RIYADH – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has put US pressures related to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi behind him, analysts say.
They point out he has returned to the fore with a number of initiatives of paramount importance and held talks with a series of regional personalities. The prince’s support for US and European initiatives to bring peace to war-torn Yemen have showed him to be a central figure in this complex process.
Gulf circles said that the Saudi crown prince had dealt calmly with the pressures from the new US administration following its release of its intelligence report about the Khashoggi case
They point out that Saudi Arabia understood that the release of the report, coinciding as it did with US decisions regarding the Yemen war and the suspension of “offensive” arms sales, was aimed at putting great political pressure on Riyadh, although the Saudis had already acknowledged the role of fellow citizens in the crime.
A Gulf source considered that Prince Muhammad, as is usually the case with most Saudi officials, chose to keep silent about the pressures and accusations levelled at him. He preferred to let time run its course, considering the US pressures to be part of the Biden administration’s agenda particularly to satisfy human rights pressure groups targeting Saudi Arabia.
The Gulf source, who preferred not to be named, further told The Arab Weekly that the Saudi crown prince was fully expecting personal attacks n because he knew that US circles that had backed the rise of Joe Biden were targeting him and his role as the leading reformist figure in his country.
There was also suspicion in Riyadh that these circles were not enthusiastic about prospective changes that could make the kingdom more self-reliant and more independent in terms of choosing its commercial, economic and military partners.
But the release of the intelligence report on the Khashoggi case, as well as the various American statements after Biden’s arrival at The White House, did not mean that Washington was intent on keeping the Khashoggi case wide open or in straining the relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country of strategic importance to the Americans,
This was made clear by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he said that “tearing apart the relationship (with Riyadh) will not actually help us advance our interests or our values.”
US Middle East expert F. Gregory Gause, wrote in “Foreign Affairs” that some in the US criticised Biden for not sanctioning the crown prince. “What these critics miss is that MBS is now an entrenched and most likely immovable pillar of the Saudi decision-making structure. With the support of his father, King Salman, MBS has … consolidated power in his own hands, ” he said.
“Attempting to isolate MBS would not force his removal from power but rather eliminate Washington’s ability to restrain his behaviour abroad and, to a lesser degree, at home. The United States is going to need Saudi Arabia’s cooperation on urgent security matters in both Yemen and the broader region, and for that, it will have to engage with MBS,” he added.
The Saudi establishment has also held back from reacting to the statements assailing it directly or indirectly, mainly in the Qatari media, that have sought to exploit the release of the US classified report, this despite the reconciliation process begun at this January’s Al-UIa summit.
Saudi Arabia has looked at reconciliation from a different angle. It believes that the Al-Ula summit gave the region an opportunity for media de-escalation in order to focus on the region’s basic issues and steer away from sterile hype.
Saudi international relations expert Imad Mudayfer said that the crown prince engaged in his usual activities on the day of the release of the CIA report. He opened the Formula E race and was warmly welcomed by the crowd especially since he had just undergone successful surgery.
Mudayfer told The Arab Weekly that he saw “blackmail” as the motive for the release of the US intelligence report. However, he believed the Democrats were keen to limit the possible damage from the report’s release on Saudi-American relations.
He added that “If we put the report in perspective, it clearly reveals a real problem concerning the image of Saudi Arabia and its reputation among American voters.
“Assailing the kingdom has become a propaganda tool used by US presidential candidates to win the elections. We found this particularly evident in the recent presidential race”, he said.
The Saudi crown prince has resumed his work with the usual meetings with foreign visitors such as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday evening, unveiled the “Kingdom’s Sovereign Fund.” He said that “the size of the fund may range between 500 billion riyals to one trillion riyals.”
He added that oil company Aramco and the petrochemical company “SABIC” would be the source of 60 percent of the planned investment programme of five trillion riyals to benefit Saudi private sector companies by 2030.
Prince Mohammed announced that “the kingdom will spend more during the next 10 years than it spent during the past 300 years.”
Political commentator Ghazi Al-Harithi told The Arab Weekly “the high-level activity of the Saudi crown prince is not perceived domestically as a spur-of-the moment kind of move. Rather, it is a consolidation of a high-level developmental drive that the country is now particularly pursuing “.
He added that the international activities of Prince Mohammed sent a “clear message that the attempts to isolate the kingdom and its powerful crown prince have failed and that all of this clearly reinforces the important regional position of Riyadh.”