Jared Kushner and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia have been forging a friendship-like bond, with President Trump’s son-in-law’s relationship with the Prince becoming so close it outraged then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a new report claims.
After first meeting in March last year, Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been ‘consulting with one another frequently in private calls’, according to the Washington Post.
It was reportedly thanks to this bond that Trump chose Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first foreign state visit as President, despite objections from White House officials.
Close pals: Jared Kushner has reportedly been making ‘frequent private calls’ to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the past year, worrying White House officials
The report comes as the Crown Prince arrives for a meeting with President Trump today with U.S.-Saudi relations ‘at an all-time high,’ according to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, a former ambassador to Washington.
Kushner is scheduled to attend several dinners with the Crown Prince during his visit to the U.S., and also reportedly spent alone time with Salman during a personal trip to Riyadh in October 2017.
Kushner’s courting of the Saudi Prince has ‘unsettled’ security and intelligence officials in the US as they fear he may have been ‘freelancing foreign policy’ in their candid conversations, the Washington Post reports.
Now ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had become so angered by Kusher’s calls to Saudi Arabia that he once reportedly exclaimed to his staff; ‘Who is Secretary of State here?’
Prince Mohammed arrives for a meeting at the White House on Tuesday to kick off a week in Washington D.C. before heading to New York.
Arrival: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is welcomed upon his arrival in the U.S. yesterday
Ten months after the last face-to-face meeting between Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed, in Riyadh, the 71-year-old president and the 32-year-old strongman prince are expected to deepen an already warm and congenial relationship.
During his first trip to Washington last year, Prince Mohammed spoke to the president about his Vision 2030 program, a plan to diversity the Saudi economy making the country less dependent on its oil supply.
He’s expected to speak to Trump about the effort – and discuss the countries’ common enemy, Iran – as well as seek out American investors in hubs like New York and Silicon Valley.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are historic allies. Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud on a US naval ship in the Suez Canal in 1945, every American president has carefully nurtured relations with the Saudi royal family.
But the unstinting support Trump offered when he chose Riyadh as the destination of his first overseas trip as president brought the relationship to a new level.
While Barack Obama said in 2015 that it was important ‘not to perpetuate any long-term confrontation with Iran, or to even marginalize Iran,’ Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the nuclear deal reached that year with Tehran, has chosen a very different path.
Making friends: President Donald Trump meets Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March last year, months before he became Crown Prince
‘Everywhere we go in the Middle East it’s Iran, Iran, Iran,’ he said a few days ago. ‘Every problem is Iran.’
Even before setting foot on American soil, Prince Mohammed struck a scathing tone toward Iran in an interview with CBS, comparing the territorial ambitions of that country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to those of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.
And he warned that if Iran were to develop a nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia would do the same ‘as soon as possible.’
But critics are cautioning the White House not to blindly embrace every stance taken by the Saudi prince, particularly as concerns its role in the bloody civil war in Yemen.
Fighting between the Huthi movement, supported by Iran, and Yemeni government forces, backed by the Saudis and the UAE, has claimed nearly 10,000 lives and left the country on the verge of a disastrous famine.
In an opinion column early this month in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, writing in the form of an open letter to Trump, urged the president not to give in to Prince Mohammed’s ‘bad impulses’ as he seeks to modernize Saudi Arabia’s ‘economy and religious/social structure.’
He then adds: ‘If you think you can just applaud his anti-Iran stance and religious reforms and all will work out fine, you’re wrong.’