Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23, 2017--Trump On the World Stage

Tell the truth--weren't you, like me, expecting, even hoping to see President Trump stumble on the world stage? While in the Middle East, while with the Pope in Rome, while meeting in Sicily with European counterparts at the G-7 summit?

Weakened at home as criminal investigations swirl around him, if he made a fool of himself, if he insulted Islamic leaders, made a botch of talks with the Israelis, again insulted Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said something inappropriate to the new president of France, in the aggregate, if his trip turned out to be a political disaster, it would move him one step closer to impeachment or resignation.

But, four days into his nine-day trip, from all reports, even from media sources that are not well disposed to him, he appears to be staying on script and, remarkably, actually saying a number of things that make sense. Or at least are worth putting on the table.

Before an assemblage of more than three dozen presidents of Sunni Arab nations, carefully avoiding the phrase "radical Islamic terrorists," Trump drew a distinction between ISIS fighters and the peaceful citizens of Islamic nations--
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.
These comments were met with enthusiastic applause.

He continued, saying he wanted "partners not perfection" and that it was up to Muslim leaders to expunge extremists from their midst--
Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of earth.
This was a play to engage Sunni leaders in contrast to President Obama's alleged desire to strike deals with Shia-dominated countries such as Iran.

One could delete references to Obama and still make the case that a focus on Sunnis, the vast majority in the region, makes more sense. Including as part of an attempt to broker movement toward a two-state solution in Israel, something Trump spoke about yesterday when he told Benjamin Netanyahu that he heard from Sunni Arab leaders while in Saudi Arabia that if this were to happen they would consider expanding relations with Israel. Something that is occurring in private as power shifts across the Middle East.

It was also noted that Air Force One's direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv is the first time there has been such a flight. Whoever added that to Trump's agenda (likely Jared Kushner) deserves praise. Gestures and symbols go a long way in that fraught region.

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