Saudi prince launches regional tour seeking to recoup his image

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is currently on a tour of Arab states, seeking to reduce the damage Riyadh is facing over the Jamal Khashoggi murder case. On Monday, the prince visited Bahrain, on Tuesday he will travel to Tunisia, and at the end of the week, he will represent Saudi Arabia at the G20 summit in Argentina. In particular, he will hold a meeting with US President Donald Trump in an effort to close the chapter concerning the journalist’s murder, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Mohammad bin Salman kicked off his tour of Arab countries in the United Arab Emirates at the end of last week. On November 25, he met with former Spanish King Juan Carlos I during the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. The next day, the Saudi crown prince held talks with Bahrain’s king.

Adviser to the Director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Elena Suponina believes that there are various reasons why these visits are important for the Saudi crown prince. "One of his goals is to improve his leader’s image following the Jamal Khashoggi tragedy. For the past several weeks, the crown prince’s opponents have been telling the media that he is depressed and does not live in his palace. The current round of talks is supposed to dispel these rumors," the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

According to Suponina, during his tour of Arab countries, the prince also wants to reach specific agreements with other leaders, which concern pressing issues the Middle East is facing. "It also may strengthen his image as a politician capable of resolving the most complicated global issues, including the long-standing Palestinian issue," the expert said. "US President Donald Trump’s administration has been exerting pressure on the Arab monarchies to make them provide financial support to Washington’s initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. However, the US president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has been unable to achieve any success here. So bin Salman’s tour is particularly aimed at breaking the impasse in the process," Suponina noted.

Apart from the Palestinian issue, Mohammad bin Salman is also interested in turning the tide in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been conducting a military campaign since 2015, with the Emirates as an ally. "Therefore, the prince has paid particular attention to the UAE for a reason. The two countries’ common goal is to unite their regional partners against Iran, with whom the kingdom has hostile relations, accusing Tehran of supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen," the expert stressed.

"It seems the US administration wants to force the Saudi crown prince to make more concessions in light of the recent scandal. Riyadh is not hiding its intention to increase oil production in the near future. It will bring oil prices down a bit, which is what Trump wants," Suponina concluded.