Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz walks with US President Donald Trump during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017. (REUTERS)

Track Persia – May 22, 2017

Donald Trump landed in Saudi Arabia over the weekend for his first foreign visit but his eyes were firmly on Iran, which re-elected President Rouhani to a second-term in office.

The US president visited Riyadh to calm tensions about his view of the Islamic world, sign trade deals – and ramp up the pressure on Tehran

US companies signed multi-billion dollar agreements in the defence, energy and infrastructure sectors.

Shifting from his previous statement “I think Islam hates us,” he characterized the war on terror as “a battle between good and evil” and described Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths.”

He had sharp words for Iran in his speech in the Saudi capital, saying Tehran’s leaders speak “openly” of mass murder.

Three summits were held in total: A Saudi-US Summit on Saturday, and a Gulf-US Summit and an Islamic-US Summit on Sunday.

Trump  also visited Israel and will visit the Vatican, all the three centres of the world’s major religions.

After eight-years of a pro-Iran presidency under Barack Obama that destabilized the Middle East like never before, Saudi Arabia is keen to rebuild their relationship with their most important ally.

A Saudi newspaper columnist also told the Guardian that Obama “made it very clear that he thought Iran were the good guys and we were the villains.”

“Iran is the grand prize here,” one unnamed Saudi royal also told the Guardian. “Everything else is bells and whistles.”

“We have seen Iran’s record of aggression increase not decrease” since the nuclear pact, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.

Trump the deal-maker

The two countries kicked off the visit with a $110 billion arms deal, totalling over $350 billion over 10 years.

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States,” Trump said. “Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“This package of defence equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian related threats,” the US Department of State said in a statement on Saturday.

The White House said it was the “largest single arms deal in US history” and that the other trade deals signed were worth $250 billion in investment. In 2016, bilateral trade reached $35 billion.

Al-Jubeir said stronger bilateral ties would allowed the Arab world to “drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates.”

The big speech

In his much anticipated speech in Riyadh, Trump said Iran had provided Syria with “safe harbour, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment (of terrorists).

“From Lebanon to Iraq and Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region.

“For decades Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror; it’s 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 destabilising 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.

“The people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leader’s reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, cannot do it, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they so richly deserve.”

Rouhani re-elected

In a four-way race on Friday, Rouhani won 57 percent of the votes on a 70 percent turnout in the first-round.

Rouhani is promoted as a ‘moderate,’ saying in his re-election speech: “Our nation’s message in the election was clear: Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism.”

He was re-elected to capitalize economically on the nuclear deal he signed with Obama and other world powers, but this is already starting to look difficult for him.

Trump has repeatedly said that the nuclear deal is “one of the worst deals ever signed.”

Trump renewed sanctions waivers to maintain the nuclear deal last Wednesday, but also imposed narrower sanctions against a few Iranian officials and companies linked to the country’s recent ballistic missile tests.

However, Reuters reported analysts as saying: “Rouhani’s re-election is likely to make it harder for the Trump administration to galvanize international support for European Union, United Nations sanctions or other tough action.”

“Without sanctions such as those that slashed Iran’s oil revenues and barred it from the international financial system, which were effective because China and Iran’s other Asian oil customers cooperated, the US is left with more targeted measures against individuals, companies or organizations that assist in Iran’s ballistic missile program or are found to have violated human rights,” Reuters also reported.

Tillerson said: “What I would hope is that Rouhani now has a new term and that he uses that term to begin a process of dismantling Iran’s network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of the terrorist network, dismantling of the manning and the logistics and everything that they provide to these destabilizing forces that exist in this region.

“We also hope that he restores the rights of Iranians to freedom of speech, to freedom of organization, so that Iranians can live the life that they deserve.”

About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.