Outside Influencers: Prince Mohammed bin Salman & Prince Khalid bin Salman

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Prince Khalid bin Salman, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia
President Trump is hardly an expert in the labyrinthine complexity of Middle Eastern affairs, but the Saudi kingdom won him over with two issues he could understand: opposition to Iran and the prospect of a huge arms sale. So, the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS), the de facto ruler, became Trump’s and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s BFF, with the enthusiastic backing of the Emirates. As part of his campaign to promote his kingdom’s new image and attract Western investments, the Saudi prince visited the U.S. in March, where he trod on all the red carpet that money could rent, and where his American hosts avoided such embarrassing topics as his incarceration of scores of rival princes and rich Saudis for huge ransoms; the forced resignation of the Lebanese prime minister; the Saudi-orchestrated break with, and blockade of, neighboring Qatar; nor the billions of dollars Saudi nationals have been pouring into exporting extreme Wahhabi Islam around the world, including in Pakistan, Indonesia and Africa. The focus was on women being allowed to drive and to attend soccer games – promising steps towards gender equality, but not compensation for a poor human rights record and a botched and bloody Saudi air offensive in Yemen which has cost 100,000 Yemini lives, with at least a million more displaced. The Prince’s itinerary took him to Hollywood where he expressed his intention to re-open movie houses, closed 20 years ago when fundamentalist Wahhabism took hold in the kingdom. This is not reform as we know it, but in Saudi Arabia change can only come from the top.

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