Tuesday, March 20, 2018

When the Crown Prince Met the Crown Prince

Today, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia arrives at the White House to meet with President Trump and his foreign policy team. More importantly, it seems, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be meeting again with the America’s Crown Prince, Jared Kushner. Link here. 

To say that this does not please the foreign policy establishment would be an understatement. And yet, considering how bad America’s relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were after eight years of Obama, one can be forgiven for being distrusting the skill and acumen of those who have been conducting America’s foreign policy.

No band of professionals will ever admit that it has been outdone by a mere amateur. And rest assured, in the world of foreign policy, Kushner is an amateur.

And yet, bands of professionals can all become convinced of the same bad idea and can all get suckered into following the same losing approach. Sometimes, fresh eyes from someone not beholden to the errors of the past, is needed.

Besides, our most recent secretaries of state have certainly not done a very good job. Evidently, Rex Tillerson knew nothing about foreign policy… though he did have relationships with foreign leaders. Hillary Clinton was completely incompetent and John Kerry was weak and feckless. As for Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, they did not do very well managing the aftermath of the Iraq War. We could go on.

We certainly value experience and we value the brain power that a Mike Pompeo will bring to the State Department. Other than that, America’s foreign policy hands have not done a great job.

Still, Kushner is anything but popular. He does not leak to the press. His comings and goings, his parleys and his negotiations have stayed silent. This does not make him popular in the media. Moreover, a certain number of dubious business dealings has prevented him from gaining maximum security clearance… thus, he is not fully apprised of the most sensitive intelligence.

Yet, Kushner has one trump card that other foreign policy hands lacked: his interlocutors know that he speaks for the president. Tillerson was speaking for himself; Kushner speaks for Trump.

The foreign policy establishment has long since thought that the solution to the problems of the Middle East was to negotiate a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinians were terrorists committed to destroying Israel did not seem to register. The fact that willingness to negotiate with one group of terrorists empowered other groups of terrorists did not seem to send up any warning flares. Willingness to make concessions to staunch terrorism never worked. And yet, the foreign policy establishment persisted.

Until the Saudi Crown Prince met the American Crown Prince. With new leadership in Saudi Arabia, and new leadership in the United Arab Emirates, the Sunni Arab world joined the war against terrorism… and made a grand public display of its commitment. The event should count as momentous.

But, the Sunni Arab nations also came to accept a point that I have been suggesting for some time: when it comes to the problems in the Middle East, Israel is the solution, not the problem.

Examine what has happened since young Jared Kushner took over relations with Sunni Arab nations. Admittedly, some of them happened behind the scenes. Some have not been announced publicly. And yet, we can read the tea leaves and draw some conclusions… or better, we can draw a picture of the political and diplomatic breakthroughs.

Saudi Arabia is liberalizing, it is opening its country to the outside world and it is promoting more free enterprise. None of it, I contend, would have happened if MBS did not think that Donald Trump had his back.

Saudi Arabia is cracking down on corruption, and on the billionaire princes who have—in my view—been funding terrorism and the propaganda mills called madrassas. It probably happened in consultation with Trump and Kushner.

Note that MBS is wildly popular in his own country. Since America is a close ally, the people of Saudi Arabia are more likely to be well disposed to our nation.

If you listen to the Israeli prime minister, you will hear the joy in his voice as he talks about the improving diplomatic relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Without the Trump administration this would not be happening.

As noted her and elsewhere, last week Kushner convoked a meeting at the White House among leaders of Sunni Arab nations with Israel present. It was the first public sit down among these nations.

The Trump administration did something that no previous administration had done: it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I believe that this would not have happened without the acquiescence of the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Clearly, the American foreign policy establishment was opposed to this move. If it happened, the relationship between MBS and Jared Kushner was part of the equation.

Finally, the Crown Princes of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates told Mahmoud Abbas that they had had enough of the Palestinian cause and that he should make peace with Israel, on Israel’s terms.

You will notice that Abbas has lately been sounding more unhinged and angry than usual. He is furious that his precious cause, a cause given legitimacy by the geniuses of our foreign policy establishment, was a lost cause. The sound of Abbas baying is the sound of a man who has just been told that he has been defeated.

This is part of the backchannel dialogue and negotiation between the two Crown Princes. Under normal circumstances I much prefer that foreign policy be conducted by professionals, not amateurs. And yet, judged on the merits, Kushner has certainly amassed an enviable record of success in the Middle East.


Sam L. said...

MBS: Good. Abbas: Bad; also, evil, and corrupt.

Uncle Max said...

great analysis.

Ares Olympus said...
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