Saudi Crown Prince to Visit White House Tuesday
- Author: Leroy Wright Mar 20, 2018,
Mar 20, 2018, 23:47
When Donald Trump meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the president should have three clear and forceful messages for his reform-oriented guest: Focus your undivided attention to adopting a soft power approach to the Iranian regime, end the war in Yemen and lift your blockade of American ally Qatar.
The two leaders will also discuss Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions, an issue that has created some tension recently between Israel and the United States, according to news reports.
For his part, Mohammed wants more US investment and job creation in Saudi Arabia, along with technology and education help for his campaign to modernize the kingdom.
The prince is also due to have dinner with Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, along with Jason Greenblatt, the two point men in the Trump administration overseeing Middle East peace efforts.
The 123 agreement refers to section 123 of the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act, which establishes a cooperation agreement for nuclear deals between the US and any other nation.
It was reportedly thanks to this bond that Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first foreign state visit as President, despite objections from White House officials.
On his trip, officials said Muhammad is seeking to convince US and Western investors and businesses that far-reaching reforms, such as allowing women for the first time to drive, have made his country a more tolerant society and better place to do business.
The conversation, according to senior administration officials, will focus on "Iran's aggression" in the Middle East and the support Russian Federation offers to both Iran and Syria.
Noting that Saudi Arabia recognises the importance the Trump Administration's place on South Asian Strategy, the official said that this is one of such initiatives where they offered to assist for example, funding for the Afghan national security forces. A senior administration official told reporters Monday that along with Russia's often double-dealing in the region, trying to "push" Saudi leaders to seek a serious political solution to the conflict in Yemen and combating Iran will be atop the agenda.
Officials said Trump will also seek to negotiate an end to a simmering dispute between a Saudi-led bloc and Qatar, a key U.S. ally the Saudis accuse of helping to finance terrorism. The standoff continues, with leaders in Qatar claiming the accusations are groundless. Trump has been a vocal critic of the nuclear deal with Iran, a deal that also worries Saudi Arabia.
But this trip can be seen too as the latest move in a worldwide public relations campaign to show a different face of Saudi Arabia.
A bipartisan movement to curtail USA support for the Saudi-led military intervention has been growing in Congress, with the Senate possibly voting as early as this week on a measure that would limit the military's ability to continue aiding Saudi efforts in Yemen.
Kushner is scheduled to attend several dinners with the Crown Prince during his visit to the USA, and also reportedly spent alone time with Salman during a personal trip to Riyadh in October 2017. During his time in the U.S., Prince Mohammed can point to the steps his government has taken to curb the influence of Islamic hardliners and to loosen the kingdom's strict social rules, such as the upcoming lifting of the ban on women driving. Over the past nine months, Congress has approved Dollars 54 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
He defended at length his anti-corruption purge which saw numerous kingdom's princes and tycoons detained for several weeks inside Riyadh's luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel - widely seen as an attempt to cement his grip on power.