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President Trump, don't get played by Saudi Arabia

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the des...

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 11:36 AM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 11:37 AM

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States. Modeled on the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily, my Presidential Weekly Briefing focuses on the topics and issues President Trump needs to know to make informed decisions.

Here's this week's briefing:

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Eastern Europe

Europe

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Government organizations - Intl

Human rights

International assistance

International relations

International relations and national security

International trade

Investigations

Jamal Khashoggi

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Misc people

North America

Political Figures - Intl

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Saudi Arabia

State departments and diplomatic services

The Americas

Trade and development

United Nations

United States

US federal government

Vladimir Putin

White House

Donald Trump

Political Figures - US

Saudi Arabia: Crisis communications

As Saudi King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, know as MBS, and other Saudi officials are still denying any involvement in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance, you should expect their global PR campaign to swing into full force.

Key themes of their campaign will include:

Playing the field: MBS signaled during a recent Bloomberg interview that he has other countries to buy weapons from if US arms sales are curtailed, and you should expect the kingdom to float these other sources for weapons and investment. They think the idea that they could cost you business will deter you from punishing them.

Playing Putin: Russian agents are suspected of trying to assassinate a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, in the United Kingdom, someone who Russian President Vladimir Putin probably perceives turned on him. Russia and the accused men have denied involvement in the attack. Similarly, the Saudis may have assassinated Khashoggi within the boundaries of another country, who was openly critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's regime, though they, too, have denied their involvement.

So, the King may have more in common with Putin than before and Putin may use this to try to get closer to the kingdom, at our expense. Putin blamed the UK for framing Russia for the attack on Skripal, so you can probably expect the kingdom to keep blaming someone else, like Qatar, a country the Saudis are at odds with.

Playing you: The Saudis know that eventually you'll probably see whatever evidence Turkey has regarding Khashoggi's disappearance, but they think you don't like admitting you are friends with the wrong crowd; you said you love North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but he hasn't earnestly committed to denuclearization. You said our relationship with Putin is fine even though he still poses a threat to our elections and our democracy. Similarly, you visited Saudi Arabia as your first foreign trip and touted your relationship with the kingdom.

So, expect the Saudis to privately play up with you, how close you have become, especially compared to your predecessor, and the great strides you are making on countering Iran, which is a shared priority.

Threatening behavior: In light of your comments about exacting "severe punishment" on whomever was involved in Khashoggi's disappearance, and Congress' potential move toward Magnitsky sanctions or curbing arms sales, Saudi Arabia will probably continue to message that it has leverage, and a lot of it. On Sunday, an unnamed Saudi official said in a statement given to the Saudi press agency that the country would retaliate against any action we take "with greater action." Hours later, the Saudi embassy in Washington sought to clarify the country's position, tweeting "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends it appreciation to all, including the US administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation."

Saudi Arabia holds US debt and is deeply invested across US industries and in major US companies, so the kingdom has serious economic levers it could pull. The Saudis literally have their finger on the oil pump; they ramped up oil output because Iranian oil is coming offline, and they know that you are concerned with oil prices. So if they really wanted to hit back they could lower their oil output and claim the market doesn't need as much.

Saudi Arabia could curtail our work to counter Iran and ISIS together, but that is less likely because the threat remains so high. Taking action with others will help mitigate Saudi Arabia's direct response against it; it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will divest from all countries that criticize the kingdom or cut diplomatic ties with all of them, another possible response, completely.

UN ambassador: Judges tables

While you're considering your next nominee for US ambassador to the United Nations, we are providing you with an assessment of how other UN members will be judging Ambassador Nikki Haley's replacement. Naming a new ambassador could be an opportunity to reset perceptions of the United States at the United Nations.

UN body shamer or body builder: Based on your own remarks about the United Nations, including your assessment that it has failed to live up to its potential, your peers will likely be focused on whether your nominee shares your view and has publicly shamed its deficiencies (like Ambassador John Bolton did before becoming ambassador to the UN). They will similarly take note of whether your nominee has spoken about building the body of the UN and making it stronger and more efficient.

Multilateral or multilateral-ish: In light of your decision to cut US funding for international agencies like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and threatening to leave multilateral organizations like the World Trade Organization, several UN members are likely wondering if your next UN ambassador actually believes in multilateralism or whether he or she will only agree to engage to work with others who directly respond to US interests. Nominating someone like US Ambassador to the North Atlantic Trade Organization Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has worked in multilateral organizations before, could send a message to UN members that the United States is here to stay in multilateral institutions, even if we don't always get our way.

Giver or taker: You recently said that you would focus on providing US foreign assistance to our friends, and you've previously implied there would be consequences for countries that voted to condemn our decision to move our Israel embassy to Jerusalem. So your next ambassador will be faced with the perception that the United States views foreign assistance, including money it gives to the United Nations, as a way to buy friends in exchange for getting countries on our side. Naming an ambassador that has a strong record of work in developing countries would assuage perceptions about our ongoing use of assistance as a bribe, and many of those who desperately need our assistance may breathe a sigh of relief.

Activist or isolationist: Because of your decision to lower the number of refugees allowed into the United States, cut stabilization funds for Syria, comment that illegal immigrants fleeing humanitarian disasters in Central America walk through Mexico like they're walking through Central Park, and defend Kim Jong Un despite his horrifying human rights record, there is a perception by your peers that humanitarian issues are not high on your priority list.

Nominating an ambassador who has spent time advocating for human rights or who has spent time working to mitigate humanitarian disasters could signal to other UN members that you do care about these issues and think they're a key part of both our national security as well as the UN's mission to maintain international peace and security. Nominating someone who is disinterested in human rights or has previously made comments against minorities or specific genders could conversely send the message to your peers that we're walking away from leading UN efforts on these issues.

Checking baggage to New York: Previous experience and any baggage associated with it will be assessed by UN members. Your withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, for example, and decision to nominate Kelly Knight Craft, who has family ties to the coal industry, signals that you will continue to isolate the United States from the global climate agenda. Conversely, appointing Nancy Brinker, who has been focused on fighting breast cancer, could tell your peers that combating health crises is important to you going forward, because they'll assume the new ambassador will bring his or her past experiences (good and bad) to work.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 612001

Reported Deaths: 7756
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1269201801
Ramsey53281911
Dakota47414477
Anoka43426465
Washington27780296
Stearns22738227
St. Louis18329319
Scott17747139
Wright16603153
Olmsted13567103
Sherburne1217096
Carver1078349
Clay830492
Rice8283112
Blue Earth772444
Crow Wing691299
Kandiyohi672285
Chisago629355
Otter Tail591987
Benton587798
Goodhue487274
Douglas480381
Mower478634
Winona465452
Itasca463768
Isanti447267
McLeod435861
Morrison429262
Beltrami411563
Nobles410950
Steele401619
Polk391272
Becker389957
Lyon366154
Carlton357158
Freeborn353134
Pine338123
Nicollet335045
Mille Lacs315756
Brown309140
Le Sueur301028
Todd289233
Cass288933
Meeker267344
Waseca241723
Martin237433
Roseau212721
Wabasha20873
Hubbard198741
Dodge19133
Renville184246
Redwood178741
Houston176016
Cottonwood168224
Wadena165223
Fillmore160110
Faribault157420
Chippewa154238
Pennington154120
Kanabec148028
Sibley147410
Aitkin140037
Watonwan13629
Rock129719
Jackson123112
Pipestone117226
Yellow Medicine115620
Pope11416
Swift107718
Murray107610
Koochiching96819
Stevens92611
Clearwater89517
Marshall89017
Lake85020
Wilkin84213
Lac qui Parle76222
Big Stone6114
Grant5958
Lincoln5863
Mahnomen5669
Norman5509
Kittson49222
Unassigned48393
Red Lake4037
Traverse3835
Lake of the Woods3504
Cook1740

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 376815

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk59215646
Linn21567342
Scott20530250
Black Hawk16850320
Woodbury15378230
Johnson1479586
Dubuque13627215
Dallas1150699
Pottawattamie11393177
Story1092548
Warren594392
Clinton565894
Cerro Gordo564898
Webster546397
Sioux520574
Muscatine4956106
Marshall493679
Des Moines481776
Jasper454273
Wapello4402124
Buena Vista432340
Plymouth405782
Lee396958
Marion372378
Henry301737
Jones301357
Bremer294663
Carroll287252
Boone273735
Crawford273541
Benton264255
Washington261051
Dickinson251145
Mahaska235151
Jackson225943
Kossuth222166
Clay217927
Tama213872
Delaware213343
Winneshiek201337
Buchanan197834
Page195722
Cedar194323
Hardin192544
Wright191240
Hamilton189251
Fayette188943
Harrison182873
Clayton173258
Butler169135
Madison168019
Floyd165242
Mills164724
Cherokee162238
Lyon161241
Poweshiek159836
Allamakee156452
Hancock154034
Iowa149124
Winnebago147031
Calhoun144813
Cass142155
Grundy139733
Emmet137341
Jefferson135535
Sac133320
Shelby132238
Louisa130749
Union129535
Franklin129223
Appanoose128749
Mitchell127343
Chickasaw126017
Humboldt126026
Guthrie125332
Palo Alto115224
Montgomery106938
Howard105522
Clarke102624
Monroe101533
Keokuk100432
Ida93735
Adair90132
Davis88525
Pocahontas87022
Monona86731
Greene80011
Osceola79517
Lucas78323
Worth7648
Taylor67112
Decatur6649
Fremont64910
Van Buren57318
Ringgold57124
Wayne56623
Audubon53613
Adams3504
Unassigned80
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