News analysis: How the Sunni Arab world views Trump ahead of his visit

Trump is going to find a warm and approving welcome in Saudi Arabia

ByABC News
May 19, 2017, 5:48 AM

— -- In contrast to Washington, President Trump is expected to find a warm and approving welcome in Saudi Arabia and among the Sunni Arab leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) when he heads that way Friday.

The Sunni Arab world widely approves of Trump's military action against Syria's Assad -- the Gulf countries were joyful when Trump gave the order to attack the Syrian Shaayrat airbase last month and have thought he would take further action on that front.

They also like his tough and vocal stand against Iran and his embrace of Egypt's President Sisi has sent a message that Trump is, in many ways, a leader after their own heart.

Saudi Arabia last week finalized a deal to buy weapons worth over $100 billion from the U.S.

The country will gather many Arab leaders to a summit during his visit. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt's President Sisi and even possibly Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will attend the meeting, even though he is on a wanted list by the International Criminal Court.

According to Saudi officials, the aim of the gathering is to bring together a unified stand against Iran, and maybe also create an Arab military force in the future similar to the NATO alliance.

Many Arab media outlets, which are largely state-controlled, have brushed aside concerns about the anti-Muslim rhetoric of Trump's election campaign and the Muslim travel ban, at least for now.

One editorial in Saudi newspaper Okaz writes approvingly that "American presidents usually start with visiting countries that they share a geographical connection with" and that Trump is breaking with that tradition by making Saudi Arabia one of his first destinations "at a time when the Middle East is suffering from instability that is affecting world peace, knowing that Saudi Arabia has to play an active role" before the situation can improve. Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia “indicates a return to Saudi-U.S.-relations pre the Obama era, which were slackening because of his flighty foreign policies," the article read.

An editorial in the Jordanian al-Ghad newspaper noted that Trump's visits to Arab countries sends three messages: One is a "unifying message" of "tolerance and non-exclusion after his first executive decisions made him look like an anti-Muslim figure." The second message is "Trump's and his administration's desire to express confidence in the traditional allies of America" and the third message is "a new era in U.S. foreign policy."

When it comes to the issue of conflict between Israel and Palestinians, the expectation in the Sunni Arab world seems to be that Trump make an effort, and that he will stir things up by stating that talks must resume -- but that he will not be able to produce their desired results.

Lastly, many in the Arab World see Trump's election and his arrival in the White House as proof of the weakness of the U.S. Many Arabs say they see Trump as an unusual figure and find it hard to understand how he became president of the U.S.

The goings on of the Trump family in general are also closely followed in magazines and social media across the Middle East. A huge number of social media jokes and old clips from his TV reality show are being passed around. There is even an upcoming Syrian sketch due to air during Ramadan about the Trumps with a Syrian actor playing Donald and a Lebanese actress playing Melania.