Trump chats with Saudi, Abu Dhabi leaders about ‘safe zones’ – Politico
President Donald Trump held calls Sunday with the king of Saudi Arabia and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi — pledging cooperation against terrorism, requesting their support for the creation of safe zones in Syria and beyond, and indicating he will enforce the Iran nuclear deal instead of abandoning it.
The White House readouts of the calls include no mention of one especially sensitive topic: Trump’s Friday executive order that includes a temporarily ban on the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.
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Although neither Saudi Arabia nor the United Arab Emirates are among the seven targeted countries, many of their subjects are outraged by the executive order, which critics have dubbed a “Muslim ban.” At the same time, skeptics have noted that Saudi Arabia was home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, making its exclusion from Trump’s order especially puzzling.
In his call with Saudi King Salman, the president “requested, and the king agreed to support, safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the White House said.
It was not immediately clear what Trump meant by “requested” safe zones in those two war-struck countries or what the Saudis are willing to do. Past talk of creating such havens has run into the reality that U.S. lawmakers are cool to any move that could lead to the deployment of American troops in the Middle East.
Trump and Salman also “agreed on the importance of rigorously enforcing the [nuclear deal] with Iran and of addressing Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
The language about Iran suggests that Trump is acquiescing to requests from even some critics of the nuclear deal not to abandon it. That being said, if the U.S. pursues enforcement too rigorously, it’s possible that Iran may feel it is being unfairly targeted and walk away from the agreement, which gives it relief from sanctions in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program.
The Saudi monarch also invited Trump to “lead a Middle East effort to defeat terrorism and to help build a new future, economically and socially, for the people of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the region.” That segment was left unexplained.
The White House gave fewer details about Trump’s conversation with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, other than to suggest the call went well and covered traditional subjects such as fighting terrorists.
“The president also raised the idea of supporting safe zones for the refugees displaced by the conflict in the region, and the crown prince agreed to support this initiative,” according to the White House readout.