Whether or not he is a purveyor of “alternative facts”, Michael Wolff in Fire and Fury tries to get inside the mind of Donald Trump when working out Washington’s new Middle East foreign policy.
In Wolff’s words, this is what the United States president was thinking.
“There are basically four players [or at least we can forget everybody else], Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran,” he writes in his highly controversial book. “The first three can be united against the fourth.
“And Egypt and Saudi Arabia, given what they want with respect to Iran – and anything else that does not interfere with the United States’ interests – will pressure the Palestinians to make a deal,” he goes on to say.
By now, what had been established was that Henry Kissinger, who served as the US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under President Richard Nixon, was advising Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner.
At the same time, the Saudi Crown Prince in-waiting, Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS, was building a rapport with Kushner and pushing his “2030 Vision” to put Dubai in the shade.
What could be described as the Kushner and MBS New Middle East Plan started to gel when Mohammad bin Salman visited the White House in March 2017.
After offering an array of deals to Trump, he invited the president to Riyadh in May. There was also the vague promise, which was actually recycled from the Obama years, that Saudi Arabia would buy US$110 billion in weapons and invest $350 billion in the US in the next 10 years.
Then in Fire and Fury on page 233, we have the clincher. “Within weeks of the trip, MBS, detaining MBN [Mohammed bin Nayef] in the dead of night, would force him to relinquish the Crown Prince title, which MBS would then assume for himself,” Wolff writes. “Trump would tell friends that he and Jared engineered this: ‘We’ve put our man on top’.”
It is, of course, impossible to say whether “would tell” refers to a direct quote from the president. That must be open to scrutiny. But what is certain, and confirmed by sources close to the House of Saud, is that MBS did bond with Kushner.
Crucially, he did interpret Trump’s effusiveness as a green light to go after Qatar. After all, the president appeared to have accepted Riyadh’s spin that Qatar was promoting terror by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. And that Saudi Arabia was innocent of such ‘terrorist-supporting’ claims.
Additionally, MBS gave the impression Riyadh would offer the US a military base to replace Doha’s al-Udeid.
Incidentally, the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has strong connections with the base from his time as head of US Central Command, prior to his role as military adviser to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
All this fits into a somewhat plausible narrative that Kushner laid down the groundwork for Trump to give MBS permission for his plan to crack down on Qatar and replace MBN as Crown Prince, a former CIA favorite.
Certainly, all the available information points to that, as well as well as alleged German intelligence since late 2016.
Everyone knows what happened when Saudi and other members, including the UAE, of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) rolled out their “blockade” of Qatar. Iran and Turkey supported Doha, while GCC “unity” was stretched to breaking point.
It remains unclear whether the US will eventually receive the hundreds of billions of dollars in new Saudi investments allegedly promised by MBS. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is close to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, remains under house arrest as part of Riyadh’s clampdown on prominent members connected with the Saudi royal family.
The prince has not come out with a single Twitter message since his arrest, which is strange considering he partly owns the online news and social networking service.
Political apple cart
This quirky paradox has to do with the allegedly $2 trillion Aramco initial public offering, which was slated for later this year but could now take place in 2019, according to Saudi officials. It is part of MBS’s game plan: Why upset the political apple cart when an IPO world of untold riches beckons?
Aramco’s eulogies are the staple of Wall Street investment banks. But they could be in for a dose of ‘shock and awe’. Aramco’s IPO might not go to New York, which is considered by Trump as a done deal, or even London.
Ali Shihabi, the founder of the Arabia Foundation think tank in Washington, has a different view. He has suggested that the Chinese could directly purchase a slice of Aramco followed by a limited IPO on the Saudi Stock Exchange.
This, he concluded, would be the best option for Riyadh. “Privately placing shares with a major strategic investor like China has the advantage of being simpler, quicker, and less subject to the vagaries of public markets than a public flotation in London or New York,” Shihabi said.
If this does happen, Trump will hardly be thrilled with MBS. You can also add to the mix, the Palestine problem. MBS will simply be unable to deliver on the promise of an Israel-Palestine-Arab world Grand Deal, which looks certain to have been discussed in Washington and Riyadh.
That is virtually impossible after the president’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
So, in the end, who is on top? Since playbooks on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia have been written and ripped up with amazing regularity, don’t expect the Trump White House to send in the cavalry if MBS has to circle the wagons.
let us see..time will tell..but i think the saudis,have played this well,do the israelis and americans really want the saudis as the ally when there are better ways in the middleeast to do business,,look at yemen,it was a great strategic location for the west but the saudis have ruined it,a deal with palestine would have great economic benefits with the israelis but the saudis are playing out iran with the israelis,..i think the west is doomed and was doomed by the 100 year alliance with the saud family..the rest of the world has moved on..
Not easy to figure out who is the US favorite successor in Saudi Arabia. The former Crown Prince was very popular in Washington and with the CIA. President Trump and Netanyahu seems to have approved Crown Prince MBS.
Crown Prince MBS has been smart and not put all the eggs in one basket. MBS has improved relations with Russia and China, giving Saudi Arabia more options. There is rumors China will by a 5% stake in Aramco, so an IPO in London/New York will not be necessary. To be snubbed for this huge IPO might give the US cold feet. MBS see his project “Vision 2030” will be better off with cooperation with Russia/China and the Middle East region will be more stable.
The word “STABILITY” is not music to the ears of the US military complex or the war hawks in Washington and Tel-Aviv. Chaos in the Middle East is what generate the US profits and Israel want the Arab countries fighting each other and Iran, until there is no one left standing. Maybe, it is Crown Prince MBS and XI who will have the last laugh? President Trump will lose the commisions of the IPO and his Petrodollar lose out to the PetroYuan? Interesting to see what’s up next!
Trump and Kushner are completely unqualified to be moving pieces around on the Eurasian chess board. If they are acting with Kissinger’s advice, it only shows that Kissinger is operating with assumptions which are decades out of date. Meanwhile, MBS has been to Russia something like four times and the king was there too. The two big oil producers no doubt had a lot to talk about. Meanwhile, China is pushing the BRI through the region and will soon be creating a petro-yuan. Futures contracts will soon be traded un Shanghai. China is Saudis biggest customer and will not be able to resist this. This threatens the petrodollar, and we know what that means. Anyone who cannot see which way the wind in blowing needs a new weatherman.
It could be President Trump is grumpy he was offerd only 200 camels for Ivanka? Saudi Crown Prince MBS publicly offered Ivanka Trump 200 camels to spend one night with him.
Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) made his generous offer during a press conference in Riyadh. Discussing the country’s relations with the new American administration, the prince claimed that he had already offered Ivanka Trump 100 camels when she visited the country with her father earlier this year and had decided to double his offer.
“She is a great woman and the daughter of a great man. I would gladly give 200 of my best camels to breed with her.” Prince Mohammed bin Salman even added that he would like to have children with the First Daughter. "We both come from great lineage. Our offspring would certainly be an exceptional foal.” The Saudi Prince praised President Trump for “raising such an admirable woman”. Source: World News Daily Report.
Neither Donald Trump nor his daughter have reacted or rejected the offer. Maybe something has been lost in translation? President Trump might have assumed it was the 200 camels that would breed with Ivanka since MBS mentioned the word "foal".
Great source. I’m waiting for confirmation in the Weekly World News. Unless it shows up here, it has no credibility.
Carry on the good work.
All Filipino overseas workers should pay a levy of 5% upfront upon signing the contract with overseas employers which is to be paid by the overseas employer. This levy is to go into a sinking fund for overseas assistance by Philippine Consulate overseas in the areas you specified.
There has been too much unscrupulous exploitation of overseas Filipino workers for too long by some rogue employers.
Well Falk, correct, but it will depend a lot on what will happen in Syria; better keep an eye on Idlib, the Kurds, and what "zig zag" Erdogan will be up to… To me, right now he is playing with fire as usual, but again going a bit too far with Rojava for example. Hope Russia, Iran ( and China in the background ) will show him how a pink slip looks like…
TRUMP WILL ALWAYS SEND THE CAVALRY TO SAVE THE SAUD.
The recent developments in Saudi Arabia, show that something worng is going on.
Capture of Princes and their trail by US officials,….
What MBS wants to do could be achived without playing such drama.
Branka Alhamdy , sorry I found only now your comments, which are very sensible and documented, particularly about the US moves. About Erdogan, my zig-zag term means that it would be time now for him to learn something from Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, as it is them that have saved his skin till now. Have a nice weekend Branka
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