After meeting with President Donald Trump last week to reaffirm U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal assault on Yemen, crown prince and accused war criminal Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS, is continuing his “whitewash tour” across the country with “a who’s who of America’s rich and powerful.”
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“When you meet with Oprah, even if you’re not going to be interviewed, you’re seeking the approval of an opinion maker. You’re going into people’s homes and reaching deep into American culture.”
—Nader Hashemi, Middle East expert
A peek at the prince’s itinerary, leaked to The Independent on Wednesday, reveals meetings with top U.S. leaders in politics, media, and major industries—shedding light on the “full extent of the heir to the throne’s American charm offensive.”
From New York to the Silicon Valley, the prince’s coast-to-coast welcoming committee reportedly includes up to four previous presidents as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and several newspaper editorial boards.
“Saudi Arabia has always had a public image problem in the West because of the obvious things like women’s rights and beheadings,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told The Independent. “When you meet with Oprah, even if you’re not going to be interviewed, you’re seeking the approval of an opinion maker. You’re going into people’s homes and reaching deep into American culture.”
While America’s so-called A-listers have seemingly lined up to rub elbows with MbS, critics of the prince—and the war his nation is waging against one of the world’s poorest countries, causing a horrific humanitarian crisis—were less receptive to his supposed charm.
“If you didn’t know better, you would think Saudi Arabia is on a path to major reform,” warned Amnesty International on Thursday. “However, in the months since the crown prince’s appointment, we have seen little reason to believe that his overtures are anything more than a slick PR exercise. In fact, Saudi Arabia retains an atrocious human rights record and the situation has only deteriorated since the crown prince was appointed as official heir to the throne in June 2017.”
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During MbS’s tour of America, the public is being subjected to a full-blown public relations campaign, which has included an interview with CBS‘s “60 Minutes” that Mehdi Hasan, writing for The Intercept, described as “an infomercial for the Saudi regime” and “a crime against journalism.”
There is also a “nearly 100-page magazine published by Donald Trump’s allies at American Media Inc.,” which has infiltrated supermarket newsstands across the country.
The glossy magazine, as Spencer Ackerman writes for the Daily Beast, “Disneyfies Saudi Arabia as ‘the Magic Kingdom.’ It’s easily the most uncritical encomium to MBS since Thomas Friedman.”
The magazine, Ackerman notes, fails to mention “Saudi Arabia’s system of male guardianship, a literal patriarchal tool that requires male relatives to provide women ‘permission'” for daily activities, or the nation’s “massive number of executions, which are conducted by stoning and even Islamic State-like public beheadings.”
In addition to meetings with Trump and Oprah, MbS’s itinerary for the trip, according to The Independent, is as follows (emphasis added):