The relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have been facing intense criticism since the death of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Besides, Jared Kushner has stoked a different controversy in the matter.
The Jamal Khashoggi case has crossed varied speculations, since October 2, when the journalist entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and was brutally murdered. Despite criticism from world leaders against Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration maintained its steadfast support towards the kingdom and its ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
Saudi Arabia has been changing its statements in the case from time to time, raising suspicions on bin Salman’s role in the death of the journalist. The kingdom first claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed. Later, they admitted that the dissent had disappeared, maintaining that they knew nothing.
Shortly after, they shifted saying that Khashoggi has been killed in the consulate by a rogue operator, until finally admitting, “We killed him in a premeditated fashion, and chopped his body up via bone saw—but the prince knew nothing.”
The statement was robust, ushering condemnation and severe consequences from the rest of the world, and several political entities against Saudi. US lawmakers claimed that the case looks quite explicit.
Senator Bob Corker stated, “There is zero question in my mind that the Crown Prince directed the murder and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through.” He also added that MBS would have been convicted in 30 minutes, if a jury were to consider the case against him.
Despite all the statements, investigations and evidences, what remained intact is the support to the Prince from the White House. Many have attributed this to the ties between bin Salman and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser. It was asserted that Kushner was unsophisticated on foreign policy matters, which made him an easy target for manipulation by the Saudis.
The New York Times reported that the ties between him and bin Salman “did not happen on their own.” The report says that “The Prince and his advisers, eager to enlist American support for his hawkish policies in the region and for his own consolidation of power, cultivated the relationship with Mr. Kushner for more than two years.”
Jared Kushner has been acquainted with the Saudi Crown Prince since the early months of Trump administration. According to the media reports, he had been having private and informal conversations with bin Salman. Two former senior American officials and two people briefed by the Saudis said that the exchanges continued even after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
In March 2017, Senior officials at the US State Department and the Pentagon reportedly “began to worry about . . . one-on-one communication between Prince Mohammed” and Kushner. A Former White House official said, “There was a risk the Saudis were playing him.”
During a trip to DC that month, Kushner helped the Saudi Prince to attend a formal lunch with Donald Trump at the White House, which marked the first face-to-face meeting between Kushner and the Prince.
During the meeting, Jared Kushner had “raised eyebrows by telling others in the White House that he and Prince Mohammed had already spoken several times before,” reported The Times.
Later, two other encounters took place, leading to “key turning points in Prince Mohammed’s consolidation of power.”
The Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who has recently been ousted by Trump, made an effort to re-impose the long-standing procedure, which states that the National Security Council staff members must participate in all calls with foreign leaders. However, it ended in a fiasco.
Kushner’s ties with Mohammad bin Salman has been perceived as bizarre. Reports reveal that “Kushner has offered the Crown Prince advice about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments.”
The Post writes, “What in the world is a US official doing advising a foreign leader on how to escape blame for the murder of a US national?”
In his ties to bin Salman, Jared Kushner has taken several baffling moves. He has also been arguing inside the White House that Trump needs to stand by the Saudi Crown Prince, as he remains crucial to the administration’s broader Middle East strategy.
The officials have also stated that the US diplomats and intelligence officials are fearing that the Trump administration might be appearing to play favorites in the delicate internal politics of the Saudi royal family.
While the realities of concord between Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman remain vague, the officials are paving a way to make some serious revelations. A Democratic aide stated that Representative Eliot Engel is planning to conduct a thorough review of US policy toward Saudi Arabia, which could also include Kushner’s ties to bin Salman.
Spokesman Tim Mulvey said that Engel, who is poised to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is “committed to conducting a top-to-bottom review of US policy toward Saudi Arabia and that includes what has driven the US response to the Jamal Khashoggi murder.”
He was asked if it included probing the ties between Jared Kushner and the Crown Prince, Mulvey said, “Everything is on the table.”
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