What Would Jared Kushner’s Middle East Peace Look Like?

NYT has gotten a lot of heat for letting associates speaking for Jared Kushner who nevertheless refused to be IDed as such provide this explanation for why he asked Sergey Kislyak for a channel of communications that bypassed any US intelligence scrutiny.

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, spoke in December with Russia’s ambassador to the United States about establishing a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow to discuss strategy in Syria and other policy issues, according to three people with knowledge of the discussion.

I would defend NYT on two grounds. First, while I’m totally supportive of WaPo (and others) providing anonymity for their sources who are providing highly sensitive details about what went on, they, too, could provide a bit more detail so readers could understand the motives, not least by indicating whether these were Congressional (and therefore partisan) or intelligence sources.

But I also think it highly likely the relationship between the Syria claim and what is really going on is similar to the original NYT explanation of this meeting — that it served to “establish a line of communication” between the Trump Administration and Russia and what has now been disclosed as an effort to establish a line of communication that bypassed all IC scrutiny. That is, I suspect those who shared this excuse believe it and believe it is rational within a larger context, and I believe it describes part of what they know to be going on. (Don’t go nuts just yet — I’m not defending that belief.)

Before I explain what I mean, consider a few more data points.

First, in this appearance, Juliette Kayyem and Steven Hall distinguish what this appears to be — a channel that bypasses the IC — from one that uses a third country (the Pope, in Kayyem’s example of President Obama’s back channel to Cuba) to establish a dialogue with an estranged country, a traditional back channel.

But remember, this is not the only country Kushner was establishing weird communications with. The WaPo story on this reminds of Trump’s secrecy surrounding a meeting between the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Kushner, Flynn, and Bannon.

Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner, Flynn and Stephen K. Bannon, another top Trump adviser, because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.

And WaPo ties that meeting to a meeting, brokered by UAE, between Erik Prince and a Putin confidante on January 11.

Now consider National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s take on all this. First, he’s not all that concerned that his boss’ son-in-law tried to set up a channel of communication using an adversary’s facilities. According to him, they do this all the time!

“We have back-channel communications with any number of individual (countries). So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner,” McMaster said.

“So it doesn’t pre-expose you to any sort of content or any kind of conversation or anything. So we’re not concerned about it.”

Actually, he does have a point there. There’s the Emirates meeting, but there’s also Mike Flynn’s discussions of kidnapping Fethullah Gulen at the behest of Recep Erdogan. You might even include Rudy Giuliani’s intervention in the Reza Zarrab case.

As if McMaster’s lackadaisical attitude about Kushner’s attempt to use Russia’s facilities isn’t weird enough, though, there’s something else. Even before he made this weird defense of Kushner’s back channels, McMaster was excluded from at least one meeting on Trump’s overseas trip: that between Trump and Bibi Netanyahu.

National security advisor H.R. McMaster was left out of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu on Monday, a move that raised eyebrows among officials.

According to Kafe Knesset, Trump met with Netanyahu Monday evening, starting with a one-on-one meeting. The forum was soon expanded by several advisors on each side, including Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman on the U.S. side, according to Israeli officials.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also later invited to the expanded meeting, per an official, but “McMaster sat outside the King David room during the course of the entire meeting.”

So perhaps we can add Israel to the list of countries that Kushner has been establishing back channel communications with.

For better or worse, a back channel with Israel by itself would never get you accused of treason in the US. But I do find it interesting given the underlying precedent to Devin Nunes’ complaints about “unmasking:” the earlier collection of conversations in which Bibi told Members of Congress what the Obama Administration’s plans were with respect to Iran. The conversations of Trump associates that Nunes was outraged were unmasked didn’t involve Russia, he said, but did they involve Israel? Or Turkey or the Emirates?

With all that in mind, consider what the purported Middle East peace that Kushner has reportedly been crafting would actually look like. It’d include unlimited support for Israeli occupation of Palestine. Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well. It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey. It’s sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen. It’d fuck over the Kurds.

And it’d mean war with Iran.

Trump took steps towards doing most of those things on his trip, not least with his insane weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, itself premised on a formal detachment of weapons sales from any demands for respect for human rights. Of particular note, Trump claimed to be establishing a great peace initiative with Islamic countries, even when discussing meetings that treated Iran (and by association most Shia Muslims) as an enemy.

Several days ago in Saudi Arabia, I met with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region. It was an epic gathering. It was an historic event. Kind Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he’s a very wise, wise man. I called on these leaders and asked them to join in a partnership to drive terrorism from their midst, once and for all. It was a deeply productive meeting. People have said there had really never been anything even close in history. I believe that. Being there and seeing who was there and hearing the spirit and a lot of love, there has never been anything like that in history. And it was an honor to be involved.

Kushner’s “peace plan” is not so much a plan for peace. It’s a plan for a complete remapping of the Middle East according to a vision the Israelis and Saudis have long been espousing (and note the multiple nods on Trump’s trip to the growing alliance between the two, including Trump’s flight directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and Bibi’s comment on “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners”). It’s a vision for still more oppression (a view that Trump supports globally, in any case).

Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players.

And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.

Which is why you’d want to keep all of that — not just the conversations in which you persuade Russia to ditch Iran as an ally, but also the conversations where you reverse long-standing policy with Israel and America’s embrace of human rights — from the intelligence community.

Because the actual experts, the people who’ve long played a game with our frenemies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey (and a battle with our adversaries like Russia), would explain all the problems with the plan.

I get why the focus on Russia is important, here.

But what if that focus is preventing us from seeing the vast forest of a horribly realigned American foreign policy for one Russian birch tree?

This post has been updated.

Update: A longtime (but anonymous) friend of the blog sent this humorous interpretation.

***************************<eyes only>****************************
To: DJT
Fr: JK
Dt: 5/28/17
Re: NWO
Sir,
This is to summarize the state of play in our negotiations for the NWO Project.
Everything’s a Go.
Oligarch        Turf                          Stipulations
Putin            Russia/Europe            No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
Trump          Americas/Britain        No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
Xi                 Asia/Pacific               No Muslims/No Refugees/Segregated Minorities
?                  Africa
Strongmen
Erdogan
Duterte
Un
Servicers
Israel           Global Finance
Saud            Middle East Portal/Muslim Vetting
Britain          Eurussian Portal
Japan           Pacific Portal
Prince           NWO Police
Winners                    and                    Losers
Authoritarians                                     Democracy
Exceptionalists                                    Rule of Law
Oligarchs                                            Everyone Else
Men                                                   Women
Caucasian/Han                                    All other Ethnicities
Sunni                                                 Shia
Jews                                                  Palestinians
Christians                                           Non-Christians
Russians                                             Europe, Ukraine, Crimea, Al Assad
China                                                 Taiwan, Hawaii (u gave them?)
Israel                                                 Iran, Palestinians
Saud                                                  All of the Middle East ex. Israel
Gen. Bannon says the next step in the plan is Operation Revenge479…
Doing my best to put you in good positions.
Love you, Pop!
J
**********crypto room fsb dc emb uid: skislyak //sci.nwo.kompromat***********
Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

25 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Yes, it’d probably all be accomplished with corrupt self-enrichment on the part of all players. And it’d likely be a complete clusterfuck.”

    A bit of understatement. Then there’s the blowback. Manchester might become a frequent occurrence. That would justify all the new military gadgets being given by the feds to local LEOs, the domestication of military surveillance technology (privatized, of course), and the domestic oppression they enable. That, in turn, would rationalize Sessions’s renewed emphasis on “lock ’em all up” and throw away the keys (along with the already tattered rule book).

    Unlike Michael Corleone, it’s always personal with team Trump. It’s always about the money, always about enabling authoritarians to dictate its use, and always about payback. One day, they might understand the related term, “blowback”. Their actions are likely to generate a lot of it. We shouldn’t let them explain it away to other causes.

    • emptywheel says:

      Adding that it has always seemed most likely that frenemy Turkey and frenemy Saudi Arabia seemed to be able to influence the flows of refugees to Europe.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Adding that their and Russia’s oligarchs are always handy for financing Trump projects and for paying exorbitant sums for hearing Trump’s post-presidential wisdom.  His fees for speechifying and “advising” are likely to make Tony Blair look like a piker.  All in exchange for a fp policy change here and a little change there.  Not to worry.

  2. person1597 says:

    “No, no, no, don’t tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to. ”

    …Oh…

  3. Simmer says:

    I ask why with the scenario you describe. Please confirm, you are saying that Trump et al believe they can make more personally from an alliance brokered between the Sunni’s and Israel. The payment they must make to the Sunni’s is crushing the Shia. Do i have this right?

      • Charles says:

        It’s a hypothesis that’s consistent with American action for at least two decades, and probably four.

         

        Someone I knew was a State Department official who served in both Saudi Arabia and Israel. This person was very positive about both what was happening in SA and in Israel… even after the Wall started to go up, the Second Intifada, and even after 9/11, Afghanistan, and the Iraq occupation.  From our conversations, I gleaned that the US saw the instability created by terrorist groups like Hamas and intriguers like Hezbollah as a more serious problem than the instability created by turning the West Bank and Gaza and all of Iraq into concentration camps. Although anecdotal, this is consistent with my reading on US policy in the Middle East.

         

        I think it’s insane and short-sighted, but it seems to be a path that Administrations both Republican and Democratic (minus some positive developments under Obama) have committed to.

  4. greengiant says:

    Why did I think US foreign policy would be any different under Trump. Oh right, Trump is always lying.

  5. klynn says:

    Best advice I ever received from a very famous diplomat, “Move from ‘what if thinking’ to thinking.”

  6. MaDarby says:

    Gee, I wonder if Kissinger and Nixon had back channels to arrange his trip to China. There is nothing untoward or new about back channels they are in fact necessary.

    Civilians have the power of governance not the Military or the military related spy agencies the NSA has no authority to know every word the president says or who he contacts.

    Everyone hates Trump so much and would prefer the Neoliberal establishment continue its slaughter of millions sense WWII, its driving and keeping billions in poverty the invasions, the coups the “Global full spectrum domination.” Until some nice guy comes along and we all hold hands and pass laws.

    There is no such thing as justifiable McCarthyism.

    • Charles says:

      Have you taken the time to research whether they established the back channels by including the State Department, and the intelligence agencies? Do you think Nixon was using an insecure phone when talking with foreign governments? Did Nixon tell a foreign government where our nuclear subs were located?

       

      Some people are so scared of the neoliberal establishment that they forget that other nations are no more virtuous than the American empire. Some people’s knowledge of history is formed by imagination and confirmation bias rather than reading the historical record.

       

       

      • Evangelista says:

        Charles,

        According to historical record Nixon believed in international communication by pumpkin.  Established it to occur, even.  …Even though further confirmation indicates that in history, the historical record established by Nixon, et al, affirmed by “legal process”, the ‘pumpkin communicating’ was ‘spectral’, like the Devil sitting on a beam looking down on “legal proceedings” in Salem, Mass. in 1692…

        As the existence of historical records for Fascism and Nazism (a socialism, and so different from fascism) in the last century indicate, “neoliberalism” is neither neo, nor liberal.  It is, instead, a purer form of fascism, with no socialism component at all, i.e., no interest in making trains run on time (or today, airlines), the precedence of the ‘fasces’ component justifying a “let them schedule around us” attitude.

        [For more history about back-channel communications, including accounts of back-channel communicating with even neither ‘side’ aware of them (until possibilities for grounds to begin toward possible compromise were established to provide something to communicate) read contemporary chronicles of the Crusades.]

  7. John Casper says:

    “(Don’t go nuts just yet — I’m not defending that belief.)”

    “Thanks, I needed that.”

  8. M says:

    Well, this is the rejection of neocon foreign policies that the comrades are counting on Donald to implement. How this makes the world better beats the %#@& out of me.

    And there’s Merkel’s apparent rejection of US and UK influence in Europe. Which is to say Donald gave her the best pre-election gift ever: Greater German hegemony, because that always works out well: A couple of wars, the euro…

    Meanwhile, in addition to Donald and Jared’s Saudi-approvved vision for Shiite dominance of the Mid East, it appears that the disastrous failures in Afghanistan, Iraq , Libya and Syria will continue.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nixon and Kissinger were in office when they established extramural channels with China, with the goal of re-electing the president and upsetting the Russians, while upending decades of Republican refusal to recognize China, owing to rigid ideology and the generous hand of a well-heeled China/Taiwan lobby. A policy that was obviously not working.

    Kennedy was in office and attempting to avoid a nuclear war when he established similar channels with the Russians over Cuba.

    Kushner, Trump and Flynn?  None were in office.  None of them seem to have sought permission for these channels.  Their actions are unprecedented:  They so wanted to avoid legitimate oversight that they attempted to use the secure compartmentalized comms resources of a major adversary for undisclosed reasons.

    Their actions were hamfisted and prone to discovery.  Not naive, the Trumps don’t do naive.  They do ignorance and arrogance, and have the blind belief that because they want something, they should have it, something we encourage our children to grow out of at an early age.

    The Trumpies probably expected a twofer: If discovered, their captive Attorney General would quash any investigation.  If not, they could argue that they were still private citizens, pursuing private, profit-making goals.  Ugly, legally questionable, but in this climate possibly politically acceptable.  But that distracts from why.  Payback for past, current or future Russian oligarch funding?  For current or future deals?  Whatever the reasons, they were unlikely to be about legitimate changes to foreign policy.

    Mr. Mueller has his work cut out for him.  But owing to his work being secret, Congress must still do its part, investigate, document and make public.  Otherwise, Congress risks plunging us into government by tweet.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Speaking of government tweets.

      “It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out the White House are fabricated lies”

      Is he talking from experience?

      Does he have a guesstimate as to how many of the leaks are factual?

      Does he have any clue as to why there are so many leaks coming from the White House?

  10. Charles says:

    Marcy says,

    Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well. It’d sanction the increasing authoritarianism in Turkey. It’s sanction Saudi Arabia’s ruthless starvation of Yemen. It’d fuck over the Kurds.
    And it’d mean war with Iran.

    what if that focus is preventing us from seeing the vast forest of a horribly realigned American foreign policy for one Russian birch tree?

     

    Um… yeah. Not to mention opening up the Arctic for Russian drilling, and the gunboat diplomacy in the China Sea, and the likely backlash into Cold War 2.0 when this very bad plan of Trump and the Russians eventually implodes.. Those of  us who aren’t blinded by xenophobia and anger about Russian meddling in our election as we have meddled in theirs have been aware of these concerns.

     

    They’ve been what have driven us to write about them– to shut down the ::Louise Mensch:: conspiracy theorists who are trying to discredit the investigation and the ::Stephen Cohen:: apologists who are so afraid of a new McCarthy era that they’re blind to the consequences of not addressing Russian ratf–king and the ::John McCain:: lunatics who think that a nuclear confrontation with Russia might be a good thing.

     

    Ultimately unraveling this mess comes down to the birch tree, and showing how it is central to all these dysfunctional efforts.

     

    And maybe chopping off a few of its tentacles, for that matter. Russians have a vital interest in Ukraine. They do not have a vital interest in Syria.

  11. Larry says:

    It’s the re-rise of the white supremacists and the white supremacist surrogates against whomever they are pleased to consider nonwhite, in other words more hair-trigger Great Powers nonsense in the entitled patriarchal manner.  Who will be Ferdinand this time?

  12. lefty665 says:

    “But what if that focus (Russian back channel) is preventing us from seeing the vast forest of a horribly realigned American foreign policy for one Russian birch tree?”

    Aside from more arms to the Saudis than the Israelis might like, where is the “horribly realigned” American foreign policy? It all seems to be going pretty much according to Bibi, just like it was under Duhbya and Obama. Iraq feeble, Assad to be gone, war with Iran on the docket, the neocons all snuggled up with their Project for a new American Century, the civilian dead bodies continuing to pile up, and the blow back, well it is better not to talk about that.

    A realignment of horrible American foreign policy would would be welcome, but it does not seem we are getting that.

     

     

  13. Evangelista says:

    Marcy,

    You write:  “… Bashar al-Assad would be ousted, but in a way that would permit Russia a strategic footprint, perhaps with sanction of its occupation of Crimea and Donetsk as well. …”

    The underlying assumptions your statement “foundations” on is not even sand, it is neo-con bullshit imagineering:  Russia’s support for al-Assad is Russia’s ‘strategic footprint’.  The only way Assad could be ousted and Russia keep its footprint would be for Assad to be violently displaced, whereupon Russia would have to continue supporting his successor.  For Russia to abandon Assad, or turn to manipulating for Israel, its obedient dog America and the other Israel-interests dominated opponents to Syrian national autonomy (and existence) would make (or reveal) Russia ‘another America’ and another sub-tenet to Israel.  Russia would become ‘bitch’ to America’s ‘dog’ in Israel’s kennel.  Russia would lose all the credibility and standing it has gained, in the world and in the region, and everywhere Islam extends (the non-Da’esh/Salafi/Takfiri opposition to Assad and Syrian Islamic-liberalism, which Syria’s autonomy as a nation-state is perceived champion for, is anti-Islamic, while the Salafi aligning themselves with anti-Islam to forward their “dream” to “Salafize”[‘Puritanize’] Islam are ‘self-outcasting’, showing themselves willing to violate Muhammed’s “Umma” to shape an Islam-violating, and so also anti-islam, false-Islam alternative), including in its own ‘back-yard’, where it borders on Islamic nations, and in its own Islamic provinces/republics.  Europe (NATO) is presently ‘first bitch’ to America in the Israeli kennel, which means thre would be ill-will and a fight for dominance in the kennel.  Neo-liberal and Neo-con interests would take Europe’s part, Russia already being recalcitrant, having balked at ‘foreign ownership’ of its assets and resources, and taken steps to ‘claw-back’ what was taken when the West turned what was supposed to be a ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ controlled merge of economies into a collapse where the Russian People, social-owners of Russia’s resources and assets, were beat out of those by ‘neo-con’ and ‘neo-liberal’ manipulations, it would be Rusia who would ‘get the stick’, be beaten into second-bitch place.  The manipulated “revolution” and the outside-forced “internal-warfare” in the Ukraine is struggle for neo-con domination of the Ukraine’s agricultural, industrial and resource assets, which Euro-American and Israeli “investors” are “purchasing” right to “purchase” (or take possession of for “debt repayment”) by financing (but with U.S. Congressionally emplaced, American tax-payer funded, ‘guarantees’.  The Donetsk and Luhansk resistors are resisting against the removal of Ukraine assets and resources going to Western owners.  The inability of Kiev, its neo-con linked oligarchs and neo-con overseer controlled government to field an army able to over-run the resistance if for resistance, too.  It is in part for this, and in part to avoid raising any spectres of Soviet imagery that Russia is not in occupation of Ukraine.  The “Russians” fighting for Donetsk and Luhansk  are ethnic Russians,  Ukrainians of Russian ancestry.  Russia’s role is only supporting and supplying and advising, none of which activities are ‘interfering’ in the ‘American-lexicon’.  It is of importance to recognize this because it is core to Russia’s strategy in Ukraine:  Ukraine is going to remain Ukrainian.  When the Kiev Koop collapses it will be ‘fellow-Ukrainians’ who will reform the nation and government.  It won’t be ‘invaders’.  Russia will be able to offer help, as will other nations around, but will not be responsible for any debts or short-comings.  Russia has the Soviet Empire experience behind it and so knows what it is to own satellites, and knows satellites are never happy being owned.  Thus, offering Russia  Crimea, which is voluntarily, and happily, rejoined to it already, and ‘occupation-ownership of Ukraine’ are figments of Western  …  What?  We don’t want to sully the word “imagination” by using it for something as stupid and self-delusional as this…

  14. John Casper says:

    Evangelista,

    As usual, “The underlying assumptions(sic)your” comment and the rest of it are poorly executed “…neo-con bullshit….”

    • lefty665 says:

      As with so much else John, you have no clue what “neo-con” means.  Registered for the Twit Race yet John? Time’s a wastin’.

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