The Trump administration is backing out of another Saudi-related conference next week, but this time it’s one being held in D.C. not Riyadh, the Washington Examiner has learned.
White House Office of Management and Budget chief Mick Mulvaney has canceled his keynote address that he was scheduled to give before the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations’ policymakers summit, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, the White House told the Washington Examiner.
“Unfortunately, Director Mulvaney is no longer able to attend,” said Meghan Burris, spokeswoman for Mulvaney, providing no further explanation.
The decision follows Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s decision to skip the Saudi investment conference in Riyadh after a rift formed between the two countries over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Council’s policymakers summit was planned months before the incident, although it is aptly titled given the recent crisis: “What Paths Forward For America In And With The Arab Region?”
Mulvaney was supposed to address the conference on Thursday, Nov. 1, to give the day’s keynote address, entitled "A View From the White House."
Mulvaney would have been joined at the conference by former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal, who also served as ambassador to the U.S. and Britain. But Turki has also been dropping out of speaking appointments and meetings in Washington amid the Khashoggi dust-up.
Turki is still slated to give the Council's keynote address on Wednesday, Oct. 31, entitled "How Best to Proceed in the U.S.-Arab Relationship?" Mark Morozink, chief spokesman for the group, told the Washington Examiner a week ago that Turki had not pulled out. Morozink had not responded to an email to give an update on both Mulvaney and Turki.
A former senior Energy Department official told the Washington Examiner that Turki had pulled out of an earlier, private, off-the-record meeting of former U.S. and Saudi officials set up by another Mideast think tank in Washington about a week after Khashoggi was killed. The former official had addressed the private conference that discussed a variety of issues facing the region, including the price of oil and Iran sanctions.
Mulvaney's cancellation comes as the White House prepares to take the final step in applying sanctions on Iran next month on Nov. 5, which will make it a violation for another country to buy Iranian crude oil. Saudi Arabia, with its deep oil reserves, has promised to inject millions of gallons into the market to avoid a price shock, but there is increasing unease given the Khashoggi murder.
Congress is threatening sanctions on Saudi Arabia, and hitting the pause button on a multibillion-dollar arms deal, which President Trump wants to avoid.