US President Donald Trump called on Middle Eastern leaders to combat a “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from the region, casting the fight against terrorism as a “battle between good and evil,” not a clash between the West and Islam.
Trump’s address today was the centrepiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop overseas as president.
During a meeting of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders, he sought to chart a new course for America’s role in the region, one aimed squarely on rooting out terrorism, with less focus on promoting human rights and democratic reforms.
“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,” Trump said, speaking in an ornate, multi- chandeliered room. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.”
Even as the president pledged to work alongside Middle Eastern nations, he put the onus for combating terrorism on the region. Bellowing into the microphone, he implored Muslim leaders to aggressively fight extremists: “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities.”
The president has been enthusiastically embraced in Riyadh, where the ruling royal family has welcomed his tougher stance on Iran, its regional foe.
Trump slammed Iran for spreading “destruction and chaos” throughout the region. His comments were echoed by Saudi King Salman, who declared, “The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism.”
For Trump, the visit has been a welcome escape from the crush of controversies that have consumed his administration in recent weeks. He’s been besieged by a series of revelations about the ongoing federal investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia and his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia probe.