Tracing Saudi Arabia’s Massive Influence in WashingtonThe New Republic #Saudi_ArabiaDecember 6, 2018
Indeed, between special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation’s increasing focus on Gulf money, and Trump’s repeated support for the Saudis and Emiratis in regional and international affairs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps it’s these states—not Russia—who have undue influence over the president.
While there is no suggestion so far of
quid pro quo between the president and his friends in the Gulf, the shady
connections built during and after the 2016 election have combined with a
broader network of money, personal ties, and some genuine policy agreements to
produce what is perhaps the most pro-Saudi administration in U.S. history.
administration, however, has taken the United States’ selective vision on Saudi
Arabia to new extremes.
In May 2018, The New York Times reported that the Mueller investigation into foreign influence in
the 2016 election was looking at not just Russian, but possible Middle Eastern
influence: Diplomats from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it appeared, had
facilitated meetings between Russian officials, mercenary-for-hire Erik Prince,
and members of the Trump transition team.
During the firestorm following Khashoggi’s death,
Trump tweeted that he had no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.
To be sure, money is
not the only thing that ties the Trump administration so closely to the Gulf
His decision to end the nuclear deal was
opposed by other U.S. allies, China, Russia, most arms-control and regional
specialists, and even his own secretary of defense and secretary of state; it
was, however, supported by Saudi and Emirati leaders, who oppose Iran’s
regional influence, and were willing to fill the gap by boosting their own production in response to sanctions on Iranian oil.
For starters, we may never know the extent of the
financial ties between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Trump’s businesses, family
though, it’s difficult to distinguish influence during the Trump administration
from general attempts by these states to buy
policymaking influence here in D.C. As a recent report from the Center
for International Policy (CIP) illustrated, Saudi lobbying in
Washington has grown exponentially in recent years, costing $27.3 million in
Even in the absence of a clear quid pro
quo, the Trump family benefits financially from its ties to the Gulf states.
The Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, stressed the importance of ongoing Track II efforts, as complementary to official negotiations in Yemen, indicating that it is crucial to work on peace-building in Yemen, in parallel to official diplomatic efforts, known as Track I, to end the war. He added that “the real work in Yemen starts the day after we reach a political deal. We should all wo…