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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
President Trump Delivers Remarks from Saudi Arabia. Aired 10- 11a ET
Aired May 21, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apart. I think a lot of people need to hear that message from President Trump.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Fareed Zakaria picks up right now as we await President Trump in Saudi Arabia and we'll be back here at noon Eastern for a live edition of STATE OF THE UNION as the world reacts to President Trump's speech.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world, I'm Fareed Zakaria.
There's much to talk about this week with lots of news emanating from Washington and around the world. Later in the show I'll give you my take on Trump, Comey, Mueller and the Russia investigation. And I'll have a terrific panel to dig into those same issues.
But first I want to bring in my colleague, Jim Sciutto, CNN's chief national security correspondent, who is monitoring President Trump's trip to the Middle East as well as the Iranian elections.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Thank you --
ZAKARIA: Again, I'll be back in a bit, but, Jim, what is the latest?
SCIUTTO: Thank you, Fareed. We are awaiting the first big moment of the president's trip. He is set to deliver any moment now a speech about Islam. And this is not just any American president speaking on Islam, this is the president who told Anderson Cooper during the campaign that he thought Islam hated America. And he will do so in Saudi Arabia, the country that is home to Islam's two most sacred places, Mecca and Medina, sending a message that we believe will differ sharply from his previous statements on the Muslim faith.
I want to bring in now my panel to discuss, Robin Wright, she's a journalist, a scholar who knows the Middle East just about better than any other American, Vali Nasr is a scholar and former top State Department official who's now dean at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, Elliott Abrams, he oversaw U.S.-Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration, he's now at the Council on Foreign Relations.
In other words, we've got a lot of brain power and a lot of experience in the Middle East to discuss the president's speech. Robin, I want to begin with you. The speech, and we have some
excerpts now, speak of something of a different message than we've heard from Donald Trump before on Islam. Certainly not saying Islam hates America. How is that kind of message likely to be received in Saudi Arabia today? Is it a credible message?
ROBIN WRIGHT, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, WILSON CENTER: Well, it will depend a lot on what happens after President Trump leaves the Middle East. Does he stick to the kind of language he's using in the kingdom that tries to reach out to the Islamic world, tries to heal divisions, tries to create a new coalition with which the United States can engage on its big foreign policy challenges, dealing with ISIS, dealing with Iran, helping promote the Arab-Israeli peace process.
But it is clear that this language is a 180-degree flop, flip-flop from what he has said during the campaign and the kind of actions he's taken since he was inaugurated in the travel ban and in using terms like radical Islamic terrorism.
This is a term that made some of those at the White House, including his National Security adviser, very uncomfortable. And H.R. McMaster particularly campaigned hard to try to get him to stop using that term. He is not using it as far as we know in his speech in the kingdom today. And he's trying to mobilize an important part of the world, energy rich, an important geostrategic part of the world to work with him.
I think the leaders probably welcome the idea of working with President Trump. They see him as not interested in democracy as much as he is in stability in the region, and that, of course, resonates with many of these conservative regimes.
The question is how is this going to play out in the streets. A part of the world which went through the Arab spring in 2011 to try to challenge these autocratic regimes and feels very unhappy now because of high unemployment, limited political rights, and may not be -- may not view President Trump as kindly as the leaders who are with him today.
SCIUTTO: As we've been listening to you, we've been seeing some of the crowd gathered there, including Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law. Earlier we saw Ivanka Trump there traveling with President Trump as well.
I want to read one excerpt from the speech that we've been provided with by the White House prior to the president delivering it.
"We will make decisions based on real world outcomes, not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms, not sudden intervention."
Vali Nasr, you spend a lot of time in the region. This of course is a president who beyond his rhetoric during the campaign continues to pursue a travel ban that U.S. courts have read as a ban targeting specifically the Muslim faith. So how does -- not just the street in the region, but how do Arab leaders rectify this, we're going to reject rigid, thinking with policies that the president is pursuing today?
VALI NASR, DEAN, JHU'S SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, if the goal is to reach out to the Muslim populations, people around the world as President Obama tried to do in Cairo, it requires a very different approach. You have to address what are the concerns of the Muslims in various parts of the Muslim world.
[10:05:07] But I think the president is trying to walk a very fine balance of talking to his base in the United States, of talking tough about terrorism, extremism, asking Muslims to reform their religion. These are not going to be welcomed arguments in the Muslim world. There is a lot of suspicion about his intentions, his actions so far, his comments around during the campaign have not been well received in the Muslim world, and there is a lot of fear in the Muslim world that ultimately the United States policy is going to be aimed in the direction of their religion, their values, their culture.
And the fact that he's gone to Saudi Arabia that he's making a big strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, does not alleviate those feelings. And I think a lot of the Muslim leaders who have showed up in Saudi Arabia have worries in their own country that their streets are unhappy, that there's certain expectations that since they have showed up in Saudi Arabia that they would be able to impact the approach of Trump and his administrations toward the Muslim world.
They will go back to their countries essentially having to explain that they showed up to give Trump the pomp and ceremony that he wanted, but that nothing has really changed. That this president came to Saudi Arabia to read the riot act to the Muslim world, to explain to the Muslims what their religion is, and to tell them that they need to change but that the United States is not prepared to even address or recognize the issues that matter to them.
So I don't think this is going to have any kind of an impact on the mood in the Muslim world, and it's going to get many of those 50 world leaders into greater political trouble when they go back home.
SCIUTTO: Elliott Abrams, tucked into that excerpt from the speech we just mentioned there, a rejection Donald Trump in this speech. "We will see gradual reforms, not sudden intervention." Of course President Trump has often criticized the Iraq war. That's an essential part of his message as well, right, that we will not be sending legions of American forces. No change, no nation building, no change by invasion in effect.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: If that were all he were saying, I'd be fine with it. But I think he's actually saying more, which is we're not very much interested in reform. He's talking to rulers, very few of whom, just a couple, have actually been chosen by the people of their countries.
I think there's a real problem here and a kind of abandonment of some things he doesn't mention in the speech. Human rights.
ABRAMS: Democracy, freedom, liberty, choose your term. But what he doesn't ask in this speech is where's all this extremism coming from? We're against it. We're going to join together to fight it. But what's our theory of it? Why now? What's happening in the Islamic world?
The answer can't just be jailing everybody. And the president doesn't provide an explanation for why there is so much extremism in the Islamist world and how we can address it other than militarily. And I think that's unfortunate.
When he says we're not -- you know, we're not going to push reform, I think that's actually exactly the wrong message because many Arabs would tell you, many Muslims would tell you that it's the repression, it's the lack of popular sovereignty, lack of freedom that feeds this kind of extremism.
SCIUTTO: Robin, it's a great point Elliott Abrams makes there, and this is something that we've seen from readouts of the president's meetings with other Arab leaders, whether it's the Egyptian leader. He met with the Bahraini king here, places, countries that are extremely repressive. No push whatsoever from the U.S.
And as I'm watching this scene here, and I wonder if you have the same reaction as well, a grand Saudi palace room here, a vision of privilege and wealth and money. And I imagine separation from the street, as it were, as they watch this, and they listen for a message that's directed at them.
WRIGHT: A very interesting point. And you wonder what the average Saudi thinks of all of this as well. Remember that there is a very serious unemployment problem even in oil-rich Saudi Arabia where a third of its young population is unemployed.
The one thing that's striking about the speech is that the tenor is in many ways very much like the speech that President Obama gave in Cairo and very much like the speech President Bush made at the Islamic Center shortly after the 9/11 attacks. That it's outreach to the Islamic world. What is so distinct about it and different is that President Bush engaged in what he thought was nation building, trying to push a democratic agenda.
[10:10:05] President Obama along with outreach to the Islamic world also had a pretty tough message about equal rights and promotion of democracy, and that is what is really missing. This is a speech that basically buys into the systems in the Middle East.
SCIUTTO: As you can see there, President Trump has entered the room there. Behind him his daughter, Ivanka, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along for the trip. The president will be speaking shortly. And when he does begin to speak, we will -- we will go to him.
Vali Nasr, I'm going to play or show rather another excerpt from the president's speech. He will say, "This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilization. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."
Echoes of the Axis of Evil, as I first read that there as well, but really the point he's making here is that different -- we're of different faiths but we're all against the extremists there. Again, is this a message that will resonate?
NASR: Well, this is just a phraseology, it's actually a throwback to the Bush era, you know, at a high level. Everybody can agree that we are opposed to terrorism. But as Elliott said, the people want to know how are you going to eradicate extremism? What do you mean by extremism? Who fits into that category? Are we going to address the underlying issues that generates extremism?
We are happy to fight against ISIS and join forces to do that, although many of the Arab leaders that are gathered in that room are more concerned with Iran than they are concerned with ISIS. But then how are we going to address the larger issues of this region, unemployment, freedom, even reconstruction of Iraq and Syria?
And also this kind of a rhetoric puts the burden of everything on the Muslims themselves. But it is really up to you to change your religion to America's liking. And that part of it doesn't really go well. People don't like to be lectured on how they need to interpret their religion or whether or not they should be opposed to extremism.
In fact most Muslims say that they are opposed to extremism. They're the ones that suffer from it. More Muslims have been killed by al Qaeda and ISIS than westerners. And so there is a certain degree of disconnect when an American president takes this attitude as if the Muslims don't care about extremism. As if they have not been fighting extremism. As if they have not suffered under extremism.
And I don't think that's a sort of a -- I would say is a condescending message that sounds like we can all rally together, but it doesn't really acknowledge where the Muslim world is on this issue right now.
SCIUTTO: Elliott Abrams, the first line here, the president says this is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, different civilizations. The fact is it is a battle between different sects, is it not? I mean, you have the Sunni majority Saudi Arabia aligned against the Shia majority Iran, fighting each other openly and in effect a proxy war in Yemen and in Saudi -- and in Syria as well. Is that not today in reality one of the biggest fissures between Sunni and Shia?
ABRAMS: It is, but I think the president is really trying to avoid getting into that battle. What's happening in Yemen is not really a religious fight, it's a national fight. Saudi Arabia versus Iran. To the extent that there is a problem with a sect here, it's one the president is not going to mention because he's in Saudi Arabia. And that is that a kind of gateway drug to extremism has been the Wahabi Islam that Saudi Arabia is frankly pushing throughout the Muslim world. This has been a huge problem. I hear complaints from Muslims all over
North Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, that the Saudis are spending tons of money trying to push out their indigenous forms of Islam, which are pretty moderate, and say this is all heretical. Only Wahabi Islam is authentic Islam. And so they are in a sense feeding extremism.
Now it's too much to expect the president to say that while he's in Saudi Arabia, but it is a huge problem and it's something that I hope he is at least saying to them privately. It's really in the Islamic world driving out moderate forms of Islam and it's been doing that for decades now and it is one of the reasons for the rise of extremism.
SCIUTTO: As we were seeing there, and we get ready, you can see Wilbur Ross, the president's Commerce secretary, there over his shoulder.
[10:15:02] His wife, Melania, traveled on this trip and that's of course Reince Priebus, the chief of staff. So quite a show of force in the Trump administration on the president's first overseas trip.
Robin Wright, of course as this is happening, enormous controversy here at home for the president. A special counsel appointed this week, new revelations about the Russia investigation. How much is that on the minds of the people he's meeting with there? Do they see a weakened American president as he makes his first overseas trip?
WRIGHT: Well, they certainly will understand that Donald Trump faces a lot of problems when he comes home. And one of the big questions is how much do they want to invest in him long term. Now the Saudis have made a huge commitment in buying not just $110 billion worth of American arms but making a decade-long commitment to buy $350 billion more of American material.
So I think some of the most hardcore Gulf regimes are likely to stick with the United States because that is where they see their security long term. They see the United States as their protector, the kind of policeman, the military force they can use in case there is some kind of conflict or tension, more serious tension with Iran. But, you know, this is something that the president will revel in the kind of greetings he's had in the kingdom, but this is a nine-day trip. And when he comes home, the headlines will be just as tough on him as when on the day he left.
SCIUTTO: And in fact when he comes home just after Labor -- after Memorial Day, rather, we expect the FBI director he fired to speak in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee, perhaps contradicting the president on their meeting in the Oval Office.
Seated to the president's right you see there is the Saudi king, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia. He's going to give a few minutes of comments before the president then speaks and you're hearing now a prayer, a Muslim prayer that typically precedes speeches certainly by Saudi leaders.
Before the comments begin, Vali, if I could ask you, of course there's been a momentous election in Iran just in the last 24 hours. We know that the moderate, Hassan Rouhani, has been re-elected by a large margin. How do the Iranians view this trip, a president of the United States making his first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia, Iran's sworn enemy? Do they see that as raising tensions?
NASR: I think they're worried. They are worried that the United States has shifted from where the Obama administration was to where the Bush administration had been, that it's now returning to a policy of containment of Iran. That there might be some degree of in fact direct confrontation between the United States and Iran. That the sanctions gains that they got from the nuclear deal may be unraveled. All of this worries them.
But they're also worried that given the president's troubles at home, that there might be an appetite now for pursuing adventure abroad in order to distract attention from what's happening in Washington, and so many Iran I've talked to think that a tight relationship with Saudi Arabia may be a prelude for some kind of a military action against Iran. And I think that helped Rouhani in some ways because Iranians decided that they need a moderate at the helm rather than a conservative, which would actually make it much easier for a Saudi- American alliance to take Iran on.
SCIUTTO: And $110 billion in U.S. arms sold on this trip, brokered, we've been told, it's been reported, to some degree by Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.
That is King Salman speaking there as well. We understand he'll give a few minutes of comments and then the president expected to speak. His comments expected to be 15 minutes or so. As soon as he starts, we will listen in.
We have Thomas Erdbrink on the line from Tehran. He is "The New York Times" correspondent in Tehran.
Thomas, celebrations in the streets. We've been seeing last night Rouhani supporters. What are you hearing from Tehran as President Trump makes his first overseas visit and chooses Saudi Arabia?
THOMAS ERDBRINK, TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, they were pretty sure that he wouldn't be choosing Iran, but that aside, I think the Iranians are not that surprised that President Trump is visiting the Saudis. After all, they are an old and decade-long ally of the United States so the Iranians knew what they were in for.
[10:20:03] At the same time, we had the celebrations here on the streets last night. People were engaged in weeks of campaigning, which has sort of accumulated in this massive pour-out of people not only in Tehran but in all major cities here in Iran. People came out on the streets to celebrate the victory of this so-called moderate president, President Rouhani. The liveliness and also the level of openness that we've experienced in these elections have been pretty remarkable.
People have been calling for the release of opposition leaders. You know, names that normally are taboo here in Iranian politics. People have come out and spoken out against hard-liners. It is very clear for the Iranians that if this was an election first, but second also a referendum on the sort of ideology they want here and the answer of the Iranian people is very clear. They want moderation, good relations with the outside world, and more freedoms inside their country.
SCIUTTO: Elliott Abrams, of course President Trump spoke during the campaign of tearing up the Iranian nuclear deal. But just again last week he signed a waiver on sanctions, which is part of the process, in effect continuing the loosening of these sanctions as Iran continues to meet the terms of the deal. Is that going to change during the Trump presidency?
ABRAMS: I think it depends partly on Iranian behavior, of course. I wouldn't say he loosened the sanctions. There was some tightening of ancillary sanctions, let's call them --
SCIUTTO: Missile related but not nuclear.
ABRAMS: But not nuclear. No. And it's pretty clear that whatever the president said during the campaign, the nuclear deal is going to stay in place unless and until Iranian behavior changes. And it may not. But I think it was, as your correspondent was saying, it was a very interesting, clear convincing victory by Rouhani. No effort by the supreme leader to fiddle with the result, as has been the case in previous elections sometimes.
And the question now is whether Rouhani can actually deliver the economic improvements that he's been talking about and a loosening of the system, because as Mr. Erdbrink said, he really made some interesting criticisms of the Iranian system while he was running for president. Criticisms of the Revolutionary Guard, for example. So the question now is what really can he deliver in his second term as president.
SCIUTTO: Again, we're watching and listening to King Salman, the Saudi leader there, who's giving a few comments -- few minutes of comments before President Trump speaks. And when President Trump speaks, we're going to go right to him.
Robin Wright, as you -- again, I'm struck just by the vision here of the Saudi leader, the American leader there, seated in what look like thrones. Of course the Saudi people are used to this kind of pomp and circumstance, but the separation between this scene and what are the number one concerns of people, whether it's the Saudi street or the Iranian street or elsewhere in the region following all the upheaval of the Arab spring.
WRIGHT: Well, the thing that is most striking is that you have this opulent center in the kingdom and -- versus where there are no real basic human rights provisions for individuals, particularly for women, and yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson was standing next to the Saudi Foreign minister and they were criticizing Iran for their lack of freedom.
This in a country that just had an election where 73 percent of the people turned out. Had four candidates to choose from. A controlled election for sure, but still there is a democratic process, heavily controlled, but much more democratic than Saudi Arabia.
And so this contrast, I think -- for this us we notice it fleetingly. For those in the Middle East, they notice the real contrast. And the fact that there is a country, the largest country in the Persian Gulf area, that does allow people to vote versus the gulf sheikhdoms, where there are very limited rights, very limited electoral prism, some do have parliaments but they don't have necessarily the powers of a traditional parliament.
And so the scene we're seeing today is going to resonate. I remember being in Saudi Arabia in 1981 for a meeting of the six gulf governments. And there were so many roses in the room. I mean dozens and dozens and dozens just in one little vase and there were dozens and dozens of vases across the room. I mean the opulence at a time where real economic hardship, at the time the region is torn by wars. In Syria, you have more than half the population desperate for international aid just to get their daily bread, where the destruction because of wars, where the lack of electricity is pervasive.
[10:25:08] From Gaza where they have two to four hours a day, to Iraq, oil rich has eight or nine hours a day, Lebanon, half a day they don't have electricity. There are these core problems, infrastructure, economic, employment, the youth dynamic that is changing the demographics across the region. This is a time a part of the world that is totally out of sync with the kind of pictures we're seeing surrounding President Trump today.
SCIUTTO: If I would ask --
ABRAMS: Jim, if I could make a comment about what we're seeing.
SCIUTTO: Go ahead, Elliott.
ABRAMS: Two things. First, the president is grim. We've been watching him now for about half an hour on and off and he hasn't smiled yet. I don't know if it was a bad night's sleep or what, but it's been remarkable to watch his very, very serious, I would even say grim facial expression. Secondly, the king is being very active here this whole weekend. If you go back a year or two when he became king, people were saying that frankly he was suffering from dementia and he couldn't function as king.
But we've seen him in the last few days fully functional. And I think this will actually have an impact within Saudi Arabia in kind of knocking off those rumors, because you see him there. You saw him all morning greeting 50 Muslim heads of government and heads of state. You see him reading this speech without any apparent difficulty. So I think that also has an impact.
SCIUTTO: It is a great point, because those questions about his health, his mental sharpness, as you say, started the moment that he acceded to the throne but this is quite a long speech. And you have to imagine this is beyond having an audience -- the ears of the American president, this is an audience among Saudis and really for the region there.
Vali Nasr, if you could just help characterize the level of tension now between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In effect they're fighting two proxy wars in Syria and in Yemen. What are the chances of actual direct conflict?
NASR: I mean, if you listen to what the Saudi king is saying, much of his speech is about Iran and actually blaming Iran for global terrorism, blaming it going all the way back to the Khomeini period.
I think tensions are very high. There have been some kind of accommodation over Iranians going back for hajj. They have some negotiations about that. But I think the Iranians have adopted a very -- sorry, the Saudis have adopted a very hard line position on Iran since Trump became president, ruling out any notion of a conversation with Iran, any dialogue, and making no distinction between the moderate president and the hard-line Revolutionary Guard.
I don't think they want a direct confrontation with Iran, although the $110 billion arms deal will probably set off some kind of a regional arms race between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iranians are now talking about buying weapons from Russia, from building their missile program to counteract this kind of a deal. But I think the Saudis are most interested to ally with the United States to push hard against Iran in Yemen, and then also to check Iran's capabilities in Syria.
For instance, they would very much welcome the air attack that the United States carried out on a convoy of fighters that were backed by Iran in southeastern Syria. So they would like to continue the proxy war now with much more direct American involvement and American backing, not just diplomatic backing, but also some degree of American military involvement. That's a decision that Washington has to make in terms of how much they want to get involved in this direct confrontation and how much they want to encourage the Saudis to pursue a confrontational policy with Iran.
The big difference with the Obama administration is that towards the end the Obama administration was aggressively encouraging the Saudis to talk to Iran. And the Saudis felt a lot of pressure that at least they have to go through the motions of accepting a letter from Rouhani to the Gulf countries and allowing the Gulf countries to respond. Now they feel no pressure to talk to Iran, and in fact they see a lot more room to have a much more direct confrontational policy.
It also depends a lot on how Iran will respond. In Yemen, in Iraq, and in Syria against the Saudi position. So we may see an escalation. It's going to happen in Yemen, in Syria and in Iraq first. I don't think there's a chance of a direct confrontation between the two countries because their military capabilities are quite mismatched.
[10:30:00] The Saudis have a great deal of air capability missiles, whereas the Iranians are -- have a much more on-the-ground capability. They're not likely to invade the Saudis -- Saudi Arabia, and I don't think the Saudis are planning an air campaign against Iran any time soon.
SCIUTTO: And we should remind our viewers that the Iranians have ground forces very active in Iraq and in Syria. And a lot of them losing their lives.
The king has finished his comments. This is the time when we expect President Trump to make his own comments there. As Vali noted, a big portion of the king's speech targeting Iran. Iran is the source of instability in the region. That, a message that is certainly similar to what President Trump has said both on the campaign trail, but since he's become president, one that I imagine he will agree with and perhaps echo in his comments.
President Trump about to give his comments here. It looks like he'll be doing them standing from the podium teleprompter. Let's listen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. I would like to thank King Salman for his extraordinary words, and the magnificent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for hosting today's summit. I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts.
I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place and the incredible hospitality you have shown us from the moment we arrived.
You also hosted me in the treasured home of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the kingdom who united your great people. Working alongside of another beloved leader, American President Franklin Roosevelt, King Abdul Aziz began the enduring partnership between our two countries. King Salman, your father would be very, very proud to see that you are continuing his legacy. And just as he opened the first chapter of our partnership, today we begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to all of our citizens.
Let me now also extend my deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of the distinguished heads of state who made this journey here today. You greatly honor us with your presence and I send the warmest regards from my country to yours. Thank you. I know that our time together will bring many blessings to both your people and to mine.
I stand before you as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith. In my inaugural address to the American people, I pledged to strengthen America's oldest friendships and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity in this region and all throughout the world. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to god. And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders, unique in
the history of nations, is a symbol to the world of our shared resolved (sic), and our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY) and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies, many of whom are here (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY) -- closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.
For Americans, this is a very exciting time. A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country. In just a few months, we have created almost a million new jobs, added over $3 trillion in new value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies, many of whom are here today.
Now there is even more blessed news that I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the crown prince, and the deputy crown prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation. Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many hundreds of thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.
This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase. And we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies, the greatest anywhere in the world. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a far greater role in security and operations having to do with security.
We've also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships and forming new ones to advance security and stability across the Middle East and far beyond.
Later today, we will make history again with the opening of the new global center for combating extremist ideology located right here in the central part of the Islamic world. This ground-breaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for his strong demonstration and his absolutely incredible and powerful leadership.
I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you. America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership based on shared interests and values to pursue a better future (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY).
Here at this summit, we will discuss (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTY). But above all, 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 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. When young Muslim men and women should have the chance to build a new era of prosperity for themselves, it has to be done and we have to let them do it. With God's help, this summit will mark the beginning of the end for those who practice terror and spread its vile creed. At the same time, we pray this special gathering may someday be remembered as the beginning of peace in the Middle East and maybe even all over the world. But this future can only be achieved through defeating terrorism and the ideology that drives it.
Few nations have been spared the violent reach of terrorism. America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks from the atrocities of September 11 to the devastation of the Boston bombings to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando. The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and South America. India, Russia, China, and Australia have all been victims.
But in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim, and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of destruction in this wave of fanatical violence. Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim. We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading across the planet.
It is a tragedy of epic proportions. No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure. The (INAUDIBLE) of ISIS, if you look at what's happening, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others must be counted not only in the number of dead; it also must be counted in generations of vanished dreams.
The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity. This region should not be a place from which refugees flee but to which newcomers flock. Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world's great faiths. Each year millions of Muslims come from around the world to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Hajj. In addition to ancient wonders, this country is also home to modern ones, including soaring achievements in architecture.
Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza (ph), Luxor, and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage. All over the world people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty. And the United Arab Emirates has reached incredible heights with glass and steel, and turned earth and water into spectacular works of art.
The entire region is at the center of the key shipping lanes of the Suez Canal, the Red Se, and the Straits (sic) of Hormuz. The potential of this region has never, ever been greater. Sixty-five percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.
But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause of optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence. There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it. Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God; they worship death. If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen and what will be the end result. Terrorism's devastation of life will continue to spread, peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence, and the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered. If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing, then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion. People that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil. When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the strains (sic) of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims. We see only that they were children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.
But we can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong, and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden.
Terrorism has spread all across the world, but the path to peace begins right here on this ancient soil in this sacred land. America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security, but the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country, and frankly for their families, for their children. It's a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.
Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.
For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked and will apply new approaches, informed by experience, talent, and judgment. We are adopting a principled realism rooted in common values, shared interests, and common sense. Our friends will never question our support and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real world outcomes, not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms, not sudden intervention. We must seek partners, not perfection. And to make allies of all who share our goals.
Above all, America seeks peace, not war. Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion. The first task in this joint effort is for your nations to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil. Every country in the region has an absolute duty to ensure that terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil.
Many are already making significant contributions to regional security. Jordanian pilots are crucial partners against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen. The Lebanese army is hunting ISIS operatives who try to infiltrate their territory. Emirati troops are supporting our Afghan partners and supporting them strongly. In Mosul, American troops are supporting Kurds, Sunnis and Shias fighting together for their homeland. Qatar, which hosts the U.S. Central Command, is a crucial strategic partner. Our long- standing partnership with Kuwait and Bahrain continue to enhance security in the region. Our courageous Afghan soldiers are making tremendous sacrifices in the fight against the Taliban and others in the fight for their country.
As we deny terrorist organizations control of territory and populations, we must also strip them of their access to funds. We must cut off the financial channels that let ISIS sell oil, let extremists pay their fighters, and help terrorists smuggle their reinforcements.
I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered.
I also applaud the Gulf Cooperation Council for blocking funders from using their countries as a financial base for terror and for designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which they certainly are, last year. Saudi Arabia also joined us this week in placing sanctions on one of the most senior leaders of Hezbollah.
Of course, there is still much work to be done. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. We must stop what they're doing to inspire, because they do nothing to inspire but kill. And we are having a very profound effect if you look at what's happened recently.
And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear -- barbarism will deliver you no glory. Piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be fully condemned. And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea. Heroes don't kill innocents; they save them.
Many nations here today have taken important steps to raise up that message. Saudi Arabia's vision for 2030 is an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development. The United Arab Emirates has also engaged in the battle for the hearts and souls, and with the United States launched a center to counter the online spread of hate. Bahrain too is working to undermine recruitment and radicalism.
I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees living, and just living so poorly, that they're forced to leave the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions. That means promoting the aspirations and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life, including women, children, and the followers of all faiths.
Numerous Arab and Islamic scholars have eloquently argued that protecting equality strengthens Arab and Muslim communities. For many centuries, the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims, and Jews living side by side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again, and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.
In that spirit, after concluding my visit in a fabulous place that we're at today, Riyadh, which I've gotten to know so well in so short a time, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican, visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible, including peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be meeting with both Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas.
Starving terrorists of their territory, of their funding, and the false allure of the craven ideology will be the basis for easily defeating them. But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three -- safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in that region. I am speaking, of course, of Iran.
From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds arms and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this very room.
Among Iran's most tragic and destabilizing interventions, you've seen it in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad regime, launching 59 missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated. Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region and as quickly as possible.
[11:00:00] The Iranian regime's longest suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leader's reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.