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The New Arab

Arab leaders scramble to appease Donald Trump

For Gulf rulers, Trump is a strategic partner that will strengthen their position [Getty][Getty]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2017

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As the world looks in horror at Donald Trump's policies, the US president finds friends in the most unlikely places.
Since assuming office two weeks ago, President Donald Trump has seen massive protests erupt against him across the US and the world.

His controversial orders and domineering demeanour have proved unpopular with many, even raising eyebrows among fellow Republicans, governors and senators.

European leaders too have come out to condemn many of his orders, including most recently – and so far most controversial – travel ban on refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

But Trump has found friends in the most unlikely of places.

Some Gulf Arab leaders have been quietly applauding as the hawkish leader takes his seat in the White House.

For them, Trump is a strategic partner who will strengthen their position and interests against Iran in the region and help them tackle terrorism.

"If he behaves as he says, then we will see another Ronald Reagan, someone all the forces in the region will take seriously. That's what we have missed in the past eight years, unfortunately," said Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a veteran Saudi commentator told Business Insider.

It comes as no surprise that while most of the world watched in horror as Trump issued executive orders, a number of senior Arab officials chose to publically show him support.

Dubai's head of security, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim – who holds one of the most important positions in the emirate - backed the controversial travel ban this week, adding that he completely supports "Trump in his ban on entry to those who may cause a breach in America's security".

"Previous US administrations have embraced all the wanted men of the Arab world and those classified as terrorists. Trump, what you're doing is right."

Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih also hailed Trump's "era", adding that the US president has "policies which are good for the oil industries".

Similarly, UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan defended Trump's Muslim travel ban, saying it was "wrong" to claim it is "directed against a particular religion".

Emirates-based and Qatar-based airlines were some of the few to immediately act on the travel ban orders, stopping US-bound citizens from the seven banned countries from boarding the flight.

Emirates airline even changed its pilot and flight crew rosters on flights to America to ensure the ban was not contravened.

On Thursday, Jordan's King Abdullah II met with Trump in Washington, the first Arab leader to meet with the American president since his inauguration.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the country's president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, had already struck up a relationship with the US president before Trump even won the elections last year. He was the first of the Arab leaders to congratulate the president on winning.

So as Trump continues to draw wide-scale global scorn, it seems no secret that the US president knows he can already rely on a number of friends in the Middle East for support.

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