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The Saudis want to get along with President Trump, but he could scupper their charm offensive

U.S. President Donald Trump
 Donald Trump Credit: Andrew Harrer /© 2017 Bloomberg Finance LP 

Eight years ago Barack Obama arrived in the Middle East to outline a new American approach to the Muslim world. This weekend, his successor will do the same. Yet the contrast could not be more stark. Whereas Obama’s speech to students in Cairo University was eagerly awaited, Donald Trump’s desire to raise religious issues whilst in Saudi Arabia is feared. It will not have escaped the attention of those in the region that cameras and microphones tend to have an intoxicating effect on the new President. Indeed, many in Washington already regard Trump’s plan to make a major speech on Islam - before the guardians of religion’s most holy sites - as a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

At the same time, the public dimensions of Trump’s trip will be window dressing. Saudi officials will monitor the speech politely, but it will be the new President’s actions that interest them, not his...

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