ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES –Turns out, if there’s one place that U.S. President Donald Trump can count on for a warm welcome, it’s Saudi Arabia. As unlikely as that seemed at the height of last year’s presidential election, the Middle Eastern kingdom welcomed Trump with open arms on his recent visit.
The excitement was evident in the Saudi press as Trump’s visit heralded a “new era” of US-Saudi relations. According to the editor of the “Saudi Gazette” newspaper, Somayya Jabarti, “Under President [Barack] Obama, there was a sense of betrayal. Saudis felt like the United States was someone we’ve known all our lives, and suddenly they were unrecognizable. Under Trump, this could be a potential era of restoration of relations.”
Obama was unpopular in Saudi Arabia because of his negotiations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s biggest regional rival, and his reluctance to take big actions in Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia is now looking to Trump to refurbish their trust and hope in U.S. relations.
Saudi newspapers were filled with officials praising this opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Diplomats told reporters from Al-Jazirah, a daily Arabic newspaper, that Saudi-American relations are growing and the interests of the two countries are beginning to converge.
During his press conference, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, one of the key figures involved in Trump’s visit, spoke of a new future of security and economic ties with the United States. English-language newspaper Arab News focused on Al Jubeir’s comments that the United States is more committed to fighting ISIS, curtailing Iran’s influence and deepening economic relationships since U.S. companies discovered oil in Saudi Arabia in 1936.
The Saudi Gazette points out that Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia shows that nationalist rhetoric doesn’t mean that Trump will abandon his allies.
Trump stirred controversy during the campaign and early on in his administration with anti-Muslim sentiments. However, the airstrike in Syria and a hard line on Iran added to Trump’s popularity. In addition, Saudis are optimistic, noting that Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit.
However, the positivity that followed Trump’s visit in Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean that Trump has not received unfavorable press. Stories about the current administration’s scandals are common, but less common than in the American media. In addition, as The Jerusalem Post points out, Iran and their proxies chastised Trump “for cozying up to dictators in the Sunni world.” Regardless, the criticism didn’t seem to outweigh the benefits gained from this visit.
Saudi Arabia felt ignored and neglected by Obama, feeling that their most strategic ally was not interested in their needs as a country. Saudis want to preserve their regional security and move the economy beyond oil. As a result, many see the Trump presidency as their opportunity to improve.