Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
The Year Ahead

Saudi Prince Hits a New Year Reset by Making Allies Not Enemies

  • Saudi leader repositions himself ahead of Biden presidency
  • Regional dynamics, Iran, struggling economy also playing role
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, welcomes Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia on Jan. 5.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, welcomes Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia on Jan. 5.

Photographer: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On a day that Saudi Arabia jolted the oil market with an output cut it called a “gesture of goodwill,” the kingdom’s de-facto ruler took center stage in a mirrored concert hall, ready to resolve a different crisis.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had presided over the rift with Qatar for more than three years. But now there were just two weeks before a new U.S. leader took office, and President-elect Joe Biden had promised to treat Saudi Arabia as a “pariah.” Combined with threats from Iran and a weakening economy, the prince’s calculation had been shifting: reconciliation looked better than conflict.