For President Trump, who has made Saudi Arabia the fulcrum of his Middle East policy, the possible murder of a Saudi journalist in Turkey is a looming diplomatic crisis. For Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it is a personal reckoning.
More than anyone in the Trump administration, Kushner has cultivated Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — who may have played a role in the disappearance of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi — elevating the prince to a key ally in the Arab world and the White House’s primary interlocutor to the kingdom.
Kushner championed Prince Mohammed, 33, when the prince was jockeying to be his father’s heir; had dinner with him in Washington and Riyadh, the Saudi capital; promoted a $110 billion weapons sale to his military; and once even hoped that the future king would put a Saudi stamp of approval on his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. He fostered that conviviality, even as congressional frustration with the Middle Eastern monarchy mounted.
While the fate of Khashoggi, a resident of Virginia and a columnist for the Washington Post, remains unclear, allegations that he was killed on the orders of the royal court have thrown Kushner’s grand bet on Prince Mohammed into doubt. With the U.S. intelligence community racing to confirm the dissident journalist’s fate, the Trump administration will have to decide what the case means for Mr. Kushner’s strategic goals — all under the watchful eyes of outraged lawmakers.
“I know they’ve got a lot riding on Saudi Arabia,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters. “I can understand they would be cautious in their comments currently.”
Corker wants Trump to consider imposing sanctions on the officials responsible for Khashoggi’s death if U.S. spy agencies confirm the murder; he and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Foreign Relations Democrat, have used their authority under federal sanctions law to start a 120-day clock for investigating the incident.
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