Trump’s Saudi Speech: Pretty Good

by Daniel Pipes

But one speech does not a policy make; it must be the beginning of a consistent approach in battling Islamist ideology.

In Riyadh, on the first stop of his tri-monotheism tour that will take him to Jerusalem and Rome (sorry, Mecca was not available), Donald Trump gave a major speech on a wide range of topics: the Middle East, jihadi violence, Iran, an “Arab NATO,” and Islam. It’s a mixed performance, but overall positive.

First, what’s wrong with the 34-minute speech: It was incoherent, jumping from topic to topic and then back again. It was neither eloquent nor insightful (as in, “Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death”). In places, it consisted of Obama-like euphemisms, such as the statement that history’s great test stands before us, one goal that transcends every other consideration: “to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.”

And it was farcical to announce the opening in Riyadh (the headquarters of Wahhabism) of a Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. I bristled at Trump calling Saudi Arabia “sacred land.” I gagged on the warm praise for King Salman, someone implicated in contributing tens of millions of U.S. dollars during the 1990s to finance jihadi violence in Bosnia and Pakistan.

The context of the speech is acutely worrisome: U.S.–Saudi agreements totaling over $380 billion grants a tyrannical regime added influence over Americans. The $110 billion Saudi purchase of U.S. arms makes a vast arsenal available to a government whose goals differ profoundly from those of most Americans.

These not inconsiderable reservations aside, it was a good speech that signaled a major shift in the right direction from the Obama years — particularly with regard to Iran and Islam. Most important was Trump’s willingness to point to the ideology of Islamism as the enemy

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