Donald Trump will urge Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship”, positioning the challenge as a “battle between good and evil” in a marquee speech on his first foreign presidential trip.
Abandoning some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric of his presidential campaign, a draft of the speech obtained by the Associated Press shows Mr Trump will emphasise the importance of partnerships and peace, although he will refrain from mentioning democracy and human rights.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations," the text reads. “This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.”
It adds: “We are not here to lecture – to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be. We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all.”
The White House confirmed the draft was authentic, but cautioned the president had not yet signed off on the final product.
If he does stick to the draft, Mr Trump will condemn Syria’s President Bashar Assad for committing “unspeakable crimes against humanity” and Iran for contributing to spiralling violence in Syria.
“All nations of conscience in the Middle East must work together to roll back Iran’s destabilising influence, restore a more stable balance of power in the region, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and responsible government they deserve,” the draft reads.
Iran and Syria were not invited to the summit, and they are not part of a regional military alliance that Saudi Arabia is establishing to fight terrorism. The kingdom backs efforts to topple the Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its closest allies.
The speech describes terrorism as a widespread problem, but it makes no mention of “radical Islamic terrorism” – a regular phrase he utilised during his campaign.
Instead he will position himself as an “emissary for the American people, to deliver a message of friendship and hope”
Administration officials believe Mr Trump’s decision to begin his trip in Saudi Arabia sends a powerful message to the kingdom: the strained ties that marked US-Saudi relations under Obama are over.
Unlike the Obama administration, which distanced itself from authoritarian leaders and took a moral stance against the human rights violations that in many cases fuelled resentment and extremism, Mr Trump is focusing on deal-making. Only in the case of Iran does his speech advocate for the “longest-suffering” people who are subject “to their leaders’ reckless attempts to dominate their neighbours”.
By contrast, Mr Trump hails America’s friendship with Saudi Arabia, which “stretches back many decades, and covers numerous dimensions”.
It is a markedly different message from his campaign tweet that said “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays”.
Additional reporting by Associated Press.
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