

McBride said Trump has already proven an astute and "excellent hostess for our country in how she has greeted and entertained her foreign counterparts and foreign guests".

Administration officials believe the unexpected move of going to Saudi Arabia first was meant to underscore the seriousness of the United States' commitment to fighting extremist groups like the Islamic State.

As the trip gets closer, it's likely that advance teams on the ground overseas are working with the host countries to negotiate and finalize all the elements; those teams report back to the White House minimizing whatever could possibly go awry. It's emblematic of the importance the Saudis have bestowed on Trump and the rebirth of its relationship with the US. "Iran is fighting ISIL because it's good for its equities in Iraq and Syria", Mr Al Wari said. Every first trip is over-scrutinized.

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