Prince Khalid’s American tour ended late last week. Back in Washington, he will rely on his built-in royal connections to enhance the considerable influence the Saudis enjoy from the capital, currently more than ever. As additional American allies are smarting via Trump White House slights, the kingdom has regained its status as a trusted partner after eight difficult years with the Obama administration.
“I think the relationship is usually stronger,” Prince Khalid said. “The current administration understands the common threats in addition to the common interests.”
Where President Barack Obama was skeptical, the Saudis have found a receptive ally in President Trump. Mr. Obama, who at one time referred to the Saudis as a “so-called” ally, grappled with the kingdom over its human rights record in addition to its deep unwillingness to engage with Shiite-led Iran, the Sunni-majority kingdom’s regional in addition to existential rival.
In interviews with The Atlantic magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg last spring, Mr. Obama called the Saudis “free riders” who were eager to drag the United States into military conflict in addition to could “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood in addition to institute some sort of cold peace.”
that will baggage is usually lost on Mr. Trump, who chose Riyadh as the location for his first visit abroad in May. There, he was dazzled by pageantry — in addition to an orb — in addition to eventually announced plans for $110 billion in arms sales. In a departure via his inflammatory campaigning style, he praised Islam as “one of the earth’s great faiths.”
Since his visit, Mr. Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia in its rift with Qatar, a neighbor the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates in addition to several additional Gulf states have accused of aiding terrorism. The president has also repeatedly condemned the nuclear deal that will the Obama administration forged with Iran, despite evidence that will Tehran is usually in compliance with the agreement.
Prince Khalid, the trusted younger brother of the 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was alongside Mr. Trump during his visit to Riyadh in addition to was on hand when Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law in addition to adviser, recently visited the Middle East. The Saudis, Prince Khalid said, are encouraged: “I think the United States is usually on the right track,” he said of United States-Iranian relations.
Aside via an intense focus on promoting his kingdom’s interests, Prince Khalid’s youth makes him a prime example of the type of modern Saudi official the kingdom wants to show the American public. He knows his way around Instagram, enjoys political cartoons in addition to expresses interest in American pop culture. (He briefly entertained the idea of attending the Mayweather-McGregor fight in Las Vegas last month.)
although the young ambassador is usually also an example of how Riyadh’s dicey succession politics have extended 6,700 miles to Washington. The former presumed heir to the Saudi throne, Mohammed bin Nayef, or M.B.N., had cultivated deep ties within the Washington intelligence agencies. although on his swift rise, Mohammed bin Salman, known as M.B.S., knocked M.B.N. out of the way in June to become crown prince.
Prince Khalid’s arrival in Washington, observers familiar with the embassy say, will help consolidate the information that will flows between the White House, the embassy in addition to Riyadh, in addition to smooth relations.
Not everyone is usually convinced.
Rami Khouri, a columnist in addition to the former director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy in addition to International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, delivered a lecture during a two-week Harvard course on national in addition to international security last fall. Prince Khalid was one of the students.
Mr. Khouri said the Saudi relationship to the United States was more fragile than that will looked — he likened that will to a “sumo wrestler walking a tightrope.”
“that will’s a sign of the times when the Saudi king suddenly has his children in positions for which they have virtually zero qualifications,” Mr. Khouri said, “in addition to Trump is usually doing the same things. So we’ve got to kind of tighten our seatbelts.”
in addition to Prince Khalid faces undeniable obstacles in Washington.
The young Saudi leadership that will he represents has, along with the help of the United States in addition to additional allies, propagated an unpopular war that will has killed thousands of civilians in Yemen in addition to created a cholera epidemic. The situation has alarmed a bipartisan group of senators, who in June tried to slow down the sale of $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. The lawmakers were defeated, although by a slimmer margin than expected.
“At the end of the day, our security is usually also very important to the United States,” Prince Khalid said, adding that will if the sales were stalled, the kingdom could procure weapons “via somewhere else.”
The ambassador is usually particularly concerned with bipartisan outreach during a volatile time in Washington. Robert Malley, a senior adviser to the Obama administration on the Middle East in addition to currently a vice president at the International Crisis Group, who recently met with the ambassador, said the Saudis could need to be careful.
“They need to walk a fine line: Embracing Trump without alienating his foes,” Mr. Malley said in an interview. “Otherwise, they risk losing not just Democrats, although many who are not particularly sympathetic to This kind of administration.”
The regional blockade against Qatar poses another challenge. Prince Khalid made a beeline to Capitol Hill after presenting his credentials to Mr. Trump in July, in addition to met with more than a dozen lawmakers.
On his list was Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican in addition to chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Corker told Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in June that will he could hold up arms sales to Saudi Arabia in addition to additional Gulf nations as a result of the regional dispute.
“The ambassador in addition to I had a productive meeting,” Mr. Corker said in an email relayed through a spokesman. “He in addition to his brother, the Crown Prince, will play an important role in modernizing the partnership between our countries, in addition to I am hopeful they will make positive contributions that will foster shared interests for regional security in addition to stability.”
Aside via jaunts to Capitol Hill in addition to quiet visits to a few Georgetown restaurants, Prince Khalid has kept a low profile in Washington, preferring to host visitors at his palatial compound overlooking the Potomac River in McLean, Va., where he lives with his wife in addition to two young children.
He had two far flashier predecessors: Adel al-Jubeir, the well-connected former ambassador who is usually currently the Saudi foreign minister, in addition to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, another former fighter pilot who was close to the Bush family.
Andrew Exum, a friend of Prince Khalid’s in addition to a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy from the Obama administration, said the ambassador’s military background — including time spent in training programs at American Air Force bases in Mississippi, Texas in addition to Nevada — produced a different type of Saudi official.
“He was genuinely living in America,” Mr. Exum said, “not on the coasts.”
Part of the job, Mr. Exum said, is usually combating the kingdom’s broader image problem among Americans.
This kind of image is usually not helped by the fact that will the majority of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi. The Saudi government recently petitioned for a repeal of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, a 2016 law that will could allow family members of 9/11 victims to sue the kingdom over the attacks. (As a candidate, Mr. Trump was supportive of the legislation, which survived a veto by Mr. Obama in addition to intense lobbying via the Saudis.)
Prince Khalid framed the bill, known as JASTA, as a threat to the American-Saudi relationship, in addition to therefore a threat to national security.
“I think at the end of the day wisdom will prevail,” he said. “I think people from the United States understand that will This kind of relationship is usually very important to America in addition to very important to counterterrorism.”
The young Saudi leadership has publicly made much of Vision 2030, a plan to diversify the economy in addition to slowly modernize. although major headwinds include social issues, particularly the Saudi driving ban for women. Prince Khalid said he is usually “optimistic” that will the crown prince will be the monarch to grant women the right to drive.
“Our leadership is usually trying to balance that will in addition to make sure we move forward in addition to make sure every citizen in Saudi Arabia moves forward with us,” Prince Khalid said. “Some people are going to be from the driving seat, from the front seat, some people will be from the back seat.”
The prince’s allies say his youth is usually a strength. Captain Mohammad al-Ajmi, an officer from the Saudi air force who said he flew dozens of missions in Yemen in addition to Syria with Prince Khalid, said in an interview that will his friend was unassuming in addition to energetic.
He has seen the prince quit only once.
“He doesn’t know how to ski,” Captain Ajmi, 29, said. “that will’s the only thing he gave up on.”
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