President Donald Trump has said the United States seeks “a coalition of nations” to stamp out extremism in the Middle East and urged Muslim countries to ensure "terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil."
Speaking to Muslim and Arab leaders in Riyadh on Sunday, Trump said the war against terrorism was a “battle between good and evil” rather than a clash of civilizations.
"This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it," he said in his first high-stakes speech abroad.
The Republican president said the Middle East’s potential has been held by ongoing conflicts and bloodshed, and called on Muslim nations to “honestly” confront what he called “Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.”
“We can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong, and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden...the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them."
'Humanitarian and security disaster'
Noting that the region was facing “a humanitarian and security disaster,” Trump claimed that the US vision was “one of peace, security, prosperity in Middle East region and throughout the world.”
"Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land," he added.
The speech is seen as part of an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world after Trump frequently attacked Muslims on the campaign trail last year. He also angered millions of Muslims around the world by his push to ban Muslims from entering the US.
"We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship," Trump said at the summit.
Trump also attacked Iran and accused the Islamic Republic of being the source of “so much instability in the region.”
"For decades Iran has fueled 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," he said.
Experts says Trump’s selection of Saudi Arabia as his maiden overseas trip signals that he is willing to embrace a country responsible for widespread human rights violations and an escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
Less than a year ago on the campaign trail, Trump vilified the Saudi influence on US foreign policy, openly accused the kingdom of being behind the 9/11 terror attacks, and demanded the US be paid for protecting the monarchy.
The kingdom has been pounding Yemen for over two years and killing thousands of civilians there, while accusing Tehran of intervention in the impoverished country.
The US and Saudi Arabia, along with a number of their regional allies, stand accused of providing weapons and financial backing to various militant groups wreaking havoc in countries like Syria and Iraq.
Saudi-backed clerics also openly preach and practice Wahhabism, a radical ideology that inspires terrorists around the world. Daesh (ISIL) and other terrorist groups take advantage of Wahhabism to declare people of other faiths "infidels," a justification for their execution.
Iran has been cooperating with governments of Iraq and Syria to defeat foreign-backed militants, including Daesh.
'Nations must work together to isolate Iran'
Before Trump began his tour, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that the trip was aimed at getting Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in the region to stand in “unity” against Iran. The Trump administration has threatened Tehran with new sanctions and possible military action on several occasions.
"The people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leader’s reckless pursuit of conflict and terror," Trump told the summit.
"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," he continued.
Trump's accusations against Iran came just two days after Iran held its presidential election, where more than 70 percent of eligible voters elected incumbent Hassan Rouhani for another four years.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei commended the Iranian people for their "massive and epic" turnout in the election.
"The winner of yesterday's elections, is you, the Iranian people, and the Islamic establishment, which has managed to win the increasing trust of this big nation despite the enemies' plot and effort," the Leader said on Saturday.
Arms deal 'to counter Iran'
Trump met with Saudi leaders and signed a new $110 billion arms agreement with the kingdom.
"That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States," Trump said at talks with King Salman. "Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer hailed the agreement as the "largest single arms deal in US history" and said other deals amounted to $250 billion in commercial investment.
Speaking about the arms deal, Tillerson also said it was about supporting Riyadh "in particular in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia's borders."
Trump's foreign tour also involves stops in Israel, Egypt and the Vatican.