WASHINGTON — Promoting the image of a new Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives Monday in Washington on a cross-country trip to court government officials, Silicon Valley technology companies, investors and one of his partners : President Donald Trump.
He is a prince on a mission and in a hurry.
The 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne already has curried favor with the Trump administration after taking out a number of his own corrupt family members, winning over the president, and played a key role in restoring the desert kingdom to favored-ally status after years of tension under President Barack Obama.
Trump made his first overseas trip as president to Saudi Arabia last year, where he and the Saudi king, the crown prince’s father, signed agreements to fight terrorism, to counter Riyadh’s regional rival Iran and to plan billions of dollars in business deals, most of which have yet to materialize.
Mohammed is keen to take the next step: attracting American investment, business and expertise in an attempt to diversify and modernize a sclerotic economy that historically has relied on oil and foreign guest workers. He is promoting a development plan he calls Saudi Vision 2030.
The White House meeting comes after Mohammed’s vow to acquire nuclear weapons if Tehran is allowed to build them. Iran’s nuclear program was largely dismantled under a 2015 agreement, but Trump has threatened to scrap the deal it unless Iran and other signatories agree to numerous revisions.
That has raised fears of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, already one of the world’s most volatile regions.