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Dec 09 2018

White House adviser gave tips to Saudi crown prince on dealing with Khashoggi murder - NYT

White House senior adviser and the U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, advised Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman on dealing with the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reported on Dec. 8. 

An anonymous source from Saudi Arabia told The New York Times that Prince Mohammed and Kushner spoke on the phone when Khashoggi went missing after he stepped in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, and Kushner advised the crown prince "how to weather the storm", according to The New York Times.

"As the killing set off a firestorm around the world and American intelligence agencies concluded that it was ordered by Prince Mohammed, Mr. Kushner became the prince’s most important defender inside the White House, people familiar with its internal deliberations say," The New York Times said. 

Kushner maintained informal contact with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and publicly defended him after the Khashoggi murder, The New York Times said, citing two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

However, White House officials refused to comment specifically on one-on-one communication between Prince Mohammed and Trump's adviser after the death of Khashoggi, according to the newspaper.  

Kushner said he had warned Prince Mohammed that the “world was watching” and that Khashoggi’s disappearance was “very serious”, the UK-based Telegraph reported in Oct. 23. 

The close relationship between the two was orchestrated by the Saudis to gain favour from Trump, before the prince consolidated power in his country, according to a Lebanese newspaper, Al Akhbar, which also provided private conversations of the two for The New York Times. 

The Saudis initiated a plan before Trump was elected and even offered help in the lead-up to him coming into power, the Al Akhbar said. 

Even before the inauguration, Riyadh was trying to position itself as a crucial ally who could help Trump fulfil his campaign pledges, the newspaper said. 

In addition to offering to help to resolve the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, the Saudis offered hundreds of billions of dollars in deals to buy the U.S.-made weapons and invest in the U.S. infrastructure, according to the newspaper.

“The relationship between Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the region,” The New York Times quoted Martin Indyk as saying, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Middle East envoy. 

Khashoggi, who was living in America and writing for The Washington Post, has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. 

Turkish officials said he was killed and dismembered in the consulate according to the audio recording they had. Saudi officials recently admitted the Saudi critic Khashoggi died there but claimed it was an accident after a row broke out. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 2 said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership but probably not by King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince. 

After the killing of Khashoggi, some senior U.S. officials suggested imposing sanctions against Saudi Arabia, but Trump has so far insisted on keeping strong ties to Saudi Arabia, saying the Riyadh is a key ally against Iran and has signed billions of dollars worth of defence contracts with the U.S. companies.