"We are the oldest ally of America in the Middle East", Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US president Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday. The relationship between Washington and Riyadh, founded on mutual respect and shared interests, has served their two nations – and the Middle East and the world at large – well. Yet, despite its depth, the friendship has known its moments of stress and strain, most recently and acutely during the presidency of Barack Obama. The first objective of the visit by Prince Mohammed to the US – the first in his official capacity – was to reaffirm the bond between the two countries. His reception in Washington, the first leg of his 20-day tour of the US, suggests this aim has been achieved. In the words of Mr Trump, the US-Saudi "relationship is probably the strongest it's ever been".
The two countries are bound by common interests in the areas of energy security and jobs: deepening cooperation on the former boosts the latter. On terrorism and the conflict in Yemen, they have a common position. A resolution in the US Senate to end Washington's support for the Saudi-led campaign to restore Yemen's legitimate government was defeated as Mr Trump held talks with Prince Mohammed. The two countries are united too on the need to contain Iran, which has sowed discord and spread terror in this region. As Mr Trump said in the presence of Prince Mohammed, "Iran has not been treating that part of the world well". It appears Mr Trump may choose not to recertify the flawed Iran nuclear deal in May, a position Prince Mohammed will undoubtedly support. With the quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain determined to maintain their boycott of Qatar, Mr Trump has branded Doha "a funder of terrorism at a very high level".
The lunch hosted by the US president in honour of his guest was attended by officials responsible for energy, security and trade: the three major priorities for both countries. Prince Mohammed's push to modernise his nation's economy and liberalise its society ever since he was elevated to his role last summer has earned him a reputation as a serious-minded reformer. His efforts have put Saudi Arabia's full potential on display, and the world is eager to partner and do business with it. His Vision 2030 programme, a comprehensive plan to diversify the kingdom's economy and transform the country, has sparked interest among international observers. During his visit, Prince Mohammed will meet with leaders of business as well as politics. The US-Saudi relationship is a historic one, built today on the three pillars of energy, security and trade. Under Mr Trump, it is likely to strengthen further.