There is the fact that Melania got rave reviews in the Saudi media, even as her head went uncovered.The United States sealed a multi-billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, the White House announced on Saturday, a move that solidifies its decades-long alliance with the world's largest energy producer just as President Donald Trump begins his maiden trip abroad as leader of the free world.The agreement, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years and $110 billion that will take effect immediately, was hailed by the White House as "a significant expansion of…[the] security relationship" between the two countries.
There are the deepening business ties:
U.S. and Saudi Arabian companies signed business deals worth tens of billions of dollars on Saturday during a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, as Riyadh seeks help to develop its economy beyond oil.
National oil firm Saudi Aramco said it signed $50 billion of agreements with U.S. firms. Energy minister Khalid al-Falih said deals involving all companies totaled over $200 billion, many of them designed to produce things in Saudi Arabia that had previously been imported.
Business leaders on both sides were keen to demonstrate their talks had been a success, so there was an element of showmanship in the huge numbers. Some deals had been announced previously; others were memorandums of understanding that would require further negotiations to materialize.
Nevertheless, the deals illustrated Saudi Arabia's hunger for foreign capital and technology as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Low oil prices in the past couple of years have slowed the economy to a crawl and saddled the government with a big budget deficit.
But perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the visit was his speech:
"We want foreign companies to look at Saudi Arabia as a platform for exports to other markets," Falih told a conference attended by dozens of U.S. executives.
“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned,” the speech says.
He will also emphasize that Muslim countries must “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”In case anyone missed the implications of the whole tone of his visit, he rather explicitly drove them home:
Then there were his concluding words:One of his high points came near the end where he reminded his audience of the three Abrahamic religions and called for a new era of tolerance between them. But after all of his complimentary comments about other Muslim nations, Trump took a decidedly critical tone when he called out Iran in particular and Syria to a lesser extent. Invoking “murderous attacks” and a humanitarian crisis, Trump talked about the people of Iran enduring “hardship and despair” under a brutal authoritarian regime. This was another risky move, because he seems to be looking to further isolate Iran even among their own neighbors.
“God bless the United States of America.”The case can be made, of course, that this wasn't the most diplomatic way to wind up his remarks, that he ought to have signed off with a nod toward his host country. Then again, considering the wet-noodle kumbaya-ism with which the Most Equal Comrade used to conclude speeches in Muslim countries, it is refreshing in its own way.
Yes, it's important to remember that the wahhabist school of Islam has its home in Saudi Arabia, that most of the 9 / 11 hijackers came from there, that Saudi Arabia has funded some unsavory militias in the Syrian mess. On the other hand, broad gestures can signal new eras of strategic alliances. We live in a world in which an Iran-Syria-Russia axis is a reality. That gives certain other countries a set of common interests. It's noteworthy, for instance, that the entourage will take a direct flight from Riyadh to Ben Gurion International Airport.
On balance, given what I've learned so far, looks like a productive first stop.
Memo to the president: Now, let's not sully it with a bragfest on Twitter, or dumb moves on other stops that counteract what you've put in place.