Trump urges Mideast nations to drive out 'Islamic extremism'

Trump's trip began in Saudi Arabia and takes him, after Israel, to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis, to Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit and to Sicily for a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

David Friedman, the new USA ambassador to Israel, told the newspaper Israel Hayom that Trump's goal at the start is simply "for the parties to meet with each other without preconditions and to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace".

The excerpts from a leaked version of his speech suggested a softer tone with Trump attempting to bolster support for the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

But read closely, without a grading curve, the speech was by turns shallow, clichéd, and repellent.

Mr. Trump did ask Arab nations to do more in confronting groups like ISIL and his officials, speaking from Riyadh, said development of the region was dependent on stamping out the threat.

Early on in the speech, which had been billed ahead of time as a major statement on Islam and extremism, Trump seemed to sound ecumenical in his condemnation of those who kill in the name of religion.

Trump, who generated controversy with his push to ban many Muslims from entering the United States, described the fight against terrorism as a battle between good and evil rather than a clash of civilisations.

He went on and said, "A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive them out! Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth".

It would have been one thing, had Trump combined this jeremiad against the Sunni leaders' common enemy with a righteous call on those same leaders to acknowledge and halt their own contribution to the problem.

Throughout last year's presidential campaign and in his first months in office, Trump defiantly stuck with "radical Islamic terrorism" to describe the central security challenge for the U.S. "The Iranian regime represents the tip of the spear of global terrorism", the king said. They do not compromise any aspect of the fight against extremism and terrorism.

Israeli officials say they are largely in the dark about what ideas Trump might present for peace or what concessions he may demand.

Over the weekend, Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who focussed on his desire to crack down on Iran's influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in the Republican president's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Iran is not an American ally. Rouhani's power is subordinate to that of a council of repressive mullahs; much of the economy is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which arms and assists radical militias throughout the region.

India is among countries that have been victims of terrorism, Trump says. "Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?", Zarif wrote in a Twitter post, referring to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its ascent (and now survival) reflects a growing awareness, even among some of the mullahs, that the former course leads to doom. He wasn't going to visit the country without giving a speech about the need to confront Islamic extremism and violence, the person said.

Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America's missteps in the region. This approach didn't work out.

Norm Eisen, former ethics official for the Obama Administration and a regular critic of the Trump family's conflicts of interest, noted in an email to NPR, "In my view foreign government donations to a fund run by a reputable worldwide organization like the World Bank for a good cause are generally acceptable". This is worse than empty boilerplate.

Trump's willingness to set aside human rights as a principal foreign policy has been one constant in his chaotic administration. What principles is he advancing?

  • Zachary Reyes