New York Times Columnist and bestselling author Tom Friedman met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia for a second time in three years to speak with the powerful and young leader about the ongoing Vision 2030 social and economic reform plans as well as ongoing regional and security issues facing the Kingdom. Friedman’s column, published Thanksgiving day, praised the audacity and energy behind the reforms of the Crown Prince, calling the ongoing developments in Saudi Arabia the Kingdom’s “Arab Spring, at last.”
“Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it,” Friedman wrote. “…So many of these reforms were so long overdue it’s ridiculous. Better late than never, though.”
Friedman met with the Crown Prince at his family’s “ornate adobe-walled palace in Ouja, north of Riyadh” and noted that “M.B.S. spoke in English, while his brother, Prince Khalid, the new Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and several senior ministers shared different lamb dishes and spiced the conversation.”
Friedman discussed the recent anti-corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia, Islam, Iran, and regional affairs. The Prince did not discuss the situation in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia now has “a young leader who is driving religious and economic reform, who talks the language of high tech, and whose biggest sin may be that he wants to go too fast,” Friedman wrote. “Most ministers are now in their 40s — and not 60s. And with the suffocating hand of a puritanical Islam being lifted, it’s giving them a chance to think afresh about their country and their identity as Saudis.”
The broadly positive article was welcomed by many Saudis on Twitter, but it was also met with widespread criticism. Searching for “Friedman Saudi” elicits the top comments about the story, all which are negative. Twitter users and journalists are decrying what they see as a one-sided piece that dispenses with any criticism of the Kingdom.