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25 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM

US president’s Saudi Arabia visit accomplishes many objectives

arab and Muslim states find Trump to be ready to listen and distinguish Islam and its teachings from extremist currents
Carla Mirza
US president’s Saudi Arabia visit accomplishes many objectives

The visit of America president Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia was hailed by the media in the Arab world as a turning point in the United States-Arab relations following the stalemate that characterised the Barack Obama years.

Writing in the Abu Dhabi-based Aletihad, editor-in-chief Mohammed Al Hammadi remarked that the two meetings held on Sunday were crucial and "the issues on the agenda are of great importance, because all the parties are serious in their desire to turn a page in the US-Arab relations that went downhill during the term of  Obama, because of doubts and distrust".
Leaders from many countries attended these summits with a renewed hope for change. "We expect that following the three summits in Riyadh, the world will have a different approach in dealing with terrorism, with Iran and with the greater region," he noted.
Al Hammadi said: "We do not seek eloquent speeches, but words followed by decisions and unwavering positions. We have no doubt that the Trump administration grasps the significance of an assembly that gathers over 50 presidents and leaders from Arab and Muslim countries in Riyadh."
In the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, former editor-in-chief Salman Al Dossari mentioned four objectives of  Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
"The first is the recognition of the strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia as the cornerstone through which the US can further its interests and security. The Trump administration gathered that terrorism could not be defeated without the support of Saudi Arabia, a country that stood on the front lines of the war against ISIL and Al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia proved to be one of America's closest partners in security and intelligence. "The second objective is to help rectify American misconceptions about Saudi Arabia and its key role in facing the threat of terrorism. Without its support, terrorism cannot be eradicated," he observed. The US treasury department has in the past singled out Qatar and Kuwait as remaining "permissive" environments, with concerns about the lack of legal action against violators.
Expanding his contacts with GCC leaders, Mr Trump on Sunday held talks with the rulers of Qatar and Bahrain ahead of the formal summit, and later also met the emir of Kuwit. He had already met the Saudi deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in Washington in March and was visited at the White House by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed last week, just days before his Saudi trip.
Sheikh Mohammed said the US-GCC summit clearly reflected the importance of its members states in dealing with regional issues in cooperation with global allies, particularly the US.
The summit also underlined the central position the Gulf region holds in US policy and Washington’s keenness to hear the views of GCC leaders on the overall situation in the Middle East and the world, he said.
Given the situation in Middle East, Sheikh Mohammed said, the summit was an important opportunity to exchange views with Mr Trump on issues such as the security of the Arab Gulf, terrorism and the complicated crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon, Iran’s interventions in the region, as well as the stalled peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.
He said the UAE was one of the pillars of the GCC-US dialogue thanks to its strong relations with the United States and the respect and esteem it enjoyed both in the US and internationally.
President Trump touched on US cooperation with the UAE in his address later in the day at the Arab Islamic American Summit, giving the example of the centre the two countries have set up to counter radicalisation online. According to Al Dossari, "the third objective of the visit by  Trump is to explain his perception of Islam, because he wanted to clarify his position and make a clear distinction between extremism and Islam and there is no better opportunity to do that than at a summit with presidents and leaders of the Muslim world".

    Arabic News Digest 

The fourth objective is to send out a strong message to the Iranian regime that it stands isolated from the majority of the Muslim world. "The defence agreement signed between Riyadh and Washington clearly aims to counter Iran's threats and regional terrorism, as well as to support Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism efforts," he explained.
"The resoluteness expected from this visit touches on two aspects," wrote Ilias Harfoush, a columnist in the pan-Arab daily, Al Hayat. "The first is to stand against extremism and violence that are spreading in the Arab world as well as claiming victims in other parts of the world. The second one addresses Iran and its interventionism in a number of Gulf countries and in other Arab countries that is prompting extremists to use such interventions as a pretext for inciting to sectarianism. Such activities gave rise to what became known as ‘Sunni extremism’. This is a direct consequence of exporting terrorism through sectarian militias."
He observed that  Trump’s positions on terrorism and Iran are a turnaround from those of the Obama administration. "While  Obama blamed Sunni extremism in Arab countries, and while he was willing to overlook Iran’s interventions in exchange for negotiations that led to a nuclear deal, Arab and Muslim states find  Trump to be ready to listen and distinguish Islam and its teachings from extremist currents and organisations that distort the teachings of this religion.
"In a short time,  Trump has proved that he is serious and firm in the face of both ISIL and Al Qaeda. This was proved by the American strikes against militant positions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in addition to the demand that Iran comply with the terms of its agreement with the West. He also confirmed the readiness of his administration to hold Iran accountable for any violation of these terms," Harfoush noted.
"The three Riyadh summits are a chance to assert Arab and Muslim unity in the face of extremism and highlight the importance of a culture based on dialogue and openness to different religions and cultures," he wrote.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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