A new report reveals that Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and adviser to President Donald Trump, has maintained a close friendship with Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman despite intelligence agency conclusions that the latter ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a story broken by The New York Times on Saturday, it was revealed that Kushner — who has long been known to have had a close friendship with the Saudi royal, with some officials expressing concern that the politically inexperienced businessman was being manipulated — had not severed those ties despite the international outrage over Khashoggi's murder.
Since the uproar over Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, the Trump administration has acknowledged only one conversation between Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed: an Oct. 10 telephone call joined by John R. Bolton, the national security adviser. The Americans “asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” the White House said in a statement.
But American officials and a Saudi briefed on their conversations said that Mr. Kushner and Prince Mohammed have continued to chat informally. According to the Saudi, Mr. 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 article also described how Kushner has depicted Saudi Arabia as vital to the administration's broader Middle Eastern strategy, from fighting terrorism to creating peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Other foreign policy experts are dubious about whether Saudi Arabia can really deliver on those issues, although one former White House official gave the unusual bromance credit for persuading Saudi Arabia to loosen restrictions on humanitarian and medical supplies when the Persian Gulf power blocked off a major port in its military conflict with Yemen.
Kushner's attitude toward the Saudi crown prince is directly at odds with the stance articulated by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley in an interview with The Atlantic published last week. Despite her plans to leave the administration, Haley is perceived as being on good terms with President Trump and his inner circle.
"You have Saudi government officials that did this in a Saudi consulate. We can't give them a pass, because that's not who America is," Haley told The Atlantic. She later added, "We can’t condone [the Khashoggi murder], we can’t ever say it’s OK, we can’t ever support thuggish behavior, and we have to say that."
Trump's closeness with Saudi Arabia's leadership could also have major consequences for the rest of the world, particularly when it comes to crisis issues like man-made global warming. As The Guardian reported on Sunday:
The US and Russia have thrown climate talks into disarray by allying with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to water down approval of a landmark report on the need to keep global warming below 1.5C.
After a heated two-and-a-half-hour debate on Saturday night, the backwards step by the four major oil producers shocked delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice as ministers flew in for the final week of high-level discussions.