Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is visiting Washington this week, as Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Iran heats up.
Mohammed bin Salman comes to the U.S. touting a vision for a new Saudi Arabia. And he’ll likely have a receptive audience in President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Trump has explicitly sided with the Sunni monarchy in its rivalry with Shi’ite Iran.
The crown prince, known as MBS, seems eager to take advantage.
In an interview with CBS, he compared Iran’s leader to Hitler and said if Iran gets nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will follow suit.
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” he said.
This is putting pressure on Trump ahead of a key May deadline on the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA.
“They have some reservations about the nuclear agreement with Iran, but as long as it actually ensures that it does not develop nuclear weapons, they have supported it. But that’s a big if, unfortunately,” Arab News columnist Fahed Nazer said.
MBS has presided over a series of social reforms, including allowing Saudi women to drive and attend football games
It’s part of his plan to modernize the ultra-conservative country and make its economy more innovative and sustainable.
But MBS’s plan to attract foreign investors could run into challenges. In November, he oversaw the arrests of more than 200 Saudi officials and businessmen. While MBS said it was an anti-corruption drive, many saw it as a purge of his rivals.
“They want investors to come in, but if you’re an investor now why would you go to Saudi Arabia if you know your investments might not be safe and you know the state can just come in and confiscate your financial assets?” said Andreas Krieg of King’s College London.
MBS could also face renewed criticism for the war in Yemen, where U.S.-backed Saudi forces are locked in a bloody battle with Iran-supported Houthi rebels. The conflict has created a humanitarian disaster in one of the world’s poorest countries.