Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on April 19, 2017, in Riyadh. Photo: Jonathan Ernst via Getty Images

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has inspired optimism in Washington with major initiatives — allowing women to drive, reining in the religious police and formulating a vision for economic reform.

Yes, but: Even after these first breaths of fresh air, hopes for the autocracy to transform overnight remain mistaken.

Here's what not to expect from the crown prince's U.S. trip:

  1. The U.S.–Saudi relationship to shift from largely transactional to durable and strategic. While the Saudis share the U.S.'s interest in countering Iran and eliminating Sunni terror threats, some Americans will remain concerned about Saudi support for radical interpretations of Islam. The continued jailing of Saudis who criticize the crown prince's policies will also not endear the country to the U.S. Meanwhile, one of the traditional pillars of the U.S.–Saudi bargain — keeping oil prices low — is crumbling, as U.S. companies fracking in the Permian Basin want prices to climb as high as they will go.
  2. The prince's pitch for more foreign investment in Saudi Arabia to gain much immediate traction. Even if he had not incarcerated and abused hundreds of businessmen, no single Saudi leader can create a business climate that is transparent and based on rule of law.
  3. This inexperienced prince to offer a clear vision of a stable, let alone peaceful, Middle East. There is no justification for the Saudi direction in and continued toleration of the humanitarian nightmare in Yemen. Saudi attempts to project leadership in other countries, from Egypt to Lebanon, have been ineffectual.

The bottom line: It is encouraging to see the Saudi heir promoting reforms for his country. But finding ways to support those reforms without offering unquestioning support must remain the U.S. objective.

Richard LeBaron is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait and deputy chief of mission in Tel Aviv.

Go deeper: Read more at the Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist blog.

Go deeper

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed 46,600 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

Some 18,700 firefighters are battling 27 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: 8,155 wildfires have burned across a record 3.86 million acres, killing 26 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California in per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly fires of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 33,560,877 — Total deaths: 1,006,564 — Total recoveries: 23,297,593Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 7,190,036 — Total deaths: 205,974— Total recoveries: 2,809,674 — Total tests: 103,155,189Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. Politics: 7 former FDA commissioners say Trump is undermining agency's credibility
  5. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  6. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  7. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.
  8. Work: United States of burnout — Asian American unemployment spikes amid pandemic
Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The first Trump v. Biden presidential debate was a hot mess

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This debate was like the country: Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening. Nothing is learned. It’s a mess.

  • We were told President Trump would be savage. Turned out, that was a gross understatement. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, got bulldozed.

Why it matters: Honestly, who the hell knows?

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