Saudi Ara­bia greets Trump with lav­ish royal cer­e­mony

The pres­i­dent agrees to sell the Saudis mil­i­tary equip­ment in a $110 bil­lion-to-$350 bil­lion deal

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NEWS - By Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire

RIYADH, SAUDI ARA­BIA >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump basked in Saudi Ara­bia’s lav­ish royal wel­come Satur­day as he left be­hind, at least tem­po­rar­ily, the snow­balling con­tro­ver­sies dog­ging him in Wash­ing­ton. Trump re­warded his hosts with a $110 bil­lion arms pack­age aimed at bol­ster­ing Saudi se­cu­rity and a slew of busi­ness agree­ments.

“That was a tremen­dous day, tremen­dous in­vest­ments in the United States,” Trump said dur­ing a meet­ing with Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Nayef.

The visit to the king­dom’s cap­i­tal kicked off Trump’s first for­eign trip as pres­i­dent, an am­bi­tious, five-stop swing that will take him through the Mid­dle East and into Europe. He is the only Amer­i­can pres­i­dent to make Saudi Ara­bia — or any Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tion — his first over­seas trip. Trump ar­rived in Riyadh be­sieged by the fall­out from his fir­ing of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey and more rev­e­la­tions about the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his elec­tion cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Rus­sia.

Af­ter an overnight flight, the pres­i­dent was greeted at the air­port by King Sal­man, which was no­table given that the monarch did not show up last year to wel­come Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on his fi­nal visit to Saudi Ara­bia.

Trump de­scended the steps along­side first lady Me­la­nia Trump, who did not cover her hair in the ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive king­dom, in keep­ing with the tra­di­tions of West­ern del­e­ga­tions. As Trump and the 81-yearold king, who was aided by a cane, walked along the red car­pet, mil­i­tary jets swept the sky, leav­ing a red, white and blue trail. Dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, Sal­man awarded Trump the Col­lar of Ab­du­laziz al Saud, the king­dom’s high­est civil­ian honor.

Trump bent down so the king could place the gold medal around his neck. Saudi Ara­bia has pre­vi­ously be­stowed the honor on Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May and Obama. Trump’s warm wel­come re­flected the de­gree to which Saudi Ara­bia had be­come dis­il­lu­sioned with Obama. The Saudis deeply dis­trusted Obama’s over­tures to Iran and were frus­trated by his re­strained ap­proach to the Syr­ian civil war.

As Trump ar­rived, Ira­ni­ans had just re-elected Has­san Rouhani for a sec­ond four-year-term as pres­i­dent. Trump made no sub­stan­tial re­marks on his first day abroad and spent most of his time shut­tling be­tween op­u­lent palace ball­rooms with the king. The two were over­heard dis­cussing nat­u­ral re­sources and arms, and Sal­man be­moaned the de­struc­tion caused by Syria’s civil war.

The most tan­gi­ble agree­ment be­tween the two lead­ers was the $110 bil­lion sale of mil­i­tary equip­ment to Saudi Ara­bia that is ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately and could ex­pand up to $350 bil­lion over 10 years. The deal in­cludes tanks, com­bat ships, mis­sile de­fense sys­tems, radar and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and cy­ber­se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy. The State Depart­ment said the agree­ment could sup­port “tens of thou­sands of new jobs in the United States.” Trump was joined on the trip by the CEOs of sev­eral ma­jor U.S. com­pa­nies, which an­nounced their own agree­ments with the Saudis. Among them was a $15 bil­lion ar­range­ment with GE fo­cused on power, oil and gas, and health care.

The pres­i­dent was trailed on the trip by a large num­ber of ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non. Trump’s sonin-law, Jared Kush­ner, and daugh­ter Ivanka, both se­nior ad­vis­ers, were also part of the of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tion. Ivanka’s pres­ence dom­i­nated Ara­bic Twit­ter traf­fic, with the phrase “bint Trump” — Ara­bic for “daugh­ter of Trump” — trend­ing.

Later Satur­day, Trump was greeted by a tra­di­tional troupe of Saudi drum­mers and sword-wav­ing dancers. Trump smirked and bopped to the beat as he made his way through the crowd. To­day, Trump and the king were to join more than 50 re­gional lead­ers for meet­ings fo­cused on com­bat­ing the Is­lamic State group and other ex­trem­ists. The pres­i­dent was to give the sig­na­ture speech of his trip, an ad­dress that aides view as counter to Obama’s 2009 speech in Egypt to the Mus­lim world. Trump has crit­i­cized Obama’s re­marks as too apolo­getic for U.S. ac­tions in the re­gion. Trump planned to urge unity in the fight against rad­i­cal­ism in the Mus­lim world, cast­ing the chal­lenge as a “bat­tle be­tween good and evil” and ap­peal­ing to Arab lead­ers to “drive out the ter­ror­ists from your places of wor­ship,” ac­cord­ing to a draft of the speech ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press. Af­ter two days of meet­ings in Saudi Ara­bia, Trump was sched­uled to travel to Is­rael, meet with Pope Fran­cis at the Vat­i­can, at­tend a NATO sum­mit in Brus­sels and join the world’s ma­jor in­dus­trial na­tions at a Group of Seven gath­er­ing in Si­cily.


Saudi King Sal­man pre­sented Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with the Col­lar of Ab­du­laziz al Saud medal at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia, on Satur­day.

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