2018-01-12 05:10:26 UTC
By Mary Kay Linge
Donald Trump meets with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of
Defense Mohammed bin Salman. Reuters
The first day of President Trump's maiden foreign tour went off without a
hitch as he signed a huge arms deal and firmed up a critical alliance,
thousands of miles away from his Washington woes.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, eager to warm a relationship that became
frosty during the Obama administration, pulled out all the stops to
impress the president and his entourage.
The king, 81, greeted Trump with a handshake on the tarmac at King Khalid
International Airport as military jets flew in formation overhead.
Trump is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia - or any
majority-Muslim country - his first overseas stop as president.
Top aides and several Cabinet members - including son-in-law Jared Kushner
and daughter Ivanka, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, political aide Steve
Bannon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and spokesman Sean Spicer - are
along on the trip.
"A tremendous day," Trump told reporters. "Tremendous investments in the
United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the
United States and jobs, jobs, jobs."
He and the king sat side-by-side in an ornate, chandelier-adorned
reception room in the Royal Court Palace to sign a series of business and
defense agreements, including $110 billion in immediate sales of American
arms and military equipment - from tanks and combat ships to missile
defense systems and cybersecurity technology.
The deal, which calls for $350 billion of additional defense purchases
over the next 10 years, is aimed at supporting Saudi security and
countering Iranian aggression - a repudiation of the Obama
administration's moves toward detente with Iran.
Tillerson called the agreement a "strong message to our common enemies"
that will also create thousands of jobs in the American defense industry.
The Saudis intend to "invest a lot of money in the US and have a lot of US
companies invest and build things over here," said Gary Cohn, Trump's
chief economic adviser. "A lot of money. Big dollars."
A dozen horses flanked the presidential limousine as it approached the
palace. Soldiers stood at attention and trumpets blared. "Very
impressive," Trump told the king.
Inside, he stooped to let the king place the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud,
the nation's highest civilian honor, around his neck as an announcer
praised Trump's "quest to enhance security and stability in the region and
around the world" and "his efforts to strengthen the relationship between
the two friendly countries."
The two leaders were seen in close conversation about Syria, arms deals,
and natural resources before disappearing for private meetings.
A central goal of the presidential visit is to push back on the threat
that Iran poses to Saudi Arabia and other regional partners.
At a joint press conference with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-
Jubeir, Tillerson called on Iran's President Hassan Rouhani to restore
human rights, end Iran's support of terror organizations, and halt its
ballistic missile testing.
"If Rouhani wanted to change Iran's relationship with the rest of the
world, those are the things he could do," Tillerson said.
Tillerson said that he would likely speak to his Iranian counterpart,
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, "at the right time," but that he has no
current plans to do so.
In the evening, a grinning Trump joined King Salman for a few swaying
steps of the traditional Al Ardha, the kingdom's celebratory sword dance.
Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hoisted swords to their
shoulders as they tried out the moves.
Trump then headed into a royal banquet that featured his favorite dish,
steak and ketchup, along with lamb, rice, and other Saudi specialties.
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