These are changing times in Saudi Arabia, a nation that is redefining its internal nature while projecting a newfound confidence with its neighbours and across the wider region. And behind this drive is Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, determined to change Saudi society and raise its profile on the international stage. Domestically, he is also reforming its society and economy, loosening societal bonds that have restrained its potential and posed an impediment to its progress.
Now, Prince Mohammad is embarking on his first foreign mission, a trip that takes him to meet regional allies and partners. First off, he visits Cairo, then on to London, and wrapping up with meetings in Washington. Simply put, it’s a defining trip, providing an opportunity to galvanise relations with important friends with mutual concerns and priorities.
In Cairo, Prince Mohammad finds a nation that fully understands and appreciates Saudi Arabia’s role in standing up to extremists and calling out those who aid and abet terrorism. Egypt too is a cornerstone — along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — in the regional anti-terror quartet who have shut their respective air and sea spaces to aircraft and vessels from Qatar, and imposed other financial and diplomatic measures on Doha to ensure it lives up to its international obligation and regional assurances to combat terror.
Across the wider region too there are challenges to be faced. Syria remains a nation in deep conflict and turmoil, where violence is unabated and where the regime of President Bashar Al Assad remains in power only with the military intervention of Russia and the support of Iran. Indeed, it is Tehran that is the root cause of worries and frustrations in the Arab world as it spreads it tentacles from the Mediterranean to Yemen. Whether it be in interfering in the internal politics and policies of Lebanon, intervening militarily in Syria and Iraq, or actively provided the materials of war to Al Houthi rebels in Yemen, Tehran is intent on sowing violence in its hegemonic pursuit.
The visits to London and Washington will provide Prince Mohammad with opportunities to fully explain the real and present danger faced by nations in this region from the regime in Tehran. And he will also use the meetings in London and Washington to underscore both Riyadh’s and wider regional opposition to recognising [occupied] Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. All told, this is an important mission, one that will convey regional unity and outlooks to those who think otherwise.