- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip kicked off in Saudi Arabia this weekend. The Saudis rolled out the proverbial (and literal) red carpet with a military flyover, a herd of horsemen, and a sword dance. Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal (that could grow as big as $350 billion over ten years), and tossed in the garbage all his campaign-trail rhetoric about Islam and terrorism for his big speech to Muslim leaders.
On Sunday, Trump dropped his repeated claims that “Islam hates us” in favor of George Bush-esque lines like, “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.”
He also joined with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman to open the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which was launched with the group touch of a glowing orb.
Trump then went to Israel, or as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it: Tel Aviv, “home of Judaism.” Trump arrived Monday for a slew of meetings, including with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; on Wednesday, at the Vatican, he will meet with Pope Francis, who criticized Trump’s plans to build a wall as un-Christian. He will end the week in Brussels and Sicily for the NATO and G-7 summits, respectively.
In other presidential news: Iran re-elected centrist Hassan Rouhani by a significant margin. A mandate may empower Rouhani to deal with the Supreme Leader and security services and to make deeper economic reforms so that the people of Iran can benefit from the sanctions relief that came with the Iran nuclear deal. That deal is still in place with the United States as a signatory — for now, at least. Whether U.S. policy will change as a result of Rouhani’s reelection remains to be seen.
Also still to be seen: How the world — including Trump, the U.N., and newly elected South Korean president — responds to North Korea, which this weekend launched a medium-range ballistic missile. Tillerson said Sunday that he found the move “disappointing, disturbing.” South Korea’s foreign ministry said the tests were “reckless and irresponsible actions throwing cold water over the hopes and desires of this new government and the international community for denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images