There was one topic that dominated the lobby of the Riyadh Marriott, where the media center for the Arab-Islamic-American Summit was set up: US President Donald Trump’s speech. Journalists from the Middle East, and those flying in from the US, seemed to all have the same question in the back of their mind: How bad would Trump’s speech be, considering his controversial pre-election rhetoric?
Not only did last night’s speech silence most critics — in this region at least — but it made it very clear that Trump will do what he thinks is right, no matter how harshly he is made to look like he is contradicting himself back home.
What matters to this part of the world is that we feared a president who would seek to divide us, but got one who last night talked about unity and how standing together will ensure we do not fail. We feared a president we were led to believe hates our values and culture, but we got one who sipped our coffee, joined us in sword dancing and told us last night that the US is not here to impose its way of life, but to offer us a helping hand if we choose to take it.
We thought that when Trump said “America First,” he meant we would be neglected and left to our misery. But it is his predecessor Barack Obama who did that when he opted to lecture and profess instead of adhering to his own red line when Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.
What did Trump do? He fired back in less than 48 hours, and attacked a Syrian regime convoy a few days ago to make sure nobody thinks his administration is messing around. Trump is now off to Israel, and while he deserves two thumbs up for his Riyadh speech, all eyes will be on his negotiation skills to see if he can deliver what Obama and his other predecessors failed to achieve: A peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.