U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Saudi Arabia’s powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House on March 14, for talks expected to focus on the economy and rolling back Iranian influence.
Trump welcomed the young prince to the Oval Office, as both countries expect to improve ties that were frequently strained under Barack Obama’s administration.
Saudi Arabia is likely to welcome Trump’s harder line on its arch-rival Iran
and there is likely to be less friction over Riyadh’s war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia viewed Obama as being too accommodating towards Iran
- particularly amid negotiations on a nuclear deal - while Washington held grave misgivings about civilian deaths in Yemen.
Trump’s 50-plus days in office have given little indication about his stance on Saudi Arabia’s war, but have seen a dramatic uptick in U.S. action against al-Qaeda’s Yemen offshoot, AQAP.
Second in line to the throne, Prince Mohammed is the son of King Salman and holds the post of defense minister, although much of his focus is on economic issues.
Trump has expressed hope that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies can be helpful across a range of issues, from creating safe zones in Syria to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Riyadh is also seen by the White House as pivotal in any effort to constrain Iran’s influence across the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Dozens of women staged a sit-in outside U.N. offices in Yemen’s capital on March 14 demanding an end to the country’s war that has left millions displaced and at risk of famine.
Girls and women of all ages carried the red, white and black Yemeni flag as they sang the national anthem, some with their babies wrapped in the flag or sporting nails painted in national colors.
“We are here to speak for the women of Yemen who are calling for peace - true peace, peace for us and our children,” read a statement in Arabic distributed by protesters at the sit-in, which is scheduled to last three days.
“We watch as our families are rendered homeless, our men are murdered, our homes destroyed and our children’s futures are lost before our very eyes,” it added.
“We watch as our society is destroyed, as most of our people are driven below the poverty line.”
Women at the sit-in carried signs calling for the lifting of an air and naval blockade imposed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition on areas controlled by anti-government rebels in Yemen.
Other signs demanded the UN press Saudi Arabia and its allies to allow the delivery of food and medical aid into Yemen, which U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien has described as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”