Trump accuses Iran of” fueling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror’

President Trump speaks at the Arabic Islamic American Summit in the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh
President Trump speaks at the Arabic Islamic American Summit in the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh

Donald Trump has launched a fierce attack on Iran, just a day after the country re-elected its moderate president on a platform of re-engagement with the outside world.

Speaking to an audience of Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, the US president singled out Tehran for fueling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” as he called on Gulf nations to “drive out terrorists and extremists”.

Mr Trump’s stance contrasts starkly with that of his predecessor Barack Obama, who two years ago struck a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and whose administration had a strained relationship with Tehran’s Sunni rivals in the Gulf.

During a trip that has sought to bolster ties with Arab countries — and step up arms sales — Mr Trump called the fight against terrorism a “battle between good and evil”.

Blaming Iran for funding, arming and training militias that “spread destruction and chaos”, he said the regime was “responsible for so much instability”.

He called on the region to drive extremists “out of your places of worship . . . your communities . . . your holy land . . . this earth”.

The carefully calibrated speech marked a spectacular U-turn for a president who during his campaign declared that “Islam hates us” and advocated a ban on Muslim visitors to the US.

The trip comes at a time when Mr Trump is facing a political crisis at home over the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia ahead of last year’s US election. In an attempt to appear more statesmanlike, Mr Trump read the speech solemnly from his teleprompter, making none of his usual provocative asides.

Speaking of Iran, he said: “It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room,”

His speech came the same weekend that Iranians voted to re-elect President Hassan Rouhani, in a sign that the majority of the population was keen to lessen its isolation.

“Just when Iranians voted overwhelmingly for openness and engagement with the world, Trump clenched his fist and responded by calling for Iran’s isolation,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.

Iran has not officially reacted to Mr Trump’s speech but Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, in a post on Twitter mocked the US alliance with Saudi Arabia. “Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?” it said.

Mr Trump pushed for Arab countries to do more for their regional defence, pledging to “build new partnerships in pursuit of peace”.

The US and Saudi sealed deals of between $280bn and $380bn, including an arms deal for the kingdom valued at $110bn.

The president’s scripted remarks notably avoided the use of the term “Islamic terrorism”, substituting that for the more commonly accepted “Islamist terrorism”, which implies the politicised form of the religion as opposed to Islam as a whole. But Mr Trump, accidentally or not, at least once reverted back to his previous use of “Islamic terrorism” in the speech.

One of the text’s chief authors was reportedly Stephen Miller, an important figure in drafting the administration’s travel ban on citizens from six Muslim majority countries — a measure that has so far been prevented from taking effect by the US courts. But, overall, the speech struck a more moderate tone causing some longtime nationalist advisers to complain of a more mainstream Republican influence.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Mr Trump said, in comments that appeared to highlight a contrast with the Obama administration’s greater focus on human rights.

The US leader said that the Middle East, often described as the birthplace of civilisation, was “waiting to begin a new renaissance”. But broadly, his speech portrayed the fight against terrorism as the defining struggle of the era.

“Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies?” he said.

“But if we act — if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world — then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.”

His speech was met with polite applause, with only a small corner of the hall dominated by his advisers and staff giving him a standing ovation.

At the gala lunch before the speech, delegates crowded around the Trumps as they departed, several of them trying to snap surreptitious selfies with the president. Officials lined up to talk to his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner.

On Sunday, during a meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad, he acknowledged that there had previously been “a little strain” between the US and the country but added: “There won’t be strain with this administration.”

International rights groups have long been critical of the Bahraini kingdom’s crackdown on its political opponents.

Before meeting Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, Mr Trump said: “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the US.”

But the weapons supplied might also be used in campaigns such as the war that Saudi Arabia and its allies are waging against Houthi rebels in Yemen, a country where, the UN says, millions of people are now facing famine.

In a sign of the cordial relations between the region’s leaders and the new administration, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt, who has launched a crackdown on the opposition in his country, feted Mr Trump as “a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible”. That comment drew a laugh, as did the remark “I agree” from the US president, who complimented Mr Sisi on his shoes.

Saudi King Salman presents President Donald Trump with The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
Saudi King Salman presents President Donald Trump with The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Many conservatives criticised Mr Obama for bowing to the late Saudi king Abdullah during one diplomatic encounter and Mr Trump promised a more muscular approach to the Middle East.

But on Saturday he appeared to both bow and curtsy to King Salman as he received Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour.

FINANCIAL TIMES

  • Rascal

    LOL, Iranians have convinced themselves they have real a real democracy. The Supreme religious dictator says you can vote for Turban A, B, or C and none of which will have any power to make any real change. At the end of the day, Iran is still a theocratic dictatorship with a cranky old cleric calling the shots. And yes, they still hang people in the streets for crimes against their imaginary sky gods and force their cult on an entire nation.

    • Omega

      Your propagandist trolling is comical. Trump read a script (written by those who did Bush Jr.s’) from Saudi Arabia. That’s the Saudi Arabia where women can’t drive, can’t vote, can’t go out alone by themselves, have to male guardian, can’t smoke in public, where people are jailed, beaten, wiped, beheaded for being atheist and/or criticizing the King and/or Islam.

      • Rascal

        Hey, I don’t deny the Saudi are just as cruel with their Islamic BS as Iran (although Iran executes twice the number of its population above the Saudis). Both should go down together in the pages of history as useless dysfunctional countries with sever Islamic social disorders.

        • Omega

          I’ll repeat: your propagandist trolling is comical and will add: there is zero critical thinking in your through process. Both KSA and the Mullahs in Iran were created/put in power by Britain – do the math. The problem in the Middle East is the Anglo-Americans’ meddling.

          • Rascal

            Stop living in the past Omega jan. No matter when Britain drew the lines on the map of the ME, Iran’s shiite death squads are off the leash and only kiss Russian ass now. If you follow that fat Iranian troll called Nasrallah you have already given up critical thinking. And btw, it is too easy to blame all the ME problems on the West, it is time Iran and the Saudi wear their big-boy pants and take responsibility for their current actions. And I do hope that they (Saudi-Iran) have it out at some point, just to clear the air and maybe kill two birds with one stone. Both these retarded Islamic countries are to blame for the continuing radical muslim terror that has gripped the world.

          • Omega

            Your ignorance is aberrant. You naivety, pathetic. The chaos in the Middle East has been in the works for well over a century and has been implemented since the 1980s with Oded Yinon’s plan: break up central powers to make of Israel (and thus the Anglo-Americans), the only super-power in the region (with a monopolistic control of the oil reserves). Read the following and see if theory and practice diverge or meet: https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/23/newsbud-exclusive-the-balkanization-of-syria-iraq-the-roadmap-to-us-israeli-hegemony-in-the-middle-east/

          • Omega

            Nothing to do with lines drawing. The chaos in the Middle East has been in the works for well over a century (see below) and has been implemented since the 1980s with Oded Yinon’s plan: break up central powers to make of Israel (and thus the Anglo-Americans), the only super-power in the region (with a monopolistic control of the oil reserves). Read the following and see if theory and practice diverge or meet: https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/23/newsbud-exclusive-the-balkanization-of-syria-iraq-the-roadmap-to-us-israeli-hegemony-in-the-middle-east/

            _____

            “The only prospect that holds hope for us is the carving up of Syria… It is our task to prepare for that prospect. All else is a purposeless waste of time.” — Zionist militant Zeév Jabotinsky, From “We and Turkey” in Di Tribune, November 30, 1915

            “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Muslim regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan, and Syria will fall to us.” — David Ben-Gurion, From “Ben-Gurion, A Biography” by Michael Ben-Zohar, May 1948

            “It is obvious that the above military assumptions, and the whole plan too, depend also on the Arabs continuing to be even more divided than they are now, and on the lack of any truly mass movement among them… Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking Iraq up into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon… Syria will fall apart.” — Oded Yinon, 1982. From “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East”

            “Regime change is, of course, our goal both in Lebanon and Syria. We wrote long ago that there are three ways to achieve it- the dictator chooses to change; he falls before his own unhappy people; or if he poses a threat to the outside, the outside takes him out…” — Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), From strategy paper #474 “Priorities in Lebanon & Syria”, March 2, 2005