President Trump officially kicked off his first foreign trip Friday afternoon as he embarks on a multi-day tour of the Middle East.
His first stop is Saudi Arabia, where he will give a speech Sunday in hopes of building a coalition among Arab states to fight terrorism. His remarks have been classified by media as a "speech about Islam." White House officials pushed back on that description Friday morning during a background call.
Rather than being focused on religion, I'm told the speech will center on fighting an extremist ideology that has been wreaking havoc on the region for decades. Based on descriptions made on the call, the term "Islamic terror" likely will not be used to describe terrorist threats like ISIS, Hezbollah, Iran, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and other Islamic terrorist organizations. The President repeatedly used the term on the campaign trail and regularly chastised President Barack Obama for refusing to do so.
The administration's language on the issue has softened in recent months. When ISIS terrorists massacred dozens of Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday in their churches, the White House and the President simply classified the event as terrorism.
When asked about specific goals of the Saudi trip one White House official stressed a foreign policy strategy based on outcomes and results, rather than a Democracy building ideology. It was noted the United States cannot go "door-to-door" defeating terrorism alone, but rather must embrace and respect (instead of trying to change) the cultures in the countries where terrorism is prevalent in order to eradicate it.
The President's interest on behalf of the United States is an ultimate end to terror. It is expected his remarks will be passionate and far reaching, with a diplomatic goal of fostering cooperation with and between countries in the region. White House Senior Policy advisor Stephen Miller will be writing the speech.
Early next week the President will head to Israel for peace talks, then onto Rome to meet with the Pope. He ends the trip in Italy for the G7 Summit after a NATO meeting in Brussels.