The White House is seeking to recast the US president as a world statesman, but critics say his confidence in his own persuasive powers is simply delusional

Donald Trump is embarking on a week of diplomacy and preparation for his first foreign trip-up as chairman, aimed at demonstrating that his personal charisma can override longstanding global divisions and conflicts of interest with old allies.

Trumps personality-driven approach seeks to reassert US pre-eminence in the world through consolidating bonds with foreign leaders, most notably dictators, as long as they are aligned with the administrations priorities of defeating Islamic State and al-Qaida while containing Iranian influence. Pressure to find human rights has been explicitly relegated as a foreign policy mission.

The chairwomen critics argue, however, that abandoning such values damages long-term US aspirations to global leadership. They alert that Trumps overweening confidence in his own persuasive powers is simply delusional and will not help resolve intractable global conflicts and the often contradictory aims of his own foreign policy objectives.

Starting on Friday, the presidents world tour is seeking to recast Trump as a world statesman at a time when the legitimacy of his election victory is under greater attack than ever following his dismissal of the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaigns links to Russia.

The national security consultant, HR McMaster, was deployed on Friday to highlight the presidential trip-up during the daily White House briefing, with the press more interested in asking questions about Trumps tweeted hint “hes having” videotapeed his conversations with Comey.

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The national security adviser, HR McMaster, said the president prioritizes constructing strong relationships. Photo: Win McNamee/ Getty Images

In describing Trumps first foreign outing which takes in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily McMaster outlined the ethos of the presidents approach to foreign affairs, modelled on site visits last month by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to the presidents private club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

The chairwoman prioritizes house strong relationships, as you see here, every day with world leaders as a style to strengthen our confederations. And hes been successful, McMaster said.

He laid out the agenda for Trumps trip, which starts with visits to the ancient capitals of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and culminates in Nato and G7 summits at the end of the following week, describing it in nearly messianic terms.

This trip-up is truly historic. No chairwoman has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths all on one trip-up, McMaster said. And what President Trump is trying is to unite people of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity.

[ T] he Presidents leadership has been welcomed welcomed enthusiastically, McMaster added. There was a perception that America had largely disengaged from the Middle East in particular, and that disengagement coincided with this humanitarian and political tragedy in the region.

Trump tour map

Trumps week starts on Monday with a meetingin Washington with the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that is supposed to underline US backing for the United Arab Emirates( UAE ). Here i am deep malaise in the state department and the Pentagon about the UAEs human rights record in its role as part of an Arab alliance against Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. But Trump is not expected to raise those concerns in his meeting with the sheikh.

Ryan Goodman, a Pentagon counsel in the Obama administration and a statute professor at New York University, said: The Trump administrations single-minded quest of military cooperation with the UAE in an unquestioning fashion is legally and politically risky for the United States. UAE-backed forces have allegedly engaged in disappearing Yemenis and abuse of detainees in their custody.

Similar qualms over the civilian death toll caused by the Saudi-led alliances aerial bombing campaign in Yemen have also been sidelined, and Obama administration restrictions on arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been swept aside. A week ahead of Trumps visit, the US was reported by Reuters to be close to completing limbs deals with the kingdom worth more than $100 bn.

On Tuesday, Trump will meet another regional strongman, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoan, with the White House hoping that personal chemistry will assuage a clash over the two countries security interests in Syria.

Trump will seek Erdoans acquiescence to the US plan to drive Isis out of its Syrian stronghold in Raqqa, a plan that hinges on arming the People Protection Units( YPG ), a Kurdish force that Ankara has long denounced as a terrorist group for its links to the Kurdistan Workers party( PKK) insurgents in Turkey.

Reliance on the YPG to take Raqqa was an Obama administration plan that Trump put on hold while he reviewed other possible options. Turkey argued it could develop and deliver sufficient Syrian Arab forces to take and hold Raqqa but they failed to materialise. This is referred to inside the Pentagon as Erdoans ghost army.

Voters
Voters cast their votes in the recent referendum on the Turkish presidential system. Trump personally congratulated President Erdoan on the outcome, which awarded him sweeping new powers. Photo: Markus Schreiber/ AP

The US arming the Kurds is the last thing Turkey wants, but the Turks didnt come up with another plan. There was no scheme B, said Hassan Hassan, an expert on Isis and Syria at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington. The Americans have told them this is something we need to do and we need to do it now.

By route of compensation, the US is expected to offer deeper intelligence cooperation with Ankara against Kurdish militants in Turkey and in Iraq. And Trump has already made clear he will not let Obama-era opposition to Erdoans creeping authoritarianism become a deterrent in the bilateral relationship. He formally congratulated the Turkish president on winning a referendum amending the constitution to give him more power.

For its part, Turkey has also focused on cultivating a personal relationship with Trump. A meeting of Turkish and US business leaders starting next Sunday has been moved to the Trump hotel in Washington.

The consistent message being given in this weeks meetings, and then in the trips to Saudi Arabia and Israel over the weekend, is that US support for its traditional allies is personal and no longer has to be balanced by scruples about human rights or by the pursuit of detente with Iran.

One of the main comparisons with Obama is that he seemed to be aloof. He didnt take sides. His temperament was cerebral and over the fray, said Natan Sachs, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Trump is the opposite. He is partisan. He is saying he is on their side. He is saying: We are not the UN. We are not Sweden. We are the US and we are your ally.

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