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Saudi crown prince capitalizes on photo ops in Asia

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's walk on the Great Wall of China, visits to Pakistan and India and the appointment of a Saudi princess as ambassador to Washington distract attention from the Khashoggi killing and the war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RC1FF5346100

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman completed his reduced trip to Asia last week with an array of carefully staged photo opportunities to show he is still a credible figure on the world stage. His hosts — Pakistan, India and China — avoided awkward issues such as the premeditated murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen. In turn the crown prince promised huge investments and warm diplomatic support.

The principal goal of the trip was to restore the crown prince’s tarnished image and convince his Saudi audiences that he is still accepted internationally. The trip got off to an awkward start. First his arrival in Islamabad was delayed a day with no explanation provided as to why. Then two stops, Indonesia and Malaysia, were suddenly canceled, again without any explanation. Given that royal visits are carefully choreographed well in advance, the schedule changes suggest concerns that security issues arose, including fear of hostile demonstrations.

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