Monday, 8 May 2017

Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, The Vatican in his 'Strategic, Moral' first foreign trip as president

President Donald Trump is billed to go on his first trip abroad since he assumed office in May.

Skipping a low-key stop in the United States’ low-key northerly neighbour, Canada. Trump will touch down instead in the capitals of three major world religions, a dramatic entry into the intersection of faith, politics and national security.

The trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican is a flamboyant debut for the president who has, until now, largely avoided major trips outside of Washington.

Trump has spent most of his time away from the White House at his private estate Mar-a- Lago, Florida.

His first foreign policy trip sends a welcome signal of prudence, strategic clarity, reassurance and resolve.

When he arrives in the Middle East toward the end of May, he’ll be travelling abroad later in his presidency than any commander in chief since Lyndon B. Johnson, who waited more than 10 months after President John F. Kennedy was killed to travel abroad.

After the Vatican,  President Trump will make stops in Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G-7 meetings.

According to the president’s aides, the trip is designed as a symbolic show of resolve to top US allies, whom the Trump administration hopes will renew their efforts to combat radicalism and intolerance around the world.

Trump revealed the trip, referring to it as a “major and historic announcement”during the ceremony for the National Day of Prayer at the Rose Garden.

According to administration officials, the trip underscores that the president’s policy to put “America First” embraces America’s vital role as the world’s default power, thwarting radicalism and hegemonic threats in vital geopolitical regions.

The President’s choice of Saudi Arabia as the first stop means to dispel the charge that he is hostile to Islam in general rather than Islamist fascism in all its dangerous manifestations. “Tolerance is the cornerstone of peace,” declared Trump as he announced his trip at a White House ceremony. While in Riyadh, Trump will meet with Saudi leaders and moderate Muslim officials from other states in the region to devise a common strategy to prevail against ISIS and address the gathering danger of a revolutionary Iran — the regime Secretary of Defense James Mattis rightly identified as the greatest threat to American interests in the Middle East.

Trump should make clear, however, to Saudi leaders — pleased by his hard line against Iran — his zero tolerance for Saudi regime’s double game of deflecting radicalism at home by funding madrassas to foment Islamist extremism abroad.

By going immediately to Israel from Saudi Arabia, Trump also means to repudiate the fatuous assumptions and failed policies of President Barack Obama, who snubbed Israel on his first trip in the Middle East, where he delivered his infamous Cairo speech in June 2009, blaming the western world, Cold War presidents, and the administration of George W. Bush for “this time of tension ” in the Middle East.

President Obama considered the “arrogance of American power” more dangerous than the threats our illiberal adversaries posed to the interests of the U.S. and its allies. He sought to put distance between the U.S. and its traditional democratic friends, particularly Israel, while engaging America’s repressive, aggressive foes — particularly Iran.

His visit to The Vatican will give him the opportunity to connect with Roman Catholics with his visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House said the president met privately Thursday with Roman Catholic cardinals.

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