Friday, 1 July, 2022

Biden coup buoys Saudi crown prince after five years at helm

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has long been sidelined on the world stage but as he prepares to mark five years as de facto leader, he is finally coming in from the cold.

Next month's visit by US President Joe Biden will complete the international rehabilitation of the 36-year-old prince, who was widely reviled over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden's trip -- after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent oil prices soaring, piling on economic pain -- follows visits by the leaders of France, Britain and Turkey.

It represents an unqualified victory for Prince Mohammed, who has led his country on a rollercoaster ride since being named the heir of his father King Salman, 86, on June 21, 2017.

 In his time as unofficial ruler of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter and the home of Islam's two holiest sites, "MBS" has liberalised many aspects of daily life while asserting stern control over others.

Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi, an insider turned critic, in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate in October 2018.

US intelligence concluded that Prince Mohammed "approved" an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, a charge he denies.

Following the visits by France's President Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the planned meeting with Biden is a major validation of Prince Mohammed.