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."
"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.
MBS is the primary driver of this and he's doing selfies this week with Ari Emanuel and Tim Cook. Just so we're clear no one actually cares about human rights right? https://t.co/vbOK7xMsQS
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) March 28, 2018
"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."
#SaudiArabia had a few options:
Stop beheading people.
Stop lashing people.
Stop imprisoning human rights defenders.
Stop killing civilians in Yemen.
Or hire a PR agency.
Guess which they chose? https://t.co/lGf0azKtBl
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) March 29, 2018
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 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."
Gonna go out on a limb here and say that this little piece of progaganda fails to mention MBS’ direct role in causing the worst humanitarian crisis in the planet. Just a guess. #princeoffamine https://t.co/kH2zEJmpN3
— Stephen Miles (@SPMiles42) March 27, 2018
In addition to meetings with Trump and Oprah, MbS's itinerary for the trip, according to The Independent, is as follows (emphasis added):
On Tuesday alone in New York City, the prince is believed to have met with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, ex-president Bill and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, New York state senator Chuck Schumer, U.N. secretary general Antonio Guterres and businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Other notable media meetings include dinner with The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, Rupert Murdoch, the head of The Atlantic's editorial board Jeffrey Goldberg, meetings with the editorial boards of The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as interviews with Time and Vanity Fair.
Current government officials on MbS's schedule include CIA director (and nominee for new U.S. Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor and unofficial Middle East envoy Jared Kushner, national security adviser HR McMaster, and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
He is also meeting past luminaries such as Barack Obama, John Kerry, Gen. David Petraeus, and Condoleezza Rice, as well as paying a visit to George W. Bush's Texas ranch.
Other notable meets outside of politics include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Tim Cook of Apple, and the CEOs of Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Uber, the Walt Disney Company, and Lockheed Martin.