Tag Archives: Trump

“The World Is a Dangerous Place!”: Trump and US Financial Interests in Saudi Arabia

20 Nov

This morning Trump issued a very lawyerly statement on Muhammad bin Salman’s guilt with regard to Khashoggi’s assassination: “The world is a dangerous place!” (as if Khashoggi just bumped into his murder) …  “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t”. And “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia, to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

 

The full statement is attached here: https://twitter.com/Acosta/status/1064939271113637890

 

Why would Trump defend the murderous intent of a government who sends a hit-team to Istanbul to suffocate and dismember a U.S. resident and writer for the Washington Post?  First let’s begin to look at the money trail (and later at the grand plan that Kushner has supposedly cooked up for Saudi Arabia in the region).

 

#Trump claims to have NO business interests in #SaudiArabia. That is only half true. In June of 2001 #Trump sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reportedly made $4.5 billion (actually more, see below). These apartments became part of the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations.

Because the Saudis also paid additional costs (like annual fees of 85K per year) he could have made as much as $12 billion in that sale, but certainly $5.7 billion.

 

Earlier, in 1991, Prince AlWaleed bin-Talal bought Trump’s yacht, “Princess” for $20 million to help him out during a very tough period. In 1995, Prince AlWaleed along with other investors bought #Trump‘s Plaza Hotel for $325 million. (Prince AlWaleed expressed strong dislike for Trump, who has returned his animosity despite the fact that he had helped Trump with these purchases. Some have speculated this is why Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman so mistreated Prince AlWaleed when he captured him along with hundreds of others and held them at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The Prince appears to have been tortured, or certainly is not the same man, and recently spoke in defense of Muhammad bin Salman as if ordered to do so).

While Trump’s dealings with Saudi Arabia were legal before his Presidency, certain actions during his campaign (involving Russia but also UAE and Saudi Arabia are arguably not) and he is supposed to avoid directly profiting from a foreign entity as a President. Even so, after #Trump became President, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel while they were lobbying (the US) – $190,000 on rooms, $78,000 for catering, $1,600 for parking accrdng to a Washington Post Report based on required lobbyist filings. Just slightly different figures were given by the Independent: “aid disclosures filed with US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, show that Qorvis MSLGroup paid $190,272 to Trump International for lodging expenses, $78,204 for catering, and $1,568 for parking.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/donald-trump-international-hotel-saudi-arabia-washington-dc-investment-270000-a7775471.html

Also see:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-hotel-received-270-000-from-lobbying-campaign-tied-to-saudis-1496700739

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/336444-saudis-spent270000-at-trump-hotel-as-part-of-lobbying-efforts-report

 

In July 2018 a lawsuit was filed against #Trump for accepting payments from foreign governments in that stay, which is a violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. The President filed a Motion to Dismiss, which the court rejected. Here’s the judge’s opinion:

http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/sites/mdd/files/17-1596-Opinion.pdf

 

Though he may not actively manage the properties, he profits or “gains” from their profits. That lawsuit is continuing.

 

Also, in March of 2018, the #Trump International Hotel in New York hosted #Saudis accompanying Muhammad bin Salman. The Saudis paid so much that the general manager of the property wrote that their five day stay produced a 13% bump in revenue for that fiscal quarter 2h2 hours ago

In addition to this information which came from a fact-check on #Trump‘s denial of interests in #SaudiArabia (https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/oct/18/donald-trump/donald-trumps-claim-no-financial-interests-saudi-a/ ) we should look carefully at Crown Prince #MuhammadbinSalman‘s activities while in the United States in March He visited tech industries in California and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) pledged $45 billion to (Japanese) SoftBank’s $100 bill technology venture capital fund. Also, PIF bought a $3.5 billion share in Uber and a $2 billion stake in Tesla; and invested about $1 billion in Virgin Group’s space companies. Why all this spending?

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had magnificent plans under #Saudi‘s Vision 2030 for a tech city, Neom, which will use AI (artificial intelligence) and robots. Just imagine all the profits that Silicon Valley companies and others could make here!

But meanwhile, why wasn’t the U.S. speaking out even prior to the brutal murder of #Khashoggi, when Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had brutally locked up and tortured senior #Saudis in the Ritz-Carlton, not releasing them until they paid huge sums of money to him?  At least one died and some are still locked up!

There have been arrests of activists, including women activists and reports they have been tortured, beaten, mistreated, and threatened from telling their family members of their treatment.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/saudi-womens-rights-advocates-reportedly-abused-while-in-prison/2018/11/20/9e77f11c-ebfb-11e8-9236-bb94154151d2_story.html?utm_term=.69dd9072b377

These include: include Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Mohammad al-Rabe’a and Dr Ibrahim al-Modeimigh.

Why was there no outcry from #US senators or congressmen? If not from #Trump and Kushner?  It wasn’t simply the prospect of business deals in the U.S. but because #SaudiArabia has spent a LOT lobbying individual politicians.

#Saudis spent $27 million on Washington lobbying firms in 2017, that is three times the amount they paid out in 2016. $400,000 went directly to campaign funds of senators and House members who were urged not to make noise about MbS’ actions at the Ritz-Carlton, or arrests of activists, and indeed they did not speak out about this. (Information from Centre on International Policy)

 

What about this important arms deal? President Trump claims that it totals $110 billion in sales. That figure is again, not entirely correct. Most of the agreements are MOIs (memoranda of intent). Actually the total is more like $28 billion made up of six items which were previously declared by President Obama to Congress. Others are more like more like a wish list, and are still being negotiated.

 

For example, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system received preliminary approval from the US Congress. However #Saudi Arabia was supposed to meet a September deadline with Lockheed Martin, and they missed that deadline. Many items are scheduled for far enough in the future, that the ‘deals’ could be withdrawn. The THAAD is tentatively scheduled for 2023-2026.

It doesn’t HAVE to be sold and no Americans are going to be put out of work they haven’t started on. There’s much more on this and fact-checking on the figure that Trump refers to here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/11/trumps-billion-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-still-fake/?utm_term=.a39d542a3a66

Now, I’m hoping to find out more about Kushner’s financial interests in Saudi Arabia …

 

Pres. Trump’s 10/18 National Strategy for Counterterrorism

6 Oct

In the past, I was asked to respond to earlier National Strategies and the QDR. After I responded, my boss, Steve Metz would castigate my comments, but our research group as a whole might have some useful discussion. I indulged in this on Twitter and assemble the comments here.

 

Dr. Sherifa Zuhur‏ @SherifaZuhur

 

The White House: “President Trump has released a new National Strategy for Counterterrorism that will protect American citizens and interests at home and abroad.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-protecting-america-terrorism/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=wh (the Executive Review section). Do continue to read the actual document here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NSCT.pdf

 

My response is that this new strategy will not make our nation safer; in other words less safe than it might be if the strategy involved building a true international partnership in counterterrorism.

Part of the dilemma concerns partisan political themes which have been embedded in this strategy, which itself should be non-partisan. Naturally, the document is constrained by a certain level of vagueness or generality, and perhaps its crafters will elaborate. Probably not to me, however.

 

This NSCT was written for Pres. #Trump, not by him. He neither understands nor supports key elements in it. It declares that “America First does not mean America alone” yet Trump’s words & actions re. trade, diplomacy and foreign policy have attacked certain key partnerships abroad. And notably where terrorist influence has been strongest – thus attacking “US interests abroad.”

This strategy specifies “working with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allies and partners” yet Trump has acted & issued statements which attack the import and purpose of NATO.

It claims to counter ALL #terrorists and “not focus on a single organization” yet, the President has given a thumbs up to white supremacists and the NRA, which stands in the way of important counters to domestic terrorism. Although the document eventually mentions certain right wing organizations, very odd examples are included, while major racist, fascist bodies in the U.S. are not.

Echoing President Trump’s comments in various public for a, the document self-congratulates on having ” liberated nearly all of” #ISIS‘ territory. Ask any expert on #ISIS: its franchises are active, dangerous and spread around the world.

The strategy’s stated goals rework and enhance Pres. George W. Bush’s “4 Ds” as stated in his NSCT of February ’03 in the ‘global war on terror’: to defeat (terrorists) deny (them sanctuary, support and sponsorship) diminish conditions which terrorists exploit, and defend the U.S. The authors of this National Strategy, fifteen years hence, have not thought through the contradictions implied by a fascist, nationalist America First framework as in the punitive actions on (legal and illegal) immigrants in defending “strong borders.”

Perhaps the greatest failures of this NSCt and previous Nat’l Strategies for Counterterrorism have been in failing to erase “Terrorists’ ability to radicalize, recruit, and mobilize to violence.” And in drawing too sharp a line between domestic and international attacks.   Meanwhile, the Islamic State (and other groups) found ways to inspire and claim the actions of individuals who were not initially closely connected to it, for the purposes of terrorism. It accepted a bay’3a (oath of fealty) simply by a telephone call, or other communication. This has exaggerated the reach of the organization but made it far more difficult to “end,” “deny,” or defeat.

Yet this Oct. ’18 NSCT red flags #refugees to #Europe as if a) #IS had not already created networks there and b) anti-#migration is a bona fide counterterrorism strategy!! It names two perpetrators in the ’15 #Paris attacks, who posed (important!) as refugees. This is as flawed an approach to grand strategy as was invading #Iraq while targeting #AlQaeda in #Afghanistan , without considering the impact of each action and their respective, yet conflicting sets of goals.

The authors of this NSCT guess that #ISIS, #AQ and ‘other groups’ (names a few, but notably NOT the Taliban (!)) will “probably prioritize regional goals over attacks against the homeland or US interests” But it doesn’t spell out the downside of such attacks, nor any need for or means of response.

 

It defines #Iran as the “most prominent” sponsor of state terror, via IRGC-QF & Hizbullah and others. But if nations like #Israel or the #US aren’t also sources of ‘state terror’, they must adhere to #Geneva conventions. Here, in a shocking short paragraph, we see the plan to retain Guantanamo. It will fool some readers because it claims that doing so is a “use” of the the Law of Armed Combat when in fact, prisoners in Guantanamo were treated with shocking and flagrant violations of the LOAC.   The retention of Guantanamo, and the ‘forever’ prisoners there continues to be Li a violation of LOAC. Moreover, this is a clearly partisan move by #Trump, he promised his supporters to keep #Gitmo open because Obama promised to close it. Its use actually endangers Americans everywhere and diminishes the shining status of the #US‘s claim to provide a ‘rule of law’ as a principle of governance.

Ironically, the new NSCT is weak in explaining exactly HOW it will “COUNTER EXISTING AND EMERGING TERRORIST FUNDING METHODS” (p. 24) – an area of great interest to the Dept. of the Treasury. For example, President Trump’s idle boast that the US could have prevented #ISIS from selling oil is sheer delusion; #IS sold some of that oil to #Assad who used it to continue making electricity. Many experts were well aware of #iS‘ funding methods since late 2012-2013 (for some elaboration see my chapter in https://www.amazon.com/Businessmen-Arms-Military-Groups-Profit/dp/1442254556 ) but the US was markedly unable to interrupt them, as they consist of: voluntary donations in response to private fundraising; use of oil income, but also drugs, kidnapping ransoms, antiquities proceeds, & more – all documented, but with no off-switch. (President Assad’s supporting militias and thugs also obtained funds from such sources.)

 

This Stategy promises that the U.S. Government will “educate the public on how to prepare for, respond during, and quickly recover after an [terrorist] attack.” There are so many questions here! The government has failed to train schools to prepare for, respond to and recover from school shootings and most of all, it has failed to support gun controls, no doubt because of the active funding to political candidates by the National Rifle Association.

 

So now, the government is going to train all citizens, whether they are accessible in such institutions as schools or not. How will this training be shared? In electronic training courses (if like any I took through the U.S. Army, may God help everyone! Ok, learning to create a unique password in cases of kidnapping might be useful as well as how to resist spilling secrets under torture.)? On television? In direct mailed sets of information? Going door to door?

Under the section “countering violent extremist ideologies” this Strategy paradoxically asserts that 1) terrorist ideologies “contain elements w. enduring appeal” – yet 2) we will show “their claims are false & do not offer effective solutions.” This is also an area of counterterrorism which has been stunningly unsuccessful and has produced comedically ridiculous efforts such as media claims that certain terrorists were homosexuals, engaged in porm, or that an American Catholic could force Muslims not to use the word “jihad”, or convoluted claims, articles, papers and books trying to demonstrate that the outcomes of U.S. foreign policy have not been deleterious to Muslim populations abroad.

 

As this has been an area of failure resulting in a wave of recruitment to terrorist organizations of a 2.0 generation despite all manner of propagandistic “Narrative” builders, it seems especially crucial to explain and introduce some new element here, and not merely mention how the propaganda will be shared (using civil society, going online, etc. which are detailed)

The Islamic State’s Threats to Voters in ’16 US Elections

7 Nov

Sherifa Zuhur

I was asked to give my comments on ‘Caliph’ al-Baghdadi’s recent audiotape and also ISIS’ statement on U.S. elections. I’ll start with the second, much easier task.

ISIS oppose elections in the U.S. and more importantly it opposes democracy in any Islamic society and the idealized Islamic state – the Caliphate.  Their latest document provides the doctrinal reasons for doing so.  While there might be political rationale for changing positions on this question (as did the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas), the Islamic State will pursue, to the bitter end, the religious justifications for arguing against a democratic, populist form of government (one which would unseat authoritarian modes of government, such as their own).

Their argument against voters participation in the U.S. election is firstly:

that both sides – GOP and Democrats – are inimical to the interests of Islam and Muslims.

Here is a translation of the document.  Walking through it provides little novelty to those familiar with the group, but there might be some surprises for those who don’t read texts.

http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/isis-islamic-state-al-hayat-media-the-murtad-vote-pdf-download-read-2016-presidential-election-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-apostasy/2/

IS  directs their argument in these initial arguments to/about Muslims by calling such elections an ‘apostate’ vote.  Thus the Gore-Bush election and that of Obama were also acts of apostasy.  They are especially bitter to former mujahid/neosalafi Safar Hawali who has spoken out against jihadism on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government (you can look him up in works on extremism in Saudi Arabia).  But also towards Muslims who voted for Bush in Florida

Similarly “murtaddin” (renouncers of Islam and thus apostates) are the MuslimBrotherhood and “sister sects” who support participation in the U.S. elections and have done so for other elections, such as in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Palestine.

ISIS say the only difference between Hilary Clinton and Trump is that the former is more skilled in political correctness.

ISIS is fiercely opposed to feminism (it would not acknowledge being anti-woman) and opposes Hilary as a “female feminist” & cites the well-known hadith “Never shall a people who give their leadership to a woman be successful.” (incidentally, this was a reference to the daughter of a Sassanian ruler).

#ISIS states that both Trump & HRC “committed themselves to the Jewish state” – meaning Israel, as indeed, have nearly all U.S. candidates, not only for president, but other positions.

The group condemns the outcome of elections by commenting on President Obama’s actions in the Muslim world – his invasion of Iraq & Sham, interference in Libya, his drone strikes Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The Islamic State regards  HRC  as the more dangerous candidate — she is  able to lead more Muslims astray (into apostasy) by exploiting the notion of a liberal Islam or moderate Muslims.  To this they contrast Trump’s (or his advisors) definition of radical Islam as being distinct from Islam.  They write that he needs to understand that their proposals ARE Islam itself (which is ironically, the attack of right-wing analysts on all Muslims).

The group shows its intentions of not only attacking the legitimacy of elections but the rhetorical and  ‘false divisions’ of Muslims that have been created by Western (and also some Muslim) politicians, media and analysis.

If anything, this document shows that the Islamic state and all its ilk, whether al-Qa’ida offshoots or the #Jihad 3.0 variant of ISIS that may emerge in a few years, will always oppose Western-style democracy & its imposition or growth in Islamic lands.

The next doctrinally-based argument is to decry all that which is not based on Shari’ah; and all who accept  human-made legislation, judges, rulers who impose it – as tawaghit.

ISIS underscores its uncompromising view of tawhid — the single and sole authority of Allah —  in this document and aims to associate the Western or democratic vision of Islamic world with sin and apostasy.

The document goes on to condemn those who are affiliates or associates in apostasy; and who fail to act against it, as apostates.  Thereby it condemns ideal of popular legislation and voter participation as ‘ar-rida bi-kufr, kufr’;  silent consent in apostasy is apostasy.

It condemns those who ‘fight’ for the supporters of apostate democracy (which could mean the Sunni soldiers of the Iraqi Defense Forces) or any supporters of the U.S. and all those allies of Christians & Jews — a much widern net.

“Fear of deportation and abuse” is not an excuse for association with kufr  (apostasy) or Christians or Jews (This could be seen as a reference to Trump’s campaign and the urging of U.S. Muslim organizations to get out and vote against a candidate who threatens their presence in the United States.

ISIS writes that although one could argue this is coercion, the proper response to coercion is hijrah or flight (to an Islamic state) but not association with apostasy or its support.

The document makes many allusions to the early Muslims who betrayed the Muslims; and states that when angels seize sinners’ souls, they will ask didn’t they have the opportunity to emigrate (wasn’t the world sufficiently broad for them to take another alternative) instead of committing apostasy.

ISIS warns that even those with good intentions — for example to defend Muslims — who commit shirk, will be punished.

The document then states that given all of these preceding proofs, it is licit, and indeed obligatory to kill all those participating in the US apostate elections, for they are renegade apostates or Crusaders.

The language here is clearly directed at the popular electoral process:  “Say O Disbelievers, we do not worship the people”.

The Islamic State makes it clear that it is threatening threat  “Crusader” voters as well including women, who aren’t merely married and subjugated to their husband’s vote, they are voting on their own.  This may seem a bit of an obscure reference, but it pertains to the waging of violence on women.

The document concludes by asking Allah to wreak calamity on US election day like none other in American’s “pathetic history.” So does this mean that ISIS has planned violent actions?  It may have, and it would be foolish to assume that any intended by “lone wolves” might not be connected to IS Western-targeted planning departments.

In sum, this document illustrates the Islamic State’s uncompromising insistence that its Caliphate represents true Muslims – as compared to nation states & democratization even in the face of the group’s assured defeat in  Mosul and following that in Raqqa.