Melania Trump to join president for first foreign trip

Elias Hubbard
May 20, 2017

The powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, visited Trump in Washington just two months into the president's term, while Trump's Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have all visited Saudi Arabia this year.

When neighbouring Kuwait was invaded in 1990 by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, then-US president George HW Bush ordered Operation Desert Storm, which used United States airbases in Saudi Arabia as vital staging posts and sent thousands of American troops into the kingdom.

But he's wading into deep waters with potential for missteps and disagreement.

CORNISH: So how likely is it that these issues that have been hanging over the president all week - we mentioned the Comey firing, reportedly giving classified information to the Russians and now the naming of a special counsel. Officials say the message is "unity".

The country singer defended his decision to play during the event amid some criticism, saying he had performed for previous presidents as well.

"Heading to the Middle East to have this encounter with the Abrahamic religions and to the Vatican, adding the Vatican onto that, seems both fraught and unnecessary, also possibly counterproductive", he said.

The Saudi and the American sides are expected to sign a host of political and economic agreements.

The three summits will be accompanied by preparations and substantive initiatives to strengthen the commitment of Saudi Arabia, Washington, and Arab countries to consolidate the future of security and peace in the Arab and Islamic worlds. And they want to keep the visit focused on such activities and not on statements that might turn into polemics.

"An Arabian lute and American guitar unite in a star-studded night", said the advertisement.

The obstacles in Trump's way are nevertheless daunting. Almost half of those exports go to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates among the leading buyers. The president also meets with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella. "He is obviously picking and choosing [from whom] he is going to hear about these religious traditions".

It's not clear which person should be more insulted by this comparison.

"You're wading into deep waters here", said Nicholson.

Trump, during the campaign, had said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance was obsolete.

From there it's on to the Vatican and a meeting with Pope Francis who had been critical of the Trump campaign's positions on immigrants. Given Trump's contrary views, disagreement in those areas could get in the way of a friendly chat in Rome.

"He needs to show that he respects Islam [and] that Muslims have dignity", said Nicholson.

The Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg thinks it could be too much.

Vulnerable Republicans, facing an anti-Trump backlash at home, are rightly anxious they may lose the House of Representatives in 2018 mid-term elections.

Here are 5 objectives to watch for as Trump goes overseas.

"He understands what drives people on the street", Nicholson said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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