The attempts of Qataris, Iranians and their followers, whether those who oppose Saudi Arabia or remnants of the left-wing, failed at thwarting Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to Britain as crown prince and of distorting his political and social project. Most politicians and media figures who are interested in Middle Eastern affairs frankly voiced their admiration of his character and projects, expressing positive views.
The first to voice this opinion was Boris Johnson, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In an article published in the Times, he clearly said that the world, and not only Britain, must support Prince Mohammed bin Salman because his project concerns everyone.
Most parliament members’ and government officials’ comments were in support of Saudi Arabia – I haven’t said “opposed Qatar” because this issue wasn’t even part of the discussionsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Meanwhile, what do Sheikh Tamim and his father, the real governor of Qatar, do besides spending their day thinking about how to make their football team, Paris Saint-Germain, succeed or working on distorting the image of the Saudi guest? Doha’s alternative project to Riyadh’s aims to promote the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and other groups that corrupted the region ever since extremist Islamists seized power in Iran in 1979.
Britain, which is used to having reservations, being monotonous and avoiding the adoption of strong stances, was quick and frank while positively and enthusiastically welcoming the Saudi crown prince. Most dailies and political television shows positively spoke about the visit. Most parliament members’ and government officials’ comments were in support of Saudi Arabia – I haven’t said “opposed Qatar” because this issue wasn’t even part of the discussions.
The British government frankly said it supports Saudi Arabia’s stance in Yemen despite the opposition of some organizations and groups affiliated with Qatar and Iran. Britain even took a stance in support of Riyadh against Tehran’s government and its dangerous regional activities. A week before the crown prince’s visit, it was Britain that led talks at the UN Security Council and sought to condemn Iran for its military support of the Houthis and supply of ballistic missiles. Russia, however, vetoed the resolution to call out Iran over Yemen.
Attempts to ruin good relations
The significance of the crown prince’s visit is that it comes within the context of supporting the Saudi stance and its allies after strenuous attempts to turn Europe’s, and particularly Britain’s, stance against the kingdom. The entire war in Yemen was summed up in humanitarian affairs without taking into consideration that the root of the crisis, the suffering and the problem is the coup on the legitimate government, which was established via the UN Security Council resolutions that opted to sponsor a political solution in the country. Britain, however, did not accept the idea of overlooking the source of the crisis, i.e. the coup and the fact that those who staged the coup have taken Yemen hostage till this day.
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Prince Mohammed bin Salman is aware of the dimensions of the Yemeni affair and its significance, and he’s right to support the legitimate government and the Yemeni people because the collapse of Yemen will mean the collapse of whatever is left of the region and the spread of violence and chaos. The aim is to eliminate the state of Ansar Allah, the state of the Houthi, so no terror group can control Yemen with the power of arms. If this scenario happens, the scope of violence will expand in the region.
For three days, which was the duration of the official visit, those who oppose Saudi Arabia tried to turn London into an arena to confront and defy the crown prince. However, these attempts – including ones to make the issue of Yemen’s war fill British streets after the government refused to listen to them – did not succeed. Most discussions and reactions tackled the crown prince’s programs towards openness, empowering women and youth, combating extremism and reforming the economy within the framework of the new vision.
The visit strengthened Riyadh as a significant regional player and leader of positive change. The world wants to see a quick march towards moderation, tolerance, co-existence and the elimination of extremism. Riyadh here has an important role which has just begun.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.