Is MBS lobbying against Biden?

February 16, 2022 - 0:4

TEHRAN — According to persons familiar with the situation, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former senior advisor, met with Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler and top Saudi Aramco officials in recent weeks as part of a regional tour that mingled personal travel and business.

Kushner, who developed a close personal relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) during the Trump administration, has traveled extensively in the Persian Gulf region in recent months, according to some people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is private.

While working in the White House, Kushner orchestrated the normalization of relations between the Israeli regime and a number of Arab countries. He has since founded Affinity Partners, a private equity fund.

Although the current trip was not intended to raise cash for that endeavor, Kushner has sought support from the $500 billion Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Prince Mohammed, as well as other government-controlled funds in the area, according to several of sources.

In addition to meeting the crown prince in Riyadh, Kushner visited Saudi Aramco's headquarters in Dhahran, where he met with Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser and other key officials from the state-run oil company. According to two of the participants, the conversations centered on potential renewable energy investments.

The journey to Saudi Arabia was part of a larger excursion to several of West Asia's most important economies. He also visited the United Arab Emirates and the Expo 2020 in Dubai with his family, as well as Qatar.

Kushner did not respond to Bloomberg, who first broke the story on Thursday, February 10. A request for comment was also not returned by the Kushner Companies. A request for comment was likewise not responded to by the Saudi government's Center for International Communication. Aramco has refused to comment on the issue as well.

Last year, Kushner began the process of establishing his investing firm. The initiative has sparked considerable debate because Kushner is seeking funding from several of the West Asian countries with which he worked while in the White House, including Saudi Arabia.

According to a filing, Affinity Partners had raised $2 billion by the end of November. Bloomberg reported last month that the firm intends to adjust the figure to reflect fresh commitments that surpass $3 billion.

Kushner isn't the only Trump friend who has maintained a high profile in Saudi Arabia since the Biden administration took office.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Riyadh in October for the annual Future Investment Initiative, dubbed the "Davos of the Desert" for bringing together finance and government executives. Mnuchin's firm, Liberty Strategic Capital, has raised several billion dollars, including an investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

During the Trump administration, the crown prince maintained close contacts with the United States, including direct contact with Trump and Kushner, but the relationship has cooled during Biden's presidency. Biden hasn't spoken to bin Salman since his election in 2020, instead focusing on his 86-year-old father, King Salman.

With the Trump-2024 prospect on the horizon, Saudi Arabia seems to be interested in lobbying for yet another MAGA (Make America Great Again slogan, often used by Trump).

In December 2020, which marked the last weeks of his presidency, Trump’s State Department approved the sale of $290 million in bombs to Saudi Arabia. 

Also, on July 25, 2019, Trump vetoed congressional legislation to prevent the sale of arms worth $8.1 billion to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The three resolutions, according to Donald Trump, "would impair America's global competitiveness" and harm the country's relationships with its allies.

The development came after a vote in both chambers of Congress to block the transaction.

Saudi Arabia has been reluctant to resume new round of talks with Iran, and now the MBS meets with the most influential man in the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Trump’s senior advisor. Things are not looking good for MBS.