(National Sentinel) Foreign Policy: President Donald J. Trump was given a royal welcome by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the first leg of his first overseas trip as leader of the U.S.
Flanked by Saudi military, the president and first lady Melania Trump were greeted by King Salman as they strode across a red carpet in the birthplace of Islam. As reported by NBC News:
A president’s first foreign visit is often read as a sign of the administration’s policy priorities and no other U.S. leader has chosen the kingdom for their initial international foray.
There were other noticeable differences between Trump’s meeting and that of former President Obama last year:
American and Saudi flags lined the highways of the country’s capital Riyadh, along with billboards featuring Trump’s face. Trumpets played and jets flew overhead streaming red, white and blue.
The fanfare contrasted with the low-key reception offered to former President Barack Obama last year. That visit followed a fraying of U.S.-Saudi ties, while Trump’s arrival is seen by both administrations as an opportunity to reset the relationship, especially after the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that Riyadh vehemently opposed.
That “fraying” had a lot to do with Obama’s “nuclear deal” with principle Saudi rival Iran, two regional powers vying for control and influence over the Middle East.
To that end, Trump also visits bearing gifts: tens of billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military hardware. In this instance, though Trump is actually the salesman, the opportunity to buy bigger, better and more advance American weapons and systems will give the kingdom the ‘gift’ of having a distinct technological advantage in hardware over Iran.
As NBC News noted further, military hardware purchases over the next decade weren’t all that was on the table: GE announced it had signed $15 billion worth of business deals with Saudi Arabia as well.
There was also this distinctly political act: Shortly after his arrival, Trump was awarded the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal, considered the kingdom’s highest honor.
In addition to meeting the king, Trump was also scheduled to meet Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and participate in signing ceremonies for several agreements that “further solidify U.S.-Saudi security and economic cooperation,” according to aides.
Clearly the Trump administration sees Saudi Arabia as a major player in bringing peace and security to the Middle East, but also as a bulwark against a rising Iran.