Trump trip will be test of ability to rally allies
U.S. president to push his plan for ‘Arab NATO’
WASHINGTON • Saudi Arabia has rolled out the red carpet for Donald Trump’s first international trip as U.S. president as he embarks on a charm offensive to gain support for his plans for an “Arab NATO.”
The president’s favourite meal of steak and ketchup will be on the menu during the visit, alongside traditional local cuisine.
The trip is set to be a crucial test of Trump’s ability to rally allies and assert himself on the world stage, and a chance to leave behind the domestic turmoil that has engulfed his White House, leading some Democrats to call for his impeachment.
In Riyadh, the first of five stops on a marathon nineday world tour, Trump is expected to unveil a major arms deal, brokered by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, worth more than US$100 billion over a decade.
Aides said he would also discuss his vision for an “Arab NATO” that would include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan aimed at fighting terrorism and countering Iran.
Saudi Arabia invited leaders and representatives of 55 countries for the visit.
One highlight may turn out to be a speech by Trump on Islam, drafted by his adviser Stephen Miller. Miller played a key role in drawing up the president’s travel ban aimed at barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering America.
The White House said Trump would use the speech to emphasize the “need to confront radical ideology.”
In Saudi Arabia, where Trump’s repeated denunciations of Iran have been welcomed, U.S. flags lined roads along with pictures of Trump and King Salman and the message “Together we prevail.”
Trump will go on to Israel, Rome, Brussels for a NATO meeting, and Sicily for the G7.
However, the president’s troubles intensified Friday as he left for his first foreign trip, with news emerging that federal investigators are focusing on a current White House official as a person of interest in their probe of Russian influence on the election.
The probe is about to accelerate as investigators shift from work that has largely been hidden from the public to conducting interviews and asking for grand jury subpoenas, the Washington Post reported.
The New York Times also reported Friday that Trump told top Russian diplomats who visited the Oval Office last week that firing FBI Director James Comey relieved “great pressure” on him. The report, which cited a U.S. official who had seen a document summarizing the meeting, said Trump also told the Russians the FBI director “was crazy, a real nut job.”