What the Saudi Prince's Visit Really Means

03/21/2018

  1. Perhaps the most dramatic Saudi reform is the one that has received virtually no attention in America. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has led an effort to sweep out the Muslim Brotherhood from teaching and leadership positions in elementary, middle and high schools as well as colleges and universities.
  2. MBS is kicking a dragon and he knows it.
  3. The stakes of his fight with the Brotherhood could not be higher. If MBS succeeds, Saudi Arabia returns to pre-1979 roots, with movie theaters, women in the workplace, and features of a modern developing country. If MBS fails, he will be killed by the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia will become more repressive than ever.
  4. The global stakes of MBS's internal fight with the Brotherhood are large, too. If the crown price wins, nearly all Saudi funding for violent Islamic radicals ends - and if he dies, it grows to new heights.
  5. His "Vision 2030" is the biggest planned change in any country since Turkey's Ataturk or Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. With America's encouragement, Saudi Arabia could lead a regional transformation that would be truly historic.

Saudi Arabia, with the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the United States this week, opens a new front in its war with Iran.

The visit is a collection of firsts. It is the first trip by Prince Mohammed bin Salman - known universally as "MBS" - to the U.S. since becoming the heir to the oil kingdom's throne in June 2017. (President Trump's first presidential trip to the Middle East began with a stop in Saudi Arabia.) More importantly, it is the first time a senior Saudi official, let alone a ruling royal, will venture outside the U.S. capital to make official visits to Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Never before has a crown prince - especially one who runs Saudi Arabia's government on a daily basis - come to America's financial and cultural capitals to do business. Indeed, MBS is hoping to drum up support for his plan to offer five percent of ARAMCO, the Saudi oil producer, to Western investors as well as to make investments in software upstarts and media empires. This is a Saudi royal who sees no division between commerce and statecraft, between diplomacy and investment.

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