President Donald Trump will host visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington on March 20 at the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday, noting that the president “looks forward to strengthening ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
Prince Mohammed will arrive to a tumultuous time in Washington, especially in the foreign policy sphere. President Trump this morning fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has served in Trump’s cabinet since the beginning of his administration.
Secretary Tillerson’s first public speech was given at the U.S.-Saudi CEO Summit in Washington, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, SUSTG, and the Saudi Committee for International Trade (CIT).
Tillerson is being replaced by Mike Pompeo, Trump’s head of the CIA.
According to reports, tension between Trump and Tillerson has simmered for many months, but the president and his top diplomat reached a breaking point over the past week. Per the Washington Post, [T]he reason for the latest rift was unclear, but Trump and Tillerson have often appeared at odds over policies such as the nuclear deal with Iran and the tone of U.S. diplomacy. A spokesman for Tillerson said the secretary of state ‘had every intention of staying’ in his job and was ‘unaware of the reason’ for his firing.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also arrive to a Washington with a chilly reception from Capitol Hill. Congress is frustrated over Saudi Arabia’s handling of the Yemen operation, now in its third year, as the situation there continues to worsen by virtually any measurement. Several senators are pushing for a floor vote on a bill under the War Powers Act that would require the withdrawal of U.S. forces from “hostilities” in Yemen, according to the Post.
But despite the turmoil in Washington, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit will mark the 75th anniversary of the U.S.-Saudi “special relationship” that has survived through many ups and downs.