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The New Arab

O no! Controversial Saudi crown prince to meet US icon Oprah

MBS is on a tour of the US [Getty/TNA composite]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2018

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A leaked copy of Mohammed bin Salman's US itinerary suggests the Saudi crown prince is due to meet American television icon Oprah Winfrey.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is due to meet American icon Oprah Winfrey, leaked documents showed, as the young official attempts to woo US politicians and celebrities during his much-hyped US tour.

Mohammed bin Salman [MBS] will meet the television host, as well as a range of other opinion makers, including figures in politics, business, oil, entertainment and tech, during his trip around the US, according a leaked copy of his itinerary seen by The Independent.

“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 Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies told the newspaper.

“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.”

The young prince is currently on his maiden voyage to the US in the capacity as Saudi Arabia's de facto king where he is charming influential figures in an attempt to rebrand the kingdom to appeal to its leaders and locals.

Last week, the crown prince appeared on CBS’ '60 Minutes' with Norah O’Donnell where he boasted of his wealth and magnanimity.

Despite calling himself the "new sheriff in town" - in reference to his alleged anti-corruption drive - MbS told a very friendly O'Donnell that his half-a-billion-dollar yacht, French chateau, and reported 9-figure purchase of a Da Vinci painting were his own business. 

"My personal life is something I'd like to keep to myself and I don't try to draw attention to it. If some newspapers want to point something out about it, that's up to them. As far as my private expenses, I'm a rich person and not a poor person," he said.

"I'm not [Mahatma] Gandhi or [Nelson] Mandela. I'm a member of the ruling family... We own very large lots of land," he added.

Among those who due to meet the crown prince were Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, as well as directors of Facebook, Uber, Google and others.

Billboard campaigns, Snapchat filters and glossy magazine covers accompanied the prince during his tour, with an issue dubbed "The New Kingdom”, that attempted to give readers a glimpse "inside Saudi Arabia", glorifying "Saudi Vision 2030" and extolling the virtues of the revolutionised nation under the leadership of "the most influential Arab leader" who is pretty busy "transforming the world at the 32". 

But despite the millions spent on the his multiple PR campaigns, the prince, who also serves as the kingdom’s minister of defence, has faced years of criticism from international rights organisations for his deadly war on Yemen, and in October the UN placed the Saudi-led coalition on a "blacklist" for killing and maiming children.

MBS spearheaded the war in March 2015 to push back Houthi rebels and help reinstate the internationally-recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, but three years on, the conflict has remained at a stalemate. 

More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war that has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the UN.

Some 22.2 million people are in need of aid, there is a growing risk of famine and a severe outbreak of cholera.

Riyadh insists the coalition respects its obligations under international humanitarian law, despite global condemnation.

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