Saudi Grand Tour

Jay Allen/CC photo

 

By

Tom Arms

 

 

In the 18th century it was a coming of age requirement for young British gentlemen to make a Grand Tour of the European continent. The educational trip usually took some weeks or months and was designed to introduce young men to the mysteries of neighbouring civilisations.

 

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is in the middle of a similar type trip. He is taking six weeks off from running his oil-rich desert kingdom to tour Egypt, Britain and the United States. The longest leg – three weeks – is the United States where he will visit seven cities and sign trade deals worth an estimated $35 billion.

 

There, are, of course, differences between the travels of Crown Prince Mohammad and the British aristocrats of yesteryear. The Crown Prince is travelling to learn, but he is also travelling to teach. His lessons will centre on the message that Saudi Arabia is changing. It is trying to become a “moderate” Islamic state where women can – for a start – drive cars and visit the cinema. He will also be working hard to justify Saudi Arabia’s attacks on Yemeni Houthis.

 

An unstated purpose of Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit is to demonstrate that he is in charge of his country and that it is politically stable. It is less than six months since he ordered the arrest/round-up of scores of Saudi princes and billionaires and their five-star confinement in Riyadh. Surely it is a bit of a political gamble to leave the country so soon after and for such a long period of time.

 

Talks on Byzantine Middle East politics will also be high on the agenda – especially in the US. Iran in Yemen, Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Iran Nuclear Deal, Qatar, the Syrian Civil War, a resurgent Turkey, and, of course, the overarching issue of the Arab-Israeli relations and the fate of the Palestinians.

 

Over the past year, President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been shuttling between Riyadh and Washington in search of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. By all accounts, he and Mohammad bin Salman have developed a close working relationship.

 

However, efforts on both fronts have so far been counterproductive leaving both men – but in particular Prince Mohammad – exposed. The Crown Prince has made a significant political investment in the Trump Administration. In doing so he has lost leverage over the Palestinians angered at the American recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

 

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is secure enough to take off six weeks for his grand tour. But his close ties with Kushner and Trump could seriously undermine him if the Trump Administration comes unstuck over the Mueller Investigation, a failure in North Korea, Stormy Daniels and friends, the White House revolving door or Jared Kushner’s business interests.

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and emailtom.arms@lookaheadnews.com.

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