Donald of Arabia

Those who expected Donald Trump to fly into Riyadh and insult his Saudi hosts with the kinds of broadsides he delivered on the campaign trail against Islam and Muslims needn’t have worried.

The president who once accused Saudi Arabia of complicity in the 9/11 attacks praised its “magnificent” and “sacred land.” He looked comfortable trading pleasantries and sipping coffee with King Salman, the aging scion of the country’s founding ruler, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. He soaked up the gaudy chandeliers, the gilded wall trimmings. Trump even bobbed up and down during the ardah, the traditional sword dance that desert tribes once performed before they went into battle.

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The images on TV and on Twitter looked like a Michael Moore fever dream — and Democrats couldn’t stop harping on the “curtsy” Trump made as he accepted an award from the Saudi king, just as presidents Obama and Bush did before him.

The pageantry was not subtle, but the real import of Trump’s visit, and especially his carefully crafted speech, was to announce a new alliance between America and the Sunni autocrats of the Arab world, aimed at Shiite Iran.

No more Bush-like paeans to “freedom” or even Obama-esque warnings about being on the “right side of history” — Trump dispensed with the usual presidential to-be-sures about the democratic shortcomings of America’s regional allies and said flatly that defeating terrorism “transcends every other consideration.”

“This is a battle between good and evil,” Trump declared in one of the speech’s more striking passages, which bore the unmistakable echo of George W. Bush’s famous September 2001 declaration, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Elsewhere, he demanded that his audience “drive out the terrorists and extremists,” repeating the words “drive them out” several times for emphasis. He spoke of combating “wicked ideology” and “foot soldiers of evil,” phrases that would be right at home on an old David Frum notepad.

Indeed, the speech had the flavor of an early Bush address, before his administration needed a rationale for spending billions to rebuild a shattered Iraq and the “Freedom Agenda” became the ostensible organizing principle of his second-term foreign policy.

Trump only hinted at the complicity of Gulf Arab regimes in promoting a radical, sectarian version of Islam, praising their apparent newfound willingness to crack down on extremism and terrorist financing. But he was explicit in condemning Iran, Saudi Arabia’s sworn enemy, for stoking “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” in the region.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace,” he said, “all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

There was little effort to reach out to the 40 million Iranians who had just voted to re-elect Hassan Rouhani, the pragmatic president who won by pledging greater openness to the world, albeit within the severe constraints of Iran’s theocratic system.

As for the Sunni monarchies and military dictatorships like that run by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Trump promised to stop pestering them about human rights and political freedoms. “Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption,” he said. “And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.”

All that is exactly the kind of rhetoric the Sunni strongmen of the region yearned for during the Obama years, when the United States dialed back its usual criticism of Iran as it pursued the much-maligned nuclear deal, while pressuring Arab leaders to respond to the demands of their people.

Still, parts of the speech could have been given by either of Trump’s predecessors — respectful language about religion, the observation that Muslims have suffered the most from terrorism, the patronizing evocation of past civilizational glories, like the pyramids. What was missing, though, was any sense of why Trump thinks terrorism was on the rise, and how he plans to combat it.

It was as if, as former Bush administration official Elliott Abrams put it, the terrorists were aliens from outer space, rather than the twisted product of broken societies that have yet to divine how to stop churning them out. “He offered no explanation of what was producing this phenomenon,” Abrams noted in an email to my colleague Annie Karni. “Trump had no theory, and therefore could not suggest what might be done to prevent more extremists from rising.”

Bush, and advisers like Abrams, had a theory — that a lack of freedom and human
development had created a malignancy in the Arab world, which in turn was spawning religious radicalism and terrorists. Obama seemed to buy into the idea, too — just ask Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak — though he sanded off the sharper edges of Bush’s rhetoric and lacked his messianic fervor. But where the Bush team spoke expansively about defeating Islamist ideology, Obama’s more risk-averse advisers aimed for narrower victories, like the “degradation” of specific terrorist groups. And they also made much of the need to curb the abuses of the Bush years, though an internal revolt against practices like waterboarding had already taken hold in his second term.

Very little of any of it, as Trump suggested on Sunday, has seemed to work, and he promised to “apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment.” But he also warned several times that the United States wouldn’t be bearing any burden or paying any price to vanquish the terrorists that he had once boasted would be quickly and easily defeated. “The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them,” Trump said. “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.”

Trump is offering, in short, a war on terror without the pretense of idealism. There has always been a strong odor of hypocrisy hanging over the U.S. relationship with regimes like Saudi Arabia, and perhaps there’s something refreshing in Trump’s “we are not here to lecture” candor.

The United States has, after all, very little real leverage or will to remake Arab societies in America’s image — particularly ones that buy $110 billion of our weapons. All too often, U.S. criticism of the democratic failings of its allies seems meant more for our domestic consumption than for foreign audiences, who have learned to tune it out. And presidents of both parties have almost always prioritized core U.S. interests — like the Iran nuclear deal over suffering Syrians — when forced to make a choice.

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s former speechwriter and foreign policy alter ego, got an earful on Twitter when he complained that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was foolish to slam Iran’s record on human rights while standing next to the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, whose record is arguably worse. “Really undercuts US credibility when it looks like we only raise human rights issues for geopolitical purposes,” he wrote.

“300,000 Syrians were unavailable for comment,” one Rhodes critic shot back.

 Blake Hounshell is the editor in chief of POLITICO Magazine.

Tillerson holds press conference without US reporters

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference Sunday without U.S. reporters, according to multiple reports.

Tillerson reportedly held the press conference in Riyadh, but U.S. reporters were not told about it, according to their tweets.

After reports came out about that briefing, the White House announced Tillerson will hold a brief gaggle on Monday on Air Force One, according to pool reports.

The State Department also provided reporters a transcript of the questions and Tillerson’s responses, alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir. 

In the excerpts of Tillerson’s comments, he echoed comments made by President Trump in an earlier speech in Saudi Arabia.

“I think what you heard is the expression of this administration’s policy and views not just toward this region, but toward American relationship with the Muslim world here as well as more broadly,” he said.

“And I think the President clearly was extending a hand and understanding that only together can we address this threat of terrorism that has befallen all of us, not just in this region but worldwide.”

He said the president is convinced when the “three great faiths of this world” and those who practice them come together, the world can “prevail over this — these forces of evil and these forces of terrorism and destabilization.”

“It’s these forces that prey on those who are less able to care for themselves,” he said. “So I think in our view, and I know the President’s view, defeating these evil forces is the first step on advancing human rights worldwide, and he clearly has that in his mind as well.”

Tillerson previously called himself “not a big media press access person.”

“I personally don’t need it. … When we’re ready to talk about what we’re trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that,” Tillerson said during a March interview.

He added: “When I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it.”

Updated 4:12 p.m.

Schiff’s star turn sparks buzz at California convention

Sacramento — Excited party activists at California’s state Democratic convention stood five-deep Saturday night to mob and meet Rep. Adam Schiff – a low-key 16-year House veteran who’s now a familiar face to millions of cable television viewers as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Later at the nearby Sheraton Grand Hotel lobby, the soft-spoken prosecutor was buttonholed, begged for selfies and approached by awestruck fans who lauded him as one of most determined congressional advocates for investigating ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia. They often whispered: “Thank you for what you do.”

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That’s not all they were whispering. In national circles, Schiff doesn’t often get mentioned as part of the unwieldy list of potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. But in deep-blue California, Schiff’s recent star turn has him frequently touted as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate — and, in some circles, mentioned as a potential candidate for the White House.

The Burbank congressman certainly sounded like a national candidate in his Saturday speech to California Democrats, delivering a sweeping appeal about the costs of the President’s repeated mistakes, gaffes and conflicts on the Russian issue. “The very idea of America is at stake,’’ he said, warning that Trump’s actions may endanger a country that is “a beacon to people around the world.”

“California must pick up the mantle of leadership — just as our president has set it down,’’ he said to cheers of the delegates. “The light is California, the Democratic party, the heart of the resistance.”

California activists are intrigued.

“For president? I would vote for him,’’ said Democratic activity Laura Lowell, the chair of the Calaveras County Democrats. “He’s authentic. You can tell he is telling the truth. You get the sense when he’s talking that he’s got a goal — and he’s doing the right thing.’’

To many Democrats who feel like “there’s so much craziness going on in the country,’’ Schiff has managed to convey a comforting message, she said: “We’re not going to let crazy win.”

Schiff, sipping a Coke, shrugs off such talk, stopping to quietly shake the hand of a pair of middle-aged women who have approached to shake his hand. “You give me hope,’’ one says, as the other nods appreciatively.

“It’s very easy to let all this go to your head,’’ Schiff told POLITICO of the White House talk moments after his speech to the convention. “But I’m determined not to let it. I try to keep my focus on things within my control.” And that’s often a challenge, he says, given that “we have an ‘Oh my God’ moment five times a day.”

Democrats watching Schiff Saturday said they were impressed.

“He’s authentic, and very, very smart,’’ agreed Tom Pratt, president of the Board of Trustees on the Vallecito Union School district, who knew Schiff when he first ran for office in Burbank in the ‘90s. He said he would “absolutely” want to see Schiff make a run for the White House because “he’s humble…and you could feel that he has the best interests of our country at heart.”

Schiff says he wishes that there were more House Republicans advocating for answers as well. “I wish we had a few John McCains and Lindsey Grahams who would be speaking out,’ he said.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a veteran California political analyst and a senior fellow at University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, acknowledges that Schiff’s time in the spotlight may not be as long as Democrats hope.

No one knows where the investigations by newly tapped special counsel and former FBI chief Robert Mueller may lead, or whether they will steal the House Intelligence Committee’s thunder and shift attention away from Schiff’s currently high profile role as the panel’s ranking Democrat.

But for now, she said, few on Capitol Hill more embody the “streetcar theory of politics” more than Schiff, she says.

That theory is: “You’ve got to be on the right corner, with the right change, at the right time — and the streetcar has got to be going in the right direction,’’ she said. “Right now, he’s four out of four.”

Pence attacks campus ‘political correctness’

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an event to celebrate National Military Appreciation Month and National Military Spouse Appreciation Day in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

At the beginning of Vice President Mike Pence’s address, a group of students walked out of the graduation ceremony in protest. | Getty

Vice President Mike Pence denounced mounting attacks on freedom of speech on college campuses during his commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, including “administration-sanctioned political correctness.”

“This university is a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America,” he told the graduating class on Sunday.

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“While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech,” the vice president added.

The former Indiana governor encouraged the graduates to speak up against “the increasing intolerance” toward opposing views, which he said are “destructive of learning.”

“As you, our youth, are the future, and universities, the bellwether of thought and culture, I would submit that the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every American,” Pence said.

“This should not — and must not — be met with silence.”

The vice president might have left thinking he had some confirmation for his views on tolerance.

At the beginning of Pence’s address, a group of students walked out of the graduation ceremony to protest his presence, and others booed from the audience. The South Bend Tribune said about 150 students and family members took part in the walkout.

Full transcript: Trump’s speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit

US President Donald Trump speaks during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump speaks during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21. | Getty

President Donald Trump’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you.

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I want to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today’s summit. I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts. I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.

You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside another beloved leader – American President Franklin Roosevelt – King Abdulaziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries. King Salman: your father would be so proud to see that you are continuing his legacy – and just as he opened the first chapter in our partnership, today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to our citizens.

Let me now also extend my deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of the distinguished heads of state who made this journey here today. You greatly honor us with your presence, and I send the warmest regards from my country to yours. I know that our time together will bring many blessings to both your people and mine.

I stand before you as a representative of the American People, to deliver a message of friendship and hope. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith.

In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.

Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.

Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.

And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders—unique in the history of nations—is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect. To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.

For Americans, this is an exciting time. A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country: in just a few months, we have created almost a million new jobs, added over 3 trillion dollars of new value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies – many of whom are here today.

Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation.

Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond.

Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.

I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.

Here at this summit we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.

Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.

And young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves and their peoples.

With God’s help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East – and maybe, even all over the world.

But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.

Few nations have been spared its violent reach.

America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks – from the atrocities of September 11th to the devastation of the Boston Bombing, to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando.

The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and even South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have been victims.

But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence.

Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.

We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across the planet. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure.

The true toll of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams.

The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.

This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock.

Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones—including soaring achievements in architecture.

Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage.

All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.

The entire region is at the center of the key shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz.

The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.

But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence.

There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.

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.

Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different 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.

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.

But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong – and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.

Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land.

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.

A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.

For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.

Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. 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.

We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.

Above all, America seeks peace – not war.

Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.

The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.

Many are already making significant contributions to regional security: Jordanian pilots are crucial partners against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen. The Lebanese Army is hunting ISIS operatives who try to infiltrate their territory. Emirati troops are supporting our Afghan partners. In Mosul, American troops are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland. Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner. Our longstanding partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain continue to enhance security in the region. And courageous Afghan soldiers are making tremendous sacrifices in the fight against the Taliban, and others, in the fight for their country.

As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.

I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered.

I also applaud the Gulf Cooperation Council for blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror, and designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization last year. Saudi Arabia also joined us this week in placing sanctions on one of the most senior leaders of Hezbollah.

Of course, there is still much work to do.

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.

Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory – piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them. Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.

The United Arab Emirates has also engaged in the battle for hearts and souls—and with the U.S., launched a center to counter the online spread of hate. Bahrain too is working to undermine recruitment and radicalism.

I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees leaving the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions.

That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life – including women, children, and followers of all faiths. Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities.

For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican – visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Starving terrorists of their territory, their funding, and the false allure of their craven ideology, will be the basis for defeating them.

But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.

From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime – launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.

Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region.

The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.

The decisions we make will affect countless lives.

King Salman, I thank you for the creation of this great moment in history, and for your massive investment in America, its industry and its jobs. I also thank you for investing in the future of this part of the world.

This fertile region has all the ingredients for extraordinary success – a rich history and culture, a young and vibrant people, a thriving spirit of enterprise. But you can only unlock this future if the citizens of the Middle East are freed from extremism, terror and violence.

We in this room are the leaders of our peoples. They look to us for answers, and for action. And when we look back at their faces, behind every pair of eyes is a soul that yearns for justice.

Today, billions of faces are now looking at us, waiting for us to act on the great question of our time.

Will we be indifferent in the presence of evil? Will we protect our citizens from its violent ideology? Will we let its venom spread through our societies? Will we let it destroy the most holy sites on earth?

If we do not confront this deadly terror, we know what the future will bring—more suffering and despair.

But if we act—if we leave this magnificent room unified and determined to do what it takes to destroy the terror that threatens the world—then there is no limit to the great future our citizens will have.

The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance. Just imagine what tomorrow could bring.

Glorious wonders of science, art, medicine and commerce to inspire humankind. Great cities built on the ruins of shattered towns. New jobs and industries that will lift up millions of people. Parents who no longer worry for their children, families who no longer mourn for their loved ones, and the faithful who finally worship without fear.

These are the blessings of prosperity and peace. These are the desires that burn with a righteous flame in every human heart. And these are the just demands of our beloved peoples.

I ask you to join me, to join together, to work together, and to FIGHT together— BECAUSE UNITED, WE WILL NOT FAIL.

Thank you. God Bless You. God Bless Your Countries. And God Bless the United States of America.