The crown prince behind the wave of arrests in Saudi Arabia this weekend – which included dozens of the country’s most powerful princes – has a key ally in President Trump‘s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
The Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote that it was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who Kushner visited with on his secret trip to Saudi Arabia last month, as the president’s son-in-law made his third trek to the country since Trump’s swearing-in.
‘The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy,’ Ignatius wrote, dubbing Kushner, a scion to a New York real estate family, a ‘prince’ as well.
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President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (left) reportedly met with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) on his secret trip to the country last month and the two stayed up until 4 a.m. ‘swapping stories’
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (second from left) was behind the wave of arrests this weekend in the country, which swept up a number of Saudi princes. While MBS wants to root out corruption, many interpreted the move as a power play
Beyond the two men both being in their 30s, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS for short, has bonded with Kushner and been embraced by the Trump inner circle for being both a ‘wealthy tycoon’ and a ‘populist insurgent,’ Ignatius noted.
Those descriptions also work for the Trump political brand, as the president was able to fashion himself in last year’s presidential election as a billionaire for the people.
On Saturday, MBS, who is Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne, oversaw a wave of arrests that took down 11 princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers.
Some potential rivals or critics of the crown prince say the move was so he can consolidate his power.
Among those taken into custody in the purported anti-corruption sweep were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men with extensive holdings in Western companies, as well as two of the late King Abdullah’s sons.
The arrest of senior princes upends a longstanding tradition among the ruling Al Saud family to keep their disagreements private in an effort to show strength and unity in the face of Saudi Arabia’s many tribes and factions.
It also sends a message that the 32-year-old prince has the full backing of his father, King Salman, to carry out sweeping anti-corruption reforms targeting senior royals and their business associates, who have long been seen as operating above the law.
Those being detained are being kept at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, the country’s capital.
The surprise arrests were immediately hailed by pro-government media outlets as the clearest sign yet that Prince Mohammed is keeping his promise to reform the country, wean its economy from its dependence on oil and liberalize some aspects of the ultraconservative society.
The kingdom’s top council of clerics issued a public statement overnight saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption – essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests.
It’s unclear if the U.S. had any advance word of the arrests.
The White House said Sunday that President Trump had spoken with King Salman the day before on a number of issues.
On the call, Trump commended King Salman and the crown prince’s statements regarding ‘the need to build a moderate, peaceful, and tolerant region are essential to ensuring a hopeful future for the Saudi people, to curtailing terrorist funding, and to defeating radical ideology – once and for all – so the world can be safe from its evil.’
The White House readout of the call did not include any reference to the impending arrests, which came Saturday night.
The Trump administration was also tight-lipped about the trip Kushner took to the country last month.
Politico reported that Kushner returned to D.C. on October 28 after flying commercial to Saudi Arabia, taking the trip separately from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who had led a delegation to Riyadh the same week to discuss cutting off terrorists funding.
The White House wouldn’t say who Kushner met with, instead releasing a non-descript statement confirming Kushner was joined by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.
‘The Senior Advisor to the President, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, and the Special Representative for International Negotiations recently returned from Saudi Arabia,’ a White House official said in a statement to Politico.
And, in making sure Kushner doesn’t look like he’s favoring the Saudis, as he tries to work toward Middle East peace the official added: ‘The Senior Advisor has also been in frequent contact with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.’
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