The heart of the US-Saudi relationship lies in the Kushner-prince friendship | Mohamad Bazzi

As Democrats untangle the many modes the administration has been beholden to Saudi Arabia, Kushners role is particularly troubling

Congress

The new Democratic majority in Congress is unraveling the many ways that Donald Trump’s administration has been beholden to Saudi Arabia since its earliest days. In a report last-place month that got lost in the suppres of other information, House Democrat detailed how top Trump administration officials, including Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner, pushed to provide the Saudi government with technology to build nuclear power plants. That could put Saudi Arabia on the path to developing atomic weapon, and further destabilize the Middle East.

Kushner’s role is particularly troubling because, as the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, he has fostered and shored up the relationship between Trump and the ruthless Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Kushner-Prince Mohammed friendship is at the heart of the US-Saudi relationship today, and it’s one reason that Trump has tried to shield the crown prince from blame for the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump and Kushner, both been applied to shady real estate deals, adapted instantly to Saudi Arabia’s system of patronage and clientelism: unwavering support from the Trump administration for the promise of weapons marketings and other business deals.

The project to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia began in late 2016, during the presidential modulation, when a group of retired US generals and national security officials coalesced around Flynn, Trump’s first national protection consultant. Even after Flynn was burnt in February 2017, other White House officials revived the programme, despite objections from organisation advocates who worried that the proposal could infringe US constitutions intended to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons. And the idea is still alive: Trump assembled last month with the CEOs of various private nuclear power companies who searched his help in building power plants in the Middle East.

While most attention has been focused on Flynn’s role, Kushner is entangled in several conflicts of interest all over the Saudi project, according to the 24-page report from the House oversight and reform committee. One of the potential beneficiaries of a Saudi nuclear deal is Westinghouse Electric, which is owned by an owned subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company that recently bailed out Kushner and his family’s busines in their ill-fated, $1.8 bn purchase of a Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue.

The alliance between Kushner and Prince Mohammed has consequences for US programme: Trump ignored a deadline last-place month to submit a report to Congress on whether the crown prince was personally responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as US intelligence agencies concluded. But like Trump’s previous endeavors to shield the prince from blame for Khashoggi’s killing, this one will backfire. By defending Prince Mohammed so strongly, Trump has seen the crisis worse and has emboldened a tougher response in Congress.

Soon after Trump was appointed, the Saudi crown prince and his advisers targeted Kushner as their gateway into Trump’s inner circle. They realized that Kushner was vulnerable because of his business dealings, lack of knowledge of the Middle East and eagerness to negotiate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump’s” inner circle is chiefly dealmakers who absence acquaintance with political custom-builts and deep foundations, and they support Jared Kushner”, a delegation of Saudi officials sent to the US by Prince Mohammed in November 2016 wrote in a presentation that was later published by the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar.

The Saudis hooked Kushner on that inspect, and by March 2017 he had arranged a formal lunch for Trump and Prince Mohammed at the White House, where the lord receives an grand receipt ordinarily set aside for presidents for commonwealth. Kushner then persuaded Trump to stir Saudi Arabia the first stop of his maiden foreign tour as president in May 2017. By that level, the Saudis realized that Trump craved flattery and respect, and they contributed him an extravagant welcome with multiple banquets and displays of fealty. It’s no surprise that Prince Mohammed later boasted, in accordance with the Intercept, that Kushner was ” in his pocket” and had provided information about contenders in the Saudi royal family.

Kushner has been particularly vulnerable because of his family’s acquire of the tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, at the high levels of the real estate market that gate-crashed a year later. For the past two years, Kushner Companies has been negotiating for a bailout on the property with investors from China and Qatar, who had close ties to both governments. But those deals collapsed as investors concerned about the additional scrutiny was created by Kushner’s role in the White House.

Last spring, Kushner Companies reached a tentative enter into negotiations with Brookfield Asset Management, which constitutes one of the world’s largest real estate properties corporations, for a 99 -year lease on the perturbed role tower. At the same period as Brookfield’s property arm was constituting its deal with the Kushners, another Brookfield unit announced its $4.6 bn acquire of Westinghouse Electric, a bankrupt nuclear assistances company that was part of the consortium vying to build power plant in Saudi Arabia.

That purchase required the was approved by the Trump administration: it was subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which includes senior members of nine US government agencies. The transaction expected US approval because Canadian-based Brookfield is a foreign busines that was seeking to buy an American firm in the nuclear industry. In the past, the committee requiredsome foreign companies to vacate or make changes in their proposed deals. But Brookfield’s takeover of Westinghouse Electric was approved, and the cope closed on 1 August.

On 3 August, Brookfield’s property unit announced it had shut its deal with Kushner Companies and that it would be paying the hire for the entire 99 -year lease upfront: an infusion of about $1.1 bn that would help the Kushners pay off a large portion of $1.4 bn in mortgages due in February 2019. Without a deal, those looming mortgage payments could have forced the Kushners to sell the Fifth Avenue tower at a substantial loss.

It’s unclear if Kushner’s business stakes played a role in the US approval of Brookfield’s acquisition of a nuclear company. But these conflicts underline the Trump administration’s entire approach to Saudi Arabia and its friends. With his blind support for the reckless crown prince, Trump has stopped the feigning that the US-Saudi alliance is more than a transactional plan based on oil, weapons copes and some comprehended security interests.

On 16 October, the same day that the secretary on the part of states, Mike Pompeo, arrived here Riyadh to meet with the Saudi king and crown prince over Khashoggi’s fate, Saudi officials lodged $ 100 m in funds that had been pledged to the Trump administration in August to help stabilize parts of Syria liberated from the Islamic State. American diplomats were apprehensive when the money would arrive until it abruptly appeared in US accounts.

The timing of the funds was a signal to Trump in the deal-making language he understands: the territory would continue to honor its financial predicts and business commitments to the United States if Trump cooperates in the crisis precipitated by Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi commanders conveyed to Trump- and Kushner- that they too cost lineage allegiance and financial interests above all else.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/ 2019/ impaired/ 10/ us-saudi-arabia-trump-kushner-mohammed-bin-salman

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