Saudi Arabia embraces change - and the United States can help

Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

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Seldom in human history do countries peacefully and voluntarily embark upon a resolute course correction to re-calibrate a national economy and expand societal norms - without comprising religious sensibilities. Yet that is precisely what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is attempting to do.

For decades, the Kingdom lived according to social and cultural norms that went unchallenged, thus inhibiting our progress. But our leaders have set a new course that aims to transform our economy and society, and unlock our untapped potential.

Two years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, working under the guidance of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, launched Vision 2030, a comprehensive plan for economic diversification as well as social and cultural reform. Young and dynamic, the Crown Prince - our chief reform architect - understands our largest demographic group, namely our youth.

Our old course was not sustainable, and change is now under way in virtually every aspect of society. We are expanding women's rights, improving services for Muslim pilgrims and investing in mega-projects across various industries.

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We are opening our country to tourism, creating a domestic entertainment industry and promoting Saudi heritage and culture. And we are also restructuring our healthcare and education systems. These are but a few of the reforms that have already been launched.

The United States will have a chance to acquaint itself with these reforms during Prince Mohammed's first official visit as the crown prince beginning Tuesday. His visit is intended to reinforce Saudi Arabia's already strong partnership with the United States, building on the 2017 Riyadh summit, which elevated our countries' relationship.

Our security cooperation includes shared efforts against terrorism, including intelligence sharing and joint counter-terrorism ventures

Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

Diversification strategy

But, the Crown Prince is not just here to talk politics; he is also here to talk business, specifically the bilateral investment opportunities made possible by his diversification strategy. The Crown Prince's multi-city tour will lay the ground work for King Salman's visit to the United States later this year.

Prince Mohammed is one of Saudi Arabia's top politicians, so he will come to Washington to meet with officials from the Trump administration, as well as congressional members from both sides of the aisle, which will fortify the long-standing relationship between our two countries.

The historic relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States stretches back decades, nurtured and safeguarded by both Democrats and Republicans. It was born in the aftermath of World War II, sustained during the Cold War and reinforced during Operation Desert Storm.

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Our security cooperation includes shared efforts against terrorism, including intelligence sharing and joint counter-terrorism ventures, such as the Global Center for Countering Extremist Ideology, or Etidal. On the educational front, thousands of Saudi students have studied in the United States over the decades.

Economically, Saudi businessmen have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in the United States, across various industries, including technology, real estate and infrastructure. As we do with every presidential administration, we are focused on maintaining our close working relationship.

Fighting extremism

The Trump administration has made tremendous achievements. President Donald Trump's decisions, particularly in the area of fighting extremism and pushing back on the malicious influence of Iran, are having an effect.

The Kingdom's leaders and the Trump administration continue to build and strengthen the framework of a bilateral relationship that facilitates inter-agency cooperation.

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We now see new chances for revitalizing the long-standing Saudi-US alliance. The Crown Prince will highlight this during his trip - especially in the area of business and investment opportunities - and expand the efforts that King Salman and Trump initiated last year in Riyadh.

The relationship today is stronger, deeper, and more multidimensional than ever, and it extends beyond the Oval Office, the halls of Congress, military bases and trading floors.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is reforming, and our dynamism will take the Saudi-US relationship to new heights. Both sides should seize the moment. We must take the opportunity to recommit ourselves to a cemented alliance with a proud legacy, but one that also looks to the future, sparks prosperity, unlocks the full potential of all Saudis and helps to stabilize a crucial region and the world.

This article was published in Sharq Al-Awsat.
Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz is the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. His twitter handle is @kbsalsaud.

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