U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday pledged to the Saudi King Salman that he would enforce the Iranian nuclear deal “rigorously,” changing his tone from the presidential campaign in which he said he would dismantle the deal or walk away from it.
In their conversation on Sunday, Trump and King Salman also agreed on the establishment of safe zones to protect Syrian refugees in Syria and Yemen, according to a statement from the White House.
Trump called on Gulf states to establish and fund such safe zones during the presidential campaign.
“The president requested, and the King agreed, to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” the statement said.
According to Reuters, the two leaders agreed on the importance of strengthening joint efforts to fight the spread of Islamic State terrorists.
The news agency quoted a senior Saudi source as saying the two leaders spoke for more than an hour. Apart from ratcheting up counter-terrorism and military cooperation, the two also discussed ways to enhance economic cooperation.
The statement from the White House said that Trump and King Salman also agreed on the need to address “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
Since Trump’s election in November, his staff has mitigated his campaign pledges to “tear up” the deal with Iran, which the president called as recently as two weeks ago “one of the dumbest deals I have ever seen” in an interview with UK paper the Times of London.
Saudi Arabia, competing with Iran for regional hegemony, and influence and control in the Gulf, has been among the strongest opponents to the deal, alongside Israel.
In its account of the conversation, the Saudi Press Agency made no mention of Iran.
The unnamed Saudi official quoted by Reuters did not say whether Trump and King Salman discussed the president’s executive order to put a four-month moratorium on allowing refugees into the US and the temporary ban on allowing entry to travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. Saudi Arabia is not one of the seven countries from which entry to the US is banned.
Trump and King Salman also discussed the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It was mentioned that Osama bin Laden was recruited at an early stage” by the zealous Sunni organization, the Saudi source quoted by Reuters said.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
The Brotherhood’s religious doctrine challenges the dynastic rule of the House of Saud, a view shared by the more radical organization Islamic State.
According to Reuters, a debate is under way inside the Trump administration on whether the United States should also declare the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and subject it to US sanctions.