When U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his speech on Islam to a gathering of Muslim and Arab leaders in Riyadh last weekend, one head of state was notably absent among the dozens of kings, sultans, emirs, presidents and prime ministers in the audience. Turkey, one of the Muslim world’s most powerful states, chose to send its minister of foreign affairs, a much lower-ranking official than the top-level representatives in the lavish hall.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had recently visited Saudi Arabia and had met with Trump in Washington only days earlier, with the two men declaring the meeting a great success. So Erdogan may have felt his relationship with Trump was on solid ground as Muslim leaders sought to gain favor with the new man in the White House.
To be sure, Erdogan and Trump have good chemistry. Trump called to congratulate him after his victory in a controversial constitutional referendum that boosted his power in April. And when Erdogan visited Washington, the substantial strategic differences dividing the U.S. and Turkey seemed to fade to the background when the two stood side by side, with Trump declaring, “We’ve had a great relationship and we will make it even better.”