Land­slide win for Ira­nian leader

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Philip.rucker@wash­ karen.deyoung@wash­

Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani is re­elected to a sec­ond term.

the threat from Iran and re­gional se­cu­rity. He out­lined “like-minded” goals in the se­cu­rity and eco­nomic spheres and said, “We’re very proud of this re­la­tion­ship that we are em­bark­ing on with the king­dom.”

What emerged as a ver­i­ta­ble love fest be­tween the two gov­ern­ments was a marked con­trast to years of grow­ing es­trange­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“This is the be­gin­ning of a turn­ing point in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and the Arab and Is­lamic world,” Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Adel al-Jubeir pro­claimed along­side Tiller­son.

Trump’s visit, he said, “be­gins to change the con­ver­sa­tion” with the Is­lamic world “from one of en­mity to one of part­ner­ship.”

In ad­di­tion to the se­cu­rity agree­ments, Jubeir said, U.S. busi­ness lead­ers here at an eco­nomic fo­rum de­signed to co­in­cide with Trump’s visit signed deals po­ten­tially worth more than $200 bil­lion over the next 10 years.

Ex­ec­u­tives from a num­ber of ma­jor U.S. com­pa­nies un­veiled in­vest­ment part­ner­ships with the Saudis, in­clud­ing Black­stone, a pri­vate-eq­uity giant that an­nounced a $40 bil­lion in­fra­struc­ture fund. Stephen A. Sch­warz­man, Black­stone’s chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive, is close to Trump and leads the White House’s eco­nomic ad­vi­sory coun­cil of CEOs.

Jubeir also praised ExxonMo­bil, the en­ergy be­he­moth that Tiller­son ran un­til re­tir­ing to join the ad­min­is­tra­tion, as “the largest in­vestor” in Saudi Ara­bia.

Trump was re­ceived like vis­it­ing roy­alty from the mo­ment Air Force One touched down in Riyadh on Satur­day morn­ing, af­ter an all-night flight from Wash­ing­ton, where he hoped to leave be­hind the grow­ing Rus­sia scan­dal threat­en­ing his pres­i­dency.

In a se­ries of of­fi­cial ar­rival cer­e­monies — at the airport and the Royal Court palace — Trump, his wife, Me­la­nia, and an en­tourage in­clud­ing vir­tu­ally his en­tire se­nior White House staff and some of his Cab­i­net, were ser­e­naded by mil­i­tary bands, treated to a fly­over of Saudi jets, feted in op­u­lent palaces and given the un­di­vided at­ten­tion of King Sal­man, ruler of this ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim na­tion.

As Trump ar­rived at Murabba Palace for a royal din­ner, hun­dreds of Saudi men in long, white robes danced the Ardha, a tra­di­tional sword dance that is per­formed on Saudi Na­tional Day and in honor of spe­cial guests.

Trump, grin­ning broadly at the fes­tiv­i­ties, waded in and took a few oblig­a­tory dips in the dance. Sev­eral of Trump’s male aides, along with Sal­man, par­tic­i­pated with more en­thu­si­asm. Tiller­son and Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross raised swords and linked arms with Saudis, chant­ing to the beat of feath­ered drums, while Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strate­gist Stephen K. Ban­non and Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil Di­rec­tor Gary Cohn also laughed and swayed.

Amer­i­can coun­try star Toby Keith per­formed at a men’s-only con­cert in Riyadh on Satur­day night, co­in­cid­ing with Trump’s visit. As Trump and Sal­man were driven in a golf cart around the palace af­ter din­ner, the pres­i­dent trained his eyes on a jumbo screen play­ing the live con­cert.

The ebul­lient wel­come re­flected a king­dom ea­ger to rekin­dle its re­la­tion­ship with the United States, and to use the visit to de­clare and so­lid­ify its own lead­er­ship role in the Mus­lim world.

Jubeir, in the news con­fer­ence with Tiller­son, heaped praise on Trump, say­ing that the for­eign pol­icy novice had the “vi­sion,” “strength” and “de­ci­sive­ness,” in the es­ti­ma­tion of the Saudi lead­er­ship, to bring peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans. The min­is­ter went on to bor­row one of Trump’s fa­vorite cam­paign slo­gans, say­ing that a new re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and the Arab world could “drain the swamps from which ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism em­anates.”

In their pri­vate talks, Trump and Sal­man dis­cussed their shared view of the threat from Iran. Asked about Fri­day’s re­elec­tion of Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani, Tiller­son said he hoped Rouhani would use his term to “be­gin dis­man­tling Iran’s net­work of ter­ror,” stop desta­bi­liz­ing the Mid­dle East, end bal­lis­tic mis­sile test­ing and re­store ba­sic rights.

How­ever, there was pub­lic si­lence from the U.S. del­e­ga­tion on the is­sue of hu­man rights in Saudi Ara­bia, which has im­pris­oned peace­ful crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment and has sharply re­stricted the rights of women. Ahead of the visit, Trump’s ad­vis­ers said the pres­i­dent did not in­tend to “lec­ture” his hosts.

Obama, who sold about $115 bil­lion in U.S. weapons to Saudi Ara­bia dur­ing his eight years as pres­i­dent, had slowed mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with the king­dom in large part be­cause of what it con­sid­ered Saudi Ara­bia’s in­dis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing of civil­ians in Ye­men. The Trump deal puts those agree­ments back on track and ex­pands them.

Be­yond the closed-door meet­ings, this desert cap­i­tal was decked out for a cel­e­bra­tion. As Riyadh baked in triple-digit heat un­der a pall of dust, Amer­i­can and Saudi flags flew from light poles. The fa­cade of the Ritz Carl­ton, the palace-like ho­tel where Trump is stay­ing, was il­lu­mi­nated with mas­sive pho­to­graphs of the two lead­ers and the red, white, blue and green of the two na­tions’ flags.

Sal­man, 81, who as­cended to the Saudi throne in early 2015, was brought in a golf cart to the airport red car­pet laid out for Trump’s ar­rival.

The two ex­changed greet­ings as a mil­i­tary brass band played, dis­tant can­nons boomed and seven Saudi jets flew over­head in for­ma­tion, trail­ing red, white and blue smoke.

“I’m very happy to see you,” Sal­man told Trump, who re­sponded that it was a “great honor” to be vis­it­ing the king­dom.

Trump and the first lady — who had her hair un­cov­ered and wore black long sleeves and flared pants, cinched with a wide, metal­lic gold belt — were pre­sented bou­quets of flow­ers by three tra­di­tion­ally dressed lit­tle girls.

Sal­man’s pres­ence at the airport cer­e­mony was a sign of the im­por­tance of Trump’s visit to the Saudis. Chat­ting through an in­ter­preter, the men then walked into the VIP re­cep­tion ter­mi­nal at King Khalid In­ter­na­tional Airport for a cup of cof­fee. Sal­man rode with Trump in the pres­i­dent’s ar­mored Cadil­lac for the drive into the city.

The only U.S. pres­i­dent to make Saudi Ara­bia his first for­eign visit, Trump was pre­sented with the high­est honor for a for­eign dig­ni­tary, the col­lar of Ab­du­laziz alSaud, named for the king­dom’s founder, which Sal­man hung on a thick gold chain around Trump’s neck.

In an or­nate re­cep­tion hall at the Royal Court, mem­bers of the U.S. del­e­ga­tion lined up to shake hands with Sal­man, then took a seat along the pe­riph­ery of the grand room aside a mem­ber of the Saudi del­e­ga­tion.

On the dais with Trump were the first lady, daugh­ter Ivanka and Tiller­son. Ross, Priebus, Ban­non, and Trump ad­viser and son-in-law Jared Kush­ner also were there.

Lunch with the king fol­lowed. Spir­its were high, with Kush­ner greeting na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser H.R. McMaster with a high-five as they then en­tered the room for a closed-door meet­ing.

The of­fi­cial del­e­ga­tions dis­cussed is­sues in­clud­ing oil, Iran and Syria. Saudi Ara­bia is part of the U.S.-led coali­tion against the Is­lamic State, but re­la­tions were strained with Obama over his fail­ure to push for the ouster of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad with strong sup­port for rebels.

Dur­ing his cam­paign, Trump in­di­cated that he was un­in­ter­ested in U.S. in­volve­ment in Syria’s civil war. But as pres­i­dent, he has spo­ken out against As­sad and last month launched a cruise mis­sile at­tack against a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment air base.

On Sun­day, Trump will meet with the heads of the six Per­sian Gulf monar­chies of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, and an Arab Is­lamic Amer­i­can Sum­mit of at least 40 na­tions, pri­mar­ily from the Mid­dle East, Africa and Asia.

Be­fore a royal ban­quet Satur­day night, Trump met with Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Nayef, the heir to the Saudi throne, and sep­a­rately with Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, who vis­ited Trump at the White House ear­lier this spring.

The high­light of Trump’s stop in Riyadh is ex­pected to be a speech on Is­lam that he will de­liver Sun­day to the larger sum­mit meet­ing. Though his cam­paign was marked by harsh anti-Mus­lim rhetoric, Trump is plan­ning to preach re­li­gious tol­er­ance here, invit­ing the Arab world to join the United States in com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and evil in the re­gion.

Trump, ac­cord­ing to an ad­vance por­tion of the re­marks he will de­liver, will de­scribe the fight against rad­i­cal­ism as “a bat­tle be­tween good and evil.”

“This is not a bat­tle be­tween dif­fer­ent faiths, dif­fer­ent sects or dif­fer­ent civ­i­liza­tions,” the pres­i­dent will say, ac­cord­ing to an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial. “This is a bat­tle be­tween bar­baric crim­i­nals who seek to oblit­er­ate hu­man life and de­cent peo­ple of all re­gions who seek to pro­tect it. This is a bat­tle be­tween good and evil.”

On Mon­day, Trump will travel to Jerusalem for meet­ings with Israeli of­fi­cials, as well as a visit with Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas in Beth­le­hem, and then to Rome, where he will have a pri­vate audience with Pope Fran­cis.

Trump then vis­its Brus­sels for a meet­ing with NATO lead­ers, in­clud­ing a bi­lat­eral ses­sion with newly elected French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, and fi­nally to the Ital­ian is­land of Si­cily, where he will at­tend a Group of Seven sum­mit of the United States’ clos­est eco­nomic al­lies. Ash­ley Parker in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this story.


Pres­i­dent Trump joins men danc­ing the Ardha, a tra­di­tional sword dance, at Murabba Palace. The two gov­ern­ments’ ver­i­ta­ble love fest was a marked con­trast to the ten­sions with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

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