President Trump welcomed Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to the White House on Tuesday, reaffirming his endorsement of an ambitious young monarch bent on reforming his country and realigning the broader Middle East.
The last time Mr. Trump played host to Prince Mohammed at the White House, a year ago, he was jockeying for position in the court of his father, King Salman. This time, with Mr. Trump’s enthusiastic support, Prince Mohammed arrives after having rapidly consolidated his position as Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent and a disruptive figure in the region.
The two leaders are expected to take up an array of thorny issues: Mr. Trump’s forthcoming decision on whether to rip up the Iran nuclear deal; his nearly completed Middle East peace plan; Saudi Arabia’s bitter dispute with its neighbor, Qatar; and the brutal civil war in Yemen, which has led lawmakers to propose a cutoff in American support for a Saudi-led bombing campaign that has killed thousands.
Prince Mohammed has cut a wide swath in the last year, pushing through radical reforms in Saudi society but also imprisoning more than 380 princes, businessmen and former government ministers in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
Mr. Trump has lavished praise on Prince Mohammed for his calls for tolerance and moderation, while largely ignoring his purge of the Saudi establishment.
Analysts and administration officials said they expected Mr. Trump to focus on regional issues, like Iran’s aggression and tensions in the Persian Gulf, than on the internal crackdown, which has led to charges — denied by the Saudi government — that it used physical abuse to get people to surrender their assets.
The president, a senior administration official said Monday, is likely to urge Prince Mohammed to settle a festering dispute that pits Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar. Mr. Trump had initially sided with the Saudis and Emiratis, echoing their claims that the Qataris finance extremism and terrorism around the region.
But as the feud has dragged on, the administration has become worried about the long-term effect on unity in the Persian Gulf, especially in the face of an emboldened Iran. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general and former commander of Central Command, recently toured the gulf to try to find ways to resolve the grievances.
Read full article by Mark Landler on The New York Times, March 20, 2018.