President Donald Trump will briefly escape the controversies swirling around him in Washington, D.C., as he embarks on his first foreign trip this weekend.
He scheduled to travel to four countries over eight days. His first stop: Saudi Arabia where he’s expected to give a major speech on Islam.
Trump, who frequently criticized President Barack Obama for not naming the enemy, says he plans to encourage leaders of Muslim countries to “fight hatred and extremism” and put a “stop radical Islamic terrorism.”
After all, he made this promise on Inauguration Day: “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth,” the newly sworn in president vowed.
The president is taking that message to Saudi Arabia, the biggest state sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world, and will urge the monarchy there to tackle the evils of radical Islam head on.
“He will deliver an inspiring yet direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam to dominate across the world,” H.R McMaster, Trump’s national security advisor, told reporters at the White House.
Promoting a More Moderate Islam
Trump will meet with leaders from more than 50 Muslim countries and take part in the opening of a new center in Saudi Arabia aimed at promoting what the U.S. hopes will be a moderate version of Islam.
“By establishing and operating this center, our Muslim friends, including Saudi Arabia, are taking a firm stand against extremism and those who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminal and political agendas,” McMaster said.
— قمة الرياض (@riyadhsummit) May 16, 2017
Under the slogan “Together We Prevail,” the Saudi government this week launched the website www.riyadhsummit17.org to highlight Trump’s visit to the kingdom.
— قمة الرياض (@riyadhsummit) May 17, 2017
“As we bring the world together to confront violent extremist ideology, so too are we working in partnership with our American and Islamic allies to improve the lives of our people and strengthen our collective economies,” the website stated.
On May 21, President Trump will attend the Arab Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center in Riyadh.
“U.S. President Donald Trump and leaders of the world’s Islamic nations will meet to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation,” a statement on the website read.
An Arab Version of NATO?
President Trump is also expected to announce plans for a NATO-like organization of Arab countries that would fight Islamic terror groups in the region.
“One of the goals on this trip is for President Trump to mobilize a coalition, including Saudi Arabia, against ISIS and al Qaeda and Iran,” said Jim Phillips, a Middle East expert with the Heritage Foundation.
Phillips says the president mustn’t shy away from confronting the Saudis on their climate of radicalization.
“If he offers them the prospect of greater security cooperation versus Iran, which is their greatest enemy, then I think they’ll be willing to take more steps to confront Islamist radicals in their own ranks,” he said.
The Saudi king says he wants to fight Islamic extremism, but Phillips worries whether the government can effectively go after terror groups that pose a threat to the region and the United States.
“I think he can be trusted against Iran because Iran is Saudi Arabia’s arch rival, but Saudi Arabia is still is likely to support groups that are hostile to the U.S. and to Israel,” Phillips told CBN News.
Franklin Graham: Time to Stand Up to the Saudis
Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, often speaks out against the threat of radical Islam. His Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse is providing medical care to Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS.
Graham says past American presidents have been reluctant to pressure the Saudis because of various military and economic partnerships between our two countries.
“We’ve had many Americans there working for years in the oil business and so forth, but we don’t need their oil. We have all the oil in this country that we need,” Graham told CBN News. “We don’t need to be kissing up to them. I think it’s time that we have a president who will stand up to Saudi Arabia.”
But Graham and others aren’t holding their breath.
President Trump will arrive in the desert kingdom this weekend bearing gifts, among them tens of billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military hardware to help the Saudis boost their defense capabilities.
“There are so many business interests and they spend a lot of money buying weapons from us, we have had a tendency to look the other way,” Graham said.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is calling Trump’s upcoming visit “historic” and hopes the summit on Islam will “establish a new partnership in confronting extremism and terrorism.”
After Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel on to Israel then the Vatican.