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S. Rob Sobhani
What makes Mohammed bin Salman, the 37-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia, tick is a question of paramount importance for American foreign policy.
More than ever, the U.S. needs partners as it navigates challenges, from Russia, China and Iran to responding intelligently and constructively to cross-border pandemics, global supply chain constraints and the recent rise of artificial intelligence as the fourth industrial revolution.
If Washington extends a respectful and genuine hand of cooperation to the energetic and forward-thinking Saudi crown prince, it will have no better friend than Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely known as MBS, on the global stage.
Understanding what motivates MBS is the starting point of how Washington should deal with a leader who will play a consequential role on the global stage for years to come. The crown prince is leading an unprecedented and groundbreaking set of reforms that are transforming the most consequential country for global energy security. As former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has correctly stated, Crown Prince Mohammed is an important partner of the United States.
One thing that make MBS tick is his love for and pride in Saudi Arabia and its people. This explains why he is determined to catapult his country into a trillion-dollar economic powerhouse so that the prosperity of his citizens can be guaranteed. This admiration runs both ways. Whether one speaks with Saudis in the old Riyadh neighborhood of al-Khalidiyyah or to Saudi Uber drivers or Saudi artists at the upscale Via Riyadh mall, they have nothing but praise and love for the crown prince. The message is clear: Washington is dealing with a popular leader who has developed a deep bond with his youthful nation.
A second motivation for MBS is his deep desire to leave a legacy for his country. With a population of 60% under 30, Crown Prince Mohammed is on a mission to lay a foundation for the next generation of Saudis. For example, his bold decision to plant billions of trees across the kingdom demonstrates his understanding of the intersection between enhanced health outcomes and tree planting. Washington must extend a hand to help MBS with his efforts to leave a legacy for his people.
The third motivating factor for the crown prince is to make his nation a force for positive change on the global stage. From addressing global food insecurity to conflict resolution, Crown Prince Mohammed wants Saudi Arabia to play a more active and positive role. This impulse to tackle global challenges provides Washington with a unique opportunity to address conflicts in such theaters as Ukraine and Sudan. Indeed, the energetic leader of Saudi Arabia can become a true partner of the U.S. for global conflict resolution.
An unwavering commitment to empowering the talented women of Saudi Arabia is another major motivation of MBS. It is truly incredible to meet so many Saudi women in the workforce, all of whom are playing a significant role in helping Saudi Arabia become a $1 trillion economy.
No one better symbolizes Crown Prince Mohammed’s vision for the empowerment of Saudi women than HRH Ambassador Reema, the American-educated Saudi ambassador to the U.S. This intelligent, energetic and approachable diplomat symbolizes what I call the “New Saudi Renaissance.” Princess Reema’s genuine desire to reorient U.S.-Saudi relations on a new paradigm of jointly addressing global challenges such as climate change, food security, female empowerment, and poverty should be embraced by American policymakers.
A fifth factor that makes MBS tick is innovation, and more specifically, leveraging technology for the common good. He loves creativity, and this enthusiasm comes across when one speaks with Saudi scientists and their desire to use AI for better global health outcomes. Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Albert Einstein, says that we must tie AI to humanity, which is precisely what MBS wants to do. Indeed, AI represents the fourth industrial revolution. Now is the time to embrace this impulse for innovation, because a partnership between Saudi Arabia and America to deliver responsible and ethical AI for the benefit of humanity represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The United States has two immediate occasions to open a new chapter in U.S.-Saudi relations based on the positive impulses of its visionary crown prince. First is this week’s trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Riyadh. By showing genuine respect for Crown Prince Mohammed’s motivations to elevate his nation as a force for global good, Mr. Blinken can enhance American national security. Second is for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to invite the crown prince to address a joint session of Congress and to give this young leader of one of the most important countries in the world the opportunity to share his vision with the American people.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is motivated by positive impulses to create a “New Saudi Renaissance.” By showing genuine enthusiasm for what makes him tick, the U.S. can find no better partner to address global challenges than Mohammed bin Salman.
Source: Washington Times
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