For the first time since he was elected, Donald Trump is taking his show on the road, with a trip abroad that has many observers watching nervously through their fingers — especially with visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican, which host major holy sites of all three Abrahamic faiths.
Trump’s visit comes at a time when the Middle East is on a knife’s edge, with sectarian, ethnic, and ideological ground wars crisscrossing the region, and US, Russian, and other air forces launching airstrikes in attempts to tip the balance in their favor. Even the deftest, most well-informed of statesmen would be challenged to promote the US’s interests and values without piercing the obscure layers of decorum that shroud public life in the Middle East.
Enter President Trump, with his penchant for unscripted moments and offensive gestures.
“There is so much subject matter that he could trip up on,” said a Dubai-based analyst for a risk-management firm, who asked that his name not be published because his firm operates in the region. “There’s so much room for it to go wrong, and that seems to be amplified with this president. The potential for Trump to say something inappropriate is really high, and this is a part of the world where personal slights and loss of face are a big deal.”