Since Mohammed Bin Salman was named the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in June of 2017 – a move the Trump administration supported-- the country has seen vast social changes.
In February 2018, women were allowed enter the workforce a year after gaining the power to legally drive. American business, like World Wrestling Entertainment, came to the country.
But for all the social progress of Bin Salman’s “Vision 2030”, Saudi Arabia—still led by King Salman, with his son Bin Salman going from Defense Minister to First Deputy Prime Minister—has entangled itself in grave controversies.
In November, the CIA concluded that Bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey.
Khashoggi was an outspoken critic for Bin Salman’s controversial reform measures that mostly targeted wealthy Saudi businessmen. Bin Salman has been accused of forcing the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri when on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Hariri signed his resignation and was allowed to return to Lebanon, where it was annulled.
Bin Salman has been instrumental in military interventions in Syria and Yemen and reports say that had then-U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not intervened, Saudi Arabia may have taken military action against Qatar. Khashoggi had written critically about these actions before his death.
Just before Thanksgiving, President Donald Trump said: “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The 633-word statement was met with an angry and even dismayed response from inside and outside of the United States. Trump supporter South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham said: “The behavior of the crown prince — in multiple ways — has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic.”
Trump said his decision had nothing to do with his constant chiding of the journalism profession, who he refers to as “the enemy of the people.” He cited his “America first” policy as a reason to not condemn nor punish Saudi Arabia—who agreed to purchase weapons from the United States in 2017 and remains an important country in terms of American oil.
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The sixth of our 10 top stories of 2018 will post on Dec. 17.