Mitch McConnell, Republican Senator from Kentucky, took to the Senate floor to urge other Senators not to pass a bill that would discontinue U.S. support for a war that the American public barely even knows we are helping to fight: the Saudi war against the neighboring country of Yemen:
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that the Senate should reject an effort to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and instead back a resolution to name Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “responsible” for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s slaying.
McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor, said members have “legitimate concerns” about Yemen and share “grave concerns” about Khashoggi’s death.
“[But] we also want to preserve the 70-year partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia and we want to ensure it continues to serve American interests and stabilizes a dangerous and critical region,” McConnell said.
That’s right, Mitch McConnell wants the United States to continue to be embroiled in a war against Yemen, even though no war has been declared by the United States against Yemen, and even though the American people are barely aware that the United States is even helping Saudi Arabia fight a war against Yemen. And, those Americans who are aware that the United States is involved in this war, want the United States to stop being involved in this war:
According to a new YouGov survey, most Americans oppose U.S. support for the war on Yemen:
A majority of Americans oppose US support for the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen, with 58 percent of respondents in a recent survey wanting lawmakers to curtail or halt the supplying of arms for a conflict considered the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian disaster.
Only 13 percent of Americans say they want to lawmakers maintain or increase arms sales to the US allies in the conflict, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the survey conducted by the polling firm YouGov and commissioned by the relief group International Rescue Committee.
There has been no regular polling of public opinion in any country about the war on Yemen, and this is the first poll I can recall seeing that asked Americans about U.S. support for the war. It is a measure of how little coverage the war has received that there have been virtually no polls commissioned to find out what the public thinks about it. The results from this survey are encouraging, and it shows that most Americans reject the policy when they are made aware of what their government has been doing to back the war on Yemen. Americans that have an opinion on the subject are overwhelmingly against U.S. policy:
Among those who had an opinion on the conflict, the survey found 75 percent of Americans oppose US involvement in the war.
Saudi Arabia is currently fighting this war against Yemen in the most ruthless way imaginable, bombing women and children, and they are using U.S. weapons to do so:
The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.
Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.
The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed “incorrect information” for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.
The Saudis have also placed an embargo on Yemen that has created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis:
The World Food Programme (WFP) has said there “very well could be” famine in remote areas of Yemen where the UN’s food agency does not have access, painting a bleak picture of the hunger crisis gripping the country.
“Yemen is a disaster and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel right now,” WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley told reporters at a closed briefing during the UN General Assembly in New York City on Thursday.
The WFP has warned that Yemen is on the brink of a full-blown famine, with 18 million of its 29 million population food insecure, 8.4 million severely so.
The Saudi war effort is being led by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, who has been a close confidante of Jared Kushner, a relationship that started during the Presidential campaign in 2016.
Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.
The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.
Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.
It is unclear whether such a proposal was executed, and the details of who commissioned it remain in dispute. But Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting, and after those initial offers of help, Mr. Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers — meeting frequently with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser. At the time, Mr. Nader was also promoting a secret plan to use private contractors to destabilize Iran, the regional nemesis of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.
What does this have to do with the war in Yemen? Read on, and you shall see.
After that initial meeting during the campaign, Jared Kushner then developed a close and friendly relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman:
The detailed report, written by David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler, and Mark Mazzetti, tracks the story of how the two men in their 30s came to have such a close friendship that Kushner regularly chats privately on the phone with the crown prince, even calling him by his first name, much to the chagrin of senior American officials. The Times reports that Saudi Arabia saw Kushner as a viable, impressionable target, and began what the reporters describe as “the courtship of Mr. Kushner”:
Prince Mohammed and his advisers, eager to enlist American support for his hawkish policies in the region and for his own consolidation of power, cultivated the relationship with Mr. Kushner for more than two years, according to documents, emails and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.
A delegation of Saudis close to the prince visited the United States as early as the month Mr. Trump was elected, the documents show, and brought back a report identifying Mr. Kushner as a crucial focal point in the courtship of the new administration. He brought to the job scant knowledge about the region, a transactional mind-set and an intense focus on reaching a deal with the Palestinians that met Israel’s demands, the delegation noted.
This delegation was followed up by a series of meetings and personal recommendations that Kushner reach out, including from MBS ally Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi. Though initially suspicious of Saudi Arabia’s motivations, Kushner soon put his concerns aside, drawn in by proposals and initiatives that aligned with his Israel-Palestine priorities and the administration’s anti-violent extremism ones.
Why was Jared Kushner getting so chummy with the Saudi Crown Prince? He wanted Saudi money:
SoftBank Group, derives much of its $100 billion war chest – one of the biggest in the world – from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The SoftBank Vision Fund has walked away from talks to invest in Cadre, a real-estate technology start-up owned partly by Jared Kushner, but other investors are offering to buy a stake, according to people familiar with the discussions.
One term sheet would value the firm at as much as $2 billion, two of the people said. That would be more than double an $800 million appraisal at the end of last year. Reema Bahnasy, a spokeswoman for Cadre, declined to identify that investor or provide any other information about the sensitive discussions.
And, it wasn’t just Saudi money Jared Kushner was interested in. His family was trying to get money from another middle eastern country, Qatar, to help bail them out of some bad real estate investments:
Kushner was reportedly interested in raising from investors in the region, specifically Qatar, a strategic U.S. ally with recently frosty relations to Saudi Arabia.
In March, The Intercept reported that Joshua Kushner met with Qatari finance minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi, following a meeting his father, Charles Kushner, arranged with the government financier back in April 2017 to discuss financing for the family’s real estate holdings. The Intercept reports that Joshua pitched Al Emadi on investing in Thrive Capital. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund reportedly declined to invest because it didn’t make deals under $300 million. In that article, a spokesperson for Kushner disputed The Intercept’s claim that their client solicited funds from the Qatari financier but confirmed the meeting did occur.
What does that have to do with Saudi Arabia and their Crown Prince? After Jared Kushner’s family real estate business was rebuffed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a blockade of Qatar:
The UAE has spread a “climate of fear” among Qataris living there during a year-long blockade, separating families and causing “substantial pain”, the UN’s top court heard Friday.
Doha is appealing to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to order emergency measures to lift the restrictions imposed on Qataris by the UAE in June 2017.
“Many Qataris still resident in the UAE live in perpetual fear, they live in the shadow of the UAE’s expulsion order,” leading British barrister Lord Peter Goldsmith, acting for Doha, told the court.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar last June over accusations of supporting extremism and being too close to rival Iran, charges Doha has denied.
The four countries enforced a blockade on Doha, closing land, sea, and air links to the country. Gulf states also ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.
Saudi Arabia has threatened to dig a canal across its border with Qatar, effectively making the Gulf peninsula state an island, sparking outrage in Doha.
A year later, Jared Kushner’s family finally ended up getting the money they wanted from Qatar, likely thanks to the Saudi blockade that was led by Jared Kushner’s new friend, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman:
The company controlled by the family of the White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its troubled flagship building by a company with financial ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal.
Charles Kushner, head of the Kushner Companies, is in advanced talks with Brookfield Asset Management over a partnership to take control of the 41-story aluminum-clad tower in Midtown Manhattan, 666 Fifth Avenue, according to two real estate executives who have been briefed on the pending deal but were not authorized to discuss it. Brookfield is a publicly traded company, and its real estate arm, Brookfield Property Partners, is partly owned by the Qatari government, through the Qatar Investment Authority.
Charles Kushner and his son Jared, President Trump’s son-in-law and one of his key advisers, bought the office tower, which is between 52nd and 53rd Streets, 11 years ago for a record-setting $1.8 billion. But the building today only generates about half its annual mortgage payment, and 30 percent of the 41-story tower is vacant.
The Kushner family had been searching the globe for a partner for the building, including meeting as recently as last year with a billionaire from Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, the country’s former prime minister.
As this transpired, Jared Kushner’s new friend Mohammed Bin Salman reportedly said he had Jared “in his pocket”:
One of the people MBS told about the discussion with Kushner was UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, according to a source who talks frequently to confidants of the Saudi and Emirati rulers. MBS bragged to the Emirati crown prince and others that Kushner was “in his pocket,” the source told The Intercept.
And thus, we circle back to what is going on in Yemen: Mohammed Bin Salman called in his chips on Jared Kushner, and used him to help broker a deal for the U.S. to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, weapons which are now being used to fight a war the American public was given no say in fighting:
President Trump’s first full day in Saudi Arabia was busy, to say the least. He participated in welcoming ceremonies and was awarded the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court Palace. But one thing that slipped through the cracks was how Jared Kushner played an instrumental role in securing the $110 billion arms deal.
“Let’s get this done today,” Kushner reportedly said on May 1, per NYT, when meeting with high-level Saudi leaders near the White House to discuss the pending arms deal. He was securing a much-needed win for Trump (though he didn’t know it at the time) that would come during his first overseas trip as POTUS.
Of course, with the American public being largely blissfully unaware of the war it was helping to fight, this could have likely kept going on unnoticed. However, Jared Kushner’s friend Mohammed Bin Salman then orchestrated the cold blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who lived in Virginia:
The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, contradicting the Saudi government’s claims that he was not involved in the killing, according to people familiar with the matter.
The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is the most definitive to date linking Mohammed to the operation and complicates the Trump administration’s efforts to preserve its relationship with a close ally. A team of 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul on government aircraft in October and killed Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate, where he had gone to pick up documents that he needed for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.
And Jared Kushner then tried to help his buddy Mohammed Bin Salman manage the fallout from the Khashoggi murder:
Kushner even spoke to the prince after the Oct. 2 slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, offering advice on how to weather the storm and offering to be Salman’s most influential White House defender, the report said.
However, despite Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump, attempting to downplay the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, public outcry was enough to finally get some United States Senators to start to worry about what the Saudis have been doing with U.S. support:
Sanders and Murphy say two key moments contributed to the push’s growing momentum: Saudi bombing of a school bus filled with Yemeni children in August, and what the C.I.A. believes to be the Saudi government-sanctioned killing in August of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi.
“I think that exposed to the world what this regime is about,” Sanders said of the Khashoggi killing. “And people began to ask, why are we allied with a Saudi war in Yemen which is killing children? Maybe it’s time to rethink that.”
So, here we are. The American backed Saudi war against Yemen has been thrust to the forefront, and the United States Senate is finally taking action, something they should have been doing since the beginning. The United States is assisting a ruthless man, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, fight a war that is putting millions of people in danger, in large part because this Crown Prince has been able to garner undue influence with the son-in-law of the U.S. President, likely so that son-in-law could get money to bail out his and his family’s businesses. This is not how U.S. foreign policy is supposed to work. The Congress needs to start taking back power from this corrupt administration, and stopping U.S. involvement in the Saudi war against Yemen is a great place to start.
But, of course, Mitch McConnell is against that.