Friday, November 16, 2018

A Trump Favorite

Maria Ricardel, forced out as deputy national security adviser by First Lady Melania Trump after a tiff about seating arrangements on a flight to Africa, reportedly has rejected an offer to become the  USA ambassador to Estonia. One journalist responded
There is serious competition, including but not limited to, Mexico, Germany, France, and our own USA for this honored position.  However, it soon may become clear what is President Trump's favorite nation and- in an upset- it's not Russia. The Washington Post reported Thursday

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor released the findings of a long-awaited investigation of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday, saying that a team of Saudi agents dispatched to Istanbul with orders to bring him home alive had instead killed the journalist and dismembered his body.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said at a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

This is- to use two abused and misused terms- unbelievable, or at least incredible.

There are numerous reasons President Trump likes the House of Saud, among which are that  Riyadh is investing billions of dollars in American companies. It supports Jared Kushner's push for a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy tens of billions of dollars in armaments from the USA, all the better to continue its crusade against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. (Thirteen million Yemenis are now in danger of starvation there, but that's only gravy to Trump.) Additionally, it is a despotic, Wahabbist monarchy, pleasing to the USA's would-be imperial autocrat who himself derives his most fervent support at home from theocrats.  And it treats journalists, such as the late Mr. Khashoggi, very, very badly. So much so, in fact that NBC News notes

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey's case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

They said the White House specifically wanted details about Gulen's residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Therefore, we read, quite sensibly, from the deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post

This new Saudi account is completely implausible on its face. It contradicts numerous established facts about the case. Now we’ll see if the Trump administration gets behind it.

— Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) November 15, 2018

Evidently, the push to sacrifice Gulen to appease Erdogan and cut the Saudis a huge break has been stymied by bureaucrats. "Career officials at the agencies," Bloomberg reports, "pushed back on the White House requests" and a senior US official remarked "once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious."

It's conceivable, therefore, that the White House won't support the Saudi account of Khashoggi's murder. There still are some career, non-political employees in the Trump Administration, people who put principle over politics and country over personal privilege. But there also is Donald Trump, and he's not any of that.

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