Human rights concerns prove no obstacle in Trump-Saudi ties

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 22, 2017

Another user felt sorry that the fair-skinned Ivanka would have to swelter under the blazing sun of Saudi Arabia.

"We are not here to lecture", Trump said.

It also surpasses the total amount of deals offered to Saudi Arabia in President Barack Obama's eight years in office. "Instead, we are here to offer partnership - based on shared interests and values - to pursue a better future for all of us".

Trump on Sunday also touted Washington's "wonderful relationship" with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S Navy's 5th Fleet.

Trump made no mention of the disputed travel ban, signed days after he took office, that temporarily banned immigration to the US from seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

In contrast, the Obama administration had also curbed some intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia, saying it was "deeply disturbed" by the attack and that USA security cooperation with Saudi Arabia was not a "blank check". It's an interesting conundrum given the lack of rights women face in Saudi Arabia; for one, they're not allowed to drive, which is a huge impediment to things like running businesses.

In one-on-one meetings with the leaders of Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Trump hawked American-made military equipment in an effort to have those countries pay for a greater share of their own defense. Indeed, Trump and Salman were in lockstep on the threat Iran poses to the region when they addressed their fellow leaders: Trump accused Iran of "destruction and chaos" and the king said its rival "has been the spearhead of global terrorism".

Delivering the speech here in Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam's two holiest sites, Trump sought to push past his campaign rhetoric - including a statement in March 2016 that "Islam hates us" - but will still be dogged by the efforts his administration continues to carry out.

He praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, telling him, "You have done a tremendous job under trying circumstances".

The past week has seen a string of major developments in Trump's domestic woes, including the announcement that James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief fired by Trump, has agreed to testify publicly about Russian interference in the United States elections previous year.

The president then complimented el-Sissi's choice of footwear: "Love your shoes".

The address was the centerpiece of Trump's visit to Riyadh, which started on Saturday with the announcement of billions of dollars in trade deals with Saudi Arabia and continued Sunday with the speech and a series of meetings with Arab leaders.

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.

Trump's speech also comes as he and his administration have continued to defend the executive order barring visitors to the USA from six Muslim-majority countries, which the administration is seeking to reinstate in litigation after it was blocked by federal judges.

Under President Barack Obama, Washington had backed Saudi Arabia in its Yemen war with logistical support, including refueling of coalition aircraft by the USA military, and intelligence sharing.

As Trump and the 81-year-old king, who was aided by a cane, walked along the red carpet, military jets swept the sky, leaving a red, white and blue trail.

US President Donald Trump, center, attends a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh, May 21, 2017. The State Department said the agreement could support "tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States".

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