John Bolton Is Worried About His War

Donald Trump says he told John Bolton when he hired him as National Security Advisor, “No, no wars.” But Bolton is a smart man who knows how to operate in the government to get his way. And his way is unabated hostility to the rest of the world. He has recently condemned the International Court of Justice. He supported the Iraq war. He is an advocate of preventive war against Iran and North Korea.

But the Jamal Khashoggi murder is standing in the way of a war against Iran. John Bolton must be sad. And, probably, working hard to find a way through this crisis.

It is clear that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and ruler of the country, ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi. Turkey is leaking information daily – today it was scans of the passports of the 15 men apparently sent to Turkey to commit the deed. We can ask why Turkey is being so cooperative – a little later in this post.

The Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where the murder occurred, has had cleaning and painting crews in over the last few days.

An idea was floated that the cover might be that this was an attempted abduction and interrogation that went wrong, but that didn’t take much heat off. Now there are attempts to place the blame elsewhere than MBS, but they’re not going to float either. What they may do is give President Donald Trump, who has been desperately playing for time, something he can say and perhaps even believe.

The Saudi – US relationship dates back to the 1950s, when the UK gave up its empire and direction of the oil industry. Oil has been Saudi Arabia’s primary contribution to American security. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. After that, American bases were pulled from Saudi Arabia. The country itself, as an American ally, has been something of a balancer in the region. MBS’s attacks on his own countrymen and now the obvious and brutal murder of a journalist abroad are changing that.

Republican Senators are speaking out against this blatant act, but their history has been to fall into line behind Trump when he moves. At the moment, this weakens his position slightly.

The Saudis have been poor allies for some time. Fracking and increasing American oil production make their oil less of a strategic necessity. The fact that the murder was of a journalist has galvanized the media, who seem to have learned something about open-source investigations from organizations like Bellingcat. It looks like they will pursue this story. Businesses are dropping out of an upcoming Saudi meeting. Washington consultants and lobbyists are dropping Saudi Arabia as a client.

Bolton’s problem is this: If he wants a war against Iran, he needs allies in the region. Israel would be one, and Saudi Arabia has been pressing for American actions against Iran since before Trump. Trump fulfilled one of those Saudi desires by pulling America out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal. US sanctions will be levied on Iran on November 4. If Iran reacts badly to those sanctions, say by starting uranium enrichment, Bolton will have his pretext for preventive war. But he needs those allies.

Additionally, public acceptance of a war against Iran is going to be difficult this time around. People are more aware than they were in the runup to Iraq, and government claims about Iran have been called out. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Saudi Arabia and has reported that King Salman and MBS assured him that a thorough investigation will be done. The Turks are investigating too.

The Turks are releasing a great deal of information about the incident. They claim to have recordings of the murder and release tidbits about that. They have released security camera video and passport scans.

I have not followed relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia carefully. This article says that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast himself as a supporter of the Arab Spring movements, which frighten the Saudi monarchy. So it may be that Erdogan is trying to destabilize the Sauds. In any case, this also works against a war against Iran. Two American friends in the area are fighting with each other, and the fight could well get worse.

The situation is very fluid, but many countries’ interests are in play. Bolton, too, is working hard to pull things back in line for a war.

 

[Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.]






81 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Two American friends in the area are fighting with each other

    Not to be that guy, but if you’re using that formulation to refer to Turkey and KSA, you’re pretty far off base.

  3. 3
    Mary G says:

    Pompeo yucking it up and kissing MBS’s ass today was infuriating. Buzzfeed News, which is doing some good work these days, has a long article up on American mercenaries working for Saudi allies in Yemen going around trying to assassinate people.

    Cradling an AK-47 and sucking a lollipop, the former American Green Beret bumped along in the back of an armored SUV as it wound through the darkened streets of Aden. Two other commandos on the mission were former Navy SEALs. As elite US special operations fighters, they had years of specialized training by the US military to protect America. But now they were working for a different master: a private US company that had been hired by the United Arab Emirates, a tiny desert monarchy on the Persian Gulf.

    On that night, December 29, 2015, their job was to carry out an assassination.

    Their armed attack, described to BuzzFeed News by two of its participants and corroborated by drone surveillance footage, was the first operation in a startling for-profit venture. For months in war-torn Yemen, some of America’s most highly trained soldiers worked on a mercenary mission of murky legality to kill prominent clerics and Islamist political figures.

    That attack didn’t get the guy they were after, but they are a bit unclear if and how many people they did succeed in killing. Poor Yemen, all the amnosexuals in the world seem to be going there to make the civilians miserable, starving, and sick.

  4. 4
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Well, hell, he could have a war with Saudi Arabia! That’d be a humdinger. I know there were guys back in the early post-9/11 days who imagined that it was all going to end with Bush rolling the tanks into Riyadh and taking allllll the oil. Of course they were deeply, deeply deluded, but they had their dreams.

    (Invading the country that contains Mecca: probably not a good idea regardless of other considerations.)

  5. 5
    lgerard says:

    “we were interrogating him and he accidentally died”

    “well, where’s the body?”

    “uh…………….”

    Note that the Saudis have been supporters of Kurdish independence, sometimes publicly, sometimes secretly. Also in the great Saudi/Qatar face off the Turks sided firmly with Qatar.

  6. 6
    Jay says:

    “The country itself, as an American ally, has been something of a balancer in the region.”

    Nope the flood of radical Whahhbist Mosques, Imans and the Saudi’s “habit” of exporting their troublemakers has made them the #1 State Sponsor of Terrorism.

    “If Iran reacts badly to those sanctions, say by starting uranium enrichment, Bolton will have his pretext for preventive war. But he needs those allies.”

    Iran’s not going to react. China, Russia and the EU have Iran’s back, and the Saudi’s “owned goals” are raising Iran with out them having to lift a finger.

    The Moustache of War isn’t going to get his pretext and he has that thorny little issue that he has no assets with which to wage war.

    “So it may be that Erdogan is trying to destabilize the Sauds.”

    The Saudi’s have been bankrolling the Kurds and have been trying to destabilize Turkey for almost a decade.

  7. 7
    Barbara says:

    The impact of Bolton’s naked desire to wage war on Iran has been in part to make KSA seem to think we need them more than they need us. What just happened is positively medieval in its disregard of human rights. Not that it hasn’t been obvious for some time that MBS is an Arab Putin wannabe.

  8. 8
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Mary G:
    Now imagine these guys coming home to work for their glorious christian fascist takeover.

  9. 9
    Ruckus says:

    Why don’t we give JB a tank and a large open area and let him play. We could shoot at him and see if he freaks out and if he ever learns how to operate the tank. Oh did I say we were going to train him? Not so fast skippy. He’s so smart, let him figure it out. OR, we could give him a weapon and a couple of magazines and drop him out of a helicopter in Iraq. I bet they’d love them some JB, what with his name stenciled in big letters, front and back. Note that in this instance I didn’t say the magazines would have anything in them, OK maybe some cream cheese.
    He wants a fucking war, he gets to go first. And alone. No diplomatic immunity, no pomp, no circumstance. Push his ass out of a plane at 20,000 with a static line. Now that’s a war that I could get behind. How long do you think it would take to GoFundMe for all the costs?

  10. 10
    PeakVT says:

    I doubt America will drop SA as a client state, or that many people in downtown DC will drop SA as a client. There’s simply too much money involved.

    But if this incident taints the money, and causes more people examine SA’s other actions (like the war in Yemen), that would in part balance the injustice done to Khashoggi and his family.

    The chain of command that authorized the murder should be brought to justice, but at best only the lowest levels will.

  11. 11
    Barbara says:

    @Matt McIrvin: There are many Muslim countries that don’t like the way KSA has managed the holy cities and have called for a transnational management committee. Maybe an invasion could jump start the transition. (Just kidding. Any resources we have to fund wars should definitely be going to alternative energy initiatives.)

  12. 12
    Jay says:

    @Ruckus:

    No static line, see if he’s smart enough to figure out a parachute works over the 20,000 feet of falling.

  13. 13
    Jay says:

    @PeakVT:

    KSA’s the second largest funder of Lobbiests and “dark money” in the US.

  14. 14
    Ruckus says:

    @Jay:
    I was thinking that a 20K drop on a line might be a bit more than just a long time. First 20K no Oxygen, free fall a small issue. Full chute, that’s a while with little O2. Second. 20K gives anyone on the ground a while to aim. Third, did I forget to mention this would be in the middle of the day?

  15. 15
    JimV says:

    Thanks for the informative post. What a world.

  16. 16

    @Jay: When I referred to Saudi Arabia, I was thinking of its role vis-a-vis Iran. And I said “something of” to guard against the rest.

  17. 17
    Ruckus says:

    @Jay:
    Forgot to add, your way does have a certain appeal. We could always do it your way and wrap the pull cord, so that it may not work.
    There are any number of possible, positive ways to get JB to his war, just as long as he’s there, in the middle of the shit, all by his fucking lonesome. Or they offer him up as a splat.

  18. 18
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @A Ghost To Most: During the Trump transition I said that their model for the US under Trump seemed to be post-invasion Iraq.

  19. 19
    GregB says:

    If the great game has boiled down to a chss match between Iran and Saudi Arabia, I will go all in on Iran outplaying that foolish, spoiled, horrible Prince MBS.

  20. 20
    Another Scott says:

    Recent events cause me to keep thinking of the Carter Doctrine (from 1980):

    The following key sentence, which was written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser, concludes the section:

    “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

    Too many rulers in the Middle East think that they have the US government wrapped around their fingers – MBS is just the latest one. The Carter Doctrine contributes to that thinking – I think. They think that they don’t have to change, they can do what they like in spite of international agreements and popular opinion, that their government’s policies don’t matter – the USA will let the rulers do what they want internally (military coups, gassing civilians, mass firings and imprisonments on trumped up laughable political charges, etc.) and keep things from spiraling out of control externally (economically, at the UN, and elsewhere) as long as the oil keeps flowing.

    To be specific, I think this thinking applies to Egypt, Israel, KSA and the other Gulf States, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and even Syria.

    The quicker we, and the world, relegate petroleum to the dustbin of history, the better. It’s been a curse for the people of the region and all the rest of us. One of the main reasons why we have such a huge military compared to the rest of the world is to be able to protect the oil fields and shipping routes. In other words, to be able to enforce the Carter Doctrine…

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  21. 21
    NotMax says:

    Imagine the Amir of Qatar is quietly enjoying watching this story unfold.

  22. 22
    sdhays says:

    @Barbara:

    What just happened is positively medieval in its disregard of human rights.

    Medieval state, medieval actions.

    I wonder how much Saudi Arabia’s support for destabilizing Syria and all of the trouble that is causing (it’s awful to dismiss the horrendous tragedy in Syria as “trouble”, but I’m trying to think from Erdogan’s perspective) has contributed to Turkey’s current anti-Saudi position.

  23. 23
    Jay says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    9/11 should have ended the West’s relationship with the Saudi’s.

    Instead, the Saudi’s put a little more cash on the nightstand and the West spread their legs wider.

    @Another Scott:

    With out the support of the West in the form of technocrats, the Petty Little Kingdoms would get swallowed up by the Desert or their real inhabitants.

    We have always had massive leverage over the Petty Little Kindoms, but our Politicians pretend that we don’t.

  24. 24

    Thank you for this smart and informative post. I didn’t know we pulled our bases from Saudi Arabia after 9/11, for example.

    However, there is a flaw in the very foundation of your reasoning and discussion. You are making judgments as if things were normal, and American foreign policy is a semi-rational process of calculation combining history, external events, and the ideals of the current administration. An example of that would be how the Bush administration hunted for an excuse to go to war with Iraq.

    That is not the case. There are no relevant outside issues except who is padding Trump’s wallet or making him feel like he’s in the club of awesome strong leaders who get to brutally murder dissidents. Even that barely is a factor. There is not even a Trump Doctrine, not really, no matter what he says. Our foreign policy during the Trump Era is to make pointless declarations that make Trump feel good, and then do nothing. Absolutely nothing. We back out of treaties not as an action, but as a way of doing even more nothing. Tariffs are the only thing Trump has shown any sign he has the guts to do, and those are random and indiscriminate flailing. Anybody like Bolton looking for excuses for a war is a chump fooling himself.

    In this case, Trump personally thinks murdering Khashogi is super cool, and it pisses him off that he’s being pressured to decry it. He’ll probably waffle, and then drop the topic as fast as possible. America, in terms of actual foreign policy, will do… nothing.

  25. 25
    WaterGirl says:

    Oh my god, who does this sound like? Alternating between dark brooding and rampaging anger… looking for someone to blame. No wonder Trump is supporting him over his country; they are twins separated at birth.

    Inside his royal palace in Riyadh, Mohammed bin Salman is said to have alternated between dark brooding and rampaging anger in the days after the death of Jamal Khashoggi, as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, or MBS, as he is widely known, looked for someone to blame for what Turkish officials have said was the journalist’s grisly murder.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/mbss-rampaging-anger-will-not-silence-questions-about-jamal-khashoggi/2018/10/16/5a0bf43a-d182-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html?utm_term=.78369f5fe58b

  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    @Frankensteinbeck

    Ought to be mentioned that the eviction of those bases (set up during the first Gulf War) was one of Osama bin Laden’s primary goals.

  27. 27
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Thank you for this smart and informative post. I didn’t know we pulled our bases from Saudi Arabia after 9/11, for example.

    This was done in order to provide the Saudis distance from the US because bin Laden’s message was resonating within the Kingdom. Basically we closed them and significantly reduced our footprint in order to provide the Saudis with a steam release of social, political, and religious pressure. If you actually go and reread bin Laden’s manifesto, his Letter to America, everything he said he wanted to happen/needed to happen/he would make happen actually happened. A lot of it we just did for him. Such as removing US troops from Saudi Arabia.

  28. 28
    Mary G says:

    @WaterGirl:

    The House of Saud meets the House of Trump. This is either a marriage of convenience, or ignorance, or complicity. But it is a dangerous walk down the aisle regardless.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) October 16, 2018

  29. 29
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    You would know more about this than I. At the time there were scattered reports hinting that G.H.W. Bush acquiesced to the Saudi demand that there be no Jewish U.S. troops deployed there.

  30. 30
    Ken says:

    It’s no less than I’ve come to expect from anything associated with Trump, but a war with Iran and the almost certain closing of the Strait of Hormuz sounds almost diametrically opposed to “National Security”.

  31. 31
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mary G: Well said. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go bang my head against a wall.

    Or maybe I’ll watch Black Lightning and his daughter kick some ass instead.

    One last comment before shutting down the laptop for the night… Someone mentioned earlier how awful Trump looked during the 60 Minutes interview. I saw a short clip from the interview just now, watching the intro to Stephen Colbert from last night. To the person who commented earlier: the bags under his eyes really did look blue. I wonder if that was their true color of it they tried to add blue to hide some other color – red? yellow? Or perhaps his makeup person despises him.

  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mary G: I’m going with this: Trump found out that Jared green lighted this whole thing, and Trump is covering for Jared.

  33. 33
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NotMax: I’ve not heard that. I do know that US troops were not permitted to have bibles, regardless of their faith, and if I’m recalling correctly, religious services for the troops, even though they’d be on base, were not allowed. Both of these were because Saudi Arabia only recognizes one religion, Sunni Islam, and only their Wahhabist version of radical tawheed.

  34. 34
    Jay says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    The US didn’t pull it’s bases from Saudi Arabia after 9/11.

    After occupying Iraq, the US started constructing 18 massive military bases in Iraq, that were supposed to be “enduring”.

    Iraqi Resistence to the US Occupation required moving assets from Saudi Arabia to Iraq.

    The bases in Iraq turned out not to be “enduring”.

    The US still maintains and staff’s 5 military bases in Saudi Arabia, all of which provide support services for the Petty Little Kingdom’s genocidal war in Yemen.

  35. 35
    Mary G says:

    Looking forward to this:

    I will say: I'm very excited about an investigation we're publishing tomorrow.#TrumpInc.— Eric Umansky (@ericuman) October 17, 2018

    ProPublica does good work.

  36. 36
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mary G: I followed that link to a Seth Abramson link. There’s a whole thread there that’s interesting to me — I hope someone front pages it here tomorrow.

    And with the hope of something coming out about Trump tomorrow, I will head to bed, with a bit of TV first to wash all the hideous news from my head.

  37. 37
    Miss Bianca says:

    @WaterGirl: You know, this is WTF I don’t get…how did these goons imagine that there would be *no* splash back *at all* over something like this? How can some asshole sit on his goddam golden throne and just order the torture and death of some pesky journalist he doesn’t like as if he were ordering a pizza, and then get all huffy when the rest of the world dares to say, “Dude, SO not cool”? He’s as deluded as Donald Trump. They deserve each other. But the world doesn’t deserve them.

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: I would take Seth Abramson with a sizable grain of salt. Like a grain of salt that’s my size.

  39. 39
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: Because he managed to cut of the royal stipends to most of his fellow princes, then had them rounded up, extorted significant money out of them under the guise of anticorruption, and then had them either placed under house arrest or regular arrest. Anyone who says no to him gets punished. He couldn’t imagine that if he did something there would be repercussions.

  40. 40
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    Lot’s wife big brother Guido.

    :)

  41. 41
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    MBS came away unscathed from the whole shmear involving the prime minister of Lebanon.

    Just sayin’.

  42. 42
    debbie says:

    Pretty sloppy of SA to leave so many clues for the Turks to pick up. As Kay might say, they’re using their low-quality people.

    Would Bolton seriously consider a third war when the previous two haven’t been fully resolved? Wasn’t he part of that Plan for a New Century that planned for only two wars at a time?

  43. 43
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Adam, any chance of an actual palace revolt among the other princes? Not like any of them would necessarily be any better as a ruler, but I am so nauseated by the accounts of Khashoggi’s death that the thought of all of them fighting each other like rats trapped in a bag is somehow…soothing to me.

  44. 44
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NotMax: I wrote a post about that.

  45. 45
    Origuy says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I know at least one Jewish US soldier in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, my brother-in-law. He’s tall, has a common Jewish surname, and stereotypical Jewish features. Plus a Jersey accent. You couldn’t hide him if you tried.

  46. 46
    Jay says:

    @WaterGirl:

    According to leaks from people close to MBS, Jared gave MBS the CIA’s full lists of Saudi dissidents, activists, reformers and Executives and Princes who did not fully support his rule.

  47. 47
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: The senior princes are fast approaching the point where, despite being under house arrest, they either have to depose both MBS and King Salman or they’re going to be stuck with him. And with the Kingdom an international pariah except for the US as long as Trump is president and the United Arab Emirates.

  48. 48
    Jay says:

    @debbie:

    US Militarists believe that there is no end to US Military Power and no problem that cannot be solved by Military actions.

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: Also, Nayef, who MBS deposed as Crown Prince and eventually placed under house arrest, would be a significant improvement.

  50. 50
    NotMax says:

    @Origuy

    Would be curious if he was restricted to base the whole time and/or had some unique stamp or limitation noted on his passport (or was issued a mocked up passport or papers).

  51. 51
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: @Jay: Bolton is very well educated, but he is a poor strategist and his critical and strategic thinking are largely non existent because they are completely constrained by his pre conceived ideological notions.

  52. 52
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Origuy: That was my understanding – that the US determined who did and did not deploy. The Saudi limitations were on having bibles and services.

  53. 53
    NotMax says:

    @Adam L. Silverman

    Regional story, unrelated to the KSA. Strictly FYI.

    [Kuwaiti] MP Mohammed Al-Mutair, through his Twitter account, urged Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan to ban mixed gyms like those found in hotels and resorts within the next two weeks “or else your removal will become a social and moral obligation”. Source

  54. 54
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NotMax: I supervised a Kuwaiti colonel my final year at USAWC. He’s now retired and a government official. I just emailed this too him with the subject of: What did you do?

  55. 55

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    However, there is a flaw in the very foundation of your reasoning and discussion. You are making judgments as if things were normal, and American foreign policy is a semi-rational process of calculation combining history, external events, and the ideals of the current administration. An example of that would be how the Bush administration hunted for an excuse to go to war with Iraq.

    That is not the case.

    You are quite correct.

    This is a continuing problem in analyzing the Trump administration. There are people in the administration that think as I have demonstrated in this post, however, and Bolton is one of them. To what degree they can put their thoughts into action is a question.

    For an analyst, the situation is schizophrenic. To use the assumptions you list gives the result “just toss a coin.” It’s not an interesting analysis, and there is a possibility that something more orderly will emerge. To do conventional analysis too earnestly, however, is to miss the point. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, provides some nice examples of this too-earnest analysis. It takes my breath away when I read some of his tweets.

    I have to keep both in mind. It’s never clear how things will shake out. But I prefer to explore scenarios rather than give in to the constant social-media (and other media) demand to be an oracle who can predict the future. That’s only one function of analysis, and perhaps not the most important. It is currently emphasized to a point where it often distorts the discussion.

    So this post is more scenario construction than anything else. And it’s just a little sardonic, which may not have been clear to all.

  56. 56
    debbie says:

    @Jay:

    According to leaks from people close to MBS, Jared gave MBS the CIA’s full lists of Saudi dissidents, activists, reformers and Executives and Princes who did not fully support his rule.

    If this is true, why hasn’t more been made of this?

  57. 57

    @debbie:

    Would Bolton seriously consider a third war when the previous two haven’t been fully resolved?

    A third war would definitely stretch American resources. Would Bolton consider it? He talks as if he would.

  58. 58
    Amir Khalid says:

    @NotMax:
    Some Muslims are determined that we should all follow the example of the Prophet, and live in the 7th century. Except for the rich and powerful, who get to enjoy their booze and sex when they travel to the west. That there is one of them.

  59. 59
    cmorenc says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    @debbie: @Jay: Bolton is very well educated, but he is a poor strategist and his critical and strategic thinking are largely non existent because they are completely constrained by his pre conceived ideological notions.

    Thus illustrating the profound difference between education and wisdom.

  60. 60
    Jay says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Digby today had a post up on research into majickal thinking.

    https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/10/malfunctioning-intuition-in-modern-world.html?m=1

    When I worked for other people, in performance reviews they always tried to “neg” me for not making decisions with out all the facts.

    My counterpoint was a zero history of failure compared to other’s who believed in majickal thinking.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: It wouldn’t stretch them. It is beyond them.

  62. 62
    NotMax says:

    @Amir Khalid

    AFAIK the Prophet never uttered word one about a 7 days to firmer abs regimen.

    ;)

  63. 63
    Another Scott says:

    @NotMax: Oh yeah, that happened too, not so long ago.

    The 2017 Lebanon–Saudi Arabia dispute began when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri abruptly announced his resignation while he was in Saudi Arabia on 4 November 2017. Shortly thereafter, the foreign relations between both countries and allied regional neighbors have become increasingly strained. On 6 November, Saudi Arabia claimed Lebanon declared war between the two states, despite leaders of Lebanon stating otherwise. On 9 November, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates asked their citizens to leave Lebanon. The conflict is thought to be part of the larger Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict.

    Lebanon’s president and some Lebanese officials believe that Hariri’s abrupt resignation was made under coercion by Saudis and have claimed that the Saudis have kept him hostage.[1] Iran, Hezbollah and some analysts also believe that this was to create a pretext for war against Hezbollah.[2] On 21 November, Hariri resigned in Beirut but he immediately suspended it, then he rescinded the resignation completely on 5 December.

    […]

    Sheesh, that was less than a year ago!!11 The End of History, yeah, sure, it only seems that way because so much insanity has happened in such a short amount of time…

    (sigh)

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  64. 64

    I wasn’t able to find much on Jared’s role. I would have liked to include that, but I have no idea how he interacts with Bolton. There is currently no US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who would be interacting with Bolton big time right now. Jared seems to have taken the role of ambassador without having to do the nasty and boring work of managing the embassy.

    One of my mental pictures of Jared’s interaction with MBS, however, parallels April Glaspie’s with Saddam Hussein.

    One purported transcript of her critical interaction with him.

    But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi (Chedli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League) or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.

    Transposing that to Jared – MBS:

    But we have no opinion on your internal conflicts, like your concern with Khashoggi. My father in law believes in the sovereignty of nations to do as they will with such things. We have no opinion on this issue and the issue is not associated with America. My father in law emphasized that sovereignty in his speech at the United Nations. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods.

  65. 65
  66. 66
    Jay says:

    @debbie:

    https://theintercept.com/2018/03/21/jared-kushner-saudi-crown-prince-mohammed-bin-salman/

    You would have to have a functioning First Estate rather than beltway clickbait amusement over the Insane Clown POSus’s “antics” and “Dem’s in Disarray”.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jay: Not surprising at all. As you know, my primary professional purpose for the better part of the last decade has been to ensure that senior decision makers and their staffs have timely, robust, accurate, and digestible information in order to enable them to make better decisions. It isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a whole lot better than magical thinking.

  68. 68

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    I think that overestimates Jared. He is not Trump, so there’s that. He’s not as cowardly and lazy. He is at least as stupid, however, and he has no control over Trump and Trump’s inaction. Having watched him at work, I cannot sufficiently stress his stupidity. Half of whatever he is saying to other countries will be gibberish, meaningless buzzwords on the order of ‘put it on The Cloud.’ He has demonstrated that he thinks he’s a solid gold genius when he does that, and has no grasp that his word salad has no equivalent in real world action. The other half will be ‘What can you bribe me with?’ I’m guessing he’s selling secrets because Trump’s foreign policy is so limp, there’s nothing else he can sell. Maybe there is money authorized by congress that the administration can decide which specific foreigner to funnel to, and he would certainly do that. He’s also not above selling things he can’t produce.

  69. 69
    catclub says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    In this case, Trump personally thinks murdering Khashogi is super cool, and it pisses him off that he’s being pressured to decry it. He’ll probably waffle, and then drop the topic as fast as possible. America, in terms of actual foreign policy, will do… nothing.

    I agree with this, particularly the last sentence. As far as I can tell, if Obama were still president, or Hillary, or George W Bush, the response would be about the same. too, also. We would still do close to nothing in all cases. We would not a)embargo Saudi Oil b) permanently stop selling them arms
    c) Obama and Hillary miiight stop supporting their war in yemen. refueling jets? surveillance info?

  70. 70

    @catclub:
    Now, that’s an interesting question for Cheryl. What would a Democratic administration be likely to do over this?

  71. 71
    Redshift says:

    In a belated response to a comment on the previous thread, I actually thought it was a good thing that Trump was trotting out “innocent until proven guilty” and making comparisons to Kavanaugh, because both cases highlight how you’re only entitled to the presumption of innocence if there is a serious investigation. If the authorities are doing their best to prevent one, then it’s entirely fair to presume guilt.

  72. 72
    Redshift says:

    @Redshift: Meant to add, it seems fairly obvious that Trump is also test-driving “innocent until proven guilty and I’ll do my best to prevent you from proving anything” for use in relation to the Russia investigation, and the same principle applies.

  73. 73
    catclub says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Trump found out that Jared green lighted this whole thing, and Trump is covering for Jared.

    Some one else mentioned April Glaspie. I will say that Jared greenlighted this as much as April Glaspie greenlighted the invasion of Kuwait, which is zero. Kind of leaves out the agency of Saddam Hussein/ MBS.

  74. 74

    @Frankensteinbeck: It’s too late for me to fully flesh out a scenario. Let me point out a few things.

    1) We would have to readjust our thinking back to a more rational approach to foreign policy.
    2) There would still be a Republican Congress, who would have been investigating and harassing Clinton continuously.
    3) IIRC, Obama was beginning to run out of patience with Saudi Arabia. Clinton was more disposed to “The Blob’s” thinking, so might have been more tolerant (more tolerant than Obama, not necessarily Trump) of Saudi misadventures.
    4) Without Jared’s bro relationship with MBS, the thing might not have happened at all.
    5) If it did, there would at least have been a more competent pro-forma statement at an earlier date.
    6) A break with Saudi Arabia would be within the realm of possibility.
    7) But would there be a war in Yemen, which is one of the current stressors?

  75. 75

    And now, goodnight. Couple of hungry kitties demand their nightly crunchies.

  76. 76
    Redshift says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    He’ll probably waffle, and then drop the topic as fast as possible.

    But he’s not waffling or dropping it – he’s giving Saudi the full treatment – “they very strongly deny it, it’s terrible people are accusing them, let me offer an alternative fact-free conspiracy theory.”

  77. 77
    Jay says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    “7) But would there be a war in Yemen, which is one of the current stressors?”

    Yes.

    KSA has long belived that they get to pick who rules Yemen.

    The Hadi/Houthi conflict started because the Yardzi’s got tired of the Saudi’s flooding their 5’ver areas with radical Whahhbist Mosques, Imans and trying to turn their kids into terrorists.

    Obama didn’t slow down the mess US policy caused in Yemen,

    and the Petty Kingdoms have no military, just a bunch of mall queens, with out Pentagon support.

    Democratic Party war policies and relations with the Petty Kingdom’s are not much different than ReThug policies.

    Remember Lybia?

    https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/lessons-libya-how-not-intervene

  78. 78
    Redshift says:

    @catclub:

    Some one else mentioned April Glaspie. I will say that Jared greenlighted this as much as April Glaspie greenlighted the invasion of Kuwait, which is zero. Kind of leaves out the agency of Saddam Hussein/ MBS.

    No, it doesn’t. No one is denying those things happened because the respective rulers wanted to do them. But while “greenlighting” is probably overstating the case, it’s also silly to deny that the US has influence in both situations and the calculus of both leaders takes into account whether or not our disapproval has been communicated.

  79. 79
    Waynski says:

    President Bone Spur is working hand in glove with Prince Bone Saw. Yeesh. This is awful.

  80. 80
    Jay says:

    @Redshift:

    As the Intercept notes, Jared gave MBS the “list” of enemies to target.

    And despite knowing that Kashoggi (sp) was a target for liquidation, and under US Laws, the IC had a “duty to warn” him, they didn’t.

    So that’s at least two times.

    Adam say’s three times is enemy action.

    Then there’s Jared’s little bailout.

  81. 81
    Ken Shabby says:

    Thank you to all. I can learn more here in a ten minute read than aggregate elsewhere in as many months.

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