Trump's Saudi Visit Holds Important Dimensions, Strategic Issues

Apart from Saudi officials, Trump will also meet leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, including the six nations that form the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It would offer a sort of lifeline: a chance for Trump to arrest rising anxiety about his capacity to fill the role as leader of the free world.

Iran criticised new USA sanctions on its missile programme on Thursday, saying they would undermine a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

However, on the key issue of terrorism, no major feat should be expected.

In Europe especially, they want to know whether Trump will pull out of the Paris climate accord and want to test his true feelings for Russian Federation, which is seen as a threat in much of Europe.

Well aware of heightened concerns about terrorism, the Republican hopes to bring back hard commitments from U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Growing ties with Saudi Arabia, which follows Sunni Islam as a state religion, are likely to anger the Shia Muslim world - particularly Riyadh's enemy Iran.

On foreign policy, the president has pulled back spectacularly from his most provocative campaign pledges, towards a stance in many respects similar to his predecessor Barack Obama.

More news: Key moments of Trump-Comey clash and what's come after

Moreover, the president's oft-stated opposition to the 2015 Iran deal - and his sweeping aside Obama administration concerns about Saudi airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen - has the Saudis willing to overlook Trump's strident language about Muslims during the presidential campaign.

But several of Trump's top advisers want to tilt US policy in the Arab world back toward Sunni power, led by the Saudis, as a counterweight to Shiite Iran.

"We see them supply weapons to the Houthis including ballistic missiles that are fired at our cities", Jubeir said.

Even before Trump's trip morphed from a quick jaunt to Europe into a nine-day behemoth, White House aides were on edge about how the president would take to grueling pressures of foreign travel: the time zone changes, the unfamiliar hotels, the local delicacies. Instead, the focus will be on securing more multibillion-dollar military deals, advancing economic ties and isolating Iran, according to analysts. The US says the programme is a breach of global law because the missiles could carry nuclear warheads in the future.

"He's literally going to the most volatile place in the world, he's going to Jerusalem, he's going to Saudi Arabia to give a talk on the future of Islam". US allies have been rattled by his warnings about pulling back from the world. The largest U.S. military base in the Middle East is in Qatar, and Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which frequently has tense encounters with Iran's navy in the Persian Gulf. If Saudi reformers gain traction, it could be a "hinge" event for the region.

"One question everyone outside the United States has, and are not likely to ask the President, is what is his actual political strength relative to the divisions with Congress, the problems within his own party?" said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Information for this article was contributed by Aya Batrawy of The Associated Press; by Tracy Wilkinson of Tribune News Service; and by Ben Hubbard of The New York Times.

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