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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2553

President Trump’s Middle East Mission and the Tillerson Effect in Diplomacy

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

President Trump, who kicked off the first leg of his maiden foreign tour in Saudi Arabia, delivered a strong message to the host and leaders of the 55 Sunni-Muslim-majority countries on Sunday, while adopting a proverbial carrot-and-stick approach for the core purpose.

Mr Trump admired the cultural heritage of Egypt, Iraq and even Iran, handed down by ancient rulers over the centuries, before the West reached the same milestone in history. Then, he wanted Islamic nations to do more to drive out the extremists from the places of worship and even from their lands. He went on to say that those who attended the ceremony, representing both Arab and majority-Muslim nations, agreed to combat the threat collectively.

His message may have struck a chord with the audience, especially when said that America was not going to impose on them the value set of the latter: “We will not lecture you on how to govern or adopt our way of living,” said Mr Trump; the well-hackney phrase, the need to respect human rights was missing in his speech, as Mr Trump stuck to his way of addressing the unique gathering.

Judging by the lavish reception he received by the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, the sheer number of heads of state from Arab and Muslim-majority countries, the relatively short time during which it was organized and the impressive speech that Mr Trump made by calling a spade a spade, the event was a success.

Even Mr Trump’s domestic critics, in a rare case of admission, think so. The New York Times, a strong critics of Mr Trump, for instance, admitted on Monday, President Trump delivered a strong, balanced speech while addressing the gathering in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Trump singled out Iran on Sunday during his big speech for destabilizing the Middle East in pursuit of own interests. Iran, which just held an election in which the current president won a clear mandate for a second term bore the brunt of the negative coverage of Mr Trump’s speech.

The atmosphere in the conference may have prompted Iran to feel it being ganged up against by its Arab neighbors with the full blessings of Saudi Arabia. Mr Trump just personified the anti-Iran hysteria at the podium in the conference. The Iranian foreign minister hit back by reminding the US of the origin of the most of the 9-11 attackers - with a sarcastic remark.

Mr Trump made it clear that the Muslim nations cannot look up to the US to combat terrorism; he wanted them to do it themselves. He said the US would do it bit to complement the process.

Mr Trump also wants to narrow down the chasm between Israel and its Arab nations; the unofficial indications are that the momentum is steadily building up in that direction. Mr Trump’s desire to meet Palestinian president during his second leg of the tour, after visiting Israel is an indication that the latter has not been left out.

The tremendous success of this tour shows that President Trump got one thing right, despite a few mistakes on PR front – the selection of a great team based purely on merit, not political affiliations.

The early successes on diplomatic front in less than four months since the inauguration can be attributed to appointment of Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State, the former CEO of Exxon mobil , the world’s most valued company; Mr Tillerson talks less and achieves more, while cashing on a trait that stems from his wealth of experience in leading a major global company.

Thanks to Mr Tillerson’s guidance, the predicted conflicts with Russia or China didn’t break out. On the contrary, the wheels appear to be rolling smoother than even before on international front, ranging from combating extremism to getting rid of trade barriers.

By giving a priority to sort out the Middle East through negotiations and making deals, President Trump has gone far beyond than any of his predecessors, because there is a sense in the international community that something tangible is on the move at last, after years of stagnation and despair.

- Asian Tribune -

President Trump’s Middle East Mission and the Tillerson Effect in Diplomacy
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