Trump White House's last bid to improve foreign ties: Jared Kushner to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar to end crisis
The presidential adviser, whose political future meets incertainty with the defeat of Trump, looks to leave behind a legacy by facilitating more peace deals in the Gulf
With less than two months left for it to vacate office, the Donald Trump administration seems to be in a rush to fix things. It has already been seen that the outgoing president and his aides are taking special care of the foreign affairs before the new administration takes over on January 20.
The president reportedly wanted to launch a military strike on Iran's main nuclear facility and recently, the USS Nimitz has been deployed to the Persian Gulf to give cover to American troops exiting Iraq and Afghanistan. In the wake of these developments, it has been learnt that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is set to travel to Saudi Arabia and Qatar in what many are seeing as a last-ditch effort to settle disputes between the Gulf nations.
Axios reported on Sunday, November 29, that the upcoming visit of Kushner is important from the viewpoint that it could fix issues between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and bring back stability in the region and mark an eleventh-hour achievement for the outgoing administration. Kushner, who had no experience in government prior to his stint in the Trump administration, has made contributions in his father-in-law’s Middle East policy even though he has been accused of being a failure in his key role. However, the recent normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states like the UAE and Bahrain have boosted the Trump administration to showcase its contribution towards regional peace.
Trump White House's last-ditch effort to better Saudi-Qatar ties
Strained relations between Saudi and Qatar have remained a key issue in the Middle East. In June 2017, along with Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and other Sunni states suspended ties with Qatar and refused to let Doha allow their airspace and sea routes. They accused Qatar of supporting terror groups and relations with Iran, another major enemy of Riyadh in the region. For the US, it was a dilemma. Washington maintains close ties with both Qatar and its rivals and its several attempts to make the foes reconcile proved to be unsuccessful.
Against this background, Kushner’s visit to the Middle East kingdom is significant. He will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman besides Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, the Axios report said citing American officials. Kushner, who has good relations with both the leaders (though he reportedly supprted the blockade of Qatar by Saudi and the UAE), will be accompanied in his trip by White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, former Iran envoy Brian Hook and International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler.
It was only recently that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to the Middle Eastern nation to meet Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It also means strengthening of the anti-Iran nexus although the Saudi leadership is less in favor of an aggressive stand on Iran at the moment, wondering what stand the incoming Biden administration takes on Tehran. Kushner’s visit also comes days after the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakrizadeh-Mahabadi. While Qatar condemned the assassination, Saudi remained silent.
Kushner’s relations with Salman proved significant over the last few months as the Trump administration went ahead with the Abraham Accords that led to the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. The Saudis though have not agreed to the normalization but they agreed to allowing Israeli airlines use Saudi airspace for the first time. Riyadh also gave nod to Bahrain’s quest for normalization with Israel. Besides, Salman’s decision to meet Netanyahu was also seen to be a significant step.
The Trump administration, which has challenged the election outcome, is still continuing to make more normalization deals see the daylight in the remaining time it has in office. Kushner, whose political future looks uncertain with the shattering loss of his father-in-law, likewise, is also making desperate attempts to leave a legacy behind.