An itinerary leaked to the Independent this week showing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s schedule in the U.S. shows meetings with presidents, celebrities, and powerful CEOs.
Documents seen by the Independent indicate that, as part of his two-week tour of the United States, bin Salman will meet with former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, having already met President Donald Trump at the White House.
He will also meet an array of power CEOs including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, NewsCorp’s Rupert Murdoch, and Tesla’s Elon Musk, as well as sitting down with major publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Many of the discussions will include promotion of Saudi investments that help his “Saudi Vision 2030” reform plan designed to promote economic growth. Many also consider the tour an effort to improve the country’s image amid its controversial involvement in Yemen and allegations of human rights abuses.
Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, said that the visit was a “very deliberate bipartisan outreach,” and “a reminder of the close relationship the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia in general, and not just Donald Trump and Jared Kushner.”
The young Prince is widely understood be a reformer on many of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-repressive laws and customs and has already implemented changes to women’s rights that are expected to allow them to drive cars, participate in various sports, and let them work in the country’s ministry of justice.
“Saudi Arabia has always had a public image problem in the West because of the obvious things like women’s rights and beheadings,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told the Independent. “When you meet with Oprah, even if you’re not going to be interviewed, you’re seeking the approval of an opinion maker. You’re going into people’s homes and reaching deep into American culture.”
During his last visit to the United States last March, the prince described Trump as a “true friend of Muslims,” who would “serve the Muslim World in an unimaginable manner.” He also expressed support for Trump’s partial travel ban as a necessary national security measure.
In an interview with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell on 60 Minutes last week, bin Salman acknowledged the country’s shortcomings concerning human rights but said that their standards are not the same as America’s.
“Saudi Arabia believes in many of the principles of human rights. In fact, we believe in the notion of human rights, but ultimately Saudi standards are not the same as American standards,” he said. “I don’t want to say that we don’t have shortcomings. We certainly do. But naturally, we are working to mend these shortcomings.”