MBS’ visit to US has been a resounding success

MBS’ visit to US has been a resounding success

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s official visit to the United States still has another week left before he and his accompanying delegation go back to the Kingdom. While the remaining week will surely include many memorable moments and important meetings, the visit has already shone the spotlight on some very important facts and new realities. 
 First, it has illustrated the multidimensional nature of Saudi-US relations in dramatic fashion. While other world leaders might have considered meetings with President Donald Trump and senior congressional leaders from both parties to be reason enough to declare a visit a resounding success, Crown Prince Mohammed did not stop there. For the past two weeks, he has met with a wide array of Americans representing different segments of society. This reflects the appreciation the Saudi leadership has for how relations between the countries have deepened and broadened over the past eight decades. There is an understanding that the pluralistic nature of American politics and society in general requires engaging many Americans well beyond Washington. That bodes well for the future of Saudi-US relations. 
 It is not a surprise that the Crown Prince’s meetings with Trump at the White House, Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon and congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, garnered much attention. It was also not unexpected that they were first on the Crown Prince’s agenda. After all, political, security and military cooperation are the anchors of this relationship. But Crown Prince Mohammed is visiting the US more than just to cement relations on an official level: He is here to tell a story. A story of a country that is undergoing a profound transformation and which considers its human capital — its youth — its greatest asset; not its natural resources. 
It was Crown Prince Mohammed who, in 2016, unveiled the ambitious package of economic and social reforms known as Vision 2030 and it is he who speaks about this vision most clearly, and with infectious enthusiasm. I had the honor of meeting him at a special gala in Washington and listen to him speak about the importance of US-Saudi relations. It is very clear that, while he has tremendous confidence in the work ethic, ingenuity and ambition of the Saudi youth, he also believes that the US has an important role to play in the betterment of the world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. 

Many influential Americans have had a good chance to interact with the Crown Prince and hear him speak about his vision for the Kingdom and the role his hosts can play in helping make it a reality.

Fahad Nazer 
After leaving Washington, Crown Prince Mohammed made stops at some of America’s greatest educational and research institutions, including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There is little doubt he is a firm believer that education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects specifically will be crucial to the Kingdom’s future, and is therefore eager to create new and sustain existing partnerships with leaders in those fields. While in Seattle, Crown Prince Mohammed met with the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, who has become the best-known advocate for the transformative power of technology.
It came as no surprise that Crown Prince Mohammed met with many business and finance leaders while in New York City, the business capital of the US. Direct foreign investment will be vital to the success of Vision 2030 and, judging from the 40-plus business leaders he met in New York, American firms are eager to explore the many opportunities that have opened up in Saudi Arabia. 
Showing that he appreciates the full range of the American political spectrum, Crown Prince Mohammed also met with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry in New York. He even had coffee with Michael Bloomberg, a man who has succeeded in both politics and business, at a branch of Starbucks. The photos of him and Prince Khalid Bin Salman, the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Washington, at that Starbucks shone a spotlight on a new generation of Saudi leaders. They speak, act and even dress differently from previous leaders. They are leaders who are deeply attuned to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Saudis are under 30 years old. 
In addition, the Crown Prince met with Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as well as representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Just as importantly, he met with Christian and Jewish religious leaders, continuing his push to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. 
In short, many Americans have had a good chance to interact with Crown Prince Mohammed and hear him speak about his vision for the Kingdom and the role the US and its myriad institutions can play in helping make it a reality. It is hard to argue that the visit has been anything but a resounding success.
 
Fahad Nazer is a political consultant to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US Arab Relations. He does not represent or speak on behalf of either organization. Twitter: @fanazer
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