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Thomas Gallatin / May 22, 2017

Trump Impresses and Presses in Speech to Top Muslim Leaders

“This region should not be a place from which refugees flee,” the president said, “but to which newcomers flock.”

Donald Trump delivered a powerful and well-received speech to the U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh on Sunday, in which he called for the Islamic world to commit itself to the fight to end “Islamic extremism.” Trump encouraged Muslim leaders to own the responsibility for defeating Islamic terrorism, stating, “America is prepared to stand with you — in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children. It is a choice between two futures — and it is a choice America cannot make for you.”

Trump briefly noted the epic humanitarian crisis (caused by the policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we’ll add), which has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees exiting the Middle East. But he also offered a vision of hope: “This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.”

He pointedly challenged the religious legitimacy of radical Islam, saying, “Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.” Trump continued, contending, “Terrorists do not worship God; they worship death.”

In a veiled but obvious rebuke of Obama’s failed Middle East policy, Trump pledged that the U.S. would adopted a foreign policy of “principled realism.” He elaborated, “We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes — not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience — not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms — not sudden intervention.” And later in his speech, Trump directly focused his sights on Iran, noting its current regime’s fueling and funding of terrorism. Saying that from Saudi Arabia was rather pointed.

Trump’s clear tone change from the previous eight years is welcome both for Americans frustrated with the U.S.‘s lack of leadership in the region and for Middle Eastern leaders who were alarmed by Obama’s repeated concessions to Iran. Trump’s visit was more than mere words, as he also signed a joint arms agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia worth almost $110 billion. Next up: visiting Israel. On his first foreign trip, Trump is proving himself a capable statesman.

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