Trump prepares for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit

Trump prepares for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit
US President Donald Trump is set to host Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday following the conclusion of the crown prince's visit to London.
3 min read
19 March, 2018
Mohammad Bin Salman is seen as a key ally of Washington against Iran [Getty]

Donald Trump will host Saudi Arabia's crown prince in Washington on Tuesday, giving the US president a receptive audience to denounce rival Iran and a chance to take stock of significant changes the prince is engineering in the kingdom.

Ten months after the last face-to-face meeting between Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, the 71-year-old president and the 32-year-old strongman prince are expected to deepen an already warm relationship.

But they are also expected to take up major developments for Saudi Arabia, both internally and externally: the end of a ban on Saudi women driving, the unprecedented detention of dozens of people that was billed as a high-level anti-corruption purge, Saudi Arabia's controversial war in Yemen, and the crisis with the Gulf state of Qatar. 

"It's jaw-dropping how many policy changes the Saudis have pursued at home and in the region since that last meeting," said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a former CIA analyst now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Many of these changes have touched US security interests."

One example is the summit that the administration had hoped to host this year with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which could be difficult to arrange given the continuing crisis with Qatar. 

In June, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began an air and sea boycott against Qatar, which they accuse of financing terrorism and being overly friendly with Iran.

The US, meanwhile, has continued strategic and trade cooperation with Qatar, including with the approval of $467 million worth of potential foreign military sales to Doha earlier this month.

The Saudi-led boycott of Qatar is thought to have been spearheaded by the kingdom's crown prince, who also announced Riyadh's amitious "Vision 2030" initiative to build an economy less dependent on oil, while luring more foreign investment.

As the Saudis pursue the technology needed to undertake the ambitious project, they are expected to play potential rivals against one another, reminding their American counterparts that China, Russia and France are also capable of filling their needs.

"It would be virtually impossible for the Saudi government to accept terms that are less than what Obama gave the Iranians - the possibility of future enrichment," a source close to the Saudi government told AFP, referring to the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that was completed when Barack Obama was still president.

It has been reported that the US president and Bin Salman will also discuss a recent request for $4 billion to go towards rebuilding and stabilising areas in Syria liberated from the Islamic State group, as well as to check Bashar al-Assad's power and Russian and Iranian influence in the country.

The plan aims to provide the US with a quick exit from the seven-year conflict, according to a Washington Post report.