Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Saudi Arabia…the Discourse We Want

My work in journalism has taught me the importance of reading officials' statements rather than merely watching the press conference or the television interview they give. One is influenced by other things when watching while reading focuses our attention on what lies between the lines.

This is what I did with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz’s interview with Fox News. By the end, I was thoroughly convinced that the discourse of the Crown Prince is the discourse that the region and everyone concerned in Saudi Arabia needs.

This is the discourse we want to hear in interviews, press conferences, and statements. Indeed, the world is not "X". The transcript of the interview is around 4,000 words long. However, he was not verbose but pithy, and it included striking analogies. For example, the Crown Prince tells the interviewer, Bret Baier: "In the late seventies, the Saudi Gross Domestic Product was larger than South Korea's... In 1980, Saudi Arabia’s economy was twelfth globally, and in 2016 we were twentieth."

He then called this gap “a shame,” adding: “I am trying to put Saudi Arabia back on the right track.” The Crown Prince’s transparency, sense of responsibility, and clarity of purpose and vision are extremely evident in his discussion of unexploited islands. These islands in NEOM not being exploited touristically means that they were not exploited economically.

The same is true for his remarks about the political scene, especially with the striking points he made in his discussion of negotiations with the US administration regarding relations with Israel. First, he did not deny that talks were being held through the Americans. Indeed, he poured cold water on reports claiming that these talks had been suspended. When the interviewer asked about it, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responded unequivocally: “No, that’s not true.”

Secondly, he clearly said: “There is an approach from President Biden’s administration to get to that point... For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to resolve that part,” stressing that: “If the Biden administration succeeds” in concluding the agreement, “I believe it would be the biggest historical deal since the Cold War.”

With these statements, the Crown Prince closed the door to leaks and disinformation, whether in the West or our region. He spoke of the matter himself, leaving no room for interpretation or misrepresentation.

The other important matter here worth our attention, because it can teach us another important lesson, is the way the Crown Prince spoke about other international leaders, and Saudi Arabia’s agreements and disagreements. Everything he discussed, from Iran to Ukraine, to Russia and China, he spoke with impersonal refined political rhetoric.

This refinement was particularly evident when the interviewer asked him about President Biden, who is eighty years old. The Crown Prince’s response is a testament to the prestigious and deeply ingrained Saudi approach to diplomacy. Despite all the American smear campaigns, he said that he saw Biden as being "very focused and well-intended.”

Therefore, the Crown Prince is right when he says: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the greatest success story of the twenty-first century.” This is the story of the century.” The world now takes his statements seriously, because he speaks in the language of figures and achievements on the ground, and presents a clear vision.

That is what we need to integrate into our approach and media discourse. Indeed, this battle is one of public opinion, a battle for minds and hearts.