Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, or MBS as he is known, became king last year and deputy crown prince in 2014. When he proposed to his wife, an American named Amal, in 2004, her reaction was immediate. Amal was “worried that the Saudi prince was gay,” her father told the Washington Post a few years later. The prince apologized for the awkward revelation.
He soon proposed another proposal: marriage to her.
Princess Amal, his second wife, has joined the list of royals in the region who have not gone quietly about the country’s preoccupation with gender equality. It is hard to take the claim of women’s rights seriously in Saudi Arabia. Even the king, the crown prince’s elder brother, made a point of reading a speech accepting awards from Danish women, women who have known all too well how barriers have worked to block their own progress. But Amal, who has pushed against even this line of thought, speaking out regularly about the society’s suffocating treatment of women, has been rewarded by a country in the midst of a radical cultural and economic transformation.
She has travelled to Washington to meet with senior administration officials, most recently meeting with Jared Kushner — whom Saudi authorities have accused of dealing money to militants in the past. Kushner, who was born in Saudi Arabia and has relatives there, has often sought to bolster the kingdom’s position on the world stage. Just this week, he joined President Trump in launching an air campaign in Yemen.
The crown prince’s trip to Washington has given Western reporters a rare glimpse into the state of the United States’ Middle East allies. But the treatment of women from other Arab nations, as well as those not on the president’s trips, is still far less clear. Even if Amal were to meet Jared Kushner — whose brother, Joshua, is an adviser to the Saudi king — she would be doing so with a daughter standing nearby.
The United States is no longer the reliable ally it once was. The U.S. may welcome the view that the US-Saudi relationship is being radically reset. The prince may want to be known as more than a modernizer, but there is also a strong opportunity to be a salesman.