There are too many unanswered questions about the White House’s role in advancing Saudi ambitions.
Jared Kushner slipped quietly into Saudi Arabia this week for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, so the question I’m trying to get the White House to answer is this: Did they discuss American help for a Saudi nuclear program?
Of all the harebrained and unscrupulous dealings of the Trump administration in the last two years, one of the most shocking is a Trump plan to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Even as President Trump is trying to denuclearize North Korea and Iran, he may be helping to nuclearize Saudi Arabia. This is abominable policy tainted by a gargantuan conflict of interest involving Kushner.
Kushner’s family real estate business had been teetering because of a disastrously overpriced acquisition he made of a particular Manhattan property called 666 Fifth Avenue, but last August a company called Brookfield Asset Management rescued the Kushners by taking a 99-year lease of the troubled property — and paying the whole sum of about $1.1 billion up front.
Alarm bells should go off: Brookfield also owns Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear services business trying to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi swamp, meet American swamp.
It may be conflicts like these, along with even murkier ones, that led American intelligence officials to refuse a top-secret security clearance for Kushner. The Times reported Thursday that Trump overruled them to grant Kushner the clearance.
This nuclear reactor mess began around the time of Trump’s election, when a group of retired U.S. national security officials put together a plan to enrich themselves by selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The officials included Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, and they initially developed a “plan for 40 nuclear power plants” in Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The plan is now to start with just a couple of plants.
As recently as Feb. 12, Trump met in the White House with backers of the project and was supportive, Reuters reported.
No one knows whether Prince Muhammed will manage to succeed his father and become the next king, for there is opposition and the Saudi economic transformation he boasts of is running into difficulties.
Trump and Kushner seem to be irresponsibly trying to boost the prince’s prospects, increasing the risk that an unstable hothead will mismanage the kingdom for the next 50 years. Perhaps with nuclear weapons.
Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002. The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force. Incirlik Air Base has one 3,048 m (10,000 ft)-long runway, located among about 57 hardened aircraft shelters. Tactical nuclear weapons are stored at the base.
2016 Turkish coup attempt
As a result of the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt and several Turkish Tanker Aircraft fuelling rogue Turkish F-16’s, external electrical power to the base was disconnected. A Turkish no fly order was also put into effect for US military aircraft in the area. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook at the time stated that “U.S. facilities at Incirlik are operating on internal power sources.” EUCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez said: “All our assets in Turkey are fully under control and there was no attempt to challenge that status.” “There was no chaos at this base,”. The security level at base did however move to DELTA, the highest level, U.S. personnel are ordered restricted to base, and locals were denied access. By 17th of July commercial electrical power remained disconnected but permission from Turkey to conduct US anti-ISIS air operations from Incirlik resumed, the Turkish base commander, General Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested by Turkish forces loyal to sitting president Erdoğan. General Van sought asylum from the United States but was denied.
Turkey’s currency crisis and standoff with the United States over the imprisonment of an American pastor have exposed the crumbling edifice of the two countries’ Cold War-era partnership. Rather than hold out hope that Turkey will return to the Western fold, US and European policymakers must consider a new policy toward the country... Moreover, tariffs allow Erdoğan to blame his country’s economic woes on America, rather than on his own government’s incompetence... It is still possible that the Turkish government will find a way to release Brunson, and that US President Donald Trump, anxious to demonstrate fealty to the evangelicals who form a core part of his base, will rescind the tariffs... But even if the immediate crisis is resolved, the structural crisis in US-Turkish relations – and Western-Turkish relations generally – will remain.We are witnessing the gradual but steady demise of a relationship that is already an alliance in name only. Though the Trump administration is right to have confronted Turkey, it chose not only the wrong response, but also the wrong issue.The relationship between Turkey and the West has long been predicated on two principles, neither of which obtains any longer.
- The first is that Turkey is a part of the West, which implies that it is a liberal democracy.
- Yet Turkey is neither liberal nor a democracy. It has effectively been subjected to one-party rule under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and power has become concentrated in the hands of Erdoğan, who is also the AKP’s leader.
- Under Erdoğan, checks and balances have largely been eliminated from the Turkish political system, and the president controls the media, the bureaucracy, and the courts.
- The second principle underlying Turkey’s “Western” status is alignment on foreign policy. Turkey recently bought more than 100 advanced F-35 fighter jets from the US. Yet, in recent years, Turkey has also supported jihadist groups in Syria, moved closer to Iran, and contracted to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia.
.. The Turks were not happy with the US decision to withdraw medium-range missiles from Turkey as part of the deal that ended the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
.. Turkey refused to give US military forces access to Incirlik Air Base during the Iraq war in 2003.
.. the Turkish government has been infuriated by America’s refusal to extradite the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdoğan believes masterminded the 2016 coup attempt.
.. The anti-Soviet glue that kept the two countries close during the Cold War is long gone.
.. The problem is that the NATO treaty provides no mechanism for divorce.
.. Turkey can withdraw from the alliance, but it cannot be forced out.
- .. First, policymakers should criticize Turkish policy when warranted.
- they must also reduce their reliance on access to Turkish bases such as Incirlik,
- deny Turkey access to advanced military hardware like F-35s, and
- reconsider the policy of basing nuclear weapons in Turkey.
- Moreover, the US should not extradite Gülen unless Turkey can prove his involvement in the coup with evidence that would stand up in a US court and satisfy the provisions of the 1981 mutual extradition treaty.
- Nor should the US abandon the Kurds, given their invaluable role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
- Second, the US and Europe should wait until the Erdoğan era is over, and then approach Turkey’s new leadership with a grand bargain.
- The offer should be Western support in exchange for a Turkish commitment to liberal democracy and to a foreign policy focused on fighting terrorism and pushing back against Russia.