- Jared Kushner told Newsweek that Saudi Arabia had made “missteps” under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but was still a “very good ally.”
- Kushner has developed a friendship with Prince Mohammed, the de facto Saudi ruler, who has spent the past several years consolidating power and arresting dissidents.
- The Trump administration has repeatedly refused to blame Prince Mohammed for the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, rejecting bipartisan calls for Washington to reevaluate its relationship with Riyadh.
- Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by agents of the Saudi government in October 2018.
- The CIA reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s killing, and a UN report released in June 2019 implicated the Saudi ruler in the killing.
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Jared Kushner’s support for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remains unwavering.
In a new interview with Newsweek, the senior White House adviser said that under the leadership of Prince Mohammed, who’s widely suspected of ordering the brutal killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Saudi Arabia had made “missteps” but was still a “very good ally.”
“There have been a couple of missteps,” Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said of the Saudis and Prince Mohammed, the de facto Saudi ruler who’s also known as MBS. “But they have been a very good ally.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi national who came to the US and wrote columns for The Washington Post after being barred from reporting in his own country, was killed and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He was often critical of the Saudi government in his reporting.
The Saudi royal family blocked the journalist from writing and making public appearances after he criticised Trump in late 2016. Khashoggi had rebuked Trump’s stance and rhetoric on the Middle East in an appearance at a think tank in Washington, DC.
“The expectation that ‘Trump as president’ will be starkly different from ‘Trump as candidate’ is a false hope at best,” Khashoggi reportedly said at the time.
Khashoggi’s killing shook the US-Saudi relationship to its core, leading to bipartisan calls in Congress for Washington to rethink its longtime strategic partnership with Riyadh.
But the Trump administration has stood by the Saudi kingdom and Prince Mohammed, with Kushner leading the way. Kushner and MBS have developed a friendship. The crown prince reportedly once boasted that he had the president’s son-in-law in his pocket.
Trump has forcefully defended the administration’s relationship with MBS even after the CIA reportedly concluded that the Saudi ruler ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
A United Nations report released in June 2019 also implicated MBS in Khashoggi’s killing, concluding that it “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”
“This human rights inquiry has shown that there is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation,” UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said at the time.
“Look, it’s a horrific thing that happened … Once we have all the facts, then we’ll make a policy determination, but that would be up to the secretary of state to push on our policy,” Kushner said.
The Saudi government has offered inconsistent explanations about Khashoggi’s fate. The Saudis initially denied having any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, before ultimately acknowledging that he was killed in the consulate; the Saudi foreign minister blamed Khashoggi’s killing on “rogue” individuals.
Khashoggi had entered the consulate to obtain papers necessary to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
In December, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death in relation to Khashoggi’s killing. The Saudis put 11 people on trial over the killing, with three others sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison.
Callamard decried the trial as a “mockery of justice,” The Associated Press reported.
“The fact that that the chain of command and the state have not been investigated means that the system that made it possible for Jamal Khashoggi to be killed has not been touched,” Callamard said.
Beyond Khashoggi’s killing, congressional lawmakers have also repeatedly raised concerns about the US’s support for the Saudis in Yemen.
Prince Mohammed is the architect of the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, which has catalyzed a devastating humanitarian crisis. The Trump administration has rejected legislative efforts to end US support while touting US arms sales to Riyadh.
Khashoggi, who had served as an adviser to the Saudi royal family for decades, was highly critical of both MBS and the Saudi war in Yemen in his reporting.