President Donald Trump has done something new and unconventional again. He has just become the first and only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop for an overseas official visit as president. President Trump has landed in the rich oil-producing Muslim country on Saturday for a special visit aimed at building stronger partnerships in the fight against terrorism in the region.
Trump flew to Riyadh overnight on Air Force One to kick-off a full-schedule, full-packed five-state visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel, The Vatican, Belgium and Italy spread in eight days. The choice to make Saudi Arabia the first stop might not have been only a geographical scheduling choice, but a strategic one as well. It may be designed in part to give respect to the region after much misunderstanding fueled by inaccurate media reports of supposed anti-Muslim policies and perspectives of the Trump administration in view of the recent temporary travel ban, and prior campaign rhetoric.
Trump was warmly welcomed in Saudi Arabia led by the royal family. The previous Obama administration ended with the kingdom’s ruling family struggling with deep frustrations with Obama’s moves to ease tensions with Iran and his restrained approach to the conflict in Syria. Saudi Arabia looks at Trump’s visit as a chance to rebuild ties with a key ally after the strained relations with the U.S. under Obama. Local media reports in Saudi Arabia at that time said that the country felt that Obama was leaning towards its rival, Iran.
The red carpet and staircase were rolled up for the Air Force One after it landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Trump accompanied by first lady Melania, who was dressed conservatively in a black dress but chose not to cover her hair, walked side-by-side to the tarmac and were met by King Salman. The two leaders shook hands. Later on Saturday, Trump is set to hold talks with King Salman and the kingdom’s two powerful crown princes. Trump’s first day in Saudi Arabia as a visiting President of the U.S. will culminate with a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace.
On Sunday, Trump is scheduled to deliver a speech on Islam to leaders of Muslim countries. The speech before Muslim leaders is being regarded as a major event. Trump said before his trip that he will speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism and embrace a peaceful future for their faith. The crucial point of discussion will also revolve on combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups.
Trump will also be bearing “gifts” for Saudi Arabia as U.S. officials said the Trump administration's plans to announce a $110 billion in advanced military equipment sales and training to the country during the president’s visit. The package would include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications and cyber security technology.
Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that while Trump is committed to his campaign promise of “America First” platform, it does not mean “America alone.” He said that prioritizing American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help the U.S. extend its influence and improve the security of the American people.