One of the more curious things in 2017 in the first year of the Trump presidency was how when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) placed a boycott on Qatar and more directly attempted to overthrow the government of Qatar, President Trump openly supported this effort initially. He would later be pulled back from this position as his first Secretary of Defense and that of State also after they noted that Qatar hosts the largest US airbase in the Middle East, al-Udeid, from which many operations are carried out, including much of the drone warfare by the US. Less well publicized is that these secretaries also attempted later to get Trump to host a peace-making summit between the leaders of those three nations and some others in an effort to bring an end to the boycott campaign against Qatar, but for some reason, Trump lacked enthusiasm for this idea and it never happened.
Juan Cole now reports that there was a common thread to these and related somewhat surprising developments: the behind-the-scenes influence with Trump of his longtime associate, Tom Barrack, a California real estate billionaire who also served as chair of Trump’s troubled inaugural committee. Barrack was better known for this latter activity, but Cole makes it clear that Arabic-speaking Barrack, whose family came from Lebanon originally, was really much more important as an influencer of Trump on his Middle Eastern policies in ways that did not receive any publicity but were much more important than the basically petty corruption going on in connection with Trump’s inauguration.
So Barrack has now been indicted for these activities, in particular as acting on behalf of the UAE without registering as a foreign agent. Not only that he also has been indicted for lying to the FBI about this under oath, something that somehow a lot of Trump associates somehow thought they could get away with. Indeed, Barrack did get away with it for some time as the FBI initially investigated him for these things in 2018, but the DOJ under Trump did not move forward on this. It took Biden becoming president and a change in leadership at the DOJ for this indictment to finally move forward.
It turns out that Barrack was also a long time go-between for the Saudis, dating from the 1970s, but his closest relationship was with Emir Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose wealth is about $1.3 trillion, making him the world’s wealthiest man, not Jeff Bezos, and who also controls the $15 trillion sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, the richest of the 7 emirates that constitute the UAE, with bin Zayed having bailed out much better known Dubai when it got into financial trouble, with that bailout giving bin Zayed ownership of much real estate in Dubai.
Cole also reports that bin Zayed has apparently had a long and close friendship with Vladimir Putin and that in the fall of 2016 bin Zayed managed to secretly visit Donald Trump in New York without then President Obama even knowing about it. Cole suggests that bin Zayed was in cahoots with Putin in aiding the Trump presidential campaign secretly. Much of this was aided by Barrack.
At least Barrack did one good thing, although it did not work out. He apparently urged Trump to work to have a smooth transition after he was defeated by Biden in the 2020 election. But obviously, on that matter, he was not listened to.