Jared Kushner Meets With Saudis as Biden Relations Hit All Time Low
Jared Kushner, a former White House adviser to Donald Trump, appeared at Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative forum, an event which Biden administration officials were absent from.
Kushner, who is married to the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, took the stage at the international conference in Riyadh on Tuesday as relations between the U.S. and the Gulf kingdom continue to be strained.
Prior to his talk, Kushner, who runs a private equity fund backed by Saudi Arabia, featured prominently as a front-row guest at the event.
It was previously reported that Kushner’s firm received a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman six months after leaving the White House.
While there was no one from the Biden administration at the economic conference dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” there are two from the previous Trump administration.
As well as Kushner, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is also due to speak at the forum on Wednesday.
The White House has not sent any officials to Saudi Arabia as the U.S. is currently reassessing its relationship with the kingdom amid ongoing tensions.
President Joe Biden has long been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, as well as the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 which U.S. intelligence agencies believe was authorized by the crown prince. The Saudi government denies the crown prince was involved.
Biden, who called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” during his 2020 election campaign, also warned that Saudi Arabia faces “consequences” after the kingdom joined Russia in announcing it will cut oil production by as much as two million barrels a day, which could ultimately lead to higher gas prices in the U.S.
The decision by the group of major oil producing nations known as OPEC+ to dramatically reduce the amount of oil it will be producing amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came after Biden visited Saudi Arabia in July for the first time as president in an attempt to keep crude oil flowing.
That visit took place after it was reported earlier this year that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rejected a request to speak to Biden on the phone as the president tried to convince the kingdom to pump more oil to ease the pressure of the Russian oil ban.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The New York Times that OPEC might not end up reducing oil barrels by two million, but the announcement was significant because of the “symbolism of the president trying to reset U.S.-Saudi relations and the Saudis essentially repudiating him and humiliating him.”
Karen Young, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, told NPR that “this is definitely one of the lower points in U.S.-Saudi relations” as the two countries continue to spar.
Despite not sending any officials to the Future Investment Initiative forum, the Biden administration did not advise American companies against sending representatives to the conference.
“American companies will make their own decisions about their presence and where to invest, taking into account a range of factors including legal constraints, the business environment, and reputational concerns that can arise from public policy choices made by host countries,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on October 18.