Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been on an Arab tour before he attends the Group of 20 summits in Argentina on Friday, where he faces globe leaders who have strongly condemned Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Once feted on the world stage, Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince faces the cool shoulder abroad mainly because he struggles to shrug off the lingering stigma of a crucial journalist’s murder.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been on an Arab tour before he attends the Band of 20 summits in Argentina on Fri, where he faces globe leaders who’ve strongly condemned Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last month in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
The country’s de facto ruler has brushed aside the international pressure, wanting to utilize the overseas visits — accompanied by a whirlwind domestic tour — to shore up his tarnished reputation and reinforce relationships with allies.
“The question is who among global leaders will consent to stand with him publicly,” said H.A. Hellyer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Solutions Institute in London.
“I suspect his appearances will end up being carefully staged in order to avoid embarrassment.”
The prince faces the grim prospect to be treated as an “outcast” by some leaders at the two-day G-20 summit, said Bessma Momani, a professor at Canada’s University of Waterloo.
“Group photos could be unavoidable, but liberal democratic leaders from countries such as Germany and Canada won’t wish to be seen shaking his hands,” Momani said.
Past Spanish King Juan Carlos faced scathing household criticism over his handshake with the prince in Abu Dhabi, his first stay in a regional tour which also included close allies Bahrain and Egypt along with Tunisia.
A graphic of the laughter-packed encounter at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last Sunday was dubbed by a conservative Spanish daily as “the picture of shame”.
However, the 33-year-old prince, well known as MBS, used the regional tour as something of a triumph lap after US President Donald Trump — who has praised Saudi Arabia as a “truly spectacular ally” — threw his weight behind him.
Trump’s emphatic support came regardless of the Central Cleverness Agency’s reported evaluation that the prince — who controls all main levers of power in the Saudi federal government — was behind the killing.
“It will come as no real surprise that allies like Trump, China’s Xi (Jinping) and Russia’s (Vladimir) Putin could have zero qualms in signalling they are absolutely good to continue employing MBS,” said Momani.
However, many officials in the prince’s entourage are bracing for a frosty reception at the G-20 summit.
Prior to the prince’s visit, Human being Rights View urged Argentine prosecutors to consider getting criminal costs against Prince Mohammed more than alleged battle crimes in a brutal Saudi-led war in Yemen and his possible complicity in Khashoggi’s murder.
It had been unclear whether Argentine prosecutors would take action on the request.
Trump also faces developing pressure from US lawmakers, a few of whom are demanding a probe into his financial ties to determine if the president offers any vested curiosity in backing the kingdom.
US Secretary of Condition Mike Pompeo and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis were to short American senators Wednesday on Saudi Arabia amid mounting bipartisan concern about the kingdom.
The prince’s supporters fear that world leaders could leverage his weakened international position to get concessions from the kingdom, since it struggles with a slump in oil prices.
The prince is likely to meet up with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has kept international pressure installation on the kingdom by saying the orders for Khashoggi’s killing originated from “the highest amounts” of the Saudi government.
“In the case Erdogan meets with MBS about the sidelines of G-20, it’ll be indicative that some kind of an offer has been reached, that could consist of Gulf reconciliation and cement steps about how to wind straight down the battle in Yemen,” stated Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst located in Washington.
“Nevertheless, a potential Saudi-Turkish deal is unlikely to shield MBS from US Congressional investigations in to the Khashoggi murder.”
‘He’s here to stay’
In a foretaste of anticipated acrimony at G-20, the prince faced a huge selection of protesters Tuesday throughout a brief stopover in Tunisia, with many shouting “Disappear completely assassin!” plus some clutching red-stained chain saws — a mention of Khashoggi’s gruesome murder.
The hostility stands in stark contrast to the prince’s month-very long tour of america earlier this season, where he received something of a rockstar reception and hobnobbed with business titans such as for example Disney chief Bob Iger and Apple’s Tim Make.
In PR-slicked promotions, the crown prince had marketed himself as a liberaliser wanting to remake his conservative petro-state, while amassing capacity to a level unseen by earlier rulers.
The global fallout over the eliminating of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the prince, seems to have torpedoed that effort.
But it hasn’t up to now has threatened to unseat the prince amid his tightening grasp on military and protection companies and a ruthless crackdown on political rivals.
The prince’s supporters say the actual fact that he stepped out from the kingdom amid a crisis can be an indication that he’s firmly in control.
“The prince is wanting showing his domestic and international audience that he’s departing the palace and confident he’ll go back to control it,” said Momani.
“He wants to display he’s here to remain for decades as another ruler of Saudi Arabia.”