RIYADH: U.S. President Donald Trump will call on Arab leaders to confront “Islamist extremism” during a speech on Sunday in which he will portray fighting terrorism as a battle between good and evil rather than a clash of civilizations.
“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it,” Trump will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by the White House.
“That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians,” he will say.
The speech is part of a re-set effort with the Muslim world after Trump frequently attacked Muslims on the campaign trail last year and tried to ban many from entering the United States.
Struggling to contain a brewing political scandal at home, Trump kicked off his first foreign trip in Saudi Arabia, where he will deliver the speech at an Arab Islamic American Summit.
“Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land,” he will say. “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them.”
Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who set aside his campaign rhetoric about Muslims and focused on his desire to crack down on Iran’s influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s signature phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was not included in the speech excerpts.
The United States and Gulf Arab countries agreed on Sunday to coordinate their efforts against the financing of terrorist groups, a key White House objective.
The president also convened the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council as part of his effort to counter Iran with a NATO-like Arab force.
Trump and the leaders will establish a center aimed at cracking down on the ability of Islamic militants to spread their message.
Trump’s welcome in the region was put on display during a series of individual meetings with Arab leaders.
He praised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, telling him, “You have done a tremendous job under trying circumstances.” Trump promised to schedule a trip to Egypt soon, and he singled out the Egyptian’s choice of footwear, a pair of shiny black shoes. “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes,” he said.
Reinforcing his theme of U.S. economic deals, Trump told Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani they would discuss “lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States.”
To Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Trump declared that the two nations had a lot in common and “there won’t be strain with this administration.” The king lauded the relationship and said it had led to “great stability in the region and prosperity.”
And in a meeting with the emir of Kuwait, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Trump noted Kuwait bought large amounts of U.S. military equipment. The Kuwaiti leader referred to Trump as “my brother.”
Trump’s Riyadh visit kicks off his first presidential trip abroad, with Saudi Arabia the first stop on a nine-day journey through the Middle East and Europe.
The speech comes as Trump tries to escape the fallout from his May 9 firing of former FBI Director James Comey amid accusations he was trying to stop a federal investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia last year.
The New York Times reported Trump called Comey a “nut job” in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week. The Washington Post said the probe had reached into the White House to include a Trump adviser, who was not named.
Trump showed little sign of the pressure during a day of diplomacy on Saturday during which he was warmly welcomed by Saudi King Salman.
At a royal banquet on Saturday night, Trump walked into a colorful spectacle: Men in ceremonial dress and carrying swords chanted in unison to beating drums in a courtyard. Trump, clearly enjoying himself, smiled and swayed, even seeming to dance a little at the center of the group.
A strong wind later blew sand through the area.