President Donald Trump has said that Saudi Arabia “blew up the World Trade Center” and wants “women as slaves and to kill gays.” He has also insisted that the oil-rich Arab kingdom provide the United States with free oil for a decade.
But when Trump takes his first overseas trip later this month, Saudi Arabia will be his first stop.
It’s just the latest example of how Trump is largely shelving his incendiary campaign views about the world in favor of more traditional diplomacy.
It’s also a reminder that however much politicians love to bash Saudi Arabia, they wind up realizing that the country’s oil wealth and regional influence make it virtually impossible to shun.
“The Saudis are part of the problem — but they’re also part of the solution, so that’s why you have to deal with them,” said Simon Henderson, a Saudi Arabia expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Barack Obama, who also complained about the Saudis as a candidate and never warmed to its theocratic regime, made Riyadh his first stop on his inaugural visit to the Middle East in June 2009 and returned several times.
Despite his record of Saudi-bashing, Trump will likely be welcomed warmly by the country’s monarch, King Salman. The Saudi leader considered Obama an unreliable ally and distrusted Obama’s diplomacy with Sunni Saudi Arabia’s mortal Shiite enemy, Iran. (Source credit – Politico)