On the campaign trail, many critics of then-candidate Donald Trump worried about his rhetoric against radical Islamic terrorism and his subsequent travel ban targeting countries hosting various jihadi groups and other extremists. Trump is certainly an unprecedented global leader, and his first foreign visit was to the more moderate Muslim nation of Saudi Arabia (obviously no vanguard of human rights)–shattering the protocol of visiting Canada or Mexico first.
While Trump’s strategy is yet unproven, the symbolism it represents is exactly what we need: to empower moderate, pragmatic Muslim nations. As part of Trump’s journey, he signed a new deal on behalf of the United States to establish the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a joint approach withSaudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates to confront new and evolving threats arising from terrorist financing.
The goal is to disrupt terrorist networks including ISIS, al Qa’ida, Hizballah, Lashkar–e-Tayyiba, the Taliban, and the Haqqani Network.TFTC is meant to address a host of other transnational threats emanating throughout the Middle East, including from Iran, the Assad regime, and the situation in Yemen.
Also during this foreign trip abroad at an event with Ivanka Trump, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates pledged a $100 million fund for women who own or want to start businesses. The Women Entrepreneurs Fund would be aimed at women in the Middle East looking to break into capital markets.
Of particular note during his trip abroad is the extent to which Trump singled out Iran in the second half of his speech yesterday. Although he never said it explicitly, Trump seemed to be positioning the United States in support of the Sunni over the Shia in the Middle East, which was further highlighted by Trump’s acceptance of an offer to visit Egypt by its autocratic ruler, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The Iranians are the largest bankrollers of global terrorism, and Trump’s overtures are a sharp departure from his immediate predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Trump also shattered protocol by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. No president before him has been able to broker peace in Israel/Palestinian conflict. But Trump is like no other president before him, so there is a possibility here. However, if he fails, he’ll become part of the presidential “establishment” he railed against on the campaign trail.
Regardless, Trump’s trip abroad so far has proven successful, with even his staunchest critics having to latch to his domestic struggles as his possible Achilles heel. The question is whether he can maintain this positive momentum and translate it into tangible policies to improve people’s lives in the months ahead both here and abroad.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others.