Proposed US legislation unlikely to affect Saudi ability to pursue Yemen campaign or crown prince’s domestic position

30 November 2018

US President Donald Trump holds up a chart of military hardware sales as he meets with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Washington on 20 March. Source: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Saudi senior royals have not demonstrated an ability to reduce the influence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS); King Salman has continued backing his son.
  • Proposed US congressional legislation on Yemen, even if passed, is unlikely to impact on Saudi Arabia's ability to pursue the war in Yemen due to available Egyptian, Emerati, and Israeli support.
  • With foreign support and internal stability maintained, it appears MBS and King Salman have weathered the storm that followed Jamal Khashoggi's killing, reducing the immediate likelihood of MBS's removal.


Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 28 November to attend the annual G20 summit.

The decision of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to attend the G20 summit in Buenos Aires and, immediately before that, make a series of visits to friendly Arab states is evidence that he considers his personal position secure following the acknowledgement that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on 2 October. According to US news reports, the CIA had assessed with a high degree of confidence that the operation to kill Khashoggi was directed by MBS.

The crown prince's father, King Salman, has publicly backed MBS over recent weeks, and the royal family appears to have publicly accepted that MBS and his succession cannot be challenged without seriously disrupting the internal stability of the family and, by extension, the state. In November, King Salman embarked on a tour of Saudi provinces, including the extremely conservative al-Qassim, accompanied by MBS. Such a tour serves as an opportunity to dispense patronage to tribal elites and initiate development and investment projects. It also represents an expression of confidence in MBS and the line of succession. During the king's annual address to the Shura Council on 19 November, the Khashoggi murder was not mentioned, but MBS's handling of the economy was praised.

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