Stories by David Ottaway

Expert Voices

U.S.–Saudi relations are at their lowest point since 9/11

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, on October 16, 2018.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, on October 16, 2018. Photo: Leah Millis/AFP via Getty Images

By all current evidence, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal extrajudicial killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. His work as a Washington Post columnist shed international light on the repressive government of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS) — as, too, did his death.

The big picture: The basis of U.S.–Saudi relations has always been the personal relationship between the Saudi king and U.S. president. The Khashoggi affair has now put this foundation at stake: Trump and MBS face the worst crisis of confidence in the U.S.–Saudi relationship since the 9/11 terrorist attacks involving 15 Saudi nationals.

Expert Voices

Saudi crown prince's rebranding campaign hits roadblock with Trump

President Donald Trump meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office
President Trump holds up a chart of military hardware sales during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on March 20, 2018. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool via Getty Images

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has carried out the most extensive rebranding campaign ever by a Saudi royal. Since his appointment last June, he has presented Saudi Arabia as a modernizing kingdom eager to do business with Wall Street and Silicon Valley while becoming the United States' chief ally against Iranian expansionism.

Yes, but: President Trump has cast serious doubt over his own commitment to that vision, even before the crown prince ends his three-week, multi-city tour of the U.S.

Expert Voices

Uncertainty looms after Saudi crown prince’s purge

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, May 2017. Photo: Pavel Golovkin / AP

With the arrests of eleven princes and some 200 tycoons in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made clear that he will resort to any means necessary to solidify his ascent to power upon the death or abdication of his 81-year-old father, King Salman.

In the short term, this crackdown — especially the arrest of prince al-Waleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia's richest businessman with a net worth of nearly $19 billion — could dampen foreign investment interest in the crown prince's Vision 2030 initiative. The much-heralded program aims to to deliver economic growth by strengthening private companies outside the oil sector. Key to its success is the forthcoming sale on world stock exchanges of 5% of the gigantic state oil company, Aramco, which the crown prince hopes will produce $100 billion.

Other ripple effects could well threaten the House of Saud's stability for years to come. The arrest of Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, commander of the Saudi National Guard, signals further strain on the already enormous tensions and resentments within the royal family.

The bottom line:

There is no precedent in Saudi Arabia's history for the crown prince's sweeping purge, and other surprises will await the kingdom under a 32-year-old upstart prince of still unproven abilities.