Saturday, January 6, 2018

الحصاد- مصر- القدس.. مكالمات تكشف المستور

عزمى مجاهد : حزين على العرب اللى مهزوز من قرار ترامب بالاعتراف بالقدس عاصمة لـ اسرائيل


Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move


The N Y Times


As President Trump moved last month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, an Egyptian intelligence officer quietly placed phone calls to the hosts of several influential talk shows in Egypt.
“Like all our Arab brothers,” Egypt would denounce the decision in public, the officer, Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, told the hosts.
But strife with Israel was not in Egypt’s national interest, Captain Kholi said. He told the hosts that instead of condemning the decision, they should persuade their viewers to accept it. Palestinians, he suggested, should content themselves with the dreary West Bank town that currently houses the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.
How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?” Captain Kholi asked repeatedly in four audio recordings of his telephone calls obtained by The New York Times.
“Exactly that,” agreed one host, Azmi Megahed, who confirmed the authenticity of the recording.
For decades, powerful Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have publicly criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while privately acquiescing to Israel’s continued occupation of territory the Palestinians claim as their homeland.
Continue reading the main story
But now a de facto alliance against shared foes such as Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State militants and the Arab Spring uprisings is drawing the Arab leaders into an ever-closer collaboration with their one-time nemesis, Israel — producing especially stark juxtapositions between their posturing in public and private.
Mr. Trump’s decision broke with a central premise of 50 years of American-sponsored peace talks, defied decades of Arab demands that East Jerusalem be the capital of a Palestinian state, and stoked fears of a violent backlash across the Middle East.
Arab governments, mindful of the popular sympathy for the Palestinian cause, rushed to publicly condemn it.
Egyptian state media reported that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had personally protested to Mr. Trump. Egyptian religious leaders close to the government refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, and Egypt submitted a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding a reversal of Mr. Trump’s decision. (The United States vetoed the resolution, although the General Assembly adopted a similar one, over American objections, days later.)
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, arguably the most influential Arab state, also publicly denounced Mr. Trump’s decision.
At the same time, though, the kingdom had already quietly signaled its acquiescence or even tacit approval of the Israeli claim to Jerusalem. Days before Mr. Trump’s announcement, the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman, privately urged the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to accept a radically curtailed vision of statehood without a capital in East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian, Arab and European officials who have heard Mr. Abbas’s version of events.


As Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank to protest President Trump’s move on Jerusalem, an Egyptian intelligence officer was quietly working to persuade Egyptians to accept the decision.CreditShadi Hatem/European Pressphoto Agency

Saudi Arabia publicly disputed those reports.
The hosts Captain Kholi called all heeded his advice, and most other voices in the state-owned and pro-government news media across the Arab world were also strikingly muted, even unemotional, about the status of Jerusalem. Such a response would have been all but unthinkable even a decade ago, much less during the period between 1948 and 1973, when Egypt and its Arab allies fought three wars against Israel.
Shibley Telhami, a scholar of the region at the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution, called the Arab states’ acceptance of the decision “transformational.”
“I don’t think it would have happened a decade ago, because Arab leaders would have made clear they wouldn’t live with it,” he said. Instead, he said, preoccupied by concerns about their own stability, the Arab leaders signaled that — while they may not like the decision — they “will find a way to work with it,” and “with a White House that is prepared to break with what had been taboos in American foreign policy.”
Two spokesmen for the Egyptian government did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Captain Kholi could not be reached.
Television talk shows play a formative role in shaping public debate in Egypt, and Egyptian intelligence services often brief the presenters of the programs about messages to convey to the public. The hosts typically prefer to characterize the conversations as journalists talking to sources.
In addition to the call with Mr. Megahed, three other audio recordings of strikingly similar telephone conversations with the same intelligence agent, Captain Kholi, were all provided to The Times by an intermediary supportive of the Palestinian cause and opposed to President Sisi. The origin of the recordings could not be determined.
Mr. Megahed, in an interview, said that he had agreed with Captain Kholi based on his personal assessment of the need to avoid a fresh outbreak of violence, not on the orders of the intelligence service.
“I am friends with Ashraf and we talk all the time,” Mr. Megahed said. “Another intifada would be bad. I have no problem saying all of the things you have heard in that call in public.”
As for those who disagreed, he said, “We should have buses pick up all the people who say they want to go fight for Jerusalem and actually drive them to Jerusalem. Go fight if you are so tough. People are sick of the slogans and all that. I only care about the interests of my country.”
Two of the calls were with other well-known Egyptian talk show hosts. One of them, Mofid Fawzy, quickly denied taking part in any such conversation and immediately hung up the phone.
The other host, Saeed Hassaseen, who is also a member of Parliament, stopped returning phone messages and backed out of plans for an interview after a journalist contacted Mr. Megahed and Mr. Fawzy about the calls.


Lawyers in Cairo protested the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while the government was trying to persuade Egyptians to go along with the decision. CreditNariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

The fourth call was with an Egyptian singer and actress known as Yousra, who could not be reached for comment.
The recordings all appear to match public recordings of their voices, and Captain Kholi’s talking points in each of the calls follow the same lines as his conversation with Mr. Megahed.
“I was just calling to tell you what our public stance is, so if you go on TV or speak in an interview, I am telling you what is the stance of Egypt’s national security apparatus and what it stands to benefit from in this matter of announcing Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, O.K.?” Captain Kholi began one conversation, with Mr. Hassaseen.
“Give me orders, sir,” Mr. Hassaseen replied, according to the recording. “I am at your command.”
“We, like all our Arab brothers, are denouncing this matter,” Captain Kholi continued. But, he added, “After that, this thing will become a reality. Palestinians can’t resist and we don’t want to go to war. We have enough on our plate as you know.”
The Egyptian military has struggled for more than four years to try to defeat a simmering militant Islamist insurgence centered in the North Sinai, and Egyptian officials have sometimes accused Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the adjacent Gaza Strip, of abetting violence against the government of Egypt.
“The point that is dangerous for us is the intifada issue,” Captain Kholi explained. “An intifada would not serve Egypt’s national security interests because an intifada would revive the Islamists and Hamas. Hamas would be reborn once more.”
“At the end of the day, later on, Jerusalem won’t be much different from Ramallah. What matters is ending the suffering of the Palestinian people,” Captain Kholi concluded. “Concessions are a must and if we reach a concession whereby Jerusalem will be — Ramallah will be the capital of Palestine, to end the war and so no one else dies, then we would go for it.”
All three recipients of his calls pledged to convey his messages, and some echoed his arguments in broadcasts. “Enough already. It got old,” Mr. Megahed told his viewers about the issue of Jerusalem.
In his conversation with Mr. Megahed, however, Captain Kholi added an extra flourish. He charged that Egypt’s regional foe Qatar and its ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, were the ones guilty of collaborating with Israel.
“You also will say that Tamim and Qatar have secret ties to Israel. You know all that,” Captain Kholi told the talk show host.
“Obvious ties,” Mr. Megahed replied. “My pleasure. My pleasure. I will include it in the next episode, God willing.”

More than 2,000 Afghans killed in Syria fighting for Bashar al-Assad: official

Iran, said to have deployed the Afghans, denies sending professional troops to Syria, only military advisers and volunteer brigades


More than 2,000 Afghans deployed by Iran have been killed fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, an official in the volunteer force told Iranian media.
The Fatemiyoun Brigade of Afghan "volunteer" recruits has been fighting in Syria for five years, said Zohair Mojahed, a cultural official in the brigade.
"This brigade has given more than 2,000 martyrs and 8,000 wounded for Islam," he said in an interview with the reformist Shargh newspaper published Saturday.
Iran rarely provides figures on the numbers fighting and killed in its operations in Syria and Iraq.
The last toll was provided by the veterans organisation in March, which said 2,100 volunteers had died without specifying how many were foreign recruits.
Iran denies sending professional troops to fight in the region, saying it has provided only military advisers and organised brigades made up of volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Fatemiyoun is reportedly the biggest military unit deployed by Iran in Iraq and Syria, made up of recruits from Afghanistan's Shia minority.
Iran has backed Afghan forces in the past against the Taliban in their own country, as well as mobilising them against Saddam Hussein's forces in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
Some 3,000 Afghans died fighting Iraq in the 1980s, Mojahed said.
Tehran offers Iranian citizenship to the families of those foreign fighters "martyred" in the conflicts of Syria and Iraq.
Iranian media has reported on the funerals of volunteer "martyrs" and aired television features about their presence in Syria.
Last year, Human Rights Watch reported that Afghan children as young as 14 are being recruited to fight in the war in Syria by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The rights group says that the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight inside Syria.
Many of the children who were recruited had fought in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside Syrian government forces in Syria's civil war.
The report comes as Syrian government and Russian warplanes pound rebel-held territory inside Idlib, in northwest Syria. 
In 2015, the Guardian reported that Iranian authorities have lured some of the estimated three million Afghan refugees living in their country to fight in Syria by offering a regular salary and permanent residence in Iran.
The Shia Afghan recruits have been told by Iran that they are fighting to defend religious shrines in the Syrian capital Damascus.
The Fatemiyoun brigade was set up in Iran after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011. It was reported to be the second-biggest foreign force fighting for President Assad, behind the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the Guardian reported.
Daily recruitment of Afghan refugees is taking place in the Iranian cities of Mashhad and Qom, which the Guardian said has the highest population of Afghans.
Afghans under the age of 18 are being accepted to go and fight if their parents grant them permission. At least one 16-year-old has been killed this year in Syria’s brutal civil war.
At least 200 Fatemiyoun militants have been killed in Syria, Iranian media reported in 2015.

A 'stable genius' or white trash in the White House?

The revelations in Michael Wolff's new book have painted a picture of a confused, angry and very unpredictable administration

By David Hearst


One of the delights of reading Michael Wolff’s account of life in White House is to picture the US president doing the same.
You can see him wearing his golf face, stomping up and down the cramped presidential lodgings, screaming down his mobile phone. As he does so, his signature comb-over starts to unravel, revealing his bald pate.
Who persuaded him to allow that Judas Wolff a "semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing?" 200 interviews? Where are the transcripts? He wants all of them on his desk by the morning.
How many other "seething, self-pitying and unsolicited phone calls" must he now be making?
On Saturday, he took to Twitter to defend himself against accusations that he was mentally unstable, reassuring his followers that he was in fact a "very stable genius".
The light that Wolff sheds on the occupant of the White House is stark and unforgiving. 
Shocked and awed by the success of his own campaign, in which he was reluctant to invest his own money, Trump has never come to terms with what being a president of the United States means. He does not listen, and when he does he acts on the last person he speaks to.
He is incapable of judgement. He is obsessed by the media and a slave to it.
Ivanka his daughter had long ago figured out how to make successful presentations to her father.
She told her protege Dina Powell, as related by Wolff: "You had to push his enthusiasm buttons. He may be a businessman, but numbers didn't do it for him. He was not a spreadsheet jockey - his numbers guys dealt with spreadsheets. He liked big names. He liked the big picture - he liked literal big pictures. He liked to see it. He liked 'impact'."
Trump became bored, listless and irritable with small stuff - such as detail, process or indeed informing himself as to what was actually going on.
What he needed was something big, a demand particularly unsuited to the volatile state of world.   
"Big things, we need big things," he said, angrily and often. "This isn't big. I need big. Bring me big. Do you even know what big is?"
The gut instinct of foreign leaders whose nations depend on their military or economic ties to the US will be to put as much distance between themselves as this self-immolating man in the White House.
This was how Trump’s restless but truly empty mind alighted on the Middle East.
“He had no patience with the our-hands-are-tied ennui of the post-cold war order, that sense of the chess board locked in place, of incremental movement being the best-case scenario—the alternative being only war. His was a much simpler view: Who’s got the power? Give me his number.”
“And, just as basically: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. If Trump had one fixed point of reference in the Middle East, it was—mostly courtesy of Michael Flynn’s tutoring —that Iran was the bad guy. Hence everybody opposed to Iran was a pretty good guy.”
But it was also how the Middle East settled on Trump.

'A curious alignment'

Mohammed bin Salman for one appreciated the fact that Jared Kushner had not earned his position as the administration’s Middle East envoy by virtue of anything he had personally achieved, but solely by the fact that he was a family member. This comforts a member of the Saudi royal family, because this is exactly how things are done at home.
Wolff observes “a curious alignment” between Trump and MbS in that neither had any education outside their respective countries.
“Knowing little made them oddly comfortable with each other. When MBS offered himself to Kushner as his guy in the Saudi kingdom, that was 'like meeting someone nice at your first day of boarding school,' said Kushner’s friend."
US President Donald Trump (3L), US First lady Melania Trump (2L), Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (C), and Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (3R) pose for a group photo with other leaders of the Muslim world (AFP)
The Riyadh trip was big. The Saudis would immediately buy $110bn of US arms and a total of $350bn over ten years. The Saudis threw a $75m party, seated Trump on a throne, and ferried the first family around in gold golf carts.
Trump called home to tell his friends how easy this foreign relations thing was and how Obama had messed it all up. Before the trip he had nothing but praise for his son in law.
“Jared’s gotten the Arabs totally on our side. Done deal,” he assured one of his after-dinner callers before leaving on the trip. “It’s going to be beautiful.” “He believed,” said the caller, “that this trip could pull it out, like a twist in a bad movie.”
So much for the fun. Now for the horror.
Imagine the blood draining from the faces of America’s allies as they read how the man running the White House really functions. The gut instinct of foreign leaders whose nations depend on their military or economic ties to the US will be to put as much distance between themselves as this self-immolating man in the White House.
[Trump's] logic is rather like saying that because the last three bomb disposal teams have failed to defuse that 500 pound bomb workmen uncovered in your basement, why not try yourself it with that angle grinder your son gave you for Christmas.
Anyone who has not already bailed out of this nosediving presidency is probably already politically dead and that includes Trump, Kushner, Ivanka, Nikki Haley. Those who have jumped from the crashing plane like Bannon are probably also finished.
The same toxic effect that Trump is having on the occupancy rates of his hotel chain, will also soon be felt by US allies. Soon, it will be not such a good idea to share a public platform with him . Theresa May will  be in no hurry to make Trump’s reciprocal visit the UK, as head of state, happen.
Trump’s big idea of a Middle East breakthrough is finished before it even started. His administration is going to reek its revenge on the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the one and only interlocutor he could have had for it, for having led the UN  vote against Trump’s announcement that he is moving his embassy to Jerusalem. 
Defunding UNWRA, the UN agency that provides schools and relief to Palestinians is only the start of it.

A wrecker

Trump’s rage is as damaging as his enthusiasm was, because as Wolff more or less constantly notes, Trump’s structural handicap as president is his inability to marry cause and effect.
Even Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader who has most to gain from Trump, and is using the policy vacuum created by Trump to annex the settlements around Jerusalem, must be having second thoughts about the damage Trump can do him. 
Because the state of Israel can not quietly but persistently push its borders further and further into the West Bank, if the financial rug is pulled entirely from under the feet of a Palestinian Authority, a body which above any other has helped Israel achieve its cheapest period of occupation. Under the PA, the Palestinians occupy themselves. 
For decades Israel’s policy was predicated on keeping the Palestinians “on a diet”, as one former prime ministerial aide put it, in the various enclosures it had constructed for them.
This meant balancing overt oppression with a measures of life support. Israel turned migrant Palestinian labour on its building sites on and off like a tap. The last thing it needed for the continued expansion of Israel, was for the Palestinian economy and social system to collapse altogether, which is where Trump’s rage at the UN reaction to Jerusalem move is taking him.
Indonesian protesters pose with cutout portraits of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in front of the US consulate general in Surabaya, East Java province (AFP)
Similarly European powers who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran must be having grave thoughts about the capacity of Trump to wreck what few foreign policy achievements have been made by previous US administrations. Trump is a wrecker, in command of a very large wrecking ball. America can not be isolated or put under sanctions. Its economy is too large for that, and the world is too dependent on it.
There is of course a positive side to Trumpism. 
In one respect Trump is right. The last three administrations, and many more before them, had gotten the Middle East wrong. 
But his logic is rather like saying that because the last three bomb disposal teams have failed to defuse that 500 pound bomb workmen uncovered in your basement, why not try yourself it with that angle grinder your son gave you for Christmas.
So apart from destroying himself, which I am convinced is what he is doing, Trump will bring down with him the international consensus on Palestine, which is to shield Israel from any attempt to isolate it internationally. Trump will expose Israel to the need for international sanctions like no other president before him.
Trump is also recreating a real US left, for which he deserves our undying thanks. Neoliberalism at home and neo-Conservatism abroad had cross party support. What Bush continued in Iraq, Clinton started in post-Soviet Russia. That era has been shattered . 
This does not mean that Trump cannot start a war. The way he was persuaded to bomb Syria, by his daughter showing him pictures of gassed Syrian children, is telling. The president is not weighing arguments but images. But it means he can not win one. 
Wolff’s shrewd portrait forms another exhibit in the gallery of a future exhibition, to be mounted by the Smithsonian in Washington entitled: “End of Empire”.
Empires collapse when they become too costly for their centres to hold them. This is happening now. Yes this is a president fundamentally unfit for office, but it is also true that Trump is himself a product of failure, and that failure belongs collectively to more than one president and more than one administration. 
In this sense that ball of fire and fury  that is Trump is doing the world a favour. It is forcing it to rethink the world without America. That has to happen before anything changes.
- David Hearst is editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye. He was chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian, former Associate Foreign Editor, European Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, European Correspondent, and Ireland Correspondent. He joined The Guardian from The Scotsman, where he was education correspondent.


By Eric Margolis


Listen to the state-‘guided’ US media this past week and you’d believe a series of spontaneous anti-government protests broke out across Iran.  The protests, according to President Donald Trump and his Israeli allies, were caused by `anger over Iran’s spending billions on wars in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and helping the Palestinian movement Hamas.’ Trump tweeted that Iranians were finally rising up against what he called their hated, brutal regime.  
Talk about manufactured news.  Most Iranians were elated and proud of their nation’s role in thwarting US plans to occupy much of Syria and overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  By contrast, the other side in this long proxy war – the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Britain – was smarting with defeat and seeking ways to exact revenge on the hateful trio, Syria, Iran and Russia.
Interestingly, the so-called news of protests over Iran’s military spending did not apparently originate in Iran but rather in Washington which spread it far and wide to our state-guided media.  This was clumsy, but the US and Israel were so eager to get this piece of made-up good news out that they forget the basics of propaganda management: wait for the event before you proclaim it.
What in fact was going on in Iran where more than 21 demonstrators have died violent deaths?  As a very long-time Iran watcher allow me to explain.
Restive minority groups in Iran’s Kurdish, Azeri and Sunni Arab regions, most far from the big cities, have been demonstrating and protesting severe economic problems.  Iran is a big, resource-rich nation of 80 million people that should be booming.  But it has been under economic siege warfare by the US and its allies ever since a popular uprising in 1979 overthrew the US-British backed monarchy that was raping the nation and keeping it a vassal of the western powers.
Iran’s new Islamic Republic was deemed a dire threat to Western and Israeli strategic and military interests (think Saudi Arabia).  The very idea that the Islamic Republic would follow the tenets of Islam and share oil wealth with the needy was anathema to London and Washington.  Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, ran Iran’s dreaded, brutal secret police, Savak. The crooked royal family looted the nation and stored their swag in California.
The West’s first act was to induce Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to invade Iran, in Sept 1980.  The West (including the Gulf Arabs) armed, financed and supplied Iraq.  As I discovered in Baghdad, Britain and the US supplied Iraq with poison gas and germ warfare toxins. After eight years, 250,000 Iraqis were killed and nearly one million Iranians died. 
Ever since the Islamic Revolution, the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs have been trying to overthrow the Tehran government and mount a counter-revolution.   CIA and Britain’s MI6 has ample practice: in 1953, the CIA and MI6 mounted an elaborate operation to overthrow Iran’s democratically-elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh who sought to nationalize Iran’s British-owned oil company.  Mobs of specially trained anti-Mossadegh plotters poured into Tehran’s streets. Bombs went off. Army commanders were suborned, lavish bribes handed out.
The 1953 coup went perfectly. Mossadegh was ousted with backing from the Army and Savak.  Iran’s oil remained safe in western hands.  The successful Iran uprising became the template for future ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia, Poland, and Romania.
But in 2009 a US-engineered ‘color revolution’ in Iran went badly wrong even though it used all the latest arts of social media to whip up protestors and deploy them in the streets.  Something similar happened in Iran this past weekend where mobs of 20-somethings, agitated by US and British covert social media, poured into the streets of dingy provincial towns.
As of now, this medium-sized uprising in Iran looks to be over, though it could re-ignite at any time. Young Iranians, at least 40% of the population, suffer due to 50% unemployment.   Iran’s $11 trillion economy is extremely fragile and in some cases barely functioning after decades of US-engineered economic warfare and boycotts.  High unemployment is a result of US economic warfare and bullying other nations not to do business with Iran, producing 13% overall unemployment and a 40% inflation rate. The latter and wide-scale corruption were the spark that ignited the latest riots.
In two more weeks, President Trump, who makes no secret of his hatred and contempt for Muslims, must decide whether to reaffirm the multilateral nuclear energy deal with Iran or heed Israel’s demands and refuse to certify it.  His cutoff this week of US military aid to Muslim Pakistan bodes ill for Iran.
Many Iranians observing the current US-North Korea nuclear standoff will wonder if their nation was not better off continuing its nuclear program and holding the Saudi oil fields at risk to deter a US attack.  Trump’s wild, inconsistent and often infantile responses on this issue are making matters murkier…and ever more dangerous.

متظاهرون يعترضون موكب البطريرك ثيوفيلوس في عيد الميلاد

Friday, January 5, 2018

أمريكا و«هندسة انقلاب» بن سلمان

رأي القدس

يفترض بالأنباء الواردة عن إخبار الرئيس الأمريكي دونالد ترامب أصدقاءه أنه، وصهره جاريد كوشنر، «هندسا انقلاباً في السعودية» وأنهما «وضعا رجلهما في القمة» أن تطرح أسئلة محرجة مطلوب من ملك السعودية سلمان بن عبد العزيز، وابنه، وليّ العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان، الإجابة عنها.
توحي الأنباء التي نتجت عن صدور كتاب «النار والغضب: البيت الأبيض في عهد ترامب» (أو تؤكد) أن استلام وليّ العهد السعودي لمقدّرات السلطة كلّها في بلاده لم يكن فعلاً فرضته التطوّرات التاريخية في المملكة بل كان فعلاً مرتّباً ومنسقاً مع البيت الأبيض (كي لا نقول إنه كان مخططا منه)، وهو أمر يسيء في الحقيقة لشخص يفترض به أن يحكم أحد أكبر الدول العربية تأثيراً ومكانة رمزيّة إسلامية، يحوز على منصب يؤهله للقبض على موقع سياسي واقتصادي هائل.
وإذا كانت هذه «التغطية» التي حصل عليها وليّ العهد السعودي من العصبة الضيّقة المؤثرة في البيت الأبيض تمثّل دعماً من أعظم قوّة سياسية على الكرة الأرضية، فإنها، في المقابل، تفترض، كما نلاحظ من طريقة اشتغال ترامب وصهره، «ثمناً» معيّنا لهذه «التغطية».
وإذا كانت المعلومات التي تم كشفها لم يجر تصديقها (أو تكذيبها) بعد من الأشخاص المعنيين، فإن تحليل مسار الأحداث وقراءة التفاصيل العديدة المتعلقة بالموضوع توضّح بجلاء «الأثمان» التي دفعت، والتي كانت على الشكل التالي: صفقات سعودية بمئات المليارات ترافقت مع زيارة دونالد ترامب وعائلته إلى السعودية في أيار/مايو من العام الماضي، تلاها بعد شهر واحد فقط تنحية وليّ العهد السابق محمد بن نايف وتعيين بن سلمان مكانه.
يكشف تحليل الأحداث اللاحقة أن الحدثين المركزيين (صفقات زيارة ترامب وتعيين بن سلمان وليّا للعهد) استتبعا أحداثاً لاحقة مهمة انعكست على السعودية نفسها وعلى المنطقة.
ولعل هذه العلاقة «الخاصة» بين وليّ العهد السعودي وعائلة ترامب، والتي توبعت لاحقا عبر لقاءات مكثّفة بين بن سلمان وكوشنر، لا تفسر ما حصل من أحداث هائلة في السعودية، من قضايا اعتقال الأمراء والمسؤولين باسم «مكافحة الفساد» فحسب، بل الغطرسة الكبيرة التي بدأ نهج وليّ العهد السعودي يتسم بها، والتي تجاوزت ما حصل في السعودية نفسها، إلى استخدام الأسلوب نفسه في ترتيب شؤون الشرق الأوسط، وخصوصاً ما تعلّق منها بالتطبيع مع إسرائيل، التي شهدت زيارة مسؤول كبير لها (قيل إنه بن سلمان نفسه)، وصولاً، كما رأينا، إلى قرار ترامب حول القدس، والضغوط السعودية التي مورست على الأردنيين والفلسطينيين، والتي وصلت حدّ اعتقال رئيس مجلس إدارة «البنك العربي» صبيح المصري، وعلى اللبنانيين، من خلال مسلسل احتجاز رئيس الوزراء اللبناني سعد الحريري.
أكثر فصول هذه العلاقة الملتبسة بين ترامب/كوشنر ومحمد بن سلمان إثارة للتأمل هو ما كشفه الكتاب المذكور سابقا الذي يتهم فيه مقربون من ترامب صهره بخيانة بلاده عبر التعاون مع روسيا و»تبييض الأموال»، وهي اتهامات رافقت صعود الرئيس الأمريكي وعائلته ودائرته الضيقة من المستشارين قبل وبعد استلامه منصبه، وهذه الاتهامات تفسّر كثيراً «تشابه» الطرق التي يتبعها الطرفان الأمريكي والسعودي، باستثناء أن عهد ترامب ومجموعته الضيقة يمكن أن ينتهي بالانتخابات (أو العزل)، أما «رجلنا في القمة» فسيستمر بطريقة حكمه التي ساهم أسلوب ترامب في استفحالها.

فوق السلطة- هل تمر طريق القدس بطهران؟

"You Can’t Make This S--- Up": My Year Inside Trump's Insane White House

by Michael Wolff


Author and columnist Michael Wolff was given extraordinary access to the Trump administration and now details the feuds, the fights and the alarming chaos he witnessed while reporting what turned into a new book.

Editor’s Note: Author and Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt & Co.), is a detailed account of the 45th president’s election and first year in office based on extensive access to the White House and more than 200 interviews with Trump and senior staff over a period of 18 months. In advance of the Jan. 9 publication of the book, which Trump is already attacking, Wolff has written this extracted column about his time in the White House based on the reporting included in Fire and Fury. 
interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. "Great cover!" his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I'd like to just watch and write a book. "A book?" he responded, losing interest. "I hear a lot of people want to write books," he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. "Do you know Ed Klein?"— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. "Great guy. I think he should write a book about me." But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.
Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the "system," and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.
The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair — as well as, in situation-comedy proximity, all the new stars of the show: Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Jared Kushner, Mike Pence, Gary Cohn, Michael Flynn (and after Flynn's abrupt departure less than a month into the job for his involvement in the Russia affair, his replacement, H.R. McMaster), all neatly accessible.
The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.
A new president typically surrounds himself with a small group of committed insiders and loyalists. But few on the Trump team knew him very well — most of his advisors had been with him only since the fall. Even his family, now closely gathered around him, seemed nonplussed. "You know, we never saw that much of him until he got the nomination," Eric Trump's wife, Lara, told one senior staffer. If much of the country was incredulous, his staff, trying to cement their poker faces, were at least as confused.
Their initial response was to hawkishly defend him — he demanded it — and by defending him they seemed to be defending themselves. Politics is a game, of course, of determined role-playing, but the difficulties of staying in character in the Trump White House became evident almost from the first day.
"You can't make this shit up," Sean Spicer, soon to be portrayed as the most hapless man in America, muttered to himself after his tortured press briefing on the first day of the new administration, when he was called to justify the president's inaugural crowd numbers — and soon enough, he adopted this as a personal mantra. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration. Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump's public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway's fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)
Steve Bannon tried to gamely suggest that Trump was mere front man and that he, with plan and purpose and intellect, was, more reasonably, running the show — commanding a whiteboard of policies and initiatives that he claimed to have assembled from Trump's off-the-cuff ramblings and utterances. His adoption of the Saturday Night Live sobriquet "President Bannon" was less than entirely humorous. Within the first few weeks, even rote conversations with senior staff trying to explain the new White House's policies and positions would turn into a body-language ballet of eye-rolling and shrugs and pantomime of jaws dropping. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don't-blame-me eye roll.
The surreal sense of the Trump presidency was being lived as intensely inside the White House as out. Trump was, for the people closest to him, the ultimate enigma. He had been elected president, that through-the-eye-of-the-needle feat, but obviously, he was yet … Trump. Indeed, he seemed as confused as anyone to find himself in the White House, even attempting to barricade himself into his bedroom with his own lock over the protests of the Secret Service.
There was some effort to ascribe to Trump magical powers. In an early conversation — half comic, half desperate — Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He's intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor's New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg — fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else — came back into the fold and said, widely, "He's just a fucking fool."
Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family. In a way, this gave him a human dimension. Even Donald Trump couldn't say no to his kids. "It's a littleee, littleee complicated …" he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs. But the effect of their leadership roles was to compound his own boundless inexperience in Washington, creating from the outset frustration and then disbelief and then rage on the part of the professionals in his employ.
The men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country. "Trump," said one senior Republican, "turned selfish careerists into patriots." Their job was to maintain the pretense of relative sanity, even as each individually came to the conclusion that, in generous terms, it was insane to think you could run a White House without experience, organizational structure or a real purpose.
On March 30, after the collapse of the health care bill, 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, the effective administration chief of the West Wing, a stalwart political pro and stellar example of governing craft, walked out. Little more than two months in, she quit. Couldn't take it anymore. Nutso. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.
While there might be a scary national movement of Trumpers, the reality in the White House was stranger still: There was Jared and Ivanka, Democrats; there was Priebus, a mainstream Republican; and there was Bannon, whose reasonable claim to be the one person actually representing Trumpism so infuriated Trump that Bannon was hopelessly sidelined by April. "How much influence do you think Steve Bannon has over me? Zero! Zero!" Trump muttered and stormed. To say that no one was in charge, that there were no guiding principles, not even a working org chart, would again be an understatement. "What do these people do?" asked everyone pretty much of everyone else.
The competition to take charge, which, because each side represented an inimical position to the other, became not so much a struggle for leadership, but a near-violent factional war. Jared and Ivanka were against Priebus and Bannon, trying to push both men out. Bannon was against Jared and Ivanka and Priebus, practicing what everybody thought were dark arts against them. Priebus, everybody's punching bag, just tried to survive another day. By late spring, the larger political landscape seemed to become almost irrelevant, with everyone focused on the more lethal battles within the White House itself. This included screaming fights in the halls and in front of a bemused Trump in the Oval Office (when he was not the one screaming himself), together with leaks about what Russians your opponents might have been talking to.
Reigning over all of this was Trump, enigma, cipher and disruptor. How to get along with Trump — who veered between a kind of blissed-out pleasure of being in the Oval Office and a deep, childish frustration that he couldn't have what he wanted? Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. "I want a win. I want a win. Where's my win?" he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, "like a child." A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.
One of these frequent callers was Rupert Murdoch, who before the election had only ever expressed contempt for Trump. Now Murdoch constantly sought him out, but to his own colleagues, friends and family, continued to derisively ridicule Trump: "What a fucking moron," said Murdoch after one call.
With the Comey firing, the Mueller appointment and murderous White House infighting, by early summer Bannon was engaged in an uninterrupted monologue directed to almost anyone who would listen. It was so caustic, so scabrous and so hilarious that it might form one of the great underground political treatises.
By July, Jared and Ivanka, who had, in less than six months, traversed from socialite couple to royal family to the most powerful people in the world, were now engaged in a desperate dance to save themselves, which mostly involved blaming Trump himself. It was all his idea to fire Comey! "The daughter," Bannon declared, "will bring down the father."
Priebus and Spicer were merely counting down to the day — and every day seemed to promise it would be the next day — when they would be out.
And, indeed, suddenly there were the 11 days of Anthony Scaramucci.
Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka's solution to all of the White House's management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York — he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci — as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any — to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.
There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump's family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.
Most succinctly, no one expected him to survive Mueller. Whatever the substance of the Russia "collusion," Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)
There was more: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he'd repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn't stop saying something.
By summer's end, in something of a historic sweep — more usual for the end of a president's first term than the end of his first six months — almost the entire senior staff, save Trump's family, had been washed out: Michael Flynn, Katie Walsh, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Even Trump's loyal, longtime body guard Keith Schiller — for reasons darkly whispered about in the West Wing — was out. Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Rick Dearborn, all on their way out. The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff — without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand. Grim and stoic, accepting that he could not control the president, Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president … if that is comfort.
As telling, with his daughter and son-in-law sidelined by their legal problems, Hope Hicks, Trump's 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor. (With Melania a nonpresence, the staff referred to Ivanka as the "real wife" and Hicks as the "real daughter.") Hicks' primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News' Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.
As the first year wound down, Trump finally got a bill to sign. The tax bill, his singular accomplishment, was, arguably, quite a reversal of his populist promises, and confirmation of what Mitch McConnell had seen early on as the silver Trump lining: "He'll sign anything we put in front of him." With new bravado, he was encouraging partisans like Fox News to pursue an anti-Mueller campaign on his behalf. Insiders believed that the only thing saving Mueller from being fired, and the government of the United States from unfathomable implosion, is Trump's inability to grasp how much Mueller had on him and his family.
Steve Bannon was openly handicapping a 33.3 percent chance of impeachment, a 33.3 percent chance of resignation in the shadow of the 25th amendment and a 33.3 percent chance that he might limp to the finish line on the strength of liberal arrogance and weakness.
Donald Trump's small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country's future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.
At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.
Happy first anniversary of the Trump administration.