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Imagery and symbolism can be powerful factors in shaping new realities, and whether it is US President Donald Trump joining in a traditional sword dance, or hundreds of young Saudis riding their Harley-Davidsons to welcome the US president, the symbolic message from this week’s Riyadh summit was an exceedingly important one. After a US presidential campaign filled with rhetoric demonizing both Muslims and Saudis, elements of the US heartland probably conflated Riyadh with Raqqa, the latter being the self-declared capital of ISIS. These Americans now have reason to pause and reconsider.

Vision 2030 was announced just over a year ago. The Vision’s aim: to move Saudi Arabia in a new direction—socially, culturally, institutionally, and of course, economically. Critics said it was too ambitious; optimists rebutted with enthusiasm; and, pragmatists argued that even if the strategy fell short- the effort alone would yield positive results. The reality resides somewhere among the three. 

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As custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, and as leader of the 41-nation Islamic coalition established to combat terror, Saudi Arabia is on the front line of the global fight against radical jihadi terrorism. It is also the ultimate target of terrorist organizations that dream of controlling the center of the Islamic world and the nation’s vast oil wealth. President Trump, in making Riyadh his first overseas stop, is demonstrating this weekend that the U.S.-Saudi strategic relationship is a vital one, and that the kingdom is an essential partner in countering and crushing violent jihadi extremism.

WASHINGTON — When Air Force One touches down in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week, President Trump can be sure of one thing: His Saudi hosts have firmly pressed the reset button on a relationship that became strained in the latter years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

President Trump just announced that Saudi Arabia will be the first foreign country he visits as president, underscoring both the success of Saudi outreach to the new administration, and the determination of this President to recommit to the strategic alliance providing stability in an unstable region. The symbolism of this is exceptionally important, illustrating that the Trump administration understands the fundamental issues at play in the Middle East today.

The decision announced by the Saudi government to take its national oil company public has generated a lot of interest given the size of Aramco and the fact that it would become the largest publicly traded company on earth.

Saudi Arabia is the primary target of both ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Is it any wonder that Saudi Arabia remains wary, and concerned about Iran?

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