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Saudi Crown Prince visit to US enhances relationship, cooperation

By Aaron Kassraie

WASHINGTON, March 18 (KUNA) -- US President Donald Trump's meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud comes at a time when both countries have interest in continuing coordination on many regional issues, especially in Yemen, Syria and Iran.
The meeting is scheduled for March 20, to which Trump "looks forward to discussing way to strengthen ties between the United State and Saudi Arabia and to advance out common security and economic priorities," White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said.
This is Prince Mohammad Bin Salman's first visit to the White House as Crown Prince. He was last in Washington in March 2017 as then-Deputy Crown Prince. The trip is scheduled to run through April 8 and includes stops in multiple cities. It will be an opportunity for "personal outreach to the US public and opinion makers," according to a report.
Following Trump's trip to Riyadh last May "the optics and atmospherics of the relationship were greatly repaired" and "now both sides have made it clear that they like, trust and respect each other," Senior Resident Scholar, Dr. Hussein Ibish of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington told KUNA.
Dr. Imad Harb, Director of Research and Analysis at Arab Center echoed to KUNA "the relationship is based on military and security arrangements and coordination except the (US) administration does not speak with one voice with what's going on." In addition to coordinating on issues in the region, the visit will also seek to find if Washington can populate Riyadh's new nuclear energy program with American goods and services, Ibish highlighted.
He said, "We are moving into the area of give-and-take, rather than reassurance and goodwill. That is a great opportunity for partners to come closer together, but it also has the potential to highlight any disagreements that may exist or suddenly emerge.
"The Trump Administration and the Saudi government, particularly the King and the Crown Prince, have no doubt left about their commitment to a strong US-Saudi relationship... it has been transactional, and based on mutual interests rather than shared values. But the partnership has been enduring because, each for its own reasons, Washington and Riyadh broadly share the same regional goals," Ibish said.
The US and Saudi Arabia underwent "mistrust and misunderstanding" during President Barack Obama's second term due to Obama's outreach to Iran, yet the countries "always return to each other because they are two of the most important countries with an unshakable interest in maintaining and preserving the regional order," Ibish noted.
The frayed relationship under Obama "has been effectively repaired. But now the administration in Washington and the Crown Prince... will be seeking to move beyond reacquaintance, reassurance, and optics to the territory of practical give-and-take. That can certainly bring partners closer together," he highlighted.
Looking forward, Ibish highlighted that "this is something of a heyday for US-Saudi relations. There will be ups and downs, as we have seen. But as long as the core interests remain operative for both countries, Washington and Riyadh will have little choice but to rely on each other as key partners". (end) ak.hb