President Trump to embark on first foreign trip as president

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A White House adviser says that Ivanka Trump will be along for six days of the nine-day trip, which begins Saturday.

That was before he fired his Federal Bureau of Investigation director - and the chain reaction of scandal that followed.

Trump, however, will have plenty of company who can either keep him out of trouble on the trip - or help him get into it.

Trump is expected to try to calm allies anxious about his "America First" message. After that, the eight-day trip will continue with a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Belgium and a G-7 summit of major industrial nations in Italy. President Trump's first trip is much farther from home. Many White House aides have been hoping the trip will provide an opportunity for the young administration to refocus.

The challenges notwithstanding, Nicholson and others are willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on this trip.

All are members of the US coalition striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, as well as among the world's top energy producers and biggest military spenders.

"Both sides have an incentive to herald this as a new era in Gulf cooperation", Derek Chollet, who served as assistant secretary of defense for global security affairs under former President Barack Obama, whose administration brokered a $115 billion arms deal with the Saudis. Trump's powerful senior adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, led a West Wing team to craft the agenda, laden with religious symbolism.

Saudi Arabia wants to seize on Trump's visit to show itself as an earnest partner in the war on terror.

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Separately on Friday, the administration informed Congress it will sell some $500 million in precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia.

Trump, a property tycoon who ran vowing to bar Muslims from the United States, has chosen Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit since taking office.

In Israel, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, looking to smooth over fresh tensions.

This comes on the heels of Trump reportedly sharing classified Israeli intelligence on ISIS with Russian Federation.

The people with knowledge of the Saudis' planning insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the sensitive details.

Foreign leaders are playing a guessing game trying to determine whether Trump's positions will veer in a more radical direction favored by his controversial chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who's pressed for the dismantlement of the Iran nuclear deal, the end of the One China policy, and the transfer of the USA embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will join Trump for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders meeting and dinner before traveling to Sicily, Italy for the G7 summit. In a post for the think tank, McCants said Saudi royals may be willing to rein in ultraconservative Wahhabi proselytizing if Trump presses them to do more to stop promoting religious intolerance overseas. He'll visit the birthplace of Islam, the Jewish homeland and the Vatican.

"His message is going to be about unity", said U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

"This trip will convey that America is back", Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a news conference at the State Department.

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For Saudi Arabia, the most significant event is the Arab-Islamic-U.S. summit, where it plans to showcase the kingdom's reach and drawing power.

That would make it one of the largest arms deals in U.S. history, and realistically in world history, and indications are that President Trump intends to present this as part of the push for the creation of "Arab NATO", and by extension make it about Sunni Arabs confronting Iran.

Where does the president stand on the Middle East peace process?

Following these two stops, he will make his way to Italy to meet with Pope Francis.

Or, will it be the Donald Trump who a week later stood with the secretary-general of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - an organization he'd earlier declared obsolete - and pledged to work with the decades-old alliance to clean up a messy world?

Trump's inauguration sparked thousands of protesters to fill the streets of several European capitals, chaotic scenes that could be repeated during his stops in Rome, Brussels and Sicily.

CORNISH: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

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