Is There More to Trump’s Thumbs Up Picture?

Yesterday, Trump tweeted out this bizarre picture, featuring him, Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, and either Staff Secretary John Porter or Body Man John McEntee, all giving a thumbs up.

It appears to be a celebration of the one year anniversary of his win, though in the wake of the shellacking the GOP took in VA and his disavowal of Ed Gillespie seems like denial.

But given the inclusion of Jared — fresh off his 4AM chats with Mohammed bin Salman that immediately preceded MBS’ purge (Jared apparently joined the trip late, and some White House reporters didn’t even know he was on it) — and the fact it was taken (given Hicks and Trump’s garb) a day before it was posted makes me wonder whether the tweet is not serving a dual purpose, signaling for the second time this week that Trump supports MBS’ plans in the Middle East.

As John de Vashon noted on Twitter, the picture also foregrounds the FT coverage of MBS’ purge, from a newspaper even more dated than the clothing.

As I’ve noted of late, MBS’ purge is consistent with what I imagined, back in May, a Jared Kushner-brokered “peace” deal would look like — basically a reordering of the Middle East at the behest of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

[C]onsider 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.

Just before the purge, Saad Hariri resigned and is believed to he held in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has claimed the curiously timed missile striking Riyadh signaled Iran was in Yemen. Now, Saudi Arabia is ordering its citizens out of Lebanon immediately, suggesting there may be some kind of response now that they’ve pulled Hariri out of Lebanon.

In other words, it feels like MBS, while consolidating power and seizing his opponents’ considerable assets, is about to expand his war in the Middle East.

And conveniently, Trump and Putin will meet on Friday to lay out plans (reportedly including on Syria).

I’ve said for some time that whatever merit there is to the Russian investigation, it risked focusing too closely on just Russia, and not Trump’s other corrupt ties. Jared’s plans (and his claims about the scope of his meetings with other Ambassadors) were always far broader than just Israel.

And no one in Trump’s orbit have the sophistication to understand if they’re being snookered by the Saudis and Israelis.

So I wonder whether this picture isn’t designed to do far more than gloat about the election.

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

19 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    Other than the widely held position that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS is way out of his depth this is all a pretty interesting geo strategic parry by the Trump crew. MBS was not the CIA’s man, by a long shot.The thing is there is nothing in it  for Russia, unless it wants to team up with Israel, the Saudi’s and us,  against Iran.  Switch sides so to speak. Give up on this China lead Eurasian economic integration thing, then maybe, just maybe, we will allow Russia some reduced sanction, until Goldman Sachs has a Moscow office, or something like that. Anything is possible I guess.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I think it is harder for the Saudis to do that.  OPEC in the 70’s is not like OPEC now, since every time in the last ten years or so that OPEC tried to control supply there was so much cheating on the quotas it didn’t last 3- months before collapsing without a whimper.

      This isn’t really about oil prices but a good old-fashioned palace coup worthy of the Byzantine Empire.

  2. orionATL says:

    why do i get an ominous feeling about all this?

    the good news is that on the surface saudi arabia is liberalizing the many rules – many of those religion based – it citizens, particularly women, are obliged to follow. innate wahabanist influence on the legal system and hence overt cruelty may be being diminished.

    but ignorant, over-confident, bumbling amerian leaders – dick cheney (every thing he touches turns to shit), his bff dumb don rumsfeld, and president-in-name-only, george bush – decided iraq was ripe for conquest, cooked up some wmd data, mixed in some media hysteria, and the world changed forever – for the u. s. asxwell as iraq, et al.

    now, 15 years later we have an ignorant, over-confident, bumbling american leader, donald trump, whose diplomatic point man is his young and inexperienced son-in-law and whose national security adviser is an anti-iran general.

    war with iran may be in the offing. this will tear up the middle east again, promote another generation of terrorism, and alienate western european nations who have been our allies for a century but who have had a bellyful of american “leadership” in the last 15 years.

    two questions:

    – how fucking stupid can trump be

    – how much longer is the media going to give grace to the ignoramuses, the ideologues, the it’s-about-the-money types, all those irresponsible citizens who voted for trump. so far they have gotten off way too lightly for their folly. time for media to quit doing man-in-the-bar-or-diner interviews.

  3. der says:

    Larry Wilkerson on The Real News: “…Now they are up to the point where you can only find these iconoclastic members [U.S. Congress members], these pariah members, these members who understand the Constitution, who understand our history and more than anything understand how dangerous is the war power to the very liberties of this republic. That’s all you have left in the Congress who would, as you pointed out in your introduction, bring the United States’ action to support Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in waging this brutal, bloody war, which incidentally the Saudis and the UAE are losing. They’re losing it.”
    and: “Of course, they don’t point out that Iran wasn’t even in Yemen until the Saudis attacked, that Iran wasn’t doing anything until the Saudis attacked. All of this legislation that Hoyer and others have put together, and Hoyer by the way, is a Democrat, of course, from Maryland, is just a subterfuge, an obfuscation of the true issue, which is, the Saudis are fighting a brutal, bloody war. They’re killing lots of people. By the indirection of their actions, they’re killing potentially half a billion people over time.”
    http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20391:Most-of-Congress-%27Likes-War%27-and-Opposes-Ending-US-Support-for-Saudi-War-in-Yemen

    • orionATL says:

      the fundamental problem with government in s. arabia and in other oil countries in that area is that they lack any kind of “neutral” government/judicial bureaucracy of the kind you would find in japan, or germany, or the u. s. the entire operating civil service seems to function within limits set by royal family and clan relationships (and there are so many, many of the little suckers these days) . contracts get let (or not) and work gets done (or not) and laws and regulations are enforced (or not) depending on pressure brought to bear by kinship with ruling families. i imagine doing buiness in this situation is very much like doing business in 15th century france with kings or princes.

      it’s an easy observation that favor-trading and bribery would be premier ways of getting something done if you were working from outside the royal network.

  4. Rapier says:

    RE: the good news is that on the surface saudi arabia is liberalizing the many rules

     

    Nooooooo no no, no, no.   The women driving thing was a PR move, and it worked!  Meant to soften up ‘liberals’. There isn’t anyplace to drive to in Saudi Arabia anyway, for a woman, or women, alone.

  5. Watson says:

    It’s depressing that fail-sons Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman have inherited such influence over the fate of the planet and its inhabitants.

    The situation makes a pretty good argument for having democratic control, rather than private ownership, of real estate and mineral rights.

  6. GKJames says:

    It’s interesting to speculate how Moscow would/will respond to what Saudis, Israelis, and Americans are cooking up. It’s unlikely that Putin would be satisfied with a deal on Syria, or even Crimea and Ukraine, all places in which Russia has the upper hand regardless. Yet the Russians and Saudis have also done a $1billion investment project on energy. Meanwhile, Russia’s building nuclear reactors in, and providing anti-aircraft systems to, Iran. And Moscow opposes proselytizing, be it by Sunnis or Shiites; it doesn’t need its own Muslim population stirred up. However Putin plays this, it’s a safe be he’ll outmaneuver Orange Glow.

  7. Scott Paterson says:

    Do the Saudis realize that the Trump Administration is doomed? President Pelosi will not be able to contain the dogs of war at the GOP in 2020. They will yap for war and we will all be reminded who financed September 11th from the opposition. Who advises MBS? The House of Saud depends on the sale of oil to appease all those little princes. In two years they will be in ruins.

    • Rugger9 says:

      The Kaiser stays in power until the GOP gets their tax giveaway for the rich.  Read Krugman on this from yesterday’s NYT column (the Leona Helmsley one).  The Saudis know this.

      In 2018, however, the math may be radically different assuming that the GOP won’t try what they tried in NC to prevent the incoming D governor from being the governor.  Or, they will gin up a reason to not have the election because it’s too dangerous.  Shrub’s WH tried that idea in 2004.

      Pelosi’s a D, not GOP and the House would have to flip to make her Speaker again. That’s why I expect something to prevent the 2018 election from happening if the tea leaves continue to read as they do now.

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