Paul Pillar writes books and teaches at Georgetown now; before that he worked at the CIA for nearly 3 decades and became one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush/Cheney Middle East policies. This week he wrote a piece for Responsible Statecraft-- The big finale: is Trump dangerous enough to start a war? He's worried about Trump's "psychopathology" and notes that Trump's "objective of sabotaging the next administration points to one of the most likely and dangerous things that the unhinged lame duck president might do in his final days in office, which is to initiate a military clash with Iran. Such a possibility has been building throughout the four years of Trump’s highly confrontational and-- as far as U.S. interests are concerned-- counterproductive policy toward Iran. The most recent signs have become even more worrisome. Trump issued-- by tweet, of course-- a highly threatening message following a volley of rockets fired at Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy is located, an attack that Trump blamed on Iran. The administration also has been brandishing military power against Iran with the dispatch of U.S.-based B-52 bombers to the region. Trump’s partner in provoking Iran-- that is, the Netanyahu government of Israel-- has added to the saber-rattling by sending a submarine to the area."
"The current checks that could stop a departing president from doing something like that are weak," wrote Pillar. "The Defense Department currently is led by an acting secretary, Christopher Miller, who is one of the many temps whom Trump has installed to keep the executive branch on a short leash and to flout the confirmation role of the Senate. Such people who are in place, especially Miller and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, will have a hard time standing up to even an unhinged president as long as he holds the title of commander-in-chief, as Trump will continue to have until January 20th. If a crunch comes between now and then, they will have to think long and hard about the larger interests at stake and about how their oaths of office pledged them to defend the Constitution of the United States, not any one occupant of the White House."
Netanyahu-- who faces another election and a possible prison sentence on corruption-- has been pushing Trump to attack Iran. And so has Trump's biggest campaign donor, Sheldon Adelson. Speaking of whom, seems to have paid the bribe to get Sudan to "make peace" with Israel. Israel has serious problems with Iran and Syria, not with Sudan, a relatively primitive country over a thousand miles away from Israel-- with Egypt between them.
Adelson paid the money by buying a house at an astronomically-inflated price-- the same way Trump was able to take Russian bribes through a series of bogus real estate deals. Writing for the Associated Press yesterday, Joseph Krauss reported that the U.S. ambassador's residence in an upscale Tel Aviv suburb, Herzliya, sold for more than $67 million in July, a figure that has been hidden from Congress and then leaked by an Israeli source and now reluctantly admitted by the Trump Regime. Sheldon Adelson put up the cash, which was then used to bribe "Sudan" to take the phony peace deal.
The whole thing is entirely illegal-- legally, that money should have gone into the U.S. Treasury, not into a Trump-Kushner-Netanyahu slush fund-- and both Houses of Congress have initiated investigations. "The sale," wrote Krauss, "helped to cement Trump's controversial decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem in 2018 and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. By selling the residence, it would make it harder for future presidents to reverse the decision to move the embassy. President-elect Joe Biden has criticized the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem but says he will not reverse it." This is exactly what Netanyahu and Adelson wanted, along with the Sudanese feel-good gesture. (UPDATE: One member of Congress just told me that some of that Adelson money may have made its way to Rabat as well.)
Records posted by Israel's tax authority on Monday show that the sale of the official residence was concluded on July 31, several weeks before the State Department acknowledged it. They list the sale price as 230,353,536 Israeli shekels. That's $67,592,000 according to that day's official exchange rate.
...In a statement released Tuesday, the State Department said the sale process was “open and transparent and included professional appraisals and advice to maximize value.”
“The buyer was selected solely on the basis that they submitted the highest offer,” it added, without saying how many bids were made or identifying any of the potential buyers.
The State Department had earlier said it would continue to lease the property until spring 2021, without specifying how much it would pay in rent. But on Tuesday it said there was “no provision for a leaseback with rent payment.” It said closing would take place in the coming months, after the completion of "administrative and procedural tasks.”
The Israeli real-estate office that brokered the deal referred all questions to the U.S. Embassy.
There is an active debate raging in Jewish-world about Kushner-in-law and his legacy, part of which, conservatives claim, is peace in the Middle East. Ari Hoffman, a Trumpist sycophant wrote that "An accounting of Kushner’s legacy needs to begin not in Washington but in the Middle East. Decades of peacemaking that made little peace created an opportunity for Kushner to reshape the region, and in Bibi Netanyahu he found a partner for doing so. The Abraham Accords have generated normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Nearly overnight, the sky became alight with flights between Tel Aviv and locales that previously would have been as accessible to Israelis as the moon. Bridges with the Muslim world are being built, with warmth and enthusiasm. An emphasis on economics, which at first was met with skepticism, has yielded results that aligned people and profits in ways that seem likely to endure. To leave office with the American Embassy in Israel’s capital, the Golan Heights recognized under Israeli sovereignty and the Jewish State integrated into its wider regional context is a set of realities that nobody could have imagined four years ago. Credit goes to Kushner and his second in command, Avi Berkowitz."
Joel Swanson responded: "Kushner has hailed the Abraham Accords as a “historic breakthrough,” but it’s worth reflecting that these deals fail to make any progress whatsoever on Palestinian rights or on a lasting peace in Israel and Palestine-- and this despite the fact that Kushner became a key Trump aide in 2016 with the explicit goal of negotiating a lasting peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, not just between Israel and the surrounding Gulf States. In other words, what the Abraham Accords prove more than anything else is that the Arab Gulf States are perfectly happy to sacrifice the future of a Palestinian state for their own domestic interests and in order to further isolate Iran in the region. Kusher promised as recently as 2019 that he would not just bring diplomatic normalization for Israel with other states in the region, but would betoken a lasting peace in one of the most intractable conflicts in the world. So he has utterly failed on his own terms, not just those of his critics. The Abraham Accords do nothing for the Palestinian future."