President Trump just concluded his speech to the assembled leaders of 50 Muslim countries assembled to hear him in Riyadh. The ever popular New York Times quotes a bit from the speech in the course of reporting and opining on it in the story by Peter Baker and Michael Shear. I can’t find either a transcript or video yet.
Here I would like briefly to offer a few preliminary impressions and comments. They have to be checked against the text when it is available.
Watching the speech as a supporter of President Trump, I was proud to be an American.
As advertised by the senior administration official who briefed us on it last week, the leaders of 50 Muslims countries turned up to hear President Trump. It was an impressive sight.
The implicit message of the speech was that the United States has turned a page. Trump called out the crisis of “Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kind.” It seems to me the speech was intended to induce a reaction in the audience: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Obamaworld anymore.”
By contrast with President Obama’s Cairo speech, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood were nowhere to be seen. The fake history served up by President Obama in that speech was abandoned. Indeed, the nemesis of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — President el-Sisi saluted President Trump just before the speech: “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.”
Nevertheless, I was struck by elements of continuity with the Bush and Obama administrations in the speech in its expression of respect for Islam. There was continuity as well in the condemnation of Islamist terrorism as a perversion of the faith. This was Trump in a presidential mode.
Trump expressly declined to press for human rights in Muslim countries: “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 there was continuity with the Obama administration and a departure from one theme of the Bush administration.
It was striking to hear President Trump express support for Christians and Jews (mostly long gone) in Muslim countries.
The Trump administration is serious about defeating Islamist terrorism at its source. It has developed means toward the end. We will have to examine them in due course.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton humiliated the United States in the so-called “reset” of American foreign policy with Russia. Putin got the message that he now had a mostly free hand to do his dirty work. We are still living with the consequences.
President Trump declared a fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy away from that of the Obama administration with respect to Iran. We will not now treat Iran as a friend of the United States to be conciliated and appeased, but rather as an adversary to be opposed. President Trump will support the Sunni Muslim world in its contest with Iran.
UPDATE: RealClearPolitics has posted the video and transcript here.