When President Trump hosted Mohammad bin Salman, the 31-year-old son of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, at the White House in March for a formal luncheon, it was considered an unusual diplomatic move.
Saudi King Salman, who is 81, is reportedly in declining health and there was a power struggle between his son and the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef.
At the time of the luncheon, Politico published an article titled, “Trump Drawn into Saudi Game of Thrones,” which speculated whether Trump crossed a political line during the meeting.
“I don’t think that was necessarily his intention,” said Joseph W. Westphal, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Obama. “He is new at all of this, and I think he was probably trying to signal a warm welcome, but it was unusual and it could definitely signal to people back in Saudi Arabia that there is an effort being made there.”
Whatever Trump’s intent, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced Wednesday that his son as his heir-apparent, and removed bin Nayef—his son’s former rival—from his position of counter-terrorism chief.
Analysts view the move by the royal family as an attempt to develop a solid relationship with Trump following tumultuous years with the Obama administration with whom they disagreed on major issues including the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran.
During their luncheon in March, Trump and Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly discussed a number of issues and agreed that Iran poses a major threat to both Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Following the luncheon, a senior advisor to the prince called the meeting a “turning point in relations between both countries.”
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