This was the second time in less than a year that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hosts such a delegation in the Kingdom, as part of the country’s efforts to improve its public image in the U.S., especially among the evangelical community.
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In a joint statement written by the delegation, they thanked the Saudi royals for their hospitality, and noted that the seemingly incongruous timing of their visit is no accident.
“While it may surprise some that we would choose the week of September 11 to visit the Kingdom, we actually feel there is no more appropriate time to focus on where the Kingdom must go, can go, and where we believe it is going,” the delegation wrote.
Of the 19 terrorists who committed the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, 15 were Saudi citizens. Last year, a U.S. judge rejected Saudi Arabia‘s bid to dismiss lawsuits implicating it in planning the attacks and forcing it to pay damages to victims.
“Our visit here on this profoundly important week is in defiance of those that aim to derail reform in the Kingdom through an embrace of hate and fear rather than courage and moderation,” the statement continued, a reference to the crown prince. Prince Mohammed has enacted reforms in the Kingdom that have, among other things, granted women the ability to drive and travel without consent from a male guardian.
But he has also faced harsh criticism for arresting human rights activists, jailing his political opponents and silencing critics of the regime. The international backlash against him reached its peak after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was tortured to death by Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October of 2018.
Rosenberg expressed regret that only two U.S. senators had visited the Kingdom since the beginning of 2019. “Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important strategic allies in the war against radical Islamist terrorism and in countering the rising Iranian threat,” he explained.
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