Thursday, June 28, 2018

ما وراء الخبر- دلالات الاجتماع الاستخباري مع إسرائيل بالعقبة


Revealed: How Trump confidant was ready to share inside information with UAE

Emails will be of interest to Mueller investigation, which is looking at whether the UAE and Saudi funnelled payments to Trump’s campaign

By David Hearst


Donald Trump’s closest confidants were willing to exchange inside information about US government appointments with Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to Washington, a new set of leaked emails has revealed.
The president-elect's advisers also pledged to Otaiba that they would keep his government’s interests at the heart of the new administration’s Middle East policy. The emails reveal that the relationship between the Emiratis and the president’s inner circle was cemented earlier than previously thought.
Tom Barrack speaks at the Republican National Convention in July 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio (AFP)
The correspondence is between Otaiba and Tom Barrack, a longstanding friend of Trump and billionaire fundraiser. It reveals how Barrack offered to bring Trump, then a candidate, to meet the Emirati ambassador for a coffee in April 2016; how the Republican platform for 2016 was altered to remove a call for the publication of 28 pages of allegedly incriminating documents from the 9/11 inquiry; and how Otaiba sought information about top appointments from Barrack while Trump was president-elect.
The close working relationship that developed between the Emirates and Trump’s inner circle when he was still a candidate is coming under increasing scrutiny
The key emails were written when Trump was still a presidential candidate and at least six months before the key meeting at Trump Tower in December 2016 between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) and Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, Jared Kushner, his Middle East adviser, and Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, which was reported by the Washington Post.
At the time, Barack Obama, the outgoing president, was so annoyed by MbZ’s unannounced arrival in New York that the names of the people who attended the meeting were released.
The emails will be of especial interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has widened his inquiry into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election to investigate whether the Emiratis and Saudis funnelled payments to Trump’s election campaign. Barrack was questioned by Mueller’s team last December: he himself is understood not to be a target of the investigation.
The close working relationship that developed between the Emirates and Trump’s inner circle when he was still a candidate is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Bin Zayed’s sensitivity to the Mueller inquiry is such that he cancelled a planned visit to Washington last month. He is understood to have sought a written guarantee that neither he nor his entourage would be detained for questioning, the Middle East Eye has previously reported.

How the relationship developed

Contact between Barrack and Otaiba started in 2009 over a property deal in California, but the relationship blossomed when Trump was a presidential candidate in 2016 and his confidant offered to introduce him to the ambassador.
“I am happy to bring him to you for a cup of coffee if you are interested," Barrack wrote on 26 April 2016. Otaiba, who was then in Abu Dhabi, replied that confusion about Trump was “very high” because of his proposed Muslim ban.
Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the White House in May 2017 (AFP)
Barrack insisted that Trump was not anti-Islam and dangled the following offer: "We can turn him to prudence - he needs a few really smart Arab minds to whom he can confer - u r at the top of that list!”
Throughout their correspondence Barrack, the son of a Lebanese immigrant and an Arabic speaker, referred to “our agenda”, and “our region” and offered to introduce Otaiba to Jared Kushner, the future president’s Middle East adviser, adding: “You will love him and he agrees with our agenda."
Otaiba for his part was keen to introduce the Trump circle to his bosses, starting with Tahnoon bin Zayed, the crown prince’s brother and his national security adviser. On 26 May, Barrack replied: “Youssef this would be the best thing we could do. I promise you we could accomplish so much if you and HH [His Highness] will give me an hour or so with 'the man'."
'If you have any insights about postings to places like state, DOD, CIA and national security adviser, I would be grateful. I would only brief my bosses'
- Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE ambassador 
As the November election neared, part of the Republican Party platform for 2016, which was potentially embarrassing to the Saudi government, was removed. The deleted section called for the publication of 28 pages of documents gathered during the 9/11 investigations which implicated members of the Saudi royal family in funding the attackers.
The missing passage had been inserted originally by lobbyists working on behalf of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to an email sent to Barrack by Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
A week after Trump’s surprise defeat of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Otaiba asked for “any insights” about the people who the incoming president was going to choose for the key positions at the State Department, the Department of Defense and the CIA.
On 16 November, Otaiba wrote: “If you have any insights about postings to places like state, DOD, CIA and national security adviser, I would be grateful. I would only brief my bosses. Any indicators would be highly appreciated."
Barrack replied: “I do, and we’re working through them in real time and I have our regional interest in high profile. When you get a chance let’s talk by phone.”
'She [Fran Townsend] would make a perfect Director of National Intelligence or DHS secretary'
- Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE ambassador 
Five days later, Otaiba attempted to get Fran Townsend, George W Bush’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, who he described as a “dear friend” of his, appointed as Trump’s director of national intelligence.
He wrote to Barrack: “I saw her last night and immediately thought she would be huge asset to you. She would make a perfect Director of National Intelligence or DHS secretary. She would hit the ground running on every issue.”
In May 2017 Townsend confirmed that she had been shortlisted for the post of FBI director after James Comey had been sacked. Asked whether she would have accepted had she been offered, Townsend told Politico: "You know what? I learned in the White House I don’t do hypotheticals, but I will say I was quite honoured and quite flattered to be approached.”

Anti-Saudi comments removed

Barrack was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators last December, when he was asked chiefly about Paul Manafort, whom he recommended as Trump’s campaign manager. Manafort has since been indicted by Mueller.
Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman at the White House in Washington in March 2018 (AFP)
In July 2016, one month after he became Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort sent Barrack an email he had received from a Republican Party source about the removal of the reference to the alleged Saudi funding of the 9/11 bombers. The email was then forwarded on to Otaiba, along with Barrack's comment that it was “really confidential but important. Please don’t distribute”. 
“Paul. Something you can pass along to your friend Tom Barrack. I made certain that language that was anti the Saudi Royal Family was removed from the platform. It was inserted by AIPAC lobbyists and would have been a part of the 2016 Platform. When I saw the amendment that was passed in the subcommittee, I gave instructions to our political team to remove the language in the full committee."
The sender of the original email is unknown.
Barrack also emerged in the correspondence as the key conduit through whom Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was introduced to the White House.
Bin Salman attempted to introduce himself to Trump by requesting a meeting with Manafort in New York. There was then a discussion about the best channel for setting up the meeting. 
'Something you can pass along to your friend Tom Barrack. I made certain that language that was anti the Saudi Royal Family was removed from the platform'
- Email forwarded to Tom Barrack and Yousef al-Otaiba
When the ambassador for Saudi Arabia contacted “a middle level person” at the major investment company Blackstone, Barrack moved quickly to close down this rival avenue of approach.
“Paul called me and will do so if introduced through us ! I would like to align in Donald’s mind the connection between the UAE and Saudi Arabia which we’ve already started with Jared [Kushner]. I think it is important that you are the center pin!”
This email exchange reveals that Trump himself was keen that contact between him and bin Salman should only be arranged through Barrack himself, his most trusted advisor.
Barrack wrote: “The candidate did not want to take the meeting if it was arranged through Blackstone for a number of reasons! If arranged by you and I we will make sure that everything runs smoothly, elegantly and appropriately and the candidate is properly briefed !”

Barrack, Otaiba become close friends

The exchange of emails also show how Barrack and Otaiba became close friends, with their correspondence starting with the formal “Your Excellency” and ending with “Marhaba Habibi” which means "hello my friend" in Arabic.
At one point during the correspondence the Emirati ambassador asks for a “small favour” - for his wife, Abeer al-Otaiba, to meet Melania Trump’s stylist. “Any chance we can get an introduction to Melania’s stylist for abeer’s fashion line?” Otaiba wrote.
Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the US, and his wife Abeer attend the Allen and Company Sun Valley Conference in July 2015 in Idaho (AFP)
After a dinner Otaiba arranged with Adel al Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, Barrack was obsequious in his praise for his host.
“I have to tell you it was one of the most wonderful and interesting evenings I have had in a long time," he wrote. "Your incredible home, the elegant cuisine, irreplaceable wine and the bevy of the most intelligent and eloquent guests imaginable. Thank you for your generosity and hospitality and including me in such a prestigious group. You’re an amazing man.”
Middle East Eye contacted the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, Barrack and Townsend for comment. They had yet to reply at time of publication.
According to the New York Times, Barrack’s company Colony NorthStar has raised more than $7bn in investments since Trump won the Republican nomination, 24 percent of which came from the Gulf.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon: الاصطياد في بحر غزة !

الاصطياد في بحر غزة !

Monday, June 25, 2018

What is behind Jared Kushner's latest Middle East tour?

The Trump administration is struggling to secure political support for the 'ultimate deal'.
Ibrahim Fraihat
US President Donald Trump's Middle East team has been visiting the region frequently, and the administration purports to be one step closer to announcing the details of its peace plan, also known as "the ultimate deal", after each visit.
Last week Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and top aide who was tasked last year with reviving the stalled peace process, and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt embarked on yet another Middle East tour, visiting countries including Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
While the US administration continuously acts as if the big reveal is just around the corner, what these frequent visits really indicate is that the Trump team has not been able to gain the support it needs to announce its plan just yet.
Kushner and Greenblatt's latest visit also aimed at securing political and financial support for the peace plan. However, it seems the visit has also not been successful, as no deal was announced and the US administration continues to increase pressure on those opposing the deal, particularly Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Jordan and the PA have fiercely rejected the deal since the beginning of negotiations, and - it appears - for good reason.

Can US plan for Middle East deliver peace?

According to several leaks, Trump's "ultimate deal" would include recognising Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel, no removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank, and no return of the Palestinian refugees to their land.
In addition, the deal allegedly foresees Israel retaining control of the Jordan valley and the borders with Jordan. What the Palestinians get is financial support for development projects in Gaza, especially in energy, to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there. 
For the PA the deal is a non-starter. In the recent history of Palestine, there has never been a president more open to peace negotiations than Mahmoud Abbas. But despite his record of political pragmatism, Abbas not only utterly rejected the plan, but also "fired" the mediator.
When Trump announced its decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognised it as Israel's capital, Abbas said the Trump administration was no longer accepted as a mediator in the conflict with Israel. Consequently, the PA cut all diplomatic ties with the White House and withdrew its ambassador from Washington
Palestinians are probably the weakest of the players in terms of military might, but the deal is unlikely to succeed without their approval. They may not have military power, but they are the only ones who can make the deal legitimate. The Trump administration is well aware of this fact, and this is why they are pressuring, and at times threatening, the PA leadership to accept their positions.
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO committee, recently acknowledged these pressures, and said Kushner and Greenblatt are trying to topple the Palestinian leadership.
In an interview for al-Quds newspaper, Kushner said that if Abbas is not willing to negotiate, they would proceed with the deal anyway. 
King Abdullah of Jordan, too, seems to have received his own share of American-Israeli pressure to "legitimise" the deal. During Kushner's visit to Amman, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, also met with the king to address Jordan's concerns over the implementation of the deal. In particular, Netanyahu wanted to assure King Abdullah that the Hashemite custodianship of Jerusalem's holy sites would continue under the deal.
Israel sometimes tries to put Amman in a vulnerable position by hinting that the Jordanian royal family's custodianship could be transferred to their newly emerging ally, Saudi Arabia. In fact, Isaac Herzog, a Knesset member and the former leader of Israel's Labour party, suggested in an interview with Saudi-funded Elaph news website: "When we reach the stage [during negotiations] of talking about Jerusalem and the holy sites, such as Al-Aqsa [Mosque], I think there must be a Saudi role and responsibility for the holy sites."
Furthermore, Jordan recently experienced economically motivated protests over IMF-backed price increases and a new tax reform law. With an aid-dependent economy, Jordan is in serious need of financial support. The US and Israel can exploit this need in order to secure Amman's support for the deal.
Nevertheless, it does not seem King Abdullah buckled under US-Israeli pressures just yet. For this reason, it has been announced that King Abdullah will be visiting Washington on Monday to discuss with Trump various matters including, "working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians".
No official statements have been made on whether Trump's team has been able to secure any financial support from Gulf states during their visit, but this task is not as complicated as securing the necessary political support needed for the deal to be announced.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly announced its support of Trump's efforts and it can be assumed that Riyadh will not hesitate to put its considerable resources behind the deal when the time comes. Furthermore, since the financial support is going to be invested in development projects in Gaza, the Saudi leadership is likely to be on board which sends a message to its own domestic constituency that it is not "selling out" on the Palestinian cause. 
While it is likely that Trump's team will get promises of financial support for the deal in the near future, securing political support especially from the PA and Jordan remains a far trickier task.
Even toppling the current Palestinian leadership would not solve the Trump administration's problems, as it will undoubtedly result in a significantly more radical leader than Abbas taking over. Most PLO and PA institutions have already demanded from Abbas to take a series of escalatory steps like freezing recognition of Israel and ending security coordination with Israel.
Convincing Jordan is not going to be any easier either. The hands of its political leadership are tied because the Jordanian society itself firmly rejects the deal - something unlikely to change no matter what incentives and/or threats the White House uses.
The will of the Jordanian people, who successfully toppled their government by taking to the streets earlier this month, is something Amman cannot afford to ignore when taking positions regarding Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue.
In this sense, it seems more likely than ever that the ultimate deal will ultimately fail. Unfortunately, until this happens, it will cause enough damage to seriously hinder the possibility of a legitimate peace deal being made in the future.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Emad Hajjaj's Cartoon

صفقة القرن !

How can America call itself a Christian country if it treats children like this?

Bishop Michael Curry damns Trump’s immigration policy and its malign effects on families



The screams of children being taken from their mothers and fathers at our border, under our flag, haunts the nation. Across political and religious divides, the nation – and the world – is aghast and Americans are refusing complicity in all the ways they can. Millions of people are crying, protesting and praying in our houses of worship and in the public square. In a moment of national shame, huge swaths of people are acting in love.
The families making treacherous and often dangerous journeys to seek refuge in the US are desperate. They face extreme violence, persecution and poverty in their home countries. You cannot deter people who are fleeing for their lives, even with policies as cruel as taking children away from their parents. People who come to our borders only hope to give their children a chance. We should be meeting these people with compassion.

Christians have recoiled against the notion that ripping children from their parents – euphemistically called “family separation” – in any way comports with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, Mary, and Joseph were refugees who fled persecution and emigrated to Egypt. Love thy neighbour is the Christian way. There is no biblical mandate or warrant for what is occurring on our borders. Christianity must never be confused with cruelty.
While the president has rightly declared families will no longer be separated at the border, he wrongly continues to promote a hurtful immigration policy greatly devoid of human compassion. Even with the new executive order, immigration officers will keep families who are legally seeking asylum in detention.

The agony of migrant parents at our border is immense. Every parent has feared the unthinkable: my child is gone. For me, it was a flash of dread in an everyday experience while shopping with my two young children in a department store. My oldest daughter wandered away and for the 10 seconds before I found her nestled between hanging clothes I felt a panic I had never before imagined.
Those remain the longest 10 seconds of my life and are seared in my memory. I can still taste the fear and I relive that sick feeling in my body remembering what it was like to be physically shaken by the fear that I had lost my daughter and would not be able to find her. Imagine those seconds multiplied by days and weeks and months.

Quick guide

Why are families being separated at US border?

Today, there remain thousands of children scattered in foster homes and child prison camps with no system in place for reunification. Each of these children needs our prayers, our voices of outrage and our help to reunite them with their families and heal from this terror. And the children who came before them, those who have crossed the border as children alone and some who were remanded to youth prisons that are under scrutiny for abusive practices – these children also need our intervention.
The rhetoric from our government leaders, which casts “the other” – in this case, families seeking refuge – as dangerous, inhumanely violates the Christian tradition. Selfishness is a sin. We cannot live up to our country’s ideals if we embrace only our own desires and put our needs above all others – even above God. Being a US citizen does not make us more human than people on the other side of our border.
We are in the midst of a global migration crisis, where millions of families have been separated after fleeing their homelands due to violence, conflict and persecution.

Play Video
 Separated migrant families held in cages at Texas border – video

This crisis touches almost every continent in the world. The US is on track to resettle the fewest refugees since the refugee resettlement programme began in 1980. God does not condone our attack on immigrants. Jesus says: “Love your neighbour.” Jesus says: “Love your enemy.” Jesus says: “Welcome the stranger.” We ask that our friends in Britain continue to pray for our country in hopes that we may continue to follow a moral compass pointing in the direction of love, compassion, goodness.
What is the Christian way to manage borders? Strength does not require cruelty. Indeed, cruelty is a response rooted in weakness. Jesus was clear about what true strength is and it always is driven by love. There may be many policy prescriptions, but the prism through which we view them should be the same: does the policy treat people with love, acknowledging our common humanity? If the answer is no, it is not a Christian solution.
Detaining and separating families – children and their parents – is not just happening at the border. Some immigrant parents and care-givers who have lived in the US for decades – and have children who are US citizens – are being rounded up and deported, leaving a trail of countless children in this country without their parents.

President Trump’s executive order has not quieted the cries of the children still separated from their parents. It has not comforted the parents still panicked because they cannot see their babies. It does nothing to stop the heartless deportations of immigrants who are longtime neighbours and members of our communities.
All of those families weep. And so we must respond to the weeping by working to help America to live out one of its core ideals, enshrined in words on the Statue of Liberty.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. 
 The Most Rev Michael Bruce Curry is presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal church