In his role as the president’s special advisor, Kushner seems to have decided he can remake the entire Middle East, and he is wreaking his havoc with his new best friend, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old who burst on to the international scene by jailing many members of his country’s ruling elite, including from his own family, on corruption charges.What kind of a deal does Kushner seem to be pushing for in the Middle East? Something like this:
This is, of course, not a deal at all. It’s an insult to the Palestinian people. Another Arab official cited in the Times story explained that the proposal came from someone lacking experience but attempting to flatter the family of the American president. In other words, it’s as if Mohammed bin Salman is trying to gift Palestine to Jared Kushner, Palestinians be damned.Kushner seems to be acting totally without regard for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's views. But Tillrson's hollowed-out State Department is not capable of much anyway:
Here’s where state department diplomacy should kick in. The US ambassador to Qatar could relay messages between the feuding parties to find a solution to the stand-off. So what does the ambassador to Qatar have to say about the Kushner-Salman alliance? Nothing, since there still is no confirmed ambassador to Qatar.The article concludes:
What about the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia? That seat’s also vacant. And the US ambassador to Jordan, Morocco, Egypt? Vacant, vacant, and vacant. What about assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, a chief strategic post to establish US policy in the region? No one’s been nominated. Deputy assistant secretary for press and public diplomacy? Vacant.
It’s partly this vacuum of leadership by Tillerson that has enabled Kushner to forge his powerful alliance with bin Salman, much to the detriment of the region. And in their zeal to isolate Iran, Kushner and bin Salman are leaving a wake of destruction around them.
There’s a long history of American politicians deciding they know what’s best for the Middle East while buttressing their autocratic allies and at the expense of the region’s ordinary people. (The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has traditionally provided the rationale for America and its allies in the region, and his recent sycophantic portrayal of bin Salman certainly didn’t disappoint!)
But the Kushner-bin Salman alliance also represents something else. Both the US and Saudi Arabia are concentrating power into fewer and fewer hands. And with fewer people in the room, who will be around to tell these men that their ideas are so damaging? Who will dare explain to them how they already have failed?