Trump’s message for Arab leaders: It’s time to confront Islamist extremism


President Trump and Qatar Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani meet Sunday at a Riyadh hotel. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

on Sunday will call on Arab leaders to join the United States in “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism,” refining the harsh anti-terror rhetoric of his campaign in a speech in the nation that hosts Islam’s holiest sites.

In remarks to a summit of regional leaders in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Trump will declare the solidarity of the United States in pursuing peace and security, while calling on leaders to do their “fair share” in what he called a battle “between good and evil.”

“Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land,” he will say, according to a draft of his speech.

“The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”

After a welcome fit for a king Saturday, Trump spent the second day of his first foreign trip in a series of meetings with Arab leaders focused on combating the spread of terrorism.

The schedule includes a dizzying succession of one-on-one meetings with kings, presidents and emirs from the Gulf region and two broader gatherings of regional leaders. His first major speech on foreign soil will come in the afternoon at the Arab-Islamic-American summit.

Ahead of a full meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the U.S. and its six member nations exchanged a memorandum of understanding outlining each’s commitment to move against terror financing.

"It’s the — we hope — farthest-reaching commitment to not finance terrorist organizations, that Treasury will be monitoring with each of their counterparts,” Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell told reporters. “The unique piece of it is that every single one of them are signatories on how they’re responsible and will actually prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals."

Trump had previewed his remarks before leaving the United States during a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, saying he would challenge Muslim leaders “to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.”

“We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.

Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday about the need to confront radical ideology meeting was initially drafted by Stephen Miller, according to a person advising the White House on the trip. It has since gone through several revisions with input from Jared Kushner, national security advisor H.R. McMaster, and others. The revisions have dulled some of the rhetoric, but Trump’s aides wouldn’t be surprised if Trump veers off the written speech at times while he is delivering it.

The president’s advisors, while planning the trip to Saudi Arabia, insisted Trump be allowed to talk about confronting Islamic extremism. He wasn’t going to visit the country without giving a speech about the need to confront Islamic extremism and violence, the person said. Trump’s aides are seeing it as Trump’s rebuttal to Obama’s Cairo speech, delivered in June 2009.

Trump’s remarks will be highly scrutinized after a campaign in which he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, and past criticism of Mideast nations, including Saudi Arabia, for not doing enough to counter it. He regularly attacked former President Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic extremism” to describe terror threats — a term which national security officials have said can be counterproductive in rallying majority-Muslim nations to support U.S. counter-terror efforts, and feed terrorist propaganda that portrays the U.S. as at war with Islam.

“I’m fascinated and concerned in equal parts,” Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said this week.

For more White House coverage, follow @mikememoli on Twitter.

Staff writer Brian Bennett contributed to this report.


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