Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a secret meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince. All three parties denied the meeting occurred but lately their story has sprung leaks.
This triad of unsavory characters – MBS, who ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Netanyahu, under indictment for bribery, bank fraud, and breach of trust at home in Israel, and Pompeo seeking support for a presidential run in 2024 – are doing Trump’s dirty work by establishing an anti-Iranian alliance they hope will undermine the incoming Biden administration.
Then yesterday, following the assassination of Iran’s chief nuclear scientist (widely understood to have been the work of Israel) we learned that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is headed back to the Middle East to resolve a dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and to “quiet tensions” amid Iranian threats to retaliate. What could possibly go wrong?
Best guessers think Pompeo’s secret meeting was intended to prevent the Biden administration from rejoining or renegotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear treaty signed by Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the European Union that Trump withdrew from in 2018. Whether the US was involved with Israel in the Iranian assassination (remember Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January and was silent on the murder of Khashoggi) Iran vowed today that “it is not going to ‘fall into the trap’ of scuttling any future talks with the Biden government following the assassination.” (Bloomberg News)
This is a scary game of chicken. Iran will surely retaliate against Israel. The port of Haifa with its strategic significance and a large civilian population is the most likely target. With wars in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, tensions in Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran, the entire Middle East is a tinder box. Surely, Kushner is the man to clean it all up.
I have a theory about this flurry of activity in the Middle East. The Donald is not a strategic thinker. He really doesn’t care about the Middle East unless it impacts him and his bottom line. Kushner is smarter but mans the other oar in the same boat. My theory is that they’re scared to death of the future. Both are highly leveraged with all that debt coming due in the next few years.
We know that no respectable bank will loan to Trump. Deutsche Bank bailed him out last time – probably with laundered Russian money – but DB is unlikely to step up for the next bailout while they are under investigation for bank fraud and money laundering. Kushner was saved from a $1.4 billion default on his 666 Fifth Avenue property when a Canadian investment bank backed by the sovereign fund of Qatar stepped in at the last minute.
So, where will they go for money next time to keep their pyramid schemes from imploding? Trump is beholden to Putin for something. We don’t know exactly what, but he’s been Putin’s “useful idiot” for four years because of it. Loyalty is the password in Trumpworld, but not in Putin’s. Despite his offer to “gift” the Russian president the penthouse of a glitzy new Moscow Trump Tower, I’m betting Putin will throw him under the bus as soon as his “useful idiot” is no longer useful.
Under the circumstances, my best guess is that all this last-minute activity – selling out the US to support Netanyahu’s claim to the West Bank and Golan Heights and the sale of extensive military hardware, including missiles and maybe even F-35 fighters to Saudi Arabia – aims at getting Trump/Kushner a lock on Saudi money (maybe even UAE money) in the future. This unholy alliance of two centuries-old Middle Eastern enemies is designed to handcuff the US in its dealings with Iran, legitimize Israel’s land grab on the West Bank, rehabilitate MBS’s reputation following the Khashoggi murder, and give Trump a tiny bit of revenge against Biden for the loss of the election.
There is something about this last 55 days of Trumpworld that has the feel of Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Don’t worry. He went to Jared…
Disclaimer: It gives me no pleasure to write about Trump and his posse, but I think it’s important to show what I believe to be the depth of their wrongdoing and the geopolitical consequences. I try to give it a spin that’s interesting and sometimes even darkly funny, but I can’t wait to see the end of this nightmarish period in our history.