By Natasha Bach
March 19, 2018

Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is U.S.-bound this week.

Starting in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—often referred to by his initials, MBS—is embarking on a two-week, coast-to-coast tour of the U.S. to meet with a variety of leaders from different industries.

Meeting with Trump officials

The crown prince will reportedly begin with a series of meetings on Tuesday with Trump administration officials, with whom he has developed close ties since Trump’s first visit to the kingdom in May of last year. According to reports, MBS will then visit centers of entertainment, finance, oil, and technology, stopping in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. MBS is scheduled to meet with heads of Apple, Google, and “top movie executives,” Bloomberg reports, to more firmly establish Saudi ties with these heads of industry.

Saudi Vision 2030 reforms

MBS’s visit is being called a “charm offensive,” with the dual purpose of more firmly establishing his hold on power as a purported reformer, while brushing over controversies at home.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman met with Trump last year.
NICHOLAS KAMM AFP/Getty Images

The crown prince, who assumed power in June last year after ousting his cousin who held the title, is the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the kingdom’s economy, decrease its reliance on oil, and develop public service sectors. But so far, things have not all gone as planned, with unemployment on the rise.

In November, MBS arrested hundreds of business elite, members of the royal family and government ministers under the pretense of a corruption purge. The New York Times later reported that close to a dozen of those detained were hospitalized for physical abuse and one died in custody. While some saw the crackdown as a reflection of MBS’s commitment to reform, it scared off others, deterring foreign investment in the country, which is central to the success of Vision 2030.

Saudi Aramco IPO

Perhaps most importantly, foreign investment will be critical for the planned IPO of part of Saudi Aramco, the national oil company. But last week, the date of the IPO was pushed back until at least 2019 after the company struggled to get the valuation it sought.

The crown prince has strived to construct a reformist image through a slew of significant social changes, including giving women the right to drive and the creation of cinemas for the first time in more than 30 years. His U.S. visit is seen as an overture to the U.S.; to convince American elite to embrace MBS’s reign and invest in the kingdom’s on-going initiatives.

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