U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relations: Prince Approves of Trump's Views on Islam, Travel Ban

President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 14, 2017. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters. Reuters

After his first meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman endorsed the U.S. leader's views on Islam and the travel ban on six majority-Muslim countries.

In their landmark meeting, Mohammed and Trump reportedly discussed Trump's most recent executive order, which goes into effect Thursday and restricts travel to the U.S. for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—countries deemed by the Trump administration to be particularly threatening to America's national security. Critics have called the order discriminatory against Muslims; a previous version, which included Iraq on the list, was struck down by a federal court in January. According to Mohammed's advisor, the royal said the latest travel restriction did not target "Muslim countries or Islam."

Mohammed's adviser said the prince "expressed his satisfaction after the meeting on the positive position and clarifications he heard from President Trump on his views on Islam," according to Al Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia, which largely supported President Hillary Clinton in last year's election, and Trump have had a complicated relationship—at least until the real estate tycoon's victory. Trump's campaign promise to institute a ban on all Muslim immigrants and threats to cut energy imports concerned many in the oil-rich Gulf nation, Since Trump took office, however, the focus of bilateral relations between Washington and Riyadh has shifted toward combatting their mutual enemy, Iran. Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite Muslim-majority Iran have backed opposing movements throughout the Middle East, including warring parties in Syria and Yemen.

Last week, Trump approved an arms deal to Saudi Arabia previously blocked by former President Barack Obama's administration over human rights concerns in Yemen. On the same day as Trump met with Mohammed, Amnesty International released a letter to Trump urging him not to greenlight the weapons sale. A number of human rights groups have criticized Saudi Arabia's tactics in its war on Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Trump and Mohammed also reportedly discussed renegotiating the Obama-era nuclear deal signed between the U.S. and Iran, as well as promoting U.S. business interests in Saudi Arabia.