The first foreign tour of U.S. President Donald Trump started with visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel. After that, the American leader is expected at the Vatican, the NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of Seven leading industrial nations meeting in Sicily. It’s hard to give a clear estimate yet on the extensive foreign policy voyage of the U.S. leader; however, something can already be said now.
The eight-day tour of the Oval Office head quite clearly reflects the priorities of his foreign policy. And despite the criticism of Trump for the lack of distinct foreign policy strategy, his visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel can be considered a mature tactical ploy. Thus, the team of the head of the White House reached multiple goals right away, both in foreign and domestic policy.
There has been a cooling of relations under Barack Obama due to the “Iran nuclear deal” and the partial cancellation of sanctions on Tehran, Tel Aviv and Riyadh, practically confirming their status as the main Middle Eastern allies of the U.S. and gaining the backing of the U.S. in the confrontation with Iran. It is known that Israel and Saudi Arabia are the two main regional adversaries of Iran, which in turn supports the legal government of Bashar Assad in Syria. In this regard, it must be emphasized that, against the background of the international anti-terrorist coalition’s attacks under the auspices of the United States on alleged pro-Iranian volunteers in Syria who are fighting with terrorists, Trump’s visit to Riyadh and Tel Aviv shatters all illusions about the imminent resolution of the Syrian crisis.
Thus, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that the first overseas visit of the American president has a clear anti-Iranian character and may lead to increased pressure on Tehran. It’s quite likely that new sanctions against Iran will be implemented.
One more result of Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East will be an escalation of the situation in Syria, which can be expected soon. This, in particular, is evidenced by the multibillion-dollar military contracts concluded between the United States and Saudi Arabia as the result of the visit. It’s not a secret that Saudi Arabia openly supports armed opposition in Syria. All this gives grounds to believe that U.S. Patriot and THAAD anti-missile systems, as well as tanks and artillery, are not likely to be used by Riyadh for self-defense against the "Iranian threat."
Besides that, we should not forget that the Middle East tour of the head of the Oval Office also has a domestic policy dimension. Donald Trump practically single-handedly opposes the influential groups of the American political establishment. From this point of view, his first overseas trips are intended to demonstrate his commitment to American national interests, including those in relation to NATO and its allies in the Middle East, in order to reduce the ongoing flow of criticism within the U.S. itself. Against the backdrop of accusations of mythical "ties with Russia" and colossal pressure from the Democrats, Republicans, Congress and intelligence agencies, Trump, while trying to gain a foothold in power, attempts to shift the attention of opponents of his domestic political agenda to the foreign one.
The agreements signed with the Saudis for almost $350 billion, of which a third – $110 billion – are military contracts, are worth considering in the same vein. Thus, we can suppose that Trump, besides everything else, counts on enlisting the support of the military and military-industrial lobby in the U.S., which traditionally has close ties with Congress.
We cannot exclude the fact that by strengthening his position in the country, Donald Trump with time will be able to exercise greater independence in shaping the foreign policy agenda. And, for example, will move on from a declaration to a real fight against terrorist groups that pose a threat to international security.