No question, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman nailed it in Fox interview.
Fox News Network, where I have been a frequent guest contributor for the past eight years, had promoted the Bret Baier interview of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia with characteristic tease.
America was rightly anticipating a rare vantage into Saudi Arabia. Once the hermit Kingdom, which had been home to me at the turn of the century, tonight featured center stage and prime time. For the first time, the Kingdom was portrayed to Americans as the Saudis themselves see their country.
Even more anticipated was the man at the center of the Kingdom’s warp-speed transformation, as Vision 2030 is rapidly revealing itself to be, Prince Mohammed. His global stature as a disruptor, a visionary and the de facto ruler of the Kingdom has been under relentless focus since he emerged at the apex of Saudi power, a power that he and his father King Salman have centralized, consolidated and cemented as no other Saudi monarchy has since the inception of the Kingdom.
What no one could have conveyed was the stupefying impact of the crown prince speaking to us in English. I was riveted listening to his enthusiasm even as he described programs I had read of or learned about in my own work. The energy in his voice and his sheer passion were the pure embodiment of the Kingdom’s drive.
Certainly, Americans have been rightly captivated by the arrival of Saudi women behind the wheel in the Kingdom, yet there are so many other developments — in sports, tourism, sustainable energy, entertainment, business, technology and more —that have transformed the conservative, austere place I had once called home.
The rise of homegrown Saudi entrepreneurship impressed me on each of my visits. The industrious innovation of Saudi men and women reminds me of a very familiar American spirit.
Twenty-four years ago, when Riyadh was my home, a Saudi female executive was unheard of, a Saudi female champion, utter fantasy. Today, Vision 2030 ensures there will be many more women in positions of leadership. Saudi women now are senior executives at national conglomerates.
As Baier conducted the interview, the genuine engagement between the anchor and Prince Mohammed was sincere and transcended the screen. Unspoken was the strategic wisdom of the Kingdom in selecting the Fox News Network to host the landmark conversation — it has the largest prime-time audience on any network and some of the most committed and engaged consumers.
The prince’s candor about the risk of a nuclear Iran triggering a regional arms race, including the possibility of a nuclear-armed Kingdom, or the unwavering commitment to the future of the Palestinians while affirming Saudi Arabia and Israel continue to inch towards detente, is hardly news for those of us closely engaged with the region. Certainly, these remarks will make tomorrow’s headlines, but make no mistake, they are not news.
What’s newsworthy is the crown prince spoke our language, fluently and with sincerity (apparently gaining increasing fluency since 2018), and in doing so, struck a true chord in American hearts.
What’s newsworthy is the patently open, warm and welcoming engagement Saudi Arabia is making to a US that has been ambivalent at best and, on occasion, rankly derisive to the Kingdom.
What’s newsworthy is Prince Mohammed’s extraordinary and highly infectious energy that comes through as the unique driver of his country’s meteoric progress toward a new era of Saudi dominance. His confidence and panache will not only reanimate the US-Saudi relationship but also likely reinvigorate the Gulf Cooperation Council and the wider Middle East while bringing desperately needed sense, at a time when the world needs it most.
Last night was a home run — for the Kingdom, for the network, and for the crown prince.
- Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D., is a senior fellow of the Independent Women’s Forum, life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in Saudi Arabia.” @MissDiagnosis.