US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, his first to any country since assumption of office, has aroused global interest and is of special significance for the Muslim world. The reason is during the presidential campaign he had made unkind remarks about Islam and was critical of certain Muslim states. It is not surprising that President Trump’s speech at the summit, interaction with Arab and Muslim leaders and his general conduct was under close scrutiny across the world. Then there were other critical issues, especially the sharp divide between Saudi Arabia and Iran, of serious concern to all right thinking Muslims.
President Trump’s speech was a departure from his past rhetoric. It was essentially balanced, more respectful of the sentiments of Muslim heads of state that were around. However, his comments about Iran were highly derogatory, played to the Saudi hosts, pleased Israel and reinforced the US’s anti-Iran policy. The Iranian regime was accused of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and spearheading its ideology.
To what extent the visit contributed towards building an aggressive opposition towards Iran will also be of considerable significance. There are indeed deep concerns that Saudi Arabia having formed an alliance of 29 exclusively Sunni states and having the full backing of the US is trying to create a front against Iran. So the question is: will President Trump’s visit act as a catalyst and widen the existing cleavage among the Muslim countries?