Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visiting US

Posted at 10:17 PM, Mar 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-19 22:17:50-04

(CNN) - Saudi Arabia’s ambitious, cutthroat young heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, is set to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for a two-week tour of America.

The Saudi Crown Prince will meet with President Donald Trump and is also expected to meet with tech leaders during his stay. He has a grand plan to diversify the Saudi economy, known as Saudi Vision 2030, and reshape his society.

Popularly known by his initials, MBS, his plan aims to wean Saudi Arabia off oil and create the world's largest sovereign wealth fund.

Saudi Vision 2030 hinges in part on a successful, if slightly delayed, initial public offering for state oil behemoth Saudi Aramco.

A record $2 trillion valuation is the target - to create the world's most valuable company.

Stock exchanges in Hong Kong, London and New York are all rolling out the red carpet to win over Aramco, and the prince.

But the minister of energy said he has serious reservations about taking it public on Wall Street.

"I would say it is litigation and liabilities are a big concern in the U.S. We have seen five (international oil companies) being sued for frivolous climate change allegations,” said Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy, industry and mineral resources. “Quite frankly Aramco is too big and too valuable to the Kingdom to be subjected to that risk."

His young boss, bin Salman, is both eager to impress the global community and unsparing in his accumulation of power at home - one week welcoming international investors to the Ritz Carlton hotel, then turning the same gilded venue into a prison for Saudi billionaires.

The forceful crackdown on corruption took down investor prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the former head of the national guard, and scores of others. It also clawed back $100 billion for the state and consolidated bin Salman’s position atop the Saudi hierarchy.

Senior members of his team insist it was a necessary purge.

“The local community is extremely positive around the crackdown,” said Mohammed Al Tuwaijri, the Saudi minister of economy and planning. “Again, friends and investors of Saudi Arabia are talking positively about it. We owe the market some explanations and we're doing that."

Politically, MBS has forged a tight bond with Trump, nurtured by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has visited the Kingdom several times.

Saudi Arabia was the president's first overseas trip. He signed defense contracts worth over $100 billion. He topped it off with a famous photo-op with King Salman, bin Salman’s father, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, alongside a glowing orb.

Now with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out of the picture, MBS is also eager to advance his Middle East security priorities, notably the isolation of Iran.

And this is where strategists say the crown prince and the U.S. president can aim for complete alignment.

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