WASHINGTON — When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meets with President Trump, administration officials and congressional leaders this week, he'll be gently nudged to do more to help end the civil war in Yemen that's contributed to an international humanitarian crisis.Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Tolga Akmen, AFP/Getty Images
Outside, the reception will be less cordial as protesters are expected to gather outside several venues, including the White House on Tuesday when he meets with the president, hoping to loudly dispel the notion that the heir to the Saudi throne is interested in a just and sustainable peace.
That's not to say that the relationship between the U.S. and one of its most reliable allies in the Middle East is in danger of fraying.
The trip Trump made to Riyadh in May — his first foreign visit as commander in chief — was a "high point" of his first year in office said a senior administration official who called Saudi Arabia "a key partner and long-time friend of the United States."
And the president tweeted in November that he has "great confidence" in Salman and his father the king that "they know exactly what they are doing ..."
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
Trump's meeting Tuesday with the crown prince is being billed by the official as a way to make progress on multiple issues, including ways of combating Iran's influence in the region, Russia's role in supporting the Assad regime's atrocities in Syria, and the threat of increased attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the details of the meeting.
But it will also include a push to solve the civil war in Yemen, where three years of conflict between Saudi-backed government forces and Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis have turned Yemen into what the United Nations is calling "the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time." Three of every four Yemenis need humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in acute need who urgently require assistance to survive, according to the U.N.
Salman has defended Saudi bombings in Yemen that have killed thousands of people, telling CBS’s 60 Minutes in an interview that aired Sunday that Houthis have attacked Saudi Arabia, including a December ballistic missile attack at the al-Yamama royal palace in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The Saudi-led coalition forces said it intercepted the ballistic missile south of the capital before it could inflict casualties.
The United States will keep helping Saudi Arabia with legitimate defense needs, the official said, but the Trump administration also wants to end the fighting and find a political answer to the grievances of the Yemeni people.
The U.S. has an interwoven economic relationship with its ally in the Middle East.
Over past nine months, Congress has approved more than $54 billion in arm sales to Saudi Arabia. In addition, the kingdom is the third largest source of foreign direct investment from the Middle East (behind Israel and the United Arab Emirates) with $12.3 billion in 2016 which supports more than 10,000 U.S. jobs. One reason Salman is coming to the U.S. is to advocate for $35 billion in commercial deals with U.S. companies that would support another 120,000 U.S. jobs.
Salman, also known by his initials MBS, is the son of King Salman, 82, who named him next in line for the throne in June, replacing the monarch's nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was implicated in a wide-ranging corruption purge.
The young prince Salman is largely celebrated by younger Saudis but is regarded with suspicion by older conservatives. He has been criticized for detaining dissenters and for his country's involvement in the three-year-old war in Yemen that the United Nations says has killed at least 10,000 people.
The prince oversees defense and the economy and has pledged to reduce his country’s reliance on oil through diversification, including partially privatizing Saudi Aramco, the state oil company. Last year, he said Saudi Arabia will return to a “moderate Islam ... open to all religions and to the world” from the conservative version imposed in the wake of the revolution in Iran in 1979.
Salman was influential in the kingdom announcement in September that Saudi women will legally be allowed to drive starting in June. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not legally permitted to drive. The prince is also pushing for women to play a larger role in the economy.
Don't be fooled, said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of the progressive anti-war group CODEPINK, which is planning protests outside several venues this week in Washington where Salman is expected to appear.
“Mohammed Bin Salman employs an army of lobbyists and PR firms to sell himself as a reformer when he is really a war criminal and a power-hungry thug whose ego rivals that of Donald Trump,” she said. “It is absurd that the US is in bed with this ‘prince’ who mercilessly bombs Yemen ... It is not a regime the United States should be arming and abetting.”
Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA TODAY
Source : https://www.khou.com/article/news/nation-now/trump-to-push-saudi-arabias-crown-prince-on-solution-to-civil-war-in-yemen/465-e34ed673-fb8e-476d-b7db-dbdf8fa2884d