US President Donald J. Trump urged Islamic leaders and the predominantly Sunni Arab leadership in the Middle East to “drive out” radical Islamic terrorists. He blamed Iran as a spigot for funding terrorist activities and supporting a number of militant groups. The president's viewpoint was in align with views put forward by his hosts – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Change of stance
This is in sharp contrast with what President Trump said during his presidential election days and followed it after he ascended to the post. He had ordered temporary bans to be put in place on people coming in from countries having an overwhelming Muslim majority. These orders were then blocked by US courts which have ruled them out for being discriminatory.
Curiously, President Trump shied away from using the words “radical Islamic terrorism” during his speeches. It was clear that the leader of the free world listened to top advice to go for a moderate tone during his visit to the Middle East. It is to be mentioned that he used these three words freely during his presidential campaign.
Trump and the Arabs
The president portrayed the current conflict as between evil forces and good forces- and not between civilizations. He was also emphatic in saying that although Washington is open to increased partnership with the Middle East, it also expects more than what it presently gets in return. In his speech, Trump said that much work remains to be done. This means confronting the crisis wrought about by Islamists, Islamic terror and Islamic extremism. He said “Islamist extremism” during the latter part of his speech. According to an unnamed White House official, this mistake was due to the president being exhausted from his duties at that time. These two words have significance as Islamist extremism describes Islamism as a kind of political movement and not Islam as religion.
Leaders of Arab nations have warmly welcomed Trump. They clearly have chosen to forget what he said during his campaigns. They are now encouraging the president's desire to combat the Iranian influence in the Middle East. Incidentally, Barack Obama, the former US President, was more amenable to Iran. It was an irony that President Trump overlooked the gross human rights abuses that are routine in Saudi Arabia and publicly insisted that Iran has provided fuel to terror and sectarian conflicts. He alleged that the Iranian Government has spoken openly about destroying Israel and mass murder in addition to being rabidly anti-American.