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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/13/18

Don't expect Trump to send in the cavalry if MBS has to circle wagons

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From Asia Times

The new relationship between the president and the Saudi crown prince might be showing signs of wear and tear

President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
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Whether or not he is a purveyor of "alternative facts," Michael Wolff in Fire and Fury tries to get inside the mind of Donald Trump when working out Washington's new Middle East foreign policy.

In Wolff's words, this is what the United States president was thinking.

"There are basically four players [or at least we can forget everybody else], Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran," he writes in his highly controversial book. "The first three can be united against the fourth.

"And Egypt and Saudi Arabia, given what they want with respect to Iran -- and anything else that does not interfere with the United States' interests -- will pressure the Palestinians to make a deal," he goes on to say.

By now, what had been established was that Henry Kissinger, who served as the US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under President Richard Nixon, was advising Trump's son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushner.

At the same time, the Saudi Crown Prince in-waiting, Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS, was building a rapport with Kushner and pushing his "2030 Vision" to put Dubai in the shade.

What could be described as the Kushner and MBS New Middle East Plan started to gel when Mohammad bin Salman visited the White House in March 2017.

After offering an array of deals to Trump, he invited the president to Riyadh in May. There was also the vague promise, which was actually recycled from the Obama years, that Saudi Arabia would buy US$110 billion in weapons and invest $350 billion in the US in the next 10 years.

The clincher

Then in Fire and Fury on page 233, we have the clincher. "Within weeks of the trip, MBS, detaining MBN [Mohammed bin Nayef] in the dead of night, would force him to relinquish the Crown Prince title, which MBS would then assume for himself," Wolff writes. "Trump would tell friends that he and Jared engineered this: 'We've put our man on top.'"

It is, of course, impossible to say whether "would tell" refers to a direct quote from the president. That must be open to scrutiny. But what is certain, and confirmed by sources close to the House of Saud, is that MBS did bond with Kushner.

Crucially, he did interpret Trump's effusiveness as a green light to go after Qatar. After all, the president appeared to have accepted Riyadh's spin that Qatar was promoting terror by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. And that Saudi Arabia was innocent of such "terrorist-supporting" claims.

Additionally, MBS gave the impression Riyadh would offer the US a military base to replace Doha's al-Udeid.

Incidentally, the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has strong connections with the base from his time as head of US Central Command, prior to his role as military adviser to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

All this fits into a somewhat plausible narrative that Kushner laid down the groundwork for Trump to give MBS permission for his plan to crack down on Qatar and replace MBN as Crown Prince, a former CIA favorite.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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