Mike Pompeo is in Riyadh for what may prove a testing diplomatic mission. The Secretary of State is tasked with smoothing over relations with Saudi Arabia and Turkey following outrage over the disappearance and presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post opinion writer.
Top of his agenda is a series of meetings with King Salman, Foreign Minister Adel el-Jubeir and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And this time around, Pompeo and MBS managed to make time for a photo opportunity.
If you recall, the Secretary of State’s last visit to Saudi Arabia was in late April, during a period of widespread speculation about the whereabouts and status of the Crown Prince. There were reports of heavy gunfire coming from the King’s Palace in Riyadh on April 21.
The Saudi Crown Prince is probably in hiding in his own country after the April 21 coup attempt that failed.
Reports of heavy gunfire ongoing near Saudi’s King’s palace in Riyadh. The king has reportedly been evacuated to a bunker at a military base. pic.twitter.com/c6uZefWHXE
— Jeff Gauvin (@JeffersonObama) May 18, 2018
Pompeo supposedly met MBS for dinner one week later, on April 28. But there were no pictures of them meeting, and the State Department were strangely evasive when Cockburn asked where they were.
While the dinner may have been closed to the press, it seemed uncharacteristic that there were no photos whatsoever of these two individuals, who usually make a point of being highly visible. A couple of months later, for example, the Crown Prince was on television worldwide as he had one of the best seats in the house for the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony.
So why no proof whatsoever that this April 28 dinner took place? At a time when many in the media were wondering whether Mohammed bin Salman had met an untimely end during an attempted coup, one timely photo would have silenced the speculation.
Perhaps MBS was recovering from a gunshot wound when he met with Pompeo. Or maybe he just had a bit of acne and was feeling camera-shy – there are no photos, so how will we know for sure?