Donald Trump's destabilization of the Middle East, specifically his allowance of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to run rampant and seize power over the last two years, is diplomatic damage that will reverberate for decades.
Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
The Saudis inquired at a time when Prince Mohammed, then the deputy crown prince and defense minister, was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the kingdom. Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent.
Saudi officials have portrayed Mr. Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired. But that official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, was present for a meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy.
Ahh, but let's not forget that all this is part of a larger scheme.
During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia.
The interest in assassinations, covert operations and military campaigns like the war in Yemen — overseen by Prince Mohammed — is a change for the kingdom, which historically has avoided an adventurous foreign policy that could create instability and imperil Saudi Arabia’s comfortable position as one of the world’s largest oil suppliers.
As for the businessmen, who had intelligence backgrounds, they saw their Iran plan both as a lucrative source of income and a way to cripple a country that both they and the Saudis considered a profound threat. George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, arranged the meeting. He had met previously with Prince Mohammed, and had pitched the Iran plan to Trump White House officials. Another participant in the meetings was Joel Zamel, an Israeli with deep ties to his country’s intelligence and security agencies.
Both Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel are witnesses in the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and prosecutors have asked them about their discussions with American and Saudi officials about the Iran proposal. It is unclear how this line of inquiry fits into Mr. Mueller’s broader inquiry. In 2016, a company owned by Mr. Zamel, Psy-Group, had pitched the Trump campaign on a social media manipulation plan.
A spokesman for the Saudi government declined to comment, as did lawyers for both Mr. Nader and Mr. Zamel.
We've known for months now that the Saudis and Emiratis are deeply involved in Jared Kushner and Erik Prince's little assassination for hire scheme, selling the services of Prince's mercenary connections along with access to Kushner's father-in-law Donald Trump, to the highest bidder. We know Prince's US assets were used by the Saudis to help eliminate Khashoggi. And we know Mueller is absolutely on to Prince and Kushner.
It's all connected.
If you want to know why Trump is panicking these days, it's not just Donald Junior who's in real trouble.