If one thought the biggest defender of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in the White House is Donald Trump, it would be a wrong assumption. It appears Trump’s admiration for the crown prince is largely down to how highly his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, regards him.
An eye-opening report in the New York Times has underlined the unflinching faith Kushner and the Saudi prince have in each other. Even more importantly, the report shows that the Saudis made a meticulous plan to “court” Kushner soon after Trump was elected. A Saudi delegation prepared a slideshow for their government, arguing why picking Kushner as their key player within the Trump administration would pay them rich dividends.
“[The incoming Trump administration] is predominantly deal makers who lack familiarity with political customs and deep institutions, and they support Jared Kushner,” the delegation reportedly told the Saudi government.
Their courtship of Kushner seems to have worked massively in their favor. Although the CIA has definitely concluded that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was instrumental in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Kushner has been the leading advocate for the prince in the White House. He is reported to be the “prince’s most important defender” within the Trump administration even as he continues to get most of his information on the matter from Mohammed bin Salman himself. The two are reported to be thick friends regularly in touch with each on the first-name basis through emails and phone calls, but mostly through WhatsApp. Even with the Khashoggi murder, little seems to have changed.
“The two men—both in their 30s and heirs to family fortunes—kept chatting on a first-name basis, often over WhatsApp.”
Jared Kushner's relationship with Prince Mohammed bin Salman helped turn Saudi Arabia into one of the Trump administration's most important allies. After the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Kushner became Prince Mohammed’s biggest defender in the White House. https://t.co/rPNmzrbIrG— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 9, 2018
In fact, before Mohammed bin Salman became the de facto head of the kingdom, Kushner lobbied for him within Washington, alarming senior government officials.
“Only a few months after Mr. Trump moved into the White House, Mr. Kushner was inquiring about the Saudi royal succession process and whether the United States could influence it, raising fears among senior officials that he sought to help Prince Mohammed, who was not yet the crown prince, vault ahead in the line for the throne.”
Significant moves by Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his power followed Kushner’s visit to the country. Soon after Kushner’s visit in early 2017, the crown prince ousted his cousin for the throne and in the fall of that year, he detained more than 200 members of the royal family in what was described as a crackdown on corruption, but was more aptly viewed as a purging of adversaries by the international media.
Foreign policy expert Martin Indyk went so far as to say that it is the “bromance” between Kushner and the crown prince which is making Trump defend Mohammed bin Salman with so much vigor, and continue his support for Saudi policies, “including military intervention in Yemen and support of the kingdom’s feud with Qatar,” as reported by Mother Jones.