Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Delivers Speech in Saudi Arabia. Aired 11:20a-12p ET

Aired May 21, 2017 - 11:20   ET


[11:23:19] LYNDA KINKADE, HOST: Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome to Connect the World. U.S. President Donald Trump says the battle against

extremism is not a clash of religions, but between good and evil.

You've been listening to his big speech to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia. He's trying to elicit support in the region in that fight against

ISIS and other terror groups. On the campaign trail, though, Candidate Trump called for a temporary Muslim ban and said Muslims hate America.

Now he has a new job kicking off his first overseas tour as president. And it seems he has a very new approach. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration, that goal

is to meet history's great test, to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces that terrorism brings with it every single time. Young Muslim boys

and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.


KINKADE: Well, Muhammad Lila is gauging reaction to the speech in Istanbul. And certainly some incredible words there by President Trump.

Significantly different from candidate Trump who said that Islam hates us when speaking to Americans and spoke about that Muslim travel ban. We

didn't see any mention of that today, instead we heard him talk about kindness and outstretching his

hands to people in the region. Can people there take him at his word today? Can they believe this new


[11:25:04] MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lynda, yeah, just on the speech itself, we know that he didn't veer off the script, which is

something that President Trump has been known to do in the past. And we know there were several versions of that speech before it was actually

delivered just a few moments ago.

Now, of course, that's the million dollar question, can Muslims around the world take Donald

Trump at his word? Well, look, if you're living in one of these countries that's a United States ally, you've got to be pretty happy right now if

you're living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or United Arab Emirates, of course, this is something that they have wanted to hear this for a long time. A

lot of reassuring words, a lot of respect given for Islam, calling it a great civilization and a great religion. And of course, Saudi Arabia as

what he says is, you know, the Muslim Holy Land, or the birthplace of Islam.

So, if you're those countries, sure, this was good. But, of course, if you're in, for example, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, maybe if you're

part of the opposition in Egypt, the message that comes across from this speech is that the foreign policy of the United States, the foreign policy

of Donald Trump administration is effectively for sale. One of the criticisms of all of this is that, you know, if you look at what Donald

Trump said on the campaign versus what he said now today, well, what's the difference?

There's been six or seven months difference. There's been, of course, Donald Trump is now officially the president. But of course, there's $100

billion that the Saudi government just paid to the United States in a record arms deal, and that could reach $300 billion in

terms of total investment over the next 10 years. So, I think that's part of the message that the Muslim world will hear loud and clear that America

is open for business and it's open to the highest bidder.

KINKADE: Foreign policy for sale. You make a very interesting point. You also have to wonder whether it's easy to brush some of the human rights

abuses under the carpet, given the billions of dollars in exchange there.

He said we're not here to lecture, to tell people how to live. Do you think that was his way of getting away from mentioning the fact that

there's discrimination against women, there's a crackdown on freedom of speech there?

LILA: Well, this is, you know, one of the criticisms that came up, not only in today's speech, but the fact that Donald Trump chose Saudi Arabia

in the first place.

Look, there's no question that Saudi Arabia is the home to the two most important sites in most in the Muslim world. There's a responsibility that

Saudi Arabia does take very seriously.

But on the other hand, there - you know, Saudi Arabia has been accused of rights violations. It's been accused persecuting its own minorities, it's

been accused of not allowing Christians to worship in that country, and of course forcing women to observe certain dress codes and not allowing women

to drive. So, that's the criticism there.

And of course that criticism won't end, I don't think, with this speech that Donald Trump made. It's a criticism that's going to say now because,

because clearly, it seems as though Donald Trump in his speech, speaking out very forcibly against Iran and very forcibly in

favor of the Gulf country speaking out very forcibly in favor of the Gulf countries, it seems that the administration is now officially taking sides

in what has become a very big schism, and quite frankly a historic, and quite frankly unsolvable schism that dates back 1,400 years in the Muslim


KINKADE: All right, Muhammad Lila, some great perspective there for us from the region. Thanks so much.

Well, we will have more on that speech as Donald Trump wraps up that visit in Saudi Arabia. We ask if actions speech louder than words. A closer

look at some of the key moments of the U.S. president's visit. Stay with us.



[11:32:08] KINKADE: Well, before Donald Trump made his big speech to Muslim leaders, there was a lot of anticipation about how he would be received.

But he already had one ringing endorsement from Egypt's president.


ABDEL FATAH EL-SISI, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT: Mr. President, we express our appreciation and respect. And let me say that you have a unique

personality that is capable of doing the impossible.

TRUMP: I agree.


KINKADE: So, all the smiles as the U.S. president met with his Egyptian counterpart. But if Donald Trump really can do the impossible, he'll have

to win over the Muslim world despite everything he said about Islam before from his infamous travel ban, to telling CNN he thinks that Islam hates the


Mr. Trump's previous rhetoric may outweigh his latest comments, however much of his emphasis was on the overriding battle between good and evil.

Well, of course, Donald Trump's reputation in the Middle East isn't just what he says. Thanks to social media and streaming video, much of his

image will be defined by exactly that: images. And some of what we're seeing is already come under scrutiny.

First of all, there was this. Was it a bend, was it a bow, whatever it was many on Twitter were quick to point out that Mr. Trump slammed Barack Obama

for bowing to the Saudi king in 2009.

Next, there was the dancing with the Sauds. Now, Saud dancing is a Saudi tradition, just not one that tends to involve uncomfortable, let's call it

dad dancing, by top American officials.

And then there's Melania and Ivanka Trump not wearing head scarfs. Now, we must point out out that head scarves are not usually worn by visiting

female dignitaries. But we also have to point out that Mr. Trump criticized Michelle Obama for making that same decision two years ago.

Well, David Rohde is the New Yorker online editor and a CNN global affairs analyst. He joins us from New York. Great to have you with us, David.

There is no doubt that this trip was high risk, high reward. This is a country that can sentence a woman for driving. They can give her public

lashing for driving a car. It's a country where most of the terrorists of 9/11 came from. Is that a little forgotten as President Trump carries out

his visit to a country, the first of his first foreign trip overseas?

DAVID ROHDE, NEW YORKER: Well, that's the real question is how will average people view this, particularly across the Muslim world. Well, they

believe, you know, the rhetoric we heard today - sorry, sorry, the statements we heard today from President Trump versus the rhetoric during

the campaign, it's a dramatic change. It's a much better rhetoric, but you know, will people, particularly young people across the Middle East believe


KINKADE: President Trump spoke of a new global center for combating extremist ideology. Is that hard to get your head around in a country that

readily flogs bloggers for freedom of speech?

ROHDE: Yes. They chose Saudi Arabia as the location of his speech. I think part of that was for domestic concerns he would - he could announce

this arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Some of the earlier commentators at CNN talked about CNN domestic, it talked about Jordan may have been a

better setting for this speech.

Many, many Muslims that I've spoken to do not see Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world. Yes, the two holy mosques are there, but there

is no papacy in Islam as international viewers know. And so, you know, that's the problem. It is the setting. (inaudible) that opulent room with

all these many, you know, wealthy and autocratic Gulf rulers, is that the right setting to give this message from, or does that actually undermine

the credibility of President Trump's message today?

[11:36:04] ANDERSON: Absolutely.

Well, he also sort of said that America will not impose our way of life on others, but, rather, outstretch our hands. Do you think that was his way,

or at least his speechwriter's way, of avoiding any real comment on human rights abuses?

ROHDE: Yeah, I think there was an intentional effort -- this is a message to the rulers in the

region that human rights will not matter to this administration. And they've telegraphed that by

welcoming President el-Sisi of Egypt to the White House.

What will average people in the region, you know, how will they interpret that?

He did talk about growth and jobs. And I think that is the critical issue for people in the region, but there was no how in this speech. He talked

about driving extremists out of the mosques. He talked about creating more jobs. He talked about ushering a new renaissance. How? Every American

president has talked about his since 9/11.

The U.S. tried invasions under George W. Bush. The U.S. tried to sort of step back and do less in the region under Barack Obama. Neither has

worked. I don't hear a new Trump sort of doctrine for how to drive extremists from the mosques.

KINKADE: Of course, we heard about a lot about investment there. The U.S. and Saudi agreeing to this $110 billion arms agreement. There are, of

course, concerns about financing and weapons getting into the hands of extremists. How can President Trump assure that doesn't happen?

ROHDE: I think that - well, the primary concern in terms of these sales to Saudi Arabia is that Obama made an enormous sale to Saudi Arabia, $60

billion and the America made planes and bombs were used to kill as many as 2,000 civilians in Yemen.

To be fair, military force is unquestionably, you know, one of the things you need to use to counter extremism, but you don't hear much about any

other efforts to counter it. And there is a danger in Syria, as you've noted, possibly arming the Kurds, or local fighters. You know, where will

those weapons end up? And that's what missing here. What will the American role actually be?

Saudi Arabia can't go in and sort of lead the fight in Syria against ISIS and, you know, the fight in Iraq as being led by Iraqi forces.

How are we going to back them? I think a better message would have been a clearer, stronger, more consistent U.S. equipment - sorry, U.S. support,

local moderates, that we will stand by them consistently. The U.S. has a tendency of diving into the region and then walking away from it, but that

we will consistently back moderates in a very, very long struggle against terrorism. That's what, you know, is needed as sort of a steady hand, not

new rhetoric.

KINKADE: David Rohde, certainly a lot more to unpack here, but we'll have to leave it there for now. Great to have your analysis. Thank you.

ROHDE: Thanks.

KINKADE: Well, there was one country that was definitely not invited to that meeting in Saudi Arabia: Iran. The hosts want the White House to take

a much tougher line on Iran. Remember, the Saudis themselves have severed ties with Tehran.

But while those doors may be closed, Iran seems to want to open them. If moderate president Hassan Rouhani was just re-elected in a landslide win by

voters who want to see him open up to the world.

Well, let's cross now to Frederik Pleitgen who is in Iran's capital Tehran for us this hour.

Fred, good to have you there underground for us.

President Trump gave the Saudis pretty much what you wanted to hear, an anti-Iran message. How will his words be received there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of anger here in Iran at some of the things that

President Trump said there, especially towards the end of the speech when he spoke about what he called the effects that Iran was having here in this

region, that Iran was one of the main supporters of terrorism in this region. Of course, the people here, and the government here, have a very

different take on all of that. They believe that it's the Saudi ideology, the Saudi Wahhabi ideology, that's causing a lot of the instability in the

Middle East, also causing a lot of the extremism in the Middle East as well.

They are highly critical here, for instance, of the Saudi role in Yemen as well, so, you've got a lot of the bombing that's going on in Yemen by the

Saudi air force and its allies as well, is killing a lot of civilians, leading to a famine in that country.

So, certainly, the Iranians are saying, look, we have a different take on things. That doesn't mean we're the source of instability here in this

region. And the other thing that the Iranians will pointe to is that they actually just had an election here in this country, and just election, or

re-elected, a moderate president, someone who wants to engage with the west, someone who wants to - or did engage with the U.S. to bring about and

talk about the nuclear agreement. That may not be perfect, but certainly did curb large parts of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the Iranians want

sanctions relief as well.

And one of the things that Hassan Rouhani is trying to integrate Iran into the international community to make sure that there isn't these problems

with the international community.

So, certainly the Iranians will be very, very angry at some of the things that President Trump has said they will feel that President Trump is taking

sides with Saudi Arabia in a conflict that, of course, has defined this region for quite some time, Lynda.

KINKADE: And Fred, just briefly, as a result of that election we saw huge celebrations there. One analyst said, you often see days of euphoria

followed by long years of disillusionment.

Given Rouhani has a much stronger mandate, how much power does he really have, given the supreme leader ultimately rules over him?

PLEITGEN: Yeah, he certainly has a stronger mandate, and you do often see Iranian Presidents in their second term do a lot more than they were able

to do in their first. He does have a very limited capabilities and very limited powers, because in the end it is Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah

Ali Khamenei who has the final say on policy, especially when it comes to security policy and military policy here in this country.

However, in the sphere of economics, Hassan Rouhani does certainly wield a lot of power. And really once this election in the end was about, was the

economic way forward for this country. Do they want to integrate into the world economy? Are they going to welcome foreign investment and try to set

the stage for foreign investment by, of course, entering into negotiations, or do what the hard-liners wanted to do, cope with that isolation and say

we don't necessarily need foreign investment. We don't need outside help. We'll try to grow internally.

Clearly, we'll try to grow internally. Clearly, the electorate here in this country has decided they

want more integration in the world economy and that they want more investment from abroad, and that, of course, also means they want to open

up to the world as well, Lynda.

KINKADE: all right. Frederik Pleitgen, great to have you on the ground there in Tehran for us to get perspective there. We appreciate it.

Well, now back to Mr. Trump's speech to the Muslim world just a short while ago. Saudi Arabia's King Salman spoke before introducing the American

president. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


KING KING SALMAN (through translator), SAUDI KING: Islam was and will always be the religion of mercy, tolerance, and co-existence as confirmed

by brilliant precedence. In its prosperous time, Islam provided the best examples of co-existence and harmonies among followers of religions and

cultures. However, we see today that some presumed Muslims have to seek to present and a sort of picture of religion, a picture that seeks to conflate

this great religion with -- with violence.

We say to our Muslim brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, everywhere, that one of the most important goals of Islamic Sharia is for

protecting life. And that there is no honor in committing murder. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance that encourages its followers to

develop earth and forbids them from corrupting it. It considers killing an innocent soul tantamount to killing all of humanity.

The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the Khomenei Revolution until now. We have been in this country for 300 years

and have known no terrorism or extremism until the Khomenei revolution began in 1979.

Iran has turned down all good neighborly initiatives offered by our nations with goodwill. It has responded with expansionist aspirations, criminal

practices and interference in the internal affairs of other countries, thus violating the principles of international

law, good neighborlyness and mutual respect and coexistence. The Iranian regime thought that our silence was weakness and our wisdom was retreat.

Until we had enough of its hostile practices and interference as we witness in Yemen and other countries in the region. As we say this, we assert at

the same time, our respect and appreciation for the Iranian people. We do not hold people responsible for the actions of their regime.

Mr. President, dear brothers and friends, in our continued war on terrorism, we confirm our resolve to eradicate Da'esh and other terrorist

organizations regardless of their religion, sect or ideology, that was the reason we all formed the Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism which

was a pioneering step to curb terrorism.

Terrorism is a the result of extremism. In light of the need to confront terrorism, we declare today launching global center for combating extremist

ideology, which aims to disseminate the principles of moderation and tolerance, confront attempts of to deceive the

young, shield families and societies and refute the frail claims of terrorists by cooperating peace-loving nations and international

organizations, dear brothers and friends.

To achieve - but it is the success of (inaudible). This is what Saudi vision 2030 is in all of

its aspects: (inaudible), enabling women, diversifying the economy and improving education. The king of Saudi Arabia undoubtedly supports and

encourages every effort by any brother or friendly nation that aims at accomplishing sustainable development in their countries.

We emphasize achieving peace for the Palestinians and the Israelis was a just and crucial demand, which requires sheer sacrifice and sincere

determination for the benefit of all.

The international community should intensify its efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, but shield the aspirations of the Syrian people and preserve

Syria's (inaudible) and sovereignty.

Your majesties, your excellences, your honors, the hopes and aspirations of our peoples are huge and our responsibilities to achieve them are great.

But to resolve, keenness and care will enable us to face these duties with will and purpose, and we are committed to development as a strategic goal

to confront extremism and terrorism and provide a prosperous life.

May God help us achieve the good for all our peoples. God bless you.


KINKADE: Now, as the Saudi King Salman just speaking there. But we have a lots more to come on Connect the World. We're going to take a quick break.

Stay with us.


[11:51:05] KINKADE: You're watching CNN and this is Connect the World. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Welcome back.

Well, U.S. President Donald Trump is getting ready for this final events in Saudi Arabia before

departing for Israel. Now, some Israeli politicians are on edge ahead of Mr. Trump's travels there, unsure of what his message will be. The visit

comes after the revelation that Israel was the source for the intelligence President Trump shared with Russian officials. He'll tour the old city of

Jerusalem, highlighted by a visit to the western war. At the top of the agenda, Mr. Trump's pursuit of the peace deal between Israelis and


Well, our Oren Libermann joins us now from Jerusalem, a very busy trip ahead. But first I wanted to look at the U.S.-Saudi arms agreement, $110

billion, unusually including tanks and choppers and intelligence-gathering aircraft.

It is a big deal. But what does Israel make of it?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, for Israel it's a bit of a double-edged sword. $110 billion in arms and technology, as you

pointed out, going to Saudi means that the anti-Iran alliance throughout the region, whether an official alliance or sort of a de facto alliance, is

in fact strengthened. And with U.S. technology it strengthened quite a bit.

But the flip side for Israel is that Israel has always maintained what's called the QME, the qualitative military edge. Israel has always gotten

the latest technology, the newest weapons from the U.S. And we saw that just a few months ago when Israel got the F-35, the latest American fighter

jet. Israel was the first country outside the U.S. to get that.

Some Israeli ministers, specifically the intelligence minister, is a little worried that this big of a deal, $110 billion could actually threaten

Israel's qualitative military edge, because it's such a big deal, essentially, and has so many parts, so many moving parts.

That's what they'd like to be reassured of when Trump arrives here and meets not only with the President Reuven Rivlin, but more importantly with

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That will be some of the conversations.

Trump and Netanyahu see the region in the same way, which is that they both see it strategically that Iran is the biggest threat in the region. And

Iran's growing influence. So, there's no concern there.

It's simply a matter of maintaining, again, that QME, that qualitative military edge. It goes from meetings with Israeli leaders on Monday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Trump on Tuesday. He, of course, is there in Riyadh right now and got to see Trump's speech face-

to-face, or rather in person.

So, those meetings will be Tuesday morning and then Trump moves on to the Vatican - Lynda.

KINKADE: All right. A lot on the agenda. Oren Liebermann staying across it all for us there. Thanks so much.

Well, you're watching Connect the World. Much more to come. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.


[11:55:30] KINKADE: Well, imagine you're in your best formal wear in a photo shoot for your high school prom and your prime minister just happens

to run by. That's what happened in Canada when Justin Trudeau jogged by a group of students in a local park. After

calling him over, he appeared in this beaming group photo taken from photographer Cameron Karodi (ph). What great stuff.

Well, while Canada's leader had his running shoes on there, at other presidents and princes

like to get their dancing shoes on. Well, that's U.S. president doing his thing there with a traditional Saudi dance. Mr. Trump, of course, isn't

the first U.S. leader to feel his groove. Here's former President Barack Obama spinning to the music in Nairobi Kenya a couple years ago. He seems

to know how to groove. And the president before him, George W. Bush clearly just shaking it back at the White House.

And as you see here, he really got into it, even playing the bongo drums.

Well, as for that Saudi dance, Britain's Prince Charles got dressed up in traditional Saudi clothing when he took part in it.

Well, show us your best moves or to share your best political thoughts with us and the Connect the World team, and the world by checking out our page. You'll find the best bits from today's show and every other show right there.

And for more for directly, be sure to find me floating around in the Twitterverse @LyndaKinkade.

Well, I am Lynda Kinkade and that was Connect the World. Becky Anderson will be back with a show from Jerusalem on Monday as the U.S. President

Donald Trump continues his first foreign trip. Thanks so much for watching. See you another time.