Amid tumult, Trump leaves on first presidential foreign trip

After that, the eight-day trip will continue with a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Belgium and a G-7 summit of major industrial nations in Italy.

Even before Trump's trip morphed from a quick jaunt to Europe into a nine-day behemoth, White House aides were on edge about how the president would take to grueling pressures of foreign travel: the time zone changes, the unfamiliar hotels, the local delicacies.

His travel ban, in the name of protecting the United States against terrorism, also specifically targeted all Muslim-majority countries, a move that was derided by Muslims everywhere, including in the Middle East.

Hold it. Screech the brakes on this Hollywood-type script of Saint Donald saving the world. Saudi Arabia and other Arab neighbors along the Persian Gulf believe Iran to be their biggest threat.

"The minute that he leaves the United States on that plane the entire focus would be what's going on overseas - what the president says and how he acts, as opposed to some of the domestic issues that are dogging him here at home".

In Rome, the president will call upon Pope Francis, the popular, liberal-minded pontiff.

The Saudi prince, known as MBS by the Trump inner circle, is the chief strategist behind the Saudi war on Yemen since March 2015.

Kushner is reported to have drawn up the "shopping list" with Saudi officials.

Millions of other Yemeni children are dying from starvation and preventable diseases like cholera because of a naval blockade imposed on the country by Saudi and American forces.

Although in the past Trump has been critical of Saudi Arabia - even accusing it of killing homosexuals and having links to the September 11, 2001, attacks - he has softened his tone since becoming president, but he has continued his harsh criticism of Iran. Carving out a niche in the new administration looks to be an uphill battle for Saudi Arabia.

The new president has already declared his support for a new U.S. -Saudi program with $200 billion in direct and indirect investments over the course of his presidency for use in technical development in the energy sector and other advancements in financial relationships between the two countries.

Riyadh's most recent $40 billion gift is an effort to court support in the Trump administration, especially as the Saudi Aramco IPO approaches next year.

It's kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump.
He is also pumping up the surreal Saudi narrative that Iran is largely responsible for the Middle East's conflicts.

On today's first Saudi stop of the trip, Trump will reportedly try to fix the Islamophobic image he made for himself during last year's presidential campaign, and take part in what is being described in Riyadh as a "historic meeting".

"This is a man who spent 50 years negotiating - if there's anyone who can bring stability and peace it is Donald Trump".

The summit is part of preparations for a new U.S. strategy mobilising the Muslim world against the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State group, as well as against Iran-backed groups such as Lebanon-based Hezbollah, said Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser to the Gulf Research Centre.

Trump has yet to personally reassert the U.S. commitment to Article 5, NATO's mutual defense clause.

"To the contrary, prioritising American interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and improve the security of the American people". Those militants, known as Maghaweer al Thawra, are part of the Al Qaeda terror network, according to independent journalist Vanessa Beeley in email correspondence with this author. Critics have urged Trump to step up USA pressure against Saudi Arabia on these issues. One version, obtained late Thursday, included edits with comments from an administration official, indicating it was still a work in progress. While Saudi women are expected to cover their heads, exceptions are made for foreigners, and in some less conservative circles, Saudi women wear their hijabs loosely in a way that hints more at fashion than religion.

His advisors are already talking about a historic trip: Donald Trump is the first United States president since Jimmy Carter whose first worldwide trip begins not in Canada or Mexico but in Saudi Arabia - far away from escalating problems at home.

Trump's political ascent was fueled by similar anti-Muslim sentiments. "The whole world is watching".

Mr Trump has tried to put investigations into his campaign and his first four months in office behind him.

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