Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #967 Update on Ukrainian Fascism, the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op and the Possibility of a Third World War

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Andrew Auerenheimer: Guest at Glenn Greenwald's party; apparent resident of Ukraine; friend of the "Atomwaffen."

Andrew Aueren­heimer: Guest at Glenn Green­wald’s par­ty; appar­ent res­i­dent of Ukraine; friend of the “Atom­waf­fen.”

Serpent's Walk: Forecasts a Nazi takeover of U.S. in mid-twenty-first century, after WMD terror, blamed on Russia, devastates U.S..

Ser­pen­t’s Walk: Fore­casts a Nazi takeover of U.S. in mid-twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, after WMD ter­ror, blamed on Rus­sia, dev­as­tates U.S.

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram affords a vista on sev­er­al crit­i­cal polit­i­cal and nation­al secu­ri­ty land­scapes, includ­ing the use of nuclear pow­er plants as an eco­nom­ic weapon and sab­o­taged via phys­i­cal inter­dic­tion or cyber-inter­fer­ence.

After exam­in­ing a sup­posed “Russ­ian-med­dling” inci­dent which was actu­al­ly an anti-Russ­ian inci­dent to use Ukrain­ian nuclear pow­er plants to super­sede the old Sovi­et pow­er grid in for­mer republics of the U.S.S.R., we note the con­tin­ued dom­i­nance of the Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal land­scape by vir­u­lent fas­cists evolved from the World War II era OUN/B.

We con­clude with a ter­ri­fy­ing look at the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the sabotaging/hacking of nuclear pow­er plants could lead to a Third World War.

With the media and polit­i­cal estab­lish­ments turn­ing hand­springs over “Rus­sia-gate,” we exam­ine in detail one of the inci­dents promi­nent in the pre­sen­ta­tion of the sup­po­si­tion that “our democ­ra­cy” was manip­u­lat­ed by the Rus­sians.

In late Jan­u­ary, Trump point man for “mat­ters Russian”–CIA/FBI oper­a­tive Felix Sater, a long-time asso­ciate of his and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and a Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an named Andrii Arte­menko were propos­ing a cease-fire/­peace plan for Ukraine. This has been spun by our media as con­sti­tut­ing yet anoth­er of the “Rus­sia con­trols Trump” man­i­fes­ta­tions.

The facts, how­ev­er, reveal that this was not a “pro-Russ­ian” gam­bit but an ANTI-Russ­ian gam­bit! In addi­tion to the CIA/FBI affil­i­a­tion of Sater, it should be not­ed that Arte­menko was part of the Pravy Sek­tor milieu in Ukraine, one of the most vir­u­lent of the OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions in pow­er in that benight­ed nation.

Sater, Arte­menko and oth­ers were work­ing on a plan to reha­bil­i­tate Ukrain­ian nuclear pow­er plants in order to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty for Ukraine and the Baltic states, free­ing those for­mer Sovi­et republics from their old Sovi­et elec­tri­cal pow­er grids. The aging Sovi­et grids are a remain­ing ele­ment for poten­tial Russ­ian influ­ence in these areas.

Andrii Arte­menko:

  1. ” . . . is a pop­ulist politi­cian with ties to the far-right Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary-polit­i­cal group “Right Sec­tor” and a mem­ber of the pro-West­ern oppo­si­tion par­lia­men­tary coali­tion led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko’s par­ty. . . . Arte­menko, who is a staunch ally of Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, a for­mer head of Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vice with lofty polit­i­cal ambi­tions, has aligned him­self with oth­er West-lean­ing pop­ulists like Tymoshenko. . . .”
  2. ” . . . . has a wife who is a mod­el, he served 2.5 years in prison with­out a tri­al, he has busi­ness in U.S and he is involved in the mil­i­tary trade to the war zones in the Mid­dle East. At home, he has close ties with the ultra-nation­al­is­tic Right Sec­tor. . . .”
  3. ” . . . accord­ing to his pre­vi­ous e‑declaration in 2015, Arte­menko has a wife, mod­el Oksana Kuch­ma and four chil­dren, includ­ing two with U.S. cit­i­zen­ship — Edward Daniel, Amber Kather­ine. . . .”
  4. ” . . . . found­ed sev­er­al com­pa­nies that pro­vid­ed mil­i­tary logis­tics ser­vices into the con­flict zones and trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia, Syr­ia, and Qatar for busi­ness trips. . . .”
  5. ” . . . . is the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus. . . .”
  6. ” . . . .  joined the Right Sec­tor polit­i­cal par­ty and was rumored to be one of the spon­sors of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign in 2014. There is even a pho­to of Arte­menko, seat­ing among the Right Sec­tor Par­ty founders at the first par­ty meet­ing in March 2014. Right Sec­tor spokesper­son Artem Sko­ropad­sky told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 20 that he couldn’t con­firm or deny whether Arte­menko financed the Right Sec­tor Par­ty. . . .”

Any­thing but a “pro-Russ­ian” agent. Again, he was work­ing with Trump point man for mat­ters Russ­ian Felix Sater on this deal to pro­vide nuclear-gen­er­at­ed elec­tric­i­ty to some for­mer Sovi­et republics. Again, an anti-Russ­ian plot, NOT a pro-Russ­ian plot!

Next, we note that June 30th has been estab­lished as a com­mem­o­ra­tive cel­e­bra­tion in Lvov [Lviv]. It was on June 30, 1941, when the OUN‑B announced an inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian state in the city of Lviv. That same day marked the start of the Lviv Pograms that led to the death of thou­sands of Jews.

The hol­i­day cel­e­brates Roman Shukhevych, com­man­der of the Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion that car­ried out the mass killings. The city of Lviv is start­ing “Shukhevy­ch­fest” to be held in Lviv on June 30th, com­mem­o­rat­ing the pogrom. Shukhevy­ch’s birth­day. Shukhevych was named a “Hero of the Ukraine” by Vik­tor Yuschenko.

In past posts and pro­grams, we have dis­cussed Volodomir Vya­tro­vich, head of the Orwellian Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance. He defend­ed Shukhevych and the pub­lic dis­play­ing of the sym­bol of the Gali­cian Divi­sion (14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.)

Return­ing to Sater col­lab­o­ra­tor Andrii Arte­menko, we note that he is part of push by Pravy Sek­tor and oth­er OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tions in Ukraine to oust Poroshenko.

A major, ter­ri­fy­ing part of the pro­gram focus­es on nuclear pow­er plants, the phys­i­cal and/or cyber sab­o­tag­ing of those plants and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that this could lead to a Third World War. Against the back­ground of the drum­beat of anti-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da to which we are being sub­ject­ed, the charge that “Russ­ian hack­ers” attempt­ed to gain access to U.S. nuclear pow­er plants using a spearfish­ing attack is to be viewed with alarm.

“. . . . The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed Sat­ur­day that U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials have already pinned the recent nuclear cyber intru­sions on Rus­sia. . . . Ana­lysts remain quick to tamp down asser­tions that Russia’s fin­ger­print on the lat­est attack is a sure thing. . . . Still, it’s a pret­ty alarm­ing sit­u­a­tion regard­less of who was behind it, in part because it’s an exam­ple of how poten­tial­ly vul­ner­a­ble things like nuclear plants are to any hack­er, state-backed or not: . . . . Still, the source said a well-resourced attack­er could try sneak­ing in thumb dri­ves, plant­i­ng an insid­er or even land­ing a drone equipped with wire­less attack tech­nol­o­gy into a nuclear gen­er­a­tion site. Reports indi­cate that the infa­mous Stuxnet worm, which dam­aged Iran­ian nuclear cen­trifuges in the late 2000s, prob­a­bly snuck in on remov­able media. Once inside the “air gapped” tar­get net­work, Stuxnet relied on its own hard-cod­ed instruc­tions, rather than any remote com­mands sent in through the inter­net, to cause cost­ly and sen­si­tive nuclear equip­ment to spin out of con­trol. . . .”

The above-excerpt­ed sto­ry should be viewed against the back­ground of a fright­en­ing devel­op­ment in Flori­da. Devon Arthurs – a neo-Nazi-turned-Muslim–murdered two of his neo-Nazi room­mates back in May. Nation­al Guard sol­dier Bran­don Rus­sell – Arthurs’s sur­viv­ing third room­mate, was found with bomb-mak­ing mate­ri­als, radioac­tive sub­stances and a framed pic­ture of Tim­o­thy McVeigh after police searched their res­i­dence.

Rus­sell:

  1. Planned to sab­o­tage a nuclear pow­er plant. ” . . . . He said Rus­sell stud­ied how to build nuclear weapons in school and is ‘some­body that lit­er­al­ly has knowl­edge of how to build a nuclear bomb.’ . . . He also said they had a plan to fire mor­tars loaded with nuclear mate­r­i­al into the cool­ing units of a nuclear pow­er plant near Mia­mi. He said the dam­age would cause ‘a mas­sive reac­tor fail­ure’ and spread ‘irra­di­at­ed water’ through­out the ocean. . . .”
  2. Belonged to a Nazi group called “Atom­waf­fen.” ” . . . The FBI said Rus­sell “admit­ted to his neo-Nazi beliefs” and said he was a mem­ber of a group called Atom­waf­fen, which is Ger­man for ‘atom­ic weapon.’ . . .”
  3. Was in the Nation­al Guard. Recall that, in the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Walk, the Under­ground Reich gains con­trol of the opin­ion-form­ing media, infil­trates the U.S. mil­i­tary and takes over the coun­try after it is dev­as­tat­ed by a series of ter­ror­ist inci­dents involv­ing Russ­ian WMDs. The stage is set for a Nazi flase flag oper­a­tion that could be blamed on Rus­sia.

Rus­sell, and the rest of Atom­waf­fen, received a wring­ing endorse­ment from bril­liant Nazi hack­er Andrew Aueren­heimer.  Auern­heimer is a skilled hack­er who may very well have the abil­i­ty to trig­ger a nuclear melt down some­day.  Writ­ing of the mur­der of Rus­sel­l’s room­mates Auern­heimer, the two killed room­mates were “friends of friends” and the “Atom­waf­fen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve post­ed tons of fliers with absolute­ly killer graph­ics at tons of uni­ver­si­ties over the years. They gen­er­al­ly have a lot of fun and par­ty.”

The point, here, is that Aueren­heimer is part of the Nazi milieu that was look­ing to sab­o­tage a nuclear pow­er plant. With our media hyp­ing “Russ­ian hack­ing,” includ­ing the sup­posed attempt to hack U.S. nuclear pow­er plants, the pro­pa­gan­da stage is set for some­one with Aueren­heimer’s for­mi­da­ble com­put­er skills to sab­o­tage a nuke plant, there­by [very pos­si­bly] start­ing World War III.

This post con­cludes with a detailed arti­cle referred to briefly at the end of the broad­cast. It delves into the tech­ni­cal­ly com­pli­cat­ed dis­cus­sion about the high-pro­file hacks.

Against the back­ground of the reports of Russ­ian hack­ing of U.S. nuclear pow­er plants, the “Atom­waf­fen” link to Ukraine-based Andrew Aueren­heimer, writer Jef­frey Car­r’s reflec­tions are to be weighed very seri­ous­ly:

” . . . . Here’s my night­mare. Every time a claim of attri­bu­tion is made—right or wrong—it becomes part of a per­ma­nent record; an un-ver­i­fi­able prove­nance that is built upon by the next secu­ri­ty researcher or start­up who wants to grab a head­line, and by the one after him, and the one after her. The most sen­sa­tion­al of those claims are almost assured of inter­na­tion­al media atten­tion, and if they align with U.S. pol­i­cy inter­ests, they rapid­ly move from unver­i­fied the­o­ry to fact.

Because each head­line is informed by a report, and because indi­ca­tors of com­pro­mise and oth­er tech­ni­cal details are shared between ven­dors world­wide, any State or non-State actor in the world will soon have the abil­i­ty to imi­tate an APT group with State attri­bu­tion, launch an attack against anoth­er State, and gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient harm­ful effects to trig­ger an inter­na­tion­al inci­dent. All because some com­mer­cial cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies are com­pelled to chase head­lines with sen­sa­tion­al claims of attri­bu­tion that can­not be ver­i­fied. . . .”

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The CIA/State Depart­ment back­ground of Kurt Volk­er (nice Anglo-Sax­on name, that), Trump’s envoy to Ukraine and an advo­cate of sell­ing weapon­ry to that benight­ed state; Andrii Arte­menko and Felix Sater’s would-be asso­ciate in the Ukrain­ian nuclear pow­er plant scheme, Robert Armao; Armao’s links to Nel­son Rock­e­feller, Marc Rich and Francesco Pazien­za (a fig­ure in the inves­ti­ga­tions into P‑2, the shoot­ing of Pope John Paul I and the col­lapse of the Ban­co Ambrosiano); Review of James Comey’s role in inves­ti­gat­ing Bill Clin­ton’s par­don of Marc Rich; review of the revival of the FBI’s Twit­ter account and its dis­sem­i­na­tion of Marc Rich mate­r­i­al on the eve of the elec­tion; review of Felix Sater’s CIA/FBI back­ground; Aueren­heimer’s obses­sion with Tim­o­thy McVeigh; Bran­don Rus­sel­l’s fas­ci­na­tion with Tim­o­thy McVeigh.

1a. By way of review, we remind lis­ten­ers that the point man for the Trump busi­ness inter­ests in their deal­ings with Rus­sia is Felix Sater. A Russ­ian-born immi­grant, Sater is a pro­fes­sion­al crim­i­nal and a con­vict­ed felon with his­tor­i­cal links to the Mafia. Beyond that, and more impor­tant­ly, Sater is an FBI infor­mant and a CIA con­tract agent. ” . . . . He [Sater] also pro­vid­ed oth­er pur­port­ed nation­al secu­ri­ty ser­vices for a report­ed fee of $300,000. Sto­ries abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the are­na of nation­al secu­ri­ty. . . .” We won­der if help­ing the “Rus­sia-Gate” op may have been one of those. 

  • The Mak­ing of Don­ald Trump by David Cay John­ston; Melville House [HC]; copy­right 2016 by David Cay John­ston; ISBN 978–1‑61219–632‑9. p. 165.
    . . . . There is every indi­ca­tion that the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly lenient treat­ment result­ed from Sater play­ing a get-out-of-jail free card. Short­ly before his secret guilty plea, Sater became a free­lance oper­a­tive of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. One of his fel­low stock swindlers, Sal­va­tore Lau­ria, wrote a book about it. “The Scor­pi­on and the Frog” is described on its cov­er as ‘the true sto­ry of one man’s fraud­u­lent rise and fall in the Wall Street of the nineties.’ Accord­ing to Lauria–and the court files that have been unsealed–Sater helped the CIA buy small mis­siles before they got to ter­ror­ists. He also pro­vid­ed oth­er pur­port­ed nation­al secu­ri­ty ser­vices for a report­ed fee of $300,000. Sto­ries abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the are­na of nation­al secu­ri­ty. . . .
  • Sater was active on behalf of the Trumps in the fall of 2015“. . . . Sater worked on a plan for a Trump Tow­er in Moscow as recent­ly as the fall of 2015, but he said that had come to a halt because of Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. . . .”
  • Indica­tive of the sig­nif­i­cance of Sater to the U.S. intel­li­gence and nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment is a state­ment by Attor­ney Gen­er­al nom­i­nee Loret­ta Lynch dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing: “. . . . In late March, then-FBI direc­tor James Comey was asked about Sater’s rela­tion­ship with the FBI when he appeared before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. Comey declined to com­ment, pre­sum­ably because Sater spent a decade as a secret gov­ern­ment coop­er­a­tor for both the FBI and at times, the CIA. But in 2015, dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for the post of U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Loret­ta Lynch offered a teas­er. In response to a writ­ten ques­tion about Sater by Sen­a­tor Orrin Hatch, she stat­ed that his [decade-long] assis­tance as a fed­er­al coop­er­a­tor was ‘cru­cial to nation­al secu­ri­ty.’ [We won­der if this might have had any­thing to do with Lynch’s now infa­mous meet­ing with Bill Clin­ton at an airport–D.E.] . . . .”
  • Sater was ini­ti­at­ing con­tact between the Rus­sians and “Team Trump” in Jan­u­ary of this year, a gam­bit that will be ana­lyzed at length and detail in this pro­gram. As we shall see, the polit­i­cal valence of this event are at fun­da­men­tal vari­ance with the “Rus­sia-Gate” psy-op: “ . . . . Nev­er­the­less, in late Jan­u­ary, Sater and a Ukrain­ian law­mak­er report­ed­ly met with Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, at a New York hotel. Accord­ing to the Times, they dis­cussed a plan that involved the U.S. lift­ing sanc­tions against Rus­sia, and Cohen said he hand-deliv­ered the plan in a sealed enve­lope to then-nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor Michael Fly­nn. . . .”

1b. Fun­da­men­tal to our under­stand­ing of the “peace plan” and alleged “Russ­ian con­spir­a­cy” is Sater and Cohen’s col­lab­o­ra­tor, Ukrain­ian politi­cian Andrii Arte­menko.

“Trump’s Con­duits For Cap­i­tal From The For­mer Sovi­et Bloc Are Actu­al­ly Old Pals” by Sam Thiel­man; Talk­ing Points Memo; 07/25/2017

. . . . Sater told TPM he called the now-noto­ri­ous meet­ing with Cohen and Ukrain­ian politi­cian Andrii Arte­menko in Feb­ru­ary to dis­cuss the future of Ukraine. . . .

2a. Far from being a Russ­ian “agent of influ­ence,” Arte­menko is a long stand­ing mem­ber of Pravy Sek­tor and the Rad­i­cal Par­ty. As we will see below, he may have been a pri­ma­ry finan­cial backer of this OUN/B suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion. In addi­tion to the anti-Russ­ian con­spir­a­cy to which Sater, Cohen and Arte­menko were par­ty, the lat­ter appears to have been part of a Ukrain­ian fas­cist con­sor­tium that, as we shall see below, are mov­ing in the direc­tion of oust­ing Petro Poroshenko. “. . . . Tall and brawny, Arte­menko is a pop­ulist politi­cian with ties to the far-right Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary-polit­i­cal group “Right Sec­tor” and a mem­ber of the pro-West­ern oppo­si­tion par­lia­men­tary coali­tion led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko’s par­ty. . . . Arte­menko, who is a staunch ally of Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, a for­mer head of Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vice with lofty polit­i­cal ambi­tions, has aligned him­self with oth­er West-lean­ing pop­ulists like Tymoshenko. . . .

“Ukraine’s Back-Chan­nel Diplo­mat Still Shop­ping Peace Plan to Trump” by Reid Stan­dish; For­eign Pol­i­cy; 04/18/2017

On Feb. 19, the right-wing Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment was sucked into the scan­dal sur­round­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his alleged ties to Rus­sia when the New York Times report­ed that Arte­menko had served as a back chan­nel between Moscow and Trump asso­ciates.

In the after­math of the report, Arte­menko was forced out of his polit­i­cal fac­tion in Ukraine, the far-right Rad­i­cal Par­ty . . . .

. . . . Tall and brawny, Arte­menko is a pop­ulist politi­cian with ties to the far-right Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary-polit­i­cal group “Right Sec­tor” and a mem­ber of the pro-West­ern oppo­si­tion par­lia­men­tary coali­tion led by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko’s par­ty. . . .

. . . . Arte­menko, who is a staunch ally of Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, a for­mer head of Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vice with lofty polit­i­cal ambi­tions, has aligned him­self with oth­er West-lean­ing pop­ulists like Tymoshenko. . . .

. . . . Arte­menko insists that his inten­tions in push­ing a peace plan for Ukraine are in the country’s best inter­ests. But polit­i­cal observers see his free­lance diplo­ma­cy as part of a ris­ing groundswell in Kiev against Poroshenko by oppo­si­tion forces ahead of par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions sched­uled for 2019.

“Alliances are shift­ing in Ukraine right now against Poroshenko,” said Bal­azs Jara­bik, a non­res­i­dent schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace. “All this diplo­mat­ic maneu­ver­ing in Wash­ing­ton needs to be viewed through this lens.”

Arte­menko has emerged as a vocal crit­ic of Poroshenko and says he has evi­dence show­ing cor­rup­tion by the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent. . . .

2b. Note the date of this Kiev Post arti­cle: Feb­ru­ary 20, 2017, which is one day after this ‘peace plan’ was ini­tial­ly report­ed in the New York Times. Andrii Artemko:

  • ” . . . . has a wife who is a mod­el, he served 2.5 years in prison with­out a tri­al, he has busi­ness in U.S and he is involved in the mil­i­tary trade to the war zones in the Mid­dle East. At home, he has close ties with the ultra-nation­al­is­tic Right Sec­tor. . . .”
  • ” . . . accord­ing to his pre­vi­ous e‑declaration in 2015, Arte­menko has a wife, mod­el Oksana Kuch­ma and four chil­dren, includ­ing two with U.S. cit­i­zen­ship — Edward Daniel, Amber Kather­ine. . . .”
  • ” . . . . found­ed sev­er­al com­pa­nies that pro­vid­ed mil­i­tary logis­tics ser­vices into the con­flict zones and trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia, Syr­ia, and Qatar for busi­ness trips. . . .”
  • ” . . . . is the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus. . . .”
  • ” . . . .  joined the Right Sec­tor polit­i­cal par­ty and was rumored to be one of the spon­sors of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign in 2014. There is even a pho­to of Arte­menko, seat­ing among the Right Sec­tor Par­ty founders at the first par­ty meet­ing in March 2014. Right Sec­tor spokesper­son Artem Sko­ropad­sky told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 20 that he couldn’t con­firm or deny whether Arte­menko financed the Right Sec­tor Par­ty. . . .”

“Andrey Arte­menko: Who Is this Ukrain­ian Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment with the Peace Plan?” by Veroni­ka Melkoze­ro­va; Kyiv Post; 02/20/2017.

Now ex-Rad­i­cal Par­ty mem­ber of par­lia­ment Andrey Arte­menko came under crit­i­cism from all sides after the New York Times revealed on Feb. 19 that he was try­ing to bro­ker his own peace plan to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The plan was dis­tinct­ly pro-Russ­ian, but even the Rus­sians reject­ed it and his free­lance, ama­teur­ish diplo­ma­cy got him kicked out of his own par­ty, although he remains a mem­ber of par­lia­ment.

His ideas includ­ed leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia for 50 years and the lift­ing of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against Rus­sia by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump.

Dmit­ry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press sec­re­tary, denied pri­or knowl­edge of the sealed plan, which includes a sug­ges­tion that Ukraine lease Crimea to Rus­sia, which annexed the region in 2014, the Tele­graph in Lon­don quot­ed him as say­ing. “There’s noth­ing to talk about. How can Rus­sia rent its own region from itself?” Peskov said.

Arte­menko described him­self to the New York Times as a Trump-style politi­cian.

The 48-year-old lawmaker’s biog­ra­phy is col­or­ful and con­tro­ver­sial: He has a wife who is a mod­el, he served 2.5 years in prison with­out a tri­al, he has busi­ness in U.S and he is involved in the mil­i­tary trade to the war zones in the Mid­dle East. At home, he has close ties with the ultra-nation­al­is­tic Right Sec­tor.

“I demand Andrey Arte­menko dis­card as a law­mak­er. He has no rights to rep­re­sent our fac­tion and par­ty. Our posi­tion is unchange­able – Rus­sia is the aggres­sor and must get away from Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries,” Oleh Lyashko, Rad­i­cal Par­ty leader said to the jour­nal­ist in Verk­hov­na Rada on Feb. 20.

“Nobody in Rad­i­cal Par­ty trades Ukraine,” Lyashko said. “To lease Crimea to Rus­sia is the same as to give your own moth­er for rent to the trav­el­ing cir­cus.”

Arte­menko told the New York Times that many peo­ple would crit­i­cize him as a Russ­ian or Amer­i­can C.I.A. agent for his plan, but peace is what he’s after.

“But how can you find a good solu­tion between our coun­tries if we do not talk?” Arte­menko said.

Before the New York Times sto­ry, Arte­menko wasn’t famous. He may see him­self as the next pres­i­dent of Ukraine, but oth­ers saw him as just anoth­er gray car­di­nal.

Fam­i­ly, busi­ness in U.S.

Arte­menko hasn’t filed elec­tron­ic dec­la­ra­tion for 2016.

How­ev­er, accord­ing to his pre­vi­ous e‑declaration in 2015, Arte­menko has a wife, mod­el Oksana Kuch­ma and four chil­dren, includ­ing two with U.S. cit­i­zen­ship — Edward Daniel, Amber Kather­ine. The chil­dren from the first mar­riage, Vitaly and Kristi­na Arte­menko (Kraskovs­ki), have Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen­ship but live in Ontario, Cana­da with their mother’s hus­band. In 2014 Artemenko’s elder daugh­ter Kristi­na gave birth to Artemenko’s grand­son.

Arte­menko owns land plots of 14,000 square meters and 5,000 square meters in Vyshen­ki vil­lage of Kyiv Oblast.

And his wife Oksana Kuch­ma is not only a mod­el but a busi­ness­woman. [Kind of Accord­ing to Artemenko’s e‑declaration, Kuch­ma has a land plot of 3,000 square meters and a house in Gni­dyn vil­lage of Kyiv Oblast, an 850 square meter apart­ment in Lviv Oblast’s Zhovk­va and also a 127-square meter apart­ment in Kyiv under con­struc­tion.

Arte­menko also owns three lux­u­ry watch­es: De Griso­gono (Hr 127,500), De Griso­gono –Gen­eve (Hr 123,450), Franck Muller (Hr 118,950) and sev­er­al lux­u­ry cars.

Kuch­ma owns a com­pa­ny OKSY GLOBAL LLC, reg­is­tered in the U.S. and also the pri­vate avian-trans­porta­tion com­pa­ny, the Avi­a­tion Com­pa­ny Spe­cial Avia Alliance reg­is­tered in Kyiv at the same address as the com­pa­ny Glob­al Busi­ness Group GMBh, Arte­menko used to work as a deputy direc­tor before he came to Rada after the par­lia­ment elec­tions in 2014.

Accord­ing to the Min­istry of Jus­tice reg­istry, the Glob­al Busi­ness Group GMBh pro­vides the vari­ety of ser­vices: vehi­cles trade, var­i­ous goods trade, restau­rants busi­ness and busi­ness con­sult­ing.

The share­hold­er of the Glob­al Busi­ness Group GMBh is also a U.S. based com­pa­ny Glob­al Assets Inc., reg­is­tered in Mia­mi, Flori­da.

Start from Kyiv

Arte­menko came into pol­i­tics after busi­ness and jail. Accord­ing to the biog­ra­phy on his offi­cial web­site, in the ear­ly 1990s he found­ed a law firm that advo­cat­ed the inter­ests of pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes and then he became a pres­i­dent of CSK Kyiv soc­cer club. In 1998–2000, he was the advis­er of than Kyiv May­or Olek­san­dr Omelchenko, a mem­ber and one of the founders of his par­ty Uni­ty.

In 2002, Arte­menko was arrest­ed by the Prosecutor’s Gen­er­al Office of Ukraine on accu­sa­tions of mon­ey laun­der­ing and kept in pre-tri­al deten­tion for more than two years. How­ev­er, he suc­cess­ful­ly chal­lenged his impris­on­ment as ille­gal and ground­less. He said pros­e­cu­tors were per­se­cut­ing him in hopes of get­ting Omelchenko, who was also sus­pect­ed of mon­ey laun­der­ing.

In 2004, Arte­menko released from pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter Lukyanivske on bail of Mikhail Dobkin, a Par­ty of Regions law­mak­er.

But in 2006 he became the head of the Kyiv depart­ment of Batkivshchy­na Par­ty, led by now ex-Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko.

In 2007–2013 Arte­menko found­ed sev­er­al com­pa­nies that pro­vid­ed mil­i­tary logis­tics ser­vices into the con­flict zones and trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia, Syr­ia, and Qatar for busi­ness trips.

Since 2013 he has his own char­i­ty foun­da­tion that helps inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons from the war-torn Don­bas.

True patri­ot?

Arte­menko came to the Verk­hov­na Rada in 2014 as a Rad­i­cal Par­ty law­mak­er (16th on the party’s list). Accord­ing to the parliament’s web­site, Arte­menko is the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus.

The law­mak­er took an active part in Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion in 2013–2014 that deposed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

In 2014 he joined the Right Sec­tor polit­i­cal par­ty and was rumored to be one of the spon­sors of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign in 2014.

There is even a pho­to of Arte­menko, seat­ing among the Right Sec­tor Par­ty founders at the first par­ty meet­ing in March 2014.
Right Sec­tor spokesper­son Artem Sko­ropad­sky told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 20 that he couldn’t con­firm or deny whether Arte­menko financed the Right Sec­tor Par­ty.

“I was nev­er into all the ‘finan­cial stuff,’ but I have no infor­ma­tion about him giv­ing the mon­ey. I remem­ber all those guys like him (Arte­menko) and (Borislav) Bereza just came to us after March 22. They weren’t Right Sec­tor mem­bers dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty,” said Sko­ropad­sky.

He said that after the end of Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion there was a “mess” in Right Sec­tor. Dozens of peo­ple a day was com­ing to the activists only in Kyiv.

“The ones who could afford it gave us mon­ey, oth­ers help in dif­fer­ent ways. But as soon as we start­ed build­ing the struc­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion, the guys like Arte­menko and Bereza went to the oth­er par­ties, came in Rada or oth­er gov­ern­ment struc­tures,” Sko­ropad­sky recalled.

———-

3. Before updat­ing the resus­ci­ta­tion and Orwellian reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the OUN/B World War II-era fas­cists in Ukraine, we note Trump’s appoint­ment as spe­cial envoy to Ukraine–Kurt Volk­er, whose CV includes stints with CIA and Depart­ment of State.

“Can Kurt Volk­er Solve the Ukraine Cri­sis?” by Curt Mills; The Nation­al Inter­est; 7/10/2017.

 . . . . “Although he may be seen as hawk­ish by the Russ­ian side, he will cer­tain­ly be tak­en seri­ous­ly,” says Matthew Rojan­sky, direc­tor of the Ken­nan Insti­tute at the Woodrow Wil­son Cen­ter, of the new spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ukraine nego­ti­a­tions, whose vaunt­ed resume also includes stints at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, CIA and For­eign Ser­vice. “Volker’s appoint­ment will be wel­comed by our Euro­pean allies and by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment.”  . . .

4. June 30th has been estab­lished as a com­mem­o­ra­tive cel­e­bra­tion in Lvov [Lviv]. It was on June 30, 1941, when the OUN‑B announced an inde­pen­dent Ukrain­ian state in the city of Lviv. That same day marked the start of the Lviv Pograms that led to the death of thou­sands of Jews.

The hol­i­day cel­e­brates Roman Shukhevych, com­man­der of the Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion that car­ried out the mass killings. The city of Lviv is start­ing “Shukhevy­ch­fest” to be held in Lviv on June 30th, com­mem­o­rat­ing the pogrom. Shukhevy­ch’s birth­day. Shukhevych was named a “Hero of the Ukraine” by Vik­tor Yuschenko.

In past posts and pro­grams, we have dis­cussed Volodomir Vya­tro­vich, head of the Orwellian Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance. He defend­ed Shukhevych and the pub­lic dis­play­ing of the sym­bol of the Gali­cian Divi­sion (14th Waf­fen SS Divi­sion.)

Lvov Pogrom, 1941--Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall youth in action.

Lvov Pogrom, 1941–Einsatzgruppe Nachti­gall youth in action, 6/30/1941.

“Ukraine City to Hold Fes­ti­val in Hon­or of Nazi Col­lab­o­ra­tor Whose Troops Killed Jews”; Jew­ish Tele­graph Agency; 06/28/2017

The Ukrain­ian city of Lviv will hold a fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor on the anniver­sary of a major pogrom against the city’s Jews.

Shukhevy­ch­fest, an event named for Roman Shukhevych fea­tur­ing music and the­ater shows, will be held Fri­day.

Eduard Dolin­sky, the direc­tor of the Ukrain­ian Jew­ish Com­mit­tee, in a state­ment called the event “dis­grace­ful.”

On June 30, 1941, Ukrain­ian troops, includ­ing mili­ti­a­men loy­al to Shukhevych’s, began a series of pogroms against Jews, which they per­pe­trat­ed under the aus­pices of the Ger­man army, accord­ing to Yale Uni­ver­si­ty his­to­ry pro­fes­sor Tim­o­thy Sny­der and oth­er schol­ars. They mur­dered approx­i­mate­ly 6,000 Jews in those pogroms.

The day of the fes­ti­val is the 110th birth­day of Shukhevych, a leader of the OUN‑B nation­al­ist group and lat­er of the UPA insur­gency mili­tia, which col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Nazis against the Sovi­et Union before it turned against the Nazis.

Shukhevy­ch­fest is part of a series of ges­tures hon­or­ing nation­al­ists in Ukraine fol­low­ing the 2014 rev­o­lu­tion, in which nation­al­ists played a lead­ing role. They brought down the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovuch, whose crit­ics said was a cor­rupt Russ­ian stooge.

On June 13, a Kiev admin­is­tra­tive court par­tial­ly upheld a motion by par­ties opposed to the ven­er­a­tion of Shukhevych in the city and sus­pend­ed the renam­ing of a street after Shukhevych. The city coun­cil approved the renam­ing ear­li­er this month.

In a relat­ed debate, the direc­tor of Ukraine’s Insti­tute of Nation­al Remem­brance, Vladimir Vya­tro­vich, who recent­ly described Shukhevych as an “emi­nent per­son­al­i­ty,” last month defend­ed the dis­play­ing in pub­lic of the sym­bol of the Gali­cian SS divi­sion. Respon­si­ble for count­less mur­ders of Jews, Nazi Germany’s most elite unit was com­prised of Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers.

Dis­play­ing Nazi sym­bols is ille­gal in Ukraine but the Gali­cian SS division’s sym­bol is “in accor­dance with the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion of Ukraine,” Vya­tro­vich said. . . .

5a. In oth­er, pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions of the return of Ukrain­ian fas­cism, we not­ed that the Svo­bo­da Par­ty’s mili­tia is called Com­bat 14, named after the “14 words” mint­ed by David Lane, the Amer­i­can neo-Nazi who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the killing of Den­ver talk show host Allan Berg.

He passed away on June 30th, trig­ger­ing numer­ous demon­stra­tions, includ­ing sev­er­al in Ukraine.

June 30th appears to be a par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant day for the OUN/B suc­ces­sors and Nazis who are in pow­er in Ukraine.

Maidan demonstrators celebrating the Nachtigall Battalion (Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall) that liquidated Jews and Poles during World War II.

Maid­an demon­stra­tors cel­e­brat­ing the Nachti­gall Bat­tal­ion (Ein­satz­gruppe Nachti­gall) that liq­ui­dat­ed Jews and Poles dur­ing World War II.

Ukrainian Nazis honor David Lane's passing

Ukrain­ian Nazis hon­or David Lane’s pass­ing

“Fas­cist For­ma­tions in Ukraine” by Peter Lee; Coun­ter­Punch; 3/15/2015.

The Guardian pub­lished an adu­la­to­ry fea­ture on “The Women Fight­ing on the Front­line in Ukraine”.

One of the women pro­filed was “Ana­con­da”, fight­ing in the Aidar Bat­tal­ion bankrolled by Igor Kolo­moisky:

Ana­con­da was giv­en her nick­name by a unit com­man­der, in a jok­ing ref­er­ence to her stature and pow­er. The baby-faced 19-year-old says that her moth­er is very wor­ried about her and phones sev­er­al times a day, some­times even dur­ing com­bat. She says it is bet­ter to always answer, as her moth­er will not stop call­ing until she picks up.

“In the very begin­ning my moth­er kept say­ing that the war is not for girls,” Ana­con­da says. “But now she has to put up with my choice. My dad would have come to the front him­self, but his health does not allow him to move. He is proud of me now.”

Ana­con­da was pho­tographed in com­bat dress res­olute­ly hold­ing an assault rifle in front of a rather decrepit van.

The cap­tion read:

“Ana­con­da says she is being treat­ed well by the men in her bat­tal­ion, but is hop­ing that the war will end soon.”

As report­ed by the gad­fly site Off­Guardian, sev­er­al read­ers post­ed crit­i­cal obser­va­tions on the van’s insignia in the com­ments sec­tion of the piece. One, “bananasand­socks”, wrote: “We learn from Wikipedia that the image on the door is the “semi-offi­cial” insignia of the 36th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS…” and also point­ed out the neo-Nazi sig­nif­i­cance of the num­ber “1488”.

“bananasand­socks” seem­ing­ly tem­per­ate com­ment was removed by the Guardian for vio­lat­ing its com­mu­ni­ty stan­dards, as were sev­er­al oth­ers, appar­ent­ly as exam­ples of “per­sis­tent mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Guardian and our jour­nal­ists”.

But then the Guardian thought bet­ter of it. While not rein­stat­ing the crit­i­cal com­ments, it qui­et­ly delet­ed the orig­i­nal cap­tion to the pho­to of Ana­con­da and replaced it with:

Ana­con­da along­side a van dis­play­ing the neo-Nazi sym­bol 1488. The vol­un­teer brigade is known for its far-right links.

Prob­lem solved? Maybe not. Maybe it’s more like “Prob­lem dodged”. Specif­i­cal­ly, the prob­lem of the per­va­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion of “ultra-right” para­mil­i­tary ele­ments in Kyiv mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, which even intrudes upon the Guardian’s efforts to put a lib­er­al-friend­ly fem­i­nist sheen on the deba­cle of the recent ATO in east­ern Ukraine.

As to “1488”, I’ll repro­duce the Wikipedia entry:

The Four­teen Words is a phrase used pre­dom­i­nant­ly by white nation­al­ists. It most com­mon­ly refers to a 14-word slo­gan: “We must secure the exis­tence of our peo­ple and a future for White Chil­dren.” It can also refer to anoth­er 14-word slo­gan: “Because the beau­ty of the White Aryan woman must not per­ish from the earth.”

Both slo­gans were coined by David Lane, con­vict­ed ter­ror­ist and mem­ber of the white sep­a­ratist orga­ni­za­tion The Order. The first slo­gan was inspired by a state­ment, 88 words in length, from Vol­ume 1, Chap­ter 8 of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf:

Neo-Nazis often com­bine the num­ber 14 with 88, as in “14/88? or “1488”. The 8s stand for the eighth let­ter of the alpha­bet (H), with “HH” stand­ing for “Heil Hitler”.

Lane died in prison in 2007 while serv­ing a 190 year sen­tence for, among oth­er things, the mur­der of Den­ver radio talk show host Alan Berg. David Lane has con­sid­er­able stature with­in glob­al white nation­al­ist/­neo-Naz­i/­fas­cist cir­cles as one of the Amer­i­can Aryan movement’s pre­mier badass­es (in addi­tion involve­ment in to the Berg murder—in which he denied involvement—and a string of bank rob­beries to finance the movement—also denied, Lane achieved a cer­tain martyr’s stature for endur­ing almost two decades in Fed­er­al deten­tion, fre­quent­ly in the noto­ri­ous Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­age­ment Units).

And David Lane was a big deal for the “ultra-right” & fas­cists in Ukraine, accord­ing to the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter:

Lane’s death touched off paeans from racists around the coun­try and abroad. June 30 was des­ig­nat­ed a “Glob­al Day of Remem­brance,” with demon­stra­tions held in at least five U.S. cities as well as Eng­land, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the Ukraine.

Judg­ing by this video, the march/memorial on the first anniver­sary of his death, in 2008, orga­nized by the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Social­ist Par­ty in Kyiv, was well enough attend­ed to mer­it a police pres­ence of sev­er­al dozen offi­cers.

5b. For­mer U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID) project offi­cer Josh Cohen (involved in man­ag­ing “eco­nom­ic reform projects” in the for­mer Sovi­et Union) notes the grow­ing threat of the far-right and neo-Nazis in Ukraine (it’s a lit­tle iron­ic). It high­lights the threat that the insti­tu­tion­al­ized OUN/B suc­ces­sor groups pose to what democ­ra­cy there is in Ukraine and makes the impor­tant point about dan­gers of these groups oper­at­ing with impuni­ty fol­low­ing one vio­lent act after anoth­er. Cohen notes that the Inte­ri­or Min­istry is run by a guy who spon­sors the Azov Bat­tal­ion and his deputy min­is­ter is a neo-Nazi.

This is the con­text in which Arte­menko was oper­at­ing.

“Ukraine’s ultra-right mili­tias are chal­leng­ing the gov­ern­ment to a show­down” by Joshua Cohen; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 06/15/2017

Josh Cohen is a for­mer U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment project offi­cer involved in man­ag­ing eco­nom­ic reform projects in the for­mer Sovi­et Union.

As Ukraine’s fight against Russ­ian-sup­port­ed sep­a­ratists con­tin­ues, Kiev faces anoth­er threat to its long-term sov­er­eign­ty: pow­er­ful right-wing ultra­na­tion­al­ist groups. These groups are not shy about using vio­lence to achieve their goals, which are cer­tain­ly at odds with the tol­er­ant West­ern-ori­ent­ed democ­ra­cy Kiev osten­si­bly seeks to become.

The recent bru­tal stab­bing of a left-wing anti-war activist named Stas Ser­hiyenko illus­trates the threat posed by these extrem­ists. Ser­hiyenko and his fel­low activists believe the per­pe­tra­tors belonged to the neo-Nazi group C14 (whose name comes from a 14-word phrase used by white suprema­cists). The attack took place on the anniver­sary of Hitler’s birth­day, and C14’s leader pub­lished a state­ment that cel­e­brat­ed Serhiyenko’s stab­bing imme­di­ate­ly after­ward.

The attack on Ser­hiyenko is just the tip of the ice­berg. More recent­ly C14 beat up a social­ist politi­cian while oth­er ultra­na­tion­al­ist thugs stormed the Lviv and Kiev City Coun­cils. Far-right and neo-Nazi groups have also assault­ed or dis­rupt­ed art exhi­bi­tions, anti-fas­cist demon­stra­tions, a “Ukraini­ans Choose Peace” event, LGBT events, a social cen­ter, media orga­ni­za­tions, court pro­ceed­ings and a Vic­to­ry Day march cel­e­brat­ing the anniver­sary of the end of World War II.

Accord­ing to a study from activist orga­ni­za­tion Insti­tute Respub­li­ca, the prob­lem is not only the fre­quen­cy of far-right vio­lence, but the fact that per­pe­tra­tors enjoy wide­spread impuni­ty. It’s not hard to under­stand why Kiev seems reluc­tant to con­front these vio­lent groups. For one thing, far-right para­mil­i­tary groups played an impor­tant role ear­ly in the war against Russ­ian-sup­port­ed sep­a­ratists. Kiev also fears these vio­lent groups could turn on the gov­ern­ment itself — some­thing they’ve done before and con­tin­ue to threat­en to do.

To be clear, Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da about Ukraine being over­run by Nazis or fas­cists is false. Far-right par­ties such as Svo­bo­da or Right Sec­tor draw lit­tle sup­port from Ukraini­ans.

Even so, the threat can­not be dis­missed out of hand. If author­i­ties don’t end the far right’s impuni­ty, it risks fur­ther embold­en­ing them, argues Krasimir Yankov, a researcher with Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al in Kiev. Indeed, the brazen will­ing­ness of Vita Zaverukha – a renowned neo-Nazi out on bail and under house arrest after killing two police offi­cers — to post pic­tures of her­self after storm­ing a pop­u­lar Kiev restau­rant with 50 oth­er nation­al­ists demon­strates the far right’s con­fi­dence in their immu­ni­ty from gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tion.

It’s not too late for the gov­ern­ment to take steps to reassert con­trol over the rule of law. First, author­i­ties should enact a “zero-tol­er­ance” pol­i­cy on far-right vio­lence. Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko should order key law enforce­ment agen­cies — the Inte­ri­or Min­istry, the Nation­al Police of Ukraine, the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine (SBU) and the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­als’ Office (PGO) — to make stop­ping far-right activ­i­ty a top pri­or­i­ty.

The legal basis for pros­e­cut­ing extrem­ist vig­i­lan­tism cer­tain­ly exists. The Crim­i­nal Code of Ukraine specif­i­cal­ly out­laws vio­lence against peace­ful assem­blies. The police need to start enforc­ing this law.

Most impor­tant­ly, the gov­ern­ment must also break any con­nec­tions between law enforce­ment agen­cies and far-right orga­ni­za­tions. The clear­est exam­ple of this prob­lem lies in the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs, which is head­ed by Arsen Avakov. Avakov has a long-stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a para­mil­i­tary group that uses the SS sym­bol as its insignia and which, with sev­er­al oth­ers, was inte­grat­ed into the army or Nation­al Guard at the begin­ning of the war in the East. Crit­ics have accused Avakov of using mem­bers of the group to threat­en an oppo­si­tion media out­let. As at least one com­men­ta­tor has point­ed out, using the Nation­al Guard to com­bat ultra­na­tion­al­ist vio­lence is like­ly to prove dif­fi­cult if far-right groups have become part of the Guard itself.

Avakov’s Deputy Min­is­ter Vadym Troy­an was a mem­ber of the neo-Nazi Patri­ot of Ukraine (PU) para­mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion, while cur­rent Min­istry of Inte­ri­or offi­cial Ilya Kiva – a for­mer mem­ber of the far-right Right Sec­tor par­ty whose Insta­gram feed is pop­u­lat­ed with images of for­mer Ital­ian fas­cist leader Ben­i­to Mus­soli­ni – has called for gays “to be put to death.” And Avakov him­self used the PU to pro­mote his busi­ness and polit­i­cal inter­ests while serv­ing as a gov­er­nor in east­ern Ukraine, and as inte­ri­or min­is­ter formed and armed the extrem­ist Azov bat­tal­ion led by Andriy Bilet­sky, a man nick­named the “White Chief” who called for a cru­sade against “Semi­te-led sub-human­i­ty.”

Such offi­cials have no place in a gov­ern­ment based on the rule of law; they should go. More broad­ly, the gov­ern­ment should also make sure that every police offi­cer receives human rights train­ing focused on improv­ing the polic­ing and pros­e­cu­tion of hate crimes. Those demon­strat­ing signs of extrem­ist ties or sym­pa­thies should be exclud­ed.

In one noto­ri­ous inci­dent, media cap­tured images of swasti­ka-tat­tooed thugs — who police claimed were only job appli­cants want­i­ng to have “fun” — giv­ing the Nazi salute in a police build­ing in Kiev. This can­not be allowed to go on, and it’s just as impor­tant for Ukrain­ian democ­ra­cy to cleanse extrem­ists from law enforce­ment as it is to remove cor­rupt offi­cials from for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s regime under Ukraine’s “lus­tra­tion” pol­i­cy. . . .

6. Sater col­lab­o­ra­tor Arte­menko appears to have been part of the anti-Poroshenko pha­lanx in the Ukrain­ian fas­cist milieu.

“Ukraine’s Back-Chan­nel Diplo­mat Still Shop­ping Peace Plan to Trump” by Reid Stan­dish; For­eign Pol­i­cy; 04/18/2017

. . . . Arte­menko insists that his inten­tions in push­ing a peace plan for Ukraine are in the country’s best inter­ests. But polit­i­cal observers see his free­lance diplo­ma­cy as part of a ris­ing groundswell in Kiev against Poroshenko by oppo­si­tion forces ahead of par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions sched­uled for 2019.“Alliances are shift­ing in Ukraine right now against Poroshenko,” said Bal­azs Jara­bik, a non­res­i­dent schol­ar at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace. “All this diplo­mat­ic maneu­ver­ing in Wash­ing­ton needs to be viewed through this lens.”

Arte­menko has emerged as a vocal crit­ic of Poroshenko and says he has evi­dence show­ing cor­rup­tion by the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent. . . .

7a. The alleged “Russ­ian plot” cen­ter­ing on the Sater/Artemenko “peace plan“entailed plans to devel­op Ukraine’s nuclear ener­gy sec­tor in order to break the Russ­ian grip on Ukraine’s ener­gy.

In short, this is an anti-Russ­ian plot, NOT a Russ­ian plot.

“Trump’s Ex-Biz Part­ner Eyed Ener­gy Deal As He Helped Push Ukraine ‘Peace Plan’” by Sam Thiel­man; Talk­ing Points Memo Muck­rak­er; 7/27/2017.

When a for­mer busi­ness part­ner of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s and a Ukrain­ian politi­cian approached an ally of the admin­is­tra­tion with a “peace plan,” they were already at work on an ener­gy trad­ing deal. That deal, said one of the region’s lead­ing ener­gy pol­i­cy experts, stood to ben­e­fit from the scheme the pair pro­posed to resolve the ongo­ing con­flict in Ukraine.

Felix Sater, who worked obtain­ing financ­ing for Trump projects includ­ing the Trump SoHo, told TPM that the “peace plan” came up in the course of his attempts to bro­ker an agree­ment to sell ener­gy abroad from Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er plants with Andrii Arte­menko, at the time a Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an. The plan was to refur­bish dilap­i­dat­ed nuclear pow­er plants in that coun­try and then sell the pow­er gen­er­at­ed by them into East­ern Europe, using estab­lished com­modi­ties trad­ing com­pa­nies as a means of retroac­tive­ly financ­ing the deal, Sater said.

The busi­ness propo­si­tion would help break the Russ­ian monop­oly on ener­gy, accord­ing to Sater. But Artemenko’s polit­i­cal pro­pos­al would have had Ukrain­ian vot­ers decide whether to lease Crimea to Rus­sia for 50 or 100 years—an idea encour­aged by advi­sors to Russ­ian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, and so offen­sive to his country’s gov­ern­ment that Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors accused Arte­menko of trea­so­nous con­spir­ing with Rus­sia after the peace plan was first report­ed ear­li­er this year.

It’s been wide­ly report­ed that Sater and Arte­menko met with Michael Cohen, who was then Trump’s per­son­al lawyer and who has known Sater since he was a teenag­er, in Jan­u­ary; under dis­cus­sion was the peace plan, which would have paved a path for the U.S. to lift sanc­tions on Rus­sia. Cohen has giv­en con­flict­ing state­ments about his involve­ment. Sater said he came to be involved in the scheme through Arte­menko.

“We were try­ing to do a busi­ness deal at the same time,” Sater told TPM. “We were work­ing on a busi­ness deal for about five months, and he kept telling me about the peace deal, and as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion won, that’s when I deliv­ered it [the peace deal] to them.”

He insist­ed the polit­i­cal and busi­ness propo­si­tions were unre­lat­ed, oth­er than each involv­ing him­self and Arte­menko as pri­ma­ry play­ers.

Sater had worked bro­ker­ing major deals inter­na­tion­al­ly for some time after the 1996 dis­so­lu­tion of White Rock, a firm at the cen­ter of a pump-and-dump secu­ri­ties fraud scan­dal that led to Sater’s con­vic­tion for fraud. Instead of going to prison, Sater paid a fine and went to work as an FBI infor­mant. Those deals includ­ed a job for AT&T in Rus­sia, as pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Moth­er Jones, where Sater says the com­pa­ny was “try­ing to expand.”

Sater said the busi­ness propo­si­tion with Arte­menko “was to try to reha­bil­i­tate the exist­ing nuclear pow­er plants in the Ukraine and build new ones using either U.S. or Cana­di­an [com­pa­nies] like GE, or the Kore­ans.” Ukraine’s his­to­ry with nuclear pow­er includes the Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter, and Sater not­ed that the aging plants need­ed refur­bish­ment in order to con­tin­ue work­ing with­out anoth­er inci­dent. Oth­er­wise, he not­ed, “they’re ready to [have] anoth­er Cher­nobyl any day now.”

The pair fur­ther planned “to sell the excess pow­er to [inter­na­tion­al ener­gy com­pa­nies] Trafigu­ra or Vitol to sell the pow­er to East­ern Europe, and in that way finance the plants,” Sater explained. He named Poland and Belarus as two poten­tial state clients.

“It was a way to break the ener­gy monop­oly the Rus­sians have,” he said.

Chi Kong Chy­ong, direc­tor of the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy Forum at Cam­bridge University’s Ener­gy Pol­i­cy Research Group, told TPM that ener­gy inde­pen­dence from Rus­sia was indeed a press­ing issue in Ukraine, and not­ed a peace deal would ease the kind of inter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tion Sater and Arte­menko were propos­ing.

Sources close to the mat­ter told TPM that there were no records of any cur­rent con­ver­sa­tions between Sater or Arte­menko and Amer­i­can indus­tri­al con­glom­er­ate GE. Trafigu­ra and Vitol are trad­ing hous­es that deal heav­i­ly in ener­gy; Vic­to­ria Dix, a spokes­woman for Trafigu­ra, said there was “no ele­ment of truth what­so­ev­er” to any sug­ges­tion that Sater was pur­su­ing a pro­pos­al with the com­pa­ny. Andrea Schlaepfer, a spokes­woman for Vitol, said, “We don’t com­ment on com­mer­cial activ­i­ties.” Nei­ther the Ukrain­ian Embassy nor the Con­sulate imme­di­ate­ly respond­ed to requests for com­ment.

For Arte­menko, the fall­out from the Jan­u­ary meet­ing with Sater and Cohen was imme­di­ate and severe. He was expelled from his Verk­hov­na Rada polit­i­cal par­ty the day after the New York Times report­ed the meet­ing, and by May, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko had stripped him of his cit­i­zen­ship.

For his part, Sater said he had noth­ing to do with the doc­u­ments filled with dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion on Ukrain­ian politi­cians, includ­ing Poroshenko, that Arte­menko report­ed­ly brought to the Jan­u­ary meet­ing. “I nev­er saw them,” Sater said, adding that Cohen might have thrown them in trash but he wasn’t sure. “I don’t want to get into it.”

Whether Sater and Artemenko’s ener­gy trad­ing plan was well under­way or sim­ply in the pro­pos­al stage by the time of the meet­ing, it would have been an eas­i­er sell with Artemenko’s Putin-approved cease­fire in place, accord­ing to Chy­ong.

“Any mil­i­tary con­flict in your neigh­bor­hood or close to you affects the trans­ac­tion cost of arrang­ing com­mer­cial deals, whether that is between Ukraine and the east­ern [EU, where Poland lies] or Ukraine and Belarus, for exam­ple,” Chy­ong said. “It increas­es the trans­ac­tion­al costs. The con­flict itself, of course, forces the Ukraine to think about oth­er ways and oth­er sources of impor­ta­tion of energy—gas and elec­tric­i­ty trad­ing.

Export­ing ener­gy from Ukraine would be eas­i­est to places like Belarus and Rus­sia, Chy­ong not­ed. Old elec­tri­cal grids are among the strongest remain­ing ties between for­mer Sovi­et bloc states and Rus­sia itself; Ukraine hopes to break them by 2025, some­thing Sater said he hoped he could help along. . .

7b. Of more than pass­ing inter­est is the CV of Robert Armao, one of the intend­ed col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Sater/Artemenko anti-Russ­ian plot to replace the old Sovi­et pow­er grid in East­ern Europe. Robert Armao:

  • ” . . . . served as labor coun­sel to the late Vice Pres­i­dent Nel­son Rock­e­feller in the ear­ly 1970s. . . .”
  • ” . . . . once advised indi­vid­u­als who were work­ing with for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko dur­ing the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion protests of 2004–2005. . . .”

“How Felix Sater — For­mer Mob-linked Hus­tler And Ex-Trump Advis­er — Sought To ‘Pro­tect’ Ukraine’s Nuclear Plants” Richard Behar; The Nation­al Memo; 05/25/2017.

. . . . Evi­dent­ly Sater and Arte­menko were seek­ing the assis­tance of a third per­son who attend­ed the break­fast, Robert Armao — a well-con­nect­ed inter­na­tion­al busi­ness­man who served as labor coun­sel to the late Vice Pres­i­dent Nel­son Rock­e­feller in the ear­ly 1970s. Armao says that Sater, whom he’d nev­er met or spo­ken with pri­or to last fall, reached out to him through a mutu­al friend. . . .

. . . . Armao was invit­ed to the New York meet­ing because he’s a long­time expert on Ukraine. He says he once advised indi­vid­u­als who were work­ing with for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko dur­ing the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion protests of 2004–2005. Dur­ing the Octo­ber 7 break­fast, Armao says he was asked whether he could inter­cede with Ukraine’s cur­rent ener­gy min­is­ter in an attempt to revive a con­tract that Kiev had signed with South Korea to bring the nuclear plants up to glob­al stan­dards. . . .

. . . . In late March, then-FBI direc­tor James Comey was asked about Sater’s rela­tion­ship with the FBI when he appeared before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. Comey declined to com­ment, pre­sum­ably because Sater spent a decade as a secret gov­ern­ment coop­er­a­tor for both the FBI and at times, the CIA. But in 2015, dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for the post of U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Loret­ta Lynch offered a teas­er. In response to a writ­ten ques­tion about Sater by Sen­a­tor Orrin Hatch, she stat­ed that his [decade-long] assis­tance as a fed­er­al coop­er­a­tor was “cru­cial to nation­al secu­ri­ty.” . . . .

7c. In addi­tion, Armao was an appar­ent col­lab­o­ra­tor with prob­a­ble P‑2 mem­ber Francesco Pazien­za, Pope shoot­ing insid­er and Ban­co Ambrosiano co-con­spir­a­tor Francesco Pazien­za. (We dis­cussed Pazien­za at length in AFA #21.

Anoth­er Armao col­lab­o­ra­tor was Marc Rich.

Bill Clin­ton’s last minute par­don of Rich was inves­ti­gat­ed by for­mer FBI chief James Comey and a long-silent Bureau Twit­ter account became active short­ly before the elec­tion, tweet­ing about Marc Rich. (We dis­cussed this in FTR #939.

“Ital­ian Ex-Agent Ordered Extra­dit­ed From U.S.” by Ralph Blu­men­thal; The New York Times; 09/12/1985.

. . . .The pris­on­er, Dr. Francesco Pazien­za, a 39-year-old non­prac­tic­ing physi­cian, has long been a sub­ject of keen inter­est in Italy, where his name has also cropped up in inves­ti­ga­tions of the shoot­ing of Pope John Paul II and of the pur­port­ed plot­tings of a right­ist under­ground. . . .

. . . As recent­ly as last year, Dr. Pazien­za said, he sought to be help­ful to the Amer­i­cans by try­ing to nego­ti­ate a renew­al of the lease for a Unit­ed States intel­li­gence track­ing sta­tion in the Sey­chelles. He said he and two part­ners were then explor­ing an oil ven­ture with the Indi­an Ocean island nation off the east coast of Africa.

He iden­ti­fied the part­ners as Robert Armao and Marc Rich. Mr. Rich is a com­modi­ties bro­ker now under crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion in the Unit­ed States in con­nec­tion with tax eva­sion charges, for which he has already paid a $200 mil­lion civ­il set­tle­ment.

Mr. Armao, head of a New York pub­lic rela­tions com­pa­ny and a for­mer advis­er to the Shah of Iran, large­ly con­firmed Mr. Pazienza’s account. But he said that while a Marc Rich sub­sidiary had been involved in their dis­cus­sions, the oil ven­ture nev­er came about. . . .

8. Here’s some­thing to con­sid­er as destruc­tive cyber­bombs are being pre­emp­tive­ly placed on net­works as a form of cyber-MWDs and the US set­tles into a ‘Cold War’ modal­i­ty with Rus­sia: If any skilled hack­er on the plan­et man­ages to hack a US nuclear pow­er plan, that ‘cold war’ might heat up pret­ty fast whether Rus­sia was behind it or not…especially if there’s a melt­down.

“. . . . The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed Sat­ur­day that U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials have already pinned the recent nuclear cyber intru­sions on Rus­sia. . . .

. . . Ana­lysts remain quick to tamp down asser­tions that Russia’s fin­ger­print on the lat­est attack is a sure thing. . . ;

. . . . Still, it’s a pret­ty alarm­ing sit­u­a­tion regard­less of who was behind it, in part because it’s an exam­ple of how poten­tial­ly vul­ner­a­ble things like nuclear plants are to any hack­er, state-backed or not:

. . . . Still, the source said a well-resourced attack­er could try sneak­ing in thumb dri­ves, plant­i­ng an insid­er or even land­ing a drone equipped with wire­less attack tech­nol­o­gy into a nuclear gen­er­a­tion site. Reports indi­cate that the infa­mous Stuxnet worm, which dam­aged Iran­ian nuclear cen­trifuges in the late 2000s, prob­a­bly snuck in on remov­able media. Once inside the “air gapped” tar­get net­work, Stuxnet relied on its own hard-cod­ed instruc­tions, rather than any remote com­mands sent in through the inter­net, to cause cost­ly and sen­si­tive nuclear equip­ment to spin out of con­trol. . . .”

“ ‘Who did it?’ zeroes in on Russ­ian hack­ing” by Blake Sobczak; E&E News; 07/10/2017

A sophis­ti­cat­ed group of hack­ers has tar­get­ed U.S. nuclear plants in a wide-rang­ing hack­ing cam­paign since at least May, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple U.S. author­i­ties.

The hack­ers tried to steal user­names and pass­words in the hope of bur­row­ing deep into nuclear pow­er net­works, in addi­tion to oth­er util­i­ty and man­u­fac­tur­ing tar­gets.

But the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, the FBI, sources famil­iar with the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion and non­pub­lic gov­ern­ment alerts told E&E News that heav­i­ly guard­ed nuclear safe­ty sys­tems were left unscathed by any recent cyber intru­sions. Experts say the evi­dence so far points to a remote threat that, while advanced, like­ly could not have leaped from cor­po­rate busi­ness net­works to the crit­i­cal but iso­lat­ed com­put­er net­works keep­ing nuclear reac­tors oper­at­ing safe­ly.

Still, the ques­tion that lingers is, who did it?

Sus­pi­cion has fall­en on hack­ers with ties to Rus­sia, in part because of past intru­sions into U.S. com­pa­nies and for Rus­sia-linked attacks on Ukraine’s pow­er grid in 2015 and 2016.

Ukrain­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices laid the blame for the grid hacks at Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s feet. Sev­er­al pri­vate U.S. cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies have also drawn links between ener­gy indus­try-focused hack­ing cam­paigns with names like “Ener­getic Bear” back to Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices.

The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed Sat­ur­day that U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials have already pinned the recent nuclear cyber intru­sions on Rus­sia.

Ana­lysts remain quick to tamp down asser­tions that Russia’s fin­ger­print on the lat­est attack is a sure thing.

With­out men­tion­ing any nation-state by name, for­mer Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz not­ed on Twit­ter that “these ‘advanced per­sis­tent threats’ have long wor­ried U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials — and recent events prove they are very real.”

Ref­er­enc­ing reports of the recent nuclear cyber inci­dents, he added, “These breach­es make plain that for­eign actors are look­ing for ways to exploit US grid vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. We saw this com­ing.”

If U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies con­firm Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices were involved in the attack on nuclear plants, ten­sions with Moscow could esca­late. In a Twit­ter com­ment that attract­ed bipar­ti­san ridicule, Pres­i­dent Trump yes­ter­day morn­ing said that he and Putin had agreed to cre­ate an “impen­e­tra­ble Cyber Secu­ri­ty unit” to guard against hack­ing, only to appar­ent­ly reverse his posi­tion hours lat­er and sug­gest such an arrange­ment “can’t” hap­pen.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D‑Wash.), rank­ing mem­ber of the Sen­ate Ener­gy and Nat­ur­al Resources Com­mit­tee, reit­er­at­ed her calls for the White House to assess ener­gy-sec­tor cyber vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and aban­don pro­posed bud­get cuts at the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. “The dis­turb­ing reports of the past 24 hours indi­cate that our adver­saries are try­ing to take advan­tage of the very real vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of our ener­gy infrastructure’s cyber defens­es,” she said Fri­day.

Draw­ing from the Ukraine play­book

In 2015, a group of hack­ers set sights on sev­er­al Ukrain­ian elec­tric dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­nies. The intrud­ers broke into the util­i­ties’ busi­ness net­works with “phish­ing” emails designed to lure employ­ees into click­ing on a doc­u­ment laced with mal­ware.

From there, the attack­ers mapped out their vic­tims’ com­put­er sys­tems, even gain­ing access to the vir­tu­al pri­vate net­work util­i­ty work­ers used to remote­ly oper­ate parts of Ukraine’s elec­tric grid.

On Dec. 23, 2015, after months of wait­ing and spy­ing, the hack­ers struck, log­ging onto the oper­a­tional net­work and flip­ping cir­cuit break­ers at elec­tric sub­sta­tions. They suc­ceed­ed in cut­ting pow­er to sev­er­al hun­dred thou­sand Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens for a few hours in what became the first known cyber­at­tack on a pow­er grid in the world.

At first glance, the lat­est nuclear hack­ers appear to have drawn from the same play­book.

They used a “fair­ly cre­ative” phish­ing email to gain a foothold on tar­get­ed net­works, accord­ing to Craig Williams, senior tech­ni­cal leader and glob­al out­reach man­ag­er for Cis­co Talos, a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty research divi­sion of Cis­co Sys­tems Inc.

Instead of stow­ing mal­ware in the Word doc­u­ment itself, the hack­ers tweaked a con­trol engineer’s résumé into bea­con­ing out to a mali­cious serv­er via a Microsoft com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­to­col called Serv­er Mes­sage Block. The cyber intrud­ers could then swipe frag­ments of SMB traf­fic con­tain­ing the vic­tims’ login infor­ma­tion to set up an autho­rized con­nec­tion to the tar­get­ed net­work and move on from there, Williams explained.

The tech­nique points to “attack­ers who are ded­i­cat­ed and who’ve done their research,” he not­ed.

While Williams said Cis­co had detect­ed a vari­ety of ener­gy com­pa­nies hit by the phish­ing emails, he point­ed out that “the nuclear sec­tor is extreme­ly hard­ened.”

Get­ting blocked

Nuclear pow­er plant oper­a­tors have to abide by their own set of cyber­se­cu­ri­ty rules estab­lished by the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion. Fol­low­ing its most recent cyber­se­cu­ri­ty audits in 2015, the NRC report­ed “sev­er­al very low secu­ri­ty sig­nif­i­cance vio­la­tions of cyber secu­ri­ty plan require­ments.”

None of those vio­la­tions could have result­ed in an immi­nent threat to nuclear safe­ty, the reg­u­la­tor said.

The NRC plans to ramp up cyber­se­cu­ri­ty inspec­tions lat­er this year. The agency has declined to com­ment on reports of the recent cyber breach­es at nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion sites.

Nuclear pow­er com­pa­nies have had to account for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a cyber­at­tack on their safe­ty sys­tems since 2002, accord­ing to NRC guid­ance.

Elec­tric util­i­ties typ­i­cal­ly adhere to a three-step mod­el for pro­tect­ing their most sen­si­tive sys­tems from hack­ers. At a basic lev­el, this set­up involves an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy net­work — such as a utility’s inter­net-con­nect­ed cor­po­rate head­quar­ters — and an oper­a­tional net­work that includes grid con­trol sys­tems. Com­pa­nies typ­i­cal­ly add a third lay­er or “demil­i­ta­rized zone” bridg­ing those two sides of the busi­ness, replete with fire­walls, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty tech­nolo­gies and oth­er safe­guards.

Nuclear oper­a­tors add at least two more lay­ers to that mod­el, draw­ing lines among the pub­lic inter­net, the cor­po­rate net­work, onsite local area net­works, indus­tri­al “data acqui­si­tion” net­works and, final­ly, the core safe­ty sys­tem over­see­ing radioac­tive mate­ri­als, based on gov­ern­ment guide­lines.

In the U.S., safe­ty sys­tems are often still “ana­logue,” hav­ing orig­i­nal­ly been built in the 1980s or ear­li­er, before the recent spread of web-con­nect­ed tech­nolo­gies.

With­in that last, crit­i­cal zone — Lev­el 4 in nuclear indus­try par­lance — tight phys­i­cal con­trols pre­vent phones and USB dri­ves from get­ting in; and oper­a­tional data is designed to flow only out­ward through “data diodes,” with no poten­tial for online com­mands to enter from the pub­lic inter­net or even the site’s own local area net­work.

“Any­body ever reports that some­body got a con­nec­tion from the inter­net direct­ly or indi­rect­ly into the heart of a nuclear con­trol sys­tem is either full of crap, or is reveal­ing a mas­sive prob­lem with some par­tic­u­lar site, because there should be phys­i­cal­ly no way for that to actu­al­ly be pos­si­ble,” said Andrew Gin­ter, vice pres­i­dent of Water­fall Secu­ri­ty Solu­tions, which mar­kets one such “uni­di­rec­tion­al gate­way” or data diode to the U.S. nuclear sec­tor. “To me, it’s almost incon­ceiv­able.”

Mar­ty Edwards, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Automa­tion Fed­er­a­tion, who until last month head­ed a team of indus­tri­al con­trol secu­ri­ty spe­cial­ists at DHS, gen­er­al­ly agreed that a remote con­nec­tion would be near­ly impos­si­ble to achieve. “When we test­ed those kinds of [one-way] devices in the lab, we found that you couldn’t cir­cum­vent any of them, basi­cal­ly, because they’re physics-based,” he said. “There’s no way to manip­u­late that stream.”

One source famil­iar with nuclear infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy prac­tices, who agreed to speak about secu­ri­ty mat­ters on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, said that “in order to have a cat­a­stroph­ic impact, you have to get by the human in the con­trol room” — no easy feat. “You’re talk­ing work­ers who are reg­u­lar­ly screened for insid­er [threat] indi­ca­tors and psy­cho­log­i­cal sta­bil­i­ty.”

Still, the source said a well-resourced attack­er could try sneak­ing in thumb dri­ves, plant­i­ng an insid­er or even land­ing a drone equipped with wire­less attack tech­nol­o­gy into a nuclear gen­er­a­tion site. Reports indi­cate that the infa­mous Stuxnet worm, which dam­aged Iran­ian nuclear cen­trifuges in the late 2000s, prob­a­bly snuck in on remov­able media. Once inside the “air gapped” tar­get net­work, Stuxnet relied on its own hard-cod­ed instruc­tions, rather than any remote com­mands sent in through the inter­net, to cause cost­ly and sen­si­tive nuclear equip­ment to spin out of con­trol.

But the source, who had reviewed recent DHS and FBI warn­ings about recent nuclear cyberthreats, added that there was no indi­ca­tion the actor behind it got close to nuclear oper­a­tors’ crown jew­els.

“To get around the data diodes and all the oth­er defens­es, it’d be unprece­dent­ed at this point,” at least from a U.S. per­spec­tive, said the source.

Would it even be pos­si­ble?

“Maybe if you’re Vladimir Putin,” the source said.

9. Devon Arthurs – a neo-Nazi-turned-Muslim–murdered two of his neo-Nazi room­mates back in May. Bran­don Rus­sell – Arthurs’s sur­viv­ing third room­mate, was found with bomb-mak­ing mate­ri­als, radioac­tive sub­stances and a framed pic­ture of Tim­o­thy McVeigh after police searched their res­i­dence. Rus­sell planned to sab­o­tage a nuclear pow­er plant

Rus­sell, we note, was in the Nation­al Guard. In the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Walk, a book we feel is–like The Turn­er Diaries–is intend­ed as a teach­ing tool, oper­a­tional blue­print and man­i­festo, the Under­ground Reich infil­trates the mil­i­tary, gains effec­tive con­trol of the opin­ion form­ing media and, fol­low­ing a series of WMD strikes blamed on Rus­sia and a dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law, the Nazis take over the Unit­ed States.

Bran­don Rus­sel­l’s activ­i­ties fit very well into this sce­nario.

“Nation­al Guard ‘neo-Nazi’ aimed to hit Mia­mi nuclear plant, room­mate says” by Dan Sul­li­van; Tam­pa Bay Times; 06/13/2017

Bran­don Rus­sell, a Nation­al Guards­man and self-described neo-Nazi, had plans to blow up pow­er lines in the Flori­da Ever­glades and launch explo­sives into a nuclear pow­er plant near Mia­mi, his room­mate Devon Arthurs told police.

Pros­e­cu­tors on Tues­day played por­tions of a record­ed inter­ro­ga­tion Arthurs gave in the hours imme­di­ate­ly after he was arrest­ed in the killings of Jere­my Him­mel­man and Andrew Oneschuk.In the video, Arthurs offers a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the killings, claim­ing that Rus­sell, the sur­viv­ing room­mate, was prepar­ing to com­mit acts of ter­ror­ism.

“The things they were plan­ning were hor­ri­ble,” Arthurs said. “These peo­ple were not good peo­ple.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office pre­sent­ed the video excerpts in an effort to get U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III to revoke an order grant­i­ng Rus­sell bail, argu­ing that he pos­es a dan­ger to the com­mu­ni­ty.

Late Tues­day, the judge stayed the order. Rus­sell will remain jailed while the judge recon­sid­ers the issue.

Rus­sell, 21, faces explo­sives charges after bomb­mak­ing mate­ri­als were found at his Tam­pa Palms apart­ment May 19 dur­ing the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion. Arthurs, sep­a­rate­ly, has been charged with two counts of first-degree mur­der in state court.

In the video, Arthurs sits beside a table in a white-walled inter­ro­ga­tion room, his right leg rest­ing over his left knee. He ges­tures with both hands as he casu­al­ly describes Russell’s neo-Nazi beliefs and sup­posed plans to com­mit ter­ror­ist acts.

He said Rus­sell stud­ied how to build nuclear weapons in school and is “some­body that lit­er­al­ly has knowl­edge of how to build a nuclear bomb.”

When a Tam­pa police detec­tive asked Arthurs if his friends had any spe­cif­ic ter­ror­ist inten­tions, he said they had a plan to blow up pow­er lines along Alli­ga­tor Alley, the stretch of Inter­state 75 link­ing Naples with Fort Laud­erdale.

He also said they had a plan to fire mor­tars loaded with nuclear mate­r­i­al into the cool­ing units of a nuclear pow­er plant near Mia­mi.

He said the dam­age would cause “a mas­sive reac­tor fail­ure” and spread “irra­di­at­ed water” through­out the ocean.

“Think about a BP oil spill, except it wipes out parts of the east­ern seaboard,” Arthurs said.

The detec­tive asked why they want­ed to do these things.

“Because they want­ed to build a Fourth Reich,” Arthurs said. He said Rus­sell idol­ized Okla­homa City bomber Tim­o­thy McVeigh.

“He said the only thing McVeigh did wrong was he didn’t put enough mate­r­i­al into the truck to bring the whole build­ing down.”

Assis­tant U.S. Attor­ney Josephine Thomas not­ed dur­ing the hear­ing that the Turkey Point Nuclear Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion is near Mia­mi.She also not­ed that when bomb squad mem­bers arrived at Russell’s apart­ment, their pagers alert­ed them to the pres­ence of “two radi­a­tion sources.” The crim­i­nal com­plaint says those were tho­ri­um and ameri­ci­um, both radioac­tive met­als.

Russell’s defense attor­ney, Ian Gold­stein, not­ed that author­i­ties have not charged him with pos­ses­sion of nuclear mate­ri­als.

Gold­stein ques­tioned Arthurs’ cred­i­bil­i­ty.

“Devon Arthurs is a per­son who just mur­dered two indi­vid­u­als, who is des­per­ate to save him­self, and, quite frankly, I think he is a few cards short of a full deck,” Gold­stein said. “I hope the gov­ern­ment brings Mr. Arthurs to the tri­al as their prime wit­ness. He’s insane.”

Arthurs, accord­ing to court records, admit­ted to the killings, say­ing Him­mel­man and Oneschuk had dis­re­spect­ed his con­ver­sion to Islam.

“I was like, ‘How could I have done this?’ ” he said in the video played Tues­day. “If I hadn’t done that, there would be a lot more peo­ple dead than just these two guys in this orga­ni­za­tion.”

10. Sur­viv­ing Nation­al Guardsman/Nazi Rus­sell admit­ted to belong­ing to a group call Atom­waf­fen, which is Ger­man for “atom­ic weapon”.

Rus­sell, and the rest of Atom­waf­fen, received a wring­ing endorse­ment from bril­liant Nazi hack­er Andrew Aueren­heimer. Yes, Auern­heimer, who hap­pens to be the kind of skilled hack­er who actu­al­ly might have the abil­i­ty to trig­ger a nuclear melt down some­day, wrote about the whole inci­dent on The Dai­ly Stormer. Accord­ing to Auern­heimer, the two killed room­mates were “friends of friends” and the “Atom­waf­fen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve post­ed tons of fliers with absolute­ly killer graph­ics at tons of uni­ver­si­ties over the years. They gen­er­al­ly have a lot of fun and par­ty.”

“Neo-Nazi-turned-Mus­lim kills room­mates over ‘dis­re­spect,’ police say” by JASON DEAREN and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 05/22/2017

A man told police he killed his two room­mates because they were neo-Nazis who dis­re­spect­ed his recent con­ver­sion to Islam, and inves­ti­ga­tors found bomb-mak­ing mate­ri­als and Nazi pro­pa­gan­da after he led them to the bod­ies.

Devon Arthurs, 18, told police he had until recent­ly shared his room­mates’ neo-Nazi beliefs, but that he con­vert­ed to Islam, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments and a state­ment the Tam­pa Police Depart­ment released Mon­day. . . .

. . . . In the apart­ment with the vic­tims’ bod­ies on Fri­day, inves­ti­ga­tors found Nazi and white suprema­cist pro­pa­gan­da; a framed pic­ture of Okla­homa City bomber Tim­o­thy McVeigh; and explo­sives and radioac­tive sub­stances, accord­ing to the court doc­u­ments.

They also found a fourth room­mate, Bran­don Rus­sell, cry­ing and stand­ing out­side the apartment’s front door in his U.S. Army uni­form.

“That’s my room­mate (Rus­sell). He doesn’t know what’s going on and just found them like you guys did,” Arthurs told the police offi­cers, accord­ing to the report.

Fed­er­al agents arrest­ed Rus­sell, 21, on Sat­ur­day on charges relat­ed to the explo­sives.

The FBI said Rus­sell “admit­ted to his neo-Nazi beliefs” and said he was a mem­ber of a group called Atom­waf­fen, which is Ger­man for “atom­ic weapon.”

Major Caitlin Brown, spokes­woman for the Flori­da Nation­al Guard, con­firmed Rus­sell was a cur­rent mem­ber of the Flori­da Nation­al Guard. But she couldn’t imme­di­ate­ly pro­vide any oth­er infor­ma­tion.

Arthurs start­ed the chain of events on Fri­day when he held two cus­tomers and an employ­ee hostage at gun­point at a Tam­pa smoke shop, police said. He was com­plain­ing about the treat­ment of Mus­lims.

“He fur­ther informed all three vic­tims that he was upset due to Amer­i­ca bomb­ing his Mus­lim coun­tries,” police Detec­tive Ken­neth Nightlinger wrote in his report.

Offi­cers talked Arthurs into let­ting the hostages go and drop­ping his weapon, and took him into cus­tody.

While in cus­tody, police said Arthurs start­ed talk­ing about killing two peo­ple, and then he direct­ed them to a con­do­mini­um com­plex where the four room­mates shared an apart­ment.

“I had to do it,” Arthurs told police. “This wouldn’t have had to hap­pen if your coun­try didn’t bomb my coun­try.”

Inside the apart­ment, the offi­cers found the bod­ies of 22-year-old Jere­my Him­mel­man and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Both had been shot.

Police called in the FBI and a bomb squad, which found enough explo­sives to con­sti­tute a bomb, accord­ing to fed­er­al agents.

At first, Rus­sell told agents he kept the explo­sives from his days in an engi­neer­ing club at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da in 2013, and that he used the sub­stances to boost home­made rock­ets. The agents wrote that the sub­stance found was “too ener­getic and volatile for these types of uses.”

Rus­sell has been charged with pos­ses­sion of an unreg­is­tered destruc­tive device and unlaw­ful stor­age of explo­sive mate­r­i­al. Court records did not list an attor­ney for him.

Andrew Auern­heimer, a noto­ri­ous com­put­er hack­er and inter­net troll, wrote a post about the killings for The Dai­ly Stormer, a lead­ing neo-Nazi web­site.

Auern­heimer, known online as “weev,” said in Sunday’s post that he knew the shoot­ing sus­pect and both of the shoot­ing vic­tims. He said he banned Arthurs from The Dai­ly Stormer’s Dis­cord serv­er, an online forum, for post­ing “Mus­lim ter­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da” ear­li­er this year.

“He came in to con­vert peo­ple to Islam,” Auern­heimer said dur­ing a tele­phone inter­view Mon­day. “It didn’t work out very well for him.”

Auern­heimer described Him­mel­man and Oneschuk as “friends of friends” and said they belonged to the Atom­waf­fen group.

“Atom­waf­fen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve post­ed tons of fliers with absolute­ly killer graph­ics at tons of uni­ver­si­ties over the years. They gen­er­al­ly have a lot of fun and par­ty,” he wrote.

———-

11. If any neo-Nazi hack­er is capa­ble of suc­cess­ful­ly tak­ing down a nuclear plant, per­haps as part of a larg­er coor­di­nat­ed neo-Nazi attack or or just on his own, it’s Auern­heimer.

Auern­heimer shares in the McVeigh worship,recently propos­ing crowd-fund­ing a McVeigh mon­u­ment:

“McVeigh Wor­ship: The New Extrem­ist Trend” by Bill Mor­lin; The South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 06/27/2017

 

In extrem­ist cir­cles, there appears to be a bump of inter­est in Tim­o­thy James McVeigh.

Yes, that Tim­o­thy McVeigh. The guy who used a Ryder truck to bomb the Alfred P. Mur­rah Fed­er­al Build­ing in Okla­homa City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 inno­cent chil­dren and adults and wound­ing more than 600 oth­ers.

His act 22 years ago, for those who may have for­got­ten, was the dead­liest ter­ror­ist attack in the Unit­ed States before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

McVeigh was con­vict­ed of ter­ror­ism and exe­cut­ed just three months before those attacks.

His name and heinous crime are not for­got­ten, nor should they be, while there seems to be a grow­ing admi­ra­tion for McVeigh in some extrem­ist cir­cles. One mili­tia hon­cho even likened McVeigh to Jesus Christ.

Check out these recent men­tions of McVeigh:

In mid-May, police in Tam­pa, Flori­da, respond­ed to the scene of a dou­ble-mur­der involv­ing young, self-described neo-Nazis.

Bran­don Rus­sell, who shared the apart­ment with the mur­der sus­pect, was charged with pos­ses­sion of bomb-mak­ing mate­ri­als and chem­i­cals, includ­ing ammo­ni­um nitrate – the same kind of mate­r­i­al used by McVeigh.

In Russell’s bed­room at the apart­ment he shared with the mur­der sus­pect and the two slain neo-Nazis, police found a framed pho­to­graph of Tim­o­thy McVeigh. Rus­sell, who’s in cus­tody, hasn’t pub­licly explained that fas­ci­na­tion.

More recent­ly, neo-Nazi Andrew ‘Weev’ Auern­heimer, who writes for the racist web site “Dai­ly Stormer,” said he was seri­ous in propos­ing a crowd-fund­ing account to raise mon­ey to build a “per­ma­nent mon­u­ment” in a memo­r­i­al grove hon­or­ing McVeigh.

“Think of it, a gigan­tic bronze stat­ue of Tim­o­thy McVeigh poised tri­umphant­ly atop a Ryder truck, arms raised as if to form an Algiz rune from his body, with a plaque that states the hon­est truth,” Auern­heimer wrote. “Noth­ing would be a greater insult to these piz­za-par­ty guard­ing fed­er­al swine than a per­ma­nent mon­u­ment hon­or­ing [McVeigh’s] jour­ney to Val­hal­la or Fólk­van­gr atop the piles of their corpses.”

“I am not jok­ing,” Auern­heimer wrote. “This should be done. Imag­ine how angry it would make peo­ple.” . . .

12. Is it pos­si­ble that the “com­mand & con­trol” serv­er used in the DNC serv­er hacks was not only hacked and under 3rd par­ty con­trol dur­ing the 2015–2016 DNC hack but also the 2015 Bun­destag hack? As we’re going to see, it’s pos­si­ble.

First, here’s some­thing to keep in mind regard­ing the Ger­man government’s pub­lic attri­bu­tion in mid-May of 2016 that APT28/Fancy Bear is a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ing group and was respon­si­ble for 2015 Bun­destag hack: As secu­ri­ty ana­lyst Jef­frey Carr notes in the piece below, when Germany’s domes­tic intel­li­gence agency, the BfV, issued a report in Jan­u­ary of 2016 that attrib­uted both APT28 and APT29 to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, the report didn’t appear to ref­er­ence any clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion. The con­clu­sions appeared to be based on exact­ly the same kind of tech­ni­cal ‘clues’ that were used for attri­bu­tion in the 2016 DNC hacks. And as Carr also points out, rely­ing on those tech­ni­cal ‘clues’ is a rather clue­less way to go about attri­bu­tion:

“While it’s nat­ur­al to think of Sofa­cy as a group of indi­vid­u­als, it’s more like a group of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors which include tools, tech­niques, pro­ce­dures, tar­get choic­es, coun­tries of ori­gin, and of course, peo­ple. Since most bad actors oper­ate covert­ly, we are high­ly depen­dent on the foren­sics. Since many of the tools used are shared, and oth­er indi­ca­tors eas­i­ly sub­vert­ed, the foren­sics can be unre­li­able.”

When cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firms pub­lish reports about some “APT” (Advanced Per­sis­tent Threat) group, they’re not actu­al­ly report­ing on a spe­cif­ic group. They’re report­ing on sim­i­lar tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors that sug­gest an attack could have been the same group that did a pre­vi­ous hack and noth­ing more than that.

If those tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors include code that’s avail­able to 3rd par­ty hack­ers and servers that have already been hacked or show vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to hack­ing, as is the case with the 176.31.112[.]10 Com­mand & Con­trol serv­er used by “APT28” in both the DNC serv­er hack and the Bun­destag hack (with that IP address hard cod­ed in both cas­es), those tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors are indica­tive of very lit­tle oth­er than some group might be up to their old tricks or some oth­er group is copy­ing (or fram­ing) them:


Prob­lem #1: The IP address 176.31.112[.]10 used in the Bun­destag breach as a Com­mand and Con­trol serv­er has nev­er been con­nect­ed to the Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices. In fact, Clau­dio Guarnieri, a high­ly regard­ed secu­ri­ty researcher, whose tech­ni­cal analy­sis was ref­er­enced by Rid, stat­ed that “no evi­dence allows to tie the attacks to gov­ern­ments of any par­tic­u­lar coun­try.”

Prob­lem #2: The Com­mand & Con­trol serv­er (176.31.112.10) was using an out­dat­ed ver­sion of OpenSSL vul­ner­a­ble to Heart­bleed attacks. Heart­bleed allows attack­ers to exfil­trate data includ­ing pri­vate keys, user­names, pass­words and oth­er sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion.

The exis­tence of a known secu­ri­ty vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that’s triv­ial to exploit opens the door to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the sys­tems in ques­tion were used by one rogue group, and then infil­trat­ed by a sec­ond rogue group, mak­ing the attri­bu­tion process even more com­pli­cat­ed. At the very least, the C2 serv­er should be con­sid­ered a com­pro­mised indi­ca­tor.

“The exis­tence of a known secu­ri­ty vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that’s triv­ial to exploit opens the door to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the sys­tems in ques­tion were used by one rogue group, and then infil­trat­ed by a sec­ond rogue group, mak­ing the attri­bu­tion process even more com­pli­cat­ed. At the very least, the C2 serv­er should be con­sid­ered a com­pro­mised indi­ca­tor.”

Yet, despite these glar­ing issues with the tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors, when Germany’s BfV issued a report in Jan­u­ary of 2016 pin­ning the blame for the Bun­destag hacks on the GRU and FSB is an assump­tion based on tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors alone:

..
Prob­lem #3: The BfV pub­lished a newslet­ter in Jan­u­ary 2016 which assumes that the GRU and FSB are respon­si­ble because of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors, not because of any clas­si­fied find­ing; to wit: “Many of these attack cam­paigns have each oth­er on tech­ni­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties, such as mali­cious soft­ware fam­i­lies, and infrastructure—these are impor­tant indi­ca­tors of the same author­ship. It is assumed that both the Russ­ian domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vice FSB and the mil­i­tary for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice GRU run cyber oper­a­tions.”

It looks like the BfV’s attri­bu­tion that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment was behind the “APT28” Bun­destag hack was any­thing but sol­id.

Don’t for­get that the attri­bu­tion of the Bun­destag hack is A LOT eas­i­er to make than the attri­bu­tion of the DNC serv­er hack. Why? Because after the Bun­destag hack hap­pen there was lots of dis­cus­sion of it in the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty press, and that includ­ed dis­cus­sion of how the Com­mand & Con­trol serv­er at the 176.31.112[.]10 IP address was vul­ner­a­ble to the Heart­bleed attack.

“Prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant at 20KLeague.com; Founder of Suits and Spooks; Author of “Inside Cyber War­fare (O’Reilly Media, 2009, 2011)” by Jef­frey Carr; Medi­um; 07/27/2017

Yes­ter­day, Pro­fes­sor Thomas Rid (Kings Col­lege Lon­don) pub­lished his nar­ra­tive of the DNC breach and strong­ly con­demned the lack of action by the U.S. gov­ern­ment against Rus­sia.

Susan Hen­nessey, a Har­vard-edu­cat­ed lawyer who used to work at the Office of the Gen­er­al Coun­sel at NSA called the evi­dence “about as close to a smok­ing gun as can be expect­ed where a sophis­ti­cat­ed nation state is involved.”

Then late Mon­day evening, the New York Times report­ed that “Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies have “high con­fi­dence” that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment was behind the DNC breach.

It’s hard to beat a good nar­ra­tive “when expla­na­tions take such a dread­ful time” as Lewis Car­roll point­ed out. And the odds are that noth­ing that I write will change the momen­tum that’s rapid­ly build­ing against the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment.

Still, my goal for this arti­cle is to address some of the fac­tu­al errors in Thomas Rid’s Vice piece, pro­vide some new infor­ma­tion about the capa­bil­i­ties of inde­pen­dent Russ­ian hack­ers, and explain why the chaos at GRU makes it such an unlike­ly home for an APT group.

Fact-Check­ing The Evi­dence

Thomas Rid wrote:

One of the strongest pieces of evi­dence link­ing GRU to the DNC hack is the equiv­a­lent of iden­ti­cal fin­ger­prints found in two bur­glar­ized build­ings: a reused com­mand-and-con­trol address?—?176.31.112[.]10?—?that was hard cod­ed in a piece of mal­ware found both in the Ger­man par­lia­ment as well as on the DNC’s servers. Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence was iden­ti­fied by the Ger­man domes­tic secu­ri­ty agency BfV as the actor respon­si­ble for the Bun­destag breach. The infra­struc­ture behind the fake MIS Depart­ment domain was also linked to the Berlin intru­sion through at least one oth­er ele­ment, a shared SSL cer­tifi­cate.

This para­graph sounds quite damn­ing if you take it at face val­ue, but if you invest a lit­tle time into check­ing the source mate­r­i­al, its care­ful­ly con­struct­ed nar­ra­tive falls apart.

Prob­lem #1: The IP address 176.31.112[.]10 used in the Bun­destag breach as a Com­mand and Con­trol serv­er has nev­er been con­nect­ed to the Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices. In fact, Clau­dio Guarnieri, a high­ly regard­ed secu­ri­ty researcher, whose tech­ni­cal analy­sis was ref­er­enced by Rid, stat­ed that “no evi­dence allows to tie the attacks to gov­ern­ments of any par­tic­u­lar coun­try.”

Prob­lem #2: The Com­mand & Con­trol serv­er (176.31.112.10) was using an out­dat­ed ver­sion of OpenSSL vul­ner­a­ble to Heart­bleed attacks. Heart­bleed allows attack­ers to exfil­trate data includ­ing pri­vate keys, user­names, pass­words and oth­er sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion.

The exis­tence of a known secu­ri­ty vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that’s triv­ial to exploit opens the door to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the sys­tems in ques­tion were used by one rogue group, and then infil­trat­ed by a sec­ond rogue group, mak­ing the attri­bu­tion process even more com­pli­cat­ed. At the very least, the C2 serv­er should be con­sid­ered a com­pro­mised indi­ca­tor.

Prob­lem #3: The BfV pub­lished a newslet­terin Jan­u­ary 2016 which assumes that the GRU and FSB are respon­si­ble because of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors, not because of any clas­si­fied find­ing; to wit: “Many of these attack cam­paigns have each oth­er on tech­ni­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties, such as mali­cious soft­ware fam­i­lies, and infrastructure—these are impor­tant indi­ca­tors of the same author­ship. It is assumed that both the Russ­ian domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vice FSB and the mil­i­tary for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice GRU run cyber oper­a­tions.”

Pro­fes­sor Rid’s argu­ment depend­ed heav­i­ly on con­vey­ing hard attri­bu­tion by the BfV even though the Pres­i­dent of the BfV didn’t dis­guise the fact that their attri­bu­tion was based on an assump­tion and not hard evi­dence.

Per­son­al­ly, I don’t want to have my gov­ern­ment cre­ate more ten­sion in Russian‑U.S. rela­tions because the head of Germany’s BfV made an assump­tion.

In intel­li­gence, as in oth­er call­ings, esti­mat­ing is what you do when you do not know. (Sher­man Kent)

When it came to attribut­ing Fan­cy Bear to the GRU, Dmit­ry Alper­ovich used a type of esti­ma­tive lan­guage because there was no hard proof: “Exten­sive tar­get­ing of defense min­istries and oth­er mil­i­tary vic­tims has been observed, the pro­file of which close­ly mir­rors the strate­gic inter­ests of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, and may indi­cate affil­i­a­tion with ??????? ???????????????? ?????????? (Main Intel­li­gence Depart­ment) or GRU, Russia’s pre­mier mil­i­tary intel­li­gence ser­vice.”

For Cozy Bear’s attri­bu­tion to the FSB, Dmit­rysim­ply observed that there were two threat actor groups oper­at­ing at the same time while unaware of each other’s pres­ence. He not­ed that the Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices also com­pete with each oth­er, there­fore Cozy Bear is prob­a­bly either the FSB or the SVR: “we observed the two Russ­ian espi­onage groups com­pro­mise the same sys­tems and engage sep­a­rate­ly in the theft of iden­ti­cal cre­den­tials. While you would vir­tu­al­ly nev­er see West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies going after the same tar­get with­out de-con­flic­tion for fear of com­pro­mis­ing each other’s oper­a­tions, in Rus­sia this is not an uncom­mon sce­nario.”

The Fidelis report on the mal­ware didn’t men­tion the GRU or FSB at all. Their tech­ni­cal analy­sis only con­firmed the APT groups involved: “Based on our com­par­a­tive analy­sis we agree with Crowd­Strike and believe that the COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR APT groups were involved in suc­cess­ful intru­sions at the DNC.”

When it came to attribut­ing the attack to the Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices, Fidelis’ Mike Bura­tows­ki told reporter Michael Heller: “In a sit­u­a­tion like this, we can’t say 100% that it was this per­son in this unit, but what you can say is it’s more prob­a­ble than not that it was this group of peo­ple or this actor set.”

As Mark Twain said, good judg­ment comes from expe­ri­ence, and expe­ri­ence comes from bad judg­ment. The prob­lem with judg­ment calls and attri­bu­tion is that since there’s no way to be proven right or wrong, there’s no way to dis­cern if one’s judg­ment call is good or bad.

The meta­da­ta in the leaked doc­u­ments are per­haps most reveal­ing: one dumped doc­u­ment was mod­i­fied using Russ­ian lan­guage set­tings, by a user named “?????? ??????????,” a code name refer­ring to the founder of the Sovi­et Secret Police

OK. Raise your hand if you think that a GRU or FSB offi­cer would add Iron Felix’s name to the meta­da­ta of a stolen doc­u­ment before he released it to the world while pre­tend­ing to be a Roman­ian hack­er. Some­one clear­ly had a wicked sense of humor.

APT Groups Aren’t Peo­ple. They‘re’ Indi­ca­tors.

[see image of dif­fer­ent names for the APT groups assumed to be Russ­ian]

This is a par­tial spread­sheet for Russ­ian APT threat groups. The one for Chi­na is about four times as big. If it looks con­fus­ing, that’s because it is. There is no for­mal process for iden­ti­fy­ing a threat group. Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies like to assign their own nam­ing con­ven­tions so you wind up hav­ing mul­ti­ple names for the same group. For exam­ple, CrowdStrike’s Fan­cy Bear group has the pri­ma­ry name of Sofa­cy, and alter­na­tive names of APT28, Sed­nit, Pawn Storm, and Group 74.

While it’s nat­ur­al to think of Sofa­cy as a group of indi­vid­u­als, it’s more like a group of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors which include tools, tech­niques, pro­ce­dures, tar­get choic­es, coun­tries of ori­gin, and of course, peo­ple. Since most bad actors oper­ate covert­ly, we are high­ly depen­dent on the foren­sics. Since many of the tools used are shared, and oth­er indi­ca­tors eas­i­ly sub­vert­ed, the foren­sics can be unre­li­able.

Non-Gov­ern­ment Russ­ian Hack­er Groups

Russia’s Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion report­edthat Russ­ian cyber­crim­i­nals are re-invest­ing 40% of the mil­lions of dol­lars that they earn each year in improv­ing their tech­nol­o­gy and tech­niques as they con­tin­ue to tar­get the world’s bank­ing sys­tem. Kasper­sky Lab esti­mat­ed earn­ings for one 20 mem­ber group at $1 bil­lion over a three year peri­od.

A com­mon (and erro­neous) ratio­nale for plac­ing the blame of a net­work breach on a nation state is that inde­pen­dent hack­er groups either don’t have the resources or that stolen data doesn’t have finan­cial val­ue. These recent reports by Kasper­sky Lab and Russ­ian Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion make it clear that mon­ey is no object when it comes to these inde­pen­dent groups, and that sophis­ti­cat­ed tools and encryp­tion meth­ods are con­stant­ly improved upon, just as they would be at any suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial enter­prise or gov­ern­ment agency.

That, plus the occa­sion­al cross-over between inde­pen­dent Russ­ian hack­ers and Russia’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices makes dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion between a State and non-State threat actor almost impos­si­ble. For that rea­son alone, it should be incum­bent upon pol­i­cy­mak­ers and jour­nal­ists to ques­tion their sources about how they know that the indi­vid­u­als involved are part of a State-run oper­a­tion.

A Night­mare Sce­nario

“Indeed, there will be some pol­i­cy­mak­ers who could not pass a rudi­men­ta­ry test on the “facts of the mat­ter” but who have the strongest views on what the pol­i­cy should be and how to put it into effect.” (Sher­man Kent)

Here’s my night­mare. Every time a claim of attri­bu­tion is made—right or wrong—it becomes part of a per­ma­nent record; an un-ver­i­fi­able prove­nance that is built upon by the next secu­ri­ty researcher or start­up who wants to grab a head­line, and by the one after him, and the one after her. The most sen­sa­tion­al of those claims are almost assured of inter­na­tion­al media atten­tion, and if they align with U.S. pol­i­cy inter­ests, they rapid­ly move from unver­i­fied the­o­ry to fact.

Because each head­line is informed by a report, and because indi­ca­tors of com­pro­mise and oth­er tech­ni­cal details are shared between ven­dors world­wide, any State or non-State actor in the world will soon have the abil­i­ty to imi­tate an APT group with State attri­bu­tion, launch an attack against anoth­er State, and gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient harm­ful effects to trig­ger an inter­na­tion­al inci­dent. All because some com­mer­cial cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies are com­pelled to chase head­lines with sen­sa­tion­al claims of attri­bu­tion that can­not be ver­i­fied.

I encour­age my col­leagues to leave attri­bu­tion to the FBI and the agen­cies of the Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty, and I implore every­one else to ask for proof, even from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, when­ev­er you read a head­line that places blame on a for­eign gov­ern­ment for an attack in cyber­space.

 

 

 

Discussion

31 comments for “FTR #967 Update on Ukrainian Fascism, the “Russia-Gate” Psy-Op and the Possibility of a Third World War”

  1. Check out the lat­est side effect of the Ukrain­ian civ­il war: ICBMs for North Korea. Yep, it looks like a mis­sile fac­to­ry in Dnipro, Ukraine, near the front-lines but in a gov­ern­ment-con­trolled area, is the like­ly source of North Kore­a’s recent ICBM advances:

    The New York Times

    North Korea’s Mis­sile Suc­cess Is Linked to Ukrain­ian Plant, Inves­ti­ga­tors Say

    By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
    AUG. 14, 2017

    North Korea’s suc­cess in test­ing an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile that appears able to reach the Unit­ed States was made pos­si­ble by black-mar­ket pur­chas­es of pow­er­ful rock­et engines prob­a­bly from a Ukrain­ian fac­to­ry with his­tor­i­cal ties to Russia’s mis­sile pro­gram, accord­ing to an expert analy­sis being pub­lished Mon­day and clas­si­fied assess­ments by Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    The stud­ies may solve the mys­tery of how North Korea began suc­ceed­ing so sud­den­ly after a string of fiery mis­sile fail­ures, some of which may have been caused by Amer­i­can sab­o­tage of its sup­ply chains and cyber­at­tacks on its launch­es. After those fail­ures, the North changed designs and sup­pli­ers in the past two years, accord­ing to a new study by Michael Elle­man, a mis­sile expert at the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies.

    Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because Pres­i­dent Trump has sin­gled out only Chi­na as the North’s main source of eco­nom­ic and tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port. He has nev­er blamed Ukraine or Rus­sia, though his sec­re­tary of state, Rex W. Tiller­son, made an oblique ref­er­ence to both Chi­na and Rus­sia as the nation’s “prin­ci­pal eco­nom­ic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.

    Ana­lysts who stud­ied pho­tographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspect­ing the new rock­et motors con­clud­ed that they derive from designs that once pow­ered the Sovi­et Union’s mis­sile fleet. The engines were so pow­er­ful that a sin­gle mis­sile could hurl 10 ther­monu­clear war­heads between con­ti­nents.

    Those engines were linked to only a few for­mer Sovi­et sites. Gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tors and experts have focused their inquiries on a mis­sile fac­to­ry in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the ter­ri­to­ry where Rus­sia is fight­ing a low-lev­el war to break off part of Ukraine. Dur­ing the Cold War, the fac­to­ry made the dead­liest mis­siles in the Sovi­et arse­nal, includ­ing the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s pri­ma­ry pro­duc­ers of mis­siles even after Ukraine gained inde­pen­dence.

    But since Ukraine’s pro-Russ­ian pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovych, was removed from pow­er in 2014, the state-owned fac­to­ry, known as Yuzh­mash, has fall­en on hard times. The Rus­sians can­celed upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The fac­to­ry is under­used, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most like­ly source of the engines that in July pow­ered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to sug­gest that North Korea has the range, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly the accu­ra­cy or war­head tech­nol­o­gy, to threat­en Amer­i­can cities.

    “It’s like­ly that these engines came from Ukraine — prob­a­bly illic­it­ly,” Mr. Elle­man said in an inter­view. “The big ques­tion is how many they have and whether the Ukraini­ans are help­ing them now. I’m very wor­ried.”

    Bol­ster­ing his con­clu­sion, he added, was a find­ing by Unit­ed Nations inves­ti­ga­tors that North Korea tried six years ago to steal mis­sile secrets from the Ukrain­ian com­plex. Two North Kore­ans were caught, and a U.N. report said the infor­ma­tion they tried to steal was focused on advanced “mis­sile sys­tems, liq­uid-pro­pel­lant engines, space­craft and mis­sile fuel sup­ply sys­tems.”

    Inves­ti­ga­tors now believe that, amid the chaos of post-rev­o­lu­tion­ary Ukraine, Pyongyang tried again.

    Mr. Elleman’s detailed analy­sis is pub­lic con­fir­ma­tion of what intel­li­gence offi­cials have been say­ing pri­vate­ly for some time: The new mis­siles are based on a tech­nol­o­gy so com­plex that it would have been impos­si­ble for the North Kore­ans to have switched gears so quick­ly them­selves. They appar­ent­ly fired up the new engine for the first time in Sep­tem­ber — mean­ing that it took only 10 months to go from that basic mile­stone to fir­ing an ICBM, a short time unless they were able to buy designs, hard­ware and exper­tise on the black mar­ket.

    The White House had no com­ment when asked about the intel­li­gence assess­ments.

    Last month, Yuzh­mash denied reports that the fac­to­ry com­plex was strug­gling for sur­vival and sell­ing its tech­nolo­gies abroad, in par­tic­u­lar to Chi­na. Its web­site says the com­pa­ny does not, has not and will not par­tic­i­pate in “the trans­fer of poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous tech­nolo­gies out­side Ukraine.”

    Amer­i­can inves­ti­ga­tors do not believe that denial, though they say there is no evi­dence that the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Petro O. Poroshenko, who recent­ly vis­it­ed the White House, had any knowl­edge or con­trol over what was hap­pen­ing inside the com­plex.

    On Mon­day, after this sto­ry was pub­lished, Olek­san­dr Turchynov, a top nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cial in the gov­ern­ment of Mr. Poroshenko, denied any Ukrain­ian involve­ment.

    “This infor­ma­tion is not based on any grounds, provoca­tive by its con­tent, and most like­ly pro­voked by Russ­ian secret ser­vices to cov­er their own crimes,” Mr. Turchynov said. He said the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment views North Korea as “total­i­tar­i­an, dan­ger­ous and unpre­dictable, and sup­ports all sanc­tions against this coun­try.”

    How the Russ­ian-designed engines, called the RD-250, got to North Korea is still a mys­tery.

    Mr. Elle­man was unable to rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a large Russ­ian mis­sile enter­prise, Ener­go­mash, which has strong ties to the Ukrain­ian com­plex, had a role in the trans­fer of the RD-250 engine tech­nol­o­gy to North Korea. He said left­over RD-250 engines might also be stored in Russ­ian ware­hous­es.

    But the fact that the pow­er­ful engines did get to North Korea, despite a raft of Unit­ed Nations sanc­tions, sug­gests a broad intel­li­gence fail­ure involv­ing the many nations that mon­i­tor Pyongyang.

    Since Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma ordered a step-up in sab­o­tage against the North’s mis­sile sys­tems in 2014, Amer­i­can offi­cials have close­ly mon­i­tored their suc­cess. They appeared to have won a major vic­to­ry last fall, when Mr. Kim ordered an end to flight tests of the Musu­dan, an inter­me­di­ate-range mis­sile that was a focus of the Amer­i­can sab­o­tage effort.

    But no soon­er had Mr. Kim ordered a stand-down of that sys­tem than the North rolled out engines of a dif­fer­ent design. And those tests were more suc­cess­ful.

    ...

    It is unclear who is respon­si­ble for sell­ing the rock­ets and the design knowl­edge, and intel­li­gence offi­cials have dif­fer­ing the­o­ries about the details. But Mr. Elle­man makes a strong cir­cum­stan­tial case that would impli­cate the dete­ri­o­rat­ing fac­to­ry com­plex and its under­em­ployed engi­neers.

    “I feel for those guys,” said Mr. Elle­man, who vis­it­ed the fac­to­ry repeat­ed­ly a decade ago while work­ing on fed­er­al projects to curb weapon threats. “They don’t want to do bad things.”

    Dnipro has been called the world’s fastest-shrink­ing city. The sprawl­ing fac­to­ry, south­east of Kiev and once a dynamo of the Cold War, is hav­ing a hard time find­ing cus­tomers.

    Amer­i­can intel­li­gence offi­cials note that North Korea has exploit­ed the black mar­ket in mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy for decades, and built an infra­struc­ture of uni­ver­si­ties, design cen­ters and fac­to­ries of its own.

    It has also recruit­ed help: In 1992, offi­cials at a Moscow air­port stopped a team of mis­sile experts from trav­el­ing to Pyongyang.

    That was only a tem­po­rary set­back for North Korea. It obtained the design for the R‑27, a com­pact mis­sile made for Sovi­et sub­marines, cre­at­ed by the Makeyev Design Bureau, an indus­tri­al com­plex in the Ural Moun­tains that employed the rogue experts appre­hend­ed at the Moscow air­port.

    But the R‑27 was com­pli­cat­ed, and the design was dif­fi­cult for the North to copy and fly suc­cess­ful­ly.

    Even­tu­al­ly, the North turned to an alter­na­tive font of engine secrets — the Yuzh­mash plant in Ukraine, as well as its design bureau, Yuzh­noye. The team’s engines were poten­tial­ly eas­i­er to copy because they were designed not for cramped sub­marines but roomi­er land-based mis­siles. That sim­pli­fied the engi­neer­ing.

    Eco­nom­i­cal­ly, the plant and design bureau faced new head­winds after Rus­sia in ear­ly 2014 invad­ed and annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Rela­tions between the two nations turned icy, and Moscow with­drew plans to have Yuzh­mash make new ver­sions of the SS-18 mis­sile.

    In July 2014, a report for the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace warned that such eco­nom­ic upset could put Ukrain­ian mis­sile and atom­ic experts “out of work and could expose their cru­cial know-how to rogue regimes and pro­lif­er­a­tors.”

    The first clues that a Ukrain­ian engine had fall­en into North Kore­an hands came in Sep­tem­ber when Mr. Kim super­vised a ground test of a new rock­et engine that ana­lysts called the biggest and most pow­er­ful to date.

    Nor­bert Brügge, a Ger­man ana­lyst, report­ed that pho­tos of the engine fir­ing revealed strong sim­i­lar­i­ties between it and the RD-250, a Yuzh­mash mod­el.

    Alarms rang loud­er after a sec­ond ground fir­ing of the North’s new engine, in March, and its pow­er­ing of the flight in May of a new inter­me­di­ate-range mis­sile, the Hwa­song-12. It broke the North’s record for mis­sile dis­tance. Its high tra­jec­to­ry, if lev­eled out, trans­lat­ed into about 2,800 miles, or far enough to fly beyond the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary base at Guam.

    On June 1, Mr. Elle­man struck an appre­hen­sive note. He argued that the potent engine clear­ly hailed from “a dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­er than all the oth­er engines that we’ve seen.”

    Mr. Elle­man said the North’s diver­si­fi­ca­tion into a new line of mis­sile engines was impor­tant because it under­mined the West’s assump­tions about the nation’s mis­sile prowess: “We could be in for sur­pris­es.”

    That is exact­ly what hap­pened. The first of the North’s two tests in July of a new mis­sile, the Hwa­song-14, went a dis­tance suf­fi­cient to threat­en Alas­ka, sur­pris­ing the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. The sec­ond went far enough to reach the West Coast, and per­haps Den­ver or Chica­go.

    Last week, the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists fea­tured a detailed analy­sis of the new engine, also con­clud­ing that it was derived from the RD-250. The find­ing, the ana­lysts said, “rais­es new and poten­tial­ly omi­nous ques­tions.”

    The emerg­ing clues sug­gest not only new threats from North Korea, ana­lysts say, but new dan­gers of glob­al mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion because the Ukrain­ian fac­to­ry remains finan­cial­ly belea­guered. It now makes trol­ley bus­es and trac­tors, while seek­ing new rock­et con­tracts to help regain some of its past glo­ry.

    ———-

    “North Korea’s Mis­sile Suc­cess Is Linked to Ukrain­ian Plant, Inves­ti­ga­tors Say” by WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER; The New York Times; 08/14/2017

    “Mr. Elleman’s detailed analy­sis is pub­lic con­fir­ma­tion of what intel­li­gence offi­cials have been say­ing pri­vate­ly for some time: The new mis­siles are based on a tech­nol­o­gy so com­plex that it would have been impos­si­ble for the North Kore­ans to have switched gears so quick­ly them­selves. They appar­ent­ly fired up the new engine for the first time in Sep­tem­ber — mean­ing that it took only 10 months to go from that basic mile­stone to fir­ing an ICBM, a short time unless they were able to buy designs, hard­ware and exper­tise on the black mar­ket.”

    Yep, despite the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s attempts to sug­gest that it was actu­al­ly Rus­sia behind the mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer to North Korea, the evi­dence its point­ing inves­ti­ga­tors towards a Ukrain­ian mis­sile fac­to­ry fall­en on hard times. So is Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment qui­et­ly deal­ing with North Korea or was it an inde­pen­dent oper­a­tion by under­paid employ­ees of a mis­sile fac­to­ry who sud­den­ly lost their pri­ma­ry cus­tomers in Rus­sia when the war broke out? Or the far-right and neo-Nazis involved? These of the grim ques­tions we now get to add to the pile of of grim ques­tions about about the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine:

    ...
    But since Ukraine’s pro-Russ­ian pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovych, was removed from pow­er in 2014, the state-owned fac­to­ry, known as Yuzh­mash, has fall­en on hard times. The Rus­sians can­celed upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The fac­to­ry is under­used, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most like­ly source of the engines that in July pow­ered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to sug­gest that North Korea has the range, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly the accu­ra­cy or war­head tech­nol­o­gy, to threat­en Amer­i­can cities.

    “It’s like­ly that these engines came from Ukraine — prob­a­bly illic­it­ly,” Mr. Elle­man said in an inter­view. “The big ques­tion is how many they have and whether the Ukraini­ans are help­ing them now. I’m very wor­ried.”

    Bol­ster­ing his con­clu­sion, he added, was a find­ing by Unit­ed Nations inves­ti­ga­tors that North Korea tried six years ago to steal mis­sile secrets from the Ukrain­ian com­plex. Two North Kore­ans were caught, and a U.N. report said the infor­ma­tion they tried to steal was focused on advanced “mis­sile sys­tems, liq­uid-pro­pel­lant engines, space­craft and mis­sile fuel sup­ply sys­tems.”

    Inves­ti­ga­tors now believe that, amid the chaos of post-rev­o­lu­tion­ary Ukraine, Pyongyang tried again.
    ...

    “The big ques­tion is how many they have and whether the Ukraini­ans are help­ing them now. I’m very wor­ried.”

    Anoth­er ques­tion raised by all this relates to the calls by the far-right coali­tion of Svo­bo­da, Right Sec­tor and Nation­al Corps called back in March for Ukraine to acquire its own nuclear weapons arse­nal: So if Ukraine decid­ed to qui­et­ly acquire its own nukes, does it have the capa­bil­i­ty to do that on its own? Or did it effec­tive­ly lose that capa­bil­i­ty when it gave up its nuclear arse­nal in 1994? Are ele­ments in Ukraine just look­ing to sell on the nuclear black mar­ket or buy too? They’re ques­tions we have to ask now that we now have a coali­tion of Ukrain­ian neo-Nazis call­ing for Ukraine to get its own nukes on top of reports of Ukrain­ian ICBM mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy black mar­ket activ­i­ty. Along with the gener­ic ques­tion of WTF is wrong with human­i­ty. That one nev­er gets old.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2017, 1:46 pm
  2. Check out the big New York Times arti­cle on the lat­est twist in the inves­ti­ga­tion of the 2016 DNC hacks and the quest to prove Russ­ian hack­ers were behind it: There’s a wit­ness! A real flesh and blood wit­ness! Yep.

    So who is this wit­ness? A Ukrain­ian hack­er known as “the Pro­fex­er” who is appar­ent­ly well respect­ed in the hack­er com­mu­ni­ty and cre­ates freely avail­able mal­ware that’s wide­ly used by hack­ers across the for­mer Sovi­et Union (and pre­sum­ably every­where else since there’s no rea­son effec­tive hack­ing tools would be lim­it­ed to the for­mer Sovi­et Union). He appar­ent­ly makes his mon­ey by charg­ing users for exper­tise in how to employ his tools and for writ­ing cus­tom mal­ware. In oth­er words, it sounds like this was a pret­ty promi­nent hack­er.

    And what did the “the Pro­fex­er” wit­ness? The Pro­fex­er was alleged­ly hired by the anony­mous Russ­ian state-spon­sored hack­ers to write cus­tomized code used in the DNC hacks. But he did­n’t real­ize who he was work­ing for or the intend­ed pur­pose of the cus­tom code. And it’s unclear how much actu­al inter­ac­tion he had with the Russ­ian hack­ing team. But he does know their online han­dles.

    And why did he come for­ward as a wit­ness? Well, as the arti­cle describes, after the US Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty released its “Oper­a­tion Griz­zly Steppe” report in late Decem­ber that pur­port­ed to show the tech­ni­cal evi­dence the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment was behind the hacks there was a lot of con­fu­sion of why it was that the tech­ni­cal evi­dence was­n’t point­ing towards Rus­sia but instead Ukraine. In par­tic­u­lar, one of the sam­ple piece of mal­ware released in that report was a tool called P.A.S. web shell, a script that could be uploaded to a serv­er that would allow for remote exe­cu­tion of com­mand. And P.A.S. web shell is the Pro­fex­er’s tool. His wide­ly used freely avail­able tool. It was appar­ent­ly at that point that the Pro­fex­er start­ing get­ting very ner­vous that he was going to be arrest­ed by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and hand­ed over to the US. So he decid­ed to turn him­self in to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties.

    So a Ukrain­ian hack­er who builds wide­ly used free hack­ing tools and whose tool was used in at least one of the DNC hacks decid­ed to turn him­self in to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties. He does­n’t have any actu­al evi­dence he was hired by a Russ­ian hack­ing team, he claims he did­n’t know who hired him or why, but appar­ent­ly he was so freaked out about his tool show­ing up in the “Griz­zly Steppe” report that he decid­ed to turn him­self in to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties. And that’s the big twist that the fol­low­ing arti­cle con­torts into fur­ther evi­dence of Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers.

    But the sto­ry gets even shadier: The asser­tion that the Pro­fex­er was paid by Russ­ian hack­ers to write cus­tom mal­ware comes from Anton Gerashchenko, a far-right mem­ber of Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment with close ties to the secu­ri­ty ser­vices. And accord­ing to Mr. Gerashchenko, the inter­ac­tion the Prefex­or had with the ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’ was online or by phone and that the Ukrain­ian pro­gram­mer had been paid to write cus­tomized mal­ware with­out know­ing its pur­pose. But as the arti­cle also notes, “It is not clear whether the spe­cif­ic mal­ware the pro­gram­mer cre­at­ed was used to hack the D.N.C. servers, but it was iden­ti­fied in oth­er Russ­ian hack­ing efforts in the Unit­ed States.” So the cus­tom code that the Pro­fex­er claims to have writ­ten for the Russ­ian hack­ers who hacked the DNC maybe not have actu­al­ly been used in the DNC hacks. But what about the P.A.S. web shell tool the Pro­fex­er wrote that was cit­ed in the “Griz­zly Steppe” report? Well, as many not­ed fol­low­ing the Griz­zly Steppe report, the ver­sion of P.A.S. web shell they released in their sam­ple mal­ware used in the attack was an out­dat­ed ver­sion of P.A.S. web shell.

    The arti­cle also notes that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has hand­ed over to the FBI serv­er images of the Ukrain­ian Elec­tion Com­mis­sion serv­er that was hacked in 2014 dur­ing a high pro­file hack sus­pect­ed to be the work of Russ­ian gov­ern­ment agents. Inves­ti­ga­tors have found traces of the same mal­ware on that serv­er that was used in the DNC hacks which is being used as fur­ther evi­dence that Russ­ian hack­ers were behind the DNC hacks, ignor­ing the fact high­light­ed by the rest of the arti­cle that hack­ers often use the same tools.

    So, to sum­ma­rize, the hot new sto­ry about the flesh and blood wit­ness in the ‘Russ­ian hacks’ is a noto­ri­ous Ukrain­ian hack­er whose freely avail­able and pop­u­lar P.A.S. web shell hack­ing tool was released in batch of sam­ple mal­ware in the Griz­zly Steppe report. And despite being the author of a wide­ly used hack­ing tool that’s pop­u­lar with hack­ers across the for­mer Sovi­et Union, the fact that his tool turned up in the DHS report freaked him out so much that he decid­ed to turn him­self in to author­i­ties, claim­ing that he was hired by peo­ple he believes were the Russ­ian hack­ers to write cus­tomized tools, although he did­n’t sus­pect it at the time and can only iden­ti­fy these peo­ple by their anony­mous online han­dles. The P.A.S. web shell tool that was used in the hacks was an out­dat­ed ver­sion and it’s unclear whether the cus­tom tool he alleged­ly wrote was used in the DNC hacks at all. That’s the flesh and blood wit­ness:

    The New York Times

    In Ukraine, a Mal­ware Expert Who Could Blow the Whis­tle on Russ­ian Hack­ing

    By ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW HIGGINS
    AUG. 16, 2017

    KIEV, Ukraine — The hack­er, known only by his online alias “Pro­fex­er,” kept a low pro­file. He wrote com­put­er code alone in an apart­ment and qui­et­ly sold his hand­i­work on the anony­mous por­tion of the inter­net known as the dark web. Last win­ter, he sud­den­ly went dark entire­ly.

    Profexer’s posts, already acces­si­ble only to a small band of fel­low hack­ers and cyber­crim­i­nals look­ing for soft­ware tips, blinked out in Jan­u­ary — just days after Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies pub­licly iden­ti­fied a pro­gram he had writ­ten as one tool used in Russ­ian hack­ing in the Unit­ed States. Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies have deter­mined Russ­ian hack­ers were behind the elec­tron­ic break-in of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee.

    But while Profexer’s online per­sona van­ished, a flesh-and-blood per­son has emerged: a fear­ful man who the Ukrain­ian police said turned him­self in ear­ly this year, and has now become a wit­ness for the F.B.I.

    “I don’t know what will hap­pen,” he wrote in one of his last mes­sages post­ed on a restrict­ed-access web­site before going to the police. “It won’t be pleas­ant. But I’m still alive.”

    It is the first known instance of a liv­ing wit­ness emerg­ing from the arid mass of tech­ni­cal detail that has so far shaped the inves­ti­ga­tion into the elec­tion hack­ing and the heat­ed debate it has stirred. The Ukrain­ian police declined to divulge the man’s name or oth­er details, oth­er than that he is liv­ing in Ukraine and has not been arrest­ed.

    There is no evi­dence that Pro­fex­er worked, at least know­ing­ly, for Russia’s intel­li­gence ser­vices, but his mal­ware appar­ent­ly did.

    That a hack­ing oper­a­tion that Wash­ing­ton is con­vinced was orches­trat­ed by Moscow would obtain mal­ware from a source in Ukraine — per­haps the Kremlin’s most bit­ter ene­my — sheds con­sid­er­able light on the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices’ modus operan­di in what West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies say is their clan­des­tine cyber­war against the Unit­ed States and Europe.

    It does not sug­gest a com­pact team of gov­ern­ment employ­ees who write all their own code and car­ry out attacks dur­ing office hours in Moscow or St. Peters­burg, but rather a far loos­er enter­prise that draws on tal­ent and hack­ing tools wher­ev­er they can be found.

    Also emerg­ing from Ukraine is a sharp­er pic­ture of what the Unit­ed States believes is a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ing group known as Advanced Per­sis­tent Threat 28 or Fan­cy Bear. It is this group, which Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies believe is oper­at­ed by Russ­ian mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, that has been blamed, along with a sec­ond Russ­ian out­fit known as Cozy Bear, for the D.N.C. intru­sion.

    Rather than train­ing, arm­ing and deploy­ing hack­ers to car­ry out a spe­cif­ic mis­sion like just anoth­er mil­i­tary unit, Fan­cy Bear and its twin Cozy Bear have oper­at­ed more as cen­ters for orga­ni­za­tion and financ­ing; much of the hard work like cod­ing is out­sourced to pri­vate and often crime-taint­ed ven­dors.

    Russia’s Test­ing Ground

    In more than a decade of track­ing sus­pect­ed Russ­ian-direct­ed cyber­at­tacks against a host of tar­gets in the West and in for­mer Sovi­et ter­ri­to­ries — NATO, elec­tri­cal grids, research groups, jour­nal­ists crit­i­cal of Rus­sia and polit­i­cal par­ties, to name a few — secu­ri­ty ser­vices around the world have iden­ti­fied only a hand­ful of peo­ple who are direct­ly involved in either car­ry­ing out such attacks or pro­vid­ing the cyber­weapons that were used.

    This absence of reli­able wit­ness­es has left ample room for Pres­i­dent Trump and oth­ers to raise doubts about whether Rus­sia real­ly was involved in the D.N.C. hack.

    “There is not now and nev­er has been a sin­gle piece of tech­ni­cal evi­dence pro­duced that con­nects the mal­ware used in the D.N.C. attack to the G.R.U., F.S.B. or any agency of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment,” said Jef­frey Carr, the author of a book on cyber­war­fare. The G.R.U. is Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency, and the F.S.B. its fed­er­al secu­ri­ty ser­vice.

    Unit­ed States intel­li­gence agen­cies, how­ev­er, have been unequiv­o­cal in point­ing a fin­ger at Rus­sia.

    ...

    Secu­ri­ty experts were ini­tial­ly left scratch­ing their heads when the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty on Dec. 29 released tech­ni­cal evi­dence of Russ­ian hack­ing that seemed to point not to Rus­sia, but rather to Ukraine.

    In this ini­tial report, the depart­ment released only one sam­ple of mal­ware said to be an indi­ca­tor of Russ­ian state-spon­sored hack­ing, though out­side experts said a vari­ety of mali­cious pro­grams were used in Russ­ian elec­toral hack­ing.

    The sam­ple point­ed to a mal­ware pro­gram, called the P.A.S. web shell, a hack­ing tool adver­tised on Russ­ian-lan­guage dark web forums and used by cyber­crim­i­nals through­out the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The author, Pro­fex­er, is a well-regard­ed tech­ni­cal expert among hack­ers, spo­ken about with awe and respect in Kiev.

    He had made it avail­able to down­load, free, from a web­site that asked only for dona­tions, rang­ing from $3 to $250. The real mon­ey was made by sell­ing cus­tomized ver­sions and by guid­ing his hack­er clients in its effec­tive use. It remains unclear how exten­sive­ly he inter­act­ed with the Russ­ian hack­ing team.

    After the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty iden­ti­fied his cre­ation, he quick­ly shut down his web­site and post­ed on a closed forum for hack­ers, called Exploit, that “I’m not inter­est­ed in exces­sive atten­tion to me per­son­al­ly.”

    Soon, a hint of pan­ic appeared, and he post­ed a note say­ing that, six days on, he was still alive.

    Anoth­er hack­er, with the nick­name Zloi San­ta, or Bad San­ta, sug­gest­ed the Amer­i­cans would cer­tain­ly find him, and place him under arrest, per­haps dur­ing a lay­over at an air­port.

    “It could be, or it could not be, it depends only on pol­i­tics,” Pro­fex­er respond­ed. “If U.S. law enforce­ment wants to take me down, they will not wait for me in some country’s air­port. Rela­tions between our coun­tries are so tight I would be arrest­ed in my kitchen, at the first request.”

    In fact, Ser­hiy Demediuk, chief of the Ukrain­ian Cyber Police, said in an inter­view that Pro­fex­er went to the author­i­ties him­self. As the coop­er­a­tion began, Pro­fex­er went dark on hack­er forums. He last post­ed online on Jan. 9. Mr. Demediuk said he had made the wit­ness avail­able to the F.B.I., which has post­ed a full-time cyber­se­cu­ri­ty expert in Kiev as one of four bureau agents sta­tioned at the Unit­ed States Embassy there. The F.B.I. declined to com­ment.

    Pro­fex­er was not arrest­ed because his activ­i­ties fell in a legal gray zone, as an author but not a user of mal­ware, the Ukrain­ian police say. But he did know the users, at least by their online han­dles. “He told us he didn’t cre­ate it to be used in the way it was,” Mr. Demediuk said.

    A mem­ber of Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment with close ties to the secu­ri­ty ser­vices, Anton Gerashchenko, said that the inter­ac­tion was online or by phone and that the Ukrain­ian pro­gram­mer had been paid to write cus­tomized mal­ware with­out know­ing its pur­pose, only lat­er learn­ing it was used in Russ­ian hack­ing.

    Mr. Gerashchenko described the author only in broad strokes, to pro­tect his safe­ty, as a young man from a provin­cial Ukrain­ian city. He con­firmed that the author turned him­self in to the police and was coop­er­at­ing as a wit­ness in the D.N.C. inves­ti­ga­tion. “He was a free­lancer and now he is a valu­able wit­ness,” Mr. Gerashchenko said.

    It is not clear whether the spe­cif­ic mal­ware the pro­gram­mer cre­at­ed was used to hack the D.N.C. servers, but it was iden­ti­fied in oth­er Russ­ian hack­ing efforts in the Unit­ed States.

    A Bear’s Lair

    While it is not known what Pro­fex­er has told Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tors and the F.B.I. about Russia’s hack­ing efforts, evi­dence ema­nat­ing from Ukraine has again pro­vid­ed some of the clear­est pic­tures yet about Fan­cy Bear, or Advanced Per­sis­tent Threat 28, which is run by the G.R.U.

    Fan­cy Bear has been iden­ti­fied most­ly by what it does, not by who does it. One of its recur­ring fea­tures has been the theft of emails and its close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Russ­ian state news media.

    Track­ing the bear to its lair, how­ev­er, has so far proved impos­si­ble, not least because many experts believe that no such sin­gle place exists.

    Even for a sophis­ti­cat­ed tech com­pa­ny like Microsoft, sin­gling out indi­vid­u­als in the dig­i­tal mias­ma has proved just about impos­si­ble. To cur­tail the dam­age to clients’ oper­at­ing sys­tems, the com­pa­ny filed a com­plaint against Fan­cy Bear last year with the Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court for the East­ern Dis­trict of Vir­ginia but found itself box­ing with shad­ows.

    As Microsoft lawyers report­ed to the court, “because defen­dants used fake con­tact infor­ma­tion, anony­mous Bit­coin and pre­paid cred­it cards and false iden­ti­ties, and sophis­ti­cat­ed tech­ni­cal means to con­ceal their iden­ti­ties, when set­ting up and using the rel­e­vant inter­net domains, defen­dants’ true iden­ti­ties remain unknown.”

    Nev­er­the­less, Ukrain­ian offi­cials, though wary of upset­ting the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, have been qui­et­ly coop­er­at­ing with Amer­i­can inves­ti­ga­tors to try to fig­ure out who stands behind all the dis­guis­es.

    Includ­ed in this shar­ing of infor­ma­tion were copies of the serv­er hard dri­ves of Ukraine’s Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, which were tar­get­ed dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in May 2014. That the F.B.I. had obtained evi­dence of this ear­li­er, Russ­ian-linked elec­toral hack has not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Traces of the same mali­cious code, this time a pro­gram called Sofa­cy, were seen in the 2014 attack in Ukraine and lat­er in the D.N.C. intru­sion in the Unit­ed States.

    Intrigu­ing­ly, in the cyber­at­tack dur­ing the Ukrain­ian elec­tion, what appears to have been a bun­gle by Chan­nel 1, a Russ­ian state tele­vi­sion sta­tion, inad­ver­tent­ly impli­cat­ed the gov­ern­ment author­i­ties in Moscow.

    Hack­ers had loaded onto a Ukrain­ian elec­tion com­mis­sion serv­er a graph­ic mim­ic­k­ing the page for dis­play­ing results. This pho­ny page showed a shock­er of an out­come: an elec­tion win for a fierce­ly anti-Russ­ian, ultra­right can­di­date, Dmytro Yarosh. Mr. Yarosh in real­i­ty received less than 1 per­cent of the vote.

    The false result would have played into a Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da nar­ra­tive that Ukraine today is ruled by hard-right, even fas­cist, fig­ures.

    The fake image was pro­grammed to dis­play when polls closed, at 8 p.m., but a Ukrain­ian cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, InfoS­afe, dis­cov­ered it just min­utes ear­li­er and unplugged the serv­er.

    State tele­vi­sion in Rus­sia nev­er­the­less report­ed that Mr. Yarosh had won and broad­cast the fake graph­ic, cit­ing the elec­tion commission’s web­site, even though the image had nev­er appeared there. The hack­er had clear­ly pro­vid­ed Chan­nel 1 with the same image in advance, but the reporters had failed to check that the hack actu­al­ly worked.

    “For me, this is an obvi­ous link between the hack­ers and Russ­ian offi­cials,” said Vic­tor Zho­ra, direc­tor of InfoS­afe, the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­ny that first found the fake graph­ic.

    A Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment researcher who stud­ied the hack, Niko­lai Koval, pub­lished his find­ings in a 2015 book, “Cyber­war in Per­spec­tive,” and iden­ti­fied the Sofa­cy mal­ware on the serv­er.

    The mir­ror of the hard dri­ve went to the F.B.I., which had this foren­sic sam­ple when the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Crowd­Strike iden­ti­fied the same mal­ware two years lat­er, on the D.N.C. servers.

    “It was the first strike,” Mr. Zho­ra said of the ear­li­er hack of Ukraine’s elec­toral com­put­ers. Ukraine’s Cyber Police have also pro­vid­ed the F.B.I. with copies of serv­er hard dri­ves show­ing the pos­si­ble ori­gins of some phish­ing emails tar­get­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty dur­ing the elec­tion.

    In 2016, two years after the elec­tion hack in Ukraine, hack­ers using some of the same tech­niques plun­dered the email sys­tem of the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency, or WADA, which had accused Russ­ian ath­letes of sys­tem­at­ic drug use.

    That raid, too, seems to have been close­ly coor­di­nat­ed with Russ­ian state tele­vi­sion, which began air­ing well-pre­pared reports about WADA’s hacked emails just min­utes after they were made pub­lic. The emails appeared on a web­site that announced that WADA had been hacked by a group call­ing itself the “Fan­cy Bears’ Hack Team.”

    It was the first time Fan­cy Bear had bro­ken cov­er.

    Fan­cy Bear remains extra­or­di­nar­i­ly elu­sive, how­ev­er. To throw inves­ti­ga­tors off its scent, the group has under­gone var­i­ous makeovers, restock­ing its arse­nal of mal­ware and some­times hid­ing under dif­fer­ent guis­es. One of its alter egos, cyber­ex­perts believe, is Cyber Berkut, an out­fit sup­pos­ed­ly set up in Ukraine by sup­port­ers of the country’s pro-Russ­ian pres­i­dent, Vik­tor F. Yanukovych, who was oust­ed in 2014.

    After lying dor­mant for many months, Cyber Berkut jumped back into action this sum­mer just as mul­ti­ple inves­ti­ga­tions in Wash­ing­ton into whether the Trump cam­paign col­lud­ed with Moscow shift­ed into high gear. Cyber Berkut released stolen emails that it and Russ­ian state news media said had exposed the real sto­ry: Hillary Clin­ton had col­lud­ed with Ukraine.

    ———-

    “In Ukraine, a Mal­ware Expert Who Could Blow the Whis­tle on Russ­ian Hack­ing” by ANDREW E. KRAMER and ANDREW HIGGINS; The New York Times; 08/16/2017

    “Secu­ri­ty experts were ini­tial­ly left scratch­ing their heads when the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty on Dec. 29 released tech­ni­cal evi­dence of Russ­ian hack­ing that seemed to point not to Rus­sia, but rather to Ukraine.”

    Yep, when the DHS released its “Griz­zly Steppe” report in late Decem­ber the tech­ni­cal evi­dence curi­ous­ly seemed to point not towards Rus­sia but towards Urkaine. And the sam­ple mal­ware in that report hap­pened to be the Pro­fex­er’s P.A.S. web shell tool which so ter­ri­fied that hack­er, a revered hack­er and author of pop­u­lar freely avail­able hack­ing tools, that he decid­ed to turn him­self in Ukrain­ian author­i­ties short­ly after­wards:

    ...
    Secu­ri­ty experts were ini­tial­ly left scratch­ing their heads when the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty on Dec. 29 released tech­ni­cal evi­dence of Russ­ian hack­ing that seemed to point not to Rus­sia, but rather to Ukraine.

    In this ini­tial report, the depart­ment released only one sam­ple of mal­ware said to be an indi­ca­tor of Russ­ian state-spon­sored hack­ing, though out­side experts said a vari­ety of mali­cious pro­grams were used in Russ­ian elec­toral hack­ing.

    The sam­ple point­ed to a mal­ware pro­gram, called the P.A.S. web shell, a hack­ing tool adver­tised on Russ­ian-lan­guage dark web forums and used by cyber­crim­i­nals through­out the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The author, Pro­fex­er, is a well-regard­ed tech­ni­cal expert among hack­ers, spo­ken about with awe and respect in Kiev.

    He had made it avail­able to down­load, free, from a web­site that asked only for dona­tions, rang­ing from $3 to $250. The real mon­ey was made by sell­ing cus­tomized ver­sions and by guid­ing his hack­er clients in its effec­tive use. It remains unclear how exten­sive­ly he inter­act­ed with the Russ­ian hack­ing team.

    After the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty iden­ti­fied his cre­ation, he quick­ly shut down his web­site and post­ed on a closed forum for hack­ers, called Exploit, that “I’m not inter­est­ed in exces­sive atten­tion to me per­son­al­ly.”
    ...

    And accord­ing to the far-right Ukrain­ian MP, Anton Gerashchenko, the Pro­fex­er was indeed hired by these Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers to write cus­tomized mal­ware. But the Pro­fex­er can’t actu­al­ly iden­ti­fy them by any­thing oth­er than their anony­mous online han­dles and it’s unclear if that cus­tomized mal­ware was actu­al­ly used in the DNC hacks, although it’s appar­ent­ly clear that the cus­tomized mal­ware was used in oth­er hack­ing efforts in the US:

    ...
    In fact, Ser­hiy Demediuk, chief of the Ukrain­ian Cyber Police, said in an inter­view that Pro­fex­er went to the author­i­ties him­self. As the coop­er­a­tion began, Pro­fex­er went dark on hack­er forums. He last post­ed online on Jan. 9. Mr. Demediuk said he had made the wit­ness avail­able to the F.B.I., which has post­ed a full-time cyber­se­cu­ri­ty expert in Kiev as one of four bureau agents sta­tioned at the Unit­ed States Embassy there. The F.B.I. declined to com­ment.

    Pro­fex­er was not arrest­ed because his activ­i­ties fell in a legal gray zone, as an author but not a user of mal­ware, the Ukrain­ian police say. But he did know the users, at least by their online han­dles. “He told us he didn’t cre­ate it to be used in the way it was,” Mr. Demediuk said.

    A mem­ber of Ukraine’s Par­lia­ment with close ties to the secu­ri­ty ser­vices, Anton Gerashchenko, said that the inter­ac­tion was online or by phone and that the Ukrain­ian pro­gram­mer had been paid to write cus­tomized mal­ware with­out know­ing its pur­pose, only lat­er learn­ing it was used in Russ­ian hack­ing.

    Mr. Gerashchenko described the author only in broad strokes, to pro­tect his safe­ty, as a young man from a provin­cial Ukrain­ian city. He con­firmed that the author turned him­self in to the police and was coop­er­at­ing as a wit­ness in the D.N.C. inves­ti­ga­tion. “He was a free­lancer and now he is a valu­able wit­ness,” Mr. Gerashchenko said.

    It is not clear whether the spe­cif­ic mal­ware the pro­gram­mer cre­at­ed was used to hack the D.N.C. servers, but it was iden­ti­fied in oth­er Russ­ian hack­ing efforts in the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    It is not clear whether the spe­cif­ic mal­ware the pro­gram­mer cre­at­ed was used to hack the D.N.C. servers, but it was iden­ti­fied in oth­er Russ­ian hack­ing efforts in the Unit­ed States.”

    And while it’s unclear whether the cus­tom mal­ware was used in the DNC hacks, it’s pret­ty clear that the P.A.S. web shell mal­ware that was used in the DNC hacks was­n’t cus­tomized. Because it was already an out­dat­ed ver­sion of P.A.S. web shell.

    So unless there’s a lot more infor­ma­tion yet to come along this line of inquiry, it’s look­ing like the pri­ma­ry crim­i­nal activ­i­ty that the Pro­fex­er wit­nessed was the his own qua­si-crime of cre­at­ed cus­tomized mal­ware for an anony­mous group that may or may not have been used in the DNC hacks. Based on this com­pelling evi­dence it appears we can nar­row the cul­prits down to...pretty much any hack­er. Huz­zah!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 17, 2017, 8:06 pm
  3. Here’s a piece from Robert Par­ry that high­lights a crit­i­cal detail about the sto­ry of the trans­fer of Ukrain­ian ICBM tech­nol­o­gy to North Korea: The region where the finan­cial­ly dis­tressed mis­sile fac­to­ry resides, Dnipropetro­vsk, had Ukrain­ian oli­garch Igor Kolo­moisky installed as gov­er­nor fol­low­ing the 2014 Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion. And Kolo­moisky just hap­pened to be a both Jew­ish and also a strong backer of the neo-Nazi ele­ments of the Ukrain­ian mili­tia units that played key com­bat roles in the mil­i­tary con­flict in East­ern Ukraine. In par­tic­u­lar the Azov bat­tal­ion, the neo-Nazi mili­tia that recent­ly form the Nation­al Corps polit­i­cal par­ty. Its one of the many trag­ic bed­fel­low sit­u­a­tions cre­at­ed by the cri­sis in Ukraine (and not exclu­sive to Ukraine giv­en the exis­tence of fas­cist Jew­ish net­works). And Nation­al Corp was one of the three neo-Nazi par­ties that recent­ly formed a far-right polit­i­cal union, along with Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor and Svo­bo­da, that called for Ukraine to end its attempts to move clos­er to the EU and instead form a “Euro­pean Union with the Baltic States” and for Ukraine to acquire its own nuclear arse­nal.

    And don’t for­get how the sto­ry of that bizarre “peace plan” that was hand deliv­ered to Michael Fly­nn by Felix Sater involved the same a far-right Ukrain­ian polit­i­cal with close ties to Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor, Andrey Arte­menko, who was schem­ing was Sater to upgrade Ukraine’s nuclear ener­gy capa­bil­i­ties with plans for elec­tric­i­ty export while and osten­si­bly improv­ing the safe­ty of Ukraine’s exist­ing nuclear infra­struc­ture. And in fair­ness, upgrad­ing the safe­ty of Ukraine’s nuclear sec­tor isn’t an unrea­son­able goal even for a bunch of neo-Nazis. But it’s anoth­er indi­ca­tion of the active inter­est of the neo-Nazi fac­tion of Ukraine’s polit­i­cal scene demon­strat­ing the coun­try’s nuclear sec­tor.

    As Par­ry also notes below, it was Kolomoisky’s oper­a­tion in Dnipro also has come under sus­pi­cion for a pos­si­ble role in the shoot-down of Malaysia Air­lines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. A shoot-down that includ­ed a num­ber of indi­ca­tions that it could have been a rogue Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the neo-Nazi mili­tias oper­at­ing in that area at the time who had access to the same anti-air­craft mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy.

    So when you have neo-Nazi polit­i­cal par­ties with a his­to­ry of a reck­less actions and a very active inter­est in upgrad­ing both the nuclear ener­gy and weapons capa­bil­i­ties of Ukraine, and one of the neo-Nazi par­ties the Azov Bat­tal­ion, it’s def­i­nite­ly worth not­ing that and the key spon­sor of the Azov Bat­tal­ion was an oli­garch who was in charge of the region where the mis­sile fac­to­ry that appears to have trans­ferred that tech­nol­o­gy hap­pens to reside:

    Con­sor­tium News

    A Ukraine Link to North Korea’s Mis­siles?

    Exclu­sive: By orches­trat­ing the 2014 “regime change” in Ukraine, U.S. neo­cons may have indi­rect­ly con­tributed to a des­per­ate Ukrain­ian fac­to­ry sell­ing advanced rock­et engines to North Korea and endan­ger­ing Amer­i­ca, writes Robert Par­ry.

    By Robert Par­ry
    August 15, 2017

    U.S. intel­li­gence ana­lysts report­ed­ly have traced North Korea’s leap for­ward in cre­at­ing an inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile capa­ble of strik­ing U.S. ter­ri­to­ry to a decay­ing Ukrain­ian rock­et-engine fac­to­ry whose alleged role could lift the cov­er off oth­er sup­pressed mys­ter­ies relat­ed to the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev.

    Because the 2014 coup – over­throw­ing elect­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych – was part­ly orches­trat­ed by the U.S. government’s influ­en­tial neo­con­ser­v­a­tives and warm­ly embraced by the West’s main­stream media, many of the ugly fea­tures of the Kiev regime have been down­played or ignored, includ­ing the fact that cor­rupt oli­garch Igor Kolo­moisky was put in charge of the area where the impli­cat­ed fac­to­ry was locat­ed.

    As the region’s gov­er­nor, the thug­gish Kolo­moisky found­ed armed mili­tias of Ukrain­ian extrem­ists, includ­ing neo-Nazis, who spear­head­ed the vio­lence against eth­nic Rus­sians in east­ern provinces, which had vot­ed heav­i­ly for Yanukovych and tried to resist his vio­lent over­throw.

    Kolo­moisky, who has triple cit­i­zen­ship from Ukraine, Cyprus and Israel, was even­tu­al­ly oust­ed as gov­er­nor of Dnipropetro­vsk (now called Dnipro) on March 25, 2015, after a show­down with Ukraine’s cur­rent Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko over con­trol of the state-owned ener­gy com­pa­ny, but by then Kolomoisky’s team had put its cor­rupt mark on the region.

    At the time of the Kolo­moisky-Poroshenko show­down, Valen­tyn Naly­vay­chenko, chief of the State Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice, accused Dnipropetro­vsk offi­cials of financ­ing armed gangs and threat­en­ing inves­ti­ga­tors, Bloomberg News report­ed, while not­ing that Ukraine had sunk to 142nd place out of 175 coun­tries in Trans­paren­cy International’s Cor­rup­tions Per­cep­tion Index, the worst in Europe.

    Even ear­li­er in Kolomoisky’s bru­tal reign, Dnipropetro­vsk had become the cen­ter for the vio­lent intrigue that has plagued Ukraine for the past sev­er­al years, includ­ing the dis­patch of neo-Nazi mili­tias to kill eth­nic Rus­sians who then turned to Rus­sia for sup­port.

    Tol­er­at­ing Nazis

    Yet, pro­tect­ed by the waves of anti-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da sweep­ing across the West, Kolomoisky’s crowd saw few rea­sons for restraint. So, among the Kolo­moisky-backed mili­tias was the Azov bat­tal­ion whose mem­bers marched with Swastikas and oth­er Nazi insignias.

    Iron­i­cal­ly, the same West­ern media which hearti­ly has con­demned neo-Nazi and white-nation­al­ist vio­lence in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, adopt­ed a much more tol­er­ant atti­tude toward Ukraine’s neo-Nazism even as those mil­i­tants mur­dered scores of eth­nic Rus­sians in Odessa in May 2014 and attacked eth­nic Russ­ian com­mu­ni­ties in the east where thou­sands more died.

    When it came to Ukraine, The New York Times and oth­er main­stream out­lets were so ded­i­cat­ed to their anti-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da that they veered between min­i­miz­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of the neo-Nazi mili­tias and treat­ing them as bul­warks of West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.

    For instance, on Feb. 11, 2015, the Times pub­lished a long arti­cle by Rick Lyman that pre­sent­ed the sit­u­a­tion in the port city of Mar­i­upol as if the advance by eth­nic Russ­ian rebels amount­ed to the arrival of bar­bar­ians at the gate while the inhab­i­tants were being brave­ly defend­ed by the forces of civ­i­liza­tion. But then the arti­cle cit­ed the key role in that defense played by the Azov bat­tal­ion.

    Though the arti­cle pro­vid­ed much col­or and detail and quot­ed an Azov leader promi­nent­ly, it left out the fact that the Azov bat­tal­ion was com­posed of neo-Nazis.

    This incon­ve­nient truth that neo-Nazis were cen­tral to Ukraine’s “self-defense forces” would have dis­rupt­ed the desired pro­pa­gan­da mes­sage about “Russ­ian aggres­sion.” After all, wouldn’t many Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans under­stand why Rus­sia, which suf­fered some 27 mil­lion dead in World War II, might be sen­si­tive to neo-Nazis killing eth­nic Rus­sians on Russia’s bor­der?

    So, in Lyman’s arti­cle, the Times ignored Azov’s well-known neo-Nazism and referred to it sim­ply as a “vol­un­teer unit.”

    In oth­er cas­es, the Times casu­al­ly brushed past the key role of fas­cist mil­i­tants. In July 2015, the Times pub­lished a curi­ous­ly upbeat sto­ry about the good news that Islam­ic mil­i­tants had joined with far-right and neo-Nazi bat­tal­ions to kill eth­nic Russ­ian rebels.

    The arti­cle by Andrew E. Kramer report­ed that there were three Islam­ic bat­tal­ions “deployed to the hottest zones,” such as around Mar­i­upol. One of the bat­tal­ions was head­ed by a for­mer Chechen war­lord who went by the name “Mus­lim,” Kramer wrote, adding:

    “The Chechen com­mands the Sheikh Mansur group, named for an 18th-cen­tu­ry Chechen resis­tance fig­ure. It is sub­or­di­nate to the nation­al­ist Right Sec­tor, a Ukrain­ian mili­tia. Right Sec­tor formed dur­ing last year’s street protests in Kiev from a half-dozen fringe Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist groups like White Ham­mer and the Tri­dent of Stepan Ban­dera.

    “Anoth­er, the Azov group, is open­ly neo-Nazi, using the Wolf’s Hook’ sym­bol asso­ci­at­ed with the [Nazi] SS. With­out address­ing the issue of the Nazi sym­bol, the Chechen said he got along well with the nation­al­ists because, like him, they loved their home­land and hat­ed the Rus­sians.”

    Rock­ets for North Korea

    The Times encoun­tered anoth­er dis­com­fort­ing real­i­ty on Mon­day when cor­re­spon­dents William J. Broad and David E. Sanger described U.S. intel­li­gence assess­ments point­ing to North Korea’s like­ly source of its new and more pow­er­ful rock­et engines as a Ukrain­ian fac­to­ry in Dnipro.

    Of course, the Times bent over back­ward to sug­gest that the blame might still fall on Rus­sia even though Dnipro is a strong­hold of some of Ukraine’s most mil­i­tant­ly anti-Russ­ian politi­cians and although U.S. intel­li­gence ana­lysts have cen­tered their sus­pi­cions on a Ukrain­ian-gov­ern­ment-owned fac­to­ry there, known as Yuzh­mash.

    So, it would seem clear that cor­rupt Ukrain­ian offi­cials, pos­si­bly in cahoots with finan­cial­ly pressed exec­u­tives or employ­ees of Yuzh­mash, are the like­li­est sus­pects in the smug­gling of these rock­et engines to North Korea.

    Even the Times couldn’t dodge that real­i­ty, say­ing: “Gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tors and experts have focused their inquiries on a mis­sile fac­to­ry in Dnipro, Ukraine.” But the Times added that Dnipro is “on the edge of the ter­ri­to­ry where Rus­sia is fight­ing a low-lev­el war to break off part of Ukraine” – to sug­gest that the Rus­sians some­how might have snuck into the fac­to­ry, stolen the engines and smug­gled them to North Korea.

    But the Times also cit­ed the view of mis­sile expert Michael Elle­man, who addressed North Korea’s sud­den access to more pow­er­ful engines in a study issued this week by the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies.

    “It’s like­ly that these engines came from Ukraine — prob­a­bly illic­it­ly,” Elle­man said in an inter­view with the Times. “The big ques­tion is how many they have and whether the Ukraini­ans are help­ing them now. I’m very wor­ried.”

    Yet, always look­ing for a chance to shift the blame to Rus­sia, the Times quick­ly insert­ed that “Mr. Elle­man was unable to rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a large Russ­ian mis­sile enter­prise, Ener­go­mash, which has strong ties to the Ukrain­ian com­plex, had a role in the trans­fer of the RD-250 engine tech­nol­o­gy to North Korea.”

    ...

    Yet, while the Ukraine cri­sis may have reduced liv­ing stan­dards for aver­age Ukraini­ans, it was an impor­tant cat­a­lyst in the cre­ation of the New Cold War between Wash­ing­ton and Moscow, which offers lucra­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties for U.S. mil­i­tary con­trac­tors and their many think-tank apol­o­gists despite increas­ing the risk of nuclear war for the rest of us.

    In par­tic­u­lar, U.S. neo­con­ser­v­a­tives have viewed height­ened ten­sions between the West and Rus­sia as valu­able both in dri­ving up mil­i­tary spend­ing and lay­ing the ground­work for a pos­si­ble “regime change” in Moscow. The neo­cons have want­ed to retal­i­ate against Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s role in frus­trat­ing neo­con (and Israeli-Sau­di) desires to over­throw Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad and to bomb Iran, which Israel and Sau­di Ara­bia now view as their prin­ci­pal region­al adver­sary.

    The neo­con/Is­raeli-Sau­di inter­ests have pro­duced many strange bed­fel­lows with weapons flow­ing to Al Qaeda’s affil­i­ate in Syr­ia, and – because of Putin’s assis­tance to Syr­ia and Iran – the tol­er­ance of neo-Nazis and Islam­ic mil­i­tants in Ukraine.

    The MH-17 Case

    Kolomoisky’s oper­a­tion in Dnipro also has come under sus­pi­cion for a pos­si­ble role in the shoot-down of Malaysia Air­lines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. Accord­ing to a source briefed by U.S. intel­li­gence ana­lysts, Dnipro was the cen­ter of a plot to use a pow­er­ful anti-air­craft mis­sile to shoot down Putin’s offi­cial plane on a return flight from South Amer­i­ca, but instead – after Putin’s plane took a more norther­ly route – the mis­sile brought down MH-17, killing all 298 peo­ple aboard.

    For rea­sons that have still not been explained, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion sup­pressed U.S. intel­li­gence reports on the MH-17 tragedy and instead joined in pin­ning the shoot-down on eth­nic Russ­ian rebels and, by impli­ca­tion, Putin and his gov­ern­ment.

    In the West, the MH-17 shoot-down became a cause cele­bre, gen­er­at­ing a pow­er­ful pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign to demo­nize Putin and Rus­sia – and push Europe into join­ing sanc­tions against Moscow. Few peo­ple dared ques­tion Rus­sia alleged guilt even though the Rus­sia-did-it argu­ments were full of holes. [See here and here.]

    Now this North Kore­an case forces the issue of Ukraine’s reck­less behav­ior to the fore again: Did an inept or cor­rupt Ukrain­ian bureau­cra­cy par­tic­i­pate in or tol­er­ate a scheme to sell pow­er­ful rock­et engines to North Korea and enable a nuclear threat to U.S. ter­ri­to­ry?

    In response to the reports of pos­si­ble Ukrain­ian col­lu­sion in North Korea’s mis­sile pro­gram, Olek­san­dr Turchynov, sec­re­tary of the Ukrain­ian nation­al secu­ri­ty and defense coun­cil, issued a bizarre denial sug­gest­ing that The New York Times and U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies were pawns of Rus­sia.

    “This infor­ma­tion [about North Korea pos­si­bly obtain­ing rock­et engines from Ukraine] is not based on any grounds, provoca­tive by its con­tent, and most like­ly pro­voked by Russ­ian secret ser­vices to cov­er their own crimes,” Turchynov said.

    Press reports about Turchynov’s state­ment left out two salient facts: that as the inter­im Pres­i­dent fol­low­ing the Feb­ru­ary 2014 coup, Turchynov ordered Right Sek­tor mil­i­tants to begin the bloody siege of rebel-held Slo­vian­sk, a key esca­la­tion in the con­flict, and that Turchynov was the one who appoint­ed Kolo­moisky to be the ruler of Dnipropetro­vsk.

    ———-

    “A Ukraine Link to North Korea’s Mis­siles?” by Robert Par­ry; Con­sor­tium News; 08/15/2017

    “Because the 2014 coup – over­throw­ing elect­ed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych – was part­ly orches­trat­ed by the U.S. government’s influ­en­tial neo­con­ser­v­a­tives and warm­ly embraced by the West’s main­stream media, many of the ugly fea­tures of the Kiev regime have been down­played or ignored, includ­ing the fact that cor­rupt oli­garch Igor Kolo­moisky was put in charge of the area where the impli­cat­ed fac­to­ry was locat­ed.”

    Yep, a crazy bil­lion­aire with deep ties to the neo-Nazi mili­tias was the gov­er­nor of region where the mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy appears to have dis­ap­peared. So it will be inter­est­ing to learn when exact­ly that tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer took place. But even if it hap­pened after Kolo­moiosky stepped down as gov­er­nor in 2015, it’s still going to be his net­work run­ning the place:

    ...
    As the region’s gov­er­nor, the thug­gish Kolo­moisky found­ed armed mili­tias of Ukrain­ian extrem­ists, includ­ing neo-Nazis, who spear­head­ed the vio­lence against eth­nic Rus­sians in east­ern provinces, which had vot­ed heav­i­ly for Yanukovych and tried to resist his vio­lent over­throw.

    Kolo­moisky, who has triple cit­i­zen­ship from Ukraine, Cyprus and Israel, was even­tu­al­ly oust­ed as gov­er­nor of Dnipropetro­vsk (now called Dnipro) on March 25, 2015, after a show­down with Ukraine’s cur­rent Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko over con­trol of the state-owned ener­gy com­pa­ny, but by then Kolomoisky’s team had put its cor­rupt mark on the region.
    ...

    So giv­en the fre­quent­ly obser­va­tion that the neo-Nazi mili­tias that were embraced as a means of ‘sav­ing’ Ukraine when the con­flict breaks out are also the great­est threat to the future of Ukraine, if it turns out that the neo-Nazi ele­ments of Ukraine played a role in this tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer it will mere­ly be the lat­est reminder that should­n’t just apply to Ukraine. Those neo-Nazi mili­tias which have large­ly been qui­et­ly or open­ly accept­ed by the West should real­ly be seen as a threat to the future of every­one. It’s one of the fea­tures of neo-Nazi move­ments: they’re threats to every­one every­where except the avowed neo-Nazis. That’s sort of their point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 19, 2017, 1:43 pm
  4. Here’s anoth­er twist to the sto­ry about the Ukrain­ian hack­er, the “Pro­fex­er”, who report­ed­ly turned him­self in to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties over fears that he inad­ver­tent­ly assist­ed the ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’ who hacked the DNC in the 2016 US elec­tions: One of the odd parts of that report was how the freely avail­able hack­er soft­ware writ­ten by the Pro­fex­er, P.A.S. web shell, was list­ed in the “Griz­zlySteppe” DHS report on the ‘Russ­ian hack­ing’ as an exam­ple of the mal­ware used in the hacks, and yet the cus­tomized soft­ware that the Pro­fex­er alleged­ly wrote for the ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’ (which is what makes him a “wit­ness” in this inves­ti­ga­tion) appar­ent­ly was­n’t used in the DNC hacks at all. Or at least there was no indi­ca­tion it was used. Instead, the cus­tomized soft­ware was iden­ti­fied by US author­i­ties as being used in a dif­fer­ent set of attacks that were deter­mined to have been done by the same hack­ing group. So the only thing direct­ly tying him to the DNC hacks was the use of an out­dat­ed ver­sion of the P.A.S. web shell tool.

    But accord­ing to this report by Krebs Secu­ri­ty, when con­tact­ed Crowd­strike to get a list of all the mal­ware found in the DNC serv­er hack P.A.S. web shell was not on the list at all. In oth­er words, it’s unclear if any soft­ware, cus­tomized or not, used in any of the DNC hacks was actu­al­ly writ­ten by this Ukrain­ian hack­er who turned him­self in over con­cerns that he helped the ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’:

    Krebs on Secu­ri­ty

    Blow­ing the Whis­tle on Bad Attri­bu­tion

    Bri­an Krebs
    Aug 18, 2017

    The New York Times this week pub­lished a fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry about a young pro­gram­mer in Ukraine who’d turned him­self in to the local police. The Times says the man did so after one of his soft­ware tools was iden­ti­fied by the U.S. gov­ern­ment as part of the arse­nal used by Russ­ian hack­ers sus­pect­ed of hack­ing into the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee (DNC) last year. It’s a good read, as long as you can ignore that the premise of the piece is com­plete­ly wrong.

    The sto­ry, “In Ukraine, a Mal­ware Expert Who Could Blow the Whis­tle on Russ­ian Hack­ing,” details the plight of a hack­er in Kiev bet­ter known as “Pro­fex­er,” who has report­ed­ly agreed to be a wit­ness for the FBI. From the sto­ry:

    “Profexer’s posts, already acces­si­ble to only a small band of fel­low hack­ers and cyber­crim­i­nals look­ing for soft­ware tips, blinked out in Jan­u­ary — just days after Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies pub­licly iden­ti­fied a pro­gram he had writ­ten as one tool used in Russ­ian hack­ing in the Unit­ed States. Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies have deter­mined Russ­ian hack­ers were behind the elec­tron­ic break-in of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee.”

    The Times’ rea­son­ing for focus­ing on the tra­vails of Mr. Pro­fex­er comes from the “GRIZZLYSTEPPE” report, a col­lec­tion of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors or attack “sig­na­tures” pub­lished in Decem­ber 2016 by the U.S. gov­ern­ment that com­pa­nies can use to deter­mine whether their net­works may be com­pro­mised by a num­ber of dif­fer­ent Russ­ian cyber­crime groups.

    The only trou­ble is noth­ing in the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report said which of those tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors were found in the DNC hack. In fact, Prefexer’s “P.A.S. Web shell” tool — a pro­gram designed to insert a dig­i­tal back­door that lets attack­ers con­trol a hacked Web site remote­ly — was specif­i­cal­ly not among the hack­ing tools found in the DNC break-in.

    That’s accord­ing to Crowd­strike, the com­pa­ny called in to exam­ine the DNC’s servers fol­low­ing the intru­sion. In a state­ment released to Kreb­sOn­Se­cu­ri­ty, Crowd­strike said it pub­lished the list of mal­ware that it found was used in the DNC hack, and that the Web shell named in the New York Times sto­ry was not on that list.

    Robert M. Lee is founder of the indus­tri­al cyber­se­cu­ri­ty firm Dra­gos, Inc. and an expert on the chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with attri­bu­tion in cyber­crime. In a post on his per­son­al blog, Lee chal­lenged The Times on its con­clu­sions.

    “The GRIZZLYSTEPPE report has noth­ing to do with the DNC breach though and was a col­lec­tion of tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors the gov­ern­ment com­piled from mul­ti­ple agen­cies all work­ing dif­fer­ent Russ­ian relat­ed threat groups,” Lee wrote.

    “The threat group that com­pro­mised the DNC was Russ­ian but not all Russ­ian groups broke into the DNC,” he con­tin­ued. “The GRIZZLYSTEPPE report was also high­ly crit­i­cized for its lack of accu­ra­cy and lack of a clear mes­sage and pur­pose. I cov­ered it here on my blog but that was also picked up by numer­ous jour­nal­ists and cov­ered else­where [link added]. In oth­er words, there’s no excuse for not know­ing how wide­ly crit­i­cized the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report was before cit­ing it as good evi­dence in a NYT piece.”

    Per­haps in response to Lee’s blog post, The Times issued a cor­rec­tion to the sto­ry, re-writ­ing the above-quot­ed and indent­ed para­graph to read:

    “It is the first known instance of a liv­ing wit­ness emerg­ing from the arid mass of tech­ni­cal detail that has so far shaped the inves­ti­ga­tion into the elec­tion hack­ing and the heat­ed debate it has stirred. The Ukrain­ian police declined to divulge the man’s name or oth­er details, oth­er than that he is liv­ing in Ukraine and has not been arrest­ed.”

    [Side note: Pro­fex­er may well have been doxed by this pub­li­ca­tion just weeks after the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report was released.]

    This would not be the first time the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report pro­vid­ed fod­der for some too-hasty hack­ing con­clu­sions by a major news­pa­per. On Decem­ber 31 2016, The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished a breath­less sto­ry report­ing that an elec­tric util­i­ty in Ver­mont had been com­pro­mised by Russ­ian hack­ers who had pen­e­trat­ed the U.S. elec­tric grid.

    The Post cit­ed unnamed “U.S. offi­cials” say­ing the Ver­mont util­i­ty had found a threat sig­na­ture from the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report inside its net­works. Not long after the sto­ry ran, the util­i­ty in ques­tion said it detect­ed the mal­ware sig­na­ture in a sin­gle lap­top that was not con­nect­ed to the grid, and the Post was forced to sig­nif­i­cant­ly walk back its sto­ry.

    Matt Tait, a senior fel­low at the Robert Strauss Cen­ter for Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Law at UT Austin, said indi­ca­tors of com­pro­mise or IOCs like those list­ed in the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report have lim­it­ed val­ue in attribut­ing who may be respon­si­ble for an online attack.

    “It’s a clas­sic prob­lem that these IOCs indi­cate you may be com­pro­mised, but they’re not very good for attri­bu­tion,” Tait said. “The Griz­zly Steppe report is a mas­sive file of sig­na­tures, and loads of peo­ple have run those, found var­i­ous things on their net­work, and then assumed it’s all relat­ed to the DNC hack. But there’s absolute­ly no tie between the DNC hack that in any way involved this P.A.S. Web shell.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Blow­ing the Whis­tle on Bad Attri­bu­tion” Bri­an Krebs; Krebs on Secu­ri­ty; 08/18/2017

    “The only trou­ble is noth­ing in the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report said which of those tech­ni­cal indi­ca­tors were found in the DNC hack. In fact, Prefexer’s “P.A.S. Web shell” tool — a pro­gram designed to insert a dig­i­tal back­door that lets attack­ers con­trol a hacked Web site remote­ly — was specif­i­cal­ly not among the hack­ing tools found in the DNC break-in.

    And it’s not Krebs inde­pendt­ly mak­ing the asser­tion that the Pro­fex­er’s P.A.S. web shell tool was­n’t actu­al­ly used in the DNC break-in. Crowd­strike, the only firm to actu­al­ly exam­ine the DNC’s servers, released its own list of mal­ware and P.A.S. web shell was not on that list:

    ...
    That’s accord­ing to Crowd­strike, the com­pa­ny called in to exam­ine the DNC’s servers fol­low­ing the intru­sion. In a state­ment released to Kreb­sOn­Se­cu­ri­ty, Crowd­strike said it pub­lished the list of mal­ware that it found was used in the DNC hack, and that the Web shell named in the New York Times sto­ry was not on that list.
    ...

    So unless there’s a bunch of stuff we aren’t being told, it appears that the Ukrain­ian hack­er who became an FBI “wit­ness” has pret­ty much noth­ing to do with the hack oth­er than being a hack­er.

    And note this inter­est­ing obser­va­tion: The Pro­fex­er was iden­ti­fied back in Jan­u­ary, short­ly after the Griz­z­ley Steppe report:

    ...
    [Side note: Pro­fex­er may well have been doxed by this pub­li­ca­tion just weeks after the GRIZZLYSTEPPE report was released.]
    ...

    And sure enough, when you look at the Off-Guardian report, it does indeed look like they iden­ti­fied the guy as Jaroslav Volodimirovich Panchenko, an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy stu­dent at Polta­va Nation­al Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty:

    Off-Guardian

    Did a Ukrain­ian Uni­ver­si­ty Stu­dent Cre­ate Griz­zly Steppe?

    by Petri Krohn
    Pub­lished on Jan­u­ary 9, 2017

    1) U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty claims that the DNC was hacked by Russ­ian intel­li­gence ser­vices using a Russ­ian mal­ware tool they have named Griz­zly Steppe or “PAS tool PHP web kit”. They have pub­lished a YARA sig­na­ture file that allows any­one to iden­ti­fy it.

    https://www.us-cert.gov/security-publications/GRIZZLY-STEPPE-Russian-Malicious-Cyber-Activity.

    [see image of the YARA sig­na­ture file as pub­lished by DHS.]

    2) Secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Worde­fence says Griz­zly Steppe is actu­al­ly P.A.S. web shell, a com­mon mal­ware tool on Word­Press sites. They have iden­ti­fied its ori­gin to an Ukrain­ian down­load site Profexer.name

    https://www.wordfence.com/blog/2016/12/russia-malware-ip-hack/

    [see image of the down­load page at profexer.name as seen by Word­fence before the site was dis­abled.]

    3) The pro­fex­er site presents a SSL cer­tifi­cate that iden­ti­fies it as pro-os.ru and gives an email address aazzz@ro.ru.

    https://profexer.name
    [see image of the SSL cer­tifi­cate pre­sent­ed by profexer.name when accessed over the HTTPS pro­to­col].

    4) pro-os.ru is offline with the domain reg­is­tra­tion expired, but Inter­net Archive has copies from April and May 2015. The pho­to on the page indi­cates that they are experts in “dead­ly” com­put­er virus­es.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20150405005032/http://pro-os.ru/

    [see image of Face­book cached copy of the pro-os.ru site.]

    The con­tacts giv­en on the pro-os.ru site link to the VK account of Roman Alex­eev and the email address roman@pro-os.ru. The VK account has been sus­pend­ed because of “sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty”. (You need to be logged in to VK to see the “Author” of the appli­ca­tion.)

    https://vk.com/app47143488

    [see image of the pro-os.ru site links to a VK apli­ca­tion which again links to Roman Alexeev’s VK pro­file.]

    4b) The site toster.ru links the email address aazzz@ro.ru to the name Roman Alex­eev (????? ????????).

    https://toster.ru/user/aazzz (archive)

    https://ibazh.com/members/roman.3232/ (archive)

    5) “Roman Alex­eev” adver­tis­es his skills and ser­vices as a web devel­op­er, link­ing to his VK account but also giv­ing a skype account (ya.aalexeev) and an email address (mcmugok@yandex.ru).
    http://verni.com.ua/feedback/

    https://freelancehunt.com/project/kopiya-sayta/141070.html

    6) One of the sites where “Roman Alex­eev” links to his VK account is Freelancehunt.com. His pro­file con­tains a pho­to­graph and the nick aazzz. He claims he is from Zapor­izhia and 25 years old.

    https://freelancehunt.com/freelancer/aazzz.html (archive)

    [see pro­file pho­to used by “Roman Alex­eev” at the Free­lance­hunt site.]

    7) The pro­file pho­to on Free­lance­hunt actu­al­ly belongs to Jaroslav Volodimirovich Panchenko (???????? ??????? ?????????????), an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy stu­dent and mem­ber of the stu­dent self-gov­ern­ment struc­ture of the Polta­va Nation­al Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty.

    http://pntu.edu.ua/ru/diyalnist/studentske-zhittya.html

    ...

    ———-

    “Did a Ukrain­ian Uni­ver­si­ty Stu­dent Cre­ate Griz­zly Steppe?” by Petri Krohn; Off-Guardian; 01/09/2017

    “The pro­file pho­to on Free­lance­hunt actu­al­ly belongs to Jaroslav Volodimirovich Panchenko (???????? ??????? ?????????????), an infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy stu­dent and mem­ber of the stu­dent self-gov­ern­ment struc­ture of the Polta­va Nation­al Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty.”

    So if Jaroslav Panchenko is indeed the “Pro­fex­er” you can under­stand why he might be some­what con­cerned about being out­ed, which rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not the pub­li­ca­tion of this Off-Guardian arti­cle on Jan­u­ary 9th had any­thing to do with his deci­sion to turn him­self in to Ukrain­ian author­i­ties. Note the New York Times report about the Pro­fex­er states that he “went dark” on the hack­er forums in ear­ly Jan­u­ary, with his last post online on Jan­u­ary 9th. It’s quite a coin­ci­dence. Still, if even the P.A.S. web shell tool he wrote was­n’t used in the DNC hacks it’s unclear what con­cerns the Pro­fex­er should have at all over poten­tial legal lia­bil­i­ty over his role in the DNC hacks since it does­n’t look like he actu­al­ly played a role in those hacks, even indi­rect­ly. And that’s the lone “flesh and blood” wit­ness thus far.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 24, 2017, 2:10 pm
  5. Here’s the lat­est sto­ry about hack­ers, who we are told with an inex­plic­a­bly high degree of cer­tain­ty are Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers, hack­ing into US and Euro­pean elec­tri­cal grids. But in this case it sounds like the hack­ers actu­al­ly have the capac­i­ty to shut down at least some pow­er grid oper­a­tions and even trig­ger black­outs. The hack­ing group has been named Drag­on­fly 2.0, Ener­getic Bear, Iron Lib­er­ty, and Koala, by the var­i­ous com­pa­nies like Crowd­strike and Fire­Eye that have been track­ing it since 2010.

    This of course, assumes this is a sin­gle group hack­ing group behind all these attacks and not sim­ply mul­ti­ple oper­a­tors uti­liz­ing sim­i­lar code and meth­ods, which is a big assump­tion).

    Also, Syman­tec, the com­pa­ny that released the lat­est report on “Drag­on­fly 2.0”, empha­sized that it did not have the nec­es­sary evi­dence to attribute these hacks to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. Crowd­strike and Fire­Eye, on the oth­er hand, have already made that attri­bu­tion for the group based on pre­vi­ous hacks.

    So we now have reports about one of more hack­ing groups that have suc­cess­ful­ly hacked into the US and Euro­pean elec­tri­cal grids, obtain­ing oper­a­tional con­trol and the abil­i­ty to trig­ger black­outs at will in some instances. And it’s already been con­clud­ed that Rus­sia did it:

    Wired

    Hack­ers Gain ‘Switch-Flip­ping’ Access to US Pow­er Grid Con­trol Sys­tems

    Andy Green­berg
    09.06.17 06:00 am

    In an era of hack­er attacks on crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, even a run-of-the-mill mal­ware infec­tion on an elec­tric utility’s net­work is enough to raise alarm bells. But the lat­est col­lec­tion of pow­er grid pen­e­tra­tions went far deep­er: Secu­ri­ty firm Syman­tec is warn­ing that a series of recent hack­er attacks not only com­pro­mised ener­gy com­pa­nies in the US and Europe but also result­ed in the intrud­ers gain­ing hands-on access to pow­er grid operations—enough con­trol that they could have induced black­outs on Amer­i­can soil at will.

    Syman­tec on Wednes­day revealed a new cam­paign of attacks by a group it is call­ing Drag­on­fly 2.0, which it says tar­get­ed dozens of ener­gy com­pa­nies in the spring and sum­mer of this year. In more than 20 cas­es, Syman­tec says the hack­ers suc­cess­ful­ly gained access to the tar­get com­pa­nies’ net­works. And at a hand­ful of US pow­er firms and at least one com­pa­ny in Turkey—none of which Syman­tec will name—their foren­sic analy­sis found that the hack­ers obtained what they call oper­a­tional access: con­trol of the inter­faces pow­er com­pa­ny engi­neers use to send actu­al com­mands to equip­ment like cir­cuit break­ers, giv­ing them the abil­i­ty to stop the flow of elec­tric­i­ty into US homes and busi­ness­es.

    “There’s a dif­fer­ence between being a step away from con­duct­ing sab­o­tage and actu­al­ly being in a posi­tion to con­duct sab­o­tage ... being able to flip the switch on pow­er gen­er­a­tion,” says Eric Chien, a Syman­tec secu­ri­ty ana­lyst. “We’re now talk­ing about on-the-ground tech­ni­cal evi­dence this could hap­pen in the US, and there’s noth­ing left stand­ing in the way except the moti­va­tion of some actor out in the world.”

    Nev­er before have hack­ers been shown to have that lev­el of con­trol of Amer­i­can pow­er com­pa­ny sys­tems, Chien notes. The only com­pa­ra­ble sit­u­a­tions, he says, have been the repeat­ed hack­er attacks on the Ukrain­ian grid that twice caused pow­er out­ages in the coun­try in late 2015 and 2016, the first known hack­er-induced black­outs.

    The Usu­al Sus­pects

    Secu­ri­ty firms like Fire­Eye and Dra­gos have pinned those Ukrain­ian attacks on a hack­er group known as Sand­worm, believed to be based in Rus­sia. But Syman­tec stopped short of blam­ing the more recent attacks on any coun­try or even try­ing to explain the hack­ers’ motives. Chien says the com­pa­ny has found no con­nec­tions between Sand­worm and the intru­sions it has tracked. Nor has it direct­ly con­nect­ed the Drag­on­fly 2.0 cam­paign to the string of hack­er intru­sions at US pow­er companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Pal­met­to Fusion, which unnamed offi­cials revealed in July and lat­er tied to Rus­sia.

    Chien does note, how­ev­er, that the tim­ing and pub­lic descrip­tions of the Pal­met­to Fusion hack­ing cam­paigns match up with its Drag­on­fly find­ings. “It’s high­ly unlike­ly this is just coin­ci­den­tal,” Chien says. But he adds that while the Pal­met­to Fusion intru­sions includ­ed a breach of a nuclear pow­er plant, the most seri­ous Drag­on­Fly intru­sions Syman­tec tracked pen­e­trat­ed only non-nuclear ener­gy com­pa­nies, which have less strict sep­a­ra­tions of their inter­net-con­nect­ed IT net­works and oper­a­tional con­trols.

    As Syman­tec’s report on the new intru­sions details, the com­pa­ny has tracked the Drag­on­fly 2.0 attacks back to at least Decem­ber of 2015, but found that they ramped up sig­nif­i­cant­ly in the first half of 2017, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the US, Turkey, and Switzer­land. Its analy­sis of those breach­es found that they began with spearphish­ing emails that tricked vic­tims into open­ing a mali­cious attachment—the ear­li­est they found was a fake invi­ta­tion to a New Year’s Eve party—or so-called water­ing hole attacks that com­pro­mise a web­site com­mon­ly vis­it­ed by tar­gets to hack vic­tims’ com­put­ers.

    Those attacks were designed to har­vest cre­den­tials from vic­tims and gain remote access to their machines. And in the most suc­cess­ful of those cas­es, includ­ing sev­er­al instances in the US and one in Turkey, the attack­ers pen­e­trat­ed deep enough to screen­shot the actu­al con­trol pan­els for their tar­gets’ grid operations—what Syman­tec believes was a final step in posi­tion­ing them­selves to sab­o­tage those sys­tems at will. “That’s exact­ly what you’d do if you were to attempt sab­o­tage,” he says. “You’d take these sorts of screen­shots to under­stand what you had to do next, like lit­er­al­ly which switch to flip.”

    And if those hack­ers did gain the abil­i­ty to cause a black­out in the US, why did they stop short? Chien rea­sons that they may have been seek­ing the option to cause an elec­tric dis­rup­tion but wait­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty that would be most strate­gi­cal­ly useful—say, if an armed con­flict broke out, or poten­tial­ly to issue a well-timed threat that would deter the US from using its own hack­ing capa­bil­i­ties against anoth­er for­eign nation’s crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture. “If these attacks are from a nation state,” Chien says, “one would expect sab­o­tage only in rela­tion to a polit­i­cal event.”

    The Ukrain­ian Prece­dent

    Not every group of hack­ers has shown that kind of restraint. Hack­ers now believed to be the Russ­ian group Sand­worm used exact­ly the sort of access to elec­tric­i­ty con­trol inter­faces that Syman­tec describes Drag­on­fly hav­ing to shut off the pow­er to a quar­ter mil­lion Ukraini­ans in Decem­ber 2015. In one case they took over the remote help desk tool of a Ukrain­ian ener­gy util­i­ty to hijack engi­neers’ mouse con­trols and man­u­al­ly clicked through dozens of cir­cuit break­ers, turn­ing off the pow­er to tens of thou­sands of peo­ple as the engi­neers watched help­less­ly.

    Oper­a­tions like that one and a more auto­mat­ed black­out attack a year lat­er have made Rus­sia the first sus­pect in any grid-hack­ing inci­dent. But Syman­tec notes that the hack­ers most­ly used freely avail­able tools and exist­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in soft­ware rather than pre­vi­ous­ly unknown weak­ness­es, mak­ing any attri­bu­tion more dif­fi­cult. They found some Russ­ian-lan­guage strings of code in the mal­ware used in the intru­sions, but also some hints of French. They note that either lan­guage could be a “false flag” meant to throw off inves­ti­ga­tors.

    In nam­ing the hack­ing cam­paign Drag­on­fly, how­ev­er, Syman­tec does tie it to an ear­li­er, wide­ly ana­lyzed set of intru­sions also aimed at the US and Euro­pean ener­gy sec­tors, which stretched from as ear­ly as 2010 to 2014. The hack­ers behind that series of attacks, called Drag­on­fly by Syman­tec but also known by the names Ener­getic Bear, Iron Lib­er­ty, and Koala, shared many of the same char­ac­ter­is­tics as the more recent Drag­on­fly 2.0 attacks, Syman­tec says, includ­ing infec­tion meth­ods, two pieces of mal­ware used in the intru­sions, and ener­gy sec­tor vic­tims. And both the secu­ri­ty firm Crowd­strike and the US gov­ern­ment have linked those ear­li­er Drag­on­fly attacks with the Kremlin—a report pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the FBI last Decem­ber includ­ed the group on its list of known Russ­ian-gov­ern­ment hack­ing oper­a­tions.

    Syman­tec says it has assist­ed the pow­er com­pa­nies that expe­ri­enced the deep­est pen­e­tra­tions, help­ing them eject the hack­ers from their net­works. The firm also sent warn­ings to more than a hun­dred com­pa­nies about the Drag­on­fly 2.0 hack­ers, as well as to the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the North Amer­i­can Elec­tric Reli­a­bil­i­ty Cor­po­ra­tion, which is respon­si­ble for the sta­bil­i­ty of the US pow­er grid. NERC did­n’t imme­di­ate answer WIRED’s request for com­ment on Syman­tec’s find­ings, but DHS spokesper­son Scott McConnell wrote in a state­ment that “DHS is aware of the report and is review­ing it,” and “at this time there is no indi­ca­tion of a threat to pub­lic safe­ty.”

    ...

    The Drag­on­fly hack­ers remain active even today, Chien warns, and elec­tric util­i­ties should be on high alert. Giv­en that the group has, in some form, been prob­ing and pen­e­trat­ing ener­gy util­i­ty tar­gets for the past sev­en years, don’t expect them to stop now.

    ———-

    “Hack­ers Gain ‘Switch-Flip­ping’ Access to US Pow­er Grid Con­trol Sys­tems” by Andy Green­berg; Wired; 09/06/2017

    “Syman­tec on Wednes­day revealed a new cam­paign of attacks by a group it is call­ing Drag­on­fly 2.0, which it says tar­get­ed dozens of ener­gy com­pa­nies in the spring and sum­mer of this year. In more than 20 cas­es, Syman­tec says the hack­ers suc­cess­ful­ly gained access to the tar­get com­pa­nies’ net­works. And at a hand­ful of US pow­er firms and at least one com­pa­ny in Turkey—none of which Syman­tec will name—their foren­sic analy­sis found that the hack­ers obtained what they call oper­a­tional access: con­trol of the inter­faces pow­er com­pa­ny engi­neers use to send actu­al com­mands to equip­ment like cir­cuit break­ers, giv­ing them the abil­i­ty to stop the flow of elec­tric­i­ty into US homes and busi­ness­es.”

    So if these reports are cor­rect, not only have one or more hack­ing groups iden­ti­fied as “Drag­on­fly 2.0” already giv­en them­selves the abil­i­ty to trig­ger black­outs with the ‘flip of a a switch’ but Rus­sia has already been pre­emp­tive­ly blamed too. Even though Syman­tec empha­sizes that it has no proof of any par­tic­u­lar state being behind the hacks. Syman­tec also notes that the hack­ers appear to be using freely avail­able tools and exist­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in soft­ware rather than pre­vi­ous­ly unknown weak­ness­es and saw noth­ing to tie these hacks to the hacks of the Ukrain­ian elec­tri­cal grid attrib­uted to the “Sand­worm” hack­ing group (which is also attrib­uted to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment). But Syman­tec did see signs of both Russ­ian and French lan­guage in the mal­ware, which they warned could obvi­ous­ly be a false flag intend­ed to con­fuse attri­bu­tion:

    ...
    Nev­er before have hack­ers been shown to have that lev­el of con­trol of Amer­i­can pow­er com­pa­ny sys­tems, Chien notes. The only com­pa­ra­ble sit­u­a­tions, he says, have been the repeat­ed hack­er attacks on the Ukrain­ian grid that twice caused pow­er out­ages in the coun­try in late 2015 and 2016, the first known hack­er-induced black­outs.

    The Usu­al Sus­pects

    Secu­ri­ty firms like Fire­Eye and Dra­gos have pinned those Ukrain­ian attacks on a hack­er group known as Sand­worm, believed to be based in Rus­sia. But Syman­tec stopped short of blam­ing the more recent attacks on any coun­try or even try­ing to explain the hack­ers’ motives. Chien says the com­pa­ny has found no con­nec­tions between Sand­worm and the intru­sions it has tracked. Nor has it direct­ly con­nect­ed the Drag­on­fly 2.0 cam­paign to the string of hack­er intru­sions at US pow­er companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Pal­met­to Fusion, which unnamed offi­cials revealed in July and lat­er tied to Rus­sia.

    ...

    And if those hack­ers did gain the abil­i­ty to cause a black­out in the US, why did they stop short? Chien rea­sons that they may have been seek­ing the option to cause an elec­tric dis­rup­tion but wait­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty that would be most strate­gi­cal­ly useful—say, if an armed con­flict broke out, or poten­tial­ly to issue a well-timed threat that would deter the US from using its own hack­ing capa­bil­i­ties against anoth­er for­eign nation’s crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture. “If these attacks are from a nation state,” Chien says, “one would expect sab­o­tage only in rela­tion to a polit­i­cal event.”

    The Ukrain­ian Prece­dent

    Not every group of hack­ers has shown that kind of restraint. Hack­ers now believed to be the Russ­ian group Sand­worm used exact­ly the sort of access to elec­tric­i­ty con­trol inter­faces that Syman­tec describes Drag­on­fly hav­ing to shut off the pow­er to a quar­ter mil­lion Ukraini­ans in Decem­ber 2015. In one case they took over the remote help desk tool of a Ukrain­ian ener­gy util­i­ty to hijack engi­neers’ mouse con­trols and man­u­al­ly clicked through dozens of cir­cuit break­ers, turn­ing off the pow­er to tens of thou­sands of peo­ple as the engi­neers watched help­less­ly.

    Oper­a­tions like that one and a more auto­mat­ed black­out attack a year lat­er have made Rus­sia the first sus­pect in any grid-hack­ing inci­dent. But Syman­tec notes that the hack­ers most­ly used freely avail­able tools and exist­ing vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in soft­ware rather than pre­vi­ous­ly unknown weak­ness­es, mak­ing any attri­bu­tion more dif­fi­cult. They found some Russ­ian-lan­guage strings of code in the mal­ware used in the intru­sions, but also some hints of French. They note that either lan­guage could be a “false flag” meant to throw off inves­ti­ga­tors.
    ...

    But while Syman­tec can’t tie the cur­rent hacks to the Ukrain­ian “Sand­worm” hack, it does appear to share a num­ber of char­ac­ter­is­tics with an ear­li­er set of hacks attrib­uted to Drag­on­fly 2.0 from 2010–2014. And, of course, Crowd­stike and the US gov­ern­ment already attrib­uted those ear­li­er attacks to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, which was includ­ed in the DHS’s “Griz­zly Steppe” report about the 2016 DNC hacks:

    ...
    In nam­ing the hack­ing cam­paign Drag­on­fly, how­ev­er, Syman­tec does tie it to an ear­li­er, wide­ly ana­lyzed set of intru­sions also aimed at the US and Euro­pean ener­gy sec­tors, which stretched from as ear­ly as 2010 to 2014. The hack­ers behind that series of attacks, called Drag­on­fly by Syman­tec but also known by the names Ener­getic Bear, Iron Lib­er­ty, and Koala, shared many of the same char­ac­ter­is­tics as the more recent Drag­on­fly 2.0 attacks, Syman­tec says, includ­ing infec­tion meth­ods, two pieces of mal­ware used in the intru­sions, and ener­gy sec­tor vic­tims. And both the secu­ri­ty firm Crowd­strike and the US gov­ern­ment have linked those ear­li­er Drag­on­fly attacks with the Kremlin—a report pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the FBI last Decem­ber includ­ed the group on its list of known Russ­ian-gov­ern­ment hack­ing oper­a­tions.
    ...

    So, since the sim­i­lar­i­ties between this cur­rent hacks and those ear­li­er hacks that were attrib­uted to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment are being used to attribute the cur­rent hack to Rus­sia, let’s take a look at what it was the Crowd­strike used to attribute those ear­ly hacks to Rus­sia: The fact that the group had a lot of resources and appear to be work­ing dur­ing Moscow office hours:

    The New York Times

    Russ­ian Hack­ers Tar­get­ing Oil and Gas Com­pa­nies

    By NICOLE PERLROTH
    JUNE 30, 2014

    SAN FRANCISCO — Russ­ian hack­ers have been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing hun­dreds of West­ern oil and gas com­pa­nies, as well as ener­gy invest­ment firms, accord­ing to pri­vate cyber­se­cu­ri­ty researchers.

    The motive behind the attacks appears to be indus­tri­al espi­onage — a nat­ur­al con­clu­sion giv­en the impor­tance of Russia’s oil and gas indus­try, the researchers said.

    The man­ner in which the Russ­ian hack­ers are tar­get­ing the com­pa­nies also gives them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to seize con­trol of indus­tri­al con­trol sys­tems from afar, in much the same way the Unit­ed States and Israel were able to use the Stuxnet com­put­er worm in 2009 to take con­trol of an Iran­ian nuclear facility’s com­put­er sys­tems and destroy a fifth of the country’s ura­ni­um sup­ply, the researchers said.

    The Russ­ian attacks, which have affect­ed over 1,000 orga­ni­za­tions in more than 84 coun­tries, were first dis­cov­ered in August 2012 by researchers at Crowd­Strike, a secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny in Irvine, Calif. The com­pa­ny noticed an unusu­al­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed and aggres­sive Russ­ian group tar­get­ing the ener­gy sec­tor, in addi­tion to health care, gov­ern­ments and defense con­trac­tors.

    The group was named “Ener­getic Bear” because the vast major­i­ty of its vic­tims were oil and gas com­pa­nies. And CrowdStrike’s researchers believed the hack­ers were backed by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment giv­en their appar­ent resources and sophis­ti­ca­tion and because the attacks occurred dur­ing Moscow work­ing hours.

    A report released Mon­day by Syman­tec, a com­put­er secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny based in Moun­tain View, Calif., detailed sim­i­lar con­clu­sions and added a new ele­ment — the Stuxnet-like remote con­trol capa­bil­i­ty.

    In addi­tion to basic hack­ing tech­niques, like send­ing mass emails con­tain­ing mali­cious links or attach­ments, the group infect­ed web­sites fre­quent­ed by ener­gy work­ers and investors in what is known as a “water­ing hole attack.”

    In this attack, instead of tar­get­ing a victim’s com­put­er net­work direct­ly, hack­ers infect web­sites their tar­gets vis­it often — like an online menu for a Chi­nese restau­rant — with mali­cious soft­ware. With­out know­ing it, work­ers vis­it­ing that site inad­ver­tent­ly down­load the so-called mal­ware and help the hack­ers get inside their com­put­er net­work.

    The Russ­ian hack­ers were care­ful to cov­er their tracks, the researchers said. They hid their mal­ware using encryp­tion tech­niques that made it dif­fi­cult to iden­ti­fy their tools and where they came from. In some cas­es, researchers found evi­dence that the hack­ers were prob­ing the core of vic­tims’ machines, the part of the com­put­er known as the BIOS, or basic input/output sys­tem. Unlike soft­ware, which can be patched and updat­ed, once a computer’s hard­ware gets infect­ed, it typ­i­cal­ly becomes unus­able.

    F‑Secure, the Finnish secu­ri­ty firm, also told its clients last week about the Russ­ian hack­ing group, which Syman­tec has named “Drag­on­fly.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Russ­ian Hack­ers Tar­get­ing Oil and Gas Com­pa­nies” by NICOLE PERLROTH; The New York Times; 06/30/2014

    “The Russ­ian attacks, which have affect­ed over 1,000 orga­ni­za­tions in more than 84 coun­tries, were first dis­cov­ered in August 2012 by researchers at Crowd­Strike, a secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny in Irvine, Calif. The com­pa­ny noticed an unusu­al­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed and aggres­sive Russ­ian group tar­get­ing the ener­gy sec­tor, in addi­tion to health care, gov­ern­ments and defense con­trac­tors.

    And what made Crowd­strike so sure it was look­ing at a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ing oper­a­tion: resources, sophis­ti­ca­tion, and Moscow work­ing hours:

    ...
    The group was named “Ener­getic Bear” because the vast major­i­ty of its vic­tims were oil and gas com­pa­nies. And CrowdStrike’s researchers believed the hack­ers were backed by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment giv­en their appar­ent resources and sophis­ti­ca­tion and because the attacks occurred dur­ing Moscow work­ing hours.
    ...

    That’s some real­ly com­pelling evi­dence, if you ignore how many hack­ing oper­a­tions around the world are going to have plen­ty of resources and the fact that doing all the attacks dur­ing Moscow work­ing hours isn’t exact­ly a sign of sophis­ti­ca­tion.

    Let’s also not for­get that it was “Moscow work­ing hours” that was orig­i­nal­ly used by Fire­Eye to attribute APT28/Fancy Bear with the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment back in 2014 too. And it was­n’t that the work­ing hours detail was just a small part of their analy­sis. Along with the tar­gets (Rus­si­a’s tar­gets tend not to be exclu­sive­ly Russ­ian tar­gets), the mal­ware used (mal­ware is reusable by oth­er hack­ers unless there are unknown exploits), the lan­guage (i.e. leav­ing Russ­ian lan­guage words and Cyril­lic char­ac­ters in the mal­ware code, which is high­ly spoofa­ble), and the Moscow work­ing hour com­pile times (again, also high­ly spoofa­ble) were the major rea­son for their con­clu­sion that Fan­cy Bear was work­ing for the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment:

    SCMagazine.com

    Fire­Eye iden­ti­fies cyber espi­onage group pos­si­bly tied to Russ­ian gov­ern­ment

    by Adam Green­berg, Senior Reporter
    Octo­ber 28, 2014

    The coun­try of Geor­gia and the Cau­ca­sus, East­ern Euro­pean gov­ern­ments and mil­i­taries, and var­i­ous secu­ri­ty-relat­ed orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­za­tion (NATO) have been the tar­gets of a cyber espi­onage group – referred to as APT28 – that is believed to Russ­ian, accord­ing to Fire­Eye.

    Ana­lyzed mal­ware sam­ples fea­ture a con­sis­tent use of the Russ­ian lan­guage, accord­ing to a Fire­Eye report released Tues­day, which adds that more than 96 per­cent of mal­ware sam­ples were com­piled between Mon­day and Fri­day and more than 89 per­cent were com­piled between 8AM and 6PM in the time zone par­al­lel­ing work­ing hours in Moscow and St. Peters­burg.
    http://spitfirelist.com/news/oh-what-tangled-webs-we-weev-ukraine-hacking-nukes-and-serpents-walk/
    APT28 is believed to have been oper­at­ing since at least 2007, and its tar­get­ing, mal­ware, lan­guage, and work­ing hours has led Fire­Eye to believe that the group is spon­sored by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, Dan McWhort­er, VP of threat intel­li­gence with Fire­Eye, told SCMagazine.com in a Tues­day email cor­re­spon­dence.

    ...

    ———-

    “Fire­Eye iden­ti­fies cyber espi­onage group pos­si­bly tied to Russ­ian gov­ern­ment” by Adam Green­berg; SCMagazine.com; 10/28/2014

    “APT28 is believed to have been oper­at­ing since at least 2007, and its tar­get­ing, mal­ware, lan­guage, and work­ing hours has led Fire­Eye to believe that the group is spon­sored by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, Dan McWhort­er, VP of threat intel­li­gence with Fire­Eye, told SCMagazine.com in a Tues­day email cor­re­spon­dence.”

    And that same type of ques­tion­ably con­clu­sive analy­sis used to attribute Fan­cy Bear/APT28 to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment appears to have been used for the “Ener­getic Bear”/Dragonfly Russ­ian gov­ern­ment attri­bu­tion too. And because the cur­rent attacks on elec­ti­cal grid sys­tems has some sim­liar­i­ties to those hacks that were ques­tion­ably attrib­uted to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment back in 2014, we now are appar­ent­ly sup­pose to con­clude that “Drag­on­fly 2.0” is also work­ing for the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. A daisy-chain of ques­tion­able assump­tion.

    So at this point the only thing we real­ly know is that one of more groups has hacked into US and Euro­pean elec­tri­cal grids and if they cause a black­out it’s going to be imme­di­ate­ly blamed on the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and poten­tial­ly cause a major inter­na­tion­al flash­point. That’s pret­ty much all we know. Oh, and we also know that the hack­ers now know that what­ev­er they do will be blamed on Rus­sia. And that’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion where we had bet­ter hope they real­ly are Russ­ian hack­ers. Because if there’s one advan­tage to the con­tem­po­rary default posi­tion of “Russ­ian hack­ers did it!” it’s that actu­al Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers might be less inclined to engage in a destruc­tive hack, know­ing they’ll get blamed whether there’s evi­dence or not. Of course, this also means that all non-Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers are going to be more inclined to engage in a destruc­tive hack because, hey, why not spark a con­flict with the US and Rus­sia? For the lulz! And any oth­er rea­sons a non-Russ­ian hack­er might have for want­i­ng to foment conclict between two nuclear pow­ers. It’s the down­side of reflex­ive­ly and pre­emp­tive­ly blam­ing difficult/impossible to attribute cyber­at­tacks attacks on Rus­sia: all non-Russ­ian hack­ers are giv­en the green light to pro­ceed with gus­to.

    So, yeah, thanks to our “Rus­sia did it!” default approach to these things we have to hope these real­ly were Russ­ian hack­ers that just hacked into the elec­tri­cal grid. Because it could be worse than real Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­ers in that sit­u­a­tion. A lot worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2017, 2:42 pm
  6. Here’s a few more inter­est­ing fun facts that the ‘peace plan’ pushed by Ukrain­ian MP Andreii Arte­menko and Felix Sater to the bizarre sto­ry of Mikahil Saakashvili break­ing into Ukraine with the help of his sup­port­ers so he can wage an anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign against Petro Poroshenko. Sup­port­ers that include for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko: First, note that Arte­menko was­n’t the only Ukrain­ian politi­cian to approach the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in ear­ly 2017. Yulia Tymoshenko did the same thing too in Feb­ru­ary, say­ing Trump promised her that he would “not aban­don Ukraine.”

    Addi­tion­al­ly, Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer head of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine and a polit­i­cal ally of Tymoshenko, claims he trav­eled to the US in Decem­ber and Jan­u­ary and deliv­ered to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice proof of “polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion by (Ukraine’s) top offi­cials.” And he appar­ent­ly gave the same mate­r­i­al to Arte­menko in 2015. And while Naly­vaichenko says he does­n’t back Arte­menko’s peace plan, he did admit to sub­mit a peace plan of his own to the US gov­ern­ment.

    And there were even more peace plans from Ukrain­ian politi­cians in 2017, includ­ing one by Vik­tor Pinchuk, a Ukrain­ian oli­garch who also a mem­ber of the anti-Russ­ian Atlantic Coun­cil. So the notion that peace plan pro­pos­als were some­thing only a zany pro-Krem­lin obscure law­mak­er would have engaged in is just not the case (espe­cial­ly since Arte­menko does­n’t appear to actu­al­ly be pro-Krem­lin at all).

    So Arte­men­tko’s dirt on Poroshenko that he was hop­ing to use to top­ple the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment came from a polit­i­cal ally of Yulia Tymoshenko. A polit­i­cal ally with his own peace plan that he pro­posed to the US. And that was just one of the addi­tion­al peace pro­pos­als ped­dled to the US ear­li­er this year:

    Kyiv Post

    Arte­menko goes from obscu­ri­ty to noto­ri­ety

    24 Feb 2017
    BY VERONIKA MELKOZEROVA, OKSANA GRYTSENKO

    Andrey Arte­menko said he want­ed to be a peace­mak­er. But with­in a week of the New York Times reveal­ing on Feb. 19 that the lit­tle-known Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an had brought to Wash­ing­ton a plan to end Russia’s war against Ukraine, he faced wide­spread crit­i­cism in his home­land. He could even be charged with trea­son.

    That’s because Artemenko’s plan was dis­tinct­ly pro-Krem­lin. The Rad­i­cal Par­ty lawmaker’s ideas includ­ed leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia for 50 years and the lift­ing of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against Rus­sia by the Unit­ed States.

    It didn’t take long for the blow­back to arrive.

    On Feb. 20, Rad­i­cal Par­ty leader Oleh Lyashko told jour­nal­ists in par­lia­ment that Arte­menko had been expelled from the par­ty.

    “He (Arte­menko) has posi­tioned him­self as a ‘peace­mak­er’, so we expect that he will also give up being a law­mak­er,” said Lyashko. “Let those who sug­gest leas­ing Crimea first give their apart­ments to rob­bers to rent.”

    But Arte­menko is not the only Ukrain­ian politi­cian to reach out to the White House behind Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s back.

    Yulia Tymoshenko, the for­mer prime min­is­ter and leader of Batkivshchy­na Par­ty, had a brief meet­ing with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump before the Nation­al Prayer Break­fast in Wash­ing­ton on Feb. 3, dur­ing which Trump report­ed­ly promised her that he would “not aban­don Ukraine.”

    And Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer head of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine and a polit­i­cal ally of Tymoshenko, says he vis­it­ed the U.S. in Decem­ber and Jan­u­ary.

    Naly­vaichenko told the Kyiv Post he met there with for­mer Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim DeMint, a Trump advi­sor and pres­i­dent of the con­ser­v­a­tive the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­v­a­tive think tank, and Bob Cork­er, a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Ten­nessee and Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man.

    Naly­vaichenko said he deliv­ered to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice proof of “polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion by (Ukraine’s) top offi­cials.” He said also deliv­ered to Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office mate­ri­als about alleged mon­ey laun­der­ing and the ille­gal use of off­shore com­pa­nies by Poroshenko’s busi­ness part­ner and law­mak­er Ihor Kononenko.

    Back in 2015, Naly­vaichenko gave the com­pro­mis­ing mate­ri­als on Poroshenko to Arte­menko, which he claimed to also give to the U.S. author­i­ties.

    At the same time, Naly­vaichenko called Artemenko’s idea of leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia unac­cept­able, and said he had brought to the U.S. his own peace plan.

    Many peace­mak­ers

    Arte­menko, who stays in the Rada as an inde­pen­dent par­lia­men­tar­i­an, told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 22 that he saw his plan as the only rea­son­able alter­na­tive to the failed Min­sk peace process.

    “Min­sk doesn’t work — that’s obvi­ous,” Arte­menko said, adding that it was espe­cial­ly obvi­ous after Rus­sia said on Feb. 18 it rec­og­nized the “pass­ports” issued by the Luhan­sk and Donet­sk-based sep­a­ratists who call the ter­ri­to­ries they occu­py “republics.”

    Arte­menko is not the only one to sug­gest an alter­na­tive to Min­sk. Since Decem­ber, sug­ges­tions to aban­don the failed Min­sk peace deal have also been made by oli­garch Vic­tor Pinchuk, busi­ness­man and for­mer gov­er­nor of Donet­sk Oblast Ser­hiy Taru­ta, Vadym Chernysh, the min­is­ter for the tem­porar­i­ly occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, and Andriy Yer­mo­layev, the head of Nova Ukraina think tank, which is close to Ser­hiy Lyovochkin, a top law­mak­er from the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s for­mer chief of staff.

    Like Pinchuk or Arte­menko, Yer­mo­layev pro­posed Ukraine adopt a neu­tral sta­tus and also launch a direct dia­logue between Ukraine and the sep­a­ratist author­i­ties. Under the plan, the sep­a­ratist-held zone would be demil­i­ta­rized and placed under the con­trol of UN peace­keep­ers and armed mon­i­tors from the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe.

    Lyashko lat­er claimed the Krem­lin was behind Artemenko’s plan. He said that Arte­menko worked on the plan with Lyovochkin, Oppo­si­tion Bloc fac­tion leader Yuriy Boyko, and Ukrain­ian politi­cian and close friend of Putin Vik­tor Medved­chuk.

    Medvedchuk’s spokesper­son Oleg Baban­in told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 22 that the politi­cian had had noth­ing to do with Artemenko’s plan. He described Lyashko’s claims as “not seri­ous.”

    Arte­menko con­firmed that he worked on the plan with sev­er­al Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers, but said they are now afraid to admit this because of the neg­a­tive pub­lic reac­tion to the pro­posed deal.

    Arte­menko told the Kyiv Post he was going to have a press con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton ear­ly in March, at which he will reveal all the details of his plan — and com­pro­mis­ing mate­r­i­al about Poroshenko, which he sup­pos­ed­ly received from Naly­vaichenko.

    Mean­while, fugi­tive law­mak­er Olek­san­dr Onyshchenko told the Kyiv Post that Artemenko’s evi­dence of Poroshenko’s alleged cor­rup­tion was sim­i­lar to mate­ri­als he him­self had sub­mit­ted to the U.S. author­i­ties in Decem­ber. Naly­vaichenko, how­ev­er, denied hav­ing any links with Onyshchenko.

    Trea­son case

    On Feb. 21 Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko revealed that Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors launched a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion of Arte­menko, sus­pect­ing trea­son.

    The pre­lim­i­nary charges read that Arte­menko, backed by Rus­sia, betrayed Ukraine by pro­mot­ing abroad the open­ly pro-Russ­ian idea of leas­ing Crimea, there­by aid­ing the aggres­sor state.

    Arte­menko denied that his plan was backed by Rus­sia and said all the accu­sa­tions against him “were just words that need­ed to be proven.”

    “We des­per­ate­ly need a new plat­form for dia­log,” Arte­menko said. “Or should we fight against Rus­sia until the very last Ukrain­ian sol­dier?”

    ...

    And for an alleged­ly pro-Russ­ian peace plan, Artemenko’s pro­pos­als have been poor­ly received by the Krem­lin – at least in pub­lic.

    In par­tic­u­lar, Dmit­ry Peskov, Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s spokesper­son, dis­missed the part of the plan about leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia.

    “There’s noth­ing to talk about. How can Rus­sia rent its own region from itself?” Peskov told the Tele­graph.

    ———-

    “Arte­menko goes from obscu­ri­ty to noto­ri­ety” by VERONIKA MELKOZEROVA, OKSANA GRYTSENKO; Kyiv Post; 02/24/2017

    “But Arte­menko is not the only Ukrain­ian politi­cian to reach out to the White House behind Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko’s back.”

    Nope, Art­menko in his peace plan efforts. He had com­pe­ti­tion in the secret peace plan depart­ment from Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer head of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine and a polit­i­cal ally of Tymoshenko. Although it’s unclear how much com­pe­ti­tion he had since we don’t get to know any of the details of that alter­na­tive peace pro­pos­al. We just know that Naly­vaichenko did­n’t like the pro­pos­al to have Rus­sia lease Crimea. Oth­er than that we have no idea how sim­i­lar these plans were, but we do know that Naly­vaichenko was work­ing with Arte­menko on some lev­el since he appar­ent­ly gave Arte­menko his anti-Poroshenko cor­rup­tion evi­dence back in 2015:

    ...
    Yulia Tymoshenko, the for­mer prime min­is­ter and leader of Batkivshchy­na Par­ty, had a brief meet­ing with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump before the Nation­al Prayer Break­fast in Wash­ing­ton on Feb. 3, dur­ing which Trump report­ed­ly promised her that he would “not aban­don Ukraine.”

    And Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko, the for­mer head of the Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of Ukraine and a polit­i­cal ally of Tymoshenko, says he vis­it­ed the U.S. in Decem­ber and Jan­u­ary.

    Naly­vaichenko told the Kyiv Post he met there with for­mer Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Jim DeMint, a Trump advi­sor and pres­i­dent of the con­ser­v­a­tive the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, a con­ser­v­a­tive think tank, and Bob Cork­er, a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor from Ten­nessee and Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man.

    Naly­vaichenko said he deliv­ered to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice proof of “polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion by (Ukraine’s) top offi­cials.” He said also deliv­ered to Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office mate­ri­als about alleged mon­ey laun­der­ing and the ille­gal use of off­shore com­pa­nies by Poroshenko’s busi­ness part­ner and law­mak­er Ihor Kononenko.

    Back in 2015, Naly­vaichenko gave the com­pro­mis­ing mate­ri­als on Poroshenko to Arte­menko, which he claimed to also give to the U.S. author­i­ties.

    At the same time, Naly­vaichenko called Artemenko’s idea of leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia unac­cept­able, and said he had brought to the U.S. his own peace plan.
    ...

    And the peace plans were lim­it­ed to Naly­vaichenko and Arte­menko:

    ...
    Many peace­mak­ers

    Arte­menko, who stays in the Rada as an inde­pen­dent par­lia­men­tar­i­an, told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 22 that he saw his plan as the only rea­son­able alter­na­tive to the failed Min­sk peace process.

    “Min­sk doesn’t work — that’s obvi­ous,” Arte­menko said, adding that it was espe­cial­ly obvi­ous after Rus­sia said on Feb. 18 it rec­og­nized the “pass­ports” issued by the Luhan­sk and Donet­sk-based sep­a­ratists who call the ter­ri­to­ries they occu­py “republics.”

    Arte­menko is not the only one to sug­gest an alter­na­tive to Min­sk. Since Decem­ber, sug­ges­tions to aban­don the failed Min­sk peace deal have also been made by oli­garch Vic­tor Pinchuk, busi­ness­man and for­mer gov­er­nor of Donet­sk Oblast Ser­hiy Taru­ta, Vadym Chernysh, the min­is­ter for the tem­porar­i­ly occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, and Andriy Yer­mo­layev, the head of Nova Ukraina think tank, which is close to Ser­hiy Lyovochkin, a top law­mak­er from the Oppo­si­tion Bloc and ex-pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych’s for­mer chief of staff.
    ...

    ‘Peace’ was in the air in late 2016–2017. At least some­thing was in the air.

    And, again, keep in mind that Yulia Tymoshenko is cur­rent­ly try­ing to form an oppo­si­tion alliance against Poroshenko. So it’s also worth not­ing anoth­er inter­est­ing fun fact about Arte­menko’s his­to­ry and Tymoshenko: while Arte­menko was expelled from the Rad­i­cal Par­ty and has close ties to Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor, there’s anoth­er chap­ter of his polit­i­cal back­ground we can’t over­look in this con­text. In 2006 Andreii Arte­menko became the head of the Kiev branch of Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchy­na Par­ty:

    Kyiv Post

    Andrey Arte­menko: Who is this Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment with the peace plan?

    By Veroni­ka Melkoze­ro­va.
    Pub­lished Feb. 20. Updat­ed Feb. 20 at 8:24 pm

    Now ex-Rad­i­cal Par­ty mem­ber of par­lia­ment Andrey Arte­menko came under crit­i­cism from all sides after the New York Times revealed on Feb. 19 that he was try­ing to bro­ker his own peace plan to end Russia’s war against Ukraine.

    The plan was dis­tinct­ly pro-Russ­ian, but even the Rus­sians reject­ed it and his free­lance, ama­teur­ish diplo­ma­cy got him kicked out of his own par­ty, although he remains a mem­ber of par­lia­ment.

    His ideas includ­ed leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia for 50 years and the lift­ing of eco­nom­ic sanc­tions against Rus­sia by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump.

    Dmit­ry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press sec­re­tary, denied pri­or knowl­edge of the sealed plan, which includes a sug­ges­tion that Ukraine lease Crimea to Rus­sia, which annexed the region in 2014, the Tele­graph in Lon­don quot­ed him as say­ing. “There’s noth­ing to talk about. How can Rus­sia rent its own region from itself?” Peskov said.

    Arte­menko described him­self to the New York Times as a Trump-style politi­cian.

    The 48-year-old lawmaker’s biog­ra­phy is col­or­ful and con­tro­ver­sial: He has a wife who is a mod­el, he served 2.5 years in prison with­out a tri­al, he has busi­ness in U.S and he is involved in the mil­i­tary trade to the war zones in the Mid­dle East. At home, he has close ties with the ultra-nation­al­is­tic Right Sec­tor.

    “I demand Andrey Arte­menko dis­card as a law­mak­er. He has no rights to rep­re­sent our fac­tion and par­ty. Our posi­tion is unchange­able – Rus­sia is the aggres­sor and must get away from Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries,” Oleh Lyashko, Rad­i­cal Par­ty leader said to the jour­nal­ist in Verk­hov­na Rada on Feb. 20.

    “Nobody in Rad­i­cal Par­ty trades Ukraine,” Lyashko said. “To lease Crimea to Rus­sia is the same as to give your own moth­er for rent to the trav­el­ing cir­cus.”

    Arte­menko told the New York Times that many peo­ple would crit­i­cize him as a Russ­ian or Amer­i­can C.I.A. agent for his plan, but peace is what he’s after.

    “But how can you find a good solu­tion between our coun­tries if we do not talk?” Arte­menko said.

    Before the New York Times sto­ry, Arte­menko wasn’t famous. He may see him­self as the next pres­i­dent of Ukraine, but oth­ers saw him as just anoth­er gray car­di­nal.

    ...

    Start from Kyiv

    Arte­menko came into pol­i­tics after busi­ness and jail. Accord­ing to the biog­ra­phy on his offi­cial web­site, in the ear­ly 1990s he found­ed a law firm that advo­cat­ed the inter­ests of pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes and then he became a pres­i­dent of CSK Kyiv soc­cer club. In 1998–2000, he was the advis­er of than Kyiv May­or Olek­san­dr Omelchenko, a mem­ber and one of the founders of his par­ty Uni­ty.

    In 2002, Arte­menko was arrest­ed by the Prosecutor’s Gen­er­al Office of Ukraine on accu­sa­tions of mon­ey laun­der­ing and kept in pre-tri­al deten­tion for more than two years. How­ev­er, he suc­cess­ful­ly chal­lenged his impris­on­ment as ille­gal and ground­less. He said pros­e­cu­tors were per­se­cut­ing him in hopes of get­ting Omelchenko, who was also sus­pect­ed of mon­ey laun­der­ing.

    In 2004, Arte­menko released from pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­ter Lukyanivske on bail of Mikhail Dobkin, a Par­ty of Regions law­mak­er.

    But in 2006 he became the head of the Kyiv depart­ment of Batkivshchy­na Par­ty, led by now ex-Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko.

    In 2007–2013 Arte­menko found­ed sev­er­al com­pa­nies that pro­vid­ed mil­i­tary logis­tics ser­vices into the con­flict zones and trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia, Syr­ia, and Qatar for busi­ness trips.

    Since 2013 he has his own char­i­ty foun­da­tion that helps inter­nal­ly dis­placed per­sons from the war-torn Don­bas.

    True patri­ot?

    Arte­menko came to the Verk­hov­na Rada in 2014 as a Rad­i­cal Par­ty law­mak­er (16th on the party’s list). Accord­ing to the parliament’s web­site, Arte­menko is the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus.

    The law­mak­er took an active part in Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion in 2013–2014 that deposed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.

    In 2014 he joined the Right Sec­tor polit­i­cal par­ty and was rumored to be one of the spon­sors of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign in 2014.

    There is even a pho­to of Arte­menko, seat­ing among the Right Sec­tor Par­ty founders at the first par­ty meet­ing in March 2014.

    Right Sec­tor spokesper­son Artem Sko­ropad­sky told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 20 that he couldn’t con­firm or deny whether Arte­menko financed the Right Sec­tor Par­ty.

    “I was nev­er into all the ‘finan­cial stuff,’ but I have no infor­ma­tion about him giv­ing the mon­ey. I remem­ber all those guys like him (Arte­menko) and (Borislav) Bereza just came to us after March 22. They weren’t Right Sec­tor mem­bers dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty,” said Sko­ropad­sky.

    He said that after the end of Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion there was a “mess” in Right Sec­tor. Dozens of peo­ple a day was com­ing to the activists only in Kyiv.

    “The ones who could afford it gave us mon­ey, oth­ers help in dif­fer­ent ways. But as soon as we start­ed build­ing the struc­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion, the guys like Arte­menko and Bereza went to the oth­er par­ties, came in Rada or oth­er gov­ern­ment struc­tures,” Sko­ropad­sky recalled.

    ———-

    “But in 2006 he became the head of the Kyiv depart­ment of Batkivshchy­na Par­ty, led by now ex-Prime Min­is­ter Yulia Tymoshenko.”

    So in 2006 Arte­menko becomes head of the Kiev depart­ment of Tymoshenko’s par­ty, and then it does­n’t appear that he aligns him­self with a dif­fer­ent par­ty until 2014, when he par­tic­i­pate in the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion and lat­er helps form Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor and joins the Rad­i­cal Par­ty:

    ...
    The law­mak­er took an active part in Euro­Maid­an Rev­o­lu­tion in 2013–2014 that deposed Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych.
    And it was In 2014 he joined the Right Sec­tor polit­i­cal par­ty and was rumored to be one of the spon­sors of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign in 2014.

    There is even a pho­to of Arte­menko, seat­ing among the Right Sec­tor Par­ty founders at the first par­ty meet­ing in March 2014.

    Right Sec­tor spokesper­son Artem Sko­ropad­sky told the Kyiv Post on Feb. 20 that he couldn’t con­firm or deny whether Arte­menko financed the Right Sec­tor Par­ty.
    ...

    Unless there’s some new rev­e­la­tion about Arte­menko’s polit­i­cal activ­i­ty from 2006–2014 it seems like a rel­a­tive­ly safe assump­tion that he main­tains pret­ty close ties to Tymoshenko and her par­ty. Tymoshenko ally Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko admit­ted to hand­ing Arte­menko dirt on Poroshenko and Tymoshenko is cur­rent­ly try­ing to form an anti-Poroshenko alliance with the help of Mikail Saakashvili. Curi­ouser and curi­ouser.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 13, 2017, 1:28 pm
  7. @Pterrafractyl–

    Note that Naly­vaichenko tracks back to the OUN/B milieu, as does Tim­o­shenko (Jaroslav Stet­sko’s per­son­al sec­re­tary Roman Svarych was “Just Us” Min­is­ter in both of her regimes).

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | September 13, 2017, 2:37 pm
  8. Here’s a piece about Andreii Arte­menko from back in Feb­ru­ary in a Ukrain­ian out­let, Hro­madske, that con­tains some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on his past asso­ci­a­tions and how they result­ed in him join­ing up with Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor. Specif­i­cal­ly, it sounds like one of the fig­ures Arte­menko was impris­oned with back in 2001 for protest­ing with against the Kuch­ma regime was Myko­la Karpyuk/Karpiuk, described as a front­man for the UNA-UNSO till March 2014. Recall from FTR#808 how the UNA-UNSO emerged from Roman Shukeyvuch’s UPA and even­tu­al­ly mor­phed into Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor in 2014. Also recall that Roman Shukeyvuch led a pogram against the Jews of Lviv under orders from the Nazi occu­piers and is now being cel­e­brat­ed there with “Shukhevy­ch­fest”. That’s the kind of group the UNA-UNSO was which tells us quite a bit about Arte­menko’s asso­ciate Myko­la Karpyuk. It also tells us quite a bit about how Arte­menko end­ed up in Right Sector/Pravy Sek­tor.

    But there was anoth­er impor­tant claim by Arte­maneko in the arti­cle that could also go quite a way in clear­ing up who may have been work­ing with Arte­menko on his ‘peace plan’. The peace plan that’s char­ac­ter­ized as ‘pro-Kremiln’ despite the fact that it involves hand­ing Crimea back to Ukraine and just leas­ing it out for 100 years and top­pling Petro Poroshenko in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal so Arte­menko could take his place (it’s most­ly just a pro-Arte­menko plan). Arte­menko asserts that he worked on this peace plan with oth­er Ukrain­ian MPs who don’t want to be named. And while that leaves us spec­u­lat­ing, he also recounts a pre­vi­ous attempt to nego­ti­ate with the Krem­lin that should be kept in mind when assess­ing the like­li­hood that Right Sec­tor may have been will­ing to engage in a back-chan­nel nego­ti­a­tion with the Krem­lin: Accord­ing to Arte­menko, Right Sec­tor’s lead­er­ship had a meet­ing a few days before the Crimea ref­er­en­dum in 2014 with oth­er right move­ment lead­ers and over the course of that meet­ing it was decid­ed that Myko­la Karpyuk would trav­el to Rus­sia with the head of the Kiev Right Sec­tor divi­sion and try to nego­ti­ate a res­o­lu­tion that would avoid the ref­er­en­dum. Karpyuk did exact­ly that, was arrest­ed at the Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der, and sen­tenced to 22.5 years in prison for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Chechen civ­il war (see FTR#911 for more on the UNA-UNSO par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Chechen civ­il war).

    While the nego­ti­a­tions obvi­ous­ly did­n’t work out for Right Sec­tor, in light of the strange case of the Artemenko/Michael Cohen/Felix Sater peace plan scheme of 2016, it’s a pret­ty note­wor­thy prece­dent to read about a ‘peace plan’ back-chan­nel that Right Sec­tor was try­ing to estab­lish with the Krem­lin back in 2014:

    Hro­madske Inter­na­tion­al

    Who Is The Per­son That Sug­gest­ed To Lease Crimea To Rus­sia?

    21 Feb­ru­ary, 2017

    Polit­i­cal rene­gade, Trump fan and trea­sur­er of the “Right Sec­tor”. What do we know about the MP Andrii Arte­menko?

    The MP Andrii Arte­menko of the right-wing “Oleh Lyashko’s Rad­i­cal Par­ty” hand­ed over a plan con­cern­ing Ukraine to then US Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Michael Fly­nn. The plan includ­ed a pro­pos­al how to rec­on­cile Ukraine and Rus­sia and lift anti-Russ­ian sanc­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, it sug­gest­ed to hold all-Ukrain­ian ref­er­en­dum on leas­ing Crimea to Rus­sia, with­draw­al of troops from Ukraine and lift­ing sanc­tions from Rus­sia. Krem­lin called the plan ‘an absurd’ and denied con­nec­tions to for­ma­tion of it.

    A week lat­er Fly­nn resigned because of his leaked con­ver­sa­tions with Russ­ian diplo­mats on lift­ing Amer­i­can sanc­tions. In an inter­view with “Strana.ua” Arte­menko claimed, that he turned over mate­r­i­al com­pro­mis­ing Poroshenko to the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment with the help of Valentin Nali­vay­chenko – Head of Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice.

    In inter­view with Russ­ian radio sta­tion “Echo of Moscow” he said: “I won’t deny, I sym­pa­thised with Trump since his con­fir­ma­tion. I am con­vinced that the Amer­i­can peo­ple ought to have elect­ed some­one like him. There are new inter­na­tion­al agree­ments in the mak­ing, new pos­si­bil­i­ties, also to end the Ukraine cri­sis. I can’t look at what Ukraine has become, the eco­nom­ic col­lapse we’re in. Poroshenko’s and the cur­rent government’s pol­i­tics have led the coun­try to a point, at which the loss of our auton­o­my and uni­ty is a mat­ter of days. The main goal and my duty is to estab­lish peace. I am glad that my col­leagues – the con­gress­men of the US, the Ukrain­ian MPs and hope­ful­ly the Russ­ian MPs as well – will sup­port my ini­tia­tive. I hope we can cre­ate a plat­form to put an end to this ghast­ly con­flict.”

    Who is Andrii Arte­menko?

    Andrii Arte­menko is a known rene­gade. He was the pres­i­dent of ?SKA Kiev foot­ball club, lat­er he went to prison for steal­ing $4 mil­lion through it. He also was Kyiv may­or advi­sor in 2000, before going to prison.

    Arte­menko was impris­oned togeth­er with Myko­la Karpyuk – a front­man of far-right Ukrain­ian orga­ni­za­tion UNA-UNSO till March 2014. In 2000–2001 he and Arte­menko were activists in protests “Ukraine with­out Kuch­ma” (ex-pres­i­dent of Ukraine) and were jailed for 4,5 years. Dur­ing Maid­an at 2013–2014 Karpyuk’s orga­ni­za­tion became a part of Right Sec­tor — a union of far-right move­ments, which was set off dur­ing Maid­an. In March 2014 after “ref­er­en­dum” in Crimea he went to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate with Putin’s aides about des­tiny of Crimea. Arte­menko insist­ed on this. He was arrest­ed by FSB offi­cers on Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der and lat­er con­demned to 22.5 years in prison.

    In the 2014 elec­tions Andrii Arte­meko entered par­lia­ment on the list of “Oleh Lyashko’s Rad­i­cal Par­ty”, which is more pop­ulist, than ide­o­log­i­cal. Its odi­ous leader was a mem­ber of Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc before tak­ing the lead­er­ship of a new polit­i­cal move­ment. His US Viza was can­celled ear­li­er. Arte­menko claims that he is respon­si­ble for secu­ri­ty in the par­ty, as wells as „some eco­nom­ic issues and projects involv­ing the attrac­tion of for­eign invest­ments to Ukraine.“ But after NYT arti­cle brought to the lights the deliv­ery of a ‘peace plan’, MP was exclud­ed from the par­ty.

    When the sec­ond Maid­an start­ed, Arte­menko end­ed up – through Karpyuk, who by then was the leader of UNSO – in the “Right Sec­tor”. Accord­ing to for­mer „Right Sec­tor“ leader Dmytro Yarosh, he was respon­si­ble for the finances there. In March. 2014, before the ref­er­en­dum in Crimea, Russ­ian court opened a case on him, accus­ing Dmytro Yarosh of ‘calls for extrem­ist activ­i­ty”. Two years after Inter­pol delet­ed the infor­ma­tion about inter­na­tion­al search of Dmytro Yarosh. Now he is non-affil­i­at­ed mem­ber of par­lia­ment and an advi­sor to the Chief of the Gen­er­al Staff.

    Lat­er he start­ed to oppose Yarosh, before leav­ing the “Right Sec­tor” and becom­ing an MP with “Oleh Lyashko’s Rad­i­cal Par­ty”.

    Ref­er­en­dum in Crimea

    Arte­menko told in Hromadske’s inter­view that cou­ple days before the ref­er­en­dum on the sta­tus of Crimea was held on March, 2014, a meet­ing with Dmytro Yarosh, Myko­la Karpiuk and oth­er right move­ments took place. They were dis­cussing the annex­a­tion of Crimea and a cri­sis plan.

    Dur­ing the meet­ing it was decid­ed that Karpiuk with the head of Kyiv Right Sec­tor depart­ment will go to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate on the top-lev­el.

    “Myko­la (Karpiuk) decid­ed to go to Rus­sia by him­self. [...] Then the ques­tion of the annex­a­tion of Crimea was arrised, and some propo­si­tions from a per­son, close to Karpiuk, appeared. He sug­gest­ed they could come and nego­ti­ate. Meabe we had a chance to can­cel that “ref­er­en­dum”,” said Mr. Yarosh.

    The next day after the ref­er­en­dum Myko­la Karpiuk and his col­legue frim Right Sec­tor were arrest­ed on the Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der. Russ­ian court sen­tenced him to 22,5 years of deten­tion for alleged­ly par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Chechen war on sep­a­ratists side. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al called this law­suit “a mock­ery of jus­tice”.

    Mean­while Andrii Arte­menko start­ed clam­our against then leader of Right Sec­tor Dmytro Yarosh and got into the par­lia­ment as a mem­ber of “Rad­i­cal Par­ty”.

    Amer­i­can ties

    What sur­pris­es most Amer­i­can ana­lysts and jour­nal­ists is, how a mar­gin­al­ly known and even less influ­en­tial Ukrain­ian politi­cian had a con­nec­tion to the now ex-Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor to the Pres­i­dent of the US. Arte­menko claims that he worked sev­en years in the US and before return­ing to Ukraine, owned a logis­tics com­pa­ny in Qatar and that his work was con­nect­ed to sup­ply­ing mil­i­tary bases.

    In his inter­view with “Strana.ua”, Arte­menko said that his “peace-plan” with Rus­sia had been devel­oped by a group of Ukrain­ian MPs (he wouldn’t tell names) and two key fig­ures of this sto­ry – the per­son­al lawyer and spe­cial advi­sor of Trump, Michael Cohen and the Amer­i­can busi­ness­man of Russ­ian ori­gin Felix Sater. Arte­menko claims that he has known them for a long time. Accord­ing to “Strana.ua”, he got acquaint­ed with Sater through mutu­al friends and Cohen he knows since the time the lawyer found­ed a fam­i­ly “busi­ness on ethanol” in Ukraine.

    It was Cohen who left a sealed enve­lope con­tain­ing the Ukraine plan in Michael Flynn’s office in the begin­ning of Feb­ru­ary. Accord­ing to Arte­menko, he dis­cussed the “peace-plan” with Cohen and Sater “at the time of the pri­maries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nom­i­nat­ed.”

    Trump has been acquaint­ed with Sater for a long time. Sater had been Trump’s senior advi­sor for ten years. He claims that before that he active­ly coop­er­at­ed with Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies and alleged­ly helped to find Osama bin Laden.

    Michael Cohen – Trump’s lawyer – is said to be the US President’s con­nect­ing link to the Krem­lin. In Jan­u­ary 2017 “Buz­zFeed” pub­lished an arti­cle on Trump’s ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, claim­ing that Trump has being coop­er­at­ing with it for many years through Cohen. Among oth­er things the arti­cles says that Cohen met secret­ly Russ­ian emis­saries in Prague on 29 August 2016. He soon insist­ed on the arti­cle to be fake.

    Now he is deny­ing that he trans­mit­ted the Ukran­ian MP’s “peace-plan” to the White House. But he con­firmed meet­ing with Arte­menko and receiv­ing this plan from him.

    ...

    ———-

    “Who Is The Per­son That Sug­gest­ed To Lease Crimea To Rus­sia?” By Eka­te­ri­na Ser­gatsko­va. Trans­lat­ed by Fyo­dr Shulgin; Hro­madske Inter­na­tion­al; 02/21/2017

    Arte­menko was impris­oned togeth­er with Myko­la Karpyuk – a front­man of far-right Ukrain­ian orga­ni­za­tion UNA-UNSO till March 2014. In 2000–2001 he and Arte­menko were activists in protests “Ukraine with­out Kuch­ma” (ex-pres­i­dent of Ukraine) and were jailed for 4,5 years. Dur­ing Maid­an at 2013–2014 Karpyuk’s orga­ni­za­tion became a part of Right Sec­tor — a union of far-right move­ments, which was set off dur­ing Maid­an. In March 2014 after “ref­er­en­dum” in Crimea he went to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate with Putin’s aides about des­tiny of Crimea. Arte­menko insist­ed on this. He was arrest­ed by FSB offi­cers on Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der and lat­er con­demned to 22.5 years in prison.”

    When you’re hang­ing around with UNA-UNSO front­men in 2000–2001 you just might end up in a neo-Nazi group like Right Sec­tor 2014. It’s not so much a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion as a nat­ur­al con­tin­u­a­tion.

    And note how it’s not just Arte­menko who describes this meet­ing and the deci­sion to send Myko­la Karpyuk to Rus­sia. Right Sec­tor’s neo-Nazi leader Dmytro Yarosh con­firms that this meet­ing hap­pened too:

    ...
    Arte­menko told in Hromadske’s inter­view that cou­ple days before the ref­er­en­dum on the sta­tus of Crimea was held on March, 2014, a meet­ing with Dmytro Yarosh, Myko­la Karpiuk and oth­er right move­ments took place. They were dis­cussing the annex­a­tion of Crimea and a cri­sis plan.

    Dur­ing the meet­ing it was decid­ed that Karpiuk with the head of Kyiv Right Sec­tor depart­ment will go to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate on the top-lev­el.

    “Myko­la (Karpiuk) decid­ed to go to Rus­sia by him­self. [...] Then the ques­tion of the annex­a­tion of Crimea was arrised, and some propo­si­tions from a per­son, close to Karpiuk, appeared. He sug­gest­ed they could come and nego­ti­ate. Meabe we had a chance to can­cel that “ref­er­en­dum”,” said Mr. Yarosh.

    The next day after the ref­er­en­dum Myko­la Karpiuk and his col­legue frim Right Sec­tor were arrest­ed on the Russ­ian-Ukrain­ian bor­der. Russ­ian court sen­tenced him to 22,5 years of deten­tion for alleged­ly par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Chechen war on sep­a­ratists side. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al called this law­suit “a mock­ery of jus­tice”.
    ...

    ““Myko­la (Karpiuk) decid­ed to go to Rus­sia by him­self. [...] Then the ques­tion of the annex­a­tion of Crimea was arrised, and some propo­si­tions from a per­son, close to Karpiuk, appeared. He sug­gest­ed they could come and nego­ti­ate. Meabe we had a chance to can­cel that “ref­er­en­dum”,” said Mr. Yarosh.”

    So this isn’t just Andereii Arte­menko telling tall tales. If it’s a tall tale, Dmyr­to Yarosh is in on it. And the events of 2016 only but­tress the events of 2014.

    And note Karpyuk’s arrest and sen­tenc­ing to 22.5 years isn’t in ques­tion. His sen­tenc­ing has been wide­ly report­ed in Ukraine in a case that’s described as a judi­cial farce of made up lies about Karpyuk fight­ing in Chech­nya. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle from May of 2016 also makes clear, any men­tion of a Right Sec­tor ‘peace plan’ for Crimea being the rea­son for Karpyuk’s arrest is not part of the cov­er­age (his arrest is described as “unclear cir­cum­stances” in the fol­low­ing piece). So there’s clear­ly been no desire to have this 2014 peace plan out­reach attempt by Right Sec­tor dis­cussed in pub­lic, which is part of why the admis­sion Arte­menko and Yarosh appear to have made in the above inter­view is so notable. No one involved with this failed 2014 far-right out­reach to the Krem­lin has real­ly want­ed to talk about it, despite the jail­ing of Karpyuk being a a case fol­lowed in the Ukrain­ian media:

    Unian.info

    Chechen court rul­ing: Karpiuk sen­tenced to 22.5 years, Klykh should serve 20 years

    Judge of the Supreme Court of the Repub­lic of Chech­nya Vakhit Ismailov has ruled to sen­tence Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen Myko­la Karpiuk to 22.5 years in a strict-regime penal colony, anoth­er Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen Stanislav Klykh has been sen­tenced to 20 years in prison, accord­ing to Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty free­lance jour­nal­ist Anton Naum­lyuk

    19:42, 26 May 2016

    “Both Ukraini­ans signed an appli­ca­tion for sub­mit­ting an appeal against the court’s deci­sion,” he wrote on Face­book on Thurs­day.
    [see Face­book post]
    As was report­ed, a pros­e­cu­tor in Rus­si­a’s North Cau­ca­sus region of Chech­nya called for two Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens con­vict­ed of fight­ing along­side Chechen sep­a­ratists in the 1990s to be sen­tenced to 22.5 and 22 years in prison, respec­tive­ly.

    Karpiuk, born in 1964, the leader of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Assem­bly-Ukrain­ian Nation­al Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) and one of the founders of the Right Sec­tor, was detained under unclear cir­cum­stances in Rus­sia on March 21, 2014. Based only on the state­ments of a Crimean recidi­vist serv­ing a sen­tence in a Russ­ian colony, the Russ­ian ser­vices fab­ri­cat­ed a crim­i­nal case against Karpiuk, claim­ing he alleged­ly fought against fed­er­al troops dur­ing the First Chechen War and even killed a num­ber of Russ­ian sol­diers. Stanislav Klykh, a his­to­ri­an, was detained on August 11, 2014, when he arrived to vis­it his girl­friend in the Russ­ian city of Orel. The Russ­ian author­i­ties accused him along with Karpiuk of involve­ment in the mur­der of Russ­ian sol­diers dur­ing the First Chechen War. The two Ukraini­ans deny their guilt, say­ing that they were tor­tured to wit­ness. Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said that Karpiuk and Klykh should be freed under the Min­sk agree­ments.

    ———-

    “Chechen court rul­ing: Karpiuk sen­tenced to 22.5 years, Klykh should serve 20 years”; Unian.info; 05/26/2016

    Karpiuk, born in 1964, the leader of the Ukrain­ian Nation­al Assem­bly-Ukrain­ian Nation­al Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) and one of the founders of the Right Sec­tor, was detained under unclear cir­cum­stances in Rus­sia on March 21, 2014. Based only on the state­ments of a Crimean recidi­vist serv­ing a sen­tence in a Russ­ian colony, the Russ­ian ser­vices fab­ri­cat­ed a crim­i­nal case against Karpiuk, claim­ing he alleged­ly fought against fed­er­al troops dur­ing the First Chechen War and even killed a num­ber of Russ­ian sol­diers. Stanislav Klykh, a his­to­ri­an, was detained on August 11, 2014, when he arrived to vis­it his girl­friend in the Russ­ian city of Orel. The Russ­ian author­i­ties accused him along with Karpiuk of involve­ment in the mur­der of Russ­ian sol­diers dur­ing the First Chechen War. The two Ukraini­ans deny their guilt, say­ing that they were tor­tured to wit­ness. Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said that Karpiuk and Klykh should be freed under the Min­sk agree­ments.”

    Karpyuk was “detained under unclear cir­cum­stances in Rus­sia on March 21, 2014.” That’s the gen­er­al lev­el of detail you’ll find in the sto­ries on his arrest. But it appears Arte­menko and Yarosh just revealed what exact­ly led to that arrest in the above inter­view and it was some sort of pro­pos­al Right Sec­tor was will­ing to offer the Krem­lin. Pre­sum­ably a pro­pos­al involv­ing extend­ing Rus­si­a’s lease on Crimea and some­how get­ting Right Sec­tor vault­ed into pow­er. You know, pret­ty much Arte­menko’s plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 18, 2017, 8:31 pm
  9. One of the more curi­ous aspects of the whole #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion is how the case of Ukrain­ian far-right MP Andrey Arte­menko and the ‘peace plan’ scheme he appar­ent­ly hatched with Felix Sater and Michael Cohen con­tin­ues to be reg­u­lar­ly report­ed on and reg­u­lar­ly cit­ed as a key piece of cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gest­ing the Trump team was secret­ly col­lud­ing with the Krem­lin despite the fact that vir­tu­al­ly every­thing about Arte­menko’s back­ground points in the exact oppo­site direc­tion towards the anti-Krem­lin fac­tion of the Ukrain­ian far-right. It’s rather amaz­ing. Even the Ukrain­ian press, which rou­tine­ly notes Arte­menko’s his­to­ry with the viru­ent­ly anti-Russ­ian neo-Nazi Right Sec­tor par­ty, still treats Arte­menko as a Krem­lin agent as opposed to a Ukrain­ian far right agent. It’s such a remark­able dis­in­for­ma­tion strat­e­gy because it appears to hinge on the hope that the obvi­ous is nev­er point­ed out. But so far it’s a strat­e­gy that’s large­ly worked.

    So it’s worth not­ing anoth­er one of those ‘WTF?!’ moments that’s popped up in the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. A ‘WTF?!’ moment involv­ing Paul Man­afort and his work as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant (and pos­si­ble mon­ey-laun­der­er) for Vik­tor Yanukovich’s Par­ty of Regions before Yanukovich was forced to flee dur­ing the Maid­an protests fol­low­ing the mass out­rage over the deaths of over 100 pro­tes­tors by sniper fire wide­ly blamed the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment: Recall the thou­sands of text mes­sages of Andrea Man­afort, Paul Man­fort’s daugh­ter, that were alleged­ly hacked and released on the dark web back in Feb­ru­ary talk­ing about Ukrain­ian “blood mon­ey” and how her dad had peo­ple peo­ple killed. Specif­i­cal­ly, her texts appeared to allude to Man­afort advis­ing who­ev­er did the sniper attacks to car­ry them out in order to bring inter­na­tion­al atten­tion to the sit­u­a­tion, includ­ing a text say­ing, ““You know he has killed peo­ple in Ukraine? Know­ing­ly, as a tac­tic to out­rage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remem­ber when there were all those deaths tak­ing place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strat­e­gy that was to cause that, to send those peo­ple get them slaugh­tered.”

    And, of course, is was those sniper attacks that basi­cal­ly sealed the Yanukovich gov­ern­men­t’s fate by direct­ing local and inter­na­tion­al out­rage at the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment, which is one of the rea­sons there’s so much spec­u­la­tion about the sniper attacks hav­ing actu­al­ly been car­ried out by forced try­ing to get the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment removed. Spec­u­la­tion backed up by an abun­dance of tes­ti­monies and ques­tion­able offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tions.

    And as we’re going to see, per­haps the biggest ‘WTF?!’ aspect of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the Maid­an sniper attacks is that the offi­cial pros­e­cu­tors claim to have found the sniper rifle as part of a larg­er cache of bro­ken down weapons found sunk in a lake. And the per­son who led them to that cache was part of the Maid­an protests. Yep. Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors assert that some­one, still unnamed, who was part of the Maid­an protests actu­al­ly led the “Berkut” secret police units who are accused to car­ry­ing out the sniper attack out of Kiev so they could escape. This was the charge pros­e­cu­tors were mak­ing last year, warn­ing the Ukrain­ian pub­lic that there was be some shock­ing rev­e­la­tions when they final­ly reveal their case. A case the pub­lic is still wait­ing for.

    And, again, the one thing that more or less guar­an­teed the suc­cess of the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion was the sniper fire which is part of why there was sus­pi­cions this was ‘friend­ly fire’ from the begin­ning. Snip­ing the pro­tes­tors made absolute­ly no sense for the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment but it made a lot of sense for a the Maid­an protest movement...a move­ment trag­i­cal­ly infused with exact­ly the kind of neo-Nazi forces that would have been more than hap­py to shoot some pro­tes­tors to achieve their goal.

    So if Andrea Man­afort was under the impres­sion that her father was advis­ing some­one to car­ry out the sniper attacks in order to bring inter­na­tion­al atten­tion to the sit­u­a­tion you have to won­der if Man­afort was advis­ing more than just the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment dur­ing that Maid­an peri­od. After all, while Man­afort may have done some con­sult­ing work for the Par­ty of Regions it’s not like we have any com­pelling rea­son to believe he’s actu­al­ly loy­al to the Par­ty of Regions. Might he have been advis­ing the pro-Maid­an forces too? It’s a ques­tion worth ask­ing. Espe­cial­ly if those hacked text mes­sages become a focus in the inves­ti­ga­tion to estab­lish the Trump cam­paign’s ties to the Krem­lin. Much like the strange case of Andrey Arte­menko, when it comes to Paul Man­afort and the Maid­an sniper it’s the kind evi­dence that, both cir­cum­stan­tial­ly and log­i­cal­ly, point in the oppo­site direc­tion of the pre­vail­ing spec­u­la­tion:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    As the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues, the focus has inten­si­fied on Ukraine

    It is Paul Man­afort, one of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign man­agers, who is most imme­di­ate­ly in the fir­ing line

    Kim Sen­gup­ta
    Thurs­day 21 Sep­tem­ber 2017 12:15 BST

    A hear­ing took place last week in Kiev on Andrii Artemenko’s efforts to have his cit­i­zen­ship restored. A day lat­er John Bolton, the for­mer Amer­i­can envoy to the UN, and a staunch Don­ald Trump sup­port­er, told an inter­na­tion­al con­fer­ence in the city that he expect­ed some of the peo­ple around the US Pres­i­dent to go to prison. Inves­ti­ga­tions into Paul Man­afort, mean­while, are look­ing at his activ­i­ties in Ukraine.

    The Ukrain­ian con­nec­tion in the Trump affair is under increas­ing scruti­ny. Mr Arte­menko, an MP, is a rel­a­tive­ly unfa­mil­iar name in the expand­ing and colour­ful cast of those now entan­gled. But his links with Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, and Felix Sater, a crim­i­nal and for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate of Trump, has become impor­tant in estab­lish­ing whether the Krem­lin was active­ly seek­ing to influ­ence Amer­i­can pol­i­cy.

    Mr Arte­menko has been accused of trea­son by the gov­ern­ment of Petro Poroshenko and stripped of his cit­i­zen­ship. That came after rev­e­la­tions that he report­ed­ly gave details of a secret plan to Mr Sater and Mr Cohen to be passed on to the Trump White House which would, in effect, for­malise the dis­mem­ber­ment of Ukraine. The pro­pos­al was that sanc­tions against Rus­sia would be lift­ed in return for Moscow leas­ing the Crimea for an unspec­i­fied amount of time.

    Mr Trump had stat­ed dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign that he may accept the Kremlin’s annex­a­tion of Crimea. Mr Arte­menko deliv­ered his plan to Mr Cohen who passed it on, it has been claimed, to Michael Fly­nn, a for­mer Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al, who was then Mr Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er. Mr Fly­nn was him­self forced to resign over his con­tacts with the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and is now the sub­ject of an inquiry over that as well as over lob­by­ing for Recep Tayyep Erdogan’s Turk­ish gov­ern­ment.

    It is Mr Man­afort who is most imme­di­ate­ly in the fir­ing line with his work as Mr Trump’s cam­paign man­ag­er as well as that of Vik­tor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s pro-Moscow Pres­i­dent who was over­thrown in the rev­o­lu­tion of four years ago and fled to Rus­sia, being exam­ined.

    It has been revealed that Mr Man­afort was secret­ly wire­tapped by the FBI and has been told by pros­e­cu­tors that he may face indict­ment over alleged vio­la­tions of tax laws, mon­ey laun­der­ing, and lob­by­ing for a for­eign pow­er. Fed­er­al agents work­ing for Spe­cial Inves­ti­ga­tor Robert Mueller, who car­ried out an ear­ly morn­ing raid at his apart­ment in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, have tak­en away doc­u­ments and com­put­er files which include, it is believed, details of his work for Pres­i­dent Yanukovych.

    A num­ber of Mr Manafort’s asso­ciates have been sub­poe­naed by Mr Mueller’s team. They include the heads of two con­sult­ing firms, Mer­cury Pub­lic Affairs and the Podes­ta Group, who worked with Mr Man­afort in Ukraine.

    Ukraine’s Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau, set up under West­ern super­vi­sion, has alleged­ly dis­cov­ered secret accounts, the so-called “black ledger”, sup­pos­ed­ly show­ing that in a peri­od of five years, between 2007 and 2012, when Mr Man­afort received $12.7m from Mr Yanukovych’s Par­ty of Regions. Offi­cials hold that the mon­ey was part of an ille­gal clan­des­tine sys­tem which had been used to pay off a num­ber of fig­ures. Mr Man­afort has insist­ed that he had not received the mon­ey.

    Human rights groups in Ukraine also want to ques­tion Mr Man­afort about killings dur­ing the Maid­an protests in Kiev in 2014. Euge­nia Zakrevs­ka, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing fam­i­lies of vic­tims, is part of a team seek­ing infor­ma­tion on who was com­plic­it in Pres­i­dent Yanukovych’s order­ing secu­ri­ty forces to open fire on demon­stra­tors.

    The lawyer’s demands for expla­na­tion spring from the hack­ing ear­li­er this year of the iPhone of Mr Manafort’s daugh­ter, Andrea, with around 300,000 mes­sages pub­lished in the dark web. One of the texts sent to her sis­ter Jes­si­ca said: “Don’t fool your­self. That mon­ey we have is blood mon­ey.” It con­tin­ued “You know he has killed peo­ple in Ukraine? Know­ing­ly, as a tac­tic to out­rage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remem­ber when there were all those deaths tak­ing place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strat­e­gy that was to cause that, to send those peo­ple get them slaugh­tered.”

    In anoth­er text she said: “He is cash-poor right now. And now Ukraine is late in pay­ing him.”

    No evi­dence has been pre­sent­ed that Mr Man­afort was respon­si­ble for deaths and Andrea Man­afort has refused to com­ment on the texts. Ms Zakrevs­ka, how­ev­er, wants Mr Man­afort “to clar­i­fy the alle­ga­tions con­tained in the text mes­sages and to con­tact us with any infor­ma­tion you may have about events that occurred in cen­tral Kiev between 18 and 20 Feb­ru­ary 2014”.

    Mr Arte­menko, accord­ing to a New York Times report “emerged from the oppo­si­tion” organ­ised against Pres­i­dent Poroshenko by Mr Man­afort and was insti­gat­ed in putting togeth­er the “peace deal” by fig­ures close to Vladimir Putin. This is denied by the MP com­plains that that “any­one who has a per­son­al opin­ion in Ukraine is auto­mat­i­cal­ly named a Russ­ian spy. I don’t have such con­nec­tions with Rus­sia, that is the rea­son why I tried to involve the Trump admin­is­tra­tion on this issue and not the Krem­lin.”

    ...

    But the man Mr Arte­menko chose to help him get his plan to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion boasts of the sheer extent of his Russ­ian con­nec­tions. Felix Sater, born Felix She­fer­ovsky in Rus­sia, whose fam­i­ly emi­grat­ed to the US when he was six, had declared that he could get the Kremlin’s back­ing to make Mr Trump the US Pres­i­dent.

    “Our boy can become Pres­i­dent of the USA and we can engi­neer it ... I will get Putin on this pro­gramme and we will get Trump elect­ed,” he emailed Mr Cohen, a life­long friend. Anoth­er excit­ed email to Mr Trump’s lawyer said “Can you believe two guys from Brook­lyn are going to elect a Pres­i­dent?”

    Mr Sater’s con­nec­tions were enough to ensure that Ivan­ka Trump got to seat on Putin’s chair at the Pres­i­den­tial office in the Krem­lin. He had chap­er­oned her and Don­ald Jr on a trip to Moscow at the request of Mr Trump. Ivan­ka recalls the trip includ­ed “a brief tour of Red Square and the Krem­lin” and this may have involved sit­ting at Pres­i­dent Putin’s desk.

    Mr Sater was jailed in 1991 for slash­ing a man with a bro­ken cock­tail glass (a mar­gari­ta) and he was also con­vict­ed for involve­ment in an invest­ment scam in which Russ­ian and Amer­i­can organ­ised crime groups tar­get­ed the elder­ly, some of whom were Holo­caust sur­vivors. On that occa­sion he avoid­ed a poten­tial sen­tence of 20 years, pay­ing a £25,000 fine instead. He also became a fed­er­al informer. Accord­ing to pros­e­cu­tion doc­u­ments he sup­plied high­ly valu­able mate­r­i­al on al-Qae­da, Russ­ian organ­ised crime, the Amer­i­can mafia and for­eign gov­ern­ments.

    Mr Arte­menko, Mr Sater and Mr Cohen met at a Man­hat­tan restau­rant ear­li­er this year where, accord­ing to Mr Arte­menko and Mr Sater, the Ukraine plan was dis­cussed at length and Mr Cohen offered to take it to Michael Fly­nn. The New York Times report­ed that he sub­se­quent­ly deliv­ered it per­son­al­ly, in a sealed enve­lope, to the President’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er. Mr Cohen lat­er denied this account. The news­pa­per stands by its sto­ry, say­ing that he had acknowl­edged what he had done to its jour­nal­ists.

    Mr Fly­nn was forced to resign soon after­wards. Inves­ti­ga­tors now have obtained a copy of the Arte­menko plan. Pros­e­cu­tion lawyers are said to be con­sid­er­ing whether it con­sti­tut­ed a covert attempt by a for­eign pow­er to influ­ence US pol­i­cy.

    Mr Arte­menko feels he has been caught in the cross­fire between Mr Trump and “the lib­er­al media”. He will con­tin­ue with his “Roadmap for Peace”, he says, and strive to regain Ukrain­ian nation­al­i­ty – his birth right. A source close to him refused to say whether or not he has agreed to meet Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors.

    ———-

    “As the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues, the focus has inten­si­fied on Ukraine” by Kim Sen­gup­ta; The Inde­pen­dent; 09/21/2017

    “Human rights groups in Ukraine also want to ques­tion Mr Man­afort about killings dur­ing the Maid­an protests in Kiev in 2014. Euge­nia Zakrevs­ka, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing fam­i­lies of vic­tims, is part of a team seek­ing infor­ma­tion on who was com­plic­it in Pres­i­dent Yanukovych’s order­ing secu­ri­ty forces to open fire on demon­stra­tors.”

    Yep, three and a half years after those sniper attacks that were crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion and the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims still have yet to get any mean­ing­ful answers from the gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tors. So let’s hope some­one real­ly is look­ing into a pos­si­ble role Man­afort may have played in advis­ing the forces behind those sniper attacks because it’s one of the most impor­tant unre­solved mys­ter­ies of the whole sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine:

    ...
    The lawyer’s demands for expla­na­tion spring from the hack­ing ear­li­er this year of the iPhone of Mr Manafort’s daugh­ter, Andrea, with around 300,000 mes­sages pub­lished in the dark web. One of the texts sent to her sis­ter Jes­si­ca said: “Don’t fool your­self. That mon­ey we have is blood mon­ey.” It con­tin­ued “You know he has killed peo­ple in Ukraine? Know­ing­ly, as a tac­tic to out­rage the world and get focus on Ukraine. Remem­ber when there were all those deaths tak­ing place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not. Do you know whose strat­e­gy that was to cause that, to send those peo­ple get them slaugh­tered.”

    In anoth­er text she said: “He is cash-poor right now. And now Ukraine is late in pay­ing him.”

    No evi­dence has been pre­sent­ed that Mr Man­afort was respon­si­ble for deaths and Andrea Man­afort has refused to com­ment on the texts. Ms Zakrevs­ka, how­ev­er, wants Mr Man­afort “to clar­i­fy the alle­ga­tions con­tained in the text mes­sages and to con­tact us with any infor­ma­tion you may have about events that occurred in cen­tral Kiev between 18 and 20 Feb­ru­ary 2014”.
    ...

    Did Paul Man­afort seri­ous­ly rec­om­mend the snip­ing of pro­tes­tors “Know­ing­ly, as a tac­tic to out­rage the world and get focus on Ukraine”? If so, and if he made this rec­om­men­da­tion to the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment he’s got to be one of the worst polit­i­cal con­sul­tants in his­to­ry. On the oth­er hand, if he was qui­et­ly advis­ing the far-right ele­ments of the pro-Maid­an forces, well...you can argue about the moral­i­ty of that tac­tic but you can’t argue with the results. Those sniper attacks basi­cal­ly guar­an­teed the suc­cess fo the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion. So which is it? Is Man­afort a hap­less­ly evil or a bril­liant­ly evil con­sul­tant?

    It’s a pret­ty big ques­tion but, trag­i­cal­ly like so much of the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, it’s a ques­tion is almost nev­er asked. The nar­ra­tive of this Trump affil­i­at­ed net­work as being exclu­sive­ly Krem­lin oper­a­tives — as opposed to inter­na­tion­al sell­out mob­sters who will work for all sorts of nefar­i­ous forces and appear to be fas­cists at heart — is con­sid­ered an absolute­ly vital nar­ra­tive to main­tain as opposed to a dan­ger­ous nar­ra­tive that’s sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly skew­ing our under­stand­ing of how the world works by almost remov­ing the west­ern far right from con­sid­er­a­tion as a bad actor on the glob­al bat­tle­field even when there’s an abun­dance of evi­dence that the far right is car­ry­ing out these oper­a­tions.

    Of course, we also have to keep in mind that, as we’ve seen with the s num­ber of high pro­file hacks, there’s noth­ing stop­ping hack­ers from just fab­ri­cat­ing texts and doc­u­ments and that very well could be the case in these hacked texts. So it’s worth not­ing that Paul Man­afort has actu­al­ly con­firmed that some of the hacked texts are real. As as the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, Andrea Man­afort was actu­al­ly with her dad in Flori­da dur­ing the sniper attacks (so it’s not incon­ceiv­able he was get­ting chat­ty about it with her) and the text she sent about the attacks were sent after they took place:

    CNN

    Ukraine lawyer seeks probe of alleged hacked texts of Man­afort’s daugh­ter

    By Simon Ostro­vsky
    Updat­ed 7:17 AM ET, Sat March 11, 2017

    Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)A Ukrain­ian human rights attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the vic­tims of mass police shoot­ings in Kiev in 2014 has asked pros­e­cu­tors to inves­ti­gate what are pur­port­ed to be the hacked text mes­sages of one of Paul Man­afort’s daugh­ters, say­ing the texts point to pos­si­ble influ­ence Man­afort had with Ukraine’s pres­i­dent dur­ing that peri­od.

    “You know he has killed peo­ple in Ukraine? Know­ing­ly,” Andrea Man­afort alleged­ly wrote of her father in March 2015 in an angry series of texts to her sis­ter, Jes­si­ca, about her father’s per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life.

    “Remem­ber when there were all those deaths tak­ing place. A while back. About a year ago. Revolts and what not,” reads anoth­er text in ref­er­ence to the blood­shed in Kiev.

    “Do you know whose strat­e­gy that was to cause that, to send those peo­ple out and get them slaugh­tered.”

    “He has no moral or legal com­pass,” Andrea alleged­ly wrote about her father ear­li­er as part of the same con­ver­sa­tion.

    The mes­sages were obtained from a hack­er web­site that in Feb­ru­ary post­ed four years’ worth of texts, con­sist­ing of 300,000 mes­sages, appar­ent­ly tak­en from Andrea Man­afort’s iPhone.

    Paul Man­afort: No com­ment

    Paul Man­afort cur­rent­ly faces an FBI inves­ti­ga­tion over mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of pay­ments he alleged­ly received while work­ing as a polit­i­cal strate­gist for Ukraine’s Rus­sia-backed pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovych. Man­afort has denied receiv­ing the unde­clared cash pay­ments.

    Pro­test­ers descend­ed on Kiev’s cen­tral square in a peace­ful protest in the win­ter of 2013 when Yanukovych unex­pect­ed­ly backed out of a trade deal with the Euro­pean Union under pres­sure from the Krem­lin. Close to 100 peo­ple died in the shoot­ings in the weeks before Yanukovych fled in Feb­ru­ary 2014.

    Ukrain­ian author­i­ties say Yanukovych cre­at­ed con­di­tions that allowed secu­ri­ty forces to kill the pro-West­ern pro­test­ers in Kiev, but so far have not been able to charge him because he is in Rus­sia.

    Man­afort has not been linked to the shoot­ings.

    Asked by CNN to com­ment, Man­afort said via text mes­sage: “Com­ment on what. There is noth­ing.”

    Man­afort would not con­firm whether the texts were gen­uine, but in a Politi­co sto­ry last month on the texts, he indi­cat­ed that some of them were.

    The texts sug­gest that Man­afort and his daugh­ter were togeth­er in Flori­da on the day of the worst vio­lence in Kiev on Feb­ru­ary 20th, when close to 50 peo­ple died.

    Man­afort already influ­en­tial in Ukraine

    Thurs­day, the human rights lawyer, Euge­nia Zakrevs­ka, filed a motion in Kiev request­ing that pros­e­cu­tors ver­i­fy the con­tents of the text mes­sage dump and take mea­sures to com­pel US author­i­ties to ques­tion Man­afort.

    “I call on Mr. Man­afort to clar­i­fy the alle­ga­tions con­tained in the text mes­sages and to con­tact us with any infor­ma­tion he may have on those events,” Zakrevs­ka told CNN.

    Zakrevs­ka and a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tion unit have been work­ing togeth­er on sev­er­al con­cur­rent cas­es look­ing into the vio­lence in and around Kiev’s Inde­pen­dence Square.

    Zakrevs­ka said all of the killings would have already tak­en place by the time Man­afort met his daugh­ter the evening of the 20th, if the texts’ time­stamps are accu­rate, and she thought it was unlike­ly that Andrea actu­al­ly wit­nessed Paul Man­afort per­son­al­ly direct­ing Kiev police forces.

    “But this does­n’t rule out Man­afort’s influ­ence on Yanukovy­ch’s actions and deci­sions dur­ing that peri­od,” Zakrevs­ka said.

    Ser­hiy Gor­batyuk, Ukraine’s pros­e­cu­tor for spe­cial inves­ti­ga­tions, con­firmed to CNN that his office received Zakrevska’s motion and said the text mes­sages would be inves­ti­gat­ed and poten­tial­ly entered into evi­dence. “We will check thor­ough­ly to ver­i­fy if they are real or not.”

    Asked by CNN about the prospect of an inves­ti­ga­tion by the gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tors’ office, Man­afort replied: “Total BS on GP (gen­er­al pros­e­cu­tor).”

    Man­afort began work­ing for Yanukovych in 2004 and grew to be an influ­en­tial fig­ure in Ukraine who had the ear of the Pres­i­dent. After Yanukovych was oust­ed and pro-West­ern forces took the reins, Man­afort stayed on in the coun­try to help rebrand Yanukovy­ch’s Par­ty of Regions as “Oppo­si­tion Bloc.”

    ...

    Covert meth­ods and ‘shady email’

    The text mes­sages, if gen­uine, shed light both on the last days of the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine and a tur­bu­lent peri­od in the Trump cam­paign last sum­mer, when Trump shook up his team’s lead­er­ship struc­ture.

    They also cov­er the time peri­od when Rus­sia, accord­ing to US intel­li­gence agen­cies, may have been con­duct­ing hacks into email accounts asso­ci­at­ed with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.

    In the same 2015 con­ver­sa­tion with her sis­ter, Andrea alleged­ly sug­gests to Jes­si­ca that their father used covert meth­ods to send mes­sages to Ukraine.

    “I was there when it hap­pened. I saw him on his shady email,” she alleged­ly wrote. “They don’t write emails. They log on and write in the drafts So it’s nev­er trans­mit­ted over any servers.”

    In anoth­er alleged exchange with Jes­si­ca, in June 2016, Andrea plays down her father’s involve­ment in the hacks of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty emails.

    “Pret­ty crazy about all the email hack­ing huh?” the texts read. “Dad must be over the moon.”

    “Oh i saw.” is the reply. “The rus­sians.”

    “Well it was­n’t dad’s doing. It was hack­ers,” Andrea alleged­ly writes back. “No clue who the hack­ers were. Fbi is look­ing into it.”

    ———-

    “Ukraine lawyer seeks probe of alleged hacked texts of Man­afort’s daugh­ter” by Simon Ostro­vsky; CNN; 03/11/2017

    “Man­afort would not con­firm whether the texts were gen­uine, but in a Politi­co sto­ry last month on the texts, he indi­cat­ed that some of them were.”

    Ok, so at least some of the texts are real based on Paul Man­afort’s own admis­sion, although he would­n’t con­firm which ones. But if the ones of the killings in Ukraine are real that’s pret­ty fishy since they were sent after the sniper attacks:

    ...
    The texts sug­gest that Man­afort and his daugh­ter were togeth­er in Flori­da on the day of the worst vio­lence in Kiev on Feb­ru­ary 20th, when close to 50 peo­ple died.

    ...

    Thurs­day, the human rights lawyer, Euge­nia Zakrevs­ka, filed a motion in Kiev request­ing that pros­e­cu­tors ver­i­fy the con­tents of the text mes­sage dump and take mea­sures to com­pel US author­i­ties to ques­tion Man­afort.

    “I call on Mr. Man­afort to clar­i­fy the alle­ga­tions con­tained in the text mes­sages and to con­tact us with any infor­ma­tion he may have on those events,” Zakrevs­ka told CNN.

    Zakrevs­ka and a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tion unit have been work­ing togeth­er on sev­er­al con­cur­rent cas­es look­ing into the vio­lence in and around Kiev’s Inde­pen­dence Square.

    Zakrevs­ka said all of the killings would have already tak­en place by the time Man­afort met his daugh­ter the evening of the 20th, if the texts’ time­stamps are accu­rate, and she thought it was unlike­ly that Andrea actu­al­ly wit­nessed Paul Man­afort per­son­al­ly direct­ing Kiev police forces.

    “But this does­n’t rule out Man­afort’s influ­ence on Yanukovy­ch’s actions and deci­sions dur­ing that peri­od,” Zakrevs­ka said.
    ...

    It’s going to be inter­est­ing to see what, if any­thing, Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tors into the sniper attacks say about this part of their inves­ti­ga­tion. And inves­ti­ga­tion that con­tin­ues three and a half years after the attacks.

    Of course, giv­en that the inves­ti­ga­tion would utter­ly under­mine the cur­rent Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment if it con­clud­ed that the snipers were any­one oth­er that peo­ple work­ing on Yanukovich, it’s hard to have too much con­fi­dence in its out­come. Still, the inves­ti­ga­tors are going to have to release some sort of con­clu­sion even­tu­al­ly. And that brings us to the remark­able warn­ing pros­e­cu­tors gave to the Ukrain­ian pub­lic in July of 2016 about who was work­ing with the sniper: The pros­e­cu­tors con­tin­ue to assert tha the sniper was a mem­ber of the “Berkut” secret police. But, pros­e­cu­tors warn the pub­lic, get ready for a major twist because the per­son who pros­e­cu­tors say led the group of Berkut forces who car­ried out the attacks was a mem­ber of the Maid­an protest. This is the warn­ing issued by Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al.

    So giv­en how much cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests some­one back­ing the the protests actu­al­ly shot the pro­tes­tors in order to gen­er­ate inter­na­tion­al out­rage against the Yanukovich gov­ern­ment it’s worth keep­ing in mind that the per­son who led Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tors to the cache of weapons alleged­ly used the attacks was also a mem­ber of the protests:

    Unian.info

    Pros­e­cu­tors say pub­lic to face unpleas­ant sur­prise in Maid­an killings probe

    Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko says that the man who helped so-called “black hun­dred” of police task force Berkut, who had been shoot­ing at pro­test­ers dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion of Dig­ni­ty, flee Kyiv and delib­er­ate­ly drowned their weapons to con­ceal evi­dence, was him­self one of the par­tic­i­pants of the Maid­an protests.

    12:00, 24 July 2016

    “With the help of mil­i­tary coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence, we have found weapons of the “black hun­dred,” includ­ing a sniper rifle, which the entire coun­try saw on footage show­ing the shoot­ing at the pro­test­ers from out­side the Octo­ber Palace,” he told the 112 Ukraine TV chan­nel.

    “We found it with a large num­ber of auto­mat­ic rifles on the bot­tom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a sin­gle group, whose leader is one of the tar­gets of our inves­ti­ga­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this man who, accord­ing to our ver­sion, upon the orders of [for­mer Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the “black hun­dred” flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, him­self, was with us on the Maid­an,” Lut­senko said.

    As UNIAN report­ed ear­li­er, the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al’s Office July 14 con­duct­ed search­es at the hous­es of per­sons involved in assist­ing the troops from Berkut police spe­cial forces’ “black hun­dred” in flee­ing Kyiv after the bloody killings of the Maid­an activists and sub­se­quent destruc­tion of their weapons.

    Ear­li­er, Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al of Ukraine, Chief Mil­i­tary Pros­e­cu­tor Ana­toliy Matios said: “When pub­lic learns who is involved in this, peo­ple will be very sur­prised.” Accord­ing to him, infor­ma­tion to be pub­lished may cause rejec­tion, “but the truth is the truth.”

    ———-

    “Pros­e­cu­tors say pub­lic to face unpleas­ant sur­prise in Maid­an killings probe”; Unian.info; 07/24/2016

    ““We found it with a large num­ber of auto­mat­ic rifles on the bot­tom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a sin­gle group, whose leader is one of the tar­gets of our inves­ti­ga­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this man who, accord­ing to our ver­sion, upon the orders of [for­mer Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the “black hun­dred” flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, him­self, was with us on the Maid­an,” Lut­senko said.”

    Yes, accord­ing to Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al Yuriy Lut­senko, the leader of the Berkut offi­cers who car­ried out the attack was “with us on the Maid­an”. Yeah, that’s quite a twist. The kind of twist that’s going to make it very inter­est­ing to hear more of the details from these pros­e­cu­tors in terms who this per­son is and what the evi­dence is that they were direct­ing this sniper oper­a­tion. Like, do the pros­e­cu­tors pri­mar­i­ly have evi­dence tying the weapons they found back to this mys­tery Maid­an per­son, and then extrap­o­late that they must have been lead­ing the Berkut because it was a fore­gone con­clu­sion that the Berkut car­ried out the attack? Or do pros­e­cu­tors have evi­dence tying these dis­cov­ered weapons to the Berkut mem­bers? These are the kinds of details the world is still wait­ing for and in the mean time we have to set­tle for the spo­radic hints of what to expect.

    And thanks to those hacked texts we now have to ask the ques­tion: what was the rela­tion­ship between Paul Man­afort and this mys­tery Maid­an indi­vid­ual who pros­e­cu­tors assert was secret­ly lead­ing the Berkut unit charged with the sniper attacks? It does­n’t seem like­ly we’ll ever get an answer to that ques­tion but it’s still worth ask­ing. Like so many of the ‘WTF?!’ ques­tions swirling around all things involv­ing Russ­ian and Ukraine these days that are either nev­er asked, or asked, answered, and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 30, 2017, 3:24 pm
  10. @Pterrafractyl–

    Bril­liant, bril­liant work!!

    Bra­vo!

    Recall that in FTR #919, I sug­gest­ed that Man­afort’s CV sug­gests that he was actu­al­ly an agent of pen­e­tra­tion, sent in to ally him­self with a leader tar­get­ed for desta­bi­liza­tion and sub­se­quent removal.

    http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-919-the-trumpenkampfverbande-part-2-german-ostpolitik-part‑2/

    The analy­sis you have pre­sent­ed sug­gests that that was the case in Ukraine, as it was in the Philip­pines.

    Keep up your mag­nif­i­cent efforts.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | September 30, 2017, 4:15 pm
  11. A num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions have been raised by Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s refusal to cer­ti­fy the Iran nuclear deal and threat­ened to aban­don it alto­geth­er if it isn’t mod­i­fied, but per­haps the most omi­nous ques­tion is whether or not the intent of this actions is actu­al­ly to cre­ate the con­di­tions where Iran not only choos­es to reignite its nuclear pro­gram but actu­al­ly build a nuclear device. Could that be part of the agen­da? As far fetched as the pos­si­bil­i­ty might seem on its face, in the con­text of a num­ber of oth­er nuclear-relat­ed sto­ries we’ve seen emerge from the Trump team over the last year it’s a ques­tion we have to ask.

    Let’s recall all those sto­ries:
    1. The secret nego­ti­a­tions involv­ing Ukrain­ian far right politi­cian Andreii Arte­menko, Felix Sater, Robert Armao, and Trump Org attor­ney Michael Cohen to rehab Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er sec­tor and export elec­tric­i­ty to Ukraine’s neigh­bors.

    2. The evi­dence indi­cat­ing that North Kore­a’s recent advances in ICBM tech­nol­o­gy came from a Ukrain­ian rock­et fac­to­ry, rais­ing obvi­ous ques­tions about whether or not the Ukrain­ian far right played a role in the tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer.

    So we have a sto­ry about a pos­si­ble the Ukrain­ian mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy traf­fick­ing net­work (which would like­ly involve the Ukrain­ian far right if such a net­work exists) paired with a sto­ry about Felix Sater and Michael Cohen talk­ing with a Ukrain­ian far right politi­cian upgrad­ing Ukraine’s nuclear plants. All in all, it’s pret­ty clear that at least ele­ments of Ukraine’s far right has an eye on exploit­ing the two sec­tors of Ukraine’s econ­o­my that are required for a nuclear mis­sile.

    But then there’s fol­low­ing sto­ry that came out back in June about anoth­er nuclear-pow­er relat­ed scheme. A scheme that involv­ing Michael Fly­nn a group of US ex-gen­er­als to total­ly trans­form the ener­gy sec­tor across the Mid­dle East by encour­ag­ing nuclear pow­er in coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia, Egypt and Jor­dan. Part of the report­ed moti­va­tion behind the plan was con­cerns about the amount of inter­na­tion­al busi­ness the US nuclear indus­try was los­ing out to Russ­ian and South Kore­an nuclear indus­tries. But one of the oth­er key goals of this scheme was to incen­tivize Rus­sia to drop Iran as a client state by mak­ing Rus­sia a key part­ner in the plan, along with promis­es for more sales of Russ­ian mil­i­tary hard­ware if it drops Iran as a client.

    And this scheme was already get­ting explored by Michael Fly­nn back in June of 2015 (so before Fly­nn actu­al­ly joined Trump’s cam­paign), when Fly­nn flew to Egypt and Israel . It was report­ed­ly up to Michael Fly­nn to explore the Egypt­ian and Israeli recep­tiv­i­ty to the idea. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion opposed the plan due to Rus­si­a’s involve­ment, so when Michael Fly­nn lat­er became Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor the plan sud­den­ly looked like a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. But then all the inves­ti­ga­tions in the Trump cam­paign and the Krem­lin emerged and back­ers began to walk away.

    The Saud­is also report­ed­ly nev­er showed much inter­est in the plan, with some sus­pect­ing that the Saud­is have much greater nuclear ambi­tions (like secret nuclear weapons devel­op­ment with Pak­istan or Chi­na).

    So we have Michael Fly­nn par­tic­i­pat­ing in secret nego­ti­a­tions over a scheme hatched by US ex-gen­er­als to pro­mote the US nuclear pow­er sec­tor by part­ner­ing with the Russ­ian nuclear sec­tor (in order to weak­en Iran), and the Trump team was sud­den­ly exact­ly the kind of admin­is­tra­tion that might be able to make this plan come to fruition giv­en its overt­ly friend­ly dis­po­si­tion towards Moscow. But then #TrumpRus­sia derails the scheme.

    It all rais­es the ques­tion of how the col­lapse of the Iran nuclear deal might impact the future prospects of this scheme. Because if Iran ends up restart­ing its nuclear weapons pro­gram we should expect a response from its Sun­ni rivals. And if that hap­pens, a scheme involv­ing the devel­op­ment of nuclear pow­er (a step­ping stone to a nuclear weapons pro­gram) just might become a lot more tempt­ing for the var­i­ous play­ers involved. And it’s hard to imag­ing a scheme with more poten­tial prof­its than set­ting up a long-term nuclear pow­er plant build­ing, main­te­nance, and waste stor­age and dis­pos­al dis­pos­al con­tracts across the Mid­dle East for decades to come with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of future nuclear weapons-relat­ed ser­vices when the sit­u­a­tion devolves into a nuclear arms race.

    All in all, it’s a reminder that start­ing a nuclear arms race in the Mid­dle East would be incred­i­bly prof­itable (until the nukes fly, although they’ll prob­a­bly find a way to prof­it from that):

    Newsweek

    Michael Fly­nn, Rus­sia and a Grand Scheme to Build Nuclear Pow­er Plants in Sau­di Ara­bia and the Arab World

    By Jeff Stein On 6/9/17 at 7:00 AM

    Updat­ed | By the time Michael Fly­nn was fired as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er in Feb­ru­ary, he had made a lot of bad deci­sions. One was tak­ing mon­ey from the Rus­sians (and fail­ing to dis­close it); anoth­er was tak­ing mon­ey under the table from the Turks. But an over­looked line in his finan­cial dis­clo­sure form, which he was forced to amend to detail those for­eign pay­ments, reveals he was also involved in one of the most audacious—and some say harebrained—schemes in recent mem­o­ry: a plan to build scores of U.S. nuclear pow­er plants in the Mid­dle East. As a safe­ty mea­sure.

    In 2015 and 2016, accord­ing to his fil­ing, Fly­nn was an advis­er to X‑Co Dynam­ics Inc./Iron Bridge Group, which at first glance looks like just anoth­er Pen­ta­gon con­sul­tan­cy that ex-mil­i­tary offi­cers use to fat­ten their wal­lets. Its chair­man and CEO was retired Admi­ral Michael Hewitt; anoth­er retired admi­ral, Frank “Skip” Bow­man, who over­saw the Navy’s nuclear pro­grams, was an advis­er. Oth­er top guns asso­ci­at­ed with it were for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency boss Kei­th Alexan­der and retired Marine Corps Gen­er­al James “Hoss” Cartwright, a for­mer vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whose stel­lar career was marred when he was pros­e­cut­ed last year for lying to the FBI dur­ing a leak inves­ti­ga­tion.

    In June 2015, knowl­edge­able sources tell Newsweek, Fly­nn flew to Egypt and Israel on behalf of X‑Co/Iron Bridge. His mis­sion: to gauge atti­tudes in Cairo and Jerusalem toward a plan for a joint U.S.-Russian (and Sau­di-financed) pro­gram to get con­trol over the Arab world’s rush to acquire nuclear pow­er. At the core of their con­cern was a fear that states in the volatile Mid­dle East would have inad­e­quate secu­ri­ty for the plants and safe­guards for their radioac­tive waste—the stuff of nuclear bombs.

    But no less a con­cern for Fly­nn and his part­ners was the mori­bund U.S. nuclear indus­try, which was los­ing out to Russ­ian and even South Kore­an con­trac­tors in the region. Or, as Stu­art Solomon, a top exec­u­tive along with Hewitt at his new ven­ture, IP3 (Inter­na­tion­al Peace, Pow­er and Pros­per­i­ty), put it in a recent speech to indus­try exec­u­tives, “We find ourselves…standing on the side­lines and watch­ing the com­pe­ti­tion pass us by.”

    That the oil-rich, sun-soaked Arab Mid­dle East would pur­sue nuclear ener­gy seems para­dox­i­cal. But as The Econ­o­mist not­ed in 2015, “Demand for elec­tric­i­ty is ris­ing, along with pres­sure to low­er car­bon emis­sions; nuclear plants tick both box­es.” And some of the region’s major play­ers, like Egypt and Jor­dan, don’t have oil and gas resources and “want nuclear pow­er to shore up the secu­ri­ty of their ener­gy sup­plies,” The Econ­o­mist said.

    So the genius idea the Amer­i­cans advo­cat­ed was a U.S.-Russian part­ner­ship to build and oper­ate plants and export the dan­ger­ous spent fuel under strict con­trols. Flynn’s role would be help­ing X‑Co/Iron Bridge design and imple­ment a vast secu­ri­ty net­work for the entire enter­prise, accord­ing to an inter­nal memo by ACU Strate­gic Part­ners, one of the lead com­pa­nies involved, obtained by Newsweek.

    Not only would the project revive the U.S. nuclear indus­try, but it would cost Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers noth­ing, its prin­ci­pals assert­ed. It would be “fund­ed entire­ly by Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Gulf coun­tries,” accord­ing to the ACU memo. The cost for the king­dom? “Close to a tril­lion dol­lars,” says a project insid­er, who asked for anonymi­ty in exchange for dis­cussing inter­nal mat­ters.

    The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, the Saud­is and oth­er “par­tic­i­pat­ing Mid-East gov­ern­ments” would recoup some costs by sell­ing ener­gy “through their util­i­ties,” accord­ing to the ACU plan. But if the Saud­is and oth­er Arab states buy in, it won’t be for ener­gy, says Thomas Cochran, a promi­nent sci­en­tist and nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­po­nent involved with the ACU project. “They are buy­ing secu­ri­ty,” he tells Newsweek. Under the ACU plan, “they’re buy­ing a secu­ri­ty arrange­ment involv­ing the U.S., Rus­sia, France, and the U.K., even­tu­al­ly.”

    Left out of this grand nuclear scheme: Iran (along with Syr­ia, its war-rav­aged Shi­ite proxy). In fact, “it was always part of the project that Russia’s involvement...would tilt Rus­sia away from Iran,” Fred John­son, ACU’s chief econ­o­mist, wrote in an email to his advis­ers obtained by Newsweek. The idea was that Rus­sia, fac­ing what John­son called an “eco­nom­ic and exis­ten­tial calami­ty” because of low oil prices, could use the income gen­er­at­ed from the part­ner­ship. The con­sor­tium could then pur­chase “Russ­ian mil­i­tary hard­ware” to com­pen­sate Moscow for los­ing mil­i­tary sales to Iran.

    “Fur­ther plans to side­line Iran,” John­son wrote, includ­ed “the devel­op­ment of X‑Co,” the Hewitt com­pa­ny that Fly­nn was advis­ing, “with its very vis­i­ble deploy­ment of Sea Launch,” a Russ­ian com­pa­ny “that would pro­vide a plat­form for rock­ets” to put sur­veil­lance satel­lites in orbit.

    Fly­nn was “not involved” in the nego­ti­a­tions with Sea Launch, Cochran says. The for­mer gen­er­al, now being pur­sued by fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing con­tacts between Russ­ian offi­cials and Trump’s inner cir­cle, did not respond to an inquiry from Newsweek. Peo­ple asso­ci­at­ed with the Mid­dle East project say they thought Flynn’s involve­ment was lim­it­ed to sound­ing out the Egyp­tians and Israelis on secu­ri­ty aspects of the enter­prise. He list­ed no income from X‑Co/Iron Bridge on his finan­cial dis­clo­sure form.

    “To the best of my knowl­edge,” Fly­nn was not being paid for his exper­tise, as was the case with many advis­ers to the project, Cochran says, but the for­mer general’s trav­el expens­es were picked up by ACU, as were his own. (The cost of busi­ness-class round-trip air­fare and exclu­sive hotels for the trip would have ranged between $10,000 and $15,000.)

    Hewitt denied that iso­lat­ing Iran was part of the plan. “X‑Co wasn’t cre­at­ed to sim­ply ‘side­line Iran,’” he respond­ed to John­son and their asso­ciates in an email. “It was designed to set the con­di­tions for sta­bil­i­ty which were the pre­cur­sors to build­ing 40 plants” and to “solid­i­fy the [Gulf Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­cil], Jor­dan, Egypt under a secu­ri­ty con­struct, led by two super­pow­ers, using state of the art capa­bil­i­ty.”

    But the project faced oppo­si­tion from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Cochran says. “They didn’t want to do it with the Rus­sians and didn’t want to do it while they were nego­ti­at­ing the Iran [nuclear] deal,” he tells Newsweek.

    Trump’s embrace of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, on the oth­er hand, offered an attrac­tive pos­si­bil­i­ty. And when Fly­nn, who had con­nec­tions to the Rus­sians, became the candidate’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, the ACU team, led by British-Amer­i­can deal­mak­er Alex Cop­son, sud­den­ly seemed to have an inside man. Last year, Cop­son was tout­ing such con­nec­tions when he tried to per­suade the Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­i­ty to trans­fer an unfin­ished Alaba­ma nuclear plant to the ACU in exchange for shares in the con­sor­tium that would build reac­tors in the Mid­dle East, telling a Huntsville reporter that “Alabama’s two senators”—both Repub­li­cans, and one, Jeff Ses­sions, then a top Trump cam­paign adviser—“can help the next admin­is­tra­tion move this project for­ward.” The plant was even­tu­al­ly sold to anoth­er com­pa­ny.

    When reports sur­faced that the FBI was inves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion between the Rus­sians and the Trump cam­paign, how­ev­er, some of Copson’s part­ners and advis­ers decid­ed it was time to walk away. “When Cop­son decid­ed he was going to sad­dle up with the Trump team, that was the last straw for me,” the insid­er says. “I said it’s time to regroup.”

    The Saud­is hadn’t shown much inter­est any­way, the insid­er says. “Cop­son was promis­ing the advis­ers lots of mon­ey if the Saud­is put up mon­ey,” but it failed to mate­ri­al­ize. “And so there’s noth­ing that any­one was going to gain unless the project was a suc­cess,” he tells Newsweek.

    Hewitt and his asso­ciates also split from ACU to pur­sue their own path toward a nuclear-pow­ered Mid­dle East, one that would swap in Chi­na for Rus­sia as a nuclear part­ner, two sources close to the project say. (Hewitt declined to dis­cuss plans for IP3, telling Newsweek he was “work­ing hard to cre­ate our pub­lic per­sona right now.”)

    But the high­ly regard­ed Cochran stayed with ACU. A long­time senior sci­en­tist at the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil, where he was direc­tor of its nuclear pro­gram, Cochran was the author of count­less stud­ies and arti­cles over the decades and had ini­ti­at­ed with Moscow the U.S.-Soviet nuclear test ban ver­i­fi­ca­tion project in 1986. He “has extra­or­di­nary chutz­pah,” a writer for Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can observed in 1998. “He is will­ing to take on what most peo­ple wouldn’t both­er with because they assume it’s hope­less.”

    Or nuts. In 2001, a writer for the left-wing In These Times week­ly got hold of a draft pro­pos­al for a 1990s-era project that Cochran was involved in, the Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Trust (NPT), which envi­sioned tak­ing con­trol of spent fuel from reac­tors around the world and ship­ping it to Rus­sia “on large ships mount­ed with an arse­nal of weapons designed to ward off nuclear pirates,” wrote Jef­frey St. Clair. “The big ques­tion is what hap­pens to the waste after it arrives in Rus­sia.”

    Most observers, includ­ing Cochran, believe coun­tries devel­op­ing nuclear pow­er should be respon­si­ble for dis­pos­ing of their own spent nuclear fuel. What St. Clair failed to appre­ci­ate, he says, is the dif­fi­cul­ty of doing so for many coun­tries, either because of geol­o­gy (Tai­wan, in the earth­quake-prone Pacif­ic), costs (Mex­i­co) or a weak secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment, as in the Mid­dle East, “where the buildup of spent fuel rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant pro­lif­er­a­tion risk.” Had the NPT project not failed, Cochran says, “we prob­a­bly would have a spent fuel repos­i­to­ry under­way in Rus­sia” and now under strict oversight—instead of a loom­ing cri­sis. As for the dan­ger of ship­ping spent fuel across the oceans, Cochran says it’s been done safe­ly for decades.

    All the more rea­son to part­ner with the Rus­sians today in an iron­clad secu­ri­ty arrange­ment, Hewitt says. “We’re always going to be engaged in the secu­ri­ty of the Mid­dle East,” he told a May gath­er­ing at the Nuclear Ener­gy Insti­tute. “It is in our best inter­ests to ensure that nuclear pow­er is intro­duced with all of the safe­ty [stan­dards of the U.S.].”

    Cochran urges crit­ics not to lose focus on the big pic­ture, which he alter­nate­ly likens to launch­ing the U.S. Mar­shall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II, and the Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­i­ty, which tamed rivers and brought elec­tric­i­ty and indus­tri­al devel­op­ment to the Amer­i­can South in the 1930s. “It would pro­vide ener­gy and jobs and so forth for coun­tries like Egypt and oth­ers in the region,” he says, “so that these young men have got some­thing more use­ful to do than go out and shoot each oth­er.”

    For a project fraught with such diplo­mat­ic and logis­ti­cal mine­fields, how­ev­er, Cop­son is per­haps an odd choice to lead ACU into the Mid­dle East. Wide­ly report­ed to be “a some­time bass play­er with the British rock band Iron But­ter­fly,” (though not an offi­cial mem­ber), Cop­son once famous­ly “described the natives of the Mar­shall Islands as ‘fat, lazy fu cks’ when they nixed one of his nuke dump schemes” in the Cen­tral Pacif­ic Ocean, muck­rak­ing jour­nal­ist Greg Palast wrote in 2001. (The islands are now dis­ap­pear­ing under ris­ing seas.)

    Cop­son did not respond to sev­er­al calls, emails and writ­ten ques­tions ask­ing for com­ment. But it’s not like­ly the Trump team, many of whom are under close scruti­ny for their undis­closed Russ­ian con­tacts, will be any help to Cop­son now. And the Saud­is aren’t “tak­ing the kind of steps that would be required to real­ly get seri­ous about set­ting up a civ­il nuclear-ener­gy infra­struc­ture,” says Tris­tan Volpe, a fel­low in the Nuclear Pol­i­cy Pro­gram of the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

    Oth­ers sus­pect the Saud­is are up to some­thing more nefar­i­ous because of the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran. The Saud­is “have big ambi­tions for nuclear,” says David Albright, pres­i­dent of the Insti­tute for Sci­ence and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “The issue is whether they cross over into any pro­cess­ing or enrich­ment” with secret part­ners like Pak­istan or Chi­na.

    Fly­nn once expressed deep wor­ries about a Sau­di-Iran­ian nuclear arms race. In a Jan­u­ary 2016 inter­view with Al-Jazeera, he sound­ed like Cochran, the elder states­man of the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion move­ment. “An entire­ly new econ­o­my is what this region needs,” he said, espe­cial­ly for the mil­lions of unem­ployed young men liv­ing under cor­rupt autoc­ra­cies and tempt­ed by extrem­ism. “You’ve got to give them some­thing else to do. If you don’t, they’re going to turn on their own gov­ern­ments.”

    But that was before he hitched up with Trump, who has embraced the Sau­di monar­chy and ratch­eted up his rhetoric against Iran. Talk of a grand scheme to cre­ate jobs in the Mid­dle East, mean­while, has evap­o­rat­ed, with the Rus­sia scan­dal envelop­ing not only Fly­nn but Trump’s entire pres­i­den­cy.

    ...

    ———-

    “Michael Fly­nn, Rus­sia and a Grand Scheme to Build Nuclear Pow­er Plants in Sau­di Ara­bia and the Arab World” by Jeff Stein; Newsweek; 06/09/2017

    In June 2015, knowl­edge­able sources tell Newsweek, Fly­nn flew to Egypt and Israel on behalf of X‑Co/Iron Bridge. His mis­sion: to gauge atti­tudes in Cairo and Jerusalem toward a plan for a joint U.S.-Russian (and Sau­di-financed) pro­gram to get con­trol over the Arab world’s rush to acquire nuclear pow­er. At the core of their con­cern was a fear that states in the volatile Mid­dle East would have inad­e­quate secu­ri­ty for the plants and safe­guards for their radioac­tive waste—the stuff of nuclear bombs.”

    A joint US-Russ­ian plan to set up and safe­guard nuclear plants around the Mid­dle East. A plant that not only might draw Rus­sia away from Iran but also save the US nuclear indus­try from Russ­ian com­pe­ti­tion. And the Saud­is and oth­er Gulf coun­tries would finance the entire thing:

    ...
    But no less a con­cern for Fly­nn and his part­ners was the mori­bund U.S. nuclear indus­try, which was los­ing out to Russ­ian and even South Kore­an con­trac­tors in the region. Or, as Stu­art Solomon, a top exec­u­tive along with Hewitt at his new ven­ture, IP3 (Inter­na­tion­al Peace, Pow­er and Pros­per­i­ty), put it in a recent speech to indus­try exec­u­tives, “We find ourselves…standing on the side­lines and watch­ing the com­pe­ti­tion pass us by.”

    That the oil-rich, sun-soaked Arab Mid­dle East would pur­sue nuclear ener­gy seems para­dox­i­cal. But as The Econ­o­mist not­ed in 2015, “Demand for elec­tric­i­ty is ris­ing, along with pres­sure to low­er car­bon emis­sions; nuclear plants tick both box­es.” And some of the region’s major play­ers, like Egypt and Jor­dan, don’t have oil and gas resources and “want nuclear pow­er to shore up the secu­ri­ty of their ener­gy sup­plies,” The Econ­o­mist said.

    So the genius idea the Amer­i­cans advo­cat­ed was a U.S.-Russian part­ner­ship to build and oper­ate plants and export the dan­ger­ous spent fuel under strict con­trols. Flynn’s role would be help­ing X‑Co/Iron Bridge design and imple­ment a vast secu­ri­ty net­work for the entire enter­prise, accord­ing to an inter­nal memo by ACU Strate­gic Part­ners, one of the lead com­pa­nies involved, obtained by Newsweek.

    Not only would the project revive the U.S. nuclear indus­try, but it would cost Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers noth­ing, its prin­ci­pals assert­ed. It would be “fund­ed entire­ly by Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Gulf coun­tries,” accord­ing to the ACU memo. The cost for the king­dom? “Close to a tril­lion dol­lars,” says a project insid­er, who asked for anonymi­ty in exchange for dis­cussing inter­nal mat­ters.
    ...

    It would be “fund­ed entire­ly by Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Gulf coun­tries,” accord­ing to the ACU memo. The cost for the king­dom? “Close to a tril­lion dol­lars,” says a project insid­er, who asked for anonymi­ty in exchange for dis­cussing inter­nal mat­ters.”

    That’s not chump change. And keep in mind that if this plan actu­al­ly hap­pened we’re talk­ing about build­ing nuclear plants that are going to be run­ning for decades gen­er­at­ing waste that’s going to have to be stored for poten­tial­ly cen­turies. It’s A LOT of mon­ey at stake.

    And it was Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent who just might be able to thread this nee­dle and make it hap­pen. Until #TrumpRuss­ian hap­pened and the deal appears to have fall­en apart (and the Saud­is nev­er showed much inter­est any­way):

    ...
    But the project faced oppo­si­tion from the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Cochran says. “They didn’t want to do it with the Rus­sians and didn’t want to do it while they were nego­ti­at­ing the Iran [nuclear] deal,” he tells Newsweek.

    Trump’s embrace of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, on the oth­er hand, offered an attrac­tive pos­si­bil­i­ty. And when Fly­nn, who had con­nec­tions to the Rus­sians, became the candidate’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, the ACU team, led by British-Amer­i­can deal­mak­er Alex Cop­son, sud­den­ly seemed to have an inside man. Last year, Cop­son was tout­ing such con­nec­tions when he tried to per­suade the Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­i­ty to trans­fer an unfin­ished Alaba­ma nuclear plant to the ACU in exchange for shares in the con­sor­tium that would build reac­tors in the Mid­dle East, telling a Huntsville reporter that “Alabama’s two senators”—both Repub­li­cans, and one, Jeff Ses­sions, then a top Trump cam­paign adviser—“can help the next admin­is­tra­tion move this project for­ward.” The plant was even­tu­al­ly sold to anoth­er com­pa­ny.

    When reports sur­faced that the FBI was inves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion between the Rus­sians and the Trump cam­paign, how­ev­er, some of Copson’s part­ners and advis­ers decid­ed it was time to walk away. “When Cop­son decid­ed he was going to sad­dle up with the Trump team, that was the last straw for me,” the insid­er says. “I said it’s time to regroup.”

    The Saud­is hadn’t shown much inter­est any­way, the insid­er says. “Cop­son was promis­ing the advis­ers lots of mon­ey if the Saud­is put up mon­ey,” but it failed to mate­ri­al­ize. “And so there’s noth­ing that any­one was going to gain unless the project was a suc­cess,” he tells Newsweek.
    ...

    So now some of the peo­ple are insteady pur­su­ing a dif­fer­ent plan, swap­ping out Rus­sia for Chi­na:

    ...
    Hewitt and his asso­ciates also split from ACU to pur­sue their own path toward a nuclear-pow­ered Mid­dle East, one that would swap in Chi­na for Rus­sia as a nuclear part­ner, two sources close to the project say. (Hewitt declined to dis­cuss plans for IP3, telling Newsweek he was “work­ing hard to cre­ate our pub­lic per­sona right now.”)
    ...

    So even if such a plan proves impos­si­ble with Rus­si­a’s involve­ment, it still might hap­pen with Chi­na if that ends up being more polit­i­cal­ly palat­able.

    But what­ev­er deal the Saud­is sign on to is prob­a­bly going to involve them even­tu­al­ly acquir­ing their own nuclear arse­nal:

    ...
    Oth­ers sus­pect the Saud­is are up to some­thing more nefar­i­ous because of the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran. The Saud­is “have big ambi­tions for nuclear,” says David Albright, pres­i­dent of the Insti­tute for Sci­ence and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. “The issue is whether they cross over into any pro­cess­ing or enrich­ment” with secret part­ners like Pak­istan or Chi­na.
    ...

    And while it might appear that the Trump team’s ties to this whole thing pri­mar­i­ly flows through Michael Fly­nn and pre­dates his role on the Trump cam­paign, as some the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Steve Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er appar­ent­ly dis­cussed this scheme with the king of Jor­don. And as one expert in the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes the plan, it would be like pro­vid­ing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”

    So we have Fly­nn, Ban­non and Kush­n­er involved with secret nego­ti­a­tions to set up nuclear weapons starter kits across the Mid­dle East. High­ly prof­itable nuclear weapons starter kits. It’s some­thing worth keep­ing in mind in the con­text of the col­lapse of the Iran­ian nuclear deal:

    Buz­zFeed

    Trump Advis­ers Secret­ly Met With Jordan’s King While One Was Push­ing A Huge Nuclear Pow­er Deal

    Michael Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er, and Steve Ban­non met with King Abdul­lah II while Fly­nn was report­ed­ly press­ing for a con­tro­ver­sial, for-prof­it deal to build nuclear pow­er plants in the Mid­dle East.

    By Jason Leopold (Buz­zFeed News Reporter) Chris McDaniel (Buz­zFeed News Reporter) Antho­ny Cormi­er (Buz­zFeed News Reporter)
    Post­ed on Sep­tem­ber 15, 2017, at 1:12 p.m.

    In the days lead­ing up to Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial inau­gu­ra­tion, when his soon-to-be nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn was report­ed­ly push­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar deal to build nuclear reac­tors in Jor­dan and oth­er Mid­dle East nations, Fly­nn and two oth­er top Trump advis­ers held a secret meet­ing with the king of Jor­dan.

    The meet­ing — details of which have nev­er been report­ed — is the lat­est in a series of secret, high-stakes con­tacts between Trump advis­ers and for­eign gov­ern­ments that have raised con­cerns about how, in par­tic­u­lar, Fly­nn and senior advis­er Jared Kush­n­er han­dled their per­son­al busi­ness inter­ests as they entered key posi­tions of pow­er. And the nuclear project raised addi­tion­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns about expand­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy in a tin­der­box region of the world. One expert com­pared it to pro­vid­ing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”

    On the morn­ing of Jan. 5, Fly­nn, Kush­n­er, and for­mer chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non greet­ed King Abdul­lah II at the Four Sea­sons hotel in low­er Man­hat­tan, then took off in a fleet of SUVs and a sedan to a dif­fer­ent loca­tion.

    Peo­ple close to the three Trump advis­ers say that the nuclear deal was not dis­cussed. But a fed­er­al offi­cial with access to a doc­u­ment cre­at­ed by a law enforce­ment agency about the meet­ing said that the nuclear pro­pos­al, known as the Mar­shall Plan, was one of the top­ics the group talked about.

    The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed that while Flynn’s White House dis­clo­sure forms state that he stopped work­ing on the deal in Decem­ber 2016, he in fact con­tin­ued to push it even after he entered the White House. Flynn’s lawyer declined to com­ment on the claims in the Jour­nal sto­ry.

    The plan, for which Fly­nn was report­ed­ly paid as a con­sul­tant, ini­tial­ly envi­sioned that the reac­tors would be built by US com­pa­nies and secu­ri­ty would be pro­vid­ed by the Russ­ian state-owned firm Rosoboron, an arms exporter cur­rent­ly fac­ing US sanc­tions. As the plan evolved, Russ­ian involve­ment report­ed­ly less­ened, and it is not known whether Rus­sia or its com­pa­nies fea­tured in the meet­ing with the Jor­dan­ian king. This week, Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee said they would turn over doc­u­ments about the nuclear plan to Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller, con­tend­ing that Fly­nn may have vio­lat­ed fed­er­al law by not dis­clos­ing for­eign trips and meet­ings.

    While it is not unusu­al for an incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion to meet with for­eign dig­ni­taries dur­ing the tran­si­tion, Trump sur­ro­gates have repeat­ed­ly failed to acknowl­edge these con­tacts. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions at first said he did not dis­cuss cam­paign mat­ters with Russ­ian offi­cials, only to lat­er acknowl­edge at least two con­ver­sa­tions with Russ­ian Ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak. The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates set up a meet­ing between a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor close to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and a Russ­ian close to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. And this week, CNN report­ed that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, vis­it­ed with Fly­nn, Kush­n­er, and Ban­non with­out alert­ing the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment before­hand.

    The meet­ing with the king of Jor­dan had extreme­ly high stakes: a dis­cus­sion with the head of a key Amer­i­can ally that might have includ­ed plans about spread­ing nuclear pow­er to one of the world’s least sta­ble regions, pos­si­bly with the help of one of Amer­i­ca’s main geopo­lit­i­cal ene­mies, Rus­sia. The rev­e­la­tion of the meet­ing comes as Abdul­lah plans to vis­it the Unit­ed States next week and speak with Trump.

    An eye­wit­ness who saw the trio of Trump’s advis­ers that morn­ing in the bar of the Four Sea­sons, and had a brief exchange with Ban­non, said at least half a dozen oth­er peo­ple were with them. It is not clear who they were. Buz­zFeed News reached out to attor­neys and spokes­peo­ple for Fly­nn, Kush­n­er, and Ban­non, as well as White House spe­cial coun­sel Ty Cobb and Ban­non him­self. None of them would com­ment on the record.

    The only known pub­lic acknowl­edge­ment that Abdul­lah had left his coun­try is a short note on his web­site say­ing: “His Majesty King Abdul­lah on Sat­ur­day arrived back home after a pri­vate vis­it abroad.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump Advis­ers Secret­ly Met With Jordan’s King While One Was Push­ing A Huge Nuclear Pow­er Deal” by Jason Leopold, Chris McDaniel, Antho­ny Cormi­er; Buz­zFeed; 09/15/2017

    “The meet­ing — details of which have nev­er been report­ed — is the lat­est in a series of secret, high-stakes con­tacts between Trump advis­ers and for­eign gov­ern­ments that have raised con­cerns about how, in par­tic­u­lar, Fly­nn and senior advis­er Jared Kush­n­er han­dled their per­son­al busi­ness inter­ests as they entered key posi­tions of pow­er. And the nuclear project raised addi­tion­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns about expand­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy in a tin­der­box region of the world. One expert com­pared it to pro­vid­ing “a nuclear weapons starter kit.”

    A plan to safe­ly allow for the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear pow­er in one of the most unsta­ble regions in the world that just so hap­pens to dou­ble as a nuclear weapons starter kit accord­ing to one expert. That was the plan. The secret, extreme­ly prof­itable plan that col­lapsed in the wake of the #TrumpRus­sia fer­vor.
    It all rais­es anoth­er ques­tion: if this plan had come to fruition, what would Iran’s response be? Espe­cial­ly since the plan involved pulling Rus­sia away from Iran. Would­n’t that make Iran much more like­ly to pur­sue nuclear weapons as rapid­ly as pos­si­ble? If so, then this plan was a plan for a Mid­dle East nuclear arms race.

    So that could be one more rea­son the Trump team appears to be fine with risk­ing the renew­al of Iran’s nuclear weapons pro­gram: That was the extreme­ly prof­itable plan any­way and hav­ing Iran restart its nuke pro­gram might be the best way to make that extreme­ly prof­itable plan become a real­i­ty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 14, 2017, 3:09 pm
  12. Well, there goes the House inves­ti­ga­tion into the ‘Russ­ian’ inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. Sur­prise! And it real­ly was a sur­prise. With­out warn­ing, the GOP-led House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee went ahead and declared its inves­ti­ga­tion into ‘Russ­ian’ inter­fer­ence over. The Democ­rats on the com­mit­tee weren’t even warned.

    And while the GOP mem­bers of the com­mit­tee unsur­pris­ing­ly signed off on a final con­clu­sion that there was no col­lu­sion with Rus­sia, they did­n’t stop there. They also con­clud­ed that Rus­sia, the pre­sumed actor behind the ‘Fan­cy Bear’ hack and ‘Guc­cifer 2.0’, was­n’t actu­al­ly try­ing to help Don­ald Trump over Hillary Clin­ton. No can­di­date was favored by the enti­ties behind the hack. That was part of the House GOP’s final con­clu­sion.

    So it was one of those polit­i­cal stunts that was­n’t real­ly even try­ing to real­is­tic. It was always clear the GOP-led House inves­ti­ga­tion into the Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elect ion was going to end far­ci­cal­ly. Because every­thing the GOP touch­es becomes farce. It’s the par­ty’s Midas touch. But this was a par­tic­u­lar­ly far­ci­cal end because the one that was very clear is that these hacks and leaks were intend­ed to harm Hillary and help Trump. There may have been oth­er motives involved, but harm­ing Hillary and help­ing Trump was clear­ly one of the main goals. Even Trey Gowdy — a GOP mem­ber of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee — refut­ed the notion that Hillary Clin­ton was­n’t the tar­get of the elec­tion inter­fer­ence. And the House GOP just for­mal­ly reject­ed even that.

    So with the wrap­ping up of the House GOP’s ‘Russ­ian probe’ in mind, it’s worth not­ing that the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion has recent­ly been extend­ing its inves­tiga­tive eye towards a new coun­try: the UAE. This is in rela­tion to the mys­te­ri­ous meet­ing in the Sey­chelles last year.

    And that’s part of the con­text of the sud­den sur­prise wrap­ping up of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence. It was wrapped up just days after we learn that the Mueller probe is seri­ous­ly look­ing into they mys­te­ri­ous meet­ing in the Sey­chelles in mid Jan­u­ary 2017, between Erik Prince and a Russ­ian busi­ness­man that appeared to be some sort of back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tion between the Trump team and the Krem­lin.

    And Mueller’s reex­am­i­na­tion of that meet­ing is now aid­ed by a poten­tial­ly very sig­nif­i­cant fig­ure in this mess: George Nad­er, Mid­dle East­ern Man of Mys­tery.

    It turns out the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles was­n’t just between Erik Prince and the Russ­ian busi­ness­man, Kir­ill Dmitriev, the head of a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-con­trolled wealth fund. George Nad­er was also there dur­ing that now infa­mous con­ver­sa­tion between Prince and Dmitriev. And as we’ll see, Nad­er is not only an advis­er to the crown prince of the UAE, but he’s been rep­re­sent­ing fig­ures across the Mid­dle East in Wash­ing­ton DC going back decades. In oth­er words, Nad­er is the kind of fig­ure who might be rep­re­sent­ing all sorts of inter­ests across the Mid­dle East. And that makes that Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ a lot less exclu­sive and a lot more intrigu­ing. And makes the Mueller probe a lot more intrigu­ing too at this point. Just how far with Mueller allow the probe to expand beyond just look­ing at Rus­sia? We’ll see.

    And that Jan­u­ary 2017 meet­ing in the Sey­chelles isn’t the only place where Nad­er fig­ures into this: on Decem­ber 15 of 2016, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, secret­ly trav­eled to the US — with­out inform­ing the US gov­ern­ment which is against pro­to­col — and had a meet­ing in Trump Tow­er with senior Trump tran­si­tion team mem­bers. Michael Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er, and Steven Ban­non were report­ed­ly at that meet­ing. George Nad­er was at the meet­ing too.

    Now, it’s worth recall­ing what the ini­tial sto­ries were by Prince and oth­ers about this Sey­chelles meet­ing: Prince ini­tial­ly said he was invit­ed to the Sey­chelles by the UAE Emi­ratis. He met with them and, while there, was unex­pect­ed­ly intro­duced to Kir­ill Dmitriev by the Emi­ratis as some­one Prince might like to meet giv­en all they have in com­mon. Prince and Dmitriev met and that bar for a cou­ple beers and that was about it. That was Prince’s sto­ry.

    But now we learn that George Nad­er was also at the bar dur­ing that lit­tle chit chat ses­sion between Prince and Dmitriev. Nad­er was also at a secret Trump Tow­er meet­ing a month ear­li­er attend­ed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi him­self. And Nad­er and Prince have know each oth­er for years. So if this was all real­ly part of some sort of effort to cre­ate a ‘back chan­nel’ between the Trump team and the Krem­lin, it was a back chan­nel that involved UAE was involved in set­ting up and George Nad­er, a guy with con­nec­tions across the Mid­dle East, was cen­tral in orches­trat­ing it. Which does­n’t exact­ly sound like a super secret back chan­nel.

    After this Sey­chelles meet­ing, Nad­er vis­it­ed the White House sev­er­al more times. He even met at least once there with Ban­non and Kush­n­er.

    Addi­tion­al­ly, Dmitriev met with Antho­ny Scara­muc­ci, then an infor­mal Trump advis­er, short­ly after the Sey­chelles meet­ing at the 2017 World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land. It was report­ed the new day (so not exact­ly a secret back chan­nel in that case).

    It’s also impor­tant to recall the reports about US intel­li­gence learn­ing that Jared Kush­n­er and Michael Fly­nn secret­ly met with the Russ­ian ambas­sador, Sergei Kislyak, in Trump Tow­er on Decem­ber 1, 2016, where Kush­n­er told Kislyak that he want­ed to set up a secret back chan­nel between the Trump team and the Krem­lin. As we’ll see, Kislyak also met with a Kush­n­er deputy on Decem­ber 12th.

    Addi­tion­al­ly. Prince admit­ted under con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny that he met with the Trump team twice in the Trump Tow­er dur­ing the tran­si­tion, includ­ing meet­ing with Ban­non.

    So we have a Decem­ber 1, 2016, secret meet­ing between Kush­n­er, Fly­nn, and Kislyak at Trump Tow­er where Kush­n­er report­ed­ly requests a secret back chan­nel. Kislyak meets with a Kush­n­er deputy on Decem­ber 12th. Then we have a Decem­ber 15, 2016, secret meet­ing at Trump Tow­er attend­ed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and George Nad­er. Then the crown prince of Abu Dhabi invites Erik Prince to the Jan­u­ary 11, 2017, meet­ing in the Sey­chelles, and it’s there that Prince and Nad­er both meet with Krem­lin rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dmitriev. Nad­er lat­er meets with the Trump team sev­er­al more times at the White House, includ­ing once with Ban­non and Kush­n­er.

    Final­ly, we are learn­ing that the Mueller probe is look­ing into whether or not Emi­rati mon­ey was ille­gal­ly flow­ing into Trump cof­fers dur­ing the elec­tion.

    And now George Nad­er is coop­er­at­ing with Mueller. And soon after the House GOP shuts down its inves­ti­ga­tion. Is the tim­ing a coin­ci­dence? Might the House GOP fear where that non-Rus­sia-only avenue of inves­ti­ga­tion leads? It’s one of the many ques­tions raised by the news that George Nad­er is coop­er­at­ing with Mueller fol­lowed by the news that House has sud­den­ly shut down its ‘Rus­sia probe’ inves­ti­ga­tion the moment the Mueller inquiry starts seri­ous­ly devi­at­ing from a near-exclu­sive focus on Rus­sia:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Mueller gath­ers evi­dence that 2017 Sey­chelles meet­ing was effort to estab­lish back chan­nel to Krem­lin

    By Sari Hor­witz and Devlin Bar­rett
    March 7, 2018 at 9:12 PM

    Spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III has gath­ered evi­dence that a secret meet­ing in Sey­chelles just before the inau­gu­ra­tion of Don­ald Trump was an effort to estab­lish a back chan­nel between the incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion and the Krem­lin — appar­ent­ly con­tra­dict­ing state­ments made to law­mak­ers by one of its par­tic­i­pants, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    In Jan­u­ary 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Black­wa­ter, met with a Russ­ian offi­cial close to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and lat­er described the meet­ing to con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors as a chance encounter that was not a planned dis­cus­sion of U.S.-Russia rela­tions.

    A wit­ness coop­er­at­ing with Mueller has told inves­ti­ga­tors the meet­ing was set up in advance so that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Trump tran­si­tion could meet with an emis­sary from Moscow to dis­cuss future rela­tions between the coun­tries, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

    George Nad­er, a Lebanese Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who helped orga­nize and attend­ed the Sey­chelles meet­ing, has tes­ti­fied on the mat­ter before a grand jury gath­er­ing evi­dence about dis­cus­sions between the Trump tran­si­tion team and emis­saries of the Krem­lin, as part of Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian efforts to inter­fere with the 2016 elec­tion.

    ...

    Last year, Prince told law­mak­ers — and the news media — that his Sey­chelles meet­ing with Kir­ill Dmitriev, the head of a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-con­trolled wealth fund, was an unplanned, unim­por­tant encounter that came about by chance because he hap­pened to be at a lux­u­ry hotel in the Indi­an Ocean island nation with offi­cials from the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates.

    In his state­ments, Prince has specif­i­cal­ly denied report­ing by The Wash­ing­ton Post that said the Sey­chelles meet­ing, which took place about a week before Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, was described by U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials as part of an effort to estab­lish a back-chan­nel line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Moscow and the incom­ing admin­is­tra­tion.

    Prince told law­mak­ers on the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that he did not plan to meet Dmitriev in Sey­chelles but that once he was there dis­cussing pos­si­ble busi­ness deals with UAE offi­cials, they unex­pect­ed­ly sug­gest­ed that he vis­it the hotel bar and meet Dmitriev.

    “At the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russ­ian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see some­one from the Emi­rati del­e­ga­tion. And you should meet him, he’d be an inter­est­ing guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and min­er­al space,’ ” Prince told law­mak­ers.

    The two men, he said, spoke for no more than 30 min­utes, or about the time it took him to drink a beer.

    “We chat­ted on top­ics rang­ing from oil and com­mod­i­ty prices to how much his coun­try wished for resump­tion of nor­mal trade rela­tions with the USA,” Prince told law­mak­ers. “I remem­ber telling him that if Franklin Roo­sevelt could work with Joseph Stal­in to defeat Nazi fas­cism, then cer­tain­ly Don­ald Trump could work with Vladi­mir Putin to defeat Islam­ic fas­cism.”

    Prince said he went to Sey­chelles as a pri­vate busi­ness­man, not as an offi­cial or unof­fi­cial emis­sary of the Trump tran­si­tion team. Dur­ing the con­gres­sion­al inter­view, which became testy at times as Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers pressed him to be more spe­cif­ic in his answers, Prince repeat­ed­ly com­plained that he had rea­son to believe U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies were leak­ing infor­ma­tion about his activ­i­ties.

    ...

    Prince has known Nad­er for years and once hired him to try to gen­er­ate busi­ness from the Iraqi gov­ern­ment in the years after the U.S.-led inva­sion of that coun­try. That effort was not suc­cess­ful, accord­ing to Prince’s state­ments in a sub­se­quent depo­si­tion.

    Nad­er, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials, was known to Trump tran­si­tion and admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials as some­one with polit­i­cal con­nec­tions in the Mid­dle East who could help nav­i­gate the tricky diplo­ma­cy of the region.

    Nad­er had also attend­ed a Decem­ber 2016 meet­ing in New York between senior Trump advis­ers and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    While Mueller is prob­ing the cir­cum­stances of the Sey­chelles meet­ing, he is also more broad­ly exam­in­ing appar­ent efforts by the Trump tran­si­tion team to cre­ate a back chan­nel for secret talks between the new admin­is­tra­tion and the Krem­lin. Mueller was appoint­ed spe­cial coun­sel to inves­ti­gate pos­si­ble Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, whether any Amer­i­cans assist­ed in such efforts, and any oth­er mat­ters that arise in the course of his probe.

    Inves­ti­ga­tors now sus­pect that the Sey­chelles meet­ing may have been one of the first efforts to estab­lish such a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the two gov­ern­ments, these peo­ple said. Nader’s account is con­sid­ered key evi­dence — but not the only evi­dence — about what tran­spired in Sey­chelles, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Nad­er has long served as an advis­er to the UAE lead­er­ship, and in that role he met more than once with Trump offi­cials, includ­ing Stephen K. Ban­non and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­n­er, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter. After the Sey­chelles meet­ing, Nad­er vis­it­ed the White House sev­er­al times, and met at least once there with Ban­non and Kush­n­er, these peo­ple said.

    ...

    The UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in part to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion objec­tive, accord­ing to U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials. Such a con­ces­sion by Moscow would have been like­ly to require the eas­ing of U.S. sanc­tions on Rus­sia, which were imposed for Russia’s inter­ven­tion in Ukraine in 2014, those offi­cials said.

    ...

    ———-

    “Mueller gath­ers evi­dence that 2017 Sey­chelles meet­ing was effort to estab­lish back chan­nel to Krem­lin” by Sari Hor­witz and Devlin Bar­rett; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/07/2018

    “In Jan­u­ary 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Black­wa­ter, met with a Russ­ian offi­cial close to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and lat­er described the meet­ing to con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors as a chance encounter that was not a planned dis­cus­sion of U.S.-Russia rela­tions.”

    A “chance encounter”. That’s how Erik Prince char­ac­ter­ized to US law­mak­ers his meet­ing with Kir­ill Dmitriev, the head of a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-con­trolled wealth fund. And it was the UAE Emi­ratis who invit­ed him to the Sey­chelles to make this chance encounter hap­pen by sug­gest­ing Prince and Dmitriev talk:

    ...
    Prince told law­mak­ers on the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that he did not plan to meet Dmitriev in Sey­chelles but that once he was there dis­cussing pos­si­ble busi­ness deals with UAE offi­cials, they unex­pect­ed­ly sug­gest­ed that he vis­it the hotel bar and meet Dmitriev.

    “At the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russ­ian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see some­one from the Emi­rati del­e­ga­tion. And you should meet him, he’d be an inter­est­ing guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and min­er­al space,’ ” Prince told law­mak­ers.

    The two men, he said, spoke for no more than 30 min­utes, or about the time it took him to drink a beer.

    “We chat­ted on top­ics rang­ing from oil and com­mod­i­ty prices to how much his coun­try wished for resump­tion of nor­mal trade rela­tions with the USA,” Prince told law­mak­ers. “I remem­ber telling him that if Franklin Roo­sevelt could work with Joseph Stal­in to defeat Nazi fas­cism, then cer­tain­ly Don­ald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islam­ic fas­cism.”

    Prince said he went to Sey­chelles as a pri­vate busi­ness­man, not as an offi­cial or unof­fi­cial emis­sary of the Trump tran­si­tion team. Dur­ing the con­gres­sion­al inter­view, which became testy at times as Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers pressed him to be more spe­cif­ic in his answers, Prince repeat­ed­ly com­plained that he had rea­son to believe U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies were leak­ing infor­ma­tion about his activ­i­ties.
    ...

    “I remem­ber telling him that if Franklin Roo­sevelt could work with Joseph Stal­in to defeat Nazi fas­cism, then cer­tain­ly Don­ald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islam­ic fas­cism.”

    Yes, Prince and Dmitriev found com­mon ground over their mutu­al desire to defeat “Islam­ic fas­cism”. Keep in mind Prince pro­vides exten­sive pri­vate mil­i­tary ser­vices for the UAE, an Islamist monar­chy in the mold of Sau­di Ara­bia. And Dmitriev has his ties with the UAE because the UAE is an investor in some Russ­ian infra­struc­ture invest­ment funds. So it was a par­tic­u­lar­ly iron­ic state­ment of that Prince made to Dmitriev. But also an expect­ed since “Islam­ic fas­cism” is typ­i­cal­ly used these to exclu­sive­ly refer to groups like ISIS and al Qae­da, while ignor­ing the Gulf monar­chies.

    Of course, “Islam­ic fas­cism” is also typ­i­cal­ly used to refer to the gov­ern­ment of Iran, and that refer to Iran. And, putting aside Prince’s claims that his meet­ing with Dmitriev in the Sey­chelles was just a coin­ci­dence, when you ask the ques­tion of why the UAE was par­tic­i­pat­ing in this Trump-Krem­lin back chan­nel, the answer giv­en by US, Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials is that the UAE bro­kered this meet­ing to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia:

    ...
    The UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in part to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion objec­tive, accord­ing to U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials. Such a con­ces­sion by Moscow would have been like­ly to require the eas­ing of U.S. sanc­tions on Rus­sia, which were imposed for Russia’s inter­ven­tion in Ukraine in 2014, those offi­cials said.
    ...

    And if you think about it, it does seem pret­ty plau­si­ble that the UAE real­ly was hop­ing to work out a secret deal along with the incom­ing Trump gov­ern­ment to incen­tivize a his­toric shift of alliances that would iso­late Iran and the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment. Because of course the UAE would want that. Why would­n’t it? That’s not to say that this was nec­es­sar­i­ly the only rea­son the UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles, but it would be in keep­ing with the geostrate­gic of the UAE and its allies in the region. It would also be in keep­ing with the stat­ed goals of the Trump team, in par­tic­u­lar Michael Fly­nn, who cul­ti­vat­ed close ties to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-ori­ent­ed gov­ern­ment of Turkey while call­ing for a ‘glob­al war for glob­al peace’ against groups like al Qae­da and coun­tries like Iran.

    So Erik Prince’s sto­ry about this meet­ing in the Sey­chelles appears to be com­plete garbage. But it’s also worth not­ing that the sto­ry we’re get­ting from these two wit­ness­es work­ing with Mueller, Nad­er and the unnamed wit­ness, and var­i­ous oth­er sources that this Sey­chelles meet­ing was set up in advance pri­mar­i­ly for the pur­pose of the Trump team and Moscow to dis­cuss the future of US-Russ­ian rela­tions. The top­ic of inter­est involv­ing the UAE — shift­ing Rus­sia away from Iran and Syr­ia — is almost a side note under this sce­nario

    ...
    A wit­ness coop­er­at­ing with Mueller has told inves­ti­ga­tors the meet­ing was set up in advance so that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Trump tran­si­tion could meet with an emis­sary from Moscow to dis­cuss future rela­tions between the coun­tries, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

    George Nad­er, a Lebanese Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who helped orga­nize and attend­ed the Sey­chelles meet­ing, has tes­ti­fied on the mat­ter before a grand jury gath­er­ing evi­dence about dis­cus­sions between the Trump tran­si­tion team and emis­saries of the Krem­lin, as part of Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian efforts to inter­fere with the 2016 elec­tion.
    ...

    And that seems like a very ques­tion­able expla­na­tion, because why on earth would the Trump team need the UAE to set up a secret meet­ing pri­mar­i­ly just for the Trump team and the Krem­lin to chat? That just does­n’t seem plau­si­ble. A secret nego­ti­a­tion between the US, Rus­sia, and the UAE, on the oth­er hand, does sounds plau­si­ble for this sce­nario. Because look at that efforts to set up this meet­ing: a secret Decem­ber 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tow­er involv­ing the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and George Nad­er. That’s some elab­o­rate efforts just to set up a secret meet­ing between the Trump team and Moscow:

    ...
    Nad­er, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials, was known to Trump tran­si­tion and admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials as some­one with polit­i­cal con­nec­tions in the Mid­dle East who could help nav­i­gate the tricky diplo­ma­cy of the region.

    Nad­er had also attend­ed a Decem­ber 2016 meet­ing in New York between senior Trump advis­ers and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.
    ...

    And yet we are get­ting reports that, “Inves­ti­ga­tors now sus­pect that the Sey­chelles meet­ing may have been one of the first efforts to estab­lish such a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the two gov­ern­ments,” as if estab­lish­ing a secret line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the Trump team and Moscow was the pri­ma­ry goal of all this. Secret com­mu­ni­ca­tion that the UAE and George Nad­er would have known about (which isn’t exact­ly a secret at that point). Inves­ti­ga­tors even know about Nad­er vis­it­ing the White House sev­er­al times after the Sey­chelles meet­ing (so after Trump was sworn in as pres­i­dent) and yet these mys­te­ri­ous meet­ings are being treat­ed as pri­mar­i­ly about just a Trump-Krem­lin back chan­nel:

    ...
    Inves­ti­ga­tors now sus­pect that the Sey­chelles meet­ing may have been one of the first efforts to estab­lish such a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the two gov­ern­ments, these peo­ple said. Nader’s account is con­sid­ered key evi­dence — but not the only evi­dence — about what tran­spired in Sey­chelles, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Nad­er has long served as an advis­er to the UAE lead­er­ship, and in that role he met more than once with Trump offi­cials, includ­ing Stephen K. Ban­non and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­n­er, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter. After the Sey­chelles meet­ing, Nad­er vis­it­ed the White House sev­er­al times, and met at least once there with Ban­non and Kush­n­er, these peo­ple said.
    ...

    So to get a bet­ter sense of what infor­ma­tion is know about this back chan­nel and the efforts to set it up, let’s take a look at a piece in Vox that includes a time­line of the var­i­ous meet­ings that pre­ced­ed the Sey­chelles meet­ing.

    First, there as a secret Trump Tow­er meet­ing on Decem­ber 1, 2016, between Michael Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er, and Russ­ian ambas­sador Sergei Kisliyak. This was the meet­ing where Jared Kush­n­er report­ed­ly request­ed that they set up a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel between the Trump team and the Krem­lin using the com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment at the Russ­ian embassy.

    A few days lat­er, the Wash­ing­ton Post received an anony­mous let­ter describ­ing this meet­ing. The let­ter also claimed that Kush­n­er, Fly­nn, and Kislyak dis­cussed set­ting up a meet­ing between a Trump rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a Russ­ian in some third coun­try, and con­clud­ed Fly­nn was too high-pro­file to go.

    So if we are to take this anony­mous let­ter at face val­ue, there was a secret meet­ing in Trump Tow­er between the Russ­ian ambas­sador and the Trump where they set up an addi­tion­al secret meet­ing in a third coun­try so the Trump team and the Krem­lin could secret­ly meet. That seems like a rather ques­tion­able expla­na­tion of what was going on here.

    On Decem­ber 12, Kislyak returned to Trump Tow­er and met with Jared Kushner’s deputy. The next day, the head of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank VEB, stopped by to meet with Kush­n­er. These meet­ings remained secret for months. So it’s not as if the Trump team had a hard time arrang­ing for secret meet­ings with Krem­lin rep­re­sen­ta­tives dur­ing this tran­si­tion peri­od.

    As the Vox piece then notes, there was the Decem­ber 15, 2016, secret meet­ing at Trump Tow­er attend­ed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and George Nad­er. And in a breach of diplo­mat­ic pro­to­col, the crown prince did not noti­fy the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that he was com­ing to the US.

    The Vox piece then points out that in the orig­i­nal Wash­ing­ton Post report­ing on the Sey­chelles meet­ing last year, it was report­ed that Erik Prince approached Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan after that Trump Tow­er meet­ing, say­ing he was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Trump team and request­ing that bin Zayed al-Nahyan arrange for a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Krem­lin. So accord­ing to that report from , the crown prince of Abu Dhabi made a secret trip to Trump Tow­er, and then after secret meet­ing Erik Prince approached him about set­ting up the Sey­chelles meet­ing and putting him in con­tact with a Krem­lin con­tact.

    So as we can see, this secret meet­ing in the Sey­chelles was pre­ced­ed by a num­ber of oth­er secret meet­ing. Secret meet­ings between the Trump team and the Krem­lin. Secret meet­ings between the Trump team and the UAE. And these all cul­mi­nat­ed in the secret Sey­chelles meet­ing between the Trump team, the Krem­lin and the UAE, which sure sug­gests that a secret three-way meet­ing was prob­a­bly one of the objec­tives of all this:

    Vox

    The secret Sey­chelles meet­ing Robert Mueller is zero­ing in on, explained
    Why did Erik Prince meet with a Russ­ian fund man­ag­er short­ly before Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion?

    By Andrew Prokop
    Updat­ed Mar 8, 2018, 7:48am EST

    Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller has got­ten a new coop­er­a­tor in the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. And he’s tes­ti­fy­ing about what, exact­ly, hap­pened at a mys­te­ri­ous meet­ing between a Trump asso­ciate and a Russ­ian fund man­ag­er in the Sey­chelles, an East African arch­i­pel­ago nation in the Indi­an Ocean.

    ...

    The con­text of the Sey­chelles meet­ing

    Poten­tial­ly rel­e­vant con­text for the Sey­chelles meet­ing is that there were sev­er­al oth­er meet­ings of the var­i­ous fac­tions involved the month before, most­ly hap­pen­ing in Trump Tow­er.

    On Decem­ber 1, 2016, Jared Kush­n­er and Michael Fly­nn met secret­ly in Trump Tow­er with the Russ­ian ambas­sador, Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak report­ed back to his boss­es that at this meet­ing, Kush­n­er said he want­ed to set up a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel between the Trump team and Rus­sia. (Kush­n­er denies that this hap­pened.)

    Days lat­er, the Wash­ing­ton Post received an anony­mous let­ter reveal­ing that this secret meet­ing hap­pened and who was present (though they couldn’t con­firm it for sev­er­al more months). The let­ter also claimed that at the meet­ing, Kush­n­er, Fly­nn, and Kislyak dis­cussed set­ting up a meet­ing between a Trump rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a Russ­ian in some third coun­try, and con­clud­ed Fly­nn was too high-pro­file to go.

    On Decem­ber 12, Kislyak returned to Trump Tow­er and met with Kushner’s deputy. Then on the fol­low­ing day, Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank VEB, stopped by to meet with Kush­n­er. Again, these meet­ings remained secret for months.

    Then on Decem­ber 15, 2016, a lit­tle over a month after Trump won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates crown prince, MBZ, flew to the Unit­ed States. There, he met with sev­er­al Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials, includ­ing Fly­nn, Kush­n­er, and Ban­non. What was strange about this was that MBZ did not inform the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that he was trav­el­ing to the US, as major for­eign lead­ers usu­al­ly do. Trump’s team didn’t dis­close the meet­ing either, and it too remained secret for sev­er­al months.

    Erik Prince also vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er twice dur­ing the tran­si­tion, to meet with Ban­non, he lat­er tes­ti­fied.

    ...

    Was this the secret US-Rus­sia backchan­nel meet­ing that Kush­n­er report­ed­ly want­ed?

    The Wash­ing­ton Post was the first to unearth the Sey­chelles meet­ing, in a report by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeY­oung pub­lished last April, which was sourced to anony­mous “U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials.” Their account of why and how the meet­ing hap­pened was very dif­fer­ent from Prince’s. They write:

    Fol­low­ing the New York meet­ing between the Emi­ratis and Trump aides, Zayed was approached by Prince, who said he was autho­rized to act as an unof­fi­cial sur­ro­gate for the pres­i­dent-elect, accord­ing to the offi­cials. He want­ed Zayed to set up a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate. Zayed agreed and pro­posed the Sey­chelles as the meet­ing place because of the pri­va­cy it would afford both sides.

    So, per the Post’s sources, it was Erik Prince who said he want­ed the meet­ing, who said he was act­ing as a sur­ro­gate for Pres­i­dent-elect Trump, and who asked MBZ’s team to put him in touch with a Putin con­fi­dant. The whole pur­pose of the meet­ing was to be a back chan­nel between Trump’s team and Putin’s team.

    ...

    It’s also worth not­ing that Michael Fly­nn has been coop­er­at­ing with Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors since ear­ly Decem­ber and we haven’t seen any of the fruits of his coop­er­a­tion yet. Fly­nn was present in the meet­ing in which Kush­n­er report­ed­ly told Kislyak he want­ed a back chan­nel. He was also present when Kush­n­er and Ban­non met MBZ. He may well have told Mueller why the Sey­chelles meet­ing hap­pened.

    And if the Sey­chelles meet­ing was a back chan­nel, what actu­al­ly came of it?

    If it were to be proven that the Trump team want­ed to set up the Sey­chelles meet­ing, the ques­tion would remain about what actu­al­ly hap­pened there — and why those involved want­ed so bad­ly to keep it secret.

    One poten­tial top­ic is, of course, the incom­ing administration’s for­eign pol­i­cy. In the first Post report on the meet­ing, their sources claimed that one top­ic of dis­cus­sion was “whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia,” a top­ic that was very much of inter­est to the UAE.

    But if this were mere­ly about essen­tial­ly above­board for­eign pol­i­cy dis­cus­sions, it’s unclear why they would have had to hap­pen with such secre­cy, through a back chan­nel. (Rather than just wait­ing nine days for Trump to be sworn in.)

    Was mon­ey involved? The Russ­ian who went to the meet­ing, Kir­ill Dmitriev, is a mon­ey­man, after all. So is Sergey Gorkov, who met with Jared Kush­n­er in Trump Tow­er weeks ear­li­er. What’s more, Dmitriev’s fund was until 2016 actu­al­ly part of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank Gorkov runs, VEB.

    Fur­ther­more, this week’s Times report says that Mueller “appears to be exam­in­ing the influ­ence of for­eign mon­ey on Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal activ­i­ties,” and has pre­vi­ous­ly asked whether Nad­er “fun­neled mon­ey from the Emi­rates to the president’s polit­i­cal efforts.” So he does seem to be fol­low­ing some sort of mon­ey trail.

    ...
    ———–

    “The secret Sey­chelles meet­ing Robert Mueller is zero­ing in on, explained” by Andrew Prokop; Vox; 03/08/2018

    “Poten­tial­ly rel­e­vant con­text for the Sey­chelles meet­ing is that there were sev­er­al oth­er meet­ings of the var­i­ous fac­tions involved the month before, most­ly hap­pen­ing in Trump Tow­er.”

    Yep, those pri­or secret meet­ings at Trump Tow­er cer­tain­ly add con­text to the Sey­chelles meet­ing. But that con­text remains ambigu­ous, espe­cial­ly since it starts off with a secret meet­ing between Rus­si­a’s ambas­sador at Trump Tow­er. Anoth­er secret meet­ing between Kislyak and Kush­n­er’s deputy 11 days lat­er. And anoth­er secret meet­ing between the head of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank VEB and Kush­n­er. A few days lat­er, there was the secret meet­ing between the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, George Nad­er, and the Trump team. Trump Tow­er was clear­ly a great place for secret meet­ings:

    ...
    On Decem­ber 1, 2016, Jared Kush­n­er and Michael Fly­nn met secret­ly in Trump Tow­er with the Russ­ian ambas­sador, Sergey Kislyak. Kislyak report­ed back to his boss­es that at this meet­ing, Kush­n­er said he want­ed to set up a secret com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel between the Trump team and Rus­sia. (Kush­n­er denies that this hap­pened.)

    Days lat­er, the Wash­ing­ton Post received an anony­mous let­ter reveal­ing that this secret meet­ing hap­pened and who was present (though they couldn’t con­firm it for sev­er­al more months). The let­ter also claimed that at the meet­ing, Kush­n­er, Fly­nn, and Kislyak dis­cussed set­ting up a meet­ing between a Trump rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a Russ­ian in some third coun­try, and con­clud­ed Fly­nn was too high-pro­filee to go.

    On Decem­ber 12, Kislyak returned to Trump Tow­er and met with Kushner’s deputy. Then on the fol­low­ing day, Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank VEB, stopped by to meet with Kush­n­er. Again, these meet­ings remained secret for months.

    Then on Decem­ber 15, 2016, a lit­tle over a month after Trump won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates crown prince, MBZ, flew to the Unit­ed States. There, he met with sev­er­al Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials, includ­ing Fly­nn, Kush­n­er, and Ban­non. What was strange about this was that MBZ did not inform the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion that he was trav­el­ing to the US, as major for­eign lead­ers usu­al­ly do. Trump’s team didn’t dis­close the meet­ing either, and it too remained secret for sev­er­al months.

    Erik Prince also vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er twice dur­ing the tran­si­tion, to meet with Ban­non, he lat­er tes­ti­fied.
    ...

    And as the piece also notes, accord­ing to the ini­tial report­ing on the Sey­chelles meet­ing, which was based on anony­mous it was Prince who approach crown prince Zayed after Zayed’s secret meet­ing in Trump Tow­er and request­ed the meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate. And while that’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing, it’s notable that the sources for that report were fram­ing this whole sit­u­a­tion as being pri­mar­i­ly about estab­lish­ing a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions between the Trump team and the Krem­lin, as opposed to estab­lish­ing a three-way meet­ing between the Trump team, the Krem­lin, and the UAE:

    ...
    The Wash­ing­ton Post was the first to unearth the Sey­chelles meet­ing, in a report by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeY­oung pub­lished last April, which was sourced to anony­mous “U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials.” Their account of why and how the meet­ing hap­pened was very dif­fer­ent from Prince’s. They write:

    Fol­low­ing the New York meet­ing between the Emi­ratis and Trump aides, Zayed was approached by Prince, who said he was autho­rized to act as an unof­fi­cial sur­ro­gate for the pres­i­dent-elect, accord­ing to the offi­cials. He want­ed Zayed to set up a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate. Zayed agreed and pro­posed the Sey­chelles as the meet­ing place because of the pri­va­cy it would afford both sides.

    So, per the Post’s sources, it was Erik Prince who said he want­ed the meet­ing, who said he was act­ing as a sur­ro­gate for Pres­i­dent-elect Trump, and who asked MBZ’s team to put him in touch with a Putin con­fi­dant. The whole pur­pose of the meet­ing was to be a back chan­nel between Trump’s team and Putin’s team.
    ...

    The Vox piece then rais­es a valid ques­tion that needs to be answered if indeed the pur­pose of the Sey­chelles meet­ing real­ly was pri­mar­i­ly about set­ting up a three-way nego­ti­a­tion between the Trump team, the Krem­lin, and the UAE: why going through all these elab­o­rate antic to set up a secret meet­ing about for­eign pol­i­cy issues in mid-Jan­u­ary when they could have sim­ply wait­ed a week and a half for Trump to become pres­i­dent and do this for­mal­ly?

    ...
    If it were to be proven that the Trump team want­ed to set up the Sey­chelles meet­ing, the ques­tion would remain about what actu­al­ly hap­pened there — and why those involved want­ed so bad­ly to keep it secret.

    One poten­tial top­ic is, of course, the incom­ing administration’s for­eign pol­i­cy. In the first Post report on the meet­ing, their sources claimed that one top­ic of dis­cus­sion was “whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia,” a top­ic that was very much of inter­est to the UAE.

    But if this were mere­ly about essen­tial­ly above­board for­eign pol­i­cy dis­cus­sions, it’s unclear why they would have had to hap­pen with such secre­cy, through a back chan­nel. (Rather than just wait­ing nine days for Trump to be sworn in.)
    ...

    And that’s a good ques­tion: why the secre­cy if it was just about for­eign pol­i­cy? Might there have been some oth­er top­ic involved? If that oth­er top­ic was alleged Krem­lin elec­tion med­dling, why weren’t secret meet­ings at Trump Tow­er with Russ­ian offi­cials ade­quate? Why the need to invite a third gov­ern­ment to bro­ker meet­ings to talk about elec­tion med­dling? That seems awful­ly ‘loud’ for such a sen­si­tive top­ic. Don’t for­get, as we’ll see below, George Nad­er was report­ed­ly at the bar when Prince and Dmitriev were meet­ing? Would they have been find with that if the top­ic was elec­tion med­dling?

    Or might there have been mon­ey involved? More Trump fam­i­ly busi­ness deals per­haps?

    ...
    Was mon­ey involved? The Russ­ian who went to the meet­ing, Kir­ill Dmitriev, is a mon­ey­man, after all. So is Sergey Gorkov, who met with Jared Kush­n­er in Trump Tow­er weeks ear­li­er. What’s more, Dmitriev’s fund was until 2016 actu­al­ly part of the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-owned bank Gorkov runs, VEB.

    Fur­ther­more, this week’s Times report says that Mueller “appears to be exam­in­ing the influ­ence of for­eign mon­ey on Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal activ­i­ties,” and has pre­vi­ous­ly asked whether Nad­er “fun­neled mon­ey from the Emi­rates to the president’s polit­i­cal efforts.” So he does seem to be fol­low­ing some sort of mon­ey trail.
    ...

    So giv­en the fact that this secret meet­ing in the Sey­chelles hap­pened just days before Trump was about to become pres­i­dent, if the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles was­n’t about secret mon­ey flows and/or elec­tion med­dling and real­ly was pri­mar­i­ly about con­vinc­ing Rus­sia to make a his­toric for­eign pol­i­cy shift, that for­eign pol­i­cy they were propos­ing must have been quite con­tro­ver­sial. So con­tro­ver­sial that they did­n’t want any­one in the US nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment to learn about it.

    Next, let’s take a quick look at a New York Times piece on these mys­tery meet­ings. It makes a few impor­tant points: First, Mueller is appar­ent­ly look­ing into the pos­si­bil­i­ty that George Nad­er fun­neled UAE mon­ey into the Trump cam­paign cof­fers.

    And sec­ond­ly, it give more infor­ma­tion on Dmitriev’s ties to the Krem­lin and UAE, and also points out that the UAE is a big investor in the Russ­ian wealth fund man­aged by Dmitriev and Dmitriev came to be seen as a key Krem­lin con­tact for the UAE.

    Final­ly, it notes that Kir­ill Dmitriev actu­al­ly met with Antho­ny Scara­muc­ci, then an infor­mal Trump advis­er, at the 2017 World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land short­ly after the Sey­chelles meet­ing. Which, again, rais­es the ques­tion of why all the elab­o­rate efforts to set up this super secret back chan­nel between the Trump team and the Krem­lin using the UAE as a bro­ker when the Trump team clear­ly had plen­ty of ways to talk direct­ly with the Krem­lin and did so on mul­ti­ple occa­sions:

    The New York Times

    Advis­er to Emi­rates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Coop­er­at­ing With Spe­cial Coun­sel

    By MARK MAZZETTI, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ADAM GOLDMAN
    MARCH 6, 2018

    WASHINGTON — An advis­er to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates with ties to cur­rent and for­mer aides to Pres­i­dent Trump is coop­er­at­ing with the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave tes­ti­mo­ny last week to a grand jury, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Mr. Mueller appears to be exam­in­ing the influ­ence of for­eign mon­ey on Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal activ­i­ties and has asked wit­ness­es about the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the advis­er, George Nad­er, fun­neled mon­ey from the Emi­rates to the pres­i­dent. It is ille­gal for for­eign enti­ties to con­tribute to cam­paigns or for Amer­i­cans to know­ing­ly accept for­eign mon­ey for polit­i­cal races.

    ...

    Mr. Nad­er rep­re­sent­ed the crown prince in the three-way con­ver­sa­tion in the Sey­chelles, at a hotel over­look­ing in the Indi­an Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meet­ing, Emi­rati offi­cials believed Mr. Prince was speak­ing for the Trump tran­si­tion team, and a Russ­ian fund man­ag­er, Kir­ill Dmitriev, rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Putin, accord­ing to sev­er­al peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing. Mr. Nad­er, who grew close lat­er to sev­er­al advis­ers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a con­sul­tant to Black­wa­ter, a pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm now known as Acad­e­mi. Mr. Nad­er intro­duced his for­mer employ­er to the Russ­ian.

    ...

    Mr. Dmitriev, a for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker with an M.B.A. from Har­vard, was tapped by Mr. Putin in 2011 to man­age an unusu­al state-run invest­ment fund. Where oth­er such funds seek to earn returns on sov­er­eign wealth, Mr. Dmitriev’s Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund seeks out­side invest­ments, often from for­eign gov­ern­ments, for unglam­orous infra­struc­ture projects inside of Rus­sia.

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion imposed sanc­tions on the fund as part of a raft of eco­nom­ic penal­ties after the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment sent mil­i­tary forces into Ukraine in 2014.

    The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, which Wash­ing­ton con­sid­ers one of its clos­est Arab allies, co-invest­ed togeth­er with Mr. Dmitriev’s fund as part of an effort to build close rela­tions to Rus­sia as well. After Crown Prince Mohammed met with Mr. Putin in 2013 in Moscow on a state vis­it, two invest­ment arms of the gov­ern­ment in Abu Dhabi com­mit­ted to invest $6 bil­lion in the fund’s Russ­ian projects, even­tu­al­ly pay­ing to build projects like roads, an air­port and can­cer treat­ment cen­ters in Rus­sia.

    Mr. Dmitriev became a fre­quent vis­i­tor to Abu Dhabi, and Emi­rati offi­cials came to see him as a key con­duit to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. In a 2015 email, the Emi­rati ambas­sador to Moscow at the time described Mr. Dmitriev as a “mes­sen­ger” to get infor­ma­tion direct­ly to Mr. Putin. The email was among a large num­ber hacked from the account of the ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton and pub­lished online. The now for­mer ambas­sador to Moscow, Omar Saif Ghobash, did not respond to an email about the leak.

    ...

    Short­ly after the Sey­chelles meet­ing, Mr. Dmitriev met with Antho­ny Scara­muc­ci, then an infor­mal Trump advis­er, at the 2017 World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land. In an inter­view after­ward with TASS, a Russ­ian news agency, Mr. Scara­muc­ci crit­i­cized the Oba­ma administration’s eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Rus­sia as inef­fec­tive and sug­gest­ed that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Rus­sia could find com­mon ground on numer­ous issues.

    “We have to make the world safer, we have to elim­i­nate from the world the rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism, and we have to fig­ure out the ways to grow the wages for work­ing class-fam­i­lies,” said Mr. Scara­muc­ci, who lat­er had a brief but calami­tous stint as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor. “Whether in Rus­sia or in the U.S., I think there are a lot of com­mon objec­tives.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Advis­er to Emi­rates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Coop­er­at­ing With Spe­cial Coun­sel” by MARK MAZZETTI, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ADAM GOLDMAN; The New York Times; 03/06/2018

    Mr. Nad­er rep­re­sent­ed the crown prince in the three-way con­ver­sa­tion in the Sey­chelles, at a hotel over­look­ing in the Indi­an Ocean, in the days before Mr. Trump took office. At the meet­ing, Emi­rati offi­cials believed Mr. Prince was speak­ing for the Trump tran­si­tion team, and a Russ­ian fund man­ag­er, Kir­ill Dmitriev, rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Putin, accord­ing to sev­er­al peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing. Mr. Nad­er, who grew close lat­er to sev­er­al advis­ers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a con­sul­tant to Black­wa­ter, a pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm now known as Acad­e­mi. Mr. Nad­er intro­duced his for­mer employ­er to the Russ­ian.”

    Note that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of George Nad­er dur­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing: he “rep­re­sent­ed the crown prince in the three-way con­ver­sa­tion in the Sey­chelles.” That sure sounds like Nad­er was actu­al­ly part of that meet­ing, and not just the guy who arranged for it (and as we’ll see below, he’s described as being at the bar dur­ing the meet­ing which was at the bar).

    And note how the UAE was active­ly try­ing to build clos­er rela­tions with Rus­sia, and invest­ing $6 bil­lion in the fund Dmitriev man­aged was part of that diplo­mat­ic effort. Also note how this fund was sanc­tioned by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion fol­low­ing the out­break of the con­flict in Ukraine. So the UAE’s invest­ment in Rus­sia was effec­tive­ly sanc­tioned, which pre­sum­ably did­n’t do great things for the UAE’s returns on their invest­ment:

    ...
    Mr. Dmitriev, a for­mer Gold­man Sachs banker with an M.B.A. from Har­vard, was tapped by Mr. Putin in 2011 to man­age an unusu­al state-run invest­ment fund. Where oth­er such funds seek to earn returns on sov­er­eign wealth, Mr. Dmitriev’s Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund seeks out­side invest­ments, often from for­eign gov­ern­ments, for unglam­orous infra­struc­ture projects inside of Rus­sia.

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion imposed sanc­tions on the fund as part of a raft of eco­nom­ic penal­ties after the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment sent mil­i­tary forces into Ukraine in 2014.

    The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, which Wash­ing­ton con­sid­ers one of its clos­est Arab allies, co-invest­ed togeth­er with Mr. Dmitriev’s fund as part of an effort to build close rela­tions to Rus­sia as well. After Crown Prince Mohammed met with Mr. Putin in 2013 in Moscow on a state vis­it, two invest­ment arms of the gov­ern­ment in Abu Dhabi com­mit­ted to invest $6 bil­lion in the fund’s Russ­ian projects, even­tu­al­ly pay­ing to build projects like roads, an air­port and can­cer treat­ment cen­ters in Rus­sia.

    Mr. Dmitriev became a fre­quent vis­i­tor to Abu Dhabi, and Emi­rati offi­cials came to see him as a key con­duit to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. In a 2015 email, the Emi­rati ambas­sador to Moscow at the time described Mr. Dmitriev as a “mes­sen­ger” to get infor­ma­tion direct­ly to Mr. Putin. The email was among a large num­ber hacked from the account of the ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton and pub­lished online. The now for­mer ambas­sador to Moscow, Omar Saif Ghobash, did not respond to an email about the leak.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how Dmitriev met with Antho­ny Scara­muc­ci, then an infor­mal Trump advis­er, short­ly after the Sey­chelles meet­ing At the at the 2017 World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land:

    ...
    Short­ly after the Sey­chelles meet­ing, Mr. Dmitriev met with Antho­ny Scara­muc­ci, then an infor­mal Trump advis­er, at the 2017 World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos, Switzer­land. In an inter­view after­ward with TASS, a Russ­ian news agency, Mr. Scara­muc­ci crit­i­cized the Oba­ma administration’s eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Rus­sia as inef­fec­tive and sug­gest­ed that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Rus­sia could find com­mon ground on numer­ous issues.

    “We have to make the world safer, we have to elim­i­nate from the world the rad­i­cal Islam­ic ter­ror­ism, and we have to fig­ure out the ways to grow the wages for work­ing class-fam­i­lies,” said Mr. Scara­muc­ci, who lat­er had a brief but calami­tous stint as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor. “Whether in Rus­sia or in the U.S., I think there are a lot of com­mon objec­tives.”
    ...

    And this Jan­u­ary 17th, 2017, meet­ing between Dmitriev and Scara­muc­ci was report­ed the very next day. So it was­n’t exact­ly a secret meet­ing.

    So a Trump team rep­re­sen­ta­tive open­ly meets with Dmitriev just days after this super secret elab­o­rate­ly planned Sey­chelles meet­ing. Isn’t that real­ly odd?

    Next, let’s take a look at a CNN piece on this top­ic that makes a few key points: First, the arti­cle makes it clear that George Nad­er isn’t just a senior advi­sor to the UAE. He’s been a notable diplo­mat work­ing with coun­tries across the Mid­dle East for decades

    Sec­ond, the arti­cle describes George Nad­er as being at the bar with Prince and Dmitriev dur­ing that Sey­chelles meet­ing:

    CNN

    ‘Man of mys­tery’ coop­er­ates with Mueller in Rus­sia probe

    By Shi­mon Proku­pecz, Kara Scan­nell and Sara Mur­ray, CNN

    Updat­ed 11:56 AM ET, Wed March 7, 2018

    (CNN)A Mid­dle East spe­cial­ist with ties to Don­ald Trump’s team attend­ed secret meet­ings dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion between the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Trump asso­ciates, and is now coop­er­at­ing with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter say.

    ...

    Nad­er attend­ed a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between the Emi­ratis and Prince, peo­ple famil­iar with the ses­sion told CNN. Nad­er was also present at the bar when Prince met with Kir­ill Dmitriev, the chief exec­u­tive of the state-run Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund, although it is unclear whether he was involved in the con­ver­sa­tion, these peo­ple say.

    After the elec­tion end­ed, Nad­er main­tained con­tact with senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, includ­ing Ban­non and Kush­n­er, accord­ing to sources famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

    ...

    Nader’s ‘stun­ning­ly authen­tic con­tacts’

    Nad­er, a 58-year-old Lebanese-Amer­i­can, has kept a low pro­file even among Mid­dle East experts in the US.

    “He is a man of mys­tery,” said Fred­er­ic Hof, direc­tor of the Atlantic Coun­cil’s Mid­dle East cen­ter. “Until this recent flur­ry of inter­est in him, I don’t think I’ve even heard his name men­tioned for 12 years.”

    One Mid­dle East expert was stunned to hear that Nad­er, who trav­els fre­quent­ly, main­tained an address in Wash­ing­ton. Anoth­er expressed sur­prise at find­ing out Nad­er was still alive because he had dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view.

    Since the 1980s, Nad­er has made a habit of ingra­ti­at­ing him­self with admin­is­tra­tions in Wash­ing­ton by vol­un­teer­ing to open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with elu­sive Mid­dle East­ern lead­ers. Through­out the 1980s and 1990s, Nad­er was the pres­i­dent and edi­tor of a mag­a­zine called Mid­dle East Insight. While many in his field assumed his role as a mag­a­zine edi­tor helped him cre­ate inroads with promi­nent lead­ers abroad, they still had lit­tle insight into how he’d built such an unusu­al rolodex.

    “He had stun­ning­ly authen­tic con­tacts,” said Aaron David Miller, the direc­tor of the Mid­dle East Pro­gram at the Woodrow Wil­son Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Schol­ars. Nad­er had promi­nent ties in Lebanon, Syr­ia, Israel and Iran and, for the most part, was able to move freely with­in those coun­tries, accord­ing to peo­ple who have worked with him.

    “He had tremen­dous con­tacts in the Mid­dle East in places that nor­mal peo­ple — at least back then, and to this day — don’t go,” said Miller, a for­mer advis­er to six sec­re­taries of state who encoun­tered Nad­er fre­quent­ly over the years.

    Peo­ple who worked with him described him as low-key — a dis­creet name-drop­per who often vol­un­teered his efforts as a go-between and pro­vid­ed cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion.

    Den­nis Ross, a fel­low at The Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­i­cy, first encoun­tered Nad­er when he was work­ing on Mid­dle East issues in the wan­ing days of the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. But he came to work with him more close­ly under Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush on an effort to free Amer­i­cans who were still being held hostage in Lebanon after the Iran-Con­tra affair, Ross said.

    Nad­er act­ed as a mid­dle man between the US and Grand Aya­tol­lah Mohammed Hus­sein Fad­lal­lah, a Shi­ite cler­ic in Lebanon whose work inspired the founders of Hezbol­lah. Nad­er relayed Fad­lal­lah’s demands to Ross, who insist­ed the US was­n’t going to nego­ti­ate. But the two sides kept talk­ing.

    “He was involved in dis­cus­sions that ulti­mate­ly led to the release of those who were being held in Lebanon,” Ross said.

    ...

    ———-

    “ ‘Man of mys­tery’ coop­er­ates with Mueller in Rus­sia probe” by Shi­mon Proku­pecz, Kara Scan­nell and Sara Mur­ray; CNN; 03/07/2018

    “Nad­er attend­ed a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between the Emi­ratis and Prince, peo­ple famil­iar with the ses­sion told CNN. Nad­er was also present at the bar when Prince met with Kir­ill Dmitriev, the chief exec­u­tive of the state-run Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund, although it is unclear whether he was involved in the con­ver­sa­tion, these peo­ple say.”

    So was Nad­er just lin­ger­ing around the bar out of earshot so Prince and Dmitriev could have a pri­vate con­ver­sion? It does­n’t sound like that. Recall how the above New York Times piece say he “rep­re­sent­ed the crown prince in the three-way con­ver­sa­tion in the Sey­chelles.” Tak­en togeth­er, it sure sounds like there was nev­er actu­al­ly a two-way con­ver­sa­tion in the Sey­chelles. It was a three-way con­ver­sa­tion

    And that’s port of what makes Nader’s decades of exten­sive con­tacts across the Mid­dle East so inter­est­ing: If the meet­ing in the Sey­chelles real­ly did cen­ter around a con­tro­ver­sial for­eign pol­i­cy pitch that would pull Russ­ian away from Syr­ia and Iran, that’s a major nego­ti­a­tion that would involve far more Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries than just the UAE. So was Nad­er sole­ly rep­re­sent­ing the crown prince dur­ing this meet­ing, or was he effec­tive­ly rep­re­sent­ing a lot of oth­er Mid­dle East­ern inter­ests too?

    So that’s all part of the broad­er con­text of what’s been learned just days before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee shuts down its inves­ti­ga­tion into these mat­ters. Once the inves­ti­ga­tion starts devi­at­ing Rus­sia, the House shuts its inves­ti­ga­tion down.

    But if the Sey­chelles meet­ing real­ly did rep­re­sent a three-way back chan­nel between the Trump team, the Krem­lin, and the UAE, there’s still the nag­ging ques­tion about what on earth was so con­tro­ver­sial about what they were propos­ing that it had to be done in secret. Because it’s not like con­vinc­ing Rus­sia to shift away from Syr­ia and Iran would be seen as con­tro­ver­sial by the US nation­al secu­ri­ty state.

    Well, let’s keep some­thing else in mind that tan­gen­tial­ly relates to all this and might even direct­ly relate: this would­n’t have been the only grand pro­pos­al to incen­tivize a his­toric shift in Rus­si­a’s for­eign pol­i­cy. There was ALSO the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ pro­pos­al from con­coct­ed by Andreii Arte­menko, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen. And those nego­ti­a­tions were qui­et­ly hap­pen­ing right when all these secret meet­ings between Trump, the Krem­lin, and the UAE were hap­pen­ing. Don’t for­get that Michael Cohen report­ed­ly hand-deliv­ered Arte­menko’s pro­pos­al to Michael Fly­nn a week before Fly­nn resigned in Feb­ru­ary 2017.
    Plus, in addi­tion to the ‘peace plan’ for Ukraine, there was also the scheme to upgrade Ukraine’s nuclear plants. A scheme that sounds an awful lot like the scheme Michael Fly­nn report­ed­ly had to build nuclear plants across the Mid­dle East.

    So when we’re scratch­ing our heads try­ing to fig­ure out what could have been so con­tro­ver­sial about the Trump/Kremlin/UAE nego­ti­a­tions that neces­si­tat­ed such secre­cy, let’s not for­get that the deal they were try to work out may have been one part of a much larg­er pack­age deal that involved Andreii Arte­menko’s ‘peace plan’ in Ukraine too, along with a whole bunch of nuclear plants in Ukraine and across the Mid­dle East. A mas­sive polit­i­cal shift cou­pled with a mas­sive­ly lucra­tive new inter­na­tion­al nuclear pow­er ini­tia­tive. That seems like the kind of pack­age deal diplo­ma­cy all the par­ties would have want­ed to nego­ti­ate in com­plete secre­cy. Maybe the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee should be look­ing into this...oh right.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 15, 2018, 9:26 pm
  13. Now that uber-hawk John Bolton has replace H.R. McMas­ter as Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor, it’s worth not­ing how the appoint­ment of Bolton relates to the pic­ture that emerged from the mys­tery over the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ involv­ing the Trump team, Erik Prince, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and George Nad­er and what appeared to be a secret attempt to draw Rus­sia away from its alliance with Iran and Syr­ia. Because as should be obvi­ous with the appoint­ment of some­one like John Bolton as the nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor, war is very much on the agen­da. It always was with Trump. It’s just more on the agen­da now.
    So here’s a quick run down of how insane John Bolton is. And note that while the list does include Bolton sane­ly rais­ing ques­tions about why the DNC hacks were so self-impli­cat­ing if they were indeed Russ­ian gov­ern­ment hack­er, that was just his first take on the top­ic of the hack­ing. Fol­low­ing the Mueller probe’s indict­ment of 13 Russ­ian cit­i­zens and the Inter­net Research Agency last month over charges of US elec­tion inter­fer­ence, Bolton wrote an op-ed call­ing for the US to respond with a dis­pro­por­tion­ate over­whelm­ing counter cyber attack. So while Bolton’s appoint­ment clear­ly puts war with Iran and North Korea on the Trumpian agen­da, we should­n’t rule out a rapid esca­la­tion of ten­sions with Rus­sia too, espe­cial­ly since war with Iran and/or North Korea prob­a­bly isn’t going to help with those ten­sions any­way:

    CNN

    John Bolton on: bomb­ing Iran, North Korea, Rus­sia and the Iraq War

    Analy­sis by Gre­go­ry Krieg,
    Updat­ed 7:58 AM ET, Fri March 23, 2018

    (CNN)John Bolton said on Thurs­day that his past pol­i­cy state­ments are ““behind me”” and that, after tak­ing over next month as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, “The impor­tant thing is what the Pres­i­dent says and the advice I give him.”

    But Bolton’s his­to­ry of provoca­tive, often bel­li­cose pro­nounce­ments, typ­i­cal­ly in the form of calls to bomb coun­tries like Iran and North Korea — along with his unwa­ver­ing sup­port, before and after, for the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq — are impos­si­ble to pass off, espe­cial­ly as Trump con­sid­ers tear­ing up the Iran nuclear deal and pre­pares for talks with Pyongyang.

    What fol­lows is a small sam­pling of Bolton’s rhetoric, dat­ing back to the post‑9/11 peri­od. Back then, while work­ing in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, Bolton made the case at home and abroad that Sad­dam Hus­sein pos­sessed weapons of mass destruc­tion and that the US role in the after­math of regime change in Iraq would be “fair­ly min­i­mal.” Trump, by the way, has point­ed to his own oppo­si­tion to the Iraq war as evi­dence of his smarts.

    Bolton also pub­licly accused Cuba of pro­vid­ing “dual-use biotech­nol­o­gy to oth­er rogue states.” Years lat­er, after leav­ing his post as ambas­sador to the UN, he pushed to expand the Iraq War into Iran. More recent­ly, he’s pushed for uni­lat­er­al strikes in Iran and North Korea, while cast­ing doubt on Rus­si­a’s role in 2016 elec­tion-relat­ed hack­ing.

    He made the case last month for strik­ing North Korea ‘first’

    Cit­ing pre­emp­tive strikes by Israel on Syr­i­an (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reac­tor sites, Bolton in Feb­ru­ary of this year — less than four weeks ago — made a case in the Wall Street Jour­nal for a poten­tial US attack on North Korea:

    “Pre-emp­tion oppo­nents argue that action is not jus­ti­fied because Pyongyang does not con­sti­tute an ‘immi­nent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is immi­nent, and the case against pre-emp­tion rests on the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a stan­dard that derives from prenu­clear, pre-bal­lis­tic-mis­sile times. Giv­en the gaps in U.S. intel­li­gence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk strik­ing after the North has deliv­er­able nuclear weapons, a much more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”

    He sug­gest­ed elec­tion hack­ing was a ‘false flag oper­a­tion’ designed to frame the Rus­sians

    In Decem­ber 2016, Bolton said he was­n’t con­vinced the Russ­ian had a role in pre-elec­tion hack­ing.

    “It’s not at all clear to me just view­ing this from the out­side that this hack­ing into the DNC and the RNC com­put­ers was not a false flag oper­a­tion. The ques­tion that has to be asked is, why did the Rus­sians run their smart intel­li­gence ser­vice against Hillary’s serv­er but their dumb intel­li­gence ser­vices against the elec­tion?”

    He seems to have changed his mind; is now advo­cat­ing heavy retal­i­a­tion

    In an opin­ion piece filed after spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller returned indict­ments alleg­ing con­spir­a­cy to defraud the US against a group of Russ­ian nation­als, Bolton wrote:

    “One way to (deter Rus­sia) is to engage in a retal­ia­to­ry cyber cam­paign against Rus­sia. This effort should not be pro­por­tion­al to what we have just expe­ri­enced. It should be decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate. The les­son we want Rus­sia (or any­one else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyber­at­tacks against the Unit­ed States will be so high that they will sim­ply con­sign all their cyber­war­fare plans to their com­put­er mem­o­ries to gath­er elec­tron­ic dust.”

    He said a diplo­mat­ic option for deal­ing with North Korea was to ‘end the regime’

    Asked by a Fox News host if there were any “diplo­mat­ic options” remain­ing in the nuclear stand­off with North Korea, Bolton sug­gest­ed this:

    Bolton: “I think the only diplo­mat­ic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effec­tive­ly hav­ing the South take it over. You’ve got to argue with Chi­na–”

    Fox News host Trish Regan: “That’s not real­ly diplo­mat­ic! (Laugh­ing) As far as they’re con­cerned.”

    Bolton: “Well, that’s their prob­lem, not ours. Any­body who thinks that more diplo­ma­cy with North Korea, more sanc­tions, whether against North Korea, or an effort to apply sanc­tions against Chi­na, is just giv­ing North Korea more time to increase its nuclear arse­nal...”

    He com­pared — to laugh­ter and cheers — for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to a ‘Mus­lim king’

    In a speech to the Amer­i­can Free­dom Alliance con­fer­ence in August 2016, Bolton drew applause when he said this of Oba­ma at the begin­ning of a speech on Mus­lim coun­tries and their pol­i­tics:

    “King Abdul­lah of Jor­dan, who is not sim­ply the Mus­lim king of a Mus­lim coun­try, unlike our pres­i­dent... (laugh­ter and cheers) ... King Abdul­lah and oth­er polit­i­cal lead­ers in the Mid­dle East have said this is a civ­il war with­in Islam.”

    He des­per­ate­ly wants to scut­tle the Iran nuclear deal

    In Janau­ry of this year, again in the Wall Street Jour­nal, he argued that the admin­is­tra­tion take more force­ful steps to break the terms of the pact:

    “Spend­ing the next 120 days nego­ti­at­ing with our­selves will leave the West mired in sta­sis. Mr. Trump cor­rect­ly sees Mr. Oba­ma’s deal as a mas­sive strate­gic blun­der, but his advis­ers have inex­plic­a­bly per­suad­ed him not to with­draw. Last fall, decid­ing whether to reim­pose sanc­tions and decer­ti­fy the deal under the Cork­er-Cardin leg­is­la­tion, the admin­is­tra­tion also opt­ed to keep the door open to ‘fix­es’ — a punt on third down. Let’s hope Fri­day’s deci­sion is not anoth­er punt.”

    He also touched on a com­mon theme in his writ­ing, going back at least to for­mer Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, that con­nects Iran and North Korea:

    “Lit­tle is known, at least pub­licly, about long­stand­ing Iran­ian-North Kore­an coop­er­a­tion on nuclear and bal­lis­tic-mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy. It is fool­ish to play down Tehran’s threat because of Pyongyang’s provo­ca­tions. They are two sides of the same coin.”

    He took — and seems to take — the ‘Axis of Evil’ line lit­er­al­ly

    Rewind to August 2002 and remarks made dur­ing talks between the North and South Kore­ans, when Bolton defend­ed the expres­sion and insist­ed “it was fac­tu­al­ly cor­rect.” This is from the New York Times report:

    “In a strong­ly word­ed speech, the offi­cial, John R. Bolton, the under sec­re­tary of state for arms con­trol, cit­ed what he said was ‘a hard con­nec­tion between these regimes — an “axis” along which flow dan­ger­ous weapons and dan­ger­ous tech­nol­o­gy.’ ”

    ...

    Before the deal was done, he wrote an op-ed call­ing on the US to bomb Iran

    Short­ly before the frame­work of the Iran nuclear deal was set in place, Bolton wrote a piece head­lined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” He even con­sid­ered out­sourc­ing the job to Israel:

    “Time is ter­ri­bly short, but a strike can still suc­ceed. ... An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infra­struc­ture, but by break­ing key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its pro­gram by three to five years. The Unit­ed States could do a thor­ough job of destruc­tion, but Israel alone can do what’s nec­es­sary. Such action should be com­bined with vig­or­ous Amer­i­can sup­port for Iran’s oppo­si­tion, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”

    He (still) believes leav­ing Iraq was a worse deci­sion than invad­ing it

    Bolton became Bush’s under sec­re­tary of state for arms con­trol and inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty in May of 2001 and remained in the job for about four years, dur­ing which time the US invad­ed Iraq under false pre­tens­es, before tak­ing over as ambas­sador the Unit­ed Nations via recess appoint­ment. Asked in 2015 about the deci­sion to go to war, here’s what he told the Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er:

    “I still think the deci­sion to over­throw Sad­dam was cor­rect. I think deci­sions made after that deci­sion were wrong, although I think the worst deci­sion made after that was the 2011 deci­sion to with­draw U.S. and coali­tion forces. The peo­ple who say, oh things would have been much bet­ter if you did­n’t over­throw Sad­dam miss the point that today’s Mid­dle East does not flow total­ly and unchange­ably from the deci­sion to over­throw Sad­dam alone.”

    He want­ed to bomb Iran dur­ing the Iraq war

    In 2008, Bolton called for strikes inside Iran as part of a bid to cut off Tehran’s aid to insur­gents in Iraq. Asked by a Fox News host what he thought would “hap­pen next” if the US attacked, he down­played the poten­tial for widen­ing the war:

    “I think the Ira­ni­ans need to look very care­ful­ly at what risk they would run if they were to esca­late. The idea here is not to have much larg­er hos­til­i­ties, but to stop the Ira­ni­ans from engag­ing in the hos­til­i­ties that they’re already doing against us inside Iraq. And they’re doing much the same by aid­ing the Tal­iban in Afghanistan. So this is not provoca­tive or pre­emp­tive, this is entire­ly respon­sive on our part.”

    He down­played the short- and long-term dan­gers of war in Iraq

    In the run-up to the Iraq inva­sion he made the case for regime change to the BBC. Here’s one of his argu­ments in favor:

    “I think the Iraqi peo­ple would be unique in his­to­ry if they did­n’t wel­come the over­throw of this dic­ta­to­r­i­al regime. And Iraqi oppo­si­tion lead­ers of a vari­ety of posi­tions and views are dis­cussing now what will hap­pen after Sad­dam Hus­sein. I expect that the Amer­i­can role actu­al­ly will be fair­ly min­i­mal. I think we’ll have an impor­tant secu­ri­ty role. I think con­clud­ing the destruc­tion of the weapons of mass destruc­tion them­selves will be impor­tant. But I think fun­da­men­tal­ly the recre­ation of a hope­ful­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic Iraqi gov­ern­ment — that must rest with the Iraqis.”

    ———-

    “John Bolton on: bomb­ing Iran, North Korea, Rus­sia and the Iraq War” by Gre­go­ry Krieg; CNN; 03/23/2018

    “John Bolton said on Thurs­day that his past pol­i­cy state­ments are ““behind me”” and that, after tak­ing over next month as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, “The impor­tant thing is what the Pres­i­dent says and the advice I give him.””

    Bwah! Yeah, don’t wor­ry about Bolton’s long record of call­ing for one war after anoth­er. That’s all “behind me”, as he says. Just not very far “behind” him. For instance, his calls for a “decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate” cyber retal­i­a­tion against Russia...that was just last month:

    ...
    In an opin­ion piece filed after spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller returned indict­ments alleg­ing con­spir­a­cy to defraud the US against a group of Russ­ian nation­als, Bolton wrote:

    “One way to (deter Rus­sia) is to engage in a retal­ia­to­ry cyber cam­paign against Rus­sia. This effort should not be pro­por­tion­al to what we have just expe­ri­enced. It should be decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate. The les­son we want Rus­sia (or any­one else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyber­at­tacks against the Unit­ed States will be so high that they will sim­ply con­sign all their cyber­war­fare plans to their com­put­er mem­o­ries to gath­er elec­tron­ic dust.”
    ...

    And then there’s the calls made a pre­emp­tive strike on North Korea last month. Also last month:

    ...
    He made the case last month for strik­ing North Korea ‘first’

    Cit­ing pre­emp­tive strikes by Israel on Syr­i­an (2007) and Iraqi (1981) reac­tor sites, Bolton in Feb­ru­ary of this year — less than four weeks ago — made a case in the Wall Street Jour­nal for a poten­tial US attack on North Korea:

    “Pre-emp­tion oppo­nents argue that action is not jus­ti­fied because Pyongyang does not con­sti­tute an ‘immi­nent threat.’ They are wrong. The threat is immi­nent, and the case against pre-emp­tion rests on the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a stan­dard that derives from prenu­clear, pre-bal­lis­tic-mis­sile times. Giv­en the gaps in U.S. intel­li­gence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute. That would risk strik­ing after the North has deliv­er­able nuclear weapons, a much more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”
    ...

    Then, in Jan­u­ary, he open­ly argued that Trump should pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran, a move that would like­ly be fol­lowed by war since Iran would obvi­ous­ly restart its nuclear pro­gram:

    ...
    In Janau­ry of this year, again in the Wall Street Jour­nal, he argued that the admin­is­tra­tion take more force­ful steps to break the terms of the pact:

    “Spend­ing the next 120 days nego­ti­at­ing with our­selves will leave the West mired in sta­sis. Mr. Trump cor­rect­ly sees Mr. Oba­ma’s deal as a mas­sive strate­gic blun­der, but his advis­ers have inex­plic­a­bly per­suad­ed him not to with­draw. Last fall, decid­ing whether to reim­pose sanc­tions and decer­ti­fy the deal under the Cork­er-Cardin leg­is­la­tion, the admin­is­tra­tion also opt­ed to keep the door open to ‘fix­es’ — a punt on third down. Let’s hope Fri­day’s deci­sion is not anoth­er punt.”

    He also touched on a com­mon theme in his writ­ing, going back at least to for­mer Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, that con­nects Iran and North Korea:

    “Lit­tle is known, at least pub­licly, about long­stand­ing Iran­ian-North Kore­an coop­er­a­tion on nuclear and bal­lis­tic-mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy. It is fool­ish to play down Tehran’s threat because of Pyongyang’s provo­ca­tions. They are two sides of the same coin.”
    ...

    That’s just what Bolton pub­licly called for in the last two months: a mas­sive dis­pro­por­tion­ate cyber attack against Rus­sia, a pre­emp­tive strike against North Korea, and pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

    Then there’s the fact that he actu­al­ly called for bomb­ing Iran instead of sign­ing of the nuclear deal back in 2015 as part of a larg­er regime change oper­a­tion:

    ...
    Short­ly before the frame­work of the Iran nuclear deal was set in place, Bolton wrote a piece head­lined, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” He even con­sid­ered out­sourc­ing the job to Israel:

    “Time is ter­ri­bly short, but a strike can still suc­ceed. ... An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infra­struc­ture, but by break­ing key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its pro­gram by three to five years. The Unit­ed States could do a thor­ough job of destruc­tion, but Israel alone can do what’s nec­es­sary. Such action should be com­bined with vig­or­ous Amer­i­can sup­port for Iran’s oppo­si­tion, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
    ...

    But let’s not for­get Syr­ia. Because Bolton has been call­ing for much more bomb­ing there. And when the ques­tion was asked whether the Unit­ed States is mov­ing “toward a con­flict with Iran and Rus­sia in Syr­ia,” Bolton replied, “I think that’s one pos­si­bil­i­ty.”:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    John Bolton has talked about bomb­ing North Korea, Iran and Syr­ia

    by Cal­lum Borchers
    March 23, 2018 at 12:05 PM

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s incom­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, John Bolton, is known for hawk­ish views. If you are won­der­ing whether the rep­u­ta­tion is fair, don’t rely on what oth­ers say about the for­mer ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations; just look at what he has said about var­i­ous for­eign-pol­i­cy mat­ters on Fox News and else­where.

    ...

    Syr­ia

    March 7 on Fox News: Asked whether the Unit­ed States is mov­ing “toward a con­flict with Iran and Rus­sia in Syr­ia,” Bolton replied, “I think that’s one pos­si­bil­i­ty.”

    March 12 on Fox News: Asked whether he thinks the Unit­ed States and France are “ready­ing more airstrikes,” Bolton said “it may come to that ... and it would be jus­ti­fied, in my view, as the pres­i­den­t’s first airstrike was.”

    ...
    ———-

    “John Bolton has talked about bomb­ing North Korea, Iran and Syr­ia” by Cal­lum Borchers; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/23/2018

    March 7 on Fox News: Asked whether the Unit­ed States is mov­ing “toward a con­flict with Iran and Rus­sia in Syr­ia,” Bolton replied, “I think that’s one pos­si­bil­i­ty.””

    Yep, as should be total­ly obvi­ous to any­one even remote­ly famil­iar with Bolton’s his­to­ry, the guy would real­ly, real­ly like to see a much deep mil­i­tary engage­ment in Syr­ia. Because of course he wants that. He’s John Bolton.

    But let’s not lim­it this to Syr­ia, Iran, and North Korea. He’s also a hard­lin­er on Venezuela and Cuba. Oh, and Ukraine too, as he sug­gest­ed in his op-ed last month when he called for a “decid­ed dis­pro­por­tion­ate” cyber response to Rus­sia. Because that pro­posed cyber response was just one of the many posi­tions Bolton called for in oppo­si­tion to Rus­sia, includ­ing more US and NATO joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es with Ukraine:

    The Hill

    Russ­ian assault on ‘Amer­i­can idea’ enables Trump to take tough action

    By John Bolton, opin­ion con­trib­u­tor —
    02/19/18 06:30 AM EST

    Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s efforts are far from over, and defin­i­tive con­clu­sions about his work must still abide the day. Even so, Friday’s announce­ment that a fed­er­al grand jury in Wash­ing­ton had indict­ed 13 Russ­ian cit­i­zens and three Russ­ian enti­ties for inter­fer­ing in the 2016 elec­tions and there­after is high­ly sig­nif­i­cant, domes­ti­cal­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. Mueller must still prove his wire fraud, iden­ti­ty fraud and oth­er charges beyond a rea­son­able doubt, but the indict­ment alone pow­er­ful­ly reflects a wide-rang­ing inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Domes­ti­cal­ly, the polit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Don­ald Trump are clear­ly ben­e­fi­cial. After more than a year of pub­lic accu­sa­tions, unin­formed spec­u­la­tion and prodi­gious leak­ing by mem­bers of Con­gress and the media, the indict­ment con­tains no Trump-relat­ed alle­ga­tions of know­ing involve­ment in or sup­port for Moscow’s per­ni­cious activ­i­ties. Both the indict­ment itself and Deputy Attor­ney Gen­er­al Rod Rosenstein’s accom­pa­ny­ing press con­fer­ence describe the Amer­i­cans manip­u­lat­ed by the Russ­ian sabo­teurs as “unwit­ting” or “unknow­ing.”

    Nor does the indict­ment allege that Russia’s machi­na­tions, which began in 2014, well before any announced Repub­li­can or Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates for the pres­i­den­cy, influ­enced the election’s out­come. Sen. Roy Blunt (R‑Mo.) pre­vi­ous­ly put Moscow’s social media spend­ing in prop­er per­spec­tive: The known $100,000 of Russ­ian expen­di­tures amount­ed to a mere 0.005 per­cent of the approx­i­mate­ly $81,000,000 of total social-media out­lays by the Clin­ton and Trump cam­paigns. Face­book vice pres­i­dent Rob Gold­man him­self tweet­ed that the major­i­ty of Moscow’s spend­ing occurred after the elec­tion.

    The safest con­clu­sion based on cur­rent­ly avail­able pub­lic infor­ma­tion is that Rus­sia did not intend to advan­tage or dis­ad­van­tage any par­tic­u­lar can­di­date and that Rus­sia was not “sup­port­ing” any­one for pres­i­dent. Instead, its sabo­teurs sought to sow dis­cord and mis­trust among U.S. cit­i­zens, under­min­ing our con­sti­tu­tion­al process­es and faith in the integri­ty of our elec­tions. Adver­tis­ing or demon­stra­tions for or against Trump or any oth­er can­di­date were means to the Russ­ian end of cor­rod­ing pub­lic trust, not ends them­selves.

    Mueller’s indict­ment, while like­ly not his last, nonethe­less under­cuts both ends of the log­ic chain that many Trump oppo­nents hoped would lead to impeach­ment. There is, to date, no evi­dence of col­lu­sion, express or implied, nor can it hon­est­ly be said that Rus­sia was “pro-Trump.” What Trump right­ly feared ear­li­er, based on his polit­i­cal instincts, was that the notion of clan­des­tine Krem­lin sup­port for his cam­paign would morph into the con­clu­sion that his cam­paign must have col­lud­ed with Moscow.

    ...

    Accord­ing­ly, Mueller has afford­ed Trump a not-to-be-missed oppor­tu­ni­ty to piv­ot from wor­ry­ing about unfair efforts to tar his cam­paign with the “col­lu­sion” alle­ga­tion, toward the broad­er grow­ing dan­ger of Russ­ian sub­ver­sion. What hap­pened in the 2016 cam­paign was graver even than the “infor­ma­tion war­fare” alleged in Friday’s indict­ment. This is, pure and sim­ple, war against the Amer­i­can idea itself.

    Hence, the inter­na­tion­al ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the spe­cial counsel’s indict­ment: The White House can and should now piv­ot to the real task ahead, which is deal­ing strate­gi­cal­ly and com­pre­hen­sive­ly with Russia’s glob­al efforts to enhance its influ­ence. Inter­fer­ence in America’s elec­tion, much as it nec­es­sar­i­ly focus­es our atten­tion, is only a part of Moscow’s dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions. Russ­ian agents have repeat­ed­ly inter­fered in Euro­pean elec­tions, although the exact scope remains uncer­tain.

    The Krem­lin has con­duct­ed cyber­war­fare against the Baltic republics, and old-fash­ioned con­ven­tion­al aggres­sion against Geor­gia and Ukraine, includ­ing annex­ing Crimea. In the Mid­dle East, dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Rus­sia cement­ed a de fac­to alliance with Iran, built and expand­ed mil­i­tary facil­i­ties in Syr­ia, sold weapons to U.S. allies like Egypt and Sau­di Ara­bia, and propped up Bashar Assad’s dic­ta­tor­ship in Syr­ia.

    Moscow has bla­tant­ly vio­lat­ed the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while rapid­ly mod­ern­iz­ing and expand­ing its strate­gic nuclear capa­bil­i­ty. Hereto­fore under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Vladimir Putin hard­ly had rea­son to fear that any­one would push back on any­thing. Final­ly, because of the over­hang of the “Trump col­lu­sion” heavy breath­ing by his polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion and the media, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has nei­ther devel­oped nor deployed a coher­ent Rus­sia pol­i­cy.

    But it’s nev­er too late to start. Putin’s glob­al aspi­ra­tions are not friend­ly to Amer­i­ca, and the soon­er he knows we know it, the bet­ter. It is not enough, how­ev­er, to file crim­i­nal charges against Russ­ian cit­i­zens, nor are eco­nom­ic sanc­tions any­where near suf­fi­cient to prove our dis­plea­sure. We need to cre­ate struc­tures of deter­rence in cyber­space, as we did with nuclear weapons, to pre­vent future Russ­ian attacks or attacks by oth­ers who threat­en our inter­ests.

    One way to do that is to engage in a retal­ia­to­ry cyber cam­paign against Rus­sia. This effort should not be pro­por­tion­al to what we have just expe­ri­enced. It should be decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate. The les­son we want Rus­sia (or any­one else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyber­at­tacks against the Unit­ed States will be so high that they will sim­ply con­sign all their cyber­war­fare plans to their com­put­er mem­o­ries to gath­er elec­tron­ic dust.

    In East­ern and Cen­tral Europe, the White House needs to expand its efforts to strength­en NATO’s hand by per­suad­ing all its mem­bers to spend the bare min­i­mum nec­es­sary for the alliance’s mil­i­tary resources. At the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence this past week­end, for exam­ple, a lun­cheon dis­cus­sion on Ukraine pro­duced many solemn pro­nounce­ments on Russia’s “vio­la­tions of the rules-based inter­na­tion­al order.”

    This was music to Moscow’s ears. Let Putin instead hear the rum­ble of artillery and NATO tank tracks con­duct­ing more joint field exer­cis­es with Ukraine’s mil­i­tary. That, and much more, will get his atten­tion. An anal­o­gous response is war­rant­ed in the Mid­dle East, where the White House is already lay­ing a foun­da­tion for more robust respons­es to Russia’s probes. At rare moments in pol­i­tics, unex­pect­ed events pro­duce oppor­tu­ni­ties which must be seized before they dis­ap­pear. The Rus­sia indict­ment is one of them.

    ———-

    “Russ­ian assault on ‘Amer­i­can idea’ enables Trump to take tough action” by John Bolton; The Hill; 02/19/2018

    “Accord­ing­ly, Mueller has afford­ed Trump a not-to-be-missed oppor­tu­ni­ty to piv­ot from wor­ry­ing about unfair efforts to tar his cam­paign with the “col­lu­sion” alle­ga­tion, toward the broad­er grow­ing dan­ger of Russ­ian sub­ver­sion. What hap­pened in the 2016 cam­paign was graver even than the “infor­ma­tion war­fare” alleged in Friday’s indict­ment. This is, pure and sim­ple, war against the Amer­i­can idea itself.”

    “This is, pure and sim­ple, war against the Amer­i­can idea itself.” That’s how Bolton framed the elec­tion med­dling charged against the Krem­lin: war against the Amer­i­can idea itself. Hence, this Mueller indict­ment against the 13 Rus­sians rep­re­sent­ed a not-to-be-missed oppor­tu­ni­ty to shift away from “col­lu­sion” and towards an aggres­sive pos­ture against Rus­sia. Includ­ing that “decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate” cyber response:

    ...
    Hence, the inter­na­tion­al ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the spe­cial counsel’s indict­ment: The White House can and should now piv­ot to the real task ahead, which is deal­ing strate­gi­cal­ly and com­pre­hen­sive­ly with Russia’s glob­al efforts to enhance its influ­ence. Inter­fer­ence in America’s elec­tion, much as it nec­es­sar­i­ly focus­es our atten­tion, is only a part of Moscow’s dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions. Russ­ian agents have repeat­ed­ly inter­fered in Euro­pean elec­tions, although the exact scope remains uncer­tain.

    The Krem­lin has con­duct­ed cyber­war­fare against the Baltic republics, and old-fash­ioned con­ven­tion­al aggres­sion against Geor­gia and Ukraine, includ­ing annex­ing Crimea. In the Mid­dle East, dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, Rus­sia cement­ed a de fac­to alliance with Iran, built and expand­ed mil­i­tary facil­i­ties in Syr­ia, sold weapons to U.S. allies like Egypt and Sau­di Ara­bia, and propped up Bashar Assad’s dic­ta­tor­ship in Syr­ia.

    Moscow has bla­tant­ly vio­lat­ed the Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while rapid­ly mod­ern­iz­ing and expand­ing its strate­gic nuclear capa­bil­i­ty. Hereto­fore under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, Vladimir Putin hard­ly had rea­son to fear that any­one would push back on any­thing. Final­ly, because of the over­hang of the “Trump col­lu­sion” heavy breath­ing by his polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion and the media, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has nei­ther devel­oped nor deployed a coher­ent Rus­sia pol­i­cy.

    But it’s nev­er too late to start. Putin’s glob­al aspi­ra­tions are not friend­ly to Amer­i­ca, and the soon­er he knows we know it, the bet­ter. It is not enough, how­ev­er, to file crim­i­nal charges against Russ­ian cit­i­zens, nor are eco­nom­ic sanc­tions any­where near suf­fi­cient to prove our dis­plea­sure. We need to cre­ate struc­tures of deter­rence in cyber­space, as we did with nuclear weapons, to pre­vent future Russ­ian attacks or attacks by oth­ers who threat­en our inter­ests.

    One way to do that is to engage in a retal­ia­to­ry cyber cam­paign against Rus­sia. This effort should not be pro­por­tion­al to what we have just expe­ri­enced. It should be decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate. The les­son we want Rus­sia (or any­one else) to learn is that the costs to them from future cyber­at­tacks against the Unit­ed States will be so high that they will sim­ply con­sign all their cyber­war­fare plans to their com­put­er mem­o­ries to gath­er elec­tron­ic dust.
    ...

    And part of the aggres­sive pos­tur­ing Bolton rec­om­mends against Rus­sia is for Putin to “hear the rum­ble of artillery and NATO tank tracks con­duct­ing more joint field exer­cis­es with Ukraine’s mil­i­tary,” as well as an “anal­o­gous response” in the Mid­dle East:

    ...
    In East­ern and Cen­tral Europe, the White House needs to expand its efforts to strength­en NATO’s hand by per­suad­ing all its mem­bers to spend the bare min­i­mum nec­es­sary for the alliance’s mil­i­tary resources. At the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence this past week­end, for exam­ple, a lun­cheon dis­cus­sion on Ukraine pro­duced many solemn pro­nounce­ments on Russia’s “vio­la­tions of the rules-based inter­na­tion­al order.”

    This was music to Moscow’s ears. Let Putin instead hear the rum­ble of artillery and NATO tank tracks con­duct­ing more joint field exer­cis­es with Ukraine’s mil­i­tary. That, and much more, will get his atten­tion. An anal­o­gous response is war­rant­ed in the Mid­dle East, where the White House is already lay­ing a foun­da­tion for more robust respons­es to Russia’s probes. At rare moments in pol­i­tics, unex­pect­ed events pro­duce oppor­tu­ni­ties which must be seized before they dis­ap­pear. The Rus­sia indict­ment is one of them.

    Now, keep in mind that the US and NATO already con­duct joint mil­i­tary exer­cis­es with Ukraine. So, on the sur­face, Bolton does­n’t appear to be call­ing for a sub­stan­tial­ly more aggres­sive pos­ture against Russ­ian than already exists..well, except for the “decid­ed­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate” cyber counter-attack he’s call­ing for. But this John Bolton we’re talk­ing about, so of course he would like to see a much more aggres­sive pos­ture on the bat­tle­field too. Back in 2014, Bolton was call­ing for the US to pro­vide Ukraine with mil­i­tary assis­tance and fast-track its NATO mem­ber­ship fol­low­ing the out­break of the con­flict.

    So what should we expect from the appoint­ment of Bolton as the nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor at the same time Mike Pom­peo, anoth­er uber-hawk, becomes the sec­re­tary of state? Well, pre­sum­ably we should expect war(s). And prob­a­bly a very large cyber attack of some sort against Rus­sia. And don’t for­get, now that Bolton has made it clear that he’s call­ing for a large cyber attack against Rus­sia, he just told the entire world that now is a great time to for any­one to con­duct a major cyber attack against Rus­sia and make it look like the US did it. So, yeah, at a min­i­mum we should prob­a­bly expect a lot more major hacks. Which means it’s prob­a­bly a good time to back up your data, which hope­ful­ly won’t get vapor­ized.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 23, 2018, 10:44 am
  14. Here’s anoth­er dis­turb­ing thing to keep in mind regard­ing the appoint­ment of John Bolton as Trump’s new nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor and the prospect of a war in places like Iran and North Korea: Thanks to all the posi­tions Rex Tiller­son left emp­ty at the State Depart­ment before get­ting replaced by Mike Pom­peo, and thanks to the influ­ence Bolton will have of State Depart­ment poli­cies as the nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor, we should prob­a­bly expect Bolton and Pom­peo to fill in those emp­ty State Depart­ment posi­tions with a team of hand-picked war hawks:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    State Depart­ment braces for Bolton’s return

    By John Hud­son
    March 27, 2018 at 2:10 PM

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s appoint­ment of John Bolton as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er cre­at­ed a unique sense of shock at the State Depart­ment, where many diplo­mats rehashed anec­dotes about his aggres­sive man­age­ment style and pro­lif­ic broad­sides against the cul­ture of the Amer­i­can diplo­mat­ic corps.

    Bolton, a for­mer ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations, has for years derid­ed the State Depart­ment as a back­wa­ter of “appeasers” and “high-mind­ed” careerists in var­i­ous books and tele­vi­sion appear­ances since he left gov­ern­ment.

    His pro­fes­sion­al reha­bil­i­ta­tion fol­lows the tur­bu­lent 14-month tenure of Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, anoth­er crit­ic of the State Depart­ment who spent much of his time try­ing to down­size and reor­ga­nize an insti­tu­tion he viewed as bloat­ed and inef­fi­cient.

    The dif­fer­ence between the two men, diplo­mats acknowl­edged, is that the arcane ways of gov­ern­ment that per­plexed and ulti­mate­ly stymied Tiller­son will not pose a sim­i­lar chal­lenge for Bolton, who comes to the job with a gran­u­lar under­stand­ing of the levers of pow­er.

    “I would say micro-gran­u­lar,” said Mark Groom­bridge, a long­time advis­er for Bolton at the State Depart­ment and Unit­ed Nations. “His style will be to run an impe­r­i­al NSC where the State and Defense depart­ments are there to imple­ment White House pol­i­cy.”

    ...

    In his new job, Bolton will not direct­ly over­see the State Depart­ment, but his pow­er­ful perch at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil will offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to shape and influ­ence pol­i­cy and per­son­nel at Fog­gy Bot­tom.

    Bolton became famous inside the depart­ment as a skill­ful bureau­crat­ic tac­ti­cian, an out­spo­ken Iraq War advo­cate and an ardent crit­ic of mul­ti­lat­er­al insti­tu­tions and treaties. His recur­ring calls to bomb Iran and North Korea con­trast sharply with the For­eign Service’s dic­tum of first exhaust­ing diplo­mat­ic options before rec­om­mend­ing mil­i­tary force.

    Bolton’s advis­ers and for­mer col­leagues say he has a good rela­tion­ship with Sec­re­tary of State-des­ig­nate Mike Pom­peo, whom he advised in Con­gress. But they said Bolton is unlike­ly to take a back seat to the for­mer Kansas con­gress­man on the issues he cares about most: Iran and North Korea.

    “While cur­rent­ly in the lead, the State Department’s Office of Pol­i­cy Plan­ning will def­i­nite­ly become irrel­e­vant on Iran,” said Andrew Bowen, a for­mer col­league of Bolton’s at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute.

    “Bolton is also like­ly to play a lead­ing role on North Korea, an issue he’s devot­ed much of his pro­fes­sion­al career toward,” Bowen said.

    How Bolton will fit into a com­bustible Cab­i­net ecosys­tem of strong per­son­al­i­ties, includ­ing Pom­peo, Defense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and Nik­ki Haley, the ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations, is unclear, but con­tem­po­raries of Bolton said he should not be under­es­ti­mat­ed.

    “He’ll work to put loy­al­ists in key van­tage points and mar­gin­al­ize those he dis­trusts,” Matthew Wax­man, a for­mer col­league of Bolton’s in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion, wrote in a recent Law­fare col­umn.

    When it comes to installing allies, Tiller­son has left Pom­peo and Bolton with ample oppor­tu­ni­ties, giv­en his fail­ure to put his own polit­i­cal appointees in place. Eight of the top 10 State Depart­ment jobs are vacant, and some of the peo­ple Tiller­son man­aged to get nom­i­nat­ed, such as Susan Thorn­ton and Eric Ueland, could have their nom­i­na­tions pulled.

    “Tiller­son clear­ly didn’t under­stand the impor­tance of installing polit­i­cal appointees across the depart­ment,” Groom­bridge said. “But Bolton under­stands that per­son­nel is pol­i­cy, and he’ll be in a posi­tion to weigh in.”

    Indi­vid­u­als close to Bolton said they expect­ed him to “clear house” at the NSC and remove staffers viewed as allies of H.R. McMas­ter or the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion. Peo­ple spoke about Bolton on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to speak freely about future plan­ning.

    In his 2007 mem­oir, “Sur­ren­der Is Not an Option,” Bolton demon­strates a detailed under­stand­ing of the State Depart­ment and a dis­dain for many of its inhab­i­tants. He and his allies con­coct­ed dis­parag­ing and wonky epi­thets for his col­leagues, such “EAPeasers” a moniker he uses five times in his book to describe U.S. diplo­mats he viewed as soft on North Korea. (The word is a port­man­teau com­bin­ing “appeasers” and the Bureau of East Asian and Pacif­ic Affairs, or EAP.)

    Groom­bridge said he and his boss also referred to career diplo­mat Christo­pher Hill, who led the six-par­ty talks on North Korea’s nuclear pro­gram, as “Kim Jong Hill.”

    “Need­less to say we didn’t like Chris Hill,” Groom­bridge said.

    Fol­low­ing Bolton’s appoint­ment Thurs­day, a group of U.S. diplo­mats swapped sto­ries about Bolton over drinks at the Hive Bar, a go-to diplo­mat­ic water­ing hole one block from the Har­ry S. Tru­man Build­ing. A par­tic­u­lar top­ic of inter­est was Bolton’s work­place demeanor, which became the source of pub­lic atten­tion dur­ing his 2005 con­fir­ma­tion process to become U.S. ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations.

    Most notably, Bolton report­ed­ly brow­beat an intel­li­gence ana­lyst who dis­put­ed his view that Cuba was intent on build­ing an advanced bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

    Carl Ford, a self-described Repub­li­can and a top State Depart­ment intel­li­gence offi­cial at the time, tes­ti­fied before Con­gress about the encounter and called it indica­tive of Bolton’s ver­bal­ly abu­sive style, call­ing him “a quin­tes­sen­tial kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.”

    In his mem­oir, Bolton called the intel­li­gence ana­lyst in ques­tion “sen­si­tive” and dis­missed Ford’s tes­ti­mo­ny as “over the top.”

    A gov­ern­ment sub­con­trac­tor also accused Bolton of throw­ing a tape dis­penser at her and chas­ing her down the halls of a Russ­ian hotel in 1994 when he worked as a lawyer.

    “Bolton hound­ed me in such an appalling way that I even­tu­al­ly retreat­ed to my hotel room and stayed there,” said Melody Townsel, the USAID sub­con­trac­tor. “Mr. Bolton, of course, then rou­tine­ly vis­it­ed me there to pound on the door and shout threats.”

    In his book, Bolton denied this alle­ga­tion, say­ing that “in fact, I had met her once in a room full of peo­ple, thus con­sti­tut­ing our entire per­son­al con­tact.”

    While nurs­ing a beer at Hive Bar last week, one State Depart­ment employ­ee joked that he wasn’t too wor­ried about alle­ga­tions that Bolton hurled office sup­plies at col­leagues. “You’re fine as long as you’re not with­in throw­ing dis­tance of him,” he said.

    ———-

    “State Depart­ment braces for Bolton’s return” by John Hud­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/27/2018

    “When it comes to installing allies, Tiller­son has left Pom­peo and Bolton with ample oppor­tu­ni­ties, giv­en his fail­ure to put his own polit­i­cal appointees in place. Eight of the top 10 State Depart­ment jobs are vacant, and some of the peo­ple Tiller­son man­aged to get nom­i­nat­ed, such as Susan Thorn­ton and Eric Ueland, could have their nom­i­na­tions pulled.

    Eight of the top 10 State Depart­ment jobs are vacant, and now John Bolton and Mike Pom­peo are going to be the ones to fill those top slots. With war hawks. Pom­peo will have the final choice on who to select for those posi­tions, but Bolton will still have immense sway over those final choic­es:

    ...
    His pro­fes­sion­al reha­bil­i­ta­tion fol­lows the tur­bu­lent 14-month tenure of Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, anoth­er crit­ic of the State Depart­ment who spent much of his time try­ing to down­size and reor­ga­nize an insti­tu­tion he viewed as bloat­ed and inef­fi­cient.

    The dif­fer­ence between the two men, diplo­mats acknowl­edged, is that the arcane ways of gov­ern­ment that per­plexed and ulti­mate­ly stymied Tiller­son will not pose a sim­i­lar chal­lenge for Bolton, who comes to the job with a gran­u­lar under­stand­ing of the levers of pow­er.

    “I would say micro-gran­u­lar,” said Mark Groom­bridge, a long­time advis­er for Bolton at the State Depart­ment and Unit­ed Nations. “His style will be to run an impe­r­i­al NSC where the State and Defense depart­ments are there to imple­ment White House pol­i­cy.”

    ...

    In his new job, Bolton will not direct­ly over­see the State Depart­ment, but his pow­er­ful perch at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil will offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to shape and influ­ence pol­i­cy and per­son­nel at Fog­gy Bot­tom.
    ...

    And that means we’re almost cer­tain­ly going to be look­ing a State Depart­ment staffed by Bolton acolytes who share his dreams of war with Iran and North Korea:

    ...
    Bolton became famous inside the depart­ment as a skill­ful bureau­crat­ic tac­ti­cian, an out­spo­ken Iraq War advo­cate and an ardent crit­ic of mul­ti­lat­er­al insti­tu­tions and treaties. His recur­ring calls to bomb Iran and North Korea con­trast sharply with the For­eign Service’s dic­tum of first exhaust­ing diplo­mat­ic options before rec­om­mend­ing mil­i­tary force.

    Bolton’s advis­ers and for­mer col­leagues say he has a good rela­tion­ship with Sec­re­tary of State-des­ig­nate Mike Pom­peo, whom he advised in Con­gress. But they said Bolton is unlike­ly to take a back seat to the for­mer Kansas con­gress­man on the issues he cares about most: Iran and North Korea.

    “While cur­rent­ly in the lead, the State Department’s Office of Pol­i­cy Plan­ning will def­i­nite­ly become irrel­e­vant on Iran,” said Andrew Bowen, a for­mer col­league of Bolton’s at the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute.

    “Bolton is also like­ly to play a lead­ing role on North Korea, an issue he’s devot­ed much of his pro­fes­sion­al career toward,” Bowen said.
    ...

    “While cur­rent­ly in the lead, the State Department’s Office of Pol­i­cy Plan­ning will def­i­nite­ly become irrel­e­vant on Iran”

    And on top of the loom­ing staff over­haul at the State Depart­ment we should also expect Bolton to “clear house” at the nation­al secu­ri­ty coun­cil:

    ...
    “He’ll work to put loy­al­ists in key van­tage points and mar­gin­al­ize those he dis­trusts,” Matthew Wax­man, a for­mer col­league of Bolton’s in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion, wrote in a recent Law­fare col­umn.

    ...

    “Tiller­son clear­ly didn’t under­stand the impor­tance of installing polit­i­cal appointees across the depart­ment,” Groom­bridge said. “But Bolton under­stands that per­son­nel is pol­i­cy, and he’ll be in a posi­tion to weigh in.”

    Indi­vid­u­als close to Bolton said they expect­ed him to “clear house” at the NSC and remove staffers viewed as allies of H.R. McMas­ter or the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion. Peo­ple spoke about Bolton on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to speak freely about future plan­ning.
    ...

    So that’s all anoth­er rea­son to expect the war drums soon. But in case you were tempt­ed to believe the var­i­ous rumors that Bolton promised Trump he “would­n’t start any wars,” sor­ry, if any­thing he promised the oppo­site:

    New York Mag­a­zine

    Team Bolton: John Nev­er Promised Trump He ‘Wouldn’t Start Any Wars’

    By Eric Levitz
    March 23, 2018 11:17 am

    Last night was the dark­est of the past 14 months.

    From day one, it was clear that America’s elec­tion of Don­ald Trump was an act of self-harm. But the president’s hir­ing of John Bolton has rad­i­cal­ly increased the risk that it will also prove to be one of mass mur­der on a world-his­toric scale.

    The top nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er to the most igno­rant and impres­sion­able pres­i­dent in mod­ern mem­o­ry is a man whose lust for war is so rabid, it makes Sen­ate Repub­li­cans uncom­fort­able. Bolton wants to bomb Iran and North Korea, and he wants to do it yes­ter­day. Just this month, the for­mer U.N. ambas­sador told Fox News that Trump’s upcom­ing sum­mit with Kim Jong-un was a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment — because mov­ing right to high-lev­el talks would accel­er­ate the inevitable fail­ure of diplo­ma­cy, there­by clear­ing the way for war between the Unit­ed States and a nuclear pow­er.

    A recent Pen­ta­gon sim­u­la­tion pro­ject­ed that a non­nu­clear mil­i­tary con­flict between the Unit­ed States and North Korea would come with a dai­ly civil­ian death toll of 20,000 in South Korea alone.

    Trump’s meet­ing with Kim is ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for May. That same month, he will need to reaf­firm the nuclear agree­ment with Iran — or else, with­draw from it, there­by inform­ing the North Kore­ans that America’s promis­es can­not be trust­ed. Which is to say: With­in two months, Bolton will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sab­o­tage diplo­ma­cy with Tehran and Pyongyang simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

    Still, when news of Bolton’s hir­ing first broke Thurs­day night, there were a cou­ple ten­u­ous sources of con­so­la­tion. One was this report from CNN’s Kait­lan Collins:

    Trump and Bolton have been dis­cussing for weeks how he could replace McMas­ter. Accord­ing to what a source famil­iar with those nego­ti­a­tions told me, Bolton promised Trump “he would­n’t start any wars” if he select­ed him as the new nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er.— Kait­lan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 22, 2018

    Anoth­er was the notion that Bolton’s ide­ol­o­gy had been inci­den­tal to his selec­tion. The president’s deci­sion to make Lar­ry Kud­low his new eco­nom­ic advis­er did not mean that Trump had come around to the CNBC personality’s views on free trade. Thus, it was pos­si­ble that he’d picked Bolton sole­ly for the com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills that the lat­ter had dis­played as a cable-news talk­ing head — one White House offi­cial had told Politi­co that Trump “was impressed by [Bolton’s] many appear­ances on Fox News.”

    So, maybe Bolton’s mani­a­cal hawk­ish­ness would be as irrel­e­vant to White House pol­i­cy as Kudlow’s anti-pro­tec­tion­ism. After all, didn’t Trump report­ed­ly resent H.R. McMas­ter specif­i­cal­ly for strong-arm­ing him into send­ing more troops to Afghanistan? And hadn’t the mogul deliv­ered with­er­ing assess­ments of George W. Bush’s trig­ger-hap­py for­eign pol­i­cy — not just dur­ing his 2016 cam­paign, but for years pri­or?

    All for­mer Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials should have zero stand­ing on Syr­ia. Iraq was a waste of blood & trea­sure.— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Sep­tem­ber 5, 2013

    And wouldn’t strik­ing an unprece­dent­ed peace agree­ment with North Korea be more sat­is­fy­ing to the mas­ter deal-maker’s ego than ini­ti­at­ing a war whose chief pro­tag­o­nists would be oth­er men? Wasn’t it plau­si­ble that John Bolton would just be a glo­ri­fied cable news sur­ro­gate — and Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, the true brains behind the administration’s for­eign pol­i­cy?

    Alas, new report­ing from Axios Fri­day morn­ing appeared to evis­cer­ate those slen­der reeds.

    A source close to John Bolton tells me he made no promise to Trump that he “would­n’t start any wars,” con­trary to reports. “Not true, was­n’t dis­cussed,” the source says.— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) March 23, 2018

    Sources close to Pres­i­dent Trump say he feels John Bolton, hur­ried­ly named last night to replace H.R. McMas­ter as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, will final­ly deliv­er the for­eign pol­i­cy the pres­i­dent wants — par­tic­u­lar­ly on Iran and North Korea.

    … Until now, Mat­tis and Tiller­son have been try­ing to restrain what they con­sid­er some of the president’s more dan­ger­ous instincts, and have been on the oppo­site side of major issues, includ­ing mov­ing the U.S embassy to Jerusalem and try­ing to per­suade Trump not to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.

    Sources who know Bolton expect he will stare down Mat­tis, tell him when he’s wrong, and will be a Hen­ry Kissinger-type pres­ence in the room. Now that Tiller­son is gone, he could fun­da­men­tal­ly tip the bal­ance of pow­er on Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team, senior offi­cials expect.

    … A source who has spo­ken to Bolton said he told Trump he was only inter­est­ed in two jobs: Sec­re­tary of State or nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. “He said, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent you ran on this agen­da. You ran against Iran. And if you want to hire me, that’s what I’m going to pro­duce for you.’”

    All this would be alarm­ing enough if Trump hadn’t recent­ly tak­en to mak­ing enor­mous­ly con­se­quen­tial deci­sions uni­lat­er­al­ly, on a whim, with­out con­sult­ing his senior staff. But he has — and late Thurs­day, Politi­co revealed that Bolton’s hir­ing was itself the result of such a spur-of-the-moment deci­sion.

    ...

    ———-

    “Team Bolton: John Nev­er Promised Trump He ‘Wouldn’t Start Any Wars’” by Eric Levitz; New York Mag­a­zine; 03/23/2018

    “Sources close to Pres­i­dent Trump say he feels John Bolton, hur­ried­ly named last night to replace H.R. McMas­ter as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, will final­ly deliv­er the for­eign pol­i­cy the pres­i­dent wants — par­tic­u­lar­ly on Iran and North Korea.”

    Bolton “will final­ly deliv­er the for­eign pol­i­cy the pres­i­dent wants — par­tic­u­lar­ly on Iran and North Korea.” That sure sounds like Trump wants a war. Or two.

    Just this month, Bolton told Fox News that Trump’s planned sum­mit with Kim Jong-un was a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment...because mov­ing right to high-lev­el talks would accel­er­ate the inevitable fail­ure of diplo­ma­cy, there­by clear­ing the way for war between the Unit­ed States and a nuclear pow­er. Bolton is excit­ed about the prospect of a break­down in diplo­ma­cy. That’s appar­ent­ly the “for­eign pol­i­cy the pres­i­dent wants”:

    ...
    The top nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er to the most igno­rant and impres­sion­able pres­i­dent in mod­ern mem­o­ry is a man whose lust for war is so rabid, it makes Sen­ate Repub­li­cans uncom­fort­able. Bolton wants to bomb Iran and North Korea, and he wants to do it yes­ter­day. Just this month, the for­mer U.N. ambas­sador told Fox News that Trump’s upcom­ing sum­mit with Kim Jong-un was a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment — because mov­ing right to high-lev­el talks would accel­er­ate the inevitable fail­ure of diplo­ma­cy, there­by clear­ing the way for war between the Unit­ed States and a nuclear pow­er.

    A recent Pen­ta­gon sim­u­la­tion pro­ject­ed that a non­nu­clear mil­i­tary con­flict between the Unit­ed States and North Korea would come with a dai­ly civil­ian death toll of 20,000 in South Korea alone.

    Trump’s meet­ing with Kim is ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for May. That same month, he will need to reaf­firm the nuclear agree­ment with Iran — or else, with­draw from it, there­by inform­ing the North Kore­ans that America’s promis­es can­not be trust­ed. Which is to say: With­in two months, Bolton will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sab­o­tage diplo­ma­cy with Tehran and Pyongyang simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.
    ...

    And accord­ing to one source, Bolton actu­al­ly told Trump, “Mr. Pres­i­dent you ran on this agen­da. You ran against Iran. And if you want to hire me, that’s what I’m going to pro­duce for you”:

    ...
    … Until now, Mat­tis and Tiller­son have been try­ing to restrain what they con­sid­er some of the president’s more dan­ger­ous instincts, and have been on the oppo­site side of major issues, includ­ing mov­ing the U.S embassy to Jerusalem and try­ing to per­suade Trump not to tear up the Iran nuclear deal.

    Sources who know Bolton expect he will stare down Mat­tis, tell him when he’s wrong, and will be a Hen­ry Kissinger-type pres­ence in the room. Now that Tiller­son is gone, he could fun­da­men­tal­ly tip the bal­ance of pow­er on Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team, senior offi­cials expect.

    … A source who has spo­ken to Bolton said he told Trump he was only inter­est­ed in two jobs: Sec­re­tary of State or nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. “He said, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent you ran on this agen­da. You ran against Iran. And if you want to hire me, that’s what I’m going to pro­duce for you.’”
    ...

    So war was appar­ent­ly part of Bolton’s sales pitch to Trump. A sales pitch that Trump report­ed­ly bought into dur­ing a spur-of-the-moment snap deci­sion made right before he fired H. R. McMas­ter and hired Bolton:

    ...
    All this would be alarm­ing enough if Trump hadn’t recent­ly tak­en to mak­ing enor­mous­ly con­se­quen­tial deci­sions uni­lat­er­al­ly, on a whim, with­out con­sult­ing his senior staff. But he has — and late Thurs­day, Politi­co revealed that Bolton’s hir­ing was itself the result of such a spur-of-the-moment deci­sion.
    ...

    So the pres­i­dent may have hired on a whim the guy promis­ing him war.

    Which rais­es the ques­tion: what’s the worst case sce­nario here? A sce­nario where Trump is mak­ing these kinds of deci­sions on a whim — point­ing towards a capac­i­ty to start a war on a whim? Or a sce­nario where Trump has spent quite a bit of time think­ing about fir­ing H.R. McMas­ter and replac­ing him with a hawk like Bolton after hav­ing giv­en it a lot of thought, imply­ing he’s thought a lot about start­ing some wars? Which is worse? Unsta­ble trig­ger-hap­py Trump or cold and cal­cu­lat­ing trig­ger-hap­py Trump? It’s not imme­di­ate­ly clear, although the fact that we need to ask the ques­tion is a reminder that we’re already in a worst case sce­nario of some sort. We just haven’t fig­ured out how the sce­nario is going end yet, although pre­sum­ably it will end in some sort of worst case sce­nario. Because that’s where we are.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 27, 2018, 2:29 pm
  15. Here’s a rather sala­cious and bizarre new sto­ry that pro­vides anoth­er data point that poten­tial­ly ties togeth­er the twin par­al­lel covert nego­ti­a­tions — the ‘peace deal’ in Ukraine and the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ — car­ried out by Trump team dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign: It turns out Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, Michael Cohen, helped nego­ti­ate a $1.6 mil­lion deal with a Play­boy mod­el who was impreg­nat­ed by a promi­nent GOP offi­cial. This hap­pened near the end of 2017.

    And no, that’s not a ref­er­ence to the affair Pres­i­dent Trump had with Play­boy mod­el Karen McDou­gal. This is a dif­fer­ent Play­boy mod­el involv­ing a dif­fer­ent GOP offi­cial: Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and a close ally of Trump. The Play­boy mod­el in this case remains anony­mous. And it also sounds like the Play­boy mod­el end­ed up get­ting an abor­tion, so that just adds to the GOP’s desire to keep this sto­ry under wraps. poten­tial polit­i­cal fall­out for the GOP.

    So how does this poten­tial­ly relate the Ukraine ‘peace plan’ sto­ry with the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ sto­ry?

    Well, first recall the cen­tral role Michael Cohen appeared to play in the Ukraine ‘peace plan’ sto­ry, where Cohen and Felix Sater secret­ly nego­ti­a­tion with the far right Ukrain­ian politi­cian Andreii Arte­menko. Also recall that one of Arte­menko’s areas of polit­i­cal focus in Ukraine’s was diplo­ma­cy with the US and the Mid­dle East. He was the deputy head of the Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion Com­mit­tee and respon­si­ble for diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar, Unit­ed States, Kuwait, Lithua­nia and Belarus.

    Next, recall the recent rev­e­la­tions that George Nad­er, a polit­i­cal ‘fix­er’ across the Mid­dle East, played a key role in orga­niz­ing that Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ nego­ti­a­tion while act­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the UAE. And recall how Nad­er was report­ed­ly there dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tions between Eric Prince (the Trump team rep­re­sen­ta­tive) and Kir­ill Dmitriev (the Krem­lin rep­re­sen­ta­tive). And also recall that it looks like that Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ sto­ry was less about cre­at­ing a back chan­nel between the Trump team and the Krem­lin and more about cre­at­ing a mul­ti-par­ty nego­ti­a­tion between the Trump team, the Krem­lin, and a Mid­dle East­ern inter­ests over a pro­pos­al to get Rus­sia to back away from its mil­i­tary back­ing of the gov­ern­ments of Iran and Syr­ia. Final­ly, recall how UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) was with set­ting up and exe­cut­ing of this back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tion via his secret trip to Trump Tow­er. A secret trip that vio­lat­ed diplo­mat­ic pro­to­col because the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was nev­er allert­ed of his arrival in the US.

    So, giv­en the role Cohen played in the Ukraine ‘peace plan’ and the role Nad­er played in the Sey­chelles back chan­nel, we now learn that George Nad­er basi­cal­ly hired Elliott Broidy to lob­by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and US con­gress on behalf of the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia. And that lob­by­ing has, not sur­pris­ing­ly, focused on get­ting the US to take a hard­er line against Iran.

    It also includ­ed a lob­by­ing Trump for a pri­vate meet­ing with MBZ and a con­gres­sion­al lob­by­ing effort to get a hard­er line against Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, part of the bizarre schiz­o­phrenic pub­lic war the Saud­is and UAE gov­ern­ments have tak­en against the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in recent years that has spilled over into grow­ing ten­sions for Qatar, which remains a strong Mus­lim Broth­er­hood backer.

    Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the lob­by­ing also includ­ed a push to fire fire for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who was seen as opposed to the Saudi/UAE push for a hard­er line against Iran and Qatar which, again, high­lights just how intense the push is from the Saud­is and UAE to pave the way for regime change poli­cies and pos­si­ble war against Iran.

    Nad­er and Broidy report­ed­ly met in Jan­u­ary 2017 dur­ing the flood of par­ties sur­round­ing the Trump inau­gu­ra­tion. That soon blos­somed into the a lob­by­ing deal. And that lob­by­ing deal appears to have man­aged to get some lan­guage insert­ed into leg­is­la­tion com­ing out the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee — still to be vot­ed on at this time — that would brand Qatar as a ter­ror­ist-sup­port­ing state.

    And that lob­by­ing effort just might end up vio­lat­ing US fed­er­al cam­paign finance laws because it looks like Nad­er may have used Broidy to fun­nel cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to US law­mak­ers from the gov­ern­ments of the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia. As porous as the US cam­paign laws are in the post-Cit­i­zens Unit­ed polit­i­cal envi­ron­ment, it’s still ille­gal for for­eign gov­ern­ments to donate to US elect­ed offi­cials. And that appears to be what hap­pened in this case. There’s no report­ed direct evi­dence that the mon­ey Nad­er paid Broidy was used for such pur­pos­es, but the fact that there was a surge in cash dona­tions Broidy start­ed hand­ing out to US law­mak­ers after his rela­tion­ship with Nad­er start­ed up has raised such sus­pi­cions, along with the fact that the mon­ey from Nad­er to Broidy was fun­neled through an obscure Cana­di­an com­pa­ny.

    In addi­tion, we’re learn­ing that Nad­er also pre­sent­ed him­self as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Sau­di gov­ern­ment in addi­tion to the UAE. And that more or less fits his biog­ra­phy as some­one what has been rep­re­sent­ing numer­ous Mid­dle East­ern gov­ern­ments for decades. It’s one of those fun facts about Nad­er that adds to the cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence that the Sey­chelles back chan­nel meet­ing may have been a nego­ti­a­tion involv­ing the Trump team, the UAE, the Krem­lin, and the Saud­is and poten­tial­ly oth­er Mid­dle East­ern gov­ern­ments. George Nad­er is a sur­pris­ing­ly trust­ed guy.

    So late last year, Michael Cohen, Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, helped cut a $1.6 mil­lion pay­out to Play­boy mod­el on behalf of a GOP fundrais­er close to the Trump team, Elliott Broidy. And Broidy just hap­pened to team up with George Nad­er to lob­by­ing the US on behalf of the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia ear­ly last year. And that lob­by­ing effort includ­ed hav­ing Broidy lob­by Trump to have pri­vate meet­ings with Crown Prince MBZ who helped set up the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ in the first place in Decem­ber 2016 with the secret trips to Trump Tow­er. So it looks Elliott Broidy might now be part of that ‘back chan­nel’. A back chan­nel that appears to large­ly be a covert lob­by­ing effort for a his­toric realign­ment of Russ­ian away from Syr­ia and Iran for the pur­pose of mak­ing war with Iran a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    Alright, let’s start off with a quick look at the rev­e­la­tion of the $1.6 mil­lion deal Michael Cohen nego­ti­at­ed on behalf of Elliott Broidy after Broidy impreg­nat­ed the Play­boy mod­el:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    WSJ: Cohen Cut $1.6 Mil­lion Deal For GOP Big Said To Impreg­nate Play­boy Mod­el

    By John Light and Tier­ney Sneed | April 13, 2018 1:23 pm

    Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al lawyer and con­fi­dant Michael Cohen nego­ti­at­ed a set­tle­ment for a top GOP fundrais­er who impreg­nat­ed a Play­boy mod­el, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed Fri­day.

    Cohen nego­ti­at­ed the deal, worth $1.6 mil­lion, on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a Cal­i­for­nia-based ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, close ally of Pres­i­dent Trump, and the deputy finance chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Cohen is a nation­al deputy finance chair­man for the RNC. The pay­ment was nego­ti­at­ed towards the end of 2017, accord­ing to the Jour­nal.

    Broidy in a state­ment to the Wall Street Jour­nal con­firmed the affair with the unnamed woman and that the woman informed him she had become preg­nant.

    “She alone decid­ed that she did not want to con­tin­ue with the preg­nan­cy and I offered to help her finan­cial­ly dur­ing this dif­fi­cult peri­od,” Broidy said.

    The deal was nego­ti­at­ed by the same play­ers involved in a Octo­ber 2016 $130,000 pay­ment to Stormy Daniels, an ex-porn star who claims to have had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006. Cohen arranged for that pay­ment, a trans­ac­tion Trump has denied involve­ment in. Daniels at the time of the pay­ment was being rep­re­sent­ed by Kei­th David­son, the same attor­ney who rep­re­sent­ed the woman in the Broidy nego­ti­a­tions, accord­ing to the Jour­nal.

    The FBI raid­ed Cohen’s office, home and hotel on Mon­day. The search war­rant report­ed­ly sought infor­ma­tion relat­ed to the Daniels pay­ment, as well as a $150,000 pay­ment by Nation­al Enquirer’s par­ent com­pa­ny in 2016 to buy the rights of claims made by anoth­er Play­boy mod­el, Karen McDou­gal that she had an affair with Trump. Nation­al Enquir­er nev­er ran McDougal’s alle­ga­tions and gave her a fit­ness col­umn instead, prompt­ing spec­u­la­tion that the pay­ment was intend­ed to keep her alle­ga­tions from com­ing out in what is known in the tabloid world as a “catch and kill.” Nation­al Enquirer’s par­ent com­pa­ny, Amer­i­can Media Inc. is run by David Peck­er, a long­time friend of Trump’s.

    ...

    ———-

    “WSJ: Cohen Cut $1.6 Mil­lion Deal For GOP Big Said To Impreg­nate Play­boy Mod­el” by John Light and Tier­ney Sneed; Talk­ing Points Memo; 04/13/2018

    “Cohen nego­ti­at­ed the deal, worth $1.6 mil­lion, on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a Cal­i­for­nia-based ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist, close ally of Pres­i­dent Trump, and the deputy finance chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Cohen is a nation­al deputy finance chair­man for the RNC. The pay­ment was nego­ti­at­ed towards the end of 2017, accord­ing to the Jour­nal.”

    Yep, it was late last year that this whole deal with worked out. That had to be rather awk­ward. Espe­cial­ly giv­en that it appears to involve an abor­tion:

    ...
    Broidy in a state­ment to the Wall Street Jour­nal con­firmed the affair with the unnamed woman and that the woman informed him she had become preg­nant.

    “She alone decid­ed that she did not want to con­tin­ue with the preg­nan­cy and I offered to help her finan­cial­ly dur­ing this dif­fi­cult peri­od,” Broidy said.
    ...

    And, inter­est­ing­ly, the lawyer for this Play­boy mod­el is the same lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed ex-porn star Stormy Daniels in her nego­ti­a­tions with Cohen over the non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment over her 2006 one-night stand with Trump:

    ...
    The deal was nego­ti­at­ed by the same play­ers involved in a Octo­ber 2016 $130,000 pay­ment to Stormy Daniels, an ex-porn star who claims to have had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006. Cohen arranged for that pay­ment, a trans­ac­tion Trump has denied involve­ment in. Daniels at the time of the pay­ment was being rep­re­sent­ed by Kei­th David­son, the same attor­ney who rep­re­sent­ed the woman in the Broidy nego­ti­a­tions, accord­ing to the Jour­nal.
    ...

    Ok, so that’s the bizarre tie between Cohen and Broidy.

    Now let’s look at a New York Times report on the meet­ing of Broidy and George Nad­er in ear­ly 2017 and how that blos­somed into a poten­tial­ly ille­gal for­eign lob­by­ing effort on behalf of the UAE and Sau­di gov­ern­ments. A lob­by­ing effort for an agen­da that sure sounds a lot like the same agen­da they were try­ing to secret­ly work out with the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ nego­ti­a­tions in late-2016/ear­ly-2017:

    The New York Times

    How 2 Gulf Monar­chies Sought to Influ­ence the White House

    By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and MARK MAZZETTI
    MARCH 21, 2018

    A coop­er­at­ing wit­ness in the spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tion worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fund-rais­er into an instru­ment of influ­ence at the White House for the rulers of Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, accord­ing to inter­views and pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed doc­u­ments.

    Hun­dreds of pages of cor­re­spon­dence between the two men reveal an active effort to cul­ti­vate Pres­i­dent Trump on behalf of the two oil-rich Arab monar­chies, both close Amer­i­can allies.

    High on the agen­da of the two men — George Nad­er, a polit­i­cal advis­er to the de fac­to ruler of the U.A.E., and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee — was push­ing the White House to remove Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son, back­ing con­fronta­tion­al approach­es to Iran and Qatar and repeat­ed­ly press­ing the pres­i­dent to meet pri­vate­ly out­side the White House with the leader of the U.A.E.

    Mr. Tiller­son was fired last week, and the pres­i­dent has adopt­ed tough approach­es toward both Iran and Qatar.

    Mr. Nad­er tempt­ed the fund-rais­er, Mr. Broidy, with the prospect of more than $1 bil­lion in con­tracts for his pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, Circi­nus, and he helped deliv­er deals worth more than $200 mil­lion with the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. He also flat­tered Mr. Broidy about “how well you han­dle Chair­man,” a ref­er­ence to Mr. Trump, and repeat­ed to his well-con­nect­ed friend that he told the effec­tive rulers of both Sau­di Ara­bia and the U.A.E. about “the Piv­otal Indis­pens­able Mag­i­cal Role you are play­ing to help them.”

    Mr. Nader’s cul­ti­va­tion of Mr. Broidy, laid out in doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed to The New York Times, pro­vides a case study in the way two Per­sian Gulf monar­chies have sought to gain influ­ence inside the Trump White House. Mr. Nad­er has been grant­ed immu­ni­ty in a deal for his coop­er­a­tion with the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, and his rela­tion­ship with Mr. Broidy may also offer clues to the direc­tion of that inquiry.

    Mr. Nad­er has now been called back from abroad to pro­vide addi­tion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, one per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter said this week. Mr. Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors have already asked wit­ness­es about Mr. Nader’s con­tacts with top Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and about his pos­si­ble role in fun­nel­ing Emi­rati mon­ey to Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal efforts, a sign that the inves­ti­ga­tion has broad­ened to exam­ine the role of for­eign mon­ey in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    The doc­u­ments con­tain evi­dence not pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Mr. Nad­er also held him­self out as inter­me­di­ary for Sau­di Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who met with Mr. Trump on Tues­day in the Oval Office at the begin­ning of a tour of the Unit­ed States to meet with polit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers.

    A lawyer for Mr. Nad­er declined to com­ment. Two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy said he had not been con­tact­ed by the spe­cial counsel’s inves­ti­ga­tors. In a state­ment, Mr. Broidy said that his efforts “aimed to strength­en the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Unit­ed States, in full coor­di­na­tion with the U.S. gov­ern­ment.” He added, “I have always believed strong­ly in coun­ter­ing both Iran and Islam­ic extrem­ism, and in work­ing close­ly with our friends in the Arab world in order to do so.”

    The doc­u­ments, which includ­ed emails, busi­ness pro­pos­als and con­tracts, were pro­vid­ed by an anony­mous group crit­i­cal of Mr. Broidy’s advo­ca­cy of Amer­i­can for­eign poli­cies in the Mid­dle East. The Times showed Mr. Broidy’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives copies of all of the emails it intend­ed to cite in an arti­cle. In his state­ment, Mr. Broidy said he could not con­firm the authen­tic­i­ty of all of them, not­ing that The Times was able to show him only print­outs and not the orig­i­nal emails.

    A spokesman for Mr. Broidy has said he believes the doc­u­ments were stolen by hack­ers work­ing for Qatar in retal­i­a­tion for his work crit­i­cal of the coun­try — a region­al neme­sis of the Saud­is and Emi­ratis.

    “We now pos­sess irrefutable evi­dence tying Qatar to this unlaw­ful attack on, and espi­onage direct­ed against, a promi­nent Unit­ed States cit­i­zen with­in the ter­ri­to­ry of the Unit­ed States,” Lee S. Wolosky, a lawyer for Mr. Broidy, wrote this week in a let­ter to the Qatari ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton. If Qatar was not respon­si­ble, “we expect your gov­ern­ment to hold account­able the rogue actors in Qatar who have caused Mr. Broidy sub­stan­tial dam­ages.”

    Forg­ing a Con­nec­tion

    The two men first met dur­ing the crush of par­ties and oth­er events sur­round­ing Mr. Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion. Mr. Broidy, 60, a long­time Repub­li­can donor and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al fund-rais­ing com­mit­tee, got his start in busi­ness as an accoun­tant and then as an invest­ment man­ag­er for Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell.

    Mr. Nad­er, 58, a Unit­ed States cit­i­zen born in Lebanon, pre­vi­ous­ly ran a Wash­ing­ton-based jour­nal called Mid­dle East Insight, act­ed as an infor­mal emis­sary to Syr­ia under the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, and, accord­ing to a short biog­ra­phy in the emails, lat­er worked for Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney.

    The two became fast friends, and by Feb­ru­ary, they were exchang­ing emails about poten­tial con­tracts for Circi­nus with both the U.A.E. and Sau­di Ara­bia, and also about Sau­di and Emi­rati objec­tives in Wash­ing­ton, such as per­suad­ing the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment to take action against the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood or put pres­sure on its region­al ally, Qatar.

    Ear­ly in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the two men also not­ed with approval a suc­cess­ful effort to block a top Pen­ta­gon posi­tion for Anne Pat­ter­son, a for­mer ambas­sador to Cairo whom the Emi­ratis and Saud­is have long crit­i­cized as too sym­pa­thet­ic to the deposed Egypt­ian pres­i­dent Mohamed Mor­si of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood dur­ing his one year in office.

    In one mes­sage to Mr. Nad­er in March 2017, Mr. Broidy referred to Secure Amer­i­ca Now, an advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion that he sug­gest­ed had cam­paigned against Ms. Pat­ter­son, as “one of the groups I am work­ing with.” The two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy said he had not raised mon­ey for the group or cam­paigned against Ms. Pat­ter­son.

    The Saud­is and Emi­ratis have had par­tic­u­lar­ly warm rela­tions with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Mr. Trump at times has appeared to side with the Arab monar­chies against his own cab­i­net sec­re­taries — includ­ing in the bit­ter region­al dis­pute against neigh­bor­ing Qatar. Also in con­cert with the Saud­is and Emi­ratis, Mr. Trump has tak­en a far more hawk­ish stance toward Iran than either his cab­i­net or Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, threat­en­ing to “rip up” the Iran nuclear deal that Mr. Oba­ma bro­kered in 2015.

    On March 25, Mr. Broidy emailed Mr. Nad­er a spread­sheet out­lin­ing a pro­posed Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing and pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign against both Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The pro­posed campaign’s total cost was $12.7 mil­lion.

    The two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy said the plan was draft­ed by a third par­ty for cir­cu­la­tion to like-mind­ed Amer­i­can donors, and that only some of its pro­vi­sions were car­ried out.

    Mr. Nad­er did, how­ev­er, pro­vide a $2.7 mil­lion pay­ment to Mr. Broidy for “con­sult­ing, mar­ket­ing and oth­er advi­so­ry ser­vices ren­dered,” appar­ent­ly to help pay for the cost of con­fer­ences at two Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Hud­son Insti­tute and the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, that fea­tured heavy crit­i­cism of Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

    Hud­son Insti­tute poli­cies pro­hib­it dona­tions from for­eign gov­ern­ments that are not democ­ra­cies, and the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies bars dona­tions from all for­eign gov­ern­ments, so Mr. Nader’s role as an advis­er to the U.A.E. may have raised con­cerns had he donat­ed direct­ly.

    The foun­da­tion said in a state­ment that it was approached by Mr. Broidy in 2017 seek­ing to fund a con­fer­ence on Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. “As is our fund­ing pol­i­cy, we asked if his fund­ing was con­nect­ed to any for­eign gov­ern­ments or if he had busi­ness con­tracts in the Gulf. He assured us that he did not,” the state­ment said.

    Doc­u­ments show Mr. Nader’s pay­ment was made by an Emi­rati-based com­pa­ny he con­trolled, GS Invest­ments, to an obscure firm based in Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia, con­trolled by Mr. Broidy, Xie­man Inter­na­tion­al. A per­son close to Mr. Broidy said the mon­ey was passed through the Cana­di­an com­pa­ny at Mr. Nader’s request, and the rea­son for its cir­cuitous path could not be deter­mined.

    Doc­u­ments also appear to show that lawyers for Mr. Broidy dis­cussed with him a pos­si­ble agree­ment to share with Mr. Nad­er a por­tion of the prof­its from the first round of busi­ness his com­pa­ny did with the Saud­is and Emi­ratis — an appar­ent reflec­tion of his inte­gral role in help­ing the com­pa­ny, Circi­nus, nego­ti­ate for the lucra­tive secu­ri­ty con­tracts.

    In his state­ment, Mr. Broidy said Mr. Nad­er “is not a share­hold­er, offi­cer, direc­tor or employ­ee of any of my com­pa­nies.”

    ...

    Influ­en­tial Links

    Months lat­er, as Mr. Broidy was prepar­ing for an Oval Office meet­ing with Mr. Trump, Mr. Nad­er pressed him to try to line up a pri­vate meet­ing out­side the White House between Mr. Trump and the leader of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, whom he referred to as “Friend.”

    “Tell him that Friend would like to come ASAP to meet you SOONEST out of offi­cial site, in New Jer­sey” or Camp David, the pres­i­den­tial retreat in Mary­land, Mr. Nad­er wrote to Mr. Broidy on Oct. 1.

    “Again, Again and Again, please try to be the ONE to fix a date for Friend while you are there if at all pos­si­ble,” he added.

    Six days lat­er, Mr. Broidy did just that, repeat­ed­ly press­ing Mr. Trump to meet with the crown prince in a “qui­et” set­ting out­side the White House — per­haps in New York or New Jer­sey — accord­ing to a detailed report on the meet­ing that Mr. Broidy sent to Mr. Nad­er short­ly after. Mr. Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMas­ter, blocked the request, Mr. Broidy report­ed.

    In a mem­o­ran­dum to Mr. Nad­er about the Oval Office meet­ing on Oct. 6, Mr. Broidy report­ed that he per­son­al­ly urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Tiller­son, whom the Saud­is and Emi­ratis saw as insuf­fi­cient­ly tough on Iran and Qatar.

    Lat­er in the fall, Mr. Nad­er com­plained that the Secret Ser­vice had stopped him from get­ting his pic­ture tak­en with Mr. Trump at a fund-rais­er. Although the rea­sons he was kept at bay from the pres­i­dent are unclear, Mr. Nad­er plead­ed guilty in 1991 to a fed­er­al child pornog­ra­phy charge and served six months at a halfway house after video­tapes were found in his lug­gage when he arrived at Wash­ing­ton Dulles Inter­na­tion­al Air­port from a trip to Ger­many, accord­ing to court records released last week. In 2003, he received a one-year prison sen­tence in the Czech Repub­lic after he was con­vict­ed there of 10 cas­es of sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors, The Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed, cit­ing a court spokes­woman.

    Mr. Broidy was puz­zled by the Secret Service’s objec­tions. Mr. Nad­er, in his capac­i­ty as an advis­er to the ruler of Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, had met sev­er­al times with senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials in the White House dur­ing Mr. Trump’s first weeks in office.

    Mr. Broidy was appar­ent­ly able to deliv­er: On Dec. 14, he emailed Mr. Nad­er his pho­to­graph grin­ning next to Mr. Trump.

    Despite the close rela­tions between the White House and the two gulf nations, there have been occa­sion­al hic­cups, and in Jan­u­ary, Mr. Nad­er twice emailed his friend with anoth­er del­i­cate request: The leader of the U.A.E. asked that Mr. Trump call the crown prince of Sau­di Ara­bia to try to smooth over poten­tial bad feel­ings cre­at­ed by the book “Fire and Fury,” by Michael Wolff. It por­trayed the president’s views of the Sau­di prince in an unflat­ter­ing light, Mr. Nad­er wrote.

    “See what you can trig­ger and do and we can dis­cuss more in per­son,” Mr. Nad­er wrote, reit­er­at­ing once again the “gen­uine desire” of the ruler of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates to meet alone with Mr. Trump.

    Days lat­er, Mr. Nad­er wrote to his friend that he was look­ing for­ward to an upcom­ing trip to the Unit­ed States. Mr. Broidy was arrang­ing for him to attend a gala din­ner at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Flori­da estate, to cel­e­brate the anniver­sary of Mr. Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, and the two men were con­sid­er­ing a trip to Sau­di Ara­bia to try to sell the kingdom’s young and pow­er­ful crown prince on a $650 mil­lion con­tract with Mr. Broidy’s secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny.

    But those grand plans were inter­rupt­ed. It was on that trip to the Unit­ed States that, as he touched down at Dulles Air­port, Mr. Nad­er was greet­ed by F.B.I. agents work­ing for Mr. Mueller.

    ———-

    “How 2 Gulf Monar­chies Sought to Influ­ence the White House” by DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and MARK MAZZETTI; The New York Times; 03/21/2018

    Mr. Nader’s cul­ti­va­tion of Mr. Broidy, laid out in doc­u­ments pro­vid­ed to The New York Times, pro­vides a case study in the way two Per­sian Gulf monar­chies have sought to gain influ­ence inside the Trump White House. Mr. Nad­er has been grant­ed immu­ni­ty in a deal for his coop­er­a­tion with the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, and his rela­tion­ship with Mr. Broidy may also offer clues to the direc­tion of that inquiry.”

    That’s a great way to put this: it’s a case study in the way two Per­sian Gulf monar­chies have sought to gain influ­ence inside the Trump White House. A case study that appears to include that Sey­chelles back chan­nel. And a case study that appears to have the end goal of war with Iran, an end goal that would be a lot eas­i­er to achieve if Rus­sia could be con­vinced to end its back­ing of Iran, hence the Sey­chelles nego­ti­a­tions.

    And as part of that case study lob­by effort we find a push to fire for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who was seen as not ade­quate­ly on board wit this agen­da:

    ...
    High on the agen­da of the two men — George Nad­er, a polit­i­cal advis­er to the de fac­to ruler of the U.A.E., and Elliott Broidy, the deputy finance chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee — was push­ing the White House to remove Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son, back­ing con­fronta­tion­al approach­es to Iran and Qatar and repeat­ed­ly press­ing the pres­i­dent to meet pri­vate­ly out­side the White House with the leader of the U.A.E.

    Mr. Tiller­son was fired last week, and the pres­i­dent has adopt­ed tough approach­es toward both Iran and Qatar.
    ...

    And this case study in UAE/Saudi lob­by­ing in the US just might involve a obscur­ing the for­eign sources of the mon­ey used for this lob­by effort, which is now poten­tial­ly part of Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion:

    ...
    Mr. Nad­er has now been called back from abroad to pro­vide addi­tion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, one per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter said this week. Mr. Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors have already asked wit­ness­es about Mr. Nader’s con­tacts with top Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and about his pos­si­ble role in fun­nel­ing Emi­rati mon­ey to Mr. Trump’s polit­i­cal efforts, a sign that the inves­ti­ga­tion has broad­ened to exam­ine the role of for­eign mon­ey in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.
    ...

    And note how George Nade also held him­self out as inter­me­di­ary for Sau­di Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. That’s a crit­i­cal fact to keep in mind regard­ing the Sey­chelles back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions:

    ...
    The doc­u­ments con­tain evi­dence not pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that Mr. Nad­er also held him­self out as inter­me­di­ary for Sau­di Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who met with Mr. Trump on Tues­day in the Oval Office at the begin­ning of a tour of the Unit­ed States to meet with polit­i­cal and busi­ness lead­ers.
    ...

    Also note how Nad­er not only worked as an infor­mal emis­sary to Syr­ia under the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion but also lat­er worked for Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney. Yikes:

    ...
    Mr. Nad­er, 58, a Unit­ed States cit­i­zen born in Lebanon, pre­vi­ous­ly ran a Wash­ing­ton-based jour­nal called Mid­dle East Insight, act­ed as an infor­mal emis­sary to Syr­ia under the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, and, accord­ing to a short biog­ra­phy in the emails, lat­er worked for Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney.
    ...

    And intrigu­ing­ly, much of the infor­ma­tion regard­ing this lob­by­ing effort appears to have been made avail­able to reporters from “an anony­mous group crit­i­cal of Mr. Broidy’s advo­ca­cy of Amer­i­can for­eign poli­cies in the Mid­dle East.” And while we obvi­ous­ly don’t know who that anony­mous group is, the sus­pi­cions are that these doc­u­ments were obtained via the high pro­file hack against the UAE’s ambas­sador to the US:

    ...
    The doc­u­ments, which includ­ed emails, busi­ness pro­pos­als and con­tracts, were pro­vid­ed by an anony­mous group crit­i­cal of Mr. Broidy’s advo­ca­cy of Amer­i­can for­eign poli­cies in the Mid­dle East. The Times showed Mr. Broidy’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives copies of all of the emails it intend­ed to cite in an arti­cle. In his state­ment, Mr. Broidy said he could not con­firm the authen­tic­i­ty of all of them, not­ing that The Times was able to show him only print­outs and not the orig­i­nal emails.

    ...

    A spokesman for Mr. Broidy has said he believes the doc­u­ments were stolen by hack­ers work­ing for Qatar in retal­i­a­tion for his work crit­i­cal of the coun­try — a region­al neme­sis of the Saud­is and Emi­ratis.

    “We now pos­sess irrefutable evi­dence tying Qatar to this unlaw­ful attack on, and espi­onage direct­ed against, a promi­nent Unit­ed States cit­i­zen with­in the ter­ri­to­ry of the Unit­ed States,” Lee S. Wolosky, a lawyer for Mr. Broidy, wrote this week in a let­ter to the Qatari ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton. If Qatar was not respon­si­ble, “we expect your gov­ern­ment to hold account­able the rogue actors in Qatar who have caused Mr. Broidy sub­stan­tial dam­ages.”
    ...

    To get a sense of how much mon­ey was being poured into this lob­by­ing rela­tion­ship between Broidy and Nad­er, look at the car­rot Nad­er used to tempt Broidy: the prospect of more than $1 bil­lion in con­tracts for Broidy’s secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, Circi­nus. And Nad­er appar­ent­ly did actu­al­ly help deliv­er more than $200 mil­lion in con­tracts from Broidy from the UAE. That’s not chump change and you have to won­der who else in the Trump cir­cle end­ed up effec­tive­ly ben­e­fit­ing from those $200 mil­lion on con­tracts. And this all emerged from a friend­ship that appar­ent­ly start­ed in ear­ly 2017 dur­ing the var­i­ous par­ties around the Trump inau­gu­ra­tion:

    ...
    Mr. Nad­er tempt­ed the fund-rais­er, Mr. Broidy, with the prospect of more than $1 bil­lion in con­tracts for his pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny, Circi­nus, and he helped deliv­er deals worth more than $200 mil­lion with the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. He also flat­tered Mr. Broidy about “how well you han­dle Chair­man,” a ref­er­ence to Mr. Trump, and repeat­ed to his well-con­nect­ed friend that he told the effec­tive rulers of both Sau­di Ara­bia and the U.A.E. about “the Piv­otal Indis­pens­able Mag­i­cal Role you are play­ing to help them.”

    ...

    Forg­ing a Con­nec­tion

    The two men first met dur­ing the crush of par­ties and oth­er events sur­round­ing Mr. Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion. Mr. Broidy, 60, a long­time Repub­li­can donor and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al fund-rais­ing com­mit­tee, got his start in busi­ness as an accoun­tant and then as an invest­ment man­ag­er for Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell.
    ...

    By March 25, 2017, that lob­by­ing effort had crys­tal­lized into a pro­posed $12.7 mil­lion cam­paign against both Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Inter­est­ing­ly, two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy claim the plan was draft­ed by a third par­ty for cir­cu­la­tion to like-mind­ed Amer­i­can donors, and that only some of its pro­vi­sions were car­ried out. You have to won­der if that’s spin intend­ed to cov­er up the for­eign sources of this mon­ey or reflec­tive of this being an even large ‘group’ effort:

    ...
    The two became fast friends, and by Feb­ru­ary, they were exchang­ing emails about poten­tial con­tracts for Circi­nus with both the U.A.E. and Sau­di Ara­bia, and also about Sau­di and Emi­rati objec­tives in Wash­ing­ton, such as per­suad­ing the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment to take action against the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood or put pres­sure on its region­al ally, Qatar.

    Ear­ly in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the two men also not­ed with approval a suc­cess­ful effort to block a top Pen­ta­gon posi­tion for Anne Pat­ter­son, a for­mer ambas­sador to Cairo whom the Emi­ratis and Saud­is have long crit­i­cized as too sym­pa­thet­ic to the deposed Egypt­ian pres­i­dent Mohamed Mor­si of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood dur­ing his one year in office.

    In one mes­sage to Mr. Nad­er in March 2017, Mr. Broidy referred to Secure Amer­i­ca Now, an advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion that he sug­gest­ed had cam­paigned against Ms. Pat­ter­son, as “one of the groups I am work­ing with.” The two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy said he had not raised mon­ey for the group or cam­paigned against Ms. Pat­ter­son.

    The Saud­is and Emi­ratis have had par­tic­u­lar­ly warm rela­tions with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Mr. Trump at times has appeared to side with the Arab monar­chies against his own cab­i­net sec­re­taries — includ­ing in the bit­ter region­al dis­pute against neigh­bor­ing Qatar. Also in con­cert with the Saud­is and Emi­ratis, Mr. Trump has tak­en a far more hawk­ish stance toward Iran than either his cab­i­net or Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, threat­en­ing to “rip up” the Iran nuclear deal that Mr. Oba­ma bro­kered in 2015.

    On March 25, Mr. Broidy emailed Mr. Nad­er a spread­sheet out­lin­ing a pro­posed Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing and pub­lic rela­tions cam­paign against both Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The pro­posed campaign’s total cost was $12.7 mil­lion.

    The two peo­ple close to Mr. Broidy said the plan was draft­ed by a third par­ty for cir­cu­la­tion to like-mind­ed Amer­i­can donors, and that only some of its pro­vi­sions were car­ried out.
    ...

    And while that full $12 mil­lion cam­paign may have have played out, Broidy’s firm did receive $2.7 mil­lion from Nad­er. That mon­ey was appar­ent­ly to help pay for the cost of con­fer­ences at two Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Hud­son Insti­tute and the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, that fea­tured heavy crit­i­cism of Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. This is one of the areas where the for­eign sources of the mon­ey may have vio­lat­ed finance rules, although in this case it would have been the rules for those two think tanks:

    ...
    Mr. Nad­er did, how­ev­er, pro­vide a $2.7 mil­lion pay­ment to Mr. Broidy for “con­sult­ing, mar­ket­ing and oth­er advi­so­ry ser­vices ren­dered,” appar­ent­ly to help pay for the cost of con­fer­ences at two Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Hud­son Insti­tute and the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, that fea­tured heavy crit­i­cism of Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

    Hud­son Insti­tute poli­cies pro­hib­it dona­tions from for­eign gov­ern­ments that are not democ­ra­cies, and the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies bars dona­tions from all for­eign gov­ern­ments, so Mr. Nader’s role as an advis­er to the U.A.E. may have raised con­cerns had he donat­ed direct­ly.

    The foun­da­tion said in a state­ment that it was approached by Mr. Broidy in 2017 seek­ing to fund a con­fer­ence on Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. “As is our fund­ing pol­i­cy, we asked if his fund­ing was con­nect­ed to any for­eign gov­ern­ments or if he had busi­ness con­tracts in the Gulf. He assured us that he did not,” the state­ment said.
    ...

    And accord­ing to doc­u­ments, this mon­ey was paid to Broidy via Xie­man Inter­na­tion­al, an obscure Cana­di­an firm Broidy con­trols in Cana­da. It’s anoth­er sign that the sources of fund­ing for this lob­by­ing effort was intend­ed to remain a secret:

    ...
    Doc­u­ments show Mr. Nader’s pay­ment was made by an Emi­rati-based com­pa­ny he con­trolled, GS Invest­ments, to an obscure firm based in Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia, con­trolled by Mr. Broidy, Xie­man Inter­na­tion­al. A per­son close to Mr. Broidy said the mon­ey was passed through the Cana­di­an com­pa­ny at Mr. Nader’s request, and the rea­son for its cir­cuitous path could not be deter­mined.

    Doc­u­ments also appear to show that lawyers for Mr. Broidy dis­cussed with him a pos­si­ble agree­ment to share with Mr. Nad­er a por­tion of the prof­its from the first round of busi­ness his com­pa­ny did with the Saud­is and Emi­ratis — an appar­ent reflec­tion of his inte­gral role in help­ing the com­pa­ny, Circi­nus, nego­ti­ate for the lucra­tive secu­ri­ty con­tracts.

    In his state­ment, Mr. Broidy said Mr. Nad­er “is not a share­hold­er, offi­cer, direc­tor or employ­ee of any of my com­pa­nies.”
    ...

    Then there was on of the oth­er big agen­da of this lob­by­ing effort: arrang­ing for a pri­vate meet­ing between trump and UAE Crown Prince MBZ. Recall that MBZ did have that secret trip to Trump Tow­er in Decem­ber of 2016 and the focus of that meet­ing was appar­ent­ly set­ting up the ‘back chan­nel’:

    ...
    Influ­en­tial Links

    Months lat­er, as Mr. Broidy was prepar­ing for an Oval Office meet­ing with Mr. Trump, Mr. Nad­er pressed him to try to line up a pri­vate meet­ing out­side the White House between Mr. Trump and the leader of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, whom he referred to as “Friend.”

    “Tell him that Friend would like to come ASAP to meet you SOONEST out of offi­cial site, in New Jer­sey” or Camp David, the pres­i­den­tial retreat in Mary­land, Mr. Nad­er wrote to Mr. Broidy on Oct. 1.

    “Again, Again and Again, please try to be the ONE to fix a date for Friend while you are there if at all pos­si­ble,” he added.

    Six days lat­er, Mr. Broidy did just that, repeat­ed­ly press­ing Mr. Trump to meet with the crown prince in a “qui­et” set­ting out­side the White House — per­haps in New York or New Jer­sey — accord­ing to a detailed report on the meet­ing that Mr. Broidy sent to Mr. Nad­er short­ly after. Mr. Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMas­ter, blocked the request, Mr. Broidy report­ed.

    In a mem­o­ran­dum to Mr. Nad­er about the Oval Office meet­ing on Oct. 6, Mr. Broidy report­ed that he per­son­al­ly urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Tiller­son, whom the Saud­is and Emi­ratis saw as insuf­fi­cient­ly tough on Iran and Qatar.

    ...

    And that push to get a pri­vate meet­ing between MBZ and Trump con­tin­ued into this Jan­u­ary:

    ...
    Despite the close rela­tions between the White House and the two gulf nations, there have been occa­sion­al hic­cups, and in Jan­u­ary, Mr. Nad­er twice emailed his friend with anoth­er del­i­cate request: The leader of the U.A.E. asked that Mr. Trump call the crown prince of Sau­di Ara­bia to try to smooth over poten­tial bad feel­ings cre­at­ed by the book “Fire and Fury,” by Michael Wolff. It por­trayed the president’s views of the Sau­di prince in an unflat­ter­ing light, Mr. Nad­er wrote.

    “See what you can trig­ger and do and we can dis­cuss more in per­son,” Mr. Nad­er wrote, reit­er­at­ing once again the “gen­uine desire” of the ruler of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates to meet alone with Mr. Trump.
    ...

    And it was only days after that request for a pri­vate meet­ing that George Nad­er was inter­viewed by FBI agents work­ing for the Mueller probe:

    ...
    Days lat­er, Mr. Nad­er wrote to his friend that he was look­ing for­ward to an upcom­ing trip to the Unit­ed States. Mr. Broidy was arrang­ing for him to attend a gala din­ner at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Flori­da estate, to cel­e­brate the anniver­sary of Mr. Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, and the two men were con­sid­er­ing a trip to Sau­di Ara­bia to try to sell the kingdom’s young and pow­er­ful crown prince on a $650 mil­lion con­tract with Mr. Broidy’s secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny.

    But those grand plans were inter­rupt­ed. It was on that trip to the Unit­ed States that, as he touched down at Dulles Air­port, Mr. Nad­er was greet­ed by F.B.I. agents work­ing for Mr. Mueller.

    Ok, now let’s take a look at a sec­ond arti­cle that flesh­es out this lob­by­ing effort. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle lays out, it was an effort that appeared to involve Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Ed Royce of Cal­i­for­nia, the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee. About a month after Broidy received the fund from Nad­er via Broidy’s Cana­di­an firm, Xie­man Inter­na­tion­al, Broidy arranged for a con­fer­ence focused on the lob­by­ing on Qatar’s ties to Islam­ic extrem­ism. Ties that are very real. It’s just that the Saud­is and the UAE also have very real, and very over­lap­ping, ties to Islam­ic extrem­ism which why this split with Qatar and pub­lic dis­pute with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is so bizarre. But that was the focus of this lob­by­ing effort and it was dur­ing that con­fer­ence that Royce announced he was intro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion that would brand Qatar as a ter­ror­ist-sup­port­ing state.

    The lan­guage of Royce’s pro­posed leg­is­la­tion was ini­tial­ly watered down. But Royce man­aged to pre­vail and got even strong lan­guage added back into the leg­is­la­tion. And that leg­is­la­tion is still active and still up for a vote.

    In July 2017, two months after Royce intro­duced the bill, Broidy gave Royce $5,400 in cam­paign gifts — the max­i­mum allowed by law. But that dona­tion was part of ~$600,000 that Broidy gave to GOP mem­bers of Con­gress and Repub­li­can polit­i­cal com­mit­tees since this lob­by­ing push began. And that’s why this lob­by­ing effort might involve a vio­la­tion of US cam­paign finance laws. Broidy was hand­ing out a lot of cash to Amer­i­can politi­cians and that cash prob­a­bly came from the Saud­is and UAE. As the arti­cle also notes, Broidy has per­son­al­ly giv­en hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to Repub­li­cans over the past decade but he gave noth­ing dur­ing the 2012 and 2014 elec­tion cycles and just $13,500 dur­ing the 2016 cycle. In oth­er words, that sud­den $600,000 surge in cash dona­tions was­n’t part of Broidy’s nor­mal pat­tern of behav­ior in recent years. So while Broidy is claim­ing that this lob­by­ing effort, like set­ting up the con­fer­ences tar­get­ing Qatar, were just part of his nor­mal his­to­ry of lob­by­ing against Islam­ic extrem­ism, it’s hard to ignore that he sud­den­ly start­ed hand­ing out large amounts of cash to politi­cians have hard­ly donat­ing at all in recent years:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Mueller probe wit­ness secret­ly backed UAE agen­da in Con­gress

    By DESMOND BUTLER, TOM LoBIAN­CO and BRADLEY KLAPPER
    Mar. 26, 2018

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A top fundrais­er for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump received mil­lions of dol­lars from a polit­i­cal advis­er to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates last April, just weeks before he began hand­ing out a series of large polit­i­cal dona­tions to U.S. law­mak­ers con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion tar­get­ing Qatar, the UAE’s chief rival in the Per­sian Gulf, an Asso­ci­at­ed Press inves­ti­ga­tion has found.

    George Nad­er, an advis­er to the UAE who is now a wit­ness in the U.S. spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tion into for­eign med­dling in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, wired $2.5 mil­lion to the Trump fundrais­er, Elliott Broidy, through a com­pa­ny in Cana­da, accord­ing to two peo­ple who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they were not autho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

    They said Nad­er gave the mon­ey to Broidy to bankroll an effort to per­suade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a long-time Amer­i­can ally but now a bit­ter adver­sary of the UAE. But the trans­ac­tion was invoiced for con­sult­ing, mar­ket­ing and advi­so­ry ser­vices.

    A month after he received the mon­ey rout­ed through Cana­da, Broidy spon­sored a con­fer­ence on Qatar’s alleged ties to Islam­ic extrem­ism. Dur­ing the event, Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Ed Royce of Cal­i­for­nia, the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, announced he was intro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion that would brand Qatar as a ter­ror­ist-sup­port­ing state.

    The orig­i­nal draft con­sid­ered by the For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee con­tained lan­guage sin­gling out Qatar. The U.S. has long been friend­ly with Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE as well as Qatar, which is home to a mas­sive Amer­i­can air base that the U.S. has used in its fight against the Islam­ic State. But ten­sions in the Gulf came to a head when the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia launched an embar­go with trav­el and trade restric­tions against Qatar less than two weeks after Royce intro­duced the sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

    Accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the com­mit­tee delib­er­a­tions, both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic staff mem­bers reached a con­sen­sus after the bill was intro­duced that because of the ten­sions in the Gulf, the lan­guage would look like the law­mak­ers were tak­ing sides. They agreed to take it out of the bill. But just before the bill was to be put up for debate ahead of the committee’s vote, Royce ordered the lan­guage on Qatar not only rein­stat­ed, but strength­ened, they say. The bill was approved by the com­mit­tee in Novem­ber with the stronger lan­guage on Qatar intact.

    In July 2017, two months after Royce intro­duced the bill, Broidy gave the Cal­i­for­nia Con­gress­man $5,400 in cam­paign gifts — the max­i­mum allowed by law. The dona­tions were part of just under $600,000 that Broidy has giv­en to GOP mem­bers of Con­gress and Repub­li­can polit­i­cal com­mit­tees since he began the push for the leg­is­la­tion fin­ger­ing Qatar, accord­ing to an AP analy­sis of cam­paign finance dis­clo­sure records.

    Broidy has per­son­al­ly giv­en hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to Repub­li­cans over the past decade or more. But he gave noth­ing dur­ing the 2012 and 2014 elec­tion cycles and just $13,500 dur­ing the 2016 cycle.

    While Wash­ing­ton is awash with polit­i­cal dona­tions from all man­ner of inter­est groups and indi­vid­u­als, there are strict restric­tions on for­eign dona­tions for polit­i­cal activ­i­ty. Agents of for­eign gov­ern­ments are also required to reg­is­ter before lob­by­ing so that there is a pub­lic record of for­eign influ­ence.

    The time­line of the influx of cash wired by Nad­er, an advis­er to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de fac­to leader of the UAE, may pro­vide grist for U.S. spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s legal team as it probes the activ­i­ties of Trump and his asso­ciates dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign and beyond. How­ev­er, it is not clear that Mueller has expand­ed his inves­ti­ga­tion in that direc­tion.

    ...

    Broidy said in a state­ment to AP that he has been out­spo­ken for years about mil­i­tant groups, includ­ing Hamas.

    “I’ve both raised mon­ey for, and con­tributed my own mon­ey to efforts by think tanks to bring the facts into the open, since Qatar is spread­ing mil­lions of dol­lars around Wash­ing­ton to white­wash its image as a ter­ror-spon­sor­ing state,” he said. “I’ve also spo­ken to like-mind­ed mem­bers of Con­gress, like Royce, about how to make sure Qatar’s lob­by­ing mon­ey does not blind law­mak­ers to the facts about its record in sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist groups.”

    Qatar and UAE have also exchanged alle­ga­tions of polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed hacks. Scores of Broidy’s emails and doc­u­ments have leaked to news orga­ni­za­tions. Broidy has alleged that the hack was done by Qatari agents and has report­ed the breach to the FBI.

    A spokesman for the Qatari embassy, Jas­sim Man­sour Jabr Al Thani, denied the charges, call­ing them “diver­sion­ary tac­tics.” Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the UAE did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Royce, said that his boss had long crit­i­cized the “desta­bi­liz­ing role of extrem­ist ele­ments in Qatar.” He point­ed to com­ments to that effect going back to 2014. “Any attempts to influ­ence these long­stand­ing views would have been unsuc­cess­ful,” he said.

    The details of Broidy’s advo­ca­cy on U.S. leg­is­la­tion have not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed. The finan­cial trans­ac­tion and the White House meet­ings were first report­ed by The New York Times.

    The AP found no evi­dence that Broidy used Nader’s funds for the cam­paign dona­tions or broke any laws. At the time of the advo­ca­cy work, his com­pa­ny, Circi­nus, did not have busi­ness with the UAE, but was award­ed a more than $200 mil­lion con­tract in Jan­u­ary.

    The sanc­tions bill was approved by Royce’s com­mit­tee in late 2017. It remains alive in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, await­ing a review by the House Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

    ———-

    “Mueller probe wit­ness secret­ly backed UAE agen­da in Con­gress” by DESMOND BUTLER, TOM LoBIAN­CO and BRADLEY KLAPPER; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 03/26/2018

    “A top fundrais­er for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump received mil­lions of dol­lars from a polit­i­cal advis­er to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates last April, just weeks before he began hand­ing out a series of large polit­i­cal dona­tions to U.S. law­mak­ers con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion tar­get­ing Qatar, the UAE’s chief rival in the Per­sian Gulf, an Asso­ci­at­ed Press inves­ti­ga­tion has found.”

    The tim­ing is indeed sus­pi­cious: just weeks after receiv­ing mil­lions of dol­lars for George Nad­er, Broidy starts hand­ing out cash to US law­mak­ers con­sid­er­ing the Qatar leg­is­la­tion.

    And accord­ing to two anony­mous sources, that ~$2.5 mil­lion that Nad­er paid Broidy was indeed part of a UAE lob­by­ing effort over the leg­is­la­tion against Qatar and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood:

    ...
    George Nad­er, an advis­er to the UAE who is now a wit­ness in the U.S. spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­ga­tion into for­eign med­dling in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, wired $2.5 mil­lion to the Trump fundrais­er, Elliott Broidy, through a com­pa­ny in Cana­da, accord­ing to two peo­ple who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they were not autho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

    They said Nad­er gave the mon­ey to Broidy to bankroll an effort to per­suade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a long-time Amer­i­can ally but now a bit­ter adver­sary of the UAE. But the trans­ac­tion was invoiced for con­sult­ing, mar­ket­ing and advi­so­ry ser­vices.
    ...

    And a month after receiv­ing that mon­ey, Broidy had already spon­sored a con­fer­ence on the Qatar and Islam­ic extrem­ism. It was at that con­fer­ence that Ed Royce announced the ter­ror-spon­sor­ship leg­is­la­tion that sin­gled-out Qatar. That lan­guage was sub­se­quent­ly removed, but then Royce man­aged to get even strong lan­guage insert­ed in the final ver­sion:

    ...
    A month after he received the mon­ey rout­ed through Cana­da, Broidy spon­sored a con­fer­ence on Qatar’s alleged ties to Islam­ic extrem­ism. Dur­ing the event, Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Ed Royce of Cal­i­for­nia, the chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, announced he was intro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion that would brand Qatar as a ter­ror­ist-sup­port­ing state.

    The orig­i­nal draft con­sid­ered by the For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee con­tained lan­guage sin­gling out Qatar. The U.S. has long been friend­ly with Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE as well as Qatar, which is home to a mas­sive Amer­i­can air base that the U.S. has used in its fight against the Islam­ic State. But ten­sions in the Gulf came to a head when the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia launched an embar­go with trav­el and trade restric­tions against Qatar less than two weeks after Royce intro­duced the sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

    Accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the com­mit­tee delib­er­a­tions, both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic staff mem­bers reached a con­sen­sus after the bill was intro­duced that because of the ten­sions in the Gulf, the lan­guage would look like the law­mak­ers were tak­ing sides. They agreed to take it out of the bill. But just before the bill was to be put up for debate ahead of the committee’s vote, Royce ordered the lan­guage on Qatar not only rein­stat­ed, but strength­ened, they say. The bill was approved by the com­mit­tee in Novem­ber with the stronger lan­guage on Qatar intact.
    ...

    Then, just two months lat­er, Broidy give the max­i­mum $5,400 dona­tion to Royce in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. And that was just a small part of the ~$600,000 in dona­tions Broidy gave to Repub­li­can law­mak­ers since the start of his ser­vices for Nad­er:

    ...
    In July 2017, two months after Royce intro­duced the bill, Broidy gave the Cal­i­for­nia Con­gress­man $5,400 in cam­paign gifts — the max­i­mum allowed by law. The dona­tions were part of just under $600,000 that Broidy has giv­en to GOP mem­bers of Con­gress and Repub­li­can polit­i­cal com­mit­tees since he began the push for the leg­is­la­tion fin­ger­ing Qatar, accord­ing to an AP analy­sis of cam­paign finance dis­clo­sure records.
    ...

    These large cash dona­tions by Broidy are par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­pi­cious because Broidy has­n’t been dona­tion hard­ly at all in recent years:

    ...
    Broidy has per­son­al­ly giv­en hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to Repub­li­cans over the past decade or more. But he gave noth­ing dur­ing the 2012 and 2014 elec­tion cycles and just $13,500 dur­ing the 2016 cycle.
    ...

    And these large cash dona­tions are also poten­tial­ly ille­gal:

    ...
    While Wash­ing­ton is awash with polit­i­cal dona­tions from all man­ner of inter­est groups and indi­vid­u­als, there are strict restric­tions on for­eign dona­tions for polit­i­cal activ­i­ty. Agents of for­eign gov­ern­ments are also required to reg­is­ter before lob­by­ing so that there is a pub­lic record of for­eign influ­ence.

    The time­line of the influx of cash wired by Nad­er, an advis­er to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de fac­to leader of the UAE, may pro­vide grist for U.S. spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s legal team as it probes the activ­i­ties of Trump and his asso­ciates dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign and beyond. How­ev­er, it is not clear that Mueller has expand­ed his inves­ti­ga­tion in that direc­tion.
    ...

    And that sanc­tions bill with the stronger lan­guage against Qatar remains alive and is await­ing a review by the House Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee:

    ...
    The sanc­tions bill was approved by Royce’s com­mit­tee in late 2017. It remains alive in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, await­ing a review by the House Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

    So that’s our overview of the rela­tion­ship between Elliott Broidy and George Nad­er. A rela­tion­ship that appears to be focused on advanc­ing the same for­eign pol­i­cy objec­tives that we saw get­ting pushed by the Trump team (via Eric Pince) and the UAE (via Nad­er) with that ‘back chan­nel’ nego­ti­a­tions with the Krem­lin rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kiri.ll Dmitriev in the Sey­chelles. And just late last year Trump’s attor­ney, Michael Cohen, helped Broidy work out his $1.6 mil­lion pay­out to a Play­boy mod­el he impreg­nat­ed. The same Michael Cohen who appeared to be work­ing on the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ deal that also appeared to large­ly be an offer made to the Krem­lin by the Trump team.

    Yes, it turns out that Michael Cohen’s work as a ‘fix­er’ for pow­er­ful men who sleep with Play­mates and need to make a qui­et pay­ment is one of the ele­ments tying these two mys­te­ri­ous diplo­mat­ic ini­tia­tives togeth­er. Because this is a Trump-relat­ed scan­dal so of course that’s how it played out.

    It’s also all a reminder that any col­lu­sion we find as a part of the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion is prob­a­bly going to involve quite a bit of #TrumpUAE and #Trump­Sau­di col­lu­sion, along with #Trump­Gener­icWar­Mon­gers col­lu­sion, and will prob­a­bly be part of a larg­er #Trum­pLob­by­in­gRus­si­aToMake­Way­For­More­War sto­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 14, 2018, 2:48 pm
  16. Here’s a quick update on what’s known about Michael Fly­nn and his con­tact with Russ­ian Ambas­sador Sergei Kislyak along with an update on the poten­tial ties between the par­al­lel Trump team schemes to push nuclear pow­er across the Mid­dle East and in Ukraine: First, recall that Fly­n­n’s legal trou­bles emerged from a series of phone calls he made with Kislyak in late 2016 that he did­n’t dis­close to the FBI. And those phone calls cen­tered around ensur­ing the Russ­ian response to new sanc­tions on Rus­sia imposed by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion did­n’t cre­ate “fric­tion” between the US and Rus­sia in antic­i­pa­tion of an eas­ing of the sanc­tions after Trump took office.

    Next, recall the nuclear “Mar­shall Plan” scheme Fly­nn was work­ing on start­ing in mid 2015 to build nuclear pow­er plants across the Mid­dle East as part of a joint project with Russ­ian and some inter­na­tion­al part­ners, ACU and X‑Co/Iron Bridge.

    Also recall that the plan was to be fund­ed entire­ly by Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Gulf coun­tries but also explic­it­ly left out Iran. Emails writ­ten by ACU’s chief econ­o­mist indi­cat­ed that, “it was always part of the project that Russia’s involvement…would tilt Rus­sia away from Iran.” The idea was that Rus­sia, fac­ing what John­son called an “eco­nom­ic and exis­ten­tial calami­ty” because of low oil prices, could use the income gen­er­at­ed from the part­ner­ship. The con­sor­tium could then pur­chase “Russ­ian mil­i­tary hard­ware” to com­pen­sate Moscow for los­ing mil­i­tary sales to Iran. Also, recall that Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er, and Steve Ban­non report­ed­ly secret­ly met with Jor­dan’s King Adbul­lah on Jan 5th, 2017, to push this deal.

    Next, recall the mys­te­ri­ous Sey­chelle’s ‘back chan­nel’ meet­ing that’s been char­ac­ter­ized as a back chan­nel between the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Krem­lin but inex­plic­a­bly also involved UAE rep­re­sen­ta­tive George Nad­er.

    Final­ly, recall the scheme by Felix Sater and Michael Cohen, along with far-right Ukrain­ian politi­cian Andreii Arte­menko — a spe­cial­ist in diplo­ma­cy with both the US and Mid­dle East­ern nations — to build­ing of Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er sec­tor and poten­tial­ly turn Ukraine into an elec­tric­i­ty exporter as part of a broad­er peace plan pro­pos­al between Ukraine and Russ­ian. And recall how Cohen hand-deliv­ered that pro­pos­al to Fly­nn in Feb­ru­ary 2017.

    So Fly­nn is clear­ly inter­est­ed in some sort of grand deal with Rus­sia that cen­ters around draw­ing Rus­sia out of its alliance with Iran, pre­sum­ably clear­ing the path for regime change or war with Iran.

    And with that con­text in mind, here’s just one more pre­vi­ous­ly unknown piece of infor­ma­tion about Fly­n­n’s con­tacts with Kislyak that was revealed in the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee report on the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion released last week: Fly­nn and his son met at Kislyak’s DC res­i­dence on Decem­ber 2, 2015. And it was arranged at the request of Fly­nn or his son.

    This was a week before Fly­nn trav­eled to Moscow to speak at the RT annu­al gala. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly noto­ri­ous gala for Fly­nn because he was seat­ed next to Vladimir Putin dur­ing the din­ner. This meet­ing also hap­pened after Fly­nn met Trump but before he for­mal­ly joined Trump’s cam­paign.

    So while the rev­e­la­tion of this meet­ing is going to broad­ly be seen as con­fir­ma­tion that Fly­nn was act­ing as a Krem­lin asset at the time of this Decem­ber 2, 2015 meet­ing, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that this meet­ing hap­pened while Fly­nn was already work­ing as a lob­by­ist for this Mid­dle East­ern nuclear plan appar­ent­ly intend­ed to dou­ble as a car­rot that would draw Rus­sia away from Iran by mak­ing Rus­sia one of the main part­ners in the nuclear plant scheme:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Muck­rak­er

    Fly­nn And His Son Met With Russ­ian Ambas­sador In Decem­ber 2015

    By Caitlin Mac­Neal | April 27, 2018 1:51 pm

    The House Intel­li­gence Committee’s report from its Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished on Fri­day revealed anoth­er meet­ing for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn had with the Russ­ian ambas­sador before he joined the Trump cam­paign.

    Fly­nn and his son, Michael Fly­nn, Jr., met with Ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak at his Wash­ing­ton, D.C. res­i­dence on Decem­ber 2, 2015, accord­ing to emails reviewed by the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. Flynn’s son described the meet­ing as “very pro­duc­tive” in an email to the Russ­ian embassy, accord­ing to the committee’s report. Accord­ing to the report, “emails indi­cate that the meet­ing was arranged at the request of Gen­er­al Fly­nn or his son.” Nei­ther Fly­nn sat with the com­mit­tee for an inter­view, leav­ing con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors with few details about the ren­dezvous.

    The meet­ing with Kislyak took place about a week before Fly­nn trav­eled to Moscow to speak at the Krem­lin RT news organization’s annu­al gala. Fly­nn sat next to Vladimir Putin at the din­ner and was paid by RT to attend the event.

    Flynn’s Decem­ber 2015 meet­ing with Kislyak also came after he met with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for the first time, but Fly­nn did not for­mal­ly join the cam­paign until 2016.

    ...

    ———-

    “Fly­nn And His Son Met With Russ­ian Ambas­sador In Decem­ber 2015” by Caitlin Mac­Neal; Talk­ing Points Memo Muck­rak­er; 04/27/2018

    Fly­nn and his son, Michael Fly­nn, Jr., met with Ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak at his Wash­ing­ton, D.C. res­i­dence on Decem­ber 2, 2015, accord­ing to emails reviewed by the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. Flynn’s son described the meet­ing as “very pro­duc­tive” in an email to the Russ­ian embassy, accord­ing to the committee’s report. Accord­ing to the report, “emails indi­cate that the meet­ing was arranged at the request of Gen­er­al Fly­nn or his son.” Nei­ther Fly­nn sat with the com­mit­tee for an inter­view, leav­ing con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors with few details about the ren­dezvous.”

    A week before he heads to the RT gala where he’ll be seat­ed next to Putin, Fly­nn arranges for a meet­ing with Kislyak. If Fly­nn was look­ing for a chance to sell Russ­ian on his nuclear plan that was prob­a­bly one of the best chances he was going to get.

    So while the dis­cov­ery of this meet­ing isn’t a mas­sive rev­e­la­tion, it’s cer­tain­ly note­wor­thy in the con­text of the tim­ing of this broad pair of nuclear pow­er nego­ti­a­tions in Ukraine and the Mid­dle East involv­ing Rus­sia. After all, what are the odds that Fly­nn did­n’t bring this up dur­ing either his meet­ing with Kislyak or his din­ner next to Putin a week lat­er?

    And the high like­li­hood that Fly­nn dis­cussed his nuclear pow­er pro­pos­als to Kislyak and Putin in Decem­ber of 2015 is impor­tant to keep in mind regard­ing the ‘Russ­ian hack­er’ attack on the DNC. Because if Fly­nn real­ly was already engaged in secret nego­ti­a­tions with the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment over this scheme — a scheme that implic­it­ly involves lift­ing US sanc­tions against Rus­sia — that just makes the “I’m a Russ­ian hack­er!” self-incrim­i­nat­ing nature of the DNC hacks that much more bewil­der­ing if the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment did actu­al­ly order a set of self-impli­cat­ing hacks.

    Also don’t for­get that by the time the DNC emails were first released in June of 2016 Fly­nn was already part of the Trump team. In Jan­u­ary of 2016, Fly­nn was report­ed as as a Trump advi­sor. So if Fly­nn was indeed try­ing work out a nuclear pow­er deal with Rus­sia and those nego­ti­a­tions were start­ed dur­ing those Decem­ber 2015 meet­ings Fly­nn had with Kislyak and Putin, it would have been pret­ty wild move by the Krem­lin to order such a bla­tant­ly inflam­ma­to­ry hack (as opposed to try­ing to make it look like Chi­nese or Amer­i­can hack­ers or some­thing like that). Keep in mind that US intel­li­gence offi­cials con­clud­ed by July 2016 that the on the DNC hack was done in an inten­tion­al­ly slop­py man­ner in order to let the US know the hack­ers were Russ­ian.

    And final­ly, don’t for­get that Fly­nn appar­ent­ly was under the impres­sion that this nuclear pow­er scheme had the green light and was ready to go at the time of Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion. He lit­er­al­ly texted one of the peo­ple at ACU dur­ing Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion speech and said the project was good to go:

    NBC News

    Whistle­blow­er: Fly­nn Told Ex-Part­ner That Sanc­tioned Rus­sia Nuclear Project Was ‘Good to Go’
    The whistle­blow­er’s alle­ga­tions raise new con­cerns about the extent to which the nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er may have blurred his pri­vate and pub­lic inter­ests dur­ing his brief stint inside the White House

    By Stephen Braun
    Pub­lished at 12:31 PM CST on Dec 6, 2017

    A whistle­blow­er has told House Democ­rats that dur­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion speech, nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn texted a for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate to say a pri­vate nuclear reac­tor plan Fly­nn had lob­bied for would also have his sup­port in the White House.

    As the whistle­blow­er chat­ted with Fly­n­n’s asso­ciate at an Inau­gu­ra­tion Day cel­e­bra­tion on Jan. 20, Fly­nn sent text mes­sages say­ing the asso­ci­ate’s nuclear pro­pos­al was “good to go,” the whistle­blow­er said. Accord­ing to the whistle­blow­er, Fly­nn also informed the asso­ciate that his busi­ness part­ners could move for­ward with their project, which aimed to con­struct a net­work of nuclear reac­tors across the Mideast with sup­port from Russ­ian and oth­er inter­na­tion­al inter­ests.

    While Fly­n­n’s agree­ment last week to plead guilty and coop­er­ate with spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion large­ly insu­lates the retired lieu­tenant gen­er­al from fur­ther legal jeop­ardy, the whistle­blow­er’s alle­ga­tions raise new con­cerns about the extent to which Fly­nn may have blurred his pri­vate and pub­lic inter­ests dur­ing his brief stint inside the White House. Trump fired Fly­nn in Feb­ru­ary, say­ing he had mis­led Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and oth­ers about his con­tacts with Rus­si­a’s ambas­sador to the U.S.

    Mary­land Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, the rank­ing Demo­c­rat on the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Reform, said Wednes­day that the whistle­blow­er’s alle­ga­tions raise con­cerns that Fly­nn improp­er­ly aid­ed the nuclear project after join­ing the White House as one of Trump’s top nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials. The project has yet to get off the ground.

    Cum­mings detailed the whistle­blow­er’s alle­ga­tions in a let­ter to House Over­sight chair­man Trey Gowdy, R‑South Car­oli­na, and urged Gowdy to autho­rize sub­poe­nas to Fly­nn and his busi­ness asso­ciates to learn more about his efforts to aid the pro­pos­al. Gowdy did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to Asso­ci­at­ed Press requests for com­ment but pre­vi­ous­ly has referred let­ters from House Democ­rats about Fly­nn to Mueller’s inquiry.

    Fly­nn had been a paid con­sul­tant for the ven­ture before he joined the Trump cam­paign last year. The plan, backed by a group of investors, nuclear pow­er adher­ents and for­mer U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cers, was to con­struct dozens of nuclear reac­tors across the Mideast work­ing with Russ­ian and oth­er inter­na­tion­al pri­vate inter­ests.

    House Democ­rats not­ed that a fed­er­al ethics law requires White House offi­cials to refrain for a year from deal­ing with any out­side inter­ests they had pre­vi­ous­ly worked with on pri­vate busi­ness mat­ters.

    “Our com­mit­tee has cred­i­ble alle­ga­tions that Pres­i­dent Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er sought to manip­u­late the course of inter­na­tion­al nuclear pol­i­cy for the finan­cial gain of his for­mer busi­ness part­ners,” Cum­mings said.

    The whistle­blow­er told House Democ­rats that while Trump spoke in Jan­u­ary, Fly­nn texted from his seat on the Capi­tol steps to Alex Cop­son, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of ACU Strate­gic Part­ners and the nuclear pro­jec­t’s main pro­mot­er. The whistle­blow­er, whose iden­ti­ty was not revealed in Cum­mings’ let­ter, said dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, Cop­son described his mes­sages with Fly­nn and briefly flashed one of the texts, which appeared to have been sent 10 min­utes after Trump began speak­ing.

    “Mike has been putting every­thing in place for us,” Cop­son said, accord­ing to the whistle­blow­er. Cop­son added that “this is going to make a lot of very wealthy peo­ple.” The whistle­blow­er also said that Cop­son inti­mat­ed that U.S. finan­cial sanc­tions hob­bling the nuclear project were going to be “ripped up.”

    ...

    In Fly­n­n’s agree­ment last week to plead guilty to one count of mak­ing false state­ments, pros­e­cu­tors said that Fly­nn lied to FBI agents about his dis­cus­sions on sanc­tions against Rus­sia with Russ­ian ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion.

    Cop­son had pro­mot­ed a suc­ces­sion of nuclear projects designed to include Russ­ian par­tic­i­pa­tion dat­ing back to the 1990s. In an ear­li­er note to the com­mit­tee, Cop­son said his firm had pro­vid­ed Fly­nn with a $25,000 check — left uncashed — and paid for Fly­n­n’s June 2015 trip to the Mideast as a secu­ri­ty con­sul­tant for the project.

    Fly­n­n’s finan­cial dis­clo­sure did not cite those pay­ments, but he did report that until Decem­ber 2016, he worked as an advis­er to two oth­er com­pa­nies that part­nered with Cop­son’s firm. That con­sor­tium, X‑Co Dynam­ics Inc. and Iron Bridge Group, ini­tial­ly worked with ACU but lat­er pushed a sep­a­rate nuclear pro­pos­al for the Mideast.

    ———-

    “Whistle­blow­er: Fly­nn Told Ex-Part­ner That Sanc­tioned Rus­sia Nuclear Project Was ‘Good to Go’ ” by Stephen Braun; NBC News; 12/06/2017

    “As the whistle­blow­er chat­ted with Fly­n­n’s asso­ciate at an Inau­gu­ra­tion Day cel­e­bra­tion on Jan. 20, Fly­nn sent text mes­sages say­ing the asso­ci­ate’s nuclear pro­pos­al was “good to go,” the whistle­blow­er said. Accord­ing to the whistle­blow­er, Fly­nn also informed the asso­ciate that his busi­ness part­ners could move for­ward with their project, which aimed to con­struct a net­work of nuclear reac­tors across the Mideast with sup­port from Russ­ian and oth­er inter­na­tion­al inter­ests.

    That’s appar­ent­ly how far along Fly­nn got with his Mid­dle East nuclear “Mar­shall Plan” scheme: dur­ing the inau­gu­ra­tion he texted Alex Cop­son, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of ACU Strate­gic Part­ners and the nuclear pro­jec­t’s main pro­mot­er, and basi­cal­ly told him every­thing was ready to go on the project:

    ...
    Fly­nn had been a paid con­sul­tant for the ven­ture before he joined the Trump cam­paign last year. The plan, backed by a group of investors, nuclear pow­er adher­ents and for­mer U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cers, was to con­struct dozens of nuclear reac­tors across the Mideast work­ing with Russ­ian and oth­er inter­na­tion­al pri­vate inter­ests.

    ...

    The whistle­blow­er told House Democ­rats that while Trump spoke in Jan­u­ary, Fly­nn texted from his seat on the Capi­tol steps to Alex Cop­son, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of ACU Strate­gic Part­ners and the nuclear pro­jec­t’s main pro­mot­er. The whistle­blow­er, whose iden­ti­ty was not revealed in Cum­mings’ let­ter, said dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, Cop­son described his mes­sages with Fly­nn and briefly flashed one of the texts, which appeared to have been sent 10 min­utes after Trump began speak­ing.

    “Mike has been putting every­thing in place for us,” Cop­son said, accord­ing to the whistle­blow­er. Cop­son added that “this is going to make a lot of very wealthy peo­ple.” The whistle­blow­er also said that Cop­son inti­mat­ed that U.S. finan­cial sanc­tions hob­bling the nuclear project were going to be “ripped up.”

    ...

    Cop­son had pro­mot­ed a suc­ces­sion of nuclear projects designed to include Russ­ian par­tic­i­pa­tion dat­ing back to the 1990s. In an ear­li­er note to the com­mit­tee, Cop­son said his firm had pro­vid­ed Fly­nn with a $25,000 check — left uncashed — and paid for Fly­n­n’s June 2015 trip to the Mideast as a secu­ri­ty con­sul­tant for the project.

    Fly­n­n’s finan­cial dis­clo­sure did not cite those pay­ments, but he did report that until Decem­ber 2016, he worked as an advis­er to two oth­er com­pa­nies that part­nered with Cop­son’s firm. That con­sor­tium, X‑Co Dynam­ics Inc. and Iron Bridge Group, ini­tial­ly worked with ACU but lat­er pushed a sep­a­rate nuclear pro­pos­al for the Mideast.

    ““Mike has been putting every­thing in place for us,” Cop­son said, accord­ing to the whistle­blow­er. Cop­son added that “this is going to make a lot of very wealthy peo­ple.” The whistle­blow­er also said that Cop­son inti­mat­ed that U.S. finan­cial sanc­tions hob­bling the nuclear project were going to be “ripped up.”

    And that rais­es a rather big ques­tion: if one of the goals of the pro­pos­al was to draw Rus­sia away from Iran, and if Fly­nn was giv­ing his part­ners like ACU the green light on the project and impli­cat­ing that it was ready to go, what does that sug­gest about what Rus­sia already agreed to on this plan? Was Rus­sia on board or was it the kind of sit­u­a­tion where the nego­ti­a­tions with Russ­ian prob­a­bly would­n’t begin in earnest until there’s a change to the sanc­tions regime?

    At this point we have no idea. But with this new rev­e­la­tion of the Flynn/Kislyask meet­ing in Decem­ber 2015 we do have an idea of when Fly­nn like­ly start­ed his
    direct nego­ti­a­tions with the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment over this unclear scheme: at least as ear­ly as Decem­ber 2015. Prob­a­bly. Unless Fly­nn wast­ed those incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties in Decem­ber of 2015 to lob­by for his clients.

    And here’s anoth­er aspect to the plan that poten­tial­ly relates this Mid­dle East­ern nuclear “Mar­shall Plan” to the par­al­lel nuclear plan schemes Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were try­ing to work out in Ukraine: ACU had a plan for get­ting around Ukrain­ian oppo­si­tion to lift­ing Russ­ian sanc­tions: give a Ukrain­ian com­pa­ny, state-owned Tur­boatom, a $45 bil­lion con­tract to pro­vide tur­bine gen­er­a­tors for reac­tors to be built in Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Mideast nations:

    Reuters

    Exclu­sive: Mideast nuclear plan back­ers bragged of sup­port of top Trump aide Fly­nn

    War­ren Stro­bel, Nathan Layne, Jonathan Lan­day
    Decem­ber 1, 2017 / 3:15 PM / 5 months ago

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Back­ers of a U.S.-Russian plan to build nuclear reac­tors across the Mid­dle East bragged after the U.S. elec­tion they had back­ing from Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn for a project that required lift­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sia, doc­u­ments reviewed by Reuters show.

    The doc­u­ments, which have not pre­vi­ous­ly been made pub­lic, reveal new aspects of the plan, includ­ing the pro­posed involve­ment of a Russ­ian com­pa­ny cur­rent­ly under U.S. sanc­tions to man­u­fac­ture nuclear equip­ment. That com­pa­ny, major engi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion firm OMZ OAO, declined to com­ment.

    The doc­u­ments do not show whether Fly­nn, a retired Army lieu­tenant gen­er­al, took con­crete steps to push the pro­pos­al with Trump and his aides. But they do show that Wash­ing­ton-based nuclear pow­er con­sul­tan­cy ACU Strate­gic Part­ners believed that both Fly­nn, who had worked as an advis­er to the firm as late as mid-2016, and Trump were firm­ly in its cor­ner.

    “Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion as pres­i­dent is a game chang­er because Trump’s high­est for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty is to sta­bi­lize U.S. rela­tions with Rus­sia which are now at a his­tor­i­cal low-point,” ACU’s man­ag­ing direc­tor, Alex Cop­son, wrote in a Nov. 16, 2016 email to poten­tial busi­ness part­ners, eight days after the elec­tion.

    White House offi­cials did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to an email seek­ing com­ment. ACU declined com­ment and also declined to make Cop­son avail­able for an inter­view. Pre­vi­ous­ly they told a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee that they had not had any deal­ings with Fly­nn since May 2016, before Trump became the Repub­li­can Party’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

    Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kel­ner, did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    Fly­nn plead­ed guilty on Fri­day to lying to the FBI about a dis­cus­sion with the for­mer Russ­ian ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, Sergey Kislyak, in late Decem­ber 2016 regard­ing sanc­tions.

    The doc­u­ments also show that ACU pro­posed end­ing Ukraine’s oppo­si­tion to lift­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sia by giv­ing a Ukrain­ian com­pa­ny a $45 bil­lion con­tract to pro­vide tur­bine gen­er­a­tors for reac­tors to be built in Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Mideast nations.

    The con­tract to state-owned Tur­boatom, and loans to Ukraine from Gulf Arab states, would “require Ukraine to sup­port lift­ing US and EU sanc­tions on Rus­sia,” Cop­son wrote in the Nov. 16 email.

    A Tur­boatom spokes­woman said she did not have an imme­di­ate com­ment on the mat­ter.

    The email was titled “TRUMP/PUTIN ME Mar­shall plan CONCEPT.” ME stands for Mid­dle East. The title, evok­ing the post-World War Two plan to rebuild West­ern Euro­pean economies, reflect­ed the hopes of the plan’s back­ers that Trump and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin could coop­er­ate on a project that would boost Mid­dle East economies.

    The email can be seen here: tmsnrt.rs/2ALdoCY

    The ACU doc­u­ments reviewed by Reuters include emails, busi­ness pre­sen­ta­tions and finan­cial esti­mates and date from late autumn 2016.

    ‘READY TO GO’

    As part of their inves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump elec­tion campaign’s ties to Rus­sia, Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller and Democ­rats on the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ Over­sight Com­mit­tee are prob­ing whether Fly­nn pro­mot­ed the Mid­dle East nuclear pow­er project as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er in Trump’s White House.

    Fly­nn resigned after just 24 days as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er after it became known he had lied to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence by telling him he had not dis­cussed U.S. sanc­tions on Rus­sia with Kislyak in late Decem­ber.

    In response to ques­tions about the emails and doc­u­ments, ACU referred Reuters to let­ters writ­ten in June and Sep­tem­ber by ACU sci­en­tist Thomas Cochran to the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee.

    In those let­ters, Cochran had laid out the project’s strat­e­gy, describ­ing a “ready-to-go” con­sor­tium that includ­ed French, Russ­ian, Israeli and Ukrain­ian inter­ests, with­out nam­ing spe­cif­ic com­pa­nies.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Eli­jah Cum­mings, the committee’s top Demo­c­rat, said the panel’s Repub­li­can chair­man, Trey Gowdy, has for months reject­ed Democ­rats’ requests to ask the White House for doc­u­ments per­tain­ing to the ACU pro­pos­al.

    Gowdy “has blocked all efforts to allow com­mit­tee mem­bers to vote on issu­ing sub­poe­nas,” Cum­mings told Reuters.

    ...

    The ACU’s nuclear reac­tor plan aimed to pro­vide Washington’s Mid­dle East allies with nuclear pow­er in a way that didn’t risk nuclear weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion and also helped counter Iran­ian influ­ence, improve dis­mal U.S.-Russian rela­tions, and revive the mori­bund U.S. nuclear indus­try, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments seen by Reuters.

    The Wall Street Jour­nal and the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed this week that Fly­nn pushed a ver­sion of the nuclear project with­in the White House by instruct­ing his staff to rework a memo writ­ten by a for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate into pol­i­cy for Trump to sign.

    Two U.S. offi­cials famil­iar with the issue told Reuters the pol­i­cy doc­u­ment Fly­nn pre­pared for Trump’s approval pro­posed work­ing with Rus­sia on a nuclear reac­tor project but did not specif­i­cal­ly men­tion ACU. The offi­cials, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, said they did not know if Trump had read the memo or act­ed upon it.

    ‘THIS IS A BIG WIN’

    On Nov. 18, 2016, 10 days after Trump won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, ACU’s Cop­son received an email from nuclear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion expert Reuben Sorensen say­ing that he had updat­ed Fly­nn on the nuclear project’s sta­tus. Sorensen’s role in the project was not clear from the emails.

    “Fly­nn is get­ting clos­er to (being named) Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor. Expect an announce­ment soon. This is a big win for the ACU project,” Sorensen wrote.

    “Spoke with him via backchan­nels ear­li­er this week. He has always believed in the vision of the ACU effort ... We need to let him get set­tled into the new posi­tion, but update him short­ly there­after,” Sorensen added.

    The email can be seen here: tmsnrt.rs/2zTqxcZ

    Reuters could not inde­pen­dent­ly con­firm a brief­ing took place. Sorensen did not reply to an email seek­ing com­ment.

    On Nov. 30, 2016, Cop­son briefed U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed Royce, Repub­li­can chair­man of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, on the nuclear project, an email shows.

    Cop­son was joined by Jim Hamel, a senior offi­cial from Cur­tiss-Wright Corp., which has a nuclear divi­sion based in Royce’s Cal­i­for­nia dis­trict and was eager for a role in the mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar project.

    In a fol­low-up email on Dec. 5 to a Royce aide, Hamel wrote, “We hope that the Chair­man will fol­low-up on Alex’s sug­ges­tion to reach out to Gen­er­al Fly­nn” to dis­cuss the project.

    Royce’s spokesman, Cory Fritz, con­firmed the brief­ing to Reuters. “No action was ever tak­en by the chair­man or the com­mit­tee,” he said in an email.

    Hamel and Cur­tiss-Wright declined to com­ment.

    Fly­nn was an advis­er to ACU from April 2015 to June 2016, accord­ing to amend­ed finan­cial dis­clo­sure forms he filed in August 2017 to the Office of Gov­ern­ment Ethics.

    Democ­rats on the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee say that when Fly­nn applied last year to renew his gov­ern­ment secu­ri­ty clear­ance, he failed to dis­close a June 2015 trip he made to Egypt and Israel to pro­mote the reac­tor project. Fly­nn has not com­ment­ed on the trips.

    ———-

    “Exclu­sive: Mideast nuclear plan back­ers bragged of sup­port of top Trump aide Fly­nn” by War­ren Stro­bel, Nathan Layne, Jonathan Lan­day; Reuters; 12/01/2017

    “The doc­u­ments also show that ACU pro­posed end­ing Ukraine’s oppo­si­tion to lift­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sia by giv­ing a Ukrain­ian com­pa­ny a $45 bil­lion con­tract to pro­vide tur­bine gen­er­a­tors for reac­tors to be built in Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Mideast nations.”

    A $45 bil­lion car­rot for Ukraine to sup­port the lift­ing of Russ­ian sanc­tions. That’s what ACU pro­posed:

    ...
    The con­tract to state-owned Tur­boatom, and loans to Ukraine from Gulf Arab states, would “require Ukraine to sup­port lift­ing US and EU sanc­tions on Rus­sia,” Cop­son wrote in the Nov. 16 email.

    A Tur­boatom spokes­woman said she did not have an imme­di­ate com­ment on the mat­ter.

    The email was titled “TRUMP/PUTIN ME Mar­shall plan CONCEPT.” ME stands for Mid­dle East. The title, evok­ing the post-World War Two plan to rebuild West­ern Euro­pean economies, reflect­ed the hopes of the plan’s back­ers that Trump and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin could coop­er­ate on a project that would boost Mid­dle East economies.

    The email can be seen here: tmsnrt.rs/2ALdoCY
    ...

    So we now know that ACU, the pri­ma­ry enti­ty push­ing the Mid­dle East nuke plant scheme, was active­ly fac­tor­ing in Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er sec­tor into this grand nuclear scheme. That seems like a pret­ty big rev­e­la­tion all things con­sid­ered.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 30, 2018, 2:47 pm
  17. Look who is get­ting his own date with Mueller’s grand jury: Andrii Arte­menko. He’s sched­uled for an appear­ance this Fri­day:

    Politi­co

    Ukrain­ian politi­cian behind con­tro­ver­sial peace pro­pos­al to appear in Mueller probe

    By DAVID STERN and JOSH MEYER
    05/14/2018 05:11 PM EDT

    KIEV, Ukraine — A Ukrain­ian politi­cian who com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Trump asso­ciates about a con­tro­ver­sial plan to resolve Ukraine’s con­flict with Krem­lin-backed rebels said Mon­day that he has been called to tes­ti­fy before a grand jury con­nect­ed to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Andrii Arte­menko said he could not pro­vide details of his upcom­ing appear­ance before the grand jury, which he said is sched­uled for Fri­day. But he said he assumed he would be asked about the peace plan, about which he com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Michael Cohen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s long­time per­son­al attor­ney, in ear­ly 2017.

    “I received the sub­poe­na last week,” Arte­menko told POLITICO by tele­phone, adding that he intend­ed to com­ply with the request. He said he would appear in per­son.

    ...

    The Arte­menko case is one of the more unusu­al devel­op­ments in the inves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. The New York Times report­ed in Feb­ru­ary 2017 that Arte­menko had con­tact­ed Felix Sater, a for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate of Trump’s, to find out how he could make his plan for peace in Ukraine known to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Sater intro­duced Arte­menko to Cohen, who left the plan in the office of then-nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn, the Times report­ed. (Cohen has denied that, say­ing he threw the doc­u­ment away.)

    When the news broke about the peace plan, it caused a scan­dal in Ukraine. Among the plan’s pro­pos­als was the idea of leas­ing to Rus­sia the Crimean Penin­su­la — which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014 — for 50 years, in exchange for end­ing the ongo­ing war in Ukraine’s Don­bass region. The back-chan­nel effort also sought to have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion drop sanc­tions against Rus­sia imposed by the Oba­ma White House.

    Arte­menko was eject­ed from his polit­i­cal par­ty, and Ukraine’s top pros­e­cu­tor launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into whether he had com­mit­ted trea­son. In May 2017, Ukrain­ian offi­cials stripped him of his cit­i­zen­ship, osten­si­bly because he also held a Cana­di­an pass­port. Arte­menko said he was being pun­ished polit­i­cal­ly for oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, whom he also accused of cor­rup­tion.

    Artemenko’s tes­ti­mo­ny could help Mueller’s team fill in the gaps on the peace plan, which he has been inves­ti­gat­ing in part because of the roles of Cohen and Sater, who also worked togeth­er to try and launch a Trump-brand­ed devel­op­ment in Moscow start­ing in ear­ly 2015.

    The plan may also be of inter­est to Mueller because it report­ed­ly was hatched short­ly after Fly­nn dis­cussed drop­ping sanc­tions against Rus­sia in a call with the Russ­ian ambas­sador that was inter­cept­ed by intel­li­gence offi­cials. Fly­nn was fired from the White House after it became clear that he lied to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about his con­ver­sa­tions about Russ­ian sanc­tions.

    There have been con­flict­ing sto­ries about whether Russ­ian offi­cials were involved in hatch­ing the peace plan.

    Cohen told The Wash­ing­ton Post that Arte­menko boast­ed dur­ing their Jan­u­ary 2017 meet­ing that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment “was on board” with the pro­pos­al. Arte­menko denied that, telling the Post that he had not spo­ken to any Russ­ian offi­cials and that the pro­pos­al came about dur­ing con­sul­ta­tions with Ukrain­ian offi­cials.

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian politi­cian behind con­tro­ver­sial peace pro­pos­al to appear in Mueller probe” by DAVID STERN and JOSH MEYER; Politi­co; 05/14/2018

    “Andrii Arte­menko said he could not pro­vide details of his upcom­ing appear­ance before the grand jury, which he said is sched­uled for Fri­day. But he said he assumed he would be asked about the peace plan, about which he com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Michael Cohen, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s long­time per­son­al attor­ney, in ear­ly 2017.”

    So it will be inter­est­ing to learn what Mueller actu­al­ly asks Arte­menko about. And giv­en the per­sis­tent and gross mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Arte­menko as a ‘pro-Russ­ian’ Ukrain­ian politi­cian, despite the fact that almost every aspect of his biog­ra­phy points in the oppo­site direc­tion, it will be inter­est­ing to learn what areas Mueller does­n’t ask Arte­menko about too.

    Also note that the his­to­ry of Arte­menko with Sater and Cohen is often sum­ma­rized as Arte­menko reach­ing out to Sater about the peace plan pro­pos­al, who put him in con­tact with Cohen, and this all hap­pened in late 2016-ear­ly 2017:

    ...
    The Arte­menko case is one of the more unusu­al devel­op­ments in the inves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. The New York Times report­ed in Feb­ru­ary 2017 that Arte­menko had con­tact­ed Felix Sater, a for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate of Trump’s, to find out how he could make his plan for peace in Ukraine known to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Sater intro­duced Arte­menko to Cohen, who left the plan in the office of then-nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn, the Times report­ed. (Cohen has denied that, say­ing he threw the doc­u­ment away.)

    ...

    The plan may also be of inter­est to Mueller because it report­ed­ly was hatched short­ly after Fly­nn dis­cussed drop­ping sanc­tions against Rus­sia in a call with the Russ­ian ambas­sador that was inter­cept­ed by intel­li­gence offi­cials. Fly­nn was fired from the White House after it became clear that he lied to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about his con­ver­sa­tions about Russ­ian sanc­tions.
    ...

    But as we saw before, Ukrain­ian reports indi­cat­ed that Arte­menko knew Cohen for years giv­en Cohen’s per­son­al and busi­ness ties to Ukraine. And the nego­ti­a­tions appar­ent­ly start­ed dur­ing the 2016 pri­maries:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    There’s More to the Michael Cohen Sto­ry

    By Josh Mar­shall | Feb­ru­ary 24, 2017 11:58 pm

    I was intrigued to learn a few days ago that Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Michael Cohen, once found­ed an ethanol busi­ness in Ukraine. It’s referred to as a fam­i­ly busi­ness. So pre­sum­ably he set it up with rel­a­tives of his wife, who is Ukrain­ian. This isn’t any big scoop I uncov­ered with my mas­ter­ly report­ing skills. It’s ref­er­enced right in one of the biggest sto­ries of the last week in The New York Times, the one about Cohen, Felix Sater and Andrii V. Arte­menko, the rene­gade Ukrain­ian MP who pitched Cohen (and, he hoped, Mike Fly­nn and Don­ald Trump) on his ‘peace plan’ for Rus­sia and Ukraine and who is now being inves­ti­gat­ed by the gov­ern­ment of Ukraine for trea­son.

    Now, to be clear, there’s noth­ing wrong or sus­pi­cious about set­ting up a busi­ness in the ener­gy sec­tor in Ukraine. But it did make me see Cohen’s role in all of this in some­thing of a new light. In most of the cov­er­age of Cohen’s not infre­quent appear­ances in the Russia/Trump saga, he is pre­sent­ed as a blunt-affect New York City lawyer who sel­dom makes it east of Queens. That’s one of the things that has always made his cameos in these sto­ries a bit odd and hard to fig­ure. But if he’s set up a fam­i­ly busi­ness in Ukraine, it seems like this ter­rain and the cast of char­ac­ters and pol­i­tics might not be so for­eign to him after all.

    Then there are some more details.

    This arti­cle in the Eng­lish lan­guage sec­tion of the Urkain­ian news web­site Hro­madske Inter­na­tion­al has more details. Now, before dis­cussing this I should say that I always try to be cau­tious dip­ping into the press of a coun­try I don’t know in some detail. It’s hard to know the dif­fer­ence between The New York Times and the Nation­al Enquir­er with­out your lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al-polit­i­cal bear­ings. How­ev­er, in this case I spoke to a good friend who is part of the Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. She is famil­iar with the pub­li­ca­tion and the peo­ple who run it. So while I can­not specif­i­cal­ly con­firm the details of this arti­cle, I’m con­fi­dent it is a legit­i­mate pub­li­ca­tion. The arti­cle I’m ref­er­enc­ing is an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the orig­i­nal in Ukrain­ian. The usage is a lit­tle rough in places. But it’s clear enough.

    In any case, the arti­cle is a back­grounder on Arte­menko, piv­ot­ing off the orig­i­nal sto­ry in the Times. It goes into var­i­ous details about Artemenko’s back­ground. Then it gets to Cohen. In an inter­view at Strana.ua, he says that while Sater is a recent acquain­tance, he’s known Cohen since back when Cohen was set­ting up the ethanol busi­ness in Ukraine. So at least accord­ing to to Arte­menko, he and Cohen have known each oth­er for some time. This wasn’t just a cour­tesy meet­ing Cohen took with a stranger as a favor to Sater.

    And then there’s this.

    Arte­menko told Strana.ua that this wasn’t the first time they’d talked about the “peace plan.” He says that he was dis­cussing the peace plan with Cohen and Sater “at the time of the pri­maries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nom­i­nat­ed.”

    So at least accord­ing to Arte­menko, dis­cus­sions about the “peace plan” go back to the first half of 2016.

    That’s inter­est­ing.

    I should note this cau­tion. Arte­menko seems like a pret­ty shady char­ac­ter, based on this arti­cle and the oth­er write-ups over recent days. He could cer­tain­ly be lying about his con­tacts with Cohen before Feb­ru­ary 2017 for any num­ber of rea­sons. This whole sto­ry is a swirl of con­fu­sion, lies and mis­in­for­ma­tion. So this isn’t just a per­func­to­ry caveat. It’s a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. But giv­en the demon­stra­ble lack of cred­i­bil­i­ty of Cohen and the rest of the play­ers on the Trump side, I see no rea­son to dis­miss his claims out of hand. After all, in a peri­od of 48 hours Cohen gave four dif­fer­ent ver­sions of his side of the sto­ry about this meet­ing, suc­ces­sive­ly dis­miss­ing each of his pre­vi­ous sto­ries as “fake news.”

    We should ask Arte­menko for more details and ask Cohen whether these new details are true.

    It has always struck me as high­ly odd that, in the cur­rent cli­mate of sus­pi­cion over Russia’s ties to Trump, Cohen would take that moment to meet with Sater – a for­mer busi­ness asso­ciate who Trump now claims he wouldn’t rec­og­nize – and a Ukrain­ian with a pro-Russ­ian peace plan. It makes a bit more sense if the rela­tion­ship goes back before this year.

    We shouldn’t take any of this at face val­ue. But it seems like there’s a lot more here than one meet­ing.

    ...

    ———-

    “There’s More to the Michael Cohen Sto­ry” by Josh Mar­shall; Talk­ing Points Memo; 02/24/2017

    “In any case, the arti­cle is a back­grounder on Arte­menko, piv­ot­ing off the orig­i­nal sto­ry in the Times. It goes into var­i­ous details about Artemenko’s back­ground. Then it gets to Cohen. In an inter­view at Strana.ua, he says that while Sater is a recent acquain­tance, he’s known Cohen since back when Cohen was set­ting up the ethanol busi­ness in Ukraine. So at least accord­ing to to Arte­menko, he and Cohen have known each oth­er for some time. This wasn’t just a cour­tesy meet­ing Cohen took with a stranger as a favor to Sater.

    Artenkenko has known Cohen “since back when Cohen was set­ting up the ethanol busi­ness in Ukraine.” Recall that Cohen’s broth­er-in-law was Alexan­der Oronov, and Oronov was busi­ness part­ners with Vik­tor Topolov in their Ethanol pro­duc­tion busi­ness. And Andreii Arte­menko is known to be one of Topolov’s close asso­ciates going back for years. So Cohen has like­ly known Arte­menko for quite a num­ber of years too.

    And as Ukrain­ian local news also point­ed out back in Feb­ru­ary of 2017, Arte­menko claimed they dis­cuss­es the peace plan with Sater and Cohen “at the time of the pri­maries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nom­i­nat­ed”:

    ...
    And then there’s this.

    Arte­menko told Strana.ua that this wasn’t the first time they’d talked about the “peace plan.” He says that he was dis­cussing the peace plan with Cohen and Sater “at the time of the pri­maries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nom­i­nat­ed.”

    So at least accord­ing to Arte­menko, dis­cus­sions about the “peace plan” go back to the first half of 2016.
    ...

    And giv­en Arte­menko’s phras­es of “at the time of the pri­maries, when no one believed that Trump would even be nom­i­nat­ed”, keep in mind that Trump was look­ing like the prob­a­ble vic­tor in the GOP by at least March of 2016, if not ear­li­er.

    So we’ll see what, if any­thing, new gets learned after Arte­menko appears before Mueller’s grand jury. Although, assum­ing the gen­er­al pat­tern holds, it’s like­ly that any new stuff learned about Arte­menko that flesh­es out his back­ground — a back­ground that looks like the oppo­site of a ‘pro-Russ­ian’ Ukrain­ian politi­cian — will be prompt­ly col­lec­tive­ly for­got­ten and/or ignored. So we’ll see if that hap­pens too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 15, 2018, 2:21 pm
  18. This is the kind of sto­ry that would nor­mal­ly sim­ply fall into the ‘news of the weird’ cat­e­go­ry of news if it was­n’t so tan­gen­tial­ly top­i­cal: It turns out Andrii Arte­menko had a par­tic­u­lar­ly provoca­tive legal the­o­ry regard­ing Crimea that has­n’t received much atten­tion. Accord­ing to Arte­menko, the fight over Crimea should­n’t be lim­it­ed to Ukraine and Rus­sia because there’s a third par­ty that has a legal claim on the region. The Unit­ed States.

    Fas­ci­nat­ing­ly, this sto­ry was almost exclu­sive­ly report­ed in the Ukrain­ian pub­li­ca­tion UNIAN.info and was pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 27, 2017, a lit­tle over a week after the sto­ry of the ‘peace plan’ scheme by Arte­menko and Michael Cohen and Felix Sater became pub­lic. It’s also less than a week before Arte­menko had his Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen­ship stripped (offi­cial­ly over his accep­tance of Cana­di­an cit­i­zen­ship). So in the mid­dle of the uproar of the Sater/Cohen/Artemenko ‘peace plan’, Arte­menko sug­gests Crimea tech­ni­cal­ly belongs to the US. At a min­i­mum, that’s a pret­ty weird move to pull at that point:

    UNIAN.info

    “New Cal­i­for­nia”: Ukrain­ian MP Arte­menko says U.S. could claim Crimea

    15:00, 27 Feb­ru­ary 2017

    Ukrain­ian MP Andriy Arte­menko has claimed that the doc­u­ments exist con­firm­ing the U.S. right to claim the Crimean penin­su­la, now occu­pied by the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion.

    MP Arte­menko, who ear­li­er report­ed­ly back-chan­neled a plan to set­tle Rus­sia-Ukraine cri­sis by leas­ing Crimea to the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion, says that the ter­ri­to­ry of occu­pied penin­su­la was once stat­ed as a loan secu­ri­ty received by the Sovi­et Rus­sia from the Unit­ed States in 1920. The loan has not been repaid, Cenzor.net report­ed.

    “In 1920, Rus­sia received a $50 mil­lion loan from the U.S. gov­ern­ment. The col­lat­er­al for this loan was Crimea. Accord­ing to the agree­ment, the penin­su­la should be hand­ed over to the U.S. had the loan and the inter­est on not been paid. The dead­line came in 1954. There was a project titled ‘New Cal­i­for­nia.’ If that’s unclear to you, New Cal­i­for­nia actu­al­ly is Crimea. I am con­vinced that Crimea was ced­ed to Ukraine in order to pre­serve this ter­ri­to­ry under the Sovi­et juris­dic­tion. I am sure that Crimea was ced­ed to Ukraine in the sta­tus of an autonomous repub­lic in order to avoid the pay­ment on the loan,” Arte­menko said.

    Accord­ing to him, this issue is not being raised at the moment: “This is an unre­solved issue, this is the thing that can actu­al­ly con­firm that the ter­ri­to­ry belongs to the U.S., not Rus­sia.”

    ———-

    ““New Cal­i­for­nia”: Ukrain­ian MP Arte­menko says U.S. could claim Crimea”; UNIAN.info; 02/27/2017

    “In 1920, Rus­sia received a $50 mil­lion loan from the U.S. gov­ern­ment. The col­lat­er­al for this loan was Crimea. Accord­ing to the agree­ment, the penin­su­la should be hand­ed over to the U.S. had the loan and the inter­est on not been paid. The dead­line came in 1954. There was a project titled ‘New Cal­i­for­nia.’ If that’s unclear to you, New Cal­i­for­nia actu­al­ly is Crimea. I am con­vinced that Crimea was ced­ed to Ukraine in order to pre­serve this ter­ri­to­ry under the Sovi­et juris­dic­tion. I am sure that Crimea was ced­ed to Ukraine in the sta­tus of an autonomous repub­lic in order to avoid the pay­ment on the loan,” Arte­menko said.

    Crimea is New Cal­i­for­nia but just does­n’t know it yet! Nei­ther does any­one else oth­er than Arte­menko. But accord­ing to Arte­menko, this whole strug­gle over who con­trols Ukraine is an indi­rect result of a Sovi­et attempt to avoid hav­ing to give Crimea to the US over an unpaid $50 mil­lion from the US in 1920. The 1954 trans­fer of Crimea from Rus­sia to Ukraine was an elab­o­rate attempt to not pay back a loan.

    It’s the kind of sto­ry that nor­mal­ly would­n’t have much impact oth­er than prompt­ing a lot of ‘well that’s weird’ respons­es. And that’s large­ly what hap­pened. The above sto­ry came out short­ly after this ‘peace plan’ was picked up by almost no news out­lets and large­ly ignored. And maybe that will remain the case.

    But let’s not for­get that Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent and blurt­ing out diplo­mat­i­cal­ly insen­si­tive things is one of his spe­cial­ties. So you have won­der what the odds are of Trump learn­ing about this and then talk­ing about it when the top­ic of Crimea comes up. Because if Trump learns that Crimea is arguably ‘New Cal­i­for­nia’, it’s hard to imag­ine he’s going to be to resist pub­licly mak­ing light of this when­ev­er the top­ic of Ukraine comes up. He’ll pre­sum­ably be quite impressed with those Sovi­et debt-dodg­ing moves, but he’s like­ly to actu­al­ly jok­ing­ly talk about turn­ing Crimea into the 51st state. Because that’s what he does. It’s like a kid with self-con­trol issues in a can­dy store. So what’s going to hap­pen if Trump starts jok­ing­ly talk­ing about Crimea as the 51st State? Will such absur­di­ty help defuse ten­sions or exac­er­bate them? It’s the meta-ques­tion we face dai­ly in the time of Trump (and the meta-answer appears to be ‘the absur­di­ty exac­er­bates the ten­sions’).

    And note how Arte­menko appeared to be try­ing to make the case that it can be legal­ly con­firmed that the US con­trols Crimea. Arte­menko floats a legal the­o­ry that Crimea is actu­al­ly a US ter­ri­to­ry in response to being por­trayed as a Krem­lin crony with this ‘peace plan’. You have to give him cred­it for cre­ativ­i­ty. But it’s still a remark­able pub­lic defense giv­en the cir­cum­stance:

    ...
    Accord­ing to him, this issue is not being raised at the moment: “This is an unre­solved issue, this is the thing that can actu­al­ly con­firm that the ter­ri­to­ry belongs to the U.S., not Rus­sia.”

    So was Arte­menko try­ing to send some sort of sig­nal to the US or oth­ers with his Crimea the­o­ry? Or was he just try­ing to inject chaos and seem as un-Krem­lin-ish as pos­si­ble giv­en the intense ‘Krem­lin crony’ cov­er­age he was receiv­ing at the time? Don’t for­get that Arte­menko sees him­self as a Trump-style pop­ulist so he’s prob­a­bly more than hap­py to just inject chaos into a polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion. That’s appar­ent­ly how far right ‘pop­ulists’ brand them­selves these days. But it’s still hard to see how “New Cal­i­for­nia” would have been seen as a polit­i­cal­ly palat­able idea to put for­ward even in the face of accu­sa­tions about being a Krem­lin crony. It was just an amaz­ing­ly odd idea to bring up at that point.

    Who knows why Arte­menko decid­ed the ‘New Cal­i­for­nia’ argu­ment was a good idea at that point, but this is is the time of Trump and fel­low Trump-style ‘pop­ulists’ after all. This is we should expect at this point. The News of the Weird is the New Nor­mal. Weird news is so nor­mal that a sto­ry like this basi­cal­ly does­n’t get noticed. It was­n’t weird enough even though, wow, is this a weird twist in the Arte­menko sto­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2018, 9:50 pm
  19. There’s a recent inter­view of Andrii Arte­menko in the Kyiv Post that con­tains a poten­tial bomb­shell rev­e­la­tion regard­ing the ‘peace plan’, if true: Accord­ing to Arte­menko, he spoke with Yulia Tymoshenko about his ‘peace plan’ in advance of the pro­pos­al being sent to the White House (to Michael Fly­nn via Michael Cohen).

    If Tymoshenko was involved with this ‘peace plan’ that alone would be a bomb­shell giv­en her promi­nent role in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics. It would cer­tain­ly put to rest the notion that Arte­menko was alone in the scheme.

    But anoth­er part of what makes the pos­si­ble involve­ment of Tymoshenko in this this ‘peace plan’ such a bomb­shell is that the plan just hap­pened to include a pro­vi­sion where lots of evi­dence about the cor­rup­tion of the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment would be released and the Poroshenko would be replaced. We’ve been told all along that Arte­menko him­self would be the per­son to replace Poroshenko, which always seemed like quite a stretch giv­en his rel­a­tive­ly low pro­file role in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics. Tymoshenko, on the oth­er hand, would be one of the lead­ing can­di­dates to replace Poroshenko if a new gov­ern­ment was to be formed.

    Tymoshenko’s spokesper­son is deny­ing this, but as the arti­cle notes, it’s a some­what tepid denial.

    Also recall this is not the first time we’ve seen Tymoshenko’s name come up in rela­tion to this ‘peace plan’. Tymoshenko ally Valen­tyn Naly­vaichenko report­ed­ly trav­eled to the US in Decem­ber 2016 and Jan­u­ary 2017 and claims he hand deliv­ered to the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice proof of “polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion by (Ukraine’s) top offi­cials.” And Tymoshenko her­self trav­eled to the US in Feb­ru­ary 2017 and meet Pres­i­dent Trump.

    Arte­menko also has his own ties to Tymoshenko’s par­ty. He was head of the Kyiv branch of Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchy­na Par­ty in 2006.

    There’s anoth­er inter­est­ing claim by Arte­menko in the fol­low­ing arti­cle: Arte­menko claims that he made many of his US con­tacts on Capi­tol Hill through the plan mod­ern­ize Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er plants. That’s the plan Arte­menko, Felix Sater, and Robert Armao were report­ed­ly work­ing on. And accord­ing to a draft of the plan Arte­menko sent to the Kyiv Post, the plan was to use U.S. mon­ey to mod­ern­ize Ukraine’s nuclear infra­struc­ture. So, if that’s the case, it would make sense that this plan was being dis­cussed with US law­mak­ers. It also rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not the ‘nuclear Mar­shall plan for the Mid­dle East’ Michael Fly­nn was lob­by­ing for on behalf of his nuclear pow­er clients — where the US and Rus­sia would team up to build and ser­vice nuclear pow­er plants in coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia and Jor­dan — was also under dis­cus­sion with US mem­bers of con­gress.

    And there’s a remark­able fun fact men­tions in pass­ing in the arti­cle: U.S.-based West­ing­house Elec­tric tried to cut a deal with Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear pow­er com­pa­ny Ener­goatom to replace the Kremlin’s share of the reac­tor sup­ply mar­ket. If so, that adds a whole new wild dimen­sion to this nuclear plan. And it hap­pens to be the case that West­ing­house signed a con­tract in Jan­u­ary of 2018 to deliv­er nuclear fuel to sev­en of Ukraine’s fif­teen nuclear pow­er reac­tors between 2021–2025. So it’s pret­ty clear that West­ing­house has a strong inter­est in Ukraine’s nuclear mar­kets.

    There’s anoth­er rather inter­est­ing rev­e­la­tion in the arti­cle deal­ing with Arte­menko’s ‘Rus­sia ties’. And it poten­tial­ly explains why Arte­menko would have been some who would be tapped to act as an inter­me­di­ary between Ukraine and Rus­sia: Arte­menko had appar­ent­ly trav­eled to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate the release of UNA-UNSO leader Myko­la Karpyuk (Karpiuk). So Arte­menko had already been nego­ti­at­ing with Rus­sia to get the release of his fel­low far right fig­ure.

    First, recall Arte­menko’s his­to­ry of Karpyuk: in 2000–2001, the two shared a jail cell togeth­er when they were jailed over their “Ukraine with­out Kuch­ma” activ­i­ties. Dur­ing the Maid­an protests in 2013–2014, Karpyuk’s UNA-UNSO merged with Right Sec­tor, and both Karpyuk and Arte­menko became Right Sec­tor founders. In March of 2014, days before the ref­er­en­dum in Crimea, there was a meet­ing of Ukrain­ian far right groups where they hashed out a peace plan they were going to pro­pose to the Krem­lin. Karpyuk and anoth­er Right Sec­tor col­league were select­ed to trav­el to Rus­sia to deliv­er the pro­pos­al. They were arrest­ed at the Russ­ian bor­der and Karpyuk was sen­tenced to prison for his ear­li­er actions in Chech­nya.

    And now we’re learn­ing that Arte­menko appar­ent­ly secret­ly trav­eled to Rus­sia in order to nego­ti­ate the release of Karpyuk and he appar­ent­ly dis­cussed this ‘peace plan’ pro­pos­al dur­ing that trip. That’s his ‘Rus­sia tie’ that posi­tioned him to be a mid­dle­man with Rus­sia.:

    Kyiv Post

    Tymoshenko knew about ‘Ukraine peace plan’ in advance, exiled MP says

    By Josh Koven­sky.
    Pub­lished June 19. Updat­ed June 19 at 4:56 pm

    Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller is get­ting a crash course in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics as his inves­ti­ga­tion combs over Michael Cohen’s ties to Ukraine.

    But accord­ing to for­mer Rad­i­cal Par­ty mem­ber of par­lia­ment Andrii Arte­menko, who fin­ished tes­ti­fy­ing in the Mueller probe last week, Batkivschy­na Par­ty leader Yulia Tymoshenko knew in advance about a “peace plan” that Arte­menko deliv­ered to the White House in Jan­u­ary 2017.

    “(Tymoshenko) had been informed about my peace ini­tia­tive because I dis­cussed with her, my col­league, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pro­mot­ing the peace plan,” Arte­menko told the Kyiv Post in a tele­phone inter­view from the Unit­ed States. “This was a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions where we dis­cussed how we can work togeth­er against cor­rup­tion of (Pres­i­dent Petro) Poroshenko and pre­pare for the future.”

    Natasha Lyso­va, a Batkivschy­na spokes­woman, declined to direct­ly con­firm or deny Artemenko’s state­ment, instead stat­ing that “Tymoshenko has con­sis­tent­ly fought against cor­rup­tion. It’s one of her top pri­or­i­ties and demand of Ukrain­ian peo­ple.”

    “But Artemenko’s quote isn’t true and sounds like non­sense,” Lyso­va added.

    Arte­menko com­plet­ed tes­ti­mo­ny on June 11 before a fed­er­al grand jury in Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion. The activ­i­ties of Michael Cohen, an attor­ney for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, have caught the investigation’s atten­tion amid alle­ga­tions of influ­ence ped­dling and Russ­ian med­dling.

    “They were ask­ing about my back­ground, my vision of the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, and about the future of Ukraine,” Arte­menko said.

    He added that he was asked about “the meet­ing with (per­son­al lawyer of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump) Michael Cohen and (Trump busi­ness asso­ciate) Felix Sater in Jan­u­ary 2017.”

    Arte­menko was stripped of his posi­tion in par­lia­ment and his cit­i­zen­ship in May 2017, months after he pro­posed a so-called “peace plan” des­tined for the desk of then‑U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn. At the time of the plan’s release, Tymoshenko, now a fron­trun­ner in the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, was trav­el­ling to the U.S. for brief, ambush-style meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Trump.

    Under Artemenko’s plan, Ukraine would have “leased” Crimea to Rus­sia for 100 years in exchange for Russia’s with­draw­al from Don­bas and a change in gov­ern­ment in Kyiv.

    He added that he had giv­en over hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, emails, and text mes­sages to fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors.

    ...

    Russ­ian ties

    Arte­menko has been active in the Ukrain­ian busi­ness world since the late 1990s. In 1998, he head­ed Kyiv’s TsKA soc­cer club for one year, replaced the next year by mini­garch Vik­tor Topolov.

    In 2008, Topolov financed a $110 mil­lion ethanol project in Cherkasy Oblast that Cohen worked on.

    Arte­menko said that while he and Topolov were acquaint­ed, the link was a coin­ci­dence.

    “I have not seen or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with him for 16 years,” he said.

    From there, Arte­menko worked in the pri­vate sec­tor in the Unit­ed States, Cana­da, and Ukraine, get­ting involved in avi­a­tion as well as var­i­ous import-export projects.

    But over the years, Artemenko’s ties to the far right wing of Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics grew. He shared a jail cell with Myko­la Karpyuk, a Right Sec­tor activist who was impris­oned by Rus­sia in 2014 and sen­tenced to 20 years in prison, on bogus charges that were met with inter­na­tion­al con­dem­na­tion.

    Arte­menko, by 2014 a people’s deputy and a main financier of right-wing group Right Sec­tor, told the Kyiv Post that he began to trav­el to Rus­sia as an unof­fi­cial emis­sary to res­cue Karpyuk.

    Arte­menko said that he met with an unnamed Russ­ian Duma deputy as well as the Russ­ian human rights ombuds­man, Tatyana Moskalko­va.

    He added that in late 2016, he brought the infa­mous “peace plan” along with him on a trip to Rus­sia.

    “We dis­cussed how they could help to release our pris­on­ers, Myko­la and oth­ers, and I told them about the the­o­ret­ic pos­si­bil­i­ty of being part of this peace plan,” Arte­menko said.

    An attor­ney for Karpyuk, Ilya Novikov, told the Kyiv Post that he had nev­er met Arte­menko and was unaware of the for­mer MP mak­ing a trip to Rus­sia in con­nec­tion with the case.

    “Any chan­nels are worth try­ing,” Novikov said. “The sit­u­a­tion is so bad from the begin­ning, that noth­ing can make it worse.”

    Going nuclear

    Arte­menko claims that he made many of his con­tacts on Capi­tol Hill via a plan to use U.S. mon­ey to mod­ern­ize Ukraine’s nuclear infra­struc­ture, a project that Felix Sater worked on as well.

    Ukraine remains heav­i­ly reliant on Russ­ian nuclear fuel, in spite of efforts by U.S.-based West­ing­house Elec­tric to cut a deal with state-owned nuclear pow­er com­pa­ny Ener­goatom to replace the Kremlin’s share of the reac­tor sup­ply mar­ket.

    Arte­menko said that he had been asked about his ties with for­mer Con­gress­man Curt Wel­don as well as cur­rent Con­gress­man Dana Rohrabach­er.

    A draft of the project that Arte­menko sent to the Kyiv Post sug­gest­ed that bil­lions of dol­lars would be required to refur­bish and main­tain Ukraine’s nuclear elec­tric pow­er plants – a prof­itable propo­si­tion.

    Arte­menko added that he still had sky-high domes­tic polit­i­cal ambi­tions, at one point catch­ing him­self after say­ing that he want­ed to run for pres­i­dent in 2019.

    He added that he had appealed to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights to have his cit­i­zen­ship restored, hop­ing for a pos­i­tive rul­ing by the end of the year.

    “I’m prepar­ing for the 2019 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion,” he said, adding that he has a vision of Ukraine as an “inde­pen­dent, unblocked coun­try.”

    “We’re not going to be a mem­ber of the EU, NATO, or of a Russ­ian alliance,” he said. “We have to be an inde­pen­dent coun­try.”

    ———-

    Arte­menko com­plet­ed tes­ti­mo­ny on June 11 before a fed­er­al grand jury in Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 U.S. Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion. The activ­i­ties of Michael Cohen, an attor­ney for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, have caught the investigation’s atten­tion amid alle­ga­tions of influ­ence ped­dling and Russ­ian med­dling.”

    So Arte­menko spoke with the Mueller team a cou­ple weeks ago and now he’s talk­ing to the press and appar­ent­ly feel­ing chat­ty. This should be inter­est­ing.

    And one of his big claims is that Yulia Tymoshenko spoke with Arte­menko about this ‘peace plan’ and it was dur­ing con­ver­sa­tions where they dis­cussed ‘work­ing togeth­er against the cor­rup­tion of Petro Poroshenko’. And that alleged focus on Poroshenko’s cor­rup­tion is high­ly intrigu­ing giv­en that Tymoshenko is a nat­ur­al top ben­e­fi­cia­ry from any sort of Poroshenko cor­rup­tion scan­dal:

    ...
    But accord­ing to for­mer Rad­i­cal Par­ty mem­ber of par­lia­ment Andrii Arte­menko, who fin­ished tes­ti­fy­ing in the Mueller probe last week, Batkivschy­na Par­ty leader Yulia Tymoshenko knew in advance about a “peace plan” that Arte­menko deliv­ered to the White House in Jan­u­ary 2017.

    “(Tymoshenko) had been informed about my peace ini­tia­tive because I dis­cussed with her, my col­league, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pro­mot­ing the peace plan,” Arte­menko told the Kyiv Post in a tele­phone inter­view from the Unit­ed States. “This was a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions where we dis­cussed how we can work togeth­er against cor­rup­tion of (Pres­i­dent Petro) Poroshenko and pre­pare for the future.”
    ...

    And while Tymoshenko’s spokesper­son assert­ed that, “Artemenko’s quote isn’t true and sounds like non­sense,”, they also did­n’t direct­ly con­firm or deny his claims:

    ...
    Natasha Lyso­va, a Batkivschy­na spokes­woman, declined to direct­ly con­firm or deny Artemenko’s state­ment, instead stat­ing that “Tymoshenko has con­sis­tent­ly fought against cor­rup­tion. It’s one of her top pri­or­i­ties and demand of Ukrain­ian peo­ple.”

    “But Artemenko’s quote isn’t true and sounds like non­sense,” Lyso­va added.
    ...

    And as the arti­cle notes, Tymoshenko did indeed trav­el to the US for an ambush-style meet­ing with Trump dur­ing the time of the plan’s release. This was in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2017 when Tymoshenko trav­eled to the Nation­al Prayer Break­fast to meet with both Trump and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence. In oth­er words, Arte­menko’s claims about his dis­cus­sions with Tymoshenko are backed up by cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence:

    ...
    Arte­menko was stripped of his posi­tion in par­lia­ment and his cit­i­zen­ship in May 2017, months after he pro­posed a so-called “peace plan” des­tined for the desk of then‑U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn. At the time of the plan’s release, Tymoshenko, now a fron­trun­ner in the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, was trav­el­ling to the U.S. for brief, ambush-style meet­ings with Pres­i­dent Trump.
    ...

    As the arti­cle also reminds, the ‘peace plan’ Arte­menko alleged­ly dis­cussed with both Tymoshenko and the Krem­lin involved a change in gov­ern­ment in Kyiv. That was an impor­tant part of the ‘peace plan’, which would obvi­ous­ly be of immense ben­e­fit to Tymoshenko (assum­ing she did­n’t get caught up in the cor­rup­tion scan­dals):

    ...
    Under Artemenko’s plan, Ukraine would have “leased” Crimea to Rus­sia for 100 years in exchange for Russia’s with­draw­al from Don­bas and a change in gov­ern­ment in Kyiv.

    He added that he had giv­en over hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, emails, and text mes­sages to fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors.
    ...

    And then there’s Arte­menko’s claims about the plans to mod­ern­ize Ukraine’s nuclear infra­struc­ture that he worked on with Felix Sater and Robert Armao. Accord­ing to Arte­menko, it was through the dis­cus­sion of those nuclear plans that he made many of his con­tacts on Capi­tol Hill. So that sug­gests a num­ber of peo­ple in the US gov­ern­ment (or per­haps lob­by­ists) talked about this plan with Arte­menko at some point in 2016 or ear­li­er:

    ...
    Going nuclear

    Arte­menko claims that he made many of his con­tacts on Capi­tol Hill via a plan to use U.S. mon­ey to mod­ern­ize Ukraine’s nuclear infra­struc­ture, a project that Felix Sater worked on as well.

    Ukraine remains heav­i­ly reliant on Russ­ian nuclear fuel, in spite of efforts by U.S.-based West­ing­house Elec­tric to cut a deal with state-owned nuclear pow­er com­pa­ny Ener­goatom to replace the Kremlin’s share of the reac­tor sup­ply mar­ket.

    Arte­menko said that he had been asked about his ties with for­mer Con­gress­man Curt Wel­don as well as cur­rent Con­gress­man Dana Rohrabach­er.

    A draft of the project that Arte­menko sent to the Kyiv Post sug­gest­ed that bil­lions of dol­lars would be required to refur­bish and main­tain Ukraine’s nuclear elec­tric pow­er plants – a prof­itable propo­si­tion.
    ...

    “Ukraine remains heav­i­ly reliant on Russ­ian nuclear fuel, in spite of efforts by U.S.-based West­ing­house Elec­tric to cut a deal with state-owned nuclear pow­er com­pa­ny Ener­goatom to replace the Kremlin’s share of the reac­tor sup­ply mar­ket.”

    Don’t for­get, West­ing­house real­ly is expand­ing its pres­ence in Ukraine’s nuclear mar­kets right now, so the idea that peo­ple on Capi­tol Hill might be very inter­est­ed in exact­ly what Arte­menko and Sater were ped­dling is a very plau­si­ble idea.

    Then we get to Arte­menko’s dis­cus­sion of his ties with Rus­sia. First, note that Arte­menko claims that he and Vik­tor Topolov — the Ukrain­ian oli­garch who co-found­ed an ethanol plant with Vik­tor Oronov, the broth­er-in-law of Michael Cohen. Cohen did work this ethanol plant — had­n’t real­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed in 16 years. That seems like a rather sus­pi­cious claim. Keep in mind that there was a Buz­zFeed arti­cle that described Arte­men­tko and Topolov as “close asso­ciates”, so it would­n’t be sur­pris­ing if Arte­menko was under­play­ing his ties to Topolov. But at this point he’s claim­ing he bare­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Topolov for the last 16 years and it’s just a coin­ci­dence that the ‘peace plan’ involved Michael Cohen, the broth­er-in-law of Topolov’s busi­ness part­ner:

    ...
    Russ­ian ties

    Arte­menko has been active in the Ukrain­ian busi­ness world since the late 1990s. In 1998, he head­ed Kyiv’s TsKA soc­cer club for one year, replaced the next year by mini­garch Vik­tor Topolov.

    In 2008, Topolov financed a $110 mil­lion ethanol project in Cherkasy Oblast that Cohen worked on.

    Arte­menko said that while he and Topolov were acquaint­ed, the link was a coin­ci­dence.

    “I have not seen or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with him for 16 years,” he said.
    ...

    And now we get to Arte­menko’s ‘Rus­sia ties’. So what are the Rus­sia ties for a politi­cian like Arte­menko with a dis­tinct Ukrain­ian far right polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion and some­one who co-found­ed Right Sec­tor, one of the most viru­ent­ly anti-Rus­sia orga­ni­za­tions in Ukraine? Well, accord­ing to Arte­menko, those ties appear to large­ly cen­ter around Arte­menko trav­el­ing to Rus­sia to dis­cuss the release of his long-time far right asso­ciate Myko­la Karpyuk. Karpyuk was the mes­sen­ger to deliv­er a ‘peace plan’ on behalf of the Ukrain­ian far right days before the 2014 Crimean ref­er­en­dum . But he was arrest­ed at the Ukrain­ian-Russ­ian bor­der and jailed over past crimes in Chechy­na. Arte­menko, who was jail bud­dies with Kary­puk in 2000–2001, was appar­ent­ly the guy tapped by this far right fac­tion to trav­el to Rus­sia to nego­ti­ate Karpyuk’s release. And it was dur­ing one of these trips in late 2016 that he dis­cussed the Sater/Cohen/Artemenko ‘peace plan’ with an unnamed Russ­ian Duma deputy and a Russ­ian human rights ombuds­man, Tatyana Moskalko­va. That appears to be Arte­menko’s ‘Russ­ian ties’:

    ...
    From there, Arte­menko worked in the pri­vate sec­tor in the Unit­ed States, Cana­da, and Ukraine, get­ting involved in avi­a­tion as well as var­i­ous import-export projects.

    But over the years, Artemenko’s ties to the far right wing of Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics grew. He shared a jail cell with Myko­la Karpyuk, a Right Sec­tor activist who was impris­oned by Rus­sia in 2014 and sen­tenced to 20 years in prison, on bogus charges that were met with inter­na­tion­al con­dem­na­tion.

    Arte­menko, by 2014 a people’s deputy and a main financier of right-wing group Right Sec­tor, told the Kyiv Post that he began to trav­el to Rus­sia as an unof­fi­cial emis­sary to res­cue Karpyuk.

    Arte­menko said that he met with an unnamed Russ­ian Duma deputy as well as the Russ­ian human rights ombuds­man, Tatyana Moskalko­va.

    He added that in late 2016, he brought the infa­mous “peace plan” along with him on a trip to Rus­sia.

    “We dis­cussed how they could help to release our pris­on­ers, Myko­la and oth­ers, and I told them about the the­o­ret­ic pos­si­bil­i­ty of being part of this peace plan,” Arte­menko said.

    An attor­ney for Karpyuk, Ilya Novikov, told the Kyiv Post that he had nev­er met Arte­menko and was unaware of the for­mer MP mak­ing a trip to Rus­sia in con­nec­tion with the case.

    “Any chan­nels are worth try­ing,” Novikov said. “The sit­u­a­tion is so bad from the begin­ning, that noth­ing can make it worse.”
    ...

    “Arte­menko, by 2014 a people’s deputy and a main financier of right-wing group Right Sec­tor, told the Kyiv Post that he began to trav­el to Rus­sia as an unof­fi­cial emis­sary to res­cue Karpyuk.”

    Yep, Andrii Arte­menko is a key financier of Right Sec­tor who was cho­sen to be a nego­tia­tor with Rus­sia over the free­ing of Myko­la Karpyuk, the Ukrain­ian far right leader who also hap­pened to be Arte­menko’s for cell mate. That’s Arte­menko’s Rus­sia ties.

    Final­ly, note how Arte­menko is claim­ing to still have pres­i­den­tial ambi­tions. But note the kind of stance he’s tak­ing towards the EU, NATO, and Rus­sia: He’s not in favor of an alliance with any of them:

    ...
    Arte­menko added that he still had sky-high domes­tic polit­i­cal ambi­tions, at one point catch­ing him­self after say­ing that he want­ed to run for pres­i­dent in 2019.

    He added that he had appealed to the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights to have his cit­i­zen­ship restored, hop­ing for a pos­i­tive rul­ing by the end of the year.

    “I’m prepar­ing for the 2019 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion,” he said, adding that he has a vision of Ukraine as an “inde­pen­dent, unblocked coun­try.”

    “We’re not going to be a mem­ber of the EU, NATO, or of a Russ­ian alliance,” he said. “We have to be an inde­pen­dent coun­try.”

    “We’re not going to be a mem­ber of the EU, NATO, or of a Russ­ian alliance...We have to be an inde­pen­dent coun­try.”

    Yep, Arte­menko is artic­u­lat­ing exact­ly the kind of for­eign pol­i­cy stance that we should expect from a co-founder of Right Sec­tor. Neo-Nazis like Right Sec­tor hate the EU, hate the human rights it osten­si­bly stands for, and are far more like­ly to advo­cate for a ‘third posi­tion’ stance like Arte­menko. Which is exact­ly what the Nazi dias­po­ra did after WWII. Play both sides.

    And this points towards one of the most alarm­ing poten­tial dynam­ics that could emerge from the con­flict in Ukraine: The neo-Nazi third-posi­tion­ists who are open­ly hos­tile to NATO, the EU, and Russ­ian might end up sell­ing them­selves to the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty as a neu­tral com­pro­mise. A Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that does­n’t favor either side in the West vs Russ­ian con­flict because it’s a neo-Nazi gov­ern­ment that hates all sides but its own. They would pre­sum­ably have to empha­size the ‘neu­tral’ aspect of the gov­ern­ment and obscure the ‘uni­ver­sal hate/­self-love-only’ aspect to sell it.

    Does that seems like some­thing that could hap­pen in Ukraine? A kind of ‘Neu­tral Nazis for peace’ plane that por­trays the far right as a ‘com­pro­mise’? Giv­en the recent his­to­ry of Ukraine and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty it seems very pos­si­ble. And not nec­es­sar­i­ly just in Ukraine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 26, 2018, 9:14 pm
  20. Here’s a recent arti­cle about the push by West­ing­house into Ukraine’s nuclear ener­gy mar­kets that con­tains a pret­ty impor­tant fact in rela­tion to the scheme to upgrade Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er plants hatched by Andrii Arte­menko, Felix Sater, and Robert Armao. It turns out there are only two com­pa­nies on the plan­et that pro­duce nuclear fuel for the Water-Water Ener­getic Reac­tors, or VVER reac­tors, that Ukraine inher­it­ed from the Sovi­et era: Russia’s Rosatom and West­ing­house.

    So, unless the planned upgrades to Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er plants under the Artemenko/Sater/Armao plan involved the kind of upgrade that lit­er­al­ly changed the type of fuel Ukraine’s nuclear plants used, it seems like West­ing­house was an inevitable major ben­e­fi­cia­ry of that scheme.

    And as the arti­cle notes, Ukraine is West­ing­house­’s sec­ond largest cus­tomer in Europe and the com­pa­ny is aggres­sive­ly push­ing to gain a greater share of that Ukrain­ian mar­ket.

    As the arti­cle also notes, West­ing­house has been fac­ing bank­rupt­cy in recent years and that includes 2016. It was only in Jan­u­ary of 2018 that West­ing­house and its par­ent com­pa­ny Toshi­ba reached an agree­ment with West­ing­house­’s cred­i­tors to avoid bank­rupt­cy. So one of the default ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this scheme (assum­ing the scheme includ­ed the ongo­ing use of VVER reac­tors) had big finan­cial con­cerns when this scheme was being hatched. That seems worth keep­ing in mind in terms of ask­ing whether or not West­ing­house might have been will­ing to involve itself in the the actu­al plan­ning of this scheme.

    Sure, there’s been no evi­dence so far that West­ing­house was at all involved with the Sater/Artemenko/Armao scheme. But it is still rather sus­pi­cious that West­ing­house is one of only two enti­ties on the plan­et that can pro­vide the fuel for Ukraine’s reac­tors and is aggres­sive­ly push­ing to become Ukraine’s pri­ma­ry nuclear pow­er ser­vice provider:

    Kyiv Post

    West­ing­house seeks big­ger share of nuclear fuel sup­ply

    By Ilya Timtchenko.
    Pub­lished June 8. Updat­ed June 8 at 10:05 am

    The glob­al leader in nuclear fuel pro­duc­tion, U.S.-based West­ing­house Elec­tric, is so hun­gry for expand­ing its busi­ness in Ukraine that its pres­i­dent José Eme­te­rio Gutiér­rez vis­its the coun­try at least twice a year.

    “Ukraine is real­ly, real­ly a very crit­i­cal cus­tomer for us,” Gutiér­rez told the Kyiv Post at the Hilton Kyiv hotel dur­ing a recent two-day trip to Ukraine.

    This makes sense, since Ukraine’s state nuclear pow­er monop­oly Ener­goatom is the company’s sec­ond largest cus­tomer in Europe after France in Europe. And nuclear ener­gy is respon­si­ble for 60 per­cent of elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion in Ukraine.

    Alto­geth­er Ukraine has 15 nuclear pow­er reac­tors that have been inher­it­ed from the Sovi­et Union, all of which use the so-called Water-Water Ener­getic Reac­tors, or VVER reac­tors. And there are only two com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture VVER fuel — West­ing­house and Russia’s Rosatom.

    Back in 2016, Rosatom was sup­ply­ing nuclear fuel to almost all reac­tors leav­ing only two for West­ing­house. But now West­ing­house is pro­vid­ing fuel for two reac­tors in the South Ukraine com­plex and for four reac­tors in the Zapor­izhzhia com­plex, which is the largest nuclear facil­i­ty in Europe.

    Today West­ing­house has about 200 employ­ees in Ukraine. It also owns a 60 per­cent share of Westron, a nuclear man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­ny based in Kharkiv and Kyiv.

    But West­ing­house wants more.

    New con­tract, old com­peti­tor

    Back in Jan­u­ary, West­ing­house Elec­tric and Ener­goatom signed a new nuclear fuel con­tract exten­sion. In addi­tion to the six fuel units West­ing­house already sup­plies to, it will sup­ply to one more reac­tor dur­ing 2020–2025.

    Which still won’t sat­is­fy the company’s appetite for the Ukrain­ian mar­ket.

    With the new con­tract, West­ing­house will have a 46 per­cent share of Ukraine’s nuclear fuel mar­ket, mean­ing they will still be behind their only com­peti­tor, Rosatom. The Russ­ian com­pa­ny sells the nuclear fuel to Ukraine through its sub­sidiary Twell.

    Back in June 2017, Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said in Wash­ing­ton D.C. that he wants Ukraine to get most of its fuel from West­ing­house and to reduce the role of Rus­sia, a coun­try that has waged war against Ukraine tak­ing the lives of more than 10,000 peo­ple.

    But the real­i­ty turned out quite dif­fer­ent­ly for West­ing­house in Jan­u­ary, as the con­tract amend­ment only added one more nuclear fuel reac­tor.

    Was West­ing­house Elec­tric upset? Gutiér­rez wouldn’t give a straight answer.

    “We have been work­ing with this coun­try under dif­fer­ent admin­is­tra­tions,” he said. “Obvi­ous­ly the admin­is­tra­tion has always had influ­ence, espe­cial­ly in the ener­gy sec­tor in gen­er­al and nuclear sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar. With the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion we are work­ing well.”

    Asked if he thinks that Ener­goatom is giv­ing more pref­er­ence towards Russia’s Rosatom, Gutiér­rez only said that “the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion made state­ments sev­er­al times that they want diver­si­fi­ca­tion” and that West­ing­house wants a fair and trans­par­ent com­pe­ti­tion.

    And whether he believes Ukraine has fair com­pe­ti­tion in the nuclear ener­gy sec­tor, Gutiér­rez would also not say.

    His Swedish col­league Aziz Dag, West­ing­house vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing direc­tor of its North­ern Europe seg­ment, says that his com­pa­ny can deliv­er more to Ukraine.

    “I am not going to sit here and say that I am dis­sat­is­fied because I can­not be. I mean we are sup­ply­ing sev­en out of the (15) nuclear pow­er plants and for us it is a com­mer­cial com­pa­ny and it is a very good con­tract,” he said. “At the same time… we believe that we can sup­ply more and that we can bring more val­ue to Ukraine.”

    Pre­fer­ring to “set the pol­i­tics aside” as his boss, Dag did make a par­al­lel between Ukraine’s nuclear and nat­ur­al gas ener­gy sec­tors, hint­ing that Ukraine should drop Russ­ian nuclear fuel like it dropped Russ­ian gas.

    “Why is Ukraine so focused on not buy­ing any gas from Rus­sia? I’m just putting that on the table and that’s the stretch I will do on the com­ments on the polit­i­cal side,” he said.

    Dany­lo Lavren­ov, spokesper­son at Ener­goatom, told the Kyiv Post that it is dif­fi­cult to say who the main sup­pli­er will be — West­ing­house or Rosatom — but said Energoatom’s con­tin­ued rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia strength­ens com­pe­ti­tion on the mar­ket.

    “Our goal is not to com­plete­ly switch to an Amer­i­can sup­pli­er. Our goal is to deliv­er as effec­tive­ly as pos­si­ble good qual­i­ty fuel for the low­est price,” he said.

    He would not say if nuclear fuel com­ing from Rosatom is cheap­er than that from West­ing­house because of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty.

    “We pur­chased a lot of fuel from West­ing­house in 2017 and 2016 since we didn’t ful­ly under­stand the posi­tion of our fur­ther coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia,” Lavren­ov said.

    Can­cel­ing Rus­sia as a sup­pli­er wouldn’t make sense, Lavren­ov said, since it is a ques­tion of ener­gy secu­ri­ty: “If some­thing hap­pens to West­ing­house then it puts the whole ener­gy sys­tem in dan­ger.”

    For Ener­goatom hav­ing two sup­pli­ers means less chance for a monop­oly sup­pli­er to dic­tate the price and con­di­tions.

    But for West­ing­house, the mar­ket is not pol­i­tics-free or ful­ly com­pet­i­tive.

    “I would say, in a mar­ket that would be ful­ly lib­er­al­ized, with­out any polit­i­cal influ­ence we would have a big­ger share of the mar­ket than what we have today, based on our com­pet­i­tive­ness and excel­lent fuel per­for­mance,” Dag said.

    In such con­di­tions, Dag says that Westinghouse’s share should be at least 60–70 per­cent instead of 40 per­cent.

    Swedish plant

    The fuel that West­ing­house deliv­ers to Ukraine comes from its Swedish plant with some of the com­po­nents com­ing from the Unit­ed States’ Colum­bia, South Car­oli­na plant as well.

    The Swedish plant is one of the company’s largest ones out­side of the U.S. with about 1,000 peo­ple employed. It has one of the largest fuel fab­ri­ca­tion facil­i­ties in Europe as it deliv­ers to all over the con­ti­nent.

    Of the 447 reac­tors across the globe, about 60 per­cent use West­ing­house tech­nol­o­gy. West­ing­house is cur­rent­ly under the process of being sold by Japan­ese Toshi­ba to Cana­di­an Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment in a $4.6 bil­lion deal after the com­pa­ny went through two unsuc­cess­ful nuclear con­struc­tion projects in the U.S. and had to file for bank­rupt­cy.

    Gutiér­rez says that Ukraine shouldn’t be wor­ried about the trans­fer of own­er­ship.

    Secu­ri­ty and Rus­sia

    If Rus­sia were to com­plete­ly cut off its nuclear fuel sup­ply to Ukraine, West­ing­house assures it will come to res­cue.
    The con­tract between Ukraine and West­ing­house has a clause that says that West­ing­house is oblig­at­ed to cov­er all of the country’s 13 VVER-1000 fuel reac­tors hav­ing a 12-month lead time.

    But Dag says that West­ing­house could do it faster if it deliv­ered to more reac­tors.

    West­ing­house says it doesn’t know whether Ener­goatom buys extra fuel from Rus­sia for reserve, but if that were the case it would be “quite unfor­tu­nate” that the over­sup­ply is com­ing from Rosatom.

    Cor­rup­tion fac­tor

    But there is alleged­ly anoth­er prob­lem that caus­es unfair com­pe­ti­tion in the nuclear sec­tor — cor­rup­tion.

    Back in April 2017, ex-People’s Front par­ty law­mak­er Myko­la Mar­ty­nenko was arrest­ed and charged with orga­nized crime and embez­zling $17 mil­lion dur­ing ura­ni­um ore sales to the state-owned East­ern Ore Dress­ing Plant. He was sus­pect­ed of involve­ment in the ura­ni­um sup­ply scheme, which is still being inves­ti­gat­ed by the Nation­al Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine and Aus­tri­an author­i­ties.

    The Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da online news web­sites report­ed in 2015 that Austria’s Steuer­mann Investi­tions, which Ukrain­ian media report­ed to belong to Mar­ty­nenko, was sell­ing Kaza­kh ura­ni­um ore at a huge prof­it to the state-owned East­ern Ore Dress­ing Plant, which buys ura­ni­um for Ener­goatom. The NABU sus­pects that the state-owned plant was buy­ing the over­priced ura­ni­um and receiv­ing kick­backs.

    Mar­ty­nenko denied any wrong­do­ing, call­ing the case fab­ri­cat­ed and polit­i­cal.

    ...

    The ura­ni­um that Ener­goatom uses is all domes­tic includ­ing the ura­ni­um used for the nuclear fuel pro­vid­ed by West­ing­house.

    Now, West­ing­house is invest­ing in qual­i­fy­ing sub­sidiary of Ener­goatom called Atom­En­er­go­Mash to sup­ply West­ing­house with com­po­nents to be used in the nuclear fuel fab­ri­ca­tion in south Ukraine, accord­ing to Dag.

    West­ing­house would also like to boost up its coop­er­a­tion with Ener­goatom in pro­vid­ing engi­neer­ing ser­vices for improv­ing effi­cien­cy and out­put of reac­tors as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing com­po­nents in Ukraine.

    ———-

    “West­ing­house seeks big­ger share of nuclear fuel sup­ply” by Ilya Timtchenko; Kyiv Post; 06/08/2018

    “Alto­geth­er Ukraine has 15 nuclear pow­er reac­tors that have been inher­it­ed from the Sovi­et Union, all of which use the so-called Water-Water Ener­getic Reac­tors, or VVER reac­tors. And there are only two com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture VVER fuel — West­ing­house and Russia’s Rosatom.”

    Just two com­pa­nies make the VVER fuel for Ukraine’s 15 reac­tors: West­ing­house and Rus­si­a’s Rosatom. That’s it in the whole world.

    So Ukraine is a nat­ur­al mar­ket for West­ing­house but also a sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket. Ukraine is already the com­pa­ny’s sec­ond largest cus­tomer in Europe. And it’s a cus­tomer that has seen a sig­nif­i­cant growth in demand for West­ing­house­’s ser­vices over the last two years. In 2016, West­ing­house was pro­vid­ing fuel for just 2 of those 15 reac­tors. Now it’s 6 reac­tors and in Jan­u­ary West­ing­house got a con­tract to pro­vide the fuel for an addi­tion­al reac­tor:

    ...
    This makes sense, since Ukraine’s state nuclear pow­er monop­oly Ener­goatom is the company’s sec­ond largest cus­tomer in Europe after France in Europe. And nuclear ener­gy is respon­si­ble for 60 per­cent of elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion in Ukraine.

    ...

    Back in 2016, Rosatom was sup­ply­ing nuclear fuel to almost all reac­tors leav­ing only two for West­ing­house. But now West­ing­house is pro­vid­ing fuel for two reac­tors in the South Ukraine com­plex and for four reac­tors in the Zapor­izhzhia com­plex, which is the largest nuclear facil­i­ty in Europe.

    Today West­ing­house has about 200 employ­ees in Ukraine. It also owns a 60 per­cent share of Westron, a nuclear man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­ny based in Kharkiv and Kyiv.

    But West­ing­house wants more.

    New con­tract, old com­peti­tor

    Back in Jan­u­ary, West­ing­house Elec­tric and Ener­goatom signed a new nuclear fuel con­tract exten­sion. In addi­tion to the six fuel units West­ing­house already sup­plies to, it will sup­ply to one more reac­tor dur­ing 2020–2025.

    Which still won’t sat­is­fy the company’s appetite for the Ukrain­ian mar­ket.

    With the new con­tract, West­ing­house will have a 46 per­cent share of Ukraine’s nuclear fuel mar­ket, mean­ing they will still be behind their only com­peti­tor, Rosatom. The Russ­ian com­pa­ny sells the nuclear fuel to Ukraine through its sub­sidiary Twell.
    ...

    And note how the con­flict with Rus­sia has made the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of Ukraine’s nuclear fuel sup­plies a nation­al secu­ri­ty issue. With West­ing­house being the only pos­si­ble ben­e­fi­cia­ry, of course. When Petro Poroshenko trav­eled to DC to meet with Pres­i­dent Trump (which was arranged via a pay­ment to Michael Cohen) last year, he declared that he want­ed Ukraine to get most of its fuel from West­ing­house in order to reduce Ukraine’s depen­dence on Rus­sia. And it’s only going to take one more reac­tor (bring­ing it to 8 out of 15 reac­tors) for West­ing­house to get that major­i­ty provider sta­tus:

    ...
    Back in June 2017, Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko said in Wash­ing­ton D.C. that he wants Ukraine to get most of its fuel from West­ing­house and to reduce the role of Rus­sia, a coun­try that has waged war against Ukraine tak­ing the lives of more than 10,000 peo­ple.

    But the real­i­ty turned out quite dif­fer­ent­ly for West­ing­house in Jan­u­ary, as the con­tract amend­ment only added one more nuclear fuel reac­tor.

    Was West­ing­house Elec­tric upset? Gutiér­rez wouldn’t give a straight answer.

    “We have been work­ing with this coun­try under dif­fer­ent admin­is­tra­tions,” he said. “Obvi­ous­ly the admin­is­tra­tion has always had influ­ence, espe­cial­ly in the ener­gy sec­tor in gen­er­al and nuclear sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar. With the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion we are work­ing well.”
    ...

    And West­ing­house does­n’t hide the fact that they think Ukraine should drop Rosa­tam com­plete­ly and pub­licly assures Ukraine that it has the capac­i­ty to pro­vide all of the coun­try’s nuclear fuel needs:

    ...
    His Swedish col­league Aziz Dag, West­ing­house vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing direc­tor of its North­ern Europe seg­ment, says that his com­pa­ny can deliv­er more to Ukraine.

    “I am not going to sit here and say that I am dis­sat­is­fied because I can­not be. I mean we are sup­ply­ing sev­en out of the (15) nuclear pow­er plants and for us it is a com­mer­cial com­pa­ny and it is a very good con­tract,” he said. “At the same time… we believe that we can sup­ply more and that we can bring more val­ue to Ukraine.”

    Pre­fer­ring to “set the pol­i­tics aside” as his boss, Dag did make a par­al­lel between Ukraine’s nuclear and nat­ur­al gas ener­gy sec­tors, hint­ing that Ukraine should drop Russ­ian nuclear fuel like it dropped Russ­ian gas.

    “Why is Ukraine so focused on not buy­ing any gas from Rus­sia? I’m just putting that on the table and that’s the stretch I will do on the com­ments on the polit­i­cal side,” he said.

    ...

    But for West­ing­house, the mar­ket is not pol­i­tics-free or ful­ly com­pet­i­tive.

    “I would say, in a mar­ket that would be ful­ly lib­er­al­ized, with­out any polit­i­cal influ­ence we would have a big­ger share of the mar­ket than what we have today, based on our com­pet­i­tive­ness and excel­lent fuel per­for­mance,” Dag said.

    In such con­di­tions, Dag says that Westinghouse’s share should be at least 60–70 per­cent instead of 40 per­cent.
    ...

    Secu­ri­ty and Rus­sia

    If Rus­sia were to com­plete­ly cut off its nuclear fuel sup­ply to Ukraine, West­ing­house assures it will come to res­cue.
    The con­tract between Ukraine and West­ing­house has a clause that says that West­ing­house is oblig­at­ed to cov­er all of the country’s 13 VVER-1000 fuel reac­tors hav­ing a 12-month lead time.

    But Dag says that West­ing­house could do it faster if it deliv­ered to more reac­tors.

    West­ing­house says it doesn’t know whether Ener­goatom buys extra fuel from Rus­sia for reserve, but if that were the case it would be “quite unfor­tu­nate” that the over­sup­ply is com­ing from Rosatom.
    ...

    Ukraine, on the oth­er hand, appears to be hap­py with the cur­rent bal­ance between West­ing­house and Rosatom to ensure com­pet­i­tive prices:

    ...
    Dany­lo Lavren­ov, spokesper­son at Ener­goatom, told the Kyiv Post that it is dif­fi­cult to say who the main sup­pli­er will be — West­ing­house or Rosatom — but said Energoatom’s con­tin­ued rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia strength­ens com­pe­ti­tion on the mar­ket.

    “Our goal is not to com­plete­ly switch to an Amer­i­can sup­pli­er. Our goal is to deliv­er as effec­tive­ly as pos­si­ble good qual­i­ty fuel for the low­est price,” he said.

    He would not say if nuclear fuel com­ing from Rosatom is cheap­er than that from West­ing­house because of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty.

    “We pur­chased a lot of fuel from West­ing­house in 2017 and 2016 since we didn’t ful­ly under­stand the posi­tion of our fur­ther coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia,” Lavren­ov said.

    Can­cel­ing Rus­sia as a sup­pli­er wouldn’t make sense, Lavren­ov said, since it is a ques­tion of ener­gy secu­ri­ty: “If some­thing hap­pens to West­ing­house then it puts the whole ener­gy sys­tem in dan­ger.”

    For Ener­goatom hav­ing two sup­pli­ers means less chance for a monop­oly sup­pli­er to dic­tate the price and con­di­tions.
    ...

    So that’s going to be some­thing to watch: will West­ing­house con­vince Ukraine to drop Rosatom? If so, under what kind of cir­cum­stances?

    And this bat­tle over the Ukrain­ian mar­ket was all hap­pen­ing while West­ing­house was fac­ing bank­rupt­cy and is now in the process of get­ting sold by Toshi­ba to Cana­di­an Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment:

    ...
    Swedish plant

    The fuel that West­ing­house deliv­ers to Ukraine comes from its Swedish plant with some of the com­po­nents com­ing from the Unit­ed States’ Colum­bia, South Car­oli­na plant as well.

    The Swedish plant is one of the company’s largest ones out­side of the U.S. with about 1,000 peo­ple employed. It has one of the largest fuel fab­ri­ca­tion facil­i­ties in Europe as it deliv­ers to all over the con­ti­nent.

    Of the 447 reac­tors across the globe, about 60 per­cent use West­ing­house tech­nol­o­gy. West­ing­house is cur­rent­ly under the process of being sold by Japan­ese Toshi­ba to Cana­di­an Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment in a $4.6 bil­lion deal after the com­pa­ny went through two unsuc­cess­ful nuclear con­struc­tion projects in the U.S. and had to file for bank­rupt­cy.

    Gutiér­rez says that Ukraine shouldn’t be wor­ried about the trans­fer of own­er­ship.
    ...

    It’s worth not­ing that Cana­di­an Brook­field Asset Man­age­men­t’s pur­chase of West­ing­house is its first for­ay into the nuclear pow­er mar­kets. It’s pri­ma­ry busi­ness is man­ag­ing large build­ings.

    Final­ly, note how West­ing­house is also try­ing to pro­vide engi­neer­ing ser­vices for improv­ing the effi­cien­cy and out­put of reac­tors. On the one hand, this is unsur­pris­ing. But it’s also worth keep­ing in mind that the Sater/Artemenko/Armao scheme includ­ed upgrad­ing Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er plants and elec­tri­cal with the even­tu­al goal of mak­ing Ukraine an elec­tric­i­ty exporter to its East­ern Euro­pean neigh­bors. So it would be inter­est­ing to know how much these addi­tion­al engi­neer­ing ser­vices and effi­cien­cy upgrades West­ing­house is propos­ing over­laps with what Sater/Artemenko/Armao had in mind:

    ...
    The ura­ni­um that Ener­goatom uses is all domes­tic includ­ing the ura­ni­um used for the nuclear fuel pro­vid­ed by West­ing­house.

    Now, West­ing­house is invest­ing in qual­i­fy­ing sub­sidiary of Ener­goatom called Atom­En­er­go­Mash to sup­ply West­ing­house with com­po­nents to be used in the nuclear fuel fab­ri­ca­tion in south Ukraine, accord­ing to Dag.

    West­ing­house would also like to boost up its coop­er­a­tion with Ener­goatom in pro­vid­ing engi­neer­ing ser­vices for improv­ing effi­cien­cy and out­put of reac­tors as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing com­po­nents in Ukraine.

    It’s also impor­tant to recall the “Nuclear Mar­shall Plan” Michael Fly­nn was lob­by­ing for, where Sau­di Ara­bia would finance the build­ing of nuclear reac­tors across the Mid­dle East and offer Russ­ian com­pa­nies con­tracts in pro­vid­ing the fuel. The com­pa­nies Fly­nn was work­ing for at on that project was X‑Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge and ACU Strate­gic Part­ners. So we have two par­al­lel secret nuclear pow­er lob­by­ing ini­tia­tives being devel­oped by Trump team asso­ciates. One of those ini­tia­tives was being overt­ly financed by X‑Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge and ACU and the oth­er plan implic­it­ly ben­e­fit­ed West­ing­house.

    One of the big ques­tions all along has been whether or not these two par­al­lel nuclear schemes were inter­twined. And whether the same fig­ures where behind them. Might it have been a Sater/Artemenko/Armao/West­ing­house nuclear pow­er scheme in Ukraine and might that scheme have involved the Michael Flynn/ACU/Saudi scheme for the Mid­dle East? That remains unknown, but as the fol­low­ing arti­cle from Novem­ber 2017 makes clear, the Sau­di gov­ern­ment is still very inter­est­ed in build­ing nuclear reac­tors of its own West­ing­house is very inter­est­ed in get­ting that con­tract:

    Reuters

    Exclu­sive: West­ing­house dis­cussing group bid for Sau­di nuclear ten­der — sources

    Reem Shamsed­dine, Stephen Kalin, Geert De Cler­cq
    Novem­ber 21, 2017 / 6:25 AM / 7 months ago

    RIYADH/PARIS (Reuters) — Toshi­ba-owned West­ing­house (6502.T) is in talks with oth­er U.S‑based com­pa­nies to form a con­sor­tium to bid in a mul­ti-bil­lion-dol­lar ten­der for two nuclear pow­er reac­tors in Sau­di Ara­bia, three indus­try sources said.

    Sau­di Ara­bia, the world’s top oil pro­duc­er, sent a request for infor­ma­tion (RFI) to reac­tor builders world­wide last month in a first step towards open­ing a for­mal ten­der, Reuters has report­ed. A nuclear new­com­er, it wants to use atom­ic pow­er to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty at home so it can export more crude.

    Tak­ing part in the ten­der would be a major step for reac­tor builder West­ing­house after it went into chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy this year.

    U.S. util­i­ties also aban­doned two half-fin­ished West­ing­house AP1000 reac­tors at V.C. Sum­mer in the Unit­ed States. Toshi­ba, which is look­ing for a buy­er for West­ing­house, also dropped plans to build West­ing­house reac­tors in Britain and India.

    If oth­er com­pa­nies join U.S.-based West­ing­house in a con­sor­tium it would show that they still believe the AP1000 is a viable com­peti­tor to French, Russ­ian, South Kore­an and Chi­nese reac­tor mod­els.

    Russ­ian and South Kore­an com­pa­nies have already said they plan to bid in a deal seen as one of the most promis­ing prospects for the glob­al nuclear indus­try, which is strug­gling to find con­tracts fol­low­ing Japan’s Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter in 2011.

    A bid would also show that the Unit­ed States remains a play­er in the small club of nuclear reac­tor builders in an indus­try which has impor­tant geopo­lit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions.

    One indus­try source famil­iar with dis­cus­sions said West­ing­house and U.S. util­i­ty hold­ing com­pa­ny Exelon were dis­cussing form­ing a con­sor­tium that could also include oth­er U.S. com­pa­nies such as indus­tri­al con­trac­tor Bech­tel Corp.

    “They are cre­at­ing a team that could address all the require­ments,” the source said, refer­ring to tech­nol­o­gy, secu­ri­ty, con­struc­tion, fuel and repro­cess­ing.

    A sec­ond indus­try source said West­ing­house and Bech­tel were work­ing togeth­er.

    A third source with knowl­edge of the bid­ding process said West­ing­house is work­ing on a bid for the ten­der and def­i­nite­ly hopes to take part but declined to com­ment on the con­sor­tium mem­bers.

    Spokes­peo­ple for West­ing­house and Exelon did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment and declined to com­ment for Bech­tel.

    A fourth indus­try source in con­tact with both the Sau­di and U.S. sides said there would be a bid by mul­ti­ple U.S. com­pa­nies, with­out nam­ing them.

    The source said com­pa­nies have until late Decem­ber to respond to the RFI and that the U.S. group is explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Export-Import Bank financ­ing and bank financ­ing.

    ....

    The pro­gram would make Sau­di Ara­bia the sec­ond coun­try in the six-nation Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil to tap nuclear pow­er after its neigh­bor the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, which next year plans to start up the first of four South-Kore­an built reac­tors.

    Indus­try spe­cial­ists esti­mate the deal for Sau­di Arabia’s two reac­tors could be worth around $12 bil­lion, based on the $24 bil­lion total cost for the UAE project, although it could vary depend­ing on the ven­dor cho­sen.

    Apart from Rus­sia and South Korea, the pos­si­ble U.S. bid in Sau­di Ara­bia could also face com­pe­ti­tion from the Are­va nuclear busi­ness of France’s state-owned EDF (EDF.PA), which said last month it was in talks with Riyadh about sup­ply­ing reac­tors.

    Chi­na Gen­er­al Nuclear Pow­er Corp (CGN) is anoth­er poten­tial ven­dor.

    ...

    State-owned Russ­ian nuclear group Rosatom said on Nov 2 it had sent ini­tial pro­pos­als to Sau­di Ara­bia for nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion and would bid if a ten­der was announced. The com­pa­ny has become a dom­i­nant play­er in the glob­al nuclear indus­try fol­low­ing the finan­cial trou­bles of Are­va and West­ing­house.

    ———-

    “Exclu­sive: West­ing­house dis­cussing group bid for Sau­di nuclear ten­der — sources” by Reem Shamsed­dine, Stephen Kalin, Geert De Cler­cq Reuters; 11/21/2017

    “Sau­di Ara­bia, the world’s top oil pro­duc­er, sent a request for infor­ma­tion (RFI) to reac­tor builders world­wide last month in a first step towards open­ing a for­mal ten­der, Reuters has report­ed. A nuclear new­com­er, it wants to use atom­ic pow­er to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty at home so it can export more crude.”

    Sau­di Ara­bia is tak­ing bids from around the world for its first two nuclear pow­er plans, and West­ing­house is inter­est­ed:

    ...
    A bid would also show that the Unit­ed States remains a play­er in the small club of nuclear reac­tor builders in an indus­try which has impor­tant geopo­lit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions.

    One indus­try source famil­iar with dis­cus­sions said West­ing­house and U.S. util­i­ty hold­ing com­pa­ny Exelon were dis­cussing form­ing a con­sor­tium that could also include oth­er U.S. com­pa­nies such as indus­tri­al con­trac­tor Bech­tel Corp.

    “They are cre­at­ing a team that could address all the require­ments,” the source said, refer­ring to tech­nol­o­gy, secu­ri­ty, con­struc­tion, fuel and repro­cess­ing.

    A sec­ond indus­try source said West­ing­house and Bech­tel were work­ing togeth­er.

    A third source with knowl­edge of the bid­ding process said West­ing­house is work­ing on a bid for the ten­der and def­i­nite­ly hopes to take part but declined to com­ment on the con­sor­tium mem­bers.

    Spokes­peo­ple for West­ing­house and Exelon did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment and declined to com­ment for Bech­tel.

    A fourth indus­try source in con­tact with both the Sau­di and U.S. sides said there would be a bid by mul­ti­ple U.S. com­pa­nies, with­out nam­ing them.
    ...

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle from Feb­ru­ary 2018 makes clear, there’s a sig­nif­i­cant reg­u­la­to­ry hur­dle for West­ing­house get­ting that con­tract: the “123 agree­ment”. That’s a non-nuclear weapon pro­lif­er­a­tion agree­ment the US makes with coun­tries that it pro­vides nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to that pre­vents enrich­ment or repro­cess­ing (although a pas­sage says it could recon­sid­er if oth­ers in the region start doing so). 23 nations have already signed such an agree­ment, includ­ing the UAE which is build­ing its own plants. But the Saud­is have long argued that they have a sov­er­eign right to enrich nuclear fuel as long as they abide by inter­na­tion­al non-pro­lif­er­a­tion agree­ments and don’t divert that enriched fuel into a nuclear weapons pro­gram. Yes, this means the Saud­is are argu­ing they have a right to enrich but no plans for nukes, which seems rather laugh­able. But if the West­ing­house-led con­sor­tium is going to get that Sau­di con­tract, the US has to loosen the 123 agree­ment:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Why Trump might bend nuclear secu­ri­ty rules to help Sau­di Ara­bia build reac­tors in the desert

    by Steven Muf­son
    Feb­ru­ary 20, 2018

    Next month, Sau­di Ara­bia will announce the final­ists of a sweep­stakes. The prize? Multi­bil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts to build a pair of nuclear pow­er reac­tors in des­o­late stretch­es of desert along the Per­sian Gulf.

    For Sau­di Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the reac­tors are a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al pres­tige and pow­er, a step toward match­ing the nuclear pro­gram of Shia rival Iran while quench­ing some of the kingdom’s domes­tic thirst for ener­gy.

    For the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the con­test pos­es a thorny choice between pro­mot­ing U.S. com­pa­nies and fight­ing nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion. If the admin­is­tra­tion wants to boost the chances of a U.S. con­sor­tium led by West­ing­house, it might need to bend rules designed to lim­it nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion in an unsta­ble part of the world. That could height­en secu­ri­ty risks and encour­age oth­er Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries to fol­low suit.

    “If the Saud­is were to get an agree­ment with­out restric­tions, it would set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent in the region and [be] a sig­nif­i­cant break with Amer­i­can nuclear pol­i­cy for the last 50 years,” said Jon Wolf­sthal, a con­sul­tant on nuclear weapons who was a direc­tor for arms con­trol and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    The issue is a test of Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy and his self-pro­fessed bar­gain­ing prowess. Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kush­n­er, and Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry have made pil­grim­ages to Riyadh to cozy up to the young crown prince and win big con­tracts for U.S. firms. Yet lit­tle has come to fruition.

    Now, as Mohammed pre­pares to vis­it the Unit­ed States in March, the Sau­di dead­line looms for West­ing­house, which is wind­ing its way through bank­rupt­cy and is eager to find cus­tomers for its much-praised AP1000 design. With­out a diplo­mat­ic deal, West­ing­house and a South Kore­an group, which uses U.S. parts and tech­nol­o­gy and would be bound by the same rules, could be side­lined in favor of Russ­ian or Chi­nese state com­pa­nies.

    The key rules gov­ern­ing nuclear sales to Sau­di Ara­bia are spelled out in a doc­u­ment known as a 123 agree­ment, named after a sec­tion in the 1954 Atom­ic Ener­gy Act.

    The Unit­ed States has 123 agree­ments with 23 coun­tries, Tai­wan and Euratom, a group of 27 nations. The 123 agree­ment for Sau­di Ara­bia impos­es lim­its on ura­ni­um enrich­ment and the repro­cess­ing of spent fuel, both of which could be used to pro­duce mate­r­i­al for nuclear bombs.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has argued that it should be free to mine and enrich its own ura­ni­um deposits, as long as it abides by the inter­na­tion­al Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, which bars the diver­sion of mate­ri­als to a weapons pro­gram. The Chi­na Nation­al Nuclear Corp. has signed pre­lim­i­nary agree­ments with the Saud­is to explore nine poten­tial ura­ni­um min­ing areas. For­mer intel­li­gence chief Prince Tur­ki al-Faisal told Reuters in Decem­ber that Sau­di Ara­bia would “have the same right as the oth­er mem­bers of the NPT, includ­ing Iran.”

    Mohammed, who har­bors ambi­tions for an invig­o­rat­ed, more diverse Sau­di econ­o­my, invit­ed for­eign firms to sub­mit pro­pos­als last fall. In mid-Novem­ber, exec­u­tives from the world’s five lead­ing nuclear reac­tor design and con­struc­tion firms — includ­ing the Penn­syl­va­nia-based West­ing­house — made pre­sen­ta­tions to Sau­di offi­cials.

    Khalid Al-Fal­ih, Sau­di Arabia’s ener­gy and nat­ur­al resources min­is­ter, told Reuters on Dec. 20 that he aims to sign con­tracts by year’s end.

    ...

    Hen­ry Sokol­s­ki, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the non­prof­it Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Pol­i­cy Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter who served in Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush’s Pen­ta­gon, asked, “How do we feel about the sta­bil­i­ty of the king­dom? The reac­tors are bolt­ed to the ground for a min­i­mum of 40 years and a max­i­mum of 80 years. That’s enough for the whole world to change.”

    But oth­ers say that if the Unit­ed States doesn’t build the reac­tors, then Russia’s Rosatom or the Chi­na Nuclear Engi­neer­ing and Con­struc­tion Group will, pro­vid­ing few­er safe­guards against pro­lif­er­a­tion and erod­ing U.S. diplo­mat­ic strength in the region.

    “I would pre­fer to have America’s nuclear indus­try in Sau­di Ara­bia than to have Russ­ian or China’s, so I think it’s use­ful that we’re reen­gag­ing with the Saud­is. We should try to get the best restraints on enrich­ment and repro­cess­ing, includ­ing a ban for some sig­nif­i­cant length of time, say 20 or 25 years,” said Robert Ein­horn, a senior fel­low at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion and a for­mer State Depart­ment advis­er for non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and arms con­trol. “We should show some flex­i­bil­i­ty.”

    Why the Saud­is want more ener­gy

    The need to build nuclear reac­tors in Sau­di Ara­bia, which has the world’s largest petro­le­um reserves, isn’t obvi­ous. The king­dom says it wants to cur­tail the burn­ing of oil to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty at home. Doing so would free up more oil for exports, the kingdom’s main source of rev­enue.

    Sau­di elec­tric­i­ty con­sump­tion dou­bled between 2005 and 2015. Dur­ing the peak sum­mer months, when tem­per­a­tures soar past 120 degrees Fahren­heit, the king­dom burns about 700,000 bar­rels of oil a day for air con­di­tion­ing. Add indus­tri­al and trans­porta­tion use, and Sau­di Arabia’s domes­tic crude con­sump­tion has neared 3 mil­lion bar­rels a day, more than a quar­ter of its total out­put.

    Solar is anoth­er option. The Saud­is could also tap its plen­ti­ful sup­plies of nat­ur­al gas, much of which is flared and wast­ed.

    Pres­tige, par­i­ty and the gold stan­dard

    Pres­tige is anoth­er lure for Sau­di Ara­bia. Its small­er oil-rich neigh­bor, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates bought four South Kore­an-mod­el nuclear reac­tors now under con­struc­tion.

    “If ever there was a place that could take care of own ener­gy needs with­out nuclear, it’s the UAE,” said F. Gre­go­ry Gause, a pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al affairs at Texas A&M Uni­ver­si­ty. “I think it becomes a pres­tige thing, like inter­na­tion­al air­ports.”

    But the UAE also signed a 123 agree­ment in Jan­u­ary 2009 that is called the gold stan­dard. It agreed not to enrich or reprocess — although a pas­sage says it could recon­sid­er if oth­ers in the region start doing so. It plans to buy ura­ni­um from the Unit­ed States and ship spent fuel to Britain or France for repro­cess­ing.

    For Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE’s gold stan­dard set a high bar. “Dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, we were at an impasse,” said Gary Samore, a for­mer White House arms con­trol coor­di­na­tor now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment. “We want­ed them to make a com­mit­ment sim­i­lar to what Abu Dhabi did. We nev­er over­came that issue in our nego­ti­a­tions.”

    Now the Saud­is have a new rea­son to press for con­ces­sions: The nuclear deal Oba­ma and oth­er allies reached with Iran allows Tehran to con­tin­ue enrich­ment with­in strict lim­its for com­mer­cial use and with intru­sive inspec­tions. Trump has called it “the worst deal ever.” The Sau­di gov­ern­ment not­ed that some claus­es will expire after 15 years.

    Many experts on Sau­di Ara­bia say the king­dom wants its own pro­gram to deter or coun­ter­bal­ance Iran. “I think part of it is keep­ing up with the Ira­ni­ans and try­ing to build up a nuclear infra­struc­ture that could be turned into weapons capa­bil­i­ty,” Gause said.

    Christo­pher Ford, assis­tant sec­re­tary of state for inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty, said dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings that the Iran deal “has made it con­sid­er­ably more dif­fi­cult to ask [for] gold-stan­dard-type agree­ments.”

    Friends and foes

    The nuclear coop­er­a­tion agree­ment tests the Trump administration’s efforts to cement ties with the crown prince. In addi­tion to Trump’s May trade and diplo­mat­ic mis­sion, Kush­n­er vis­it­ed again the week before the crown prince’s crack­down on oppo­nents.

    A week after Per­ry was sworn in as ener­gy sec­re­tary, he got a vis­it from Sau­di ener­gy min­is­ter Al-Fal­ih, who gave him a life­size sil­ver fal­con with a gold­en beak. In Novem­ber, Per­ry paid Al-Fal­ih a return vis­it. Pho­tos showed Per­ry bare­foot on a sand dune and dressed in flow­ing tra­di­tion­al robes while grip­ping a sheathed sword.

    But Con­gress pos­es the real obsta­cle for Trump and the Saud­is. If the admin­is­tra­tion alters the 123 agree­ment, it must noti­fy Con­gress, which would have 60 days to block it.

    “We have a ten­den­cy to use nukes as a way of ingra­ti­at­ing our­selves with coun­tries around the world and then we get into a nego­ti­a­tion of whether there are safe­guards,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D‑Mass.). “I think ulti­mate­ly it’s going to come back to haunt us.”

    Revis­ing the agree­ment also could stir up com­plaints linked to the ter­ror­ist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

    And Friends of Israel might object to pro­vid­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to the Saud­is.

    “I think the Saud­is are smart enough to real­ize that it will run into major, major storms here in Con­gress” if it tries to alter the 123 agree­ment, said Jean-Fran­cois Seznec, a con­sul­tant on Mideast busi­ness and finance.
    The Mar­shall Plan mirage

    For a brief moment, it appeared that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion would sweep away road­blocks to Amer­i­can nuclear devel­op­ers.

    In 2015, retired Gen. Michael T. Fly­nn did work for ACU Strate­gic Part­ners to press for a “Mar­shall plan” for nuclear plants across the Mid­dle East. In mid-2016, Fly­nn switched to advis­ing IP3/Iron Bridge, which also sought a wave of Mideast nuclear con­struc­tion.

    When the new­ly elect­ed Trump named Fly­nn nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Fly­nn instruct­ed his staff to turn a memo writ­ten by IP3/IronBridge into a pol­i­cy memo — an unusu­al step. Soon, how­ev­er, Fly­nn was forced to resign and he is now coop­er­at­ing with spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Robert S. Mueller III on an inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    The Mar­shall Plan of nuclear pow­er, how­ev­er, was always a mirage.

    The col­lapse in crude prices in 2014, domes­tic food and oil sub­si­dies and the war in Yemen have weighed heav­i­ly on the Sau­di bud­get. The rebound in oil prices helps, but Sau­di finan­cial reserves have plunged from $755 bil­lion in 2013 to less than $500 bil­lion today, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund.

    West­ing­house

    At the core of any U.S. nuclear pro­pos­al lies the weak­ness of the U.S. com­mer­cial nuclear busi­ness.

    West­ing­house, a for­mer Toshi­ba sub­sidiary, went bank­rupt after los­ing bil­lions of dol­lars act­ing as con­trac­tor for four reac­tors in the Unit­ed States. Two reac­tors in South Car­oli­na have been aban­doned; two in Geor­gia remain under con­struc­tion at twice the orig­i­nal cost, but now man­aged by the South­ern Co.

    In Jan­u­ary, Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment — a Cana­di­an con­glom­er­ate involved in mon­ey man­age­ment, real estate, oil and gas pro­duc­tion, and more — bid $4.6 bil­lion to buy West­ing­house. The main attrac­tion is the refu­el­ing and main­te­nance ser­vices West­ing­house prof­itably pro­vides exist­ing reac­tors.

    The sale of new reac­tors would be a bonus, but Brook­field isn’t count­ing on it. One thing West­ing­house will not do under Brook­field is take on con­struc­tion risk again. So the U.S. group makes Flu­or the con­trac­tor; the util­i­ty Exelon would train oper­a­tors for the reac­tors, accord­ing to peo­ple who have met with West­ing­house.

    In the end, the fate of the U.S. pro­pos­al will cir­cle back to the polit­i­cal and diplo­mat­ic efforts to forge a 123 agree­ment.

    Sau­di Ara­bia “would like us to cave to some degree on some ele­ments of the 123 agree­ment,” said Rep. Brad Sher­man (D‑Calif.), a mem­ber of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee. But, he added, “the few­er Mideast nuclear weapons states, the bet­ter. And the few­er non­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic nuclear states, the bet­ter. And the few­er states where I can’t pre­dict 10 years down the road what their atti­tudes will be toward the Unit­ed States, the few­er of those coun­tries that have nuclear weapons the bet­ter.”

    ———-

    “Why Trump might bend nuclear secu­ri­ty rules to help Sau­di Ara­bia build reac­tors in the desert” by Steven Muf­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/20/2018

    “Next month, Sau­di Ara­bia will announce the final­ists of a sweep­stakes. The prize? Multi­bil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts to build a pair of nuclear pow­er reac­tors in des­o­late stretch­es of desert along the Per­sian Gulf.

    The bid­ding war has start­ed. And part of that bid­ding war involves a race to the bot­tom in terms of agree­ments on lim­it­ing the enrich­ment of nuclear fuel:

    ...
    For Sau­di Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the reac­tors are a mat­ter of inter­na­tion­al pres­tige and pow­er, a step toward match­ing the nuclear pro­gram of Shia rival Iran while quench­ing some of the kingdom’s domes­tic thirst for ener­gy.

    For the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the con­test pos­es a thorny choice between pro­mot­ing U.S. com­pa­nies and fight­ing nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion. If the admin­is­tra­tion wants to boost the chances of a U.S. con­sor­tium led by West­ing­house, it might need to bend rules designed to lim­it nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion in an unsta­ble part of the world. That could height­en secu­ri­ty risks and encour­age oth­er Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries to fol­low suit.

    “If the Saud­is were to get an agree­ment with­out restric­tions, it would set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent in the region and [be] a sig­nif­i­cant break with Amer­i­can nuclear pol­i­cy for the last 50 years,” said Jon Wolf­sthal, a con­sul­tant on nuclear weapons who was a direc­tor for arms con­trol and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma.

    The issue is a test of Pres­i­dent Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy and his self-pro­fessed bar­gain­ing prowess. Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kush­n­er, and Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry have made pil­grim­ages to Riyadh to cozy up to the young crown prince and win big con­tracts for U.S. firms. Yet lit­tle has come to fruition.

    Now, as Mohammed pre­pares to vis­it the Unit­ed States in March, the Sau­di dead­line looms for West­ing­house, which is wind­ing its way through bank­rupt­cy and is eager to find cus­tomers for its much-praised AP1000 design. With­out a diplo­mat­ic deal, West­ing­house and a South Kore­an group, which uses U.S. parts and tech­nol­o­gy and would be bound by the same rules, could be side­lined in favor of Russ­ian or Chi­nese state com­pa­nies.

    The key rules gov­ern­ing nuclear sales to Sau­di Ara­bia are spelled out in a doc­u­ment known as a 123 agree­ment, named after a sec­tion in the 1954 Atom­ic Ener­gy Act.

    The Unit­ed States has 123 agree­ments with 23 coun­tries, Tai­wan and Euratom, a group of 27 nations. The 123 agree­ment for Sau­di Ara­bia impos­es lim­its on ura­ni­um enrich­ment and the repro­cess­ing of spent fuel, both of which could be used to pro­duce mate­r­i­al for nuclear bombs.
    ...

    And the Saud­is argue that it real­ly should­n’t have to sign the 123 agree­ment and should be allowed to enrich its own ura­ni­um as long as it does­n’t divert that enriched ura­ni­um into a nuclear weapons pro­gram:

    ...
    Sau­di Ara­bia has argued that it should be free to mine and enrich its own ura­ni­um deposits, as long as it abides by the inter­na­tion­al Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, which bars the diver­sion of mate­ri­als to a weapons pro­gram. The Chi­na Nation­al Nuclear Corp. has signed pre­lim­i­nary agree­ments with the Saud­is to explore nine poten­tial ura­ni­um min­ing areas. For­mer intel­li­gence chief Prince Tur­ki al-Faisal told Reuters in Decem­ber that Sau­di Ara­bia would “have the same right as the oth­er mem­bers of the NPT, includ­ing Iran.”
    ...

    And note that West­ing­house is Penn­syl­va­nia-based and recall that one of the fig­ures recent­ly revealed to be involved with the Sater/Artemenko/Armao scheme in Ukraine was for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia GOP con­gress­man Curt Wel­don. So odds are Wel­don has a pret­ty good rela­tion­ship with West­ing­house which is worth keep­ing in mind:

    ...
    Mohammed, who har­bors ambi­tions for an invig­o­rat­ed, more diverse Sau­di econ­o­my, invit­ed for­eign firms to sub­mit pro­pos­als last fall. In mid-Novem­ber, exec­u­tives from the world’s five lead­ing nuclear reac­tor design and con­struc­tion firms — includ­ing the Penn­syl­va­nia-based West­ing­house — made pre­sen­ta­tions to Sau­di offi­cials.

    Khalid Al-Fal­ih, Sau­di Arabia’s ener­gy and nat­ur­al resources min­is­ter, told Reuters on Dec. 20 that he aims to sign con­tracts by year’s end.
    ...

    So why do the Saud­is want nuclear reac­tors so bad­ly? Well, part of that pre­sum­ably has to do with the immense amount of elec­tric­i­ty the coun­try con­sumes domes­ti­cal­ly, with elec­tric­i­ty usage dou­bling from 2005 to 2015 and is now con­sumes more than a quar­ter of the coun­try’s oil pro­duc­tion:

    ...
    Why the Saud­is want more ener­gy

    The need to build nuclear reac­tors in Sau­di Ara­bia, which has the world’s largest petro­le­um reserves, isn’t obvi­ous. The king­dom says it wants to cur­tail the burn­ing of oil to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty at home. Doing so would free up more oil for exports, the kingdom’s main source of rev­enue.

    Sau­di elec­tric­i­ty con­sump­tion dou­bled between 2005 and 2015. Dur­ing the peak sum­mer months, when tem­per­a­tures soar past 120 degrees Fahren­heit, the king­dom burns about 700,000 bar­rels of oil a day for air con­di­tion­ing. Add indus­tri­al and trans­porta­tion use, and Sau­di Arabia’s domes­tic crude con­sump­tion has neared 3 mil­lion bar­rels a day, more than a quar­ter of its total out­put.

    Solar is anoth­er option. The Saud­is could also tap its plen­ti­ful sup­plies of nat­ur­al gas, much of which is flared and wast­ed.
    ...

    But there’s also the ‘pres­tige’ fac­tor. Pres­tige that obvi­ous­ly even­tu­al­ly includes the pres­tige of pos­sess­ing nuclear weapons, even if that isn’t quite admit­ted. But as long as the UAE gets nuclear plants, the Saud­is are going to use that as an excuse to get them too. But the UAE signed a 123 agree­ment that the Saud­is don’t want to have to sign:

    ...
    Pres­tige, par­i­ty and the gold stan­dard

    Pres­tige is anoth­er lure for Sau­di Ara­bia. Its small­er oil-rich neigh­bor, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates bought four South Kore­an-mod­el nuclear reac­tors now under con­struc­tion.

    “If ever there was a place that could take care of own ener­gy needs with­out nuclear, it’s the UAE,” said F. Gre­go­ry Gause, a pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tion­al affairs at Texas A&M Uni­ver­si­ty. “I think it becomes a pres­tige thing, like inter­na­tion­al air­ports.”

    But the UAE also signed a 123 agree­ment in Jan­u­ary 2009 that is called the gold stan­dard. It agreed not to enrich or reprocess — although a pas­sage says it could recon­sid­er if oth­ers in the region start doing so. It plans to buy ura­ni­um from the Unit­ed States and ship spent fuel to Britain or France for repro­cess­ing.
    ...

    Back in Feb­ru­ary, before the Trump admin­is­tra­tion tore up the Iran nuclear deal, the Saud­is argued that the Iran deal made a 123 agree­ment unten­able, which of course implies a desire to obtain nuclear weapons under the pre­tense that the Iran nuclear deal was going to lead to Iran get­ting nuclear weapons:

    ...
    For Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE’s gold stan­dard set a high bar. “Dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, we were at an impasse,” said Gary Samore, a for­mer White House arms con­trol coor­di­na­tor now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment. “We want­ed them to make a com­mit­ment sim­i­lar to what Abu Dhabi did. We nev­er over­came that issue in our nego­ti­a­tions.”

    Now the Saud­is have a new rea­son to press for con­ces­sions: The nuclear deal Oba­ma and oth­er allies reached with Iran allows Tehran to con­tin­ue enrich­ment with­in strict lim­its for com­mer­cial use and with intru­sive inspec­tions. Trump has called it “the worst deal ever.” The Sau­di gov­ern­ment not­ed that some claus­es will expire after 15 years.

    Many experts on Sau­di Ara­bia say the king­dom wants its own pro­gram to deter or coun­ter­bal­ance Iran. “I think part of it is keep­ing up with the Ira­ni­ans and try­ing to build up a nuclear infra­struc­ture that could be turned into weapons capa­bil­i­ty,” Gause said.

    Christo­pher Ford, assis­tant sec­re­tary of state for inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty, said dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings that the Iran deal “has made it con­sid­er­ably more dif­fi­cult to ask [for] gold-stan­dard-type agree­ments.”
    ...

    “Many experts on Sau­di Ara­bia say the king­dom wants its own pro­gram to deter or coun­ter­bal­ance Iran. “I think part of it is keep­ing up with the Ira­ni­ans and try­ing to build up a nuclear infra­struc­ture that could be turned into weapons capa­bil­i­ty,” Gause said.”

    So it will be inter­est­ing to see if the tear­ing up of the Iran nuclear deal is now used as an excuse for the Saud­is get­ting nuclear weapons.

    And it’s not hard to imag­ine the Trump admin­is­tra­tion lean­ing towards loos­en­ing the 123 agree­ment for the Saud­is giv­en the remark­ably chum­my rela­tion­ship the Saud­is have had with Trump. But if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion does decide to do that, it still could be blocked by Con­gress:

    ...
    Friends and foes

    The nuclear coop­er­a­tion agree­ment tests the Trump administration’s efforts to cement ties with the crown prince. In addi­tion to Trump’s May trade and diplo­mat­ic mis­sion, Kush­n­er vis­it­ed again the week before the crown prince’s crack­down on oppo­nents.

    A week after Per­ry was sworn in as ener­gy sec­re­tary, he got a vis­it from Sau­di ener­gy min­is­ter Al-Fal­ih, who gave him a life­size sil­ver fal­con with a gold­en beak. In Novem­ber, Per­ry paid Al-Fal­ih a return vis­it. Pho­tos showed Per­ry bare­foot on a sand dune and dressed in flow­ing tra­di­tion­al robes while grip­ping a sheathed sword.

    But Con­gress pos­es the real obsta­cle for Trump and the Saud­is. If the admin­is­tra­tion alters the 123 agree­ment, it must noti­fy Con­gress, which would have 60 days to block it.

    “We have a ten­den­cy to use nukes as a way of ingra­ti­at­ing our­selves with coun­tries around the world and then we get into a nego­ti­a­tion of whether there are safe­guards,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D‑Mass.). “I think ulti­mate­ly it’s going to come back to haunt us.”

    Revis­ing the agree­ment also could stir up com­plaints linked to the ter­ror­ist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

    And Friends of Israel might object to pro­vid­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to the Saud­is.

    “I think the Saud­is are smart enough to real­ize that it will run into major, major storms here in Con­gress” if it tries to alter the 123 agree­ment, said Jean-Fran­cois Seznec, a con­sul­tant on Mideast busi­ness and finance.
    ...

    But we can’t for­get about the Michael Fly­nn scheme with ACU and X‑co Dynamics/Iron Bridge (which also even­tu­al­ly includ­ed the IP3 com­pa­ny). It was a scheme hatched by the com­pa­nies that would win out with this deal and would have been financed by the Saud­is. So it’s a sure bet that the deal would have involved loos­en­ing the 123 agree­ment:

    ...
    The Mar­shall Plan mirage

    For a brief moment, it appeared that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion would sweep away road­blocks to Amer­i­can nuclear devel­op­ers.

    In 2015, retired Gen. Michael T. Fly­nn did work for ACU Strate­gic Part­ners to press for a “Mar­shall plan” for nuclear plants across the Mid­dle East. In mid-2016, Fly­nn switched to advis­ing IP3/Iron Bridge, which also sought a wave of Mideast nuclear con­struc­tion.

    When the new­ly elect­ed Trump named Fly­nn nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Fly­nn instruct­ed his staff to turn a memo writ­ten by IP3/IronBridge into a pol­i­cy memo — an unusu­al step. Soon, how­ev­er, Fly­nn was forced to resign and he is now coop­er­at­ing with spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Robert S. Mueller III on an inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    The Mar­shall Plan of nuclear pow­er, how­ev­er, was always a mirage.

    The col­lapse in crude prices in 2014, domes­tic food and oil sub­si­dies and the war in Yemen have weighed heav­i­ly on the Sau­di bud­get. The rebound in oil prices helps, but Sau­di finan­cial reserves have plunged from $755 bil­lion in 2013 to less than $500 bil­lion today, accord­ing to the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund.
    ...

    But if the US does decide to loosen the 123 agree­ment, West­ing­house is going to be one of the big ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Although not the only one. Flour would get the con­struc­tion con­tract and Exelon would train the oper­a­tors. It’s a reminder that quite a few very pow­er­ful US inter­ests are going to be inter­est­ed in doing what­ev­er it takes to get this deal. Includ­ing weak­en­ing nuclear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion rules:

    ...
    West­ing­house

    At the core of any U.S. nuclear pro­pos­al lies the weak­ness of the U.S. com­mer­cial nuclear busi­ness.

    West­ing­house, a for­mer Toshi­ba sub­sidiary, went bank­rupt after los­ing bil­lions of dol­lars act­ing as con­trac­tor for four reac­tors in the Unit­ed States. Two reac­tors in South Car­oli­na have been aban­doned; two in Geor­gia remain under con­struc­tion at twice the orig­i­nal cost, but now man­aged by the South­ern Co.

    In Jan­u­ary, Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment — a Cana­di­an con­glom­er­ate involved in mon­ey man­age­ment, real estate, oil and gas pro­duc­tion, and more — bid $4.6 bil­lion to buy West­ing­house. The main attrac­tion is the refu­el­ing and main­te­nance ser­vices West­ing­house prof­itably pro­vides exist­ing reac­tors.

    The sale of new reac­tors would be a bonus, but Brook­field isn’t count­ing on it. One thing West­ing­house will not do under Brook­field is take on con­struc­tion risk again. So the U.S. group makes Flu­or the con­trac­tor; the util­i­ty Exelon would train oper­a­tors for the reac­tors, accord­ing to peo­ple who have met with West­ing­house.

    In the end, the fate of the U.S. pro­pos­al will cir­cle back to the polit­i­cal and diplo­mat­ic efforts to forge a 123 agree­ment.

    Sau­di Ara­bia “would like us to cave to some degree on some ele­ments of the 123 agree­ment,” said Rep. Brad Sher­man (D‑Calif.), a mem­ber of the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee. But, he added, “the few­er Mideast nuclear weapons states, the bet­ter. And the few­er non­de­mo­c­ra­t­ic nuclear states, the bet­ter. And the few­er states where I can’t pre­dict 10 years down the road what their atti­tudes will be toward the Unit­ed States, the few­er of those coun­tries that have nuclear weapons the bet­ter.”

    So Sau­di Ara­bia is basi­cal­ly try­ing to argue that if it does­n’t get an excep­tion on the 123 agree­ment from the US it’s going to seek out alter­na­tive nuclear tech­nol­o­gy providers like Rus­sia or Chi­na. Might this bar­gain­ing tac­tic work? Well, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle points out, if it does work and the Saud­is get the right to enrich ura­ni­um, that could end up inval­i­dat­ing the 123 agree­ment with the UAE thanks to the clause in the agree­ment that says nuclear enrich­ment is allow­able if oth­er coun­tries in the regions start doing it. And as the arti­cle also notes, Prince Salman made it clear in a mid-March inter­view that the Saud­is will indeed devel­op nuclear weapons if they think Iran is doing it too. Even so, US Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, has report­ed­ly been qui­et­ly work­ing with the Saud­is to work out a deal that will allow for enrich­ment. So it sounds like the Trump team is on board with a weak­ened 123 agree­ment for the Saud­is which more or less guar­an­tees that the Saud­is are going to devel­op nuclear weapons and a nuclear arms race in the Mid­dle East

    Reuters

    Sau­di Ara­bia has options if U.S. walks from nuclear pow­er deal: min­is­ter

    Tim­o­thy Gard­ner
    March 22, 2018 / 6:42 PM

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Sau­di Ara­bia has inter­na­tion­al part­ners it can work with if the Unit­ed States walks away from a poten­tial deal on nuclear pow­er tech­nol­o­gy over con­cerns about nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, Khalid al-Fal­ih, the kingdom’s ener­gy min­is­ter, said in an inter­view on Thurs­day.

    “If the U.S. is not with us, they will lose the oppor­tu­ni­ty to influ­ence the pro­gram in a pos­i­tive way,” Fal­ih said after he and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met this week with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry and oth­er offi­cials on a range of issues.

    Per­ry has been qui­et­ly work­ing with Sau­di Ara­bia on a civil­ian nuclear agree­ment that could allow the king­dom to enrich ura­ni­um and reprocess plu­to­ni­um, tech­nolo­gies that non­pro­lif­er­a­tion advo­cates wor­ry could one day be covert­ly altered to pro­duce fis­sile mate­r­i­al for nuclear weapons.

    The king­dom is also in talks with com­pa­nies from Rus­sia, Chi­na, South Korea and oth­er coun­tries as the race to build two reac­tors in Sau­di Ara­bia heats up.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has said it needs nuclear pow­er to move away from burn­ing crude oil to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty and to diver­si­fy its econ­o­my. Ear­li­er this month, its cab­i­net approved a nation­al pol­i­cy pro­gram that lim­its nuclear activ­i­ties to peace­ful pur­pos­es.

    Per­ry hopes Sau­di Ara­bia will buy nuclear pow­er tech­nol­o­gy from U.S. com­pa­nies, includ­ing West­ing­house, which went into Chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy this year and aban­doned plans to build two advanced AP1000 reac­tors in the Unit­ed States.

    But Salman raised con­cerns when he told CBS in an inter­view on Sun­day that the king­dom will devel­op nuclear weapons if its archri­val Iran does so.

    Some mem­bers of the U.S. Con­gress wor­ry the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is mov­ing too quick­ly on a deal that could relax non­pro­lif­er­a­tion stan­dards and one day help lead to a nuclear arms race across the Mid­dle East.

    If Sau­di Ara­bia signs a deal that relax­es the safe­guards, the UAE could be free to break its own deal it signed with Wash­ing­ton years ago and enrich ura­ni­um. The UAE deal con­tained the “gold stan­dard” in such 123 nuclear agree­ments, because it con­tains the safe­guards.

    On Wednes­day, law­mak­ers from both par­ties in the U.S. House intro­duced a bill that would reform U.S. law to ensure that part­ners on nuclear ener­gy aban­don the pur­suit of enrich­ing ura­ni­um and repro­cess­ing plu­to­ni­um. The bill would also hard­en con­gres­sion­al approval of civil­ian nuclear deals.

    Fal­ih said he was hope­ful for a deal with Wash­ing­ton. “It will be nat­ur­al for the Unit­ed States to be with us and to pro­vide us not only with tech­nol­o­gy, but to help us with the fuel cycle and the mon­i­tor­ing, and make sure we do it to the high­est stan­dard.”

    But the king­dom has gen­er­ous ura­ni­um resources it wants to devel­op. “It’s not nat­ur­al for us to bring enriched ura­ni­um from a for­eign coun­try to fuel our reac­tors,” Fal­ih said.

    “The irony is that if the U.S. choos­es not to (seal a deal) then some­body else will and we are for­tu­nate to have many oth­er alter­na­tive sources that have agreed to work with us and they will be com­pet­ing for our pro­gram,” Fal­ih said. In that case, “the U.S. will not have a seat at the table,” he said.

    Per­ry stuck a sim­i­lar chord in com­ments dur­ing a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing on nuclear deals this week. “It appears to me, either Rus­sia or Chi­na is going to be a part­ner in build­ing civ­il nuclear capa­bil­i­ty in the king­dom of Sau­di Ara­bia,” if the Unit­ed States does not.

    ...

    ———-

    “Sau­di Ara­bia has options if U.S. walks from nuclear pow­er deal: min­is­ter” by Tim­o­thy Gard­ner; Reuters; 03/22/2018

    “Sau­di Ara­bia has inter­na­tion­al part­ners it can work with if the Unit­ed States walks away from a poten­tial deal on nuclear pow­er tech­nol­o­gy over con­cerns about nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, Khalid al-Fal­ih, the kingdom’s ener­gy min­is­ter, said in an inter­view on Thurs­day.”

    As we can see, the Saud­is are try­ing to dri­ve a hard bar­gain for the spe­cif­ic pur­pose of get­ting an agree­ment with the US that does allow for enrich­ment. And Rick Per­ry is appar­ent­ly work­ing with them on such an agree­ment:

    ...
    Per­ry has been qui­et­ly work­ing with Sau­di Ara­bia on a civil­ian nuclear agree­ment that could allow the king­dom to enrich ura­ni­um and reprocess plu­to­ni­um, tech­nolo­gies that non­pro­lif­er­a­tion advo­cates wor­ry could one day be covert­ly altered to pro­duce fis­sile mate­r­i­al for nuclear weapons.

    ...

    Per­ry hopes Sau­di Ara­bia will buy nuclear pow­er tech­nol­o­gy from U.S. com­pa­nies, includ­ing West­ing­house, which went into Chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy this year and aban­doned plans to build two advanced AP1000 reac­tors in the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    At the same time, Prince Salman has made it clear that the Saud­is will devel­op nuclear weapons if they think Iran is doing so too:

    ...
    Sau­di Ara­bia has said it needs nuclear pow­er to move away from burn­ing crude oil to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty and to diver­si­fy its econ­o­my. Ear­li­er this month, its cab­i­net approved a nation­al pol­i­cy pro­gram that lim­its nuclear activ­i­ties to peace­ful pur­pos­es.

    ...

    But Salman raised con­cerns when he told CBS in an inter­view on Sun­day that the king­dom will devel­op nuclear weapons if its archri­val Iran does so.
    ...

    So with the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal it seems high­ly like­ly that it will just be assumed Iran is pur­su­ing nuclear weapons, which means we should prob­a­bly assume the Saud­is are going to be pur­su­ing nukes too. And if that hap­pens, the UAE also gets the right to enrich its own fuel thanks to a clause in the 123 agree­ment:

    ...
    Some mem­bers of the U.S. Con­gress wor­ry the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is mov­ing too quick­ly on a deal that could relax non­pro­lif­er­a­tion stan­dards and one day help lead to a nuclear arms race across the Mid­dle East.

    If Sau­di Ara­bia signs a deal that relax­es the safe­guards, the UAE could be free to break its own deal it signed with Wash­ing­ton years ago and enrich ura­ni­um. The UAE deal con­tained the “gold stan­dard” in such 123 nuclear agree­ments, because it con­tains the safe­guards.

    On Wednes­day, law­mak­ers from both par­ties in the U.S. House intro­duced a bill that would reform U.S. law to ensure that part­ners on nuclear ener­gy aban­don the pur­suit of enrich­ing ura­ni­um and repro­cess­ing plu­to­ni­um. The bill would also hard­en con­gres­sion­al approval of civil­ian nuclear deals.
    ...

    So did West­hing­house make it to the Sau­di short­list of final­ists in this bid­ding war? Well, that short­list has­n’t been declared yet. But just a few days ago West­ing­house announced that it is con­fi­dent it is going to be on that short­list now that it’s emerg­ing from bank­rupt­cy.

    All in all, it’s pret­ty clear that West­ing­house would not only have the default ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the Sater/Artemenko/Armao Ukrain­ian nuclear scheme but also the Flynn/Saudi “Nuclear Mar­shall Plan” scheme. Again, while we don’t have any evi­dence West­ing­house was involved in either of these schemes, they sure are in a cir­cum­stan­tial­ly sus­pi­cious posi­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 30, 2018, 4:07 pm
  21. Here’s an omi­nous update on that omi­nous push by Erik Prince last year to con­vince Pres­i­dent Trump to pri­va­tize the war in Afghanistan, hire Erik Prince and oth­er mer­ce­nar­ies to cre­ate the pri­vate army, and par­tial­ly pay for it all by let­ting the pri­vate con­trac­tors mine Afghanistan’s min­er­als for-prof­it: Trump obvi­ous­ly did­n’t go ahead with Prince’s pro­pos­al, but Prince appears to be con­vinced that Trump will be more amenable to his pro­pos­al a year lat­er now that it’s becom­ing appar­ent that the Tal­iban is mak­ing a come­back. And he’s now cur­rent­ly wag­ing a media cam­paign in order to sell Trump on the idea.

    Now, keep in mind that Prince prob­a­bly does­n’t need a media cam­paign to per­suade the pres­i­dent. Don’t for­get that in addi­tion to being the broth­er Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, Prince was also a major con­trib­u­tor to Trump’s cam­paign and the appar­ent mid­dle-man in the ‘back chan­nel’ nego­ti­a­tions that took place in the Sey­chelles. Recall how Prince (rep­re­sent­ing the Trump team) and George Nad­er (pre­sent­ing the UAE and Saud­is and who knows who else), met with Kir­ill Dmitriev at a bar in the Sey­chelles to con­duct a pri­vate dis­cus­sion that sure looks like a sales pitch to get Rus­sia to agree to pull its sup­port for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and Iran.

    So Prince is clear­ly quite close to the the White House already, mean­ing he does­n’t actu­al­ly need a media blitz to con­vey a mes­sage to Trump. He can just pick up the phone. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, it sounds like Trump is already show­ing renewed inter­est in the idea at the same time he’s grow­ing increas­ing­ly frus­trat­ed with the lack of progress under the cur­rent plan. But in order for Trump to say ‘yes’ to Prince’s idea, Prince will need to ensure there’s ade­quate pub­lic sup­port for the idea. And that’s like­ly what we’re about to see: a pub­lic media blitz to con­vince the Amer­i­can pub­lic that pri­va­tiz­ing the war in Afghanistan is a good idea:

    NBC News

    Offi­cials wor­ry Trump may back Erik Prince plan to pri­va­tize war in Afghanistan
    “I know he’s frus­trat­ed,” Black­wa­ter founder Prince said of the pres­i­dent. “He gave the Pen­ta­gon what they want­ed. And they haven’t deliv­ered.”

    by Car­ol E. Lee, Court­ney Kube and Josh Led­er­man / Aug.17.2018 / 10:59 AM ET / Updat­ed 12:12 PM ET

    WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is increas­ing­ly vent­ing frus­tra­tion to his nation­al secu­ri­ty team about the U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan and show­ing renewed inter­est in a pro­pos­al by Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince to pri­va­tize the war, cur­rent and for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said.

    Prince’s idea, which first sur­faced last year dur­ing the pres­i­den­t’s Afghanistan strat­e­gy review, envi­sions replac­ing troops with pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tors who would work for a spe­cial U.S. envoy for the war who would report direct­ly to the pres­i­dent.

    It has raised eth­i­cal and secu­ri­ty con­cerns among senior mil­i­tary offi­cials, key law­mak­ers and mem­bers of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team. A year after Trump’s strat­e­gy announce­ment, his advis­ers are wor­ried his impa­tience with the Afghanistan con­flict will cause him to seri­ous­ly con­sid­er pro­pos­als like Prince’s or abrupt­ly order a com­plete U.S. with­draw­al, offi­cials said.

    In an inter­view with NBC News, Prince said he believes Trump advis­ers who oppose his plan are paint­ing “as rosy a pic­ture as they can” of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground, includ­ing that “peace is around the cor­ner” with recent U.S. efforts for peace talks with the Tal­iban. He said he believes Trump’s advis­ers “over-empha­size the fluff and flare of these so-called peace talks.”

    Prince, a staunch Trump sup­port­er whose sis­ter is Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, argues that after 17 years of war in Afghanistan, it’s time for the U.S. to try some­thing new.

    “I know he’s frus­trat­ed,” Prince said of the pres­i­dent. “He gave the Pen­ta­gon what they want­ed. ...And they haven’t deliv­ered.”

    Prince said he has­n’t spo­ken direct­ly to Trump about the plan, but told NBC News he plans to launch an aggres­sive media “air cam­paign” in com­ing days to try to get the pres­i­dent to embrace it.

    His effort coin­cides with Tues­day’s one-year anniver­sary of Trump announc­ing a strat­e­gy that increased the U.S. troop pres­ence in Afghanistan. Trump approved the Pen­ta­gon rec­om­men­da­tions reluc­tant­ly.

    “The strat­e­gy as announced a year ago was essen­tial­ly just a dressed-up ver­sion of the sta­tus quo,” said Jar­rett Blanc, a senior fel­low at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace who served as a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Afghanistan and Pak­istan at the State Depart­ment dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    A spokesper­son for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil said Trump is com­mit­ted to the cur­rent strat­e­gy he signed off on after months of delib­er­a­tions.

    “No such pro­pos­al from Erik Prince is under con­sid­er­a­tion,” the spokesper­son said. “The pres­i­dent, like most Amer­i­cans, would like to see more progress in Afghanistan. How­ev­er, he also rec­og­nizes that with­draw­ing pre­cip­i­tous­ly from Afghanistan would lead to the re-emer­gence of ter­ror­ist safe havens, putting Amer­i­can nation­al secu­ri­ty and lives in dan­ger.”

    In recent brief­in­gs with Trump, the pres­i­den­t’s advis­ers have empha­sized the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion with the Tal­iban and down­play the lack of mil­i­tary advances, offi­cials said.

    “The pres­i­dent hears about Afghan mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal progress and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion dur­ing his brief­in­gs, but he rarely gets the full pic­ture of secu­ri­ty on the ground,” said one senior U.S. offi­cial who has seen the brief­ing mate­ri­als.

    The NSC spokesper­son said, how­ev­er, that the pres­i­dent is briefed reg­u­lar­ly on Afghanistan, and “his briefs are com­pre­hen­sive, cov­er­ing both pos­i­tive improve­ments and prob­lem­at­ic actions.”

    A defense offi­cial said the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan might not show sig­nif­i­cant results until at least next sum­mer, com­pli­cat­ing efforts to con­vince the pres­i­dent to stick with it.

    “The cur­rent effort will show results, but it could be anoth­er year or more before the new advis­ing mis­sion makes a real, wide­spread dif­fer­ence on the ground,” the offi­cial said.

    Trump’s renewed inter­est in pri­va­ti­za­tion was stoked by a recent video shot by Prince, accord­ing to a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, in which Prince argues that deploy­ing pri­vate con­trac­tors instead of U.S. troops, and using lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment resources, would save the U.S. mon­ey.

    The White House cur­rent­ly has no plans for a com­pre­hen­sive Afghanistan pol­i­cy review, offi­cials said. While one could take place after a new U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­der of the war takes over in com­ing weeks, some offi­cials said the pres­i­den­t’s team has been reluc­tant to con­duct one now out of con­cern about what the pres­i­dent will decide.

    Prince said he hopes to speak in com­ing days with some offi­cials on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil about his pro­pos­al. He said that while last year he dis­cussed it with Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo when Pom­peo was CIA direc­tor, he has not spo­ken to John Bolton, who become Trump’s third nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er in April.

    The defense offi­cial said Prince’s idea has­n’t made its way to the Pen­ta­gon for offi­cial con­sid­er­a­tion yet, but it could quick­ly become a real option if Trump push­es for it.

    Mat­tis and Pom­peo both oppose Prince’s plan, offi­cials said. A senior State Depart­ment offi­cial said there’s “not a chance” it will be adopt­ed.

    Asked for Bolton’s view of Prince’s idea, the NSC spokesper­son declined to com­ment.

    In an inter­view with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Fri­day on MSNBC, Prince said his plan was not pri­va­ti­za­tion, “not a pri­vate army. It is a very clear delin­eation of who’s in charge, okay? The Afghan gov­ern­ment work­ing for a U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cial, fund­ed by the Unit­ed States at a frac­tion of a frac­tion of the cost of what we’re spend­ing now.” Prince said his plan would save the U.S. more than $50 bil­lion.

    “The pres­i­dent was right to cam­paign against end­less wars,” said Prince. “If we leave deci­sions on war sole­ly to the Pen­ta­gon, we will be at war for­ev­er.”

    ‘I like fol­low­ing my instincts’

    The secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan has wors­ened in the year since Trump signed off on the cur­rent strat­e­gy, and there are increased con­cerns about gov­ern­ment sta­bil­i­ty and cor­rup­tion in Kab­ul. The Tal­iban con­tin­ues to make gains, while the U.S. has renewed efforts for peace talks with the mil­i­tant group.

    As NBC News report­ed in August 2017, before approv­ing the plan the pres­i­dent com­plained to his advis­ers that the U.S. was los­ing the war and sug­gest­ed fir­ing Gen. John Nichol­son, the U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan.

    When Trump announced the cur­rent strat­e­gy, he not­ed that his “orig­i­nal instinct was to pull out, and his­tor­i­cal­ly I like fol­low­ing my instincts.” But he said he’d decid­ed to lis­ten to his advis­ers to pur­sue an “hon­or­able and endur­ing out­come” to the war. The U.S. cur­rent­ly has about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan.

    White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders said Wednes­day that the pres­i­dent is “com­mit­ted to find­ing a polit­i­cal solu­tion to end the con­flict in Afghanistan.”

    “As always, we’re going to con­tin­ue to review and look at the best ways to move for­ward,” Sanders said.

    Late­ly Trump has pressed his advis­ers about Afghanistan progress on a week­ly basis in Cab­i­net meet­ings and nation­al secu­ri­ty brief­in­gs, offi­cials said. As he’s grown frus­trat­ed, Trump has leaned on Pom­peo, the mem­ber of his nation­al secu­ri­ty team who is clos­est to him. Pom­peo trav­eled to Afghanistan last month for a trip the admin­is­tra­tion said was designed to advance the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy.

    Prince was not an offi­cial advis­er to the Trump cam­paign but donat­ed $250,000 to pro-Trump caus­es dur­ing the cam­paign and met with mem­bers of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team dur­ing the tran­si­tion. The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is look­ing into whether Prince tried to estab­lish a backchan­nel between Rus­sia and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate in the Sey­chelles in 2017.

    In his inter­view with Mitchell, Prince denied his meet­ing with the Russ­ian was about a backchan­nel. “It was an inci­den­tal meet­ing and I had no fol­low up with him since then.”

    When Prince’s plan had Trump’s atten­tion in 2017, it had the back­ing of his for­mer strate­gist Steve Ban­non and the pres­i­den­t’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, Jared Kush­n­er.

    The plan appealed to Trump because of the promise that it would be less expen­sive and put few­er Amer­i­can troops at risk than the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy.

    It calls for pri­vate con­trac­tors and air­craft to aid Afghan forces, with some help from the CIA and the Pen­tagon’s spe­cial oper­a­tions forces — all of whom would be over­seen by a U.S. gov­ern­ment envoy for Afghanistan pol­i­cy who reports direct­ly to the pres­i­dent and is giv­en the author­i­ty to coor­di­nate with the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

    Prince believes Trump’s frus­tra­tion now could pro­vide a path for the pri­va­ti­za­tion idea. Trump also has shown more of a will­ing­ness fol­low his instincts on for­eign pol­i­cy since reshuf­fling his nation­al secu­ri­ty team ear­li­er this year to replace for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er H.R. McMas­ter and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son — both of whom opposed Prince’s plan.

    A for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said while the U.S. has relied on for­eign gov­ern­ments to help pay for mil­i­tary con­flicts, it would be new to ask those coun­tries to pay pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies direct­ly.

    Prince’s close ties to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, as well as the record of Black­wa­ter, most notably in Iraq, would like­ly raise strong objec­tions among admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and mem­bers of Con­gress. In 2007, Black­wa­ter secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors escort­ing a U.S. embassy con­voy killed 17 civil­ians in Bagh­dad’s Nisour Square. One employ­ee was con­vict­ed of first-degree mur­der and three were con­vict­ed of manslaugh­ter, but their ver­dicts were over­turned in 2017.

    The use of pri­vate secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors in U.S. mil­i­tary con­flicts has been con­tro­ver­sial, includ­ing in Afghanistan. For­mer Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai cur­tailed the use of secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors, a pol­i­cy the cur­rent gov­ern­ment would have to undo for a plan like the one pro­posed by Prince to be imple­ment­ed.

    “It’s a ridicu­lous idea. It would only make things worse, pro­long the war, and cause more deaths,” the for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.

    ...

    ———-

    “Offi­cials wor­ry Trump may back Erik Prince plan to pri­va­tize war in Afghanistan” by Car­ol E. Lee, Court­ney Kube and Josh Led­er­man; NBC News; 08/17/2018

    “Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is increas­ing­ly vent­ing frus­tra­tion to his nation­al secu­ri­ty team about the U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan and show­ing renewed inter­est in a pro­pos­al by Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince to pri­va­tize the war, cur­rent and for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said.

    Yep, Trump is report­ed­ly already show­ing renewed inter­est in the pro­pos­al as he grow­ing increas­ing­ly impa­tient. The oth­er option he’s appar­ent­ly look­ing at is abrupt­ly with­draw­ing entire­ly:

    ...
    Prince’s idea, which first sur­faced last year dur­ing the pres­i­den­t’s Afghanistan strat­e­gy review, envi­sions replac­ing troops with pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tors who would work for a spe­cial U.S. envoy for the war who would report direct­ly to the pres­i­dent.

    It has raised eth­i­cal and secu­ri­ty con­cerns among senior mil­i­tary offi­cials, key law­mak­ers and mem­bers of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team. A year after Trump’s strat­e­gy announce­ment, his advis­ers are wor­ried his impa­tience with the Afghanistan con­flict will cause him to seri­ous­ly con­sid­er pro­pos­als like Prince’s or abrupt­ly order a com­plete U.S. with­draw­al, offi­cials said.
    ...

    And by fram­ing as a bina­ry choice of “either the US with­draw entire­ly or pri­va­tizes the war and hands it over to Erik Prince” is prob­a­bly going to be part of how this plan gets sold to the pub­lic.

    Prince laugh­ing­ly claims he has­n’t spo­ken direct­ly to Trump about the plan and instead plans to launch an aggres­sive media “air cam­paign” in com­ing days to try to get the pres­i­dent to embrace it. Again, Prince is so close to Trump he could pick up the phone. This is obvi­ous­ly a cam­paign try­ing to cre­ate the kind of broad­er polit­i­cal accep­tance of the idea that Trump can feel com­fort­able back­ing it:

    ...
    In an inter­view with NBC News, Prince said he believes Trump advis­ers who oppose his plan are paint­ing “as rosy a pic­ture as they can” of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground, includ­ing that “peace is around the cor­ner” with recent U.S. efforts for peace talks with the Tal­iban. He said he believes Trump’s advis­ers “over-empha­size the fluff and flare of these so-called peace talks.”

    Prince, a staunch Trump sup­port­er whose sis­ter is Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, argues that after 17 years of war in Afghanistan, it’s time for the U.S. to try some­thing new.

    “I know he’s frus­trat­ed,” Prince said of the pres­i­dent. “He gave the Pen­ta­gon what they want­ed. ...And they haven’t deliv­ered.”

    Prince said he has­n’t spo­ken direct­ly to Trump about the plan, but told NBC News he plans to launch an aggres­sive media “air cam­paign” in com­ing days to try to get the pres­i­dent to embrace it.
    ...

    The Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil is down­play­ing these reports by assur­ing that Trump is com­mit­ted to the cur­rent strat­e­gy. But as one defense offi­cial warns, the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan might not show sig­nif­i­cant results until at least next sum­mer, which is a pret­ty long way away for some­one with Trump’s propen­si­ty for impul­sive behav­ior:

    ...
    His effort coin­cides with Tues­day’s one-year anniver­sary of Trump announc­ing a strat­e­gy that increased the U.S. troop pres­ence in Afghanistan. Trump approved the Pen­ta­gon rec­om­men­da­tions reluc­tant­ly.

    “The strat­e­gy as announced a year ago was essen­tial­ly just a dressed-up ver­sion of the sta­tus quo,” said Jar­rett Blanc, a senior fel­low at the Carnegie Endow­ment for Inter­na­tion­al Peace who served as a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Afghanistan and Pak­istan at the State Depart­ment dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    A spokesper­son for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil said Trump is com­mit­ted to the cur­rent strat­e­gy he signed off on after months of delib­er­a­tions.

    “No such pro­pos­al from Erik Prince is under con­sid­er­a­tion,” the spokesper­son said. “The pres­i­dent, like most Amer­i­cans, would like to see more progress in Afghanistan. How­ev­er, he also rec­og­nizes that with­draw­ing pre­cip­i­tous­ly from Afghanistan would lead to the re-emer­gence of ter­ror­ist safe havens, putting Amer­i­can nation­al secu­ri­ty and lives in dan­ger.”

    In recent brief­in­gs with Trump, the pres­i­den­t’s advis­ers have empha­sized the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a polit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion with the Tal­iban and down­play the lack of mil­i­tary advances, offi­cials said.

    “The pres­i­dent hears about Afghan mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal progress and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion dur­ing his brief­in­gs, but he rarely gets the full pic­ture of secu­ri­ty on the ground,” said one senior U.S. offi­cial who has seen the brief­ing mate­ri­als.

    The NSC spokesper­son said, how­ev­er, that the pres­i­dent is briefed reg­u­lar­ly on Afghanistan, and “his briefs are com­pre­hen­sive, cov­er­ing both pos­i­tive improve­ments and prob­lem­at­ic actions.”

    A defense offi­cial said the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan might not show sig­nif­i­cant results until at least next sum­mer, com­pli­cat­ing efforts to con­vince the pres­i­dent to stick with it.

    “The cur­rent effort will show results, but it could be anoth­er year or more before the new advis­ing mis­sion makes a real, wide­spread dif­fer­ence on the ground,” the offi­cial said.
    ...

    And while the NSC assures us that Trump is not at all con­sid­er­ing the idea, note how the NSC has no com­ment when asked about John Bolton’s views on the idea:

    ...
    The defense offi­cial said Prince’s idea has­n’t made its way to the Pen­ta­gon for offi­cial con­sid­er­a­tion yet, but it could quick­ly become a real option if Trump push­es for it.

    Mat­tis and Pom­peo both oppose Prince’s plan, offi­cials said. A senior State Depart­ment offi­cial said there’s “not a chance” it will be adopt­ed.

    Asked for Bolton’s view of Prince’s idea, the NSC spokesper­son declined to com­ment.
    ...

    As an exam­ple how Prince does­n’t actu­al­ly need a media blitz to per­suade Trump, it sounds like Trump’s renewed inter­est was actu­al­ly sparked by a video Prince recent­ly made pro­mot­ing the plan. There’s no need to launch an aggres­sive media “air cam­paign” when Trump is already watch­ing your videos:

    ...
    Trump’s renewed inter­est in pri­va­ti­za­tion was stoked by a recent video shot by Prince, accord­ing to a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, in which Prince argues that deploy­ing pri­vate con­trac­tors instead of U.S. troops, and using lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment resources, would save the U.S. mon­ey.

    The White House cur­rent­ly has no plans for a com­pre­hen­sive Afghanistan pol­i­cy review, offi­cials said. While one could take place after a new U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­der of the war takes over in com­ing weeks, some offi­cials said the pres­i­den­t’s team has been reluc­tant to con­duct one now out of con­cern about what the pres­i­dent will decide.

    Prince said he hopes to speak in com­ing days with some offi­cials on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil about his pro­pos­al. He said that while last year he dis­cussed it with Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo when Pom­peo was CIA direc­tor, he has not spo­ken to John Bolton, who become Trump’s third nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er in April.
    ...

    So we’re see­ing a pret­ty cyn­i­cal media effort unfold­ing right now. But per­haps the most cyn­i­cal part of this sales pitch is how Prince is argu­ing that pri­va­tiz­ing the war will actu­al­ly help end the war. Just think about that state­ment for a sec­ond: the guy propos­ing to turn war into an offi­cial for-prof­it enter­prise is warn­ing that if we leave deci­sion on war to the Pen­ta­gon we will be at war for­ev­er:

    ...
    In an inter­view with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Fri­day on MSNBC, Prince said his plan was not pri­va­ti­za­tion, “not a pri­vate army. It is a very clear delin­eation of who’s in charge, okay? The Afghan gov­ern­ment work­ing for a U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cial, fund­ed by the Unit­ed States at a frac­tion of a frac­tion of the cost of what we’re spend­ing now.” Prince said his plan would save the U.S. more than $50 bil­lion.

    “The pres­i­dent was right to cam­paign against end­less wars,” said Prince. “If we leave deci­sions on war sole­ly to the Pen­ta­gon, we will be at war for­ev­er.”
    ...

    So Prince isn’t just sell­ing his plan as a cheap­er option for the US, but also a plan that will actu­al­ly end the con­flict. It rais­es pret­ty big ques­tions about what exact­ly his pro­posed strat­e­gy for vic­to­ry would be and how many war crimes would be required to achieve it. Because when Prince sug­gests that his mer­ce­nar­ies will actu­al­ly be capa­ble of end­ing the war quick­ly, he’s imply­ing that his forces will be more capa­ble of defeat­ing the Tal­iban than the US army and coali­tion forces and it’s hard to imag­ine a pri­vate mer­ce­nary force being more capa­ble than the US army unless that mer­ce­nary force is basi­cal­ly wag­ing unre­strained war on the entire civil­ian pop­u­la­tion under Tal­iban con­trol. In oth­er words, Prince’s sales pitch implies a dra­mat­ic loos­en­ing of the rules of engage­ment, pre­sum­ably under the argu­ment that pri­vate con­trac­tors will have an eas­i­er time vio­lat­ing the rules of war.

    And that implied loos­en­ing of the rules of engage­ment is part of why this is so omi­nous. Trump clear­ly wants a big change in the sit­u­a­tion on the ground in Afghanistan soon. He’s appar­ent­ly ask­ing his advis­ers for week­ly updates. So if he does­n’t decide to pull out alto­geth­er, it’s not hard to imag­ine him going in the oppo­site direc­tion and endors­ing a plan to dra­mat­i­cal­ly esca­late the vio­lence:

    ...
    ‘I like fol­low­ing my instincts’

    The secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan has wors­ened in the year since Trump signed off on the cur­rent strat­e­gy, and there are increased con­cerns about gov­ern­ment sta­bil­i­ty and cor­rup­tion in Kab­ul. The Tal­iban con­tin­ues to make gains, while the U.S. has renewed efforts for peace talks with the mil­i­tant group.

    As NBC News report­ed in August 2017, before approv­ing the plan the pres­i­dent com­plained to his advis­ers that the U.S. was los­ing the war and sug­gest­ed fir­ing Gen. John Nichol­son, the U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan.

    When Trump announced the cur­rent strat­e­gy, he not­ed that his “orig­i­nal instinct was to pull out, and his­tor­i­cal­ly I like fol­low­ing my instincts.” But he said he’d decid­ed to lis­ten to his advis­ers to pur­sue an “hon­or­able and endur­ing out­come” to the war. The U.S. cur­rent­ly has about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan.

    White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders said Wednes­day that the pres­i­dent is “com­mit­ted to find­ing a polit­i­cal solu­tion to end the con­flict in Afghanistan.”

    “As always, we’re going to con­tin­ue to review and look at the best ways to move for­ward,” Sanders said.

    Late­ly Trump has pressed his advis­ers about Afghanistan progress on a week­ly basis in Cab­i­net meet­ings and nation­al secu­ri­ty brief­in­gs, offi­cials said. As he’s grown frus­trat­ed, Trump has leaned on Pom­peo, the mem­ber of his nation­al secu­ri­ty team who is clos­est to him. Pom­peo trav­eled to Afghanistan last month for a trip the admin­is­tra­tion said was designed to advance the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy.
    ...

    Also keep in mind that when we first learned about this pro­pos­al back in August of 2017, it was­n’t yet clear that the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia were part of the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’. So in light of this renewed push to pri­va­tize the war in Afghanistan, we have to ask a now obvi­ous ques­tion: was the pri­va­ti­za­tion of war one of the top­ics of the Sey­chelles back chan­nel meet­ing?

    ...
    Prince was not an offi­cial advis­er to the Trump cam­paign but donat­ed $250,000 to pro-Trump caus­es dur­ing the cam­paign and met with mem­bers of Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty team dur­ing the tran­si­tion. The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is look­ing into whether Prince tried to estab­lish a backchan­nel between Rus­sia and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate in the Sey­chelles in 2017.

    In his inter­view with Mitchell, Prince denied his meet­ing with the Russ­ian was about a backchan­nel. “It was an inci­den­tal meet­ing and I had no fol­low up with him since then.”
    ...

    Don’t for­get that Rus­sia has plen­ty of pri­vate con­trac­tors too. And if the Sey­chelles back chan­nel meet­ing real­ly was an attempt to essen­tial­ly bribe/cajole Rus­sia into remov­ing its back­ing for the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and Iran (thus allow­ing the Sun­nis to dom­i­nate in the ongo­ing and dis­gust­ing Sunni/Shia reli­gious civ­il war), it’s pos­si­ble that offer­ing Russ­ian pri­vate con­trac­tors lucra­tive ‘peace keep­ing’ con­tracts could have been part of the offer.

    As the arti­cle notes, Jared Kush­n­er and Steve Ban­non both backed Prince’s pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­pos­al when it was first brought up last year. So it’s worth keep­ing in mind that Kush­n­er and Ban­non were both very much part of those back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions dur­ing a num­ber of Trump Tow­er meet­ings in the lead up to the Sey­chelles meet­ing. In addi­tion, one of Kush­n­er’s close friends, Rick Ger­son, was report­ed­ly in the Sey­chelles dur­ing the time of that meet­ing and met with Prince MBZ of the UAE. Also keep in mind that Erik Prince, him­self, is very close to the gov­ern­ment of the UAE. He was lit­er­al­ly hired to form a secret army for them. So if those back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions did indeed include a pro­pos­al to pri­va­tize cur­rent and future con­flicts and share the spoils of those con­flicts with the Rus­sians that would be in keep in Kush­n­er and Ban­non back­ing the pri­va­ti­za­tion pro­pos­al (although, in fair­ness, it seems like the kind of thing they would back no mat­ter what because that’s the type of peo­ple they are):

    ...
    When Prince’s plan had Trump’s atten­tion in 2017, it had the back­ing of his for­mer strate­gist Steve Ban­non and the pres­i­den­t’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, Jared Kush­n­er.

    The plan appealed to Trump because of the promise that it would be less expen­sive and put few­er Amer­i­can troops at risk than the cur­rent U.S. strat­e­gy.

    It calls for pri­vate con­trac­tors and air­craft to aid Afghan forces, with some help from the CIA and the Pen­tagon’s spe­cial oper­a­tions forces — all of whom would be over­seen by a U.S. gov­ern­ment envoy for Afghanistan pol­i­cy who reports direct­ly to the pres­i­dent and is giv­en the author­i­ty to coor­di­nate with the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

    Prince believes Trump’s frus­tra­tion now could pro­vide a path for the pri­va­ti­za­tion idea. Trump also has shown more of a will­ing­ness fol­low his instincts on for­eign pol­i­cy since reshuf­fling his nation­al secu­ri­ty team ear­li­er this year to replace for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er H.R. McMas­ter and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son — both of whom opposed Prince’s plan.

    A for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said while the U.S. has relied on for­eign gov­ern­ments to help pay for mil­i­tary con­flicts, it would be new to ask those coun­tries to pay pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies direct­ly.

    Prince’s close ties to the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, as well as the record of Black­wa­ter, most notably in Iraq, would like­ly raise strong objec­tions among admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and mem­bers of Con­gress. In 2007, Black­wa­ter secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors escort­ing a U.S. embassy con­voy killed 17 civil­ians in Bagh­dad’s Nisour Square. One employ­ee was con­vict­ed of first-degree mur­der and three were con­vict­ed of manslaugh­ter, but their ver­dicts were over­turned in 2017.

    The use of pri­vate secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors in U.S. mil­i­tary con­flicts has been con­tro­ver­sial, includ­ing in Afghanistan. For­mer Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai cur­tailed the use of secu­ri­ty con­trac­tors, a pol­i­cy the cur­rent gov­ern­ment would have to undo for a plan like the one pro­posed by Prince to be imple­ment­ed.

    “It’s a ridicu­lous idea. It would only make things worse, pro­long the war, and cause more deaths,” the for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.
    ...

    Anoth­er key point to keep in mind is that if you had to pick the two coun­tries most reliant on pri­vate mer­ce­nar­ies for their mil­i­taries, the UAE and Sau­di Ara­bia are near the top of the list. The war in Yemen is heav­i­ly reliant on pri­vate con­trac­tors from around the world, includ­ing Colom­bian mer­ce­nar­ies work­ing for the UAE. Hir­ing mer­ce­nar­ies is a key ele­ment for how the Saud­is and UAE oper­ate.

    And, of course, we can’t ignore the real­i­ty that the US mil­i­tary has been increas­ing­ly reliant on pri­vate con­trac­tors for years. Prince’s pro­pos­al would mere­ly take it to the next lev­el, and turn mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion into more of a colo­nial mod­el, where the pri­vate occu­piers get to legal­ly extract the nat­ur­al resources of region in addi­tion to being paid for their work.

    So, giv­en that all of the actors in that back chan­nel have major inter­ests in see­ing an expan­sion of the pri­va­ti­za­tion of war, we have to ask, was the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the var­i­ous cur­rent and planned future con­flicts, and a shar­ing of those future spoils, part of the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ nego­ti­a­tions?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 18, 2018, 1:49 pm
  22. Here’s an arti­cle from back in April that has­n’t received much atten­tion and yet con­tains some poten­tial­ly explo­sive infor­ma­tion regard­ing the Sey­chelles “back chan­nel” meet­ing between Erik Prince, Kir­ill Dmitriev and George Nad­er: It turns out there were a num­ber of oth­er indi­vid­u­als in the Sey­chelles dur­ing the week of that Jan­u­ary 2017 meet­ing who are close­ly affil­i­at­ed with the peo­ple behind this meet­ing accord­ing to flight records and finan­cial doc­u­ments.

    Accord­ing to one of the anony­mous sources to the arti­cle below, there were wealthy and polit­i­cal­ly-con­nect­ed indi­vid­u­als from across the globe — from Rus­sia, France, Sau­di Ara­bia and South Africa — land­ing in the Sey­chelles for meet­ings that take place as a part of a larg­er gath­er­ing host­ed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MBZ). Recall how MBZ made the secret trip to Trump Tow­er in mid-Decem­ber 2016 to meet with Michael Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er, and Steve Ban­non. And accord­ing to Erik Prince it was MBZ who invit­ed him to the Sey­chelles for a meet­ing that was unre­lat­ed to meet­ing with Dmitriev. Also recall the August 3rd, 2016, Trump Tow­er meet­ing where Erik Prince and George Nad­er to help Trump win with a sophis­ti­cat­ed social media campign and Nad­er was act­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for MBZ at the time. So MBZ is clear­ly a sig­nif­i­cant fig­ure in all this, and now we are learn­ing some­thing about the broad­er con­text for the Sey­chelles meet­ing: MBZ was host­ing a larg­er gath­er­ing there at the time, which means there’s poten­tial­ly a much larg­er num­ber of par­tic­i­pants in these ‘back chan­nel’ meet­ings than cur­rent­ly sus­pect­ed.

    And one of those peo­ple was appar­ent­ly Khaz­ak busi­ness­man Alexan­der Mashke­vitch, an alleged financier of Bay­rock! Felix Sater, of course, was a man­ag­ing direc­tor at Bay­rock Group LLC, which did a num­ber of deals with Don­ald Trump. And one of the big ques­tions sur­round­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing was whether or not it was tied into the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ pushed by Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, and Andrii Arte­menko. So now we learn that a Bay­rock financier was in the Sey­chelles right around the time of this meet­ing.

    Beyond that, Sheikh Abdul­rah­man Khalid Bin­Mah­fouz also arrived in the Sey­chelles right around this time. And, yes, this is the eldest son of Sau­di bil­lion­aire banker Khalid bin Mah­fouz of BCCI fame. And Abdul­rah­man has his own ties to more recent scan­dals. Abdul­rah­man was a board mem­ber of the Muwafaq foun­da­tion, a New Jer­sey-reg­is­tered char­i­ty head­ed by Yassin al Qadi. Recall al Qadi’s role in the Ptech scan­dal in it’s poten­tial role in the exe­cu­tion of 9/11.

    Flight records also show oth­er indi­vid­u­als con­nect­ed to the the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Mon­e­tary Agency and the Arab Nation­al Bank flew into the island the sec­ond week of Jan­u­ary 2017. An air­craft pur­port­ed­ly owned by the for­mer deputy min­is­ter of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sul­tan bin Abdu­laz­iz, also arrived that week.

    So while there has­n’t real­ly be any updates on these intrigu­ing pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to that meet­ing, it’s still worth not­ing that there’s poten­tial­ly both a Bay­rock con­nec­tion and a bin Mah­fouz con­nec­tion to the Sey­chelles meet­ing:

    NJ Advance Media

    The Trump Rus­sia probe is expand­ing, as Mueller looks into new meet­ings in Sey­chelles: exclu­sive

    By Erin Ban­co
    NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
    Updat­ed Apr 10, 2018; Post­ed Apr 10, 2018

    Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team is exam­in­ing a series of pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed meet­ings that took place in 2017 in the Sey­chelles, an arch­i­pel­ago in the Indi­an Ocean, as part of its broad­er inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, accord­ing to two sources briefed on the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    The sources said sev­er­al of those meet­ings took place around the same time as anoth­er meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between Erik Prince, founder of the secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Black­wa­ter, Kir­ill Dmitriev, the direc­tor of one of Rus­si­a’s sov­er­eign wealth funds, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effec­tive ruler of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates (also known as “MBZ”). Details of that ear­li­er meet­ing were first report­ed by the Wash­ing­ton Post last year.

    The sources request­ed to remain anony­mous because they were not autho­rized to speak pub­licly about the mat­ter.

    The inquiry into the meet­ings in the Sey­chelles sug­gests there is grow­ing inter­est on the Mueller team in whether for­eign financ­ing, specif­i­cal­ly from Gulf states, has influ­enced Pres­i­dent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion.

    The New York Times report­ed in March that Mueller’s team ques­tioned George Nad­er, a Lebanese-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who helped bro­ker the Sey­chelles meet­ing, about whether the Emi­ratis attempt­ed to buy polit­i­cal influ­ence in the White House.

    Doc­u­ments obtained by this reporter, and inter­views with those famil­iar with the probe, sug­gest Mueller is also look­ing at oth­er for­eign influ­encers, includ­ing indi­vid­u­als from Rus­sia and from Sau­di Ara­bia.

    ...

    Flight records and finan­cial doc­u­ments obtained by this reporter over twelve months, as well as inter­views with par­lia­men­tary and avi­a­tion offi­cials in the Sey­chelles, paint a scene out of a Hol­ly­wood thriller.

    Wealthy and polit­i­cal­ly-con­nect­ed indi­vid­u­als from across the globe — from Rus­sia, France, Sau­di Ara­bia and South Africa — land in the Sey­chelles for meet­ings that take place as a part of a larg­er gath­er­ing host­ed by MBZ, accord­ing to an indi­vid­ual briefed on the mat­ter, who also request­ed anonymi­ty. Many of them fly in on pri­vate jets and sev­er­al do not clear cus­toms. Some check into the Four Sea­sons Hotel while oth­ers arrive and stay on their yachts.

    Indi­vid­u­als con­nect­ed to the Sau­di finan­cial sys­tem, includ­ing the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Mon­e­tary Agency and the Arab Nation­al Bank, flew into the island the sec­ond week of Jan­u­ary 2017, as did an air­craft pur­port­ed­ly owned by the for­mer deputy min­is­ter of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sul­tan bin Abdu­laz­iz, fight records show. Oth­er indi­vid­u­als on those air­craft held pass­ports from Egypt and Sin­ga­pore.

    Dmitriev flew into the Sey­chelles Jan. 11, 2017 with his wife Natalia Popo­va and anoth­er woman with the last name Boldovska­ia. Six oth­er Russ­ian indi­vid­u­als flew to the island just a few days after Dmitriev. The air­craft’s own­er­ship is unclear but it flew between Rus­sia, Gene­va and Cyprus in 2017.

    Oth­ers on the island includ­ed Alexan­der Mashke­vitch, an alleged financier of Bay­rock, an invest­ment vehi­cle linked to Trump, and Sheikh Abdul­rah­man Khalid Bin­Mah­fouz, accord­ing to flight records. Bin­Mah­fouz’s father, before his death, was a bil­lion­aire and the for­mer chair­man of Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s first pri­vate bank.

    Nad­er trav­elled to Sey­chelles Jan. 7, 2017 and again on March 24 on an air­craft with the tail num­ber VP-CZA, flight records show. The air­craft is reg­is­tered to Gryphon Asset Man­age­ment, an avi­a­tion con­sult­ing com­pa­ny based out of Dubai.

    Nad­er is a well-known advi­sor to the UAE with links to Dmitriev and mem­bers of the Sau­di Roy­al fam­i­ly. He has attend­ed meet­ings at the White House with Stephen Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er in the past, accord­ing to the Times, and has also been linked to Trump fundrais­er and deputy finance chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee Elliot Broidy.

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed last month Nad­er sent Broidy $2.5 mil­lion through a Cana­di­an com­pa­ny. Broidy then began giv­ing dona­tions to mem­bers of Con­gress who were active­ly sup­port­ing leg­is­la­tion crit­i­cal of Qatar, the AP report­ed.

    The pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between Prince, Dmitriev and MBZ was described as an attempt by the U.S. to set up a backchan­nel with Rus­sia. The Post report­ed that Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince, an infor­mal advis­er to the Trump team, act­ed as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the admin­is­tra­tion in the meet­ing with an unnamed Russ­ian indi­vid­ual.

    Lat­er, this reporter broke the news in The Inter­cept that Prince had met with Dmitriev — the head of the sov­er­eign wealth fund with close ties to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Prince admit­ted in a con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny ear­li­er this year that he had met Dmitriev on the island, but said it was a chance meet­ing.

    Mueller’s team has received evi­dence chal­leng­ing Prince’s tes­ti­mo­ny, accord­ing to an ABC News report.

    ———-

    “The Trump Rus­sia probe is expand­ing, as Mueller looks into new meet­ings in Sey­chelles: exclu­sive” by Erin Ban­co; NJ Advance Media; 04/10/2018

    The sources said sev­er­al of those meet­ings took place around the same time as anoth­er meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between Erik Prince, founder of the secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny Black­wa­ter, Kir­ill Dmitriev, the direc­tor of one of Rus­si­a’s sov­er­eign wealth funds, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effec­tive ruler of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates (also known as “MBZ”). Details of that ear­li­er meet­ing were first report­ed by the Wash­ing­ton Post last year.”

    So is it just a coin­ci­dence that a bunch of polit­i­cal­ly-con­nect­ed indi­vid­u­als land­ed in Sey­chelles the same week of the Erik Prince meet­ing? Per­haps. But if not, it sug­gests some big mat­ters involv­ing big mon­ey were being dis­cussed since indi­vid­u­als con­nect­ed to the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Mon­e­tary Agency and the Arab Nation­al Bank were appar­ent­ly there at the time, along with for­mer deputy min­is­ter of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sul­tan bin Abdu­laz­iz:

    ...
    Flight records and finan­cial doc­u­ments obtained by this reporter over twelve months, as well as inter­views with par­lia­men­tary and avi­a­tion offi­cials in the Sey­chelles, paint a scene out of a Hol­ly­wood thriller.

    Wealthy and polit­i­cal­ly-con­nect­ed indi­vid­u­als from across the globe — from Rus­sia, France, Sau­di Ara­bia and South Africa — land in the Sey­chelles for meet­ings that take place as a part of a larg­er gath­er­ing host­ed by MBZ, accord­ing to an indi­vid­ual briefed on the mat­ter, who also request­ed anonymi­ty. Many of them fly in on pri­vate jets and sev­er­al do not clear cus­toms. Some check into the Four Sea­sons Hotel while oth­ers arrive and stay on their yachts.

    Indi­vid­u­als con­nect­ed to the Sau­di finan­cial sys­tem, includ­ing the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Mon­e­tary Agency and the Arab Nation­al Bank, flew into the island the sec­ond week of Jan­u­ary 2017, as did an air­craft pur­port­ed­ly owned by the for­mer deputy min­is­ter of defense, Prince Khaled bin Sul­tan bin Abdu­laz­iz, fight records show. Oth­er indi­vid­u­als on those air­craft held pass­ports from Egypt and Sin­ga­pore.

    Dmitriev flew into the Sey­chelles Jan. 11, 2017 with his wife Natalia Popo­va and anoth­er woman with the last name Boldovska­ia. Six oth­er Russ­ian indi­vid­u­als flew to the island just a few days after Dmitriev. The air­craft’s own­er­ship is unclear but it flew between Rus­sia, Gene­va and Cyprus in 2017.
    ...

    “Wealthy and polit­i­cal­ly-con­nect­ed indi­vid­u­als from across the globe — from Rus­sia, France, Sau­di Ara­bia and South Africa — land in the Sey­chelles for meet­ings that take place as a part of a larg­er gath­er­ing host­ed by MBZ, accord­ing to an indi­vid­ual briefed on the mat­ter, who also request­ed anonymi­ty. Many of them fly in on pri­vate jets and sev­er­al do not clear cus­toms.”

    It’s like a big elab­o­rate secret par­ty.

    And then there’s the two most intrigu­ing fig­ures who were pos­si­bly in atten­dance: Alexan­der Mashke­vitch, an alleged financier of Bay­rock and Sheikh Abdul­rah­man Khalid Bin­Mah­fouz:

    ...
    Oth­ers on the island includ­ed Alexan­der Mashke­vitch, an alleged financier of Bay­rock, an invest­ment vehi­cle linked to Trump, and Sheikh Abdul­rah­man Khalid Bin­Mah­fouz, accord­ing to flight records. Bin­Mah­fouz’s father, before his death, was a bil­lion­aire and the for­mer chair­man of Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s first pri­vate bank.
    ...

    Yes, we have Felix Sater work­ing on the Ukrain­ian ‘peace plan’ (a peace plan that also involved a big over­haul of Ukraine’s nuclear sec­tor) and Alexan­der Mashke­vitch of Bay­rock in the Sey­chelles. Isn’t that inter­est­ing. And don’t for­get about Michael Fly­n­n’s lob­by­ing efforts to get a “Mar­shall Plan for the Mid­dle East” that would have includ­ed Rus­sia in a Sau­di-financed scheme to build nuclear pow­er plants in Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries. So we again have to ask the ques­tion: was Felix Saters pitch to upgrade Ukraine’s nuclear pow­er sec­tor tied into Michael Fly­n­n’s plan for nuclear reac­tors across the Mid­dle East? And if so, did the top­ic hap­pen to come up dur­ing the Sey­chelle’s meet­ing? Don’t for­get about the keen inter­est the Saud­is have in devel­op­ing nuclear pow­er (and acquir­ing nuclear weapons)

    So those are some addi­tion­al Sey­chelles fun facts to throw on top of the ever grow­ing pile of fun facts that point towards Trump team col­lu­sion with a lot more than just Rus­sia.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 18, 2018, 3:31 pm
  23. There was a rather fas­ci­nat­ing new report on the mys­te­ri­ous Sey­chelles meet­ing involv­ing Erik Prince, Kir­ill Dmitriev, and George Nad­er in Jan­u­ary of 2017 that would appear to shed light on what was actu­al­ly dis­cussed dur­ing the meet­ing. A memo sent by Dmitriev fol­low­ing the meet­ing that appears to sum­ma­rize the top­ics of dis­cus­sion was reviewed by the Dai­ly Beast.

    So what was dis­cussed? Well, the memo had five pro­pos­als on areas where the US and Rus­sia could work togeth­er:

    1. US-Russ­ian mil­i­tary coor­di­na­tion and joint actions in Syr­ia against ISIS.

    2. A joint effort by U.S. and Rus­sia to active­ly address the threat of nuclear, bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal (WMD) ter­ror.

    3. The devel­op­ment of “win-win eco­nom­ic invest­ment ini­tia­tives that will be sup­port­ed by both elec­torates,” with the idea of pro­mot­ing US invest­ments in Rus­sia and vice ver­sa.

    4. A pro­pos­al that the U.S. and Rus­sia should have an “hon­est and open and con­tin­u­al dia­logue on dif­fer­ences and con­cerns.” And one of those ‘con­cerns’ is resolv­ing the Ukraine cri­sis.

    5. Final­ly, the U.S. and Rus­sia set up a small work­ing group with “2–3 peo­ple from each side autho­rized to final­ize an action plan for a major improve­ment in the U.S.-Russia rela­tion­ship” and pro­pos­es “coor­di­na­tion across major agen­cies and gov­ern­ment bod­ies to achieve tan­gi­ble impact in the next 9–12 months.”

    That’s it. Which is about as bland a set of pro­pos­als as one could imag­ine. And that utter­ly bland set of pro­pos­als is part of what makes this meet­ing, and all the secre­cy sur­round­ing it, so inex­plic­a­ble. One Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who focused on East­ern Europe and Rus­sia said the pro­pos­als in the memo aren’t unusu­al; in fact, they mir­ror pro­pos­als that Moscow makes reg­u­lar­ly. “It’s noth­ing new...What is new is that they’re try­ing to do this through this weird backchan­nel.”

    Of the five pro­pos­als, only the last one struck observers as some­what odd in that it sug­gest­ed a devi­a­tion from the kind of ‘back-and-forth’ shut­tle diplo­ma­cy that would nor­mal­ly be used and instead described a sit­u­a­tion where the US and Russ­ian nego­tia­tors are work­ing togeth­er and allowed into each oth­er’s deci­sion-mak­ing loop. But oth­er than that, it was all just total­ly blah.

    There was one oth­er notable find­ing: One of the recip­i­ents of this memo hap­pened to be Richard Ger­son, head of Fal­con Edge Cap­i­tal. And as we’ll see in the next arti­cle, Ger­son hap­pens to be excep­tion­al­ly close to Jared Kush­n­er and was also report­ed­ly in the Sey­chelles dur­ing the time of this meet­ing. In addi­tion, Ger­son was also in atten­dance dur­ing a meet­ing with back in Decem­ber 2016 between the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MBZ), Michael Fly­nn, Steve Ban­non, and the UAE’s ambas­sador to the US in New York. This was the trip to New York that MBZ took that breached diplo­mat­ic pro­to­col because he did­n’t inform the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. Inter­est­ing­ly, the meet­ing in New York where Ger­son met with MBZ is at the Four Sea­sons hotel, accord­ing to their cor­re­spon­dences. There as we seen before there was also a secret meet­ing report­ed­ly at Trump Tow­er in Decem­ber of 2016, so there were appar­ent­ly mul­ti­ple secret meet­ings dur­ing that trip to New York.

    And the fact that Dmitriev sent Ger­son a sum­ma­ry of the Sey­chelles meet­ing, and Ger­son was clear­ly part of he ini­tial coor­di­na­tion for the Sey­chelles meet­ing, high­lights how deeply involved MBZ was with arrang­ing this. Don’t for­get that the entire pre­text behind the Sey­chelles meet­ing was that a lot of peo­ple were arriv­ing the Sey­chelles for a gath­er­ing host­ed by MBZ. He was clear­ly very much a part of all this. And yet the descrip­tion of the meet­ing in that memo does­n’t sound like the kind of stuff that MBZ and the UAE would be par­tic­u­lar­ly focused. So while the report­ing on this memo would appear to par­tial­ly explain what the Sey­chelles meet­ing was all about, the ‘blah’ nature of it all is so out of con­text with the rest of mys­tery sur­round­ing the fig­ures involved with this meet­ing that it just adds to the over­all mys­tery:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Revealed: What Erik Prince and Moscow’s Mon­ey Man Dis­cussed in That Infa­mous Sey­chelles Meet­ing

    Mueller’s team and con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors have looked into a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles between allies of Trump and Putin. Now we have the Russ­ian read-out of what was said.

    Bet­sy Woodruff,
    Erin Ban­co
    09.26.18 12:00 PM ET

    Joint U.S.-Russian raids to kill top ter­ror­ists. Team­work between an Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment agency and a sanc­tioned Russ­ian fund. Moscow pour­ing mon­ey into the Mid­west.

    These are just a few of the ideas the head of a Russ­ian sov­er­eign wealth fund touched on dur­ing his meet­ing with for­mer Black­wa­ter head Erik Prince in the Sey­chelles, just weeks before Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, accord­ing to a memo exclu­sive­ly reviewed by The Dai­ly Beast.

    The meet­ing between Prince, an influ­en­tial Trump ally, and Kir­ill Dmitriev, the CEO of the sanc­tioned fund, took place on Jan. 11, 2017, at the Four Sea­sons Hotel in a bar over­look­ing the Indi­an Ocean. George Nad­er, a Lebanese-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who advis­es the crown prince of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, was also present.

    Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller has looked into the meet­ing as part of his larg­er inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion. And near­ly a year after the meet­ing, Prince told Con­gress his dis­cus­sion with Dmitriev was just hap­pen­stance and took place “over a beer.” Prince also said he did not attend the meet­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Trump team.

    Since Prince’s tes­ti­mo­ny before the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Mueller’s team has received infor­ma­tion that the meet­ing was a pre-orga­nized effort to set up a backchan­nel between the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Krem­lin, accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    Still, the exact details of the con­ver­sa­tion between Prince and Dmitriev in the Sey­chelles have remained murky. But a memo Dmitriev sent after the meeting—described here for the first time—sheds new light on the con­ver­sa­tion and indi­cates it addressed some of the thorni­est diplo­mat­ic chal­lenges fac­ing the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia.

    The memo is char­ac­ter­ized as a sum­ma­ry of some of the ideas dis­cussed in the Sey­chelles. It’s not clear if Dmitriev, the Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund CEO, draft­ed the actu­al doc­u­ment him­self or mere­ly sent it. Although RDIF is sanc­tioned, it was and still is legal for U.S. per­sons to meet with him and, in some cir­cum­stances, do busi­ness with the fund.

    Dmitriev declined to com­ment on the record for this sto­ry. A spokesper­son for Prince declined to detail his view of Dmitriev’s memo. “Mr. Prince told The Dai­ly Beast every­thing there is to say every­thing there is to say when he inter­viewed in June, noth­ing has changed,” the spokesper­son said. Ken Nahi­gian, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Trump tran­si­tion team, told The Dai­ly Beast that a review of its files found no indi­ca­tion any­one on the team helped plan the Sey­chelles meet­ing or knew about it in advance. Lawyers for Nad­er declined to com­ment on the record.

    “Why Erik Prince? Why Dmitriev?” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee who ques­tioned Prince. “Why did that meet­ing hap­pen? Con­ver­sa­tions like that hap­pen at the Aspen Insti­tute every sin­gle day, but this is obvi­ous­ly some­thing different—this is a hush-hush meet­ing in the Sey­chelles that at least one of the par­tic­i­pants has been a lit­tle bit fuzzy about.”

    A few days after the Sey­chelles meet­ing, while at the Davos World Eco­nom­ic Forum, Dmitriev sent out the two-page memo sum­ma­riz­ing por­tions of his Sey­chelles con­ver­sa­tion. The memo, which The Dai­ly Beast reviewed, lists four poten­tial areas of coop­er­a­tion and calls for an action plan to improve U.S.-Russian rela­tions over the next 12 months.

    The first bul­let point pro­pos­es the U.S. and Rus­sia work togeth­er on “mil­i­tary coor­di­na­tion and joint actions in Syr­ia against ISIS.” It’s an idea that appealed to some of the most impor­tant play­ers in the ear­ly Trump admin­is­tra­tion; Mike Fly­nn, Trump’s first and famous­ly Krem­lin-friend­ly nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, pushed to expand U.S.-Russian mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Syr­ia, a move that may have been ille­gal.

    Dmitriev’s plan would have gone sev­er­al steps fur­ther.

    The idea, accord­ing to the memo, was to set up a “joint spe­cial forces mis­sion where togeth­er the U.S. and Rus­sia take out a key ISIS per­son or place or frees an area then announces it after.” Prince, for his part, has pub­licly sup­port­ed the prospect of clos­er U.S.-Russia coop­er­a­tion on coun­tert­er­ror.

    “[I]f Franklin Roo­sevelt can work with Joseph Stal­in to defeat Ger­man fas­cism, Nazi fas­cism, nation­al social­ist fas­cism, then cer­tain­ly Don­ald Trump can work with Putin to defeat Islam­ic fas­cism,” Prince told The Dai­ly Beast in June.

    The doc­u­ment also sug­gests the coun­tries resume intel­li­gence-shar­ing on ter­ror­ism in the coun­try and work togeth­er on a “large-scale human­i­tar­i­an effort” to build hos­pi­tals in rebel areas and fly in med­ical sup­plies and food.

    Sec­ond, the memo pro­pos­es “a seri­ous joint effort by U.S. and Rus­sia to active­ly address the threat of nuclear, bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal (WMD) ter­ror.” While Trump, dur­ing the cam­paign and in the White House, talked of rebuild­ing America’s nuclear stockpile—and Putin rat­tled his saber similarly—the memo rec­om­mends the two coun­tries work togeth­er on nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion.

    “One poten­tial venue is the Nuclear Threat Ini­tia­tive (NTI) which War­ren Buf­fett is the pri­ma­ry spon­sor of,” the memo says. The Nuclear Threat Ini­tia­tive, whose CEO is now for­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of Ener­gy Ernest J. Moniz, is a Wash­ing­ton non­prof­it that works to reduce the risk of WMD attacks. Over the years, it has spon­sored dia­logues between Amer­i­can and Russ­ian diplo­mats. And last year, with a $50 mil­lion dona­tion from Buf­fett, it set up a bank to pur­chase low-enriched ura­ni­um in the for­mer Sovi­et repub­lic of Kaza­khstan.

    Third, the memo pro­pos­es ways the U.S. and Rus­sia can devel­op “win-win eco­nom­ic invest­ment ini­tia­tives that will be sup­port­ed by both elec­torates.” “Under­stand­ing U.S. pro­duc­tion by for­eign com­pa­nies is a focus of the new admin­is­tra­tion,” the memo says. It goes on to note that Russ­ian com­pa­nies would “make invest­ments with RDIF financ­ing to serve the U.S. mar­ket in the Mid­west, cre­at­ing real jobs for hard hit area with high employ­ment.”

    Trump spent his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign pledg­ing to bring back jobs to blight­ed Rust Belt towns, notch­ing wins in Mid­west­ern Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­holds like Wis­con­sin and Michigan—and even mak­ing Min­neso­ta com­pet­i­tive. The memo is evi­dence that Rus­sia was lis­ten­ing and propos­ing a way to help make Trump’s cen­tral cam­paign promise come true.

    The doc­u­ment also sets out the idea of a “joint RDIF fund with OPIC to sup­port U.S. invest­ment in Rus­sia to make U.S. busi­ness­es com­pet­i­tive vs. sub­si­dized Chi­nese busi­ness in Rus­sia.” OPIC, also known as the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, is a gov­ern­ment agency that works with the pri­vate sec­tor to help U.S. busi­ness­es gain a foothold in emerg­ing mar­kets. The memo also sug­gests orga­niz­ing a busi­ness trip to Moscow for Wash­ing­ton politi­cos to high­light U.S. busi­ness­es’ suc­cess in Rus­sia.

    Fourth, the memo says the U.S. and Rus­sia should have an “hon­est and open and con­tin­u­al dia­logue on dif­fer­ences and con­cerns.” One of those con­cerns, the memo says, is resolv­ing the Ukraine crisis—instigated by Russia’s inva­sion and annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014—“through Min­sk agree­ments and ensur­ing Ukraine ful­fills its com­mit­ments.” The Min­sk agree­ments were draft­ed and signed by war­ring par­ties to alle­vi­ate the con­flict in Ukraine.

    The memo also says the two coun­tries should also coor­di­nate a “work­ing group between the State Depart­ment and Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs to address key dif­fer­ences.” It is unclear from the memo what those dif­fer­ences are.

    Last, the memo pro­pos­es the U.S. and Rus­sia set up a small work­ing group with “2–3 peo­ple from each side autho­rized to final­ize an action plan for a major improve­ment in the U.S.-Russia rela­tion­ship” and pro­pos­es “coor­di­na­tion across major agen­cies and gov­ern­ment bod­ies to achieve tan­gi­ble impact in the next 9–12 months.”

    Eve­lyn Farkas, an Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who focused on East­ern Europe and Rus­sia, said the pro­pos­als in the memo aren’t unusu­al; in fact, they mir­ror pro­pos­als that Moscow makes reg­u­lar­ly.

    “It’s noth­ing new,” she told The Dai­ly Beast. “What is new is that they’re try­ing to do this through this weird backchan­nel.”

    But the pro­pos­al of the task force—the memo’s fifth point—caught the eye of Mieke Eoyang, vice pres­i­dent of the think tank Third Way’s nation­al-secu­ri­ty pro­gram and a for­mer House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee staffer.

    “Num­ber five, that there’s a task force where the Rus­sians are going to par­tic­i­pate in fig­ur­ing out what the pol­i­cy should be on num­bers one through four, that’s real­ly not nor­mal,” she told The Dai­ly Beast. “They call it shut­tle diplo­ma­cy for a rea­son: There’s a back and forth on it. But you’re not let­ting them inside your deci­sion-mak­ing loop.”

    The memo was also sent to Richard Ger­son, head of Fal­con Edge Cap­i­tal, a hedge fund in New York City. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ger­son said he was in the Sey­chelles the week of the Prince-Dmitriev meet­ing but left the island before it took place. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive declined to com­ment on the memo.

    One Oba­ma-era State Depart­ment offi­cial, who request­ed anonymi­ty because of polit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties, said all the pri­or­i­ties laid out in the memo would be typ­i­cal for two coun­tries with nor­mal rela­tions. But he added that he was astound­ed this pitch was made in the wake of Russia’s 2016 elec­tion med­dling. “It’s breath­tak­ing,” he said.

    ...

    UPDATE 5:48 PM: After pub­li­ca­tion of this sto­ry, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of RDIF reached out to The Dai­ly Beast and said Mr. Dmitriev cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly denies the exis­tence of a memo or read out relat­ed to con­ver­sa­tions that took place in the Sey­chelles.

    ———-

    “Revealed: What Erik Prince and Moscow’s Mon­ey Man Dis­cussed in That Infa­mous Sey­chelles Meet­ing” by Bet­sy Woodruff, Erin Ban­co; The Dai­ly Beast; 09/262018

    ““Why Erik Prince? Why Dmitriev?” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee who ques­tioned Prince. “Why did that meet­ing hap­pen? Con­ver­sa­tions like that hap­pen at the Aspen Insti­tute every sin­gle day, but this is obvi­ous­ly some­thing different—this is a hush-hush meet­ing in the Sey­chelles that at least one of the par­tic­i­pants has been a lit­tle bit fuzzy about.””

    “Con­ver­sa­tions like that hap­pen at the Aspen Insti­tute every sin­gle day.” That was the response from a US Con­gress­man. And based on the con­tents of this memo he’s cor­rect: The first bul­let point was a pro­pos­al for the U.S. and Rus­sia work togeth­er on “mil­i­tary coor­di­na­tion and joint actions in Syr­ia against ISIS.” That does­n’t seem like some­thing that war­rants a secret meet­ing in the Sey­chelles:

    ...
    A few days after the Sey­chelles meet­ing, while at the Davos World Eco­nom­ic Forum, Dmitriev sent out the two-page memo sum­ma­riz­ing por­tions of his Sey­chelles con­ver­sa­tion. The memo, which The Dai­ly Beast reviewed, lists four poten­tial areas of coop­er­a­tion and calls for an action plan to improve U.S.-Russian rela­tions over the next 12 months.

    The first bul­let point pro­pos­es the U.S. and Rus­sia work togeth­er on “mil­i­tary coor­di­na­tion and joint actions in Syr­ia against ISIS.” It’s an idea that appealed to some of the most impor­tant play­ers in the ear­ly Trump admin­is­tra­tion; Mike Fly­nn, Trump’s first and famous­ly Krem­lin-friend­ly nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, pushed to expand U.S.-Russian mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Syr­ia, a move that may have been ille­gal.

    Dmitriev’s plan would have gone sev­er­al steps fur­ther.

    The idea, accord­ing to the memo, was to set up a “joint spe­cial forces mis­sion where togeth­er the U.S. and Rus­sia take out a key ISIS per­son or place or frees an area then announces it after.” Prince, for his part, has pub­licly sup­port­ed the prospect of clos­er U.S.-Russia coop­er­a­tion on coun­tert­er­ror.

    “[I]f Franklin Roo­sevelt can work with Joseph Stal­in to defeat Ger­man fas­cism, Nazi fas­cism, nation­al social­ist fas­cism, then cer­tain­ly Don­ald Trump can work with Putin to defeat Islam­ic fas­cism,” Prince told The Dai­ly Beast in June.

    The doc­u­ment also sug­gests the coun­tries resume intel­li­gence-shar­ing on ter­ror­ism in the coun­try and work togeth­er on a “large-scale human­i­tar­i­an effort” to build hos­pi­tals in rebel areas and fly in med­ical sup­plies and food.
    ...

    Then there was the pro­pos­al for “a seri­ous joint effort by U.S. and Rus­sia to active­ly address the threat of nuclear, bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal (WMD) ter­ror.” Again, why exact­ly would this require an elab­o­rate secret meet­ing?

    ...
    Sec­ond, the memo pro­pos­es “a seri­ous joint effort by U.S. and Rus­sia to active­ly address the threat of nuclear, bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal (WMD) ter­ror.” While Trump, dur­ing the cam­paign and in the White House, talked of rebuild­ing America’s nuclear stockpile—and Putin rat­tled his saber similarly—the memo rec­om­mends the two coun­tries work togeth­er on nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion.

    “One poten­tial venue is the Nuclear Threat Ini­tia­tive (NTI) which War­ren Buf­fett is the pri­ma­ry spon­sor of,” the memo says. The Nuclear Threat Ini­tia­tive, whose CEO is now for­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of Ener­gy Ernest J. Moniz, is a Wash­ing­ton non­prof­it that works to reduce the risk of WMD attacks. Over the years, it has spon­sored dia­logues between Amer­i­can and Russ­ian diplo­mats. And last year, with a $50 mil­lion dona­tion from Buf­fett, it set up a bank to pur­chase low-enriched ura­ni­um in the for­mer Sovi­et repub­lic of Kaza­khstan.
    ...

    Then there’s the pro­pos­al for “win-win eco­nom­ic invest­ment ini­tia­tives that will be sup­port­ed by both elec­torates.” Is mutu­al busi­ness invest­ment a top­ic that war­rants a secret meet­ing?

    ...
    Third, the memo pro­pos­es ways the U.S. and Rus­sia can devel­op “win-win eco­nom­ic invest­ment ini­tia­tives that will be sup­port­ed by both elec­torates.” “Under­stand­ing U.S. pro­duc­tion by for­eign com­pa­nies is a focus of the new admin­is­tra­tion,” the memo says. It goes on to note that Russ­ian com­pa­nies would “make invest­ments with RDIF financ­ing to serve the U.S. mar­ket in the Mid­west, cre­at­ing real jobs for hard hit area with high employ­ment.”

    Trump spent his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign pledg­ing to bring back jobs to blight­ed Rust Belt towns, notch­ing wins in Mid­west­ern Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­holds like Wis­con­sin and Michigan—and even mak­ing Min­neso­ta com­pet­i­tive. The memo is evi­dence that Rus­sia was lis­ten­ing and propos­ing a way to help make Trump’s cen­tral cam­paign promise come true.

    The doc­u­ment also sets out the idea of a “joint RDIF fund with OPIC to sup­port U.S. invest­ment in Rus­sia to make U.S. busi­ness­es com­pet­i­tive vs. sub­si­dized Chi­nese busi­ness in Rus­sia.” OPIC, also known as the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, is a gov­ern­ment agency that works with the pri­vate sec­tor to help U.S. busi­ness­es gain a foothold in emerg­ing mar­kets. The memo also sug­gests orga­niz­ing a busi­ness trip to Moscow for Wash­ing­ton politi­cos to high­light U.S. busi­ness­es’ suc­cess in Rus­sia.
    ...

    And, of course, there was the calls for the US and Russ­ian to have an “hon­est and open and con­tin­u­al dia­logue on dif­fer­ences and con­cerns,” includ­ing over Ukraine. That seems like an obvi­ous top­ic of dis­cus­sion that the US and Rus­sia would be hav­ing:

    ...
    Fourth, the memo says the U.S. and Rus­sia should have an “hon­est and open and con­tin­u­al dia­logue on dif­fer­ences and con­cerns.” One of those con­cerns, the memo says, is resolv­ing the Ukraine crisis—instigated by Russia’s inva­sion and annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014—“through Min­sk agree­ments and ensur­ing Ukraine ful­fills its com­mit­ments.” The Min­sk agree­ments were draft­ed and signed by war­ring par­ties to alle­vi­ate the con­flict in Ukraine.

    The memo also says the two coun­tries should also coor­di­nate a “work­ing group between the State Depart­ment and Russ­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs to address key dif­fer­ences.” It is unclear from the memo what those dif­fer­ences are.
    ...

    Final­ly, there was the call for a small work­ing group with “2–3 peo­ple from each side autho­rized to final­ize an action plan for a major improve­ment in the U.S.-Russia rela­tion­ship.” This may be seen as some­what odd, but it’s not wild­ly beyond imag­i­na­tion:

    ...
    Last, the memo pro­pos­es the U.S. and Rus­sia set up a small work­ing group with “2–3 peo­ple from each side autho­rized to final­ize an action plan for a major improve­ment in the U.S.-Russia rela­tion­ship” and pro­pos­es “coor­di­na­tion across major agen­cies and gov­ern­ment bod­ies to achieve tan­gi­ble impact in the next 9–12 months.”

    Eve­lyn Farkas, an Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who focused on East­ern Europe and Rus­sia, said the pro­pos­als in the memo aren’t unusu­al; in fact, they mir­ror pro­pos­als that Moscow makes reg­u­lar­ly.

    “It’s noth­ing new,” she told The Dai­ly Beast. “What is new is that they’re try­ing to do this through this weird backchan­nel.”

    But the pro­pos­al of the task force—the memo’s fifth point—caught the eye of Mieke Eoyang, vice pres­i­dent of the think tank Third Way’s nation­al-secu­ri­ty pro­gram and a for­mer House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee staffer.

    “Num­ber five, that there’s a task force where the Rus­sians are going to par­tic­i­pate in fig­ur­ing out what the pol­i­cy should be on num­bers one through four, that’s real­ly not nor­mal,” she told The Dai­ly Beast. “They call it shut­tle diplo­ma­cy for a rea­son: There’s a back and forth on it. But you’re not let­ting them inside your deci­sion-mak­ing loop.”
    ...

    Final­ly, the one big odd­i­ty is that the memo was also sent to Richard Ger­son, head of Fal­con edge Cap­i­tal. Ger­son just hap­pened to have been in the Sey­chelles dur­ing the week of that meet­ing but appar­ent­ly left the island before the meet­ing took place:

    ...
    The memo was also sent to Richard Ger­son, head of Fal­con Edge Cap­i­tal, a hedge fund in New York City. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ger­son said he was in the Sey­chelles the week of the Prince-Dmitriev meet­ing but left the island before it took place. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive declined to com­ment on the memo.
    ...

    So the memo describes a big super-secret ‘blah’ meet­ing which is most mys­te­ri­ous over how unmys­te­ri­ous it is in the larg­er mys­te­ri­ous con­text. But it’s also mys­te­ri­ous in that it describes a series of top­ics that don’t appear to be the kinds of top­ics the UAE would be par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in. And the fact that Richard Ger­son was a recip­i­ent.

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, Richard Ger­son is both a close asso­ci­at­ed of Jared Kush­n­er and was involved with a secret meet­ing with MBZ in New York that appears to be meet­ing where the Sey­chelles encounter was set up. The arti­cle also note anoth­er inter­est­ing fun fact about the secret meet­ing in New York: Tony Blair was there too. And Ger­son is claim­ing that he was only at the meet­ing to escort Tony Blair there so he could give the par­tic­i­pants a pre­sen­ta­tion on Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace. So we can add Tony Blair to the list of fig­ures poten­tial­ly involved with this mess:

    NBC News

    Jared Kush­n­er close friend Rick Ger­son now under scruti­ny from Mueller
    Ger­son met with a UAE roy­al in the Sey­chelles around the time of a secret meet­ing there between Trump friend Erik Prince and Russ­ian and Emi­rati offi­cials.

    by Car­ol E. Lee and Julia Ains­ley /
    Jun.01.2018 / 4:52 AM CDT / Updat­ed Jun.01.2018 / 10:00 AM CDT

    WASHINGTON — A close friend of Jared Kush­n­er has come under scruti­ny by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller for his prox­im­i­ty to some key meet­ings between Trump asso­ciates and for­eign offi­cials, accord­ing to five peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Richard Ger­son, a hedge-fund man­ag­er in New York, was in the Sey­chelles in Jan­u­ary 2017, less than two weeks before Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion and around the time Trump asso­ciate Erik Prince secret­ly met with Russ­ian and Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates offi­cials, includ­ing Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, four of the peo­ple said.

    While in the remote Indi­an Ocean island nation, Ger­son met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his ini­tials as MBZ — and com­mu­ni­cat­ed with a Lebanese-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man with close ties to the UAE, George Nad­er, who had orga­nized the Erik Prince meet­ing, accord­ing to text mes­sages Ger­son sent at the time and a per­son famil­iar with the meet­ing.

    Ger­son had met Nad­er just weeks ear­li­er when Trump offi­cials, includ­ing Kush­n­er, gath­ered for a secret meet­ing with MBZ at a Four Sea­sons hotel in New York, four peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing said. Trump’s incom­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn and chief polit­i­cal advis­er Steve Ban­non, as well as the UAE’s ambas­sador to the U.S., Yousef Otai­ba, also attend­ed the meet­ing.

    Ger­son­’s pres­ence in the Sey­chelles and at the Four Sea­sons meet­ing has not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Mueller’s inter­est in Ger­son is anoth­er sign that he is exam­in­ing con­nec­tions between the UAE and Trump asso­ciates. Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tors have been scru­ti­niz­ing UAE influ­ence in the Trump cam­paign since before Mueller was appoint­ed as spe­cial coun­sel, and the probe has con­tin­ued in coor­di­na­tion with Mueller’s team, accord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    A spokesman for Ger­son declined to say why Ger­son met with MBZ in the Sey­chelles or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Nad­er while there. The spokesman empha­sized that Ger­son did not par­tic­i­pate in the meet­ing Erik Prince attend­ed with Russ­ian and Emi­rati offi­cials.

    “Mr. Ger­son was on vaca­tion in the Sey­chelles pri­or to the meet­ing you ref­er­ence. He knew noth­ing about the meet­ing, had left before the meet­ing was report­ed to have tak­en place, and has nev­er met or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Erik Prince,” the spokesman said.

    The spokesman said Ger­son­’s involve­ment in the Decem­ber meet­ing at the Four Sea­sons in New York was lim­it­ed to escort­ing for­mer British Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair to the meet­ing, so he could give the par­tic­i­pants a pre­sen­ta­tion on Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace.

    “Mr. Ger­son attend­ed the meet­ing in New York along with Mr. Blair to dis­cuss this issue,” the spokesman said, adding that Ger­son has known Blair since Blair’s time as an envoy for the Mid­dle East Quar­tet, a diplo­mat­ic coali­tion com­prised of the U.S., Euro­pean Union, Unit­ed Nations and Rus­sia that focus­es on the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict.

    After this arti­cle was pub­lished Fri­day morn­ing, the spokesman sent an addi­tion­al state­ment: “Your sto­ry today about Rick Ger­son is com­plete­ly wrong. Mr. Ger­son is not under scruti­ny or inves­ti­ga­tion by any agency includ­ing the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s office. Your reporters have com­plete­ly dis­tort­ed the facts to suit their nar­ra­tive mak­ing false and mis­lead­ing sug­ges­tions.”

    Kush­n­er has led the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts on an Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace deal. He has also come under scruti­ny by Mueller and spent more than six hours speak­ing to inves­ti­ga­tors in April.

    The Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee also has looked into Ger­son­’s pres­ence at the Sey­chelles and oth­er meet­ings relat­ed to the UAE, accord­ing to two offi­cials briefed on the mat­ter.

    Two peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ings said they inferred that Ger­son was there because of his con­nec­tion to Kush­n­er. One of them said UAE offi­cials con­sid­ered Ger­son to be “Kush­n­er’s guy.”

    Mueller is inves­ti­gat­ing whether the Sey­chelles meet­ing with Erik Prince was an effort to set up a backchan­nel between the incom­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. He’s also looked into the Four Sea­sons meet­ing, which the Oba­ma White House only lat­er learned about because the UAE had bro­ken pro­to­col by not inform­ing the out­go­ing admin­is­tra­tion that MBZ was in the U.S.

    Mueller’s team has asked wit­ness­es about Ger­son­’s prox­im­i­ty to key meet­ings, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the ques­tion­ing.

    Ger­son­’s spokesman declined to say whether Ger­son has been per­son­al­ly con­tact­ed by Mueller.

    A spokesman for the spe­cial coun­sel’s office declined to com­ment, as did Otai­ba and a lawyer for Nad­er.

    A lawyer for Jared Kush­n­er did not respond to a request for com­ment on Ger­son. A spokesman for Tony Blair also did not respond for a request for com­ment on the Decem­ber 2016 meet­ing in New York.

    A spokesper­son for Erik Prince declined to com­ment on Ger­son and reit­er­at­ed that Prince has said he was in the Sey­chelles sole­ly to meet MBZ.

    Ger­son, who goes by Rick, found­ed Fal­con Edge Cap­i­tal, LP, of which he serves as chair­man and chief invest­ment offi­cer. He has been friends with Kush­n­er for more than a decade. Ger­son had pur­sued busi­ness with the UAE pri­or to the 2016 elec­tion.

    A for­eign intel­li­gence offi­cial told NBC News that a flight man­i­fest shows Ger­son was on a plane to the Sey­chelles with oth­er Amer­i­cans a few days ahead of the Prince meet­ing.

    That meet­ing around Jan. 11, 2017 includ­ed MBZ; Nad­er; Prince, a secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor who is a Trump con­fi­dant and the founder of the pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny once known as Black­wa­ter; and Kir­ill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund, who is close to Putin.

    On Jan. 10, 2017, Nad­er and Ger­son exchanged mes­sages on What­sApp, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the mes­sages. In one mes­sage, Nad­er sent Ger­son a pho­to of him­self and MBZ that he said was tak­en in Decem­ber 2016 while they were in Moroc­co, these peo­ple said. They said Ger­son replied that he was unable to make it to Moroc­co because he was with his chil­dren in Anguil­la and because of that he came to Sey­chelles instead.

    In anoth­er mes­sage exchange a few days lat­er, Nad­er sent Ger­son an arti­cle about Jared Kush­n­er and his broth­er, Josh. Ger­son replied that he’s good friends with both of them, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the mes­sages. They said Nad­er respond­ed that he’d heard when he was in New York how much Jared Kush­n­er respects Ger­son, adding: “Remem­ber at Four Sea­sons!”

    Ger­son and Nader’s rela­tion­ship expand­ed after Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, when they began dis­cussing busi­ness and pol­i­cy, these peo­ple said.

    Mueller’s team has also asked ques­tions about a meet­ing Ger­son attend­ed with Kush­n­er and Ban­non in New York in ear­ly 2017, accord­ing to the New York Times.

    Nad­er has been coop­er­at­ing with Mueller’s probe since Jan­u­ary and already has giv­en sev­er­al days of tes­ti­mo­ny to inves­ti­ga­tors, a devel­op­ment first report­ed by the New York Times and con­firmed by NBC News.

    Erik Prince has described the meet­ing with Dmitriev as an impromp­tu encounter. He told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee one of the UAE offi­cials he was meet­ing with in the Sey­chelles about poten­tial busi­ness deals sug­gest­ed he see Dmitriev.

    “And at the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey by the way, there’s this Russ­ian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see some­one from the Emi­rati del­e­ga­tion. And you should meet him. He’d be an inter­est­ing guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and min­er­al space,’ ” Prince told law­mak­ers.

    The inclu­sion of a wealthy busi­ness­man with close ties to the pres­i­den­t’s son-in-law in meet­ings with for­eign offi­cials sug­gests a poten­tial mix­ing of per­son­al and gov­ern­ment busi­ness by Trump asso­ciates, accord­ing to Robert Ander­son, a prin­ci­pal at the Chertoff Group and for­mer exec­u­tive assis­tant direc­tor at the FBI. It also rais­es ques­tions about out­side influ­ence on the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s pol­i­cy deci­sions, he said.

    ...
    ———-

    “Jared Kush­n­er close friend Rick Ger­son now under scruti­ny from Mueller” by Car­ol E. Lee and Julia Ains­ley; NBC News; 06/01/2018

    “Richard Ger­son, a hedge-fund man­ag­er in New York, was in the Sey­chelles in Jan­u­ary 2017, less than two weeks before Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion and around the time Trump asso­ciate Erik Prince secret­ly met with Russ­ian and Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates offi­cials, includ­ing Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, four of the peo­ple said.”

    So Richard Ger­son was in the Sey­chelles right around the time of the meet­ing. He was also at a secret meet­ing with MBZ at a Four Sea­sons hotel on New York in Decem­ber 2016, with with Michael Fly­nn, Steven Ban­non, and the UAE’s ambas­sador to the US:

    ...
    While in the remote Indi­an Ocean island nation, Ger­son met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his ini­tials as MBZ — and com­mu­ni­cat­ed with a Lebanese-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man with close ties to the UAE, George Nad­er, who had orga­nized the Erik Prince meet­ing, accord­ing to text mes­sages Ger­son sent at the time and a per­son famil­iar with the meet­ing.

    Ger­son had met Nad­er just weeks ear­li­er when Trump offi­cials, includ­ing Kush­n­er, gath­ered for a secret meet­ing with MBZ at a Four Sea­sons hotel in New York, four peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing said. Trump’s incom­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn and chief polit­i­cal advis­er Steve Ban­non, as well as the UAE’s ambas­sador to the U.S., Yousef Otai­ba, also attend­ed the meet­ing.

    Ger­son­’s pres­ence in the Sey­chelles and at the Four Sea­sons meet­ing has not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Mueller’s inter­est in Ger­son is anoth­er sign that he is exam­in­ing con­nec­tions between the UAE and Trump asso­ciates. Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tors have been scru­ti­niz­ing UAE influ­ence in the Trump cam­paign since before Mueller was appoint­ed as spe­cial coun­sel, and the probe has con­tin­ued in coor­di­na­tion with Mueller’s team, accord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the inves­ti­ga­tion.
    ...

    And yet Ger­son­’s spokesman insists that Ger­son empha­sized that he was mere­ly in the Sey­chelles for a vaca­tion and knew noth­ing about the meet­ing. Keep in mind that there was an offi­cial non-secret meet­ing in the Sey­chelles at the time that was orga­nized by MBZ in addi­tion to the secret three-way meet­ing between Prince, Dmitriev, and Nad­er. So Ger­son­’s spokesman appears to be say­ing that Ger­son was­n’t even away of the offi­cial non-secret meet­ing:

    ...
    A spokesman for Ger­son declined to say why Ger­son met with MBZ in the Sey­chelles or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Nad­er while there. The spokesman empha­sized that Ger­son did not par­tic­i­pate in the meet­ing Erik Prince attend­ed with Russ­ian and Emi­rati offi­cials.

    Mr. Ger­son was on vaca­tion in the Sey­chelles pri­or to the meet­ing you ref­er­ence. He knew noth­ing about the meet­ing, had left before the meet­ing was report­ed to have tak­en place, and has nev­er met or com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Erik Prince,” the spokesman said.
    ...

    And when asked about Ger­son­’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the secret meet­ing at the Four Sea­sons in New York a few weeks ear­li­er, his spokesman insists that it was just for escort­ing Tony Blair there so Blair could give the par­tic­i­pants a pre­sen­ta­tion on Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace:

    ...
    The spokesman said Ger­son­’s involve­ment in the Decem­ber meet­ing at the Four Sea­sons in New York was lim­it­ed to escort­ing for­mer British Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair to the meet­ing, so he could give the par­tic­i­pants a pre­sen­ta­tion on Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace.

    “Mr. Ger­son attend­ed the meet­ing in New York along with Mr. Blair to dis­cuss this issue,” the spokesman said, adding that Ger­son has known Blair since Blair’s time as an envoy for the Mid­dle East Quar­tet, a diplo­mat­ic coali­tion com­prised of the U.S., Euro­pean Union, Unit­ed Nations and Rus­sia that focus­es on the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict.

    After this arti­cle was pub­lished Fri­day morn­ing, the spokesman sent an addi­tion­al state­ment: “Your sto­ry today about Rick Ger­son is com­plete­ly wrong. Mr. Ger­son is not under scruti­ny or inves­ti­ga­tion by any agency includ­ing the Spe­cial Coun­sel’s office. Your reporters have com­plete­ly dis­tort­ed the facts to suit their nar­ra­tive mak­ing false and mis­lead­ing sug­ges­tions.”

    Kush­n­er has led the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts on an Israeli-Pales­tin­ian peace deal. He has also come under scruti­ny by Mueller and spent more than six hours speak­ing to inves­ti­ga­tors in April.
    ...

    It’s also inter­est­ing to note that the flight man­i­fest show­ing Ger­son on a plane to the Sey­chelles a few days ahead of the Prince meet­ing had oth­er Amer­i­cans on the plane too. It rais­es ques­tions about who those oth­er Amer­i­cans were:

    ...
    Ger­son, who goes by Rick, found­ed Fal­con Edge Cap­i­tal, LP, of which he serves as chair­man and chief invest­ment offi­cer. He has been friends with Kush­n­er for more than a decade. Ger­son had pur­sued busi­ness with the UAE pri­or to the 2016 elec­tion.

    A for­eign intel­li­gence offi­cial told NBC News that a flight man­i­fest shows Ger­son was on a plane to the Sey­chelles with oth­er Amer­i­cans a few days ahead of the Prince meet­ing.

    That meet­ing around Jan. 11, 2017 includ­ed MBZ; Nad­er; Prince, a secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor who is a Trump con­fi­dant and the founder of the pri­vate secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny once known as Black­wa­ter; and Kir­ill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russ­ian Direct Invest­ment Fund, who is close to Putin.
    ...

    And then there’s anoth­er secret meet­ing that took place between Ger­son, Kush­n­er, and Ban­non in New York in ear­ly 2017:

    ...
    On Jan. 10, 2017, Nad­er and Ger­son exchanged mes­sages on What­sApp, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the mes­sages. In one mes­sage, Nad­er sent Ger­son a pho­to of him­self and MBZ that he said was tak­en in Decem­ber 2016 while they were in Moroc­co, these peo­ple said. They said Ger­son replied that he was unable to make it to Moroc­co because he was with his chil­dren in Anguil­la and because of that he came to Sey­chelles instead.

    In anoth­er mes­sage exchange a few days lat­er, Nad­er sent Ger­son an arti­cle about Jared Kush­n­er and his broth­er, Josh. Ger­son replied that he’s good friends with both of them, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the mes­sages. They said Nad­er respond­ed that he’d heard when he was in New York how much Jared Kush­n­er respects Ger­son, adding: “Remem­ber at Four Sea­sons!”

    Ger­son and Nader’s rela­tion­ship expand­ed after Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion, when they began dis­cussing busi­ness and pol­i­cy, these peo­ple said.

    Mueller’s team has also asked ques­tions about a meet­ing Ger­son attend­ed with Kush­n­er and Ban­non in New York in ear­ly 2017, accord­ing to the New York Times.
    ...

    So Ger­son appears to be deeply involved with the Trump team and the var­i­ous­ly meet­ings that led up to the secret Sey­chelles meet­ing. Includ­ing a secret meet­ing that includ­ed Tony Blair. And he received a memo from Dmitriev sum­ma­riz­ing that secret Sey­chelles meet­ing. And yet that memo basi­cal­ly described a con­ver­sa­tion that could have eas­i­ly tak­en place at the Aspen Insti­tute on any ran­dom day and had almost no direct rela­tion­ship to inter­ests involv­ing the UAE.

    It’s all quite mys­te­ri­ous­ly unmys­te­ri­ous.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 28, 2018, 1:55 pm
  24. Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York just expand­ed their inves­ti­ga­tion of the Trump inau­gur­al com­mit­tee with a new sub­poe­na which indi­cates that they’re look­ing into crimes relat­ed to con­spir­a­cy to defraud the Unit­ed States, mail fraud, false state­ments, wire fraud and mon­ey laun­der­ing.

    The sub­poe­na is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly wide-rang­ing but cen­ters around one indi­vid­ual. It call for all infor­ma­tion relat­ed to inau­gur­al donors, ven­dors, con­trac­tors, bank accounts of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to for­eign con­trib­u­tors to the com­mit­tee. But it’s specif­i­cal­ly names an indi­vid­ual that inves­ti­ga­tors are inter­est­ed in and this indi­vid­ual is a big reminder that Qatar is one of the coun­tries that needs to be kept in mind when it comes to be weaponized gov­ern­ment-sanc­tioned hacks and influ­ence ped­dling in DC.

    Keep in mind that the #TrumpRus­sia sto­ry is increas­ing­ly turn­ing out to be a #Trump­Saudi­Ara­bi­aUAE sto­ry. For exam­ple, there’s the entire Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ arranged by the UAE that appeared to be ori­ent­ed towards get­ting Rus­sia to pull its sup­port for Iran. And there was the offers by the Sau­di and UAE crown princes in August of 2016 of the ser­vices of Psy Group to wage a social media manip­u­la­tion cam­paign to help Trump defeat Hillary Clin­ton. So the fact that rela­tions between Qatar, Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE have been extreme­ly strained in recent years, to the point where there was a block­ade imposed on Qatar by its neigh­bors, rep­re­sents anoth­er area where these nations may have been will­ing to make big gam­bles (like secret­ly med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion to help Trump) for the pur­pose of see­ing a US change in pol­i­cy.

    The new sub­poe­na specif­i­cal­ly call for all com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Los Ange­les ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Imaad Zuberi. His com­pa­ny, Avenue Ven­tures, donat­ed $900,000 to the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and inves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into whether or not that rep­re­sent­ed ille­gal dona­tions from Qatar.

    Part of what make Zuber­i’s dona­tions sus­pi­cious is the fact that he was actu­al­ly a long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic donor. In the 2016 elec­tion, he gave more than $615,000 to a joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tee between Hillary Clinton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. In 2012 he donat­ed over $77,000 to Barack Oba­ma’s reelec­tion efforts. And some of the hacked Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails released by Wik­ileaks actu­al­ly talk about John Podes­ta meet­ing with Zuberi in Sep­tem­ber 2015 to thank him for sup­port­ing Hillary. But after Trump won, Zuberi quick­ly became a major donor to Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty, giv­ing more than $467,000 to Trump’s reelec­tion com­mit­tee and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee over the past two years.

    It also turns out Zuberi is involved with a Decem­ber 12, 2016, Trump Tow­er vis­it by a del­e­ga­tion of Qatari offi­cials who met with Steve Ban­non. Zuberi wrote on his Face­book page the daty that he met with Michael Fly­nn in Trump Tow­er. His lawyer also acknowl­edges that Zuberi walked with the Qatari del­e­ga­tion to Trump Tow­er and rode up the ele­va­tor with them, but asserts that Zuberi did not par­tic­i­pate in their meet­ings with Trump offi­cials.

    The fact that a Qatari del­e­ga­tion trav­eled to Trump Tow­er in Decem­ber of 2016 isn’t all that notable in of itself because there were no doubt all sorts of gov­ern­ment meet­ings with the Trump team at that point. But it does high­light the close­ness of Zuber­i’s ties to the Qatari gov­ern­ment which fig­ures into the ques­tion of whether or not his lat­er dona­tions to the Trump inau­gur­al com­mit­tee were being done on behalf of Qatar which would be ille­gal. Only US cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents can legal­ly. donate to inau­gur­al com­mit­tees.

    The tim­ing of this Decem­ber 12 meet­ing is also some­what notable in that it came three days before the secret trip by crown prince of the UAE to Trump Tow­er in breach of US diplo­mat­ic pro­to­col because he did­n’t inform the White House of his vis­it. And it was dur­ing that meet­ing that the secret Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ meet­ing was report­ed set up. And while there’s no direct indi­ca­tion at this point that Qatar was part of that back chan­nel effort, Zuber­i’s Face­book page indi­cates that he vis­it­ed Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE just days after the Qatari del­e­ga­tion met in Trump Tow­er. So Zuberi meets with the Qatari del­e­ga­tion at Trump Tow­er on Decem­ber 12, then days lat­er he’s in Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE right around the time of the secret UAE Trump Tow­er meet­ing where the Sey­chelles back chan­nel meet­ing was set up. Was Zuberi essen­tial­ly act­ing as a back chan­nel for Qatar’s involve­ment with the Sey­chelles back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions? It’s an intrigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty. An intrigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty that would fur­ther indi­cate that Sey­chelles back chan­nel meet­ing was pri­mar­i­ly about nego­ti­a­tions between Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE, and Rus­sia and their poli­cies towards the rest of the Mid­dle East.

    And as we’re going to see, it turns out that Steve Ban­non was specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ed by the Qatar as some­one close to Trump they want­ed to win over for help in their con­flicts with the Saud­is and UAE but Ban­non strong­ly sided with the Saud­is in the end. And giv­en the ten­sions between Qatar and the UAE and Saud­is at this point it would­n’t be sur­pris­ing if Qatar was actu­al­ly one of the sub­jects of that back chan­nel meet­ing that the Saud­is and UAE secret­ly want­ed to dis­cuss with the Krem­lin. So the fact that the Qatari del­e­ga­tion in Trump Tow­er met a few days before the secret UAE del­e­ga­tion in Trump Tow­er rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not the Qatari diplo­mat­ic push with the Trump team actu­al­ly shaped the Sey­chelles back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors issue sweep­ing sub­poe­na for doc­u­ments from Trump inau­gur­al com­mit­tee, a sign of a deep­en­ing crim­i­nal probe

    By Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and
    Michael Kran­ish
    Feb­ru­ary 4, 2019 at 10:55 PM

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in New York on Mon­day deliv­ered a sweep­ing request for doc­u­ments relat­ed to dona­tions and spend­ing by Pres­i­dent Trump’s inau­gur­al com­mit­tee, a sign of a deep­en­ing crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into activ­i­ties relat­ed to the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion.

    A wide-rang­ing sub­poe­na served on the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee Mon­day seeks an array of doc­u­ments, includ­ing all infor­ma­tion relat­ed to inau­gur­al donors, ven­dors, con­trac­tors, bank accounts of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to for­eign con­trib­u­tors to the com­mit­tee, accord­ing to a copy reviewed by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    Only U.S. cit­i­zens and legal res­i­dents can legal­ly donate to a com­mit­tee estab­lished to finance pres­i­den­tial inau­gur­al fes­tiv­i­ties.

    “We have just received a sub­poe­na for doc­u­ments. While we are still review­ing the sub­poe­na, it is our inten­tion to coop­er­ate with the inquiry,” a spokesman for the com­mit­tee said in a state­ment.

    The sub­poe­na — issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York — indi­cates that pros­e­cu­tors are inves­ti­gat­ing crimes relat­ed to con­spir­a­cy to defraud the Unit­ed States, mail fraud, false state­ments, wire fraud and mon­ey laun­der­ing.

    The sub­poe­na also specif­i­cal­ly seeks all com­mu­ni­ca­tions with one donor, Los Ange­les ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Imaad Zuberi, as well as the firm with which he is affil­i­at­ed, Avenue Ven­tures. The com­pa­ny donat­ed $900,000 to the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee, records show.

    Steve Rabi­nowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, said in a tele­phone inter­view that Zuberi knew noth­ing about the sub­poe­na until con­tact­ed by a reporter.

    “It is well known that after sup­port­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton that Imaad gave gen­er­ous­ly and direct­ly to the Trump inau­gur­al,” Rabi­nowitz said. “But many oth­ers gave sub­stan­tial­ly more. If in fact he is named in this sub­poe­na, nev­er mind some­how named alone, he is bewil­dered why.”

    Asked whether there was any for­eign con­nec­tion to Zuberi’s dona­tion, Rabi­nowitz said: “There is no con­nec­tion of any oth­er indi­vid­ual or enti­ty, and for sure not a for­eign one. He gave his own mon­ey.”

    Trump’s inau­gur­al com­mit­tee raised a record $107 mil­lion to fund events and par­ties sur­round­ing his assump­tion of office in Jan­u­ary 2017, more than twice the amount raised to fund Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2009 inau­gur­al.

    Con­tri­bu­tions were made by a wide array of cor­po­rate inter­ests and wealthy Trump sup­port­ers, accord­ing to fil­ings with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

    The com­mit­tee was chaired by real estate devel­op­er Tom Bar­rack Jr., a long­time friend of Trump’s. Bar­rack, who is not men­tioned by name in the sub­poe­na, declined to com­ment.

    The request for doc­u­ments, first report­ed by ABC News, is a sign of anoth­er widen­ing legal headache for Trump, whose busi­ness, per­son­al char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion and cam­paign are all under inves­ti­ga­tion by state and fed­er­al author­i­ties.

    The lat­est sub­poe­na seeks infor­ma­tion relat­ed to broad top­ics, includ­ing infor­ma­tion about ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed to top donors, train­ing doc­u­ments for fundrais­ers and infor­ma­tion relat­ed to any pay­ments made direct­ly by donors to ven­dors.

    Much of the committee’s fundrais­ing and oper­a­tion was head­ed by Rick Gates, a for­mer senior Trump cam­paign offi­cial who served as a deputy chair­man of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and is coop­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors as part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Gates, a long­time asso­ciate of for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, plead­ed guilty last Feb­ru­ary to var­i­ous charges relat­ed to his work with Man­afort as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Ukraine.

    At Manafort’s tri­al in Vir­ginia in August, Gates tes­ti­fied that it was “pos­si­ble” that he stole mon­ey from the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee by sub­mit­ting false expense reports for his work.

    After Trump’s elec­tion, Zuberi, a long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic donor, swift­ly emerged as a major con­trib­u­tor to the new pres­i­dent and Repub­li­cans. Along with the $900,000 his firm Avenue Ven­tures gave to the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee on Dec. 28, 2016, it donat­ed an addi­tion­al $100,000 to the host com­mit­tee for the 2016 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion on Jan. 13, 2017, cam­paign finance records show.

    The dona­tion came months after the Cleve­land con­ven­tion and just days before Trump took office.

    In the first two years of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Zuberi gave more than $467,000 to the president’s reelec­tion com­mit­tee and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, records show.

    Zuberi’s sup­port for Trump marked a swift rever­sal for a financier who had pre­vi­ous­ly been a major Demo­c­ra­t­ic giv­er.

    In the 2016 elec­tion, he gave more than $615,000 to a joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tee between Hillary Clinton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, records show. Four years ear­li­er, he had con­tributed more than $77,000 to a com­mit­tee rais­ing funds for Obama’s reelec­tion and the par­ty.

    Inter­nal Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails released by Wik­iLeaks in Octo­ber 2016 show that Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podes­ta met with Zuberi in Sep­tem­ber 2015 to thank him for his sup­port of Clin­ton.

    The inter­nal Podes­ta memo is part of a cache of hacked emails that pros­e­cu­tors have said were stolen by Russ­ian oper­a­tives and pro­vid­ed to Wik­iLeaks in an effort to help elect Trump.

    On his Face­book page, Zuberi indi­cat­ed that he vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er in New York in Decem­ber 2016 as the pres­i­dent-elect pre­pared to take office, writ­ing that he was with incom­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn.

    That was the same day that a del­e­ga­tion from Qatar, includ­ing the county’s for­eign min­is­ter, vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er and met with Fly­nn and cam­paign chief exec­u­tive Stephen K. Ban­non.

    Rabi­nowitz said Zuberi met with the Qataris that day, walked with them to Trump Tow­er and rode up the ele­va­tor with them, but did not par­tic­i­pate in their meet­ings with Trump offi­cials.

    Zuberi indi­cat­ed on his Face­book page that he met with the Qatari for­eign min­is­ter at the Plaza Hotel in New York the fol­low­ing day. Days lat­er, he vis­it­ed Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, his Face­book posts show.

    The inau­gur­al com­mit­tee has also been scru­ti­nized by the spe­cial coun­sel, whose pros­e­cu­tors have explored the pos­si­bil­i­ty that for­eign mon­ey helped fund Trump’s inau­gur­al fes­tiv­i­ties, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inquiry.

    It is not clear whether Mueller is still inves­ti­gat­ing the com­mit­tee or referred the case to oth­er pros­e­cu­tors to pur­sue.

    ...

    ———-

    “Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors issue sweep­ing sub­poe­na for doc­u­ments from Trump inau­gur­al com­mit­tee, a sign of a deep­en­ing crim­i­nal probe” by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Michael Kran­ish; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/04/2019

    “A wide-rang­ing sub­poe­na served on the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee Mon­day seeks an array of doc­u­ments, includ­ing all infor­ma­tion relat­ed to inau­gur­al donors, ven­dors, con­trac­tors, bank accounts of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to for­eign con­trib­u­tors to the com­mit­tee, accord­ing to a copy reviewed by The Wash­ing­ton Post.”

    It’s a wide-rang­ing sub­poe­na by fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors in the South Dis­trict of New York ask­ing for all infor­ma­tion relat­ed to inau­gur­al donors, ven­dors, con­trac­tors, bank accounts of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and any infor­ma­tion relat­ed to for­eign con­trib­u­tors to the com­mit­tee. And yet there’s just one indi­vid­ual specif­i­cal­ly named in the sub­poe­na: Imaad Zuberi:

    ...
    Only U.S. cit­i­zens and legal res­i­dents can legal­ly donate to a com­mit­tee estab­lished to finance pres­i­den­tial inau­gur­al fes­tiv­i­ties.

    ...

    The sub­poe­na — issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York — indi­cates that pros­e­cu­tors are inves­ti­gat­ing crimes relat­ed to con­spir­a­cy to defraud the Unit­ed States, mail fraud, false state­ments, wire fraud and mon­ey laun­der­ing.

    The sub­poe­na also specif­i­cal­ly seeks all com­mu­ni­ca­tions with one donor, Los Ange­les ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Imaad Zuberi, as well as the firm with which he is affil­i­at­ed, Avenue Ven­tures. The com­pa­ny donat­ed $900,000 to the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee, records show.

    Steve Rabi­nowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, said in a tele­phone inter­view that Zuberi knew noth­ing about the sub­poe­na until con­tact­ed by a reporter.
    ...

    Also note how the sub­poe­na specif­i­cal­ly asks for infor­ma­tion relat­ed to any pay­ments made direct­ly by donors to ven­dors. Recall how Rick Gates was report­ed­ly ask­ing donors to make con­tri­bu­tions direct­ly to ven­dors in order to obscure some of the dona­tions. The rea­son Gates gave was report­ed­ly that they were bring­ing in so much in dona­tions that he want­ed to obscure some of it but there’s the obvi­ous alter­na­tive motive of obscur­ing for­eign dona­tions. So it sounds like inves­ti­ga­tors may sus­pect Qatar of being one of the coun­tries that gave dona­tions direct­ly to the inau­gu­ra­tion ven­dors:

    ...
    The lat­est sub­poe­na seeks infor­ma­tion relat­ed to broad top­ics, includ­ing infor­ma­tion about ben­e­fits pro­vid­ed to top donors, train­ing doc­u­ments for fundrais­ers and infor­ma­tion relat­ed to any pay­ments made direct­ly by donors to ven­dors.

    Much of the committee’s fundrais­ing and oper­a­tion was head­ed by Rick Gates, a for­mer senior Trump cam­paign offi­cial who served as a deputy chair­man of the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee and is coop­er­at­ing with pros­e­cu­tors as part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Gates, a long­time asso­ciate of for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, plead­ed guilty last Feb­ru­ary to var­i­ous charges relat­ed to his work with Man­afort as a polit­i­cal con­sul­tant in Ukraine.

    At Manafort’s tri­al in Vir­ginia in August, Gates tes­ti­fied that it was “pos­si­ble” that he stole mon­ey from the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee by sub­mit­ting false expense reports for his work.
    ...

    Adding to inves­ti­ga­tors’ sus­pi­cions that Zuberi was mak­ing these dona­tions on behalf of the Qatari gov­ern­ment is the fact that Zuberi was a major donor to Democ­rats right up until Trump’s elec­tion:

    ...
    After Trump’s elec­tion, Zuberi, a long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic donor, swift­ly emerged as a major con­trib­u­tor to the new pres­i­dent and Repub­li­cans. Along with the $900,000 his firm Avenue Ven­tures gave to the inau­gur­al com­mit­tee on Dec. 28, 2016, it donat­ed an addi­tion­al $100,000 to the host com­mit­tee for the 2016 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion on Jan. 13, 2017, cam­paign finance records show.

    The dona­tion came months after the Cleve­land con­ven­tion and just days before Trump took office.

    In the first two years of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Zuberi gave more than $467,000 to the president’s reelec­tion com­mit­tee and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, records show.

    Zuberi’s sup­port for Trump marked a swift rever­sal for a financier who had pre­vi­ous­ly been a major Demo­c­ra­t­ic giv­er.

    In the 2016 elec­tion, he gave more than $615,000 to a joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tee between Hillary Clinton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, records show. Four years ear­li­er, he had con­tributed more than $77,000 to a com­mit­tee rais­ing funds for Obama’s reelec­tion and the par­ty.

    Inter­nal Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails released by Wik­iLeaks in Octo­ber 2016 show that Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podes­ta met with Zuberi in Sep­tem­ber 2015 to thank him for his sup­port of Clin­ton.
    ...

    Then there are the ques­tions about Zuber­i’s role with the Qatari Trump Tow­er meet­ing with Steve Ban­non on Decem­ber 12, 2016. Zuber­i’s lawyers admit he trav­eled with the Qatari del­e­ga­tion up the Trump Tow­er ele­va­tor but insist he did­n’t play a role in the actu­al­ly meet­ing. And yet just a few days lat­er he was post­ing on Face­book about how he’s in Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE, right around the same time the crown prince of the UAE made his secret Decem­ber 15 trip to Trump Tow­er to set up the Sey­chelles back chan­nel:

    ...
    On his Face­book page, Zuberi indi­cat­ed that he vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er in New York in Decem­ber 2016 as the pres­i­dent-elect pre­pared to take office, writ­ing that he was with incom­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn.

    That was the same day that a del­e­ga­tion from Qatar, includ­ing the county’s for­eign min­is­ter, vis­it­ed Trump Tow­er and met with Fly­nn and cam­paign chief exec­u­tive Stephen K. Ban­non.

    Rabi­nowitz said Zuberi met with the Qataris that day, walked with them to Trump Tow­er and rode up the ele­va­tor with them, but did not par­tic­i­pate in their meet­ings with Trump offi­cials.

    Zuberi indi­cat­ed on his Face­book page that he met with the Qatari for­eign min­is­ter at the Plaza Hotel in New York the fol­low­ing day. Days lat­er, he vis­it­ed Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, his Face­book posts show.

    The inau­gur­al com­mit­tee has also been scru­ti­nized by the spe­cial coun­sel, whose pros­e­cu­tors have explored the pos­si­bil­i­ty that for­eign mon­ey helped fund Trump’s inau­gur­al fes­tiv­i­ties, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inquiry.

    It is not clear whether Mueller is still inves­ti­gat­ing the com­mit­tee or referred the case to oth­er pros­e­cu­tors to pur­sue.
    ...

    So that’s that lat­est twist in the inves­ti­ga­tion in the Trump inau­gur­al com­mit­tee. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle from May of 2018 makes clear, that Qatari influ­ence ped­dling cam­paign did­n’t end with the inau­gu­ra­tion. This par­tic­u­lar sto­ry does­n’t appear to involved Zuberi but it does involve the Qatari Trump Tow­er meet­ings in Decem­ber 2016.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, it’s about a group of Qatari investors, Al-Rumai­hi and two friends, Faisal Al-Hama­di and Ayman Sabi, who approached a new­ly formed three-on-three bas­ket­ball league, Big3, that was start­ed in June of 2017. That was a few weeks after the Saud­is and UAE arranged for a region­al block­ade against Qatar.

    Big3 was start­ed by rapper/movie star Ice Cube along with his long­time busi­ness part­ner Jeff Kwatinetz. The orig­i­nal com­mis­sion­er for the league was for­mer NBA play­er Roger Mason. The play­ers in Big3 tend­ed to be for­mer NBA play­ers.

    Big3 is now suing Al-Rumai­hi and his friends, claim­ing they are owed mon­ey and an attempt to under­cut their lead­er­ship by alleg­ing mis­man­age­ment and false­ly accus­ing Kwatinetz of using racist lan­guage. Accord­ing to the law­suit, Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi and his asso­ciates approached Big3 with an offer of a major invest­ment and imply­ing con­nec­tions to the Qatari gov­ern­ment.

    Here’s where Steve Ban­non come in: it turns out that Kwatinetz ran a man­age­ment com­pa­ny called The Firm. Steve Ban­non was The Firm’s CFO. And accord­ing to the Kwatinet­z’s affi­davit in the law­suit, Al-Rumai­hi made it abun­dant­ly clear that he was very inter­est­ed in Steve Ban­non’s views on polit­i­cal issues involv­ing Qatar: “[T]here were numer­ous occa­sions dur­ing the 2017 sea­son where Mr. Al-Ruh­mai­hi would bring up Mr. Bannon’s name to me and com­ment about Mr. Bannon’s polit­i­cal posi­tions, his views on the block­ade, the Trump administration’s posi­tion toward Qatar, and he per­sis­tent­ly inquired about want­i­ng to meet with Mr. Ban­non.

    Kwatinet­z’s affi­davit also claims that, tn Jan­u­ary of 2018, Al-Ruh­mai­hi “stat­ed to me that he want­ed me to con­vey a mes­sage from the Qatari Gov­ern­ment to Steve Ban­non...Mr. Al-Rumai­hi request­ed I set up a meet­ing between him, the Qatari gov­ern­ment, and Steven Ban­non, and to tell Steve Ban­non that Qatar would under­write all of his polit­i­cal efforts in return for his sup­port.”

    Recall that Ban­non was fired from the White House in August of 2017 fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of Michael Wolf­f’s Fire and Fury book and he lost the finan­cial back­ing of Rebekah Mer­cer. So in June of 2017, when Qatar was fac­ing a block­ade an Steve Ban­non was still in the White House, the gov­ern­ment of Qatar made a big invest­ment in Ice Cube’s 3‑on‑3 bas­ket­ball league in order to get close to Steve Ban­non. And in Jan­u­ary of 2018, after Ban­non was fired and he lost his Mer­cer fam­i­ly back­ing, the Qatari gov­ern­ment was basi­cal­ly inter­est­ed in becom­ing Steve Ban­non’s new fis­cal spon­sor.

    Kwatinetz claims he was offend­ed by this offer and that nei­ther he nor Ban­non would ever take a bribe. “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi laughed” at that response accord­ing to the affi­davit, “and then stat­ed to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Wash­ing­ton politi­cians take our mon­ey, and stat­ed ‘do you think Fly­nn turned down our mon­ey?’So accord­ing to Kwatinetz, Michael Fly­nn was already tak­ing Qatari mon­ey at that point. Giv­en the impor­tance Fly­nn had in these var­i­ous inter­na­tion­al back chan­nel schemes the fact that he was tak­ing Qatari mon­ey rais­es addi­tion­al ques­tions about whether or not Qatar was involved in these var­i­ous back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions.

    Now here’s where the Decem­ber 2016 Trump Tow­er meet­ing comes in: Back in May of 2018 after Kwatinetz filed his affi­davit accus­ing Al-Rumai­hi of brag­ging about pay­ing off Michael Fly­nn, Michael Ave­nat­ti, then the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, asked the fol­low­ing ques­tion on Twit­ter: “Why was Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi meet­ing with Michael Cohen and Michael Fly­nn in Decem­ber 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumai­hi lat­er brag about brib­ing admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials accord­ing to a sworn dec­la­ra­tion filed in court?”

    And Al-Rumai­hi did admit to being at the Decem­ber 12, 2016 Trump Tow­er meet­ing, although he denies meet­ing with Fly­nn. Accord­ing to this lawyer: “Al-Rumai­hi was at Trump Tow­er on Decem­ber 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Invest­ments, an inter­nal divi­sion of QIA, to accom­pa­ny the Qatari del­e­ga­tion that was meet­ing with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials on that date. He did not par­tic­i­pate in any meet­ings with Michael Fly­nn, and his involve­ment in the meet­ings on that date was lim­it­ed.”

    Anoth­er per­son famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion claims that, “Cohen briefly popped in,” and it was also report­ed that Cohen did pitch to Al-Rumai­hi a $1 mil­lion con­tract under which Cohen would help line up access to the admin­is­tra­tion and offer advice to the Qatari gov­ern­ment. The pitch was report­ed­ly declined.

    Now here’s what hack­ings enter the pic­ture: It turns out Qatar is the primer sus­pect for the hack­ing of Elliot Broidy. Recall how Broidy is the for­mer RNC finance chair was teamed up with George Nad­er in ear­ly 2017 to lob­by the US gov­ern­ment on behalf of the Sau­di and UAE gov­ern­ments. It turns out some of the mem­os Broidy wrote arug­ing the US gov­ern­ment should back the UAE’s posi­tions in the Gulf were hacked and leaked to the media. Broidy blamed the Qatari gov­ern­ment and filed suite against it.

    Recall that the UAE’s ambas­sador to the US, Yousef Al Otai­ba, also had his emails hacked back in May of 2017. This fol­lowed the hack­ing of the Qatar New Agency web­site and oth­er Qatari gov­ern­ment plat­forms also in May of 2017 (which the FBI blamed on Russ­ian hack­ers). So that appar­ent back and forth hack­ing between Qatar and the UAE involved the hack­ing of Elliott Broidy. It’s a reminder that Qatar has both the means and motive to car­ry out polit­i­cal­ly direct­ed hacks.

    And that’s all part of why we can’t for­get that Qatar has a great deal at stake in the entire #TrumpRus­sia saga. Espe­cial­ly because it’s look­ing more and more like a #Trump­Saudi­UAE saga that threat­ened a num­ber of Qatari inter­ests:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    The Ice Cube-Steve Ban­non-Qatar alle­ga­tions, explained

    By Philip Bump
    May 16, 2018

    One can imag­ine a hypo­thet­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion in 1988 or so in which you get to be the one to tell then-rap­per Ice Cube about his future.

    “Your anti-estab­lish­ment streak will be reward­ed when you become part of an inves­ti­ga­tion into a sit­ting Amer­i­can pres­i­dent,” you might tell the young rap­per, before giv­ing him the down­side: It’s a func­tion of a failed invest­ment with pos­si­ble links to the Qatari gov­ern­ment in the three-man pro­fes­sion­al bas­ket­ball league he founds, and one of the peo­ple behind that invest­ment might also have over­lapped in ques­tion­able ways with staff for the pres­i­dent. Who, by the way, is Don­ald Trump.

    Remark­ably, that sum­ma­ry does not even do the sto­ry jus­tice.

    It begins with that bas­ket­ball league, called Big3. It is a three-on-three league fea­tur­ing a num­ber of for­mer NBA stars that begins its sec­ond sea­son next month. Cube is co-CEO of the league, along with his long­time busi­ness part­ner Jeff Kwatinetz. The orig­i­nal com­mis­sion­er for the league was for­mer NBA play­er Roger Mason.

    The most impor­tant name, though, is one you have prob­a­bly nev­er heard before: Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi. Accord­ing to a law­suit filed by Cube and Kwatinetz, Al-Rumai­hi and two friends, Faisal Al-Hama­di and Ayman Sabi, approached Big3 about a sub­stan­tial invest­ment imply­ing con­nec­tions to the gov­ern­ment of Qatar. They were con­nect­ed to Cube and Kwatinetz through Mason, the com­mis­sion­er — who the law­suit alleges failed to men­tion he was dat­ing Sabi’s sis­ter. Al-

    The ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion came short­ly after the league debuted in late June 2017 accord­ing to the law­suit. A few weeks ear­li­er, ten­sions between Qatar and its neigh­bors in the Per­sian Gulf region had spiked, with the small penin­su­lar coun­try being block­ad­ed by its larg­er neigh­bors. An expert who spoke with The Wash­ing­ton Post last fall explained the ten­sion derives large­ly from Qatar’s long-stand­ing rival­ry with Sau­di Ara­bia and ten­sions with the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. Prob­a­bly in part due to the Unit­ed States’ close ties to Sau­di Ara­bia, Pres­i­dent Trump weighed in against Qatar in tweets short­ly after the block­ade began.

    Dur­ing my recent trip to the Mid­dle East I stat­ed that there can no longer be fund­ing of Rad­i­cal Ide­ol­o­gy. Lead­ers point­ed to Qatar — look!
    — Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017

    All of this is impor­tant to our sto­ry.

    So Al-Rumai­hi and his part­ner Sabi reached an agree­ment with Big3 to pay $11.5 mil­lion upon sign­ing an agree­ment with the league and $9 mil­lion in spon­sor­ship mon­ey over the next three years. But, the law­suit alleges, the LLC formed to pay that mon­ey, Sport Trin­i­ty LLC, only coughed up $6.5 mil­lion at the out­set and an addi­tion­al $1 mil­lion lat­er on. When Mason was informed about an arbi­tra­tion process begun to get the owed mon­ey, he alleged­ly sided with Al-Rumai­hi and Sabi and was fired.

    Cube and Kwatinetz are suing Al-Rumai­hi and his part­ners both because they claim they are owed mon­ey and because of what is described in the court fil­ing as an attempt to under­cut their lead­er­ship by alleg­ing mis­man­age­ment and false­ly accus­ing Kwatinetz of using racist lan­guage. That suit, seek­ing $1.2 bil­lion, is beside the point.

    In the suit and in a sep­a­rate affi­davit filed by Kwatinetz, the pair make remark­able alle­ga­tions about Al-Rumaihi’s inten­tions and asser­tions. The invest­ment by Al-Rumai­hi and, they believed, the Qatari gov­ern­ment, was “uni­tar­i­ly focused on procur­ing influ­ence in the Unit­ed States for the [head of the Qatar Invest­ment Author­i­ty Abdul­lah bin Mohammed bin Saud] Al-Thani regime through con­trol­ling a league made up of NBA stars and leg­ends.” Reel­ing from the block­ade, ques­tions about the com­ing World Cup to be host­ed in the coun­try and, the suit alleges, an inter­nal bas­ket­ball scan­dal, the Qataris hoped to repo­si­tion their coun­try via the asso­ci­a­tion with Big3.

    The suit also alleges Al-Rumai­hi “fre­quent­ly boast­ed of his friend­ship to Sen­a­tor John McCain” (R‑Ariz.) and claimed it was his vis­its to the ail­ing sen­a­tor that pre­vent­ed him from final­iz­ing pay­ment of the owed mon­ey. (The suit alleges the lack of pay­ment was essen­tial­ly meant to force Big3 to rene­go­ti­ate the terms of the ini­tial agree­ment in the Qataris’ favor to get the mon­ey owed.)

    Now things get inter­est­ing. In his affi­davit, Kwatinetz alleges that Al-Rumai­hi was more direct in describ­ing his goals from the part­ner­ship with Big3. Before work­ing with Big3, Kwatinetz ran a man­age­ment com­pa­ny called The Firm. The Firm’s CFO was a per­son famil­iar to read­ers of The Post: Stephen K. Ban­non.

    Kwatinetz’s affi­davit claims that Al-Rumai­hi had a par­tic­u­lar focus.

    “[T]here were numer­ous occa­sions dur­ing the 2017 sea­son,” it reads, “where Mr. Al-Ruh­mai­hi would bring up Mr. Bannon’s name to me and com­ment about Mr. Bannon’s polit­i­cal posi­tions, his views on the block­ade, the Trump administration’s posi­tion toward Qatar, and he per­sis­tent­ly inquired about want­i­ng to meet with Mr. Ban­non.” The sea­son end­ed in mid-August, short­ly before Ban­non was fired.

    After invit­ing Kwatinetz on a hike in Jan­u­ary, after the release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” led to con­ser­v­a­tive donor Rebekah Mer­cer end­ing finan­cial sup­port to Ban­non, Al-Rumai­hi made an unex­pect­ed pitch, the affi­davit sug­gests.

    “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi stat­ed to me that he want­ed me to con­vey a mes­sage from the Qatari Gov­ern­ment to Steve Ban­non,” it reads. “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi request­ed I set up a meet­ing between him, the Qatari gov­ern­ment, and Steven Ban­non, and to tell Steve Ban­non that Qatar would under­write all of his polit­i­cal efforts in return for his sup­port.”

    Kwatinetz writes he was offend­ed and that nei­ther he nor Ban­non would ever take a bribe.

    “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi laughed” at that response, accord­ing to the affi­davit, “and then stat­ed to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Wash­ing­ton politi­cians take our mon­ey, and stat­ed ‘do you think Fly­nn turned down our mon­ey?’ ”.

    The Fly­nn being referred to is for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Michael Fly­nn.

    Al-Rumai­hi, the affi­davit says in its con­clu­sion, prob­a­bly “has a role, either for­mal or infor­mal with Qatari intel­li­gence.” A spokesman for Sport Trin­i­ty LLC called Kwatinetz’s asser­tions “pure Hol­ly­wood fic­tion.”

    Enter Michael Ave­nat­ti.

    Ave­nat­ti, the attor­ney for Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleges she had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006, has proved to be quite adept at goad­ing Trump and Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney Michael Cohen. (You will remem­ber it is Cohen who final­ized the $130,000 pay­ment to Daniels to keep her from talk­ing about the alleged affair before the 2016 elec­tion.)

    Over the week­end, Ave­nat­ti tweet­ed some images that pre­sent­ed a new lay­er to the Al-Rumai­hi ques­tion.

    Warn­ing ignored. So here it goes.
    Decem­ber 12, 2016 — Trump Tow­er. Details to fol­low... pic.twitter.com/aEuuhRHB4a
    — Michael Ave­nat­ti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

    Why was Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi meet­ing with Michael Cohen and Michael Fly­nn in Decem­ber 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumai­hi lat­er brag about brib­ing admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials accord­ing to a sworn dec­la­ra­tion filed in court?
    — Michael Ave­nat­ti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

    The “sworn dec­la­ra­tion” men­tioned in the lat­ter tweet is a ref­er­ence to the affi­davit described above. The ques­tion that pre­cedes it is an inter­est­ing one. Al-Rumai­hi can be seen in the first pho­to­graph Ave­nat­ti tweet­ed, bald with a beard. Why was he rid­ing in an ele­va­tor with Cohen at Trump Tow­er in Decem­ber 2016?

    On Tues­day, he offered a brief expla­na­tion through a spokesman to CNN: “Al-Rumai­hi was at Trump Tow­er on Decem­ber 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Invest­ments, an inter­nal divi­sion of QIA, to accom­pa­ny the Qatari del­e­ga­tion that was meet­ing with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials on that date. He did not par­tic­i­pate in any meet­ings with Michael Fly­nn, and his involve­ment in the meet­ings on that date was lim­it­ed.” Anoth­er per­son famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion told CNN that dur­ing one meet­ing, “Cohen briefly popped in.” Dur­ing this peri­od, we have recent­ly learned, Cohen was active­ly seek­ing high-dol­lar clients for his con­sult­ing prac­tice.

    Update: On Wednes­day evening, The Post report­ed that Cohen pitched Al-Rumai­hi on a $1 mil­lion con­tract under which Cohen would help line up access to the admin­is­tra­tion and offer advice to the Qatari gov­ern­ment. The pitch was declined.

    The Trump Tow­er meet­ings are by their very nature inter­est­ing. Many orga­ni­za­tions and coun­tries were eager to build rela­tion­ships with the new admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing the tran­si­tion. The rela­tion­ship between Qatar and the White House was appar­ent­ly not as robust as oth­ers at the out­set, though, giv­en Trump’s embrace of Sau­di Ara­bia and sup­port of the block­ade. In March, NBC report­ed that rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Qatar con­sid­ered inform­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III about efforts by the UAE to influ­ence the admin­is­tra­tion against the Qataris.

    Our final char­ac­ters in this tale now make their appear­ances. Elliott Broidy is a Repub­li­can Par­ty donor who had been intro­duced to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by a man named George Nad­er, who him­self had met sev­er­al times at the White House with Ban­non and Trump advis­er (and son-in-law) Jared Kush­n­er.

    Broidy owns a pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm that has con­tracts with the UAE, accord­ing to the New York Times. He wrote a memo to the pres­i­dent argu­ing the U.S. should back the UAE’s posi­tions in the Gulf, only to find the memo and some of his emails were hacked and leaked to the media. Broidy blamed the Qatari gov­ern­ment, and filed suit against it.

    Broidy’s name has been in the news for anoth­er rea­son recent­ly: He was also a client of Michael Cohen’s, with Cohen assist­ing him in final­iz­ing a pay­ment to a Play­boy play­mate whom Broidy had impreg­nat­ed.

    ...

    ———–

    “The Ice Cube-Steve Ban­non-Qatar alle­ga­tions, explained” by Philip Bump; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 05/16/2018

    “It begins with that bas­ket­ball league, called Big3. It is a three-on-three league fea­tur­ing a num­ber of for­mer NBA stars that begins its sec­ond sea­son next month. Cube is co-CEO of the league, along with his long­time busi­ness part­ner Jeff Kwatinetz. The orig­i­nal com­mis­sion­er for the league was for­mer NBA play­er Roger Mason.”

    So Ice Cube and his long­time busi­ness part­ner Jeff Kwatinetz start the Big3 league in 2017. And a few weeks after the start of the Qatar block­ade in June 2017, Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi and two of his asso­ciates approach Big3 with the offer of a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment, hint­ing at con­nec­tions to the Qatari gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    The most impor­tant name, though, is one you have prob­a­bly nev­er heard before: Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi. Accord­ing to a law­suit filed by Cube and Kwatinetz, Al-Rumai­hi and two friends, Faisal Al-Hama­di and Ayman Sabi, approached Big3 about a sub­stan­tial invest­ment imply­ing con­nec­tions to the gov­ern­ment of Qatar. They were con­nect­ed to Cube and Kwatinetz through Mason, the com­mis­sion­er — who the law­suit alleges failed to men­tion he was dat­ing Sabi’s sis­ter. Al-

    The ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion came short­ly after the league debuted in late June 2017 accord­ing to the law­suit. A few weeks ear­li­er, ten­sions between Qatar and its neigh­bors in the Per­sian Gulf region had spiked, with the small penin­su­lar coun­try being block­ad­ed by its larg­er neigh­bors. An expert who spoke with The Wash­ing­ton Post last fall explained the ten­sion derives large­ly from Qatar’s long-stand­ing rival­ry with Sau­di Ara­bia and ten­sions with the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. Prob­a­bly in part due to the Unit­ed States’ close ties to Sau­di Ara­bia, Pres­i­dent Trump weighed in against Qatar in tweets short­ly after the block­ade began.

    Dur­ing my recent trip to the Mid­dle East I stat­ed that there can no longer be fund­ing of Rad­i­cal Ide­ol­o­gy. Lead­ers point­ed to Qatar — look!
    — Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017

    ...

    Ice Cube and Kwatinetz charge the Qatari investors with only mak­ing a frac­tion of the promised invest­ment. And in Kwatinet­z’s affi­davit he asserts that Al-Rumai­hi made it abun­dant­ly clear that the invest­ment had an ulte­ri­or motive: the Qatari gov­ern­ment, was “uni­tar­i­ly focused on procur­ing influ­ence in the Unit­ed States for the [head of the Qatar Invest­ment Author­i­ty Abdul­lah bin Mohammed bin Saud] Al-Thani regime through con­trol­ling a league made up of NBA stars and leg­ends”:

    ...
    So Al-Rumai­hi and his part­ner Sabi reached an agree­ment with Big3 to pay $11.5 mil­lion upon sign­ing an agree­ment with the league and $9 mil­lion in spon­sor­ship mon­ey over the next three years. But, the law­suit alleges, the LLC formed to pay that mon­ey, Sport Trin­i­ty LLC, only coughed up $6.5 mil­lion at the out­set and an addi­tion­al $1 mil­lion lat­er on. When Mason was informed about an arbi­tra­tion process begun to get the owed mon­ey, he alleged­ly sided with Al-Rumai­hi and Sabi and was fired.

    Cube and Kwatinetz are suing Al-Rumai­hi and his part­ners both because they claim they are owed mon­ey and because of what is described in the court fil­ing as an attempt to under­cut their lead­er­ship by alleg­ing mis­man­age­ment and false­ly accus­ing Kwatinetz of using racist lan­guage. That suit, seek­ing $1.2 bil­lion, is beside the point.

    In the suit and in a sep­a­rate affi­davit filed by Kwatinetz, the pair make remark­able alle­ga­tions about Al-Rumaihi’s inten­tions and asser­tions. The invest­ment by Al-Rumai­hi and, they believed, the Qatari gov­ern­ment, was “uni­tar­i­ly focused on procur­ing influ­ence in the Unit­ed States for the [head of the Qatar Invest­ment Author­i­ty Abdul­lah bin Mohammed bin Saud] Al-Thani regime through con­trol­ling a league made up of NBA stars and leg­ends.”. Reel­ing from the block­ade, ques­tions about the com­ing World Cup to be host­ed in the coun­try and, the suit alleges, an inter­nal bas­ket­ball scan­dal, the Qataris hoped to repo­si­tion their coun­try via the asso­ci­a­tion with Big3.
    ...

    How was an invest­ment in Big3 going to lead to more influ­ence with the US gov­ern­ment? Appar­ent­ly through Kwatinet­z’s long­tim busi­ness rela­tion­ship with Steve Ban­non:

    ...
    Now things get inter­est­ing. In his affi­davit, Kwatinetz alleges that Al-Rumai­hi was more direct in describ­ing his goals from the part­ner­ship with Big3. Before work­ing with Big3, Kwatinetz ran a man­age­ment com­pa­ny called The Firm. The Firm’s CFO was a per­son famil­iar to read­ers of The Post: Stephen K. Ban­non.

    Kwatinetz’s affi­davit claims that Al-Rumai­hi had a par­tic­u­lar focus.

    “[T]here were numer­ous occa­sions dur­ing the 2017 sea­son,” it reads, “where Mr. Al-Ruh­mai­hi would bring up Mr. Bannon’s name to me and com­ment about Mr. Bannon’s polit­i­cal posi­tions, his views on the block­ade, the Trump administration’s posi­tion toward Qatar, and he per­sis­tent­ly inquired about want­i­ng to meet with Mr. Ban­non.” The sea­son end­ed in mid-August, short­ly before Ban­non was fired.
    ...

    And in Jan­u­ary of 2018, months after Ban­non was fired from the White House and lost his back­ing of Rebekah Mer­cer, the Qatari gov­ern­ment basi­cal­ly offered to become his new fis­cal spon­sor. That was the pitch Al-Rumai­hi made via Kwatinetz. And when Kwatinetz reject­ed this as bribery, Al-Rumai­hi laughed and bragged that Michael Fly­nn had accept­ed his mon­ey:

    ...
    After invit­ing Kwatinetz on a hike in Jan­u­ary, after the release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” led to con­ser­v­a­tive donor Rebekah Mer­cer end­ing finan­cial sup­port to Ban­non, Al-Rumai­hi made an unex­pect­ed pitch, the affi­davit sug­gests.

    “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi stat­ed to me that he want­ed me to con­vey a mes­sage from the Qatari Gov­ern­ment to Steve Ban­non,” it reads. “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi request­ed I set up a meet­ing between him, the Qatari gov­ern­ment, and Steven Ban­non, and to tell Steve Ban­non that Qatar would under­write all of his polit­i­cal efforts in return for his sup­port.”

    Kwatinetz writes he was offend­ed and that nei­ther he nor Ban­non would ever take a bribe.

    “Mr. Al-Rumai­hi laughed” at that response, accord­ing to the affi­davit, “and then stat­ed to me that I shouldn’t be naive, that so many Wash­ing­ton politi­cians take our mon­ey, and stat­ed ‘do you think Fly­nn turned down our mon­ey?’ ”.
    ...

    Then there’s Al-Rumai­hi’s atten­dance at the Decem­ber 12, 2016 Trump Tow­er meet­ing. Fol­low­ing the fil­ing of Kwatinet­z’s affi­davit, Michael Ave­nat­ti raised the ques­tion of why Al-Rumai­hi met with Michael Cohen and Michael Fly­nn dur­ing that meet­ing:

    ...
    Ave­nat­ti, the attor­ney for Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleges she had a one-night stand with Trump in 2006, has proved to be quite adept at goad­ing Trump and Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney Michael Cohen. (You will remem­ber it is Cohen who final­ized the $130,000 pay­ment to Daniels to keep her from talk­ing about the alleged affair before the 2016 elec­tion.)

    Over the week­end, Ave­nat­ti tweet­ed some images that pre­sent­ed a new lay­er to the Al-Rumai­hi ques­tion.

    Warn­ing ignored. So here it goes.
    Decem­ber 12, 2016 — Trump Tow­er. Details to fol­low... pic.twitter.com/aEuuhRHB4a
    — Michael Ave­nat­ti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

    Why was Ahmed Al-Rumai­hi meet­ing with Michael Cohen and Michael Fly­nn in Decem­ber 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumai­hi lat­er brag about brib­ing admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials accord­ing to a sworn dec­la­ra­tion filed in court?
    — Michael Ave­nat­ti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 13, 2018

    The “sworn dec­la­ra­tion” men­tioned in the lat­ter tweet is a ref­er­ence to the affi­davit described above. The ques­tion that pre­cedes it is an inter­est­ing one. Al-Rumai­hi can be seen in the first pho­to­graph Ave­nat­ti tweet­ed, bald with a beard. Why was he rid­ing in an ele­va­tor with Cohen at Trump Tow­er in Decem­ber 2016?
    ...

    Al-Rumai­hi’s lawyers admit he was there but assert that he nev­er met with Fly­nn. Cohen, it turns out, pitched Al-Rumai­hi on a $1 mil­lion con­tract where Cohen would basi­cal­ly give him access to the Trump admin­stra­tion in exchange for that mon­ey:

    ...
    On Tues­day, he offered a brief expla­na­tion through a spokesman to CNN: “Al-Rumai­hi was at Trump Tow­er on Decem­ber 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Invest­ments, an inter­nal divi­sion of QIA, to accom­pa­ny the Qatari del­e­ga­tion that was meet­ing with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials on that date. He did not par­tic­i­pate in any meet­ings with Michael Fly­nn, and his involve­ment in the meet­ings on that date was lim­it­ed.” Anoth­er per­son famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion told CNN that dur­ing one meet­ing, “Cohen briefly popped in.” Dur­ing this peri­od, we have recent­ly learned, Cohen was active­ly seek­ing high-dol­lar clients for his con­sult­ing prac­tice.

    Update: On Wednes­day evening, The Post report­ed that Cohen pitched Al-Rumai­hi on a $1 mil­lion con­tract under which Cohen would help line up access to the admin­is­tra­tion and offer advice to the Qatari gov­ern­ment. The pitch was declined.
    ...

    And then there’s the hack­ing and release of Elliot Broidy’s emails, some­thing Broidy blames on the Qatari gov­ern­ment, which is under­stand­able giv­en the back and forth hack­ing that was tak­ing place between Qatar and the UAE:

    ...
    Our final char­ac­ters in this tale now make their appear­ances. Elliott Broidy is a Repub­li­can Par­ty donor who had been intro­duced to UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by a man named George Nad­er, who him­self had met sev­er­al times at the White House with Ban­non and Trump advis­er (and son-in-law) Jared Kush­n­er.

    Broidy owns a pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm that has con­tracts with the UAE, accord­ing to the New York Times. He wrote a memo to the pres­i­dent argu­ing the U.S. should back the UAE’s posi­tions in the Gulf, only to find the memo and some of his emails were hacked and leaked to the media. Broidy blamed the Qatari gov­ern­ment, and filed suit against it.

    Broidy’s name has been in the news for anoth­er rea­son recent­ly: He was also a client of Michael Cohen’s, with Cohen assist­ing him in final­iz­ing a pay­ment to a Play­boy play­mate whom Broidy had impreg­nat­ed.
    ...

    Final­ly, it’s inter­est­ing to note that Qatar con­sid­ered com­ing to the Mueller team about the efforts by the UAE to influ­ence the Trump admin­is­tra­tion against Qatar. You have to won­der what if any­thing became of that:

    ...
    The Trump Tow­er meet­ings are by their very nature inter­est­ing. Many orga­ni­za­tions and coun­tries were eager to build rela­tion­ships with the new admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing the tran­si­tion. The rela­tion­ship between Qatar and the White House was appar­ent­ly not as robust as oth­ers at the out­set, though, giv­en Trump’s embrace of Sau­di Ara­bia and sup­port of the block­ade. In March, NBC report­ed that rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Qatar con­sid­ered inform­ing spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III about efforts by the UAE to influ­ence the admin­is­tra­tion against the Qataris.
    ...

    So that’s all part of the larg­er sto­ry behind the Qatari gov­ern­men­t’s attempts to win over the Trump team. A sto­ry that rais­es sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about whether or not the Decem­ber 12, 2016, Trump Tow­er meet­ing with the Qatari del­e­ga­tion had any­thing to do with the Decem­ber 15 Trump Tow­er meet­ing with the crown prince of the UAE where the Sey­chelles back chan­nel was arranged. Keep in mind that the block­ade of Qatar had­n’t hap­pened yet in Decem­ber 2016, so it’s not incon­ceiv­able that Qatar could have been involved in the Sey­chelles back chan­nel scheme.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 9, 2019, 5:24 pm
  25. Here’s an inter­est­ing fol­lowup on the var­i­ous sto­ries over the past two years about schemes to sell nuclear pow­er plant tech­nol­o­gy across the Mid­dle East. First, recall the ear­li­er reports on Michael Fly­n­n’s work in 2015 and 2016 as a lob­by­ist for a project to build nuclear pow­er plants across the Mid­dle East (but not Iran). Fly­nn was work­ing for an Amer­i­can com­pa­ny, X‑Co/Iron Bridge and the plan appeared to be lead by anoth­er Amer­i­can com­pa­ny ACU Strate­gic Part­ners. Sau­di Ara­bia would be financ­ing the project and Rus­sia would be involved pro­vid­ing ser­vices. The idea was that the US and Rus­sia would joint­ly con­trol the Arab world’s rush to obtain nuclear pow­er.

    Next, recall how West­ing­house is not only deeply involved in the Ukrain­ian nuclear pow­er sec­tor. Last year, we were get­ting reports that West­ing­house has also been involved in an ongo­ing push to build and ser­vice nuclear pow­er plants for Sau­di Ara­bia, but the Saud­is are try­ing to avoid an agree­ment (the “123 mea­sure”) that would pre­vent it from enrich­ing nuclear mate­r­i­al for use in nuclear weapons. And Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry was work­ing on an agree­ment that would allow enrich­ment which could, in turn, trig­ger a clause in the 123 mea­sure the UAE signed that would now allow the UAE to enrich nuclear fuel too.

    Well, just a few days ago we learned that the US is still com­pet­ing to get those nuclear con­tracts, but is refus­ing to remove the “123 mea­sure”. Sau­di Ara­bia is respond­ing by say­ing it won’t accept lim­its on its abil­i­ty to enrich nuclear fuel and is point­ing out that it has oth­er coun­tries it can go to for nuclear tech­nol­o­gy like Rus­sia and Chi­na:

    CNBC

    US will not open door to Sau­di Ara­bia build­ing nuclear weapons, deputy ener­gy sec­re­tary says

    * The Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants to sell its nuclear ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy to cash-rich Sau­di Ara­bia.
    * To pre­vent nuclear arms devel­op­ment, the U.S. wants to place tight con­trols on how the tech­nol­o­gy can be used.
    * Sau­di Ara­bia has put the U.S. on a short­list with Chi­na, Rus­sia and oth­ers to bid for nuclear pow­er projects in the coun­try.

    David Reid
    Pub­lished 12:04 PM ET Sat, 16 Feb 2019 Updat­ed 9:34 AM ET Sun, 17 Feb 2019

    A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment said Sat­ur­day that it would not help Sau­di Ara­bia devel­op nuclear tech­nol­o­gy with­out guar­an­tees that it would only be used for civil­ian pur­pos­es.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has put the U.S. on a short­list with Chi­na, Rus­sia and oth­ers to bid for nuclear pow­er projects in the coun­try. Wash­ing­ton sees Sau­di Ara­bia as a big cus­tomer of Amer­i­can nuclear exper­tise and hard­ware, but law­mak­ers from both U.S. polit­i­cal par­ties are demand­ing a deal be based on tough con­trols.

    Sec­tion 123 of the Unit­ed States Atom­ic Ener­gy Act of 1954, titled “Coop­er­a­tion With Oth­er Nations,” sets an agree­ment for coop­er­a­tion as a pre­req­ui­site for nuclear deals between the U.S. and any oth­er nation. Under a “123 mea­sure,” any U.S. nuclear deal with Sau­di Ara­bia would pro­hib­it routes toward the mak­ing of nuclear weapons by ban­ning enrich­ment of ura­ni­um or the repro­cess­ing of plu­to­ni­um.

    Speak­ing to CNBC’s Hadley Gam­ble at the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence on Sat­ur­day, the U.S. Deputy Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Dan Brouil­lette, said such an agree­ment was imper­a­tive to any nuclear deal with Riyadh.

    “We won’t allow them to bypass 123 if they want to have civil­ian nuclear pow­er that includes U.S. nuclear tech­nolo­gies.”

    The senior ener­gy offi­cial said as coun­tries pur­sued more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly and emis­sions-free tech­nolo­gies, nuclear had to be a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. And while coun­tries should pur­sue nuclear ener­gy tech­nolo­gies they must do so under a U.S. regime that pre­vents the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear weapons.

    ...

    The Saud­is have so far refused to rule out their right to enrich ura­ni­um for nuclear weapons, point­ing to neigh­bor­ing Iran’s abil­i­ty to do so under the 2015 nuclear agree­ment that world pow­ers struck with Tehran.

    In an inter­view in March on CBS’s “60 Min­utes” Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the coun­try was­n’t inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing weapons but would devel­op nuclear capa­bil­i­ty should Iran ever devel­op a work­ing nuclear bomb.

    On Sun­day, Sau­di Ara­bi­an Prince Tur­ki Al-Faisal respond­ed direct­ly to Brouil­let­te’s words, say­ing the coun­try had more options than just U.S. tech­nol­o­gy.

    “Well the nuclear ener­gy mar­ket is open. It is not just the Unit­ed States that is pro­vid­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gam­ble in Munich.

    “We have France, we have Rus­sia, we have Chi­na. We have our friends in Pak­istan and in oth­er places as well, so if they want to remove them­selves from that mar­ket, well, that’s up to them.”

    ———-

    “US will not open door to Sau­di Ara­bia build­ing nuclear weapons, deputy ener­gy sec­re­tary says” by David Reid; CNBC; 02/16/2019

    “We won’t allow them to bypass 123 if they want to have civil­ian nuclear pow­er that includes U.S. nuclear tech­nolo­gies.”

    So that was some refresh­ing­ly blunt talk from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion on this top­ic. And, of course, Prince Tur­ki Al-Faisal respond­ed to such blunt talk by point­ing out that Sau­di Ara­bia has options and can look else­where for a nuclear part­ner that will allow them to enrich nuclear fuel:

    ...
    The Saud­is have so far refused to rule out their right to enrich ura­ni­um for nuclear weapons, point­ing to neigh­bor­ing Iran’s abil­i­ty to do so under the 2015 nuclear agree­ment that world pow­ers struck with Tehran.

    In an inter­view in March on CBS’s “60 Min­utes” Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the coun­try was­n’t inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing weapons but would devel­op nuclear capa­bil­i­ty should Iran ever devel­op a work­ing nuclear bomb.

    On Sun­day, Sau­di Ara­bi­an Prince Tur­ki Al-Faisal respond­ed direct­ly to Brouil­let­te’s words, say­ing the coun­try had more options than just U.S. tech­nol­o­gy.

    “Well the nuclear ener­gy mar­ket is open. It is not just the Unit­ed States that is pro­vid­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gam­ble in Munich.

    “We have France, we have Rus­sia, we have Chi­na. We have our friends in Pak­istan and in oth­er places as well, so if they want to remove them­selves from that mar­ket, well, that’s up to them.”
    ...

    So it’s becom­ing increas­ing­ly clear that the Saud­is are look­ing for a nuclear weapons part­ner. Not just a nuclear pow­er part­ner.

    Now a 24 page con­gres­sion­al report by Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings (D‑Md.), chair­man of the House Over­sight and Reform Com­mit­tee, on these inter­nal White House bat­tles over whether or not to sell this nuclear pow­er was just released this morn­ing. The report is based on doc­u­ments obtained by the com­mit­tee and the account of unnamed whistle­blow­ers inside the White House who said they were dis­tressed at the con­tin­u­al effort to sell the pow­er plants. Accord­ing to that report, there was a sig­nif­i­cant debate inside the White House ear­ly on over whether or not to allow the sale of nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia in ear­ly 2017, before Michael Fly­nn was fired. It sounds like it was the White House lawyers and H.R. McMas­ter, who replaced Fly­nn as the chief of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, that opposed the plans. More recent­ly, it’s been Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Par­ry who has been pro­mot­ing a nuclear deal. And just last week the Trump admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued debat­ing these deals.

    Giv­en that the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive declared just a few days ago that the US will con­tin­ue to demand a “123 mea­sure” against nuclear enrich­ment in any sale of nuclear pow­er to the Saud­is, we should­n’t be sur­prised to learn that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will still dis­cussing the sale of nuclear pow­er to the Saud­is just last week. And it’s a relief that it sounds like there’s no plans, yet, of weak­en­ing those non-pro­lif­er­a­tion rules. But as that Cum­mings report should make clear, the forces with­in the White House that would actu­al­ly like to see the sale of the tech­nol­o­gy even in it means risk­ing nuclear weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion have been per­sist­ing for two years now and there’s no indi­ca­tion they’re giv­ing up. And as we should expect, those forces just might have some unhealthy busi­ness rela­tion­ships with the Trump clan. Specif­i­cal­ly, as the report notes, West­ing­house Elec­tric is a sub­sidiary of Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment. And Brook­field just hap­pens to be the com­pa­ny that took a 99-year lease on Jared Kuch­n­er’s 666 Fifth Avenue prop­er­ty just last year. So the com­pa­ny that bailed out Jared last year has a BIG stake in see­ing a nuclear deal with the Saud­is:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Top Trump appointees pro­mot­ed sell­ing nuclear pow­er plants to Sau­di Ara­bia over objec­tions from nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials, House Demo­c­ra­t­ic report says

    By Tom Ham­burg­er and Steven Muf­son
    Feb­ru­ary 19, 2019 at 11:07 AM

    Sev­er­al cur­rent and for­mer Trump admin­is­tra­tion appointees pro­mot­ed sales of nuclear pow­er plants to Sau­di Ara­bia despite repeat­ed objec­tions from mem­bers of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and oth­er senior White House offi­cials, accord­ing to a new report from con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats.

    The offi­cials who object­ed includ­ed White House lawyers and H.R. McMas­ter, then the chief of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. They called for a halt in the nuclear sales dis­cus­sions in 2017, cit­ing poten­tial con­flicts of inter­est, nation­al secu­ri­ty risks and legal hur­dles.

    Yet the effort to pro­mote nuclear sales per­sist­ed, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn, who served briefly as Pres­i­dent Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and more recent­ly by Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry. The pos­si­ble nuclear pow­er sale was dis­cussed in the Oval Office as recent­ly as last week.

    Details about these inter­nal White House bat­tles are con­tained in a 24-page report released Tues­day morn­ing by Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings (D‑Md.), chair­man of the House Over­sight and Reform Com­mit­tee. The report is based on doc­u­ments obtained by the com­mit­tee and the account of unnamed whistle­blow­ers inside the White House who said they were dis­tressed at the con­tin­u­al effort to sell the pow­er plants.

    Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans said Tues­day they were not includ­ed in the draft­ing of the detailed report and had not received a copy until Mon­day night. They said they had not had a chance to ful­ly assess it.

    The report includes a wide range of alle­ga­tions and sug­gests the involve­ment of a long list of high-pro­file peo­ple in Trump’s orbit.

    ...

    The Cum­mings report notes that one of the pow­er plant man­u­fac­tur­ers that could ben­e­fit from a nuclear deal, West­ing­house Elec­tric, is a sub­sidiary of Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment, the com­pa­ny that pro­vid­ed finan­cial relief to the fam­i­ly of Jared Kush­n­er, the president’s son-in-law and advis­er. Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment took a 99-year lease on the family’s deeply indebt­ed New York City prop­er­ty at 666 Fifth Avenue.

    “Mul­ti­ple whistle­blow­ers came for­ward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the trans­fer of high­ly sen­si­tive U.S. nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia in poten­tial vio­la­tion of the Atom­ic Ener­gy Act and with­out review by Con­gress as required by law — efforts that may be ongo­ing to this day,” the report says.

    The whistle­blow­ers also “warned about a work­ing envi­ron­ment inside the White House marked by chaos, dys­func­tion and back­bit­ing. They not­ed that White House polit­i­cal appointees repeat­ed­ly ignored direc­tives from top ethics advis­ers who repeat­ed­ly — but unsuc­cess­ful­ly — “ordered senior White House offi­cials to halt their efforts.”

    The Over­sight Com­mit­tee report, which focus­es on the first three months of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, may have spe­cial rel­e­vance this week as Kush­n­er begins a trip to the Mid­dle East.

    ———-

    “Top Trump appointees pro­mot­ed sell­ing nuclear pow­er plants to Sau­di Ara­bia over objec­tions from nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials, House Demo­c­ra­t­ic report says” by Tom Ham­burg­er and Steven Muf­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 02/19/2019

    “Details about these inter­nal White House bat­tles are con­tained in a 24-page report released Tues­day morn­ing by Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings (D‑Md.), chair­man of the House Over­sight and Reform Com­mit­tee. The report is based on doc­u­ments obtained by the com­mit­tee and the account of unnamed whistle­blow­ers inside the White House who said they were dis­tressed at the con­tin­u­al effort to sell the pow­er plants.

    So indi­vid­u­als in the White House appear to be so alarmed at the unre­lent­ing push to sell nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to the Saud­is that they’ve becom­ing anony­mous whistle­blow­ers. Yikes.

    And based on what we’re learn­ing, those fears appear to be well-ground­ed. Even after Fly­nn was fired and replaced by H.R. McMas­ter, the push to sell this tech­nol­o­gy has con­tin­ued. And accord­ing to these whistle­blow­ers, White House polit­i­cal appointees repeat­ed­ly ignored direc­tives from top ethics advis­ers who repeat­ed­ly — but unsuc­cess­ful­ly — “ordered senior White House offi­cials to halt their efforts”:

    ...
    Sev­er­al cur­rent and for­mer Trump admin­is­tra­tion appointees pro­mot­ed sales of nuclear pow­er plants to Sau­di Ara­bia despite repeat­ed objec­tions from mem­bers of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and oth­er senior White House offi­cials, accord­ing to a new report from con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats.

    The offi­cials who object­ed includ­ed White House lawyers and H.R. McMas­ter, then the chief of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. They called for a halt in the nuclear sales dis­cus­sions in 2017, cit­ing poten­tial con­flicts of inter­est, nation­al secu­ri­ty risks and legal hur­dles.

    Yet the effort to pro­mote nuclear sales per­sist­ed, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn, who served briefly as Pres­i­dent Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and more recent­ly by Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry. The pos­si­ble nuclear pow­er sale was dis­cussed in the Oval Office as recent­ly as last week.

    ...

    “Mul­ti­ple whistle­blow­ers came for­ward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the trans­fer of high­ly sen­si­tive U.S. nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia in poten­tial vio­la­tion of the Atom­ic Ener­gy Act and with­out review by Con­gress as required by law — efforts that may be ongo­ing to this day,” the report says.

    The whistle­blow­ers also “warned about a work­ing envi­ron­ment inside the White House marked by chaos, dys­func­tion and back­bit­ing. They not­ed that White House polit­i­cal appointees repeat­ed­ly ignored direc­tives from top ethics advis­ers who repeat­ed­ly — but unsuc­cess­ful­ly — “ordered senior White House offi­cials to halt their efforts.”
    ...

    And then there’s the fact that Brook­field asset Man­age­ment, which just bailed out Jared Kush­n­er last year, owns West­ing­house Elec­tric, which would be one of the biggest direct ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the US lift­ing its non-pro­lif­er­a­tion rules in order to secure that Sau­di con­tract:

    ...
    The Cum­mings report notes that one of the pow­er plant man­u­fac­tur­ers that could ben­e­fit from a nuclear deal, West­ing­house Elec­tric, is a sub­sidiary of Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment, the com­pa­ny that pro­vid­ed finan­cial relief to the fam­i­ly of Jared Kush­n­er, the president’s son-in-law and advis­er. Brook­field Asset Man­age­ment took a 99-year lease on the family’s deeply indebt­ed New York City prop­er­ty at 666 Fifth Avenue.
    ...

    So that’s all a big rea­son NOT to assume that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion isn’t going to go on a nuclear tech­nol­o­gy sales spree. Yes, it’s nice that the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive just reassert­ed that the US was­n’t going to lift its non-enrich­ment demands as part of any US-Sau­di nuclear deal. But as the Cum­mings report makes clear, the demands inside the White House that the US drop those non-enrich­ment demands to make the sale hap­pen aren’t going away either.

    And in the­mat­i­cal­ly relat­ed news, the annu­al reset­ting of the Dooms­day Clock leaves it stuck at two-min­utes to mid­night for 2019 thanks in large part to the ongo­ing threat of nuclear war.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 19, 2019, 12:39 pm
  26. Here’s a dis­turb­ing update to Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s ongo­ing push to acquire US nuclear pow­er tech­nol­o­gy and the ongo­ing push by Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials to get approval for the deal despite Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s refusal to sign an agree­ment pledg­ing not to enrich the fuel to make nuclear weapons:

    It appears that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has already secret­ly giv­en the go ahead to US com­pa­nies to sell nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to the Saud­is but is refus­ing to dis­close this both to the pub­lic and to con­gress. The US Depart­ment of Ener­gy gave “Part 810” autho­riza­tions to six US com­pa­nies to con­duct nuclear relat­ed work. Part 810 autho­riza­tions are a part of the fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions that allow US com­pa­nies to divulge spe­cif­ic details about plans Ara­bia and cer­tain infor­ma­tion about the nuclear tech­nol­o­gy, which could include activ­i­ties like the trans­fer of phys­i­cal doc­u­ments, elec­tron­ic media, or knowl­edge and exper­tise. So, at a min­i­mum, these six US com­pa­nies got per­mis­sion to send to the Saud­is plans for nuclear projects, but it could go as far as trans­fer­ring actu­al knowl­edge and exper­tise which is pret­ty pre­cious in the realm of nuclear tech­nol­o­gy.

    Who are the six com­pa­nies that got these Part 810 autho­riza­tions? Well, we don’t get to know. It turns out that US com­pa­nies can request that their autho­riza­tions remain pri­vate and these six com­pa­nies made that request. But that still does­n’t mean we can’t make edu­cat­ed guess­es about the com­pa­nies involved. For exam­ple, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the firm IP3 was men­tioned in recent House Over­sight Com­mit­tee report. Accord­ing to the report, IP3 had devel­oped a pro­pos­al for Sau­di Ara­bia that was “not a busi­ness plan” but rather “a scheme for these gen­er­als to make some mon­ey.” Which sounds like a busi­ness plan but a pret­ty bad one. Recall how IP3 was also involved with ACU and X‑Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge, the same com­pa­nies that Michael Fly­nn was lob­by­ing on behalf of when he was secret­ly pro­mot­ing the “Mar­shall plan for the Mid­dle East” that would have involved Sau­di Ara­bia financ­ing the build­ing of nuclear reac­tors across the Mid­dle East. Also recall how West­ing­house has made its Sau­di ambi­tions clear and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has also made it clear that it sup­ports West­ing­house in these ambi­tions.

    So it seems like a pret­ty good bed that IP3 and West­ing­house are two of the six com­pa­nies that got these secret Part 810 autho­riza­tions. Are ACU and X‑Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge also involved? We don’t get to know. All we get to know at this point is that six com­pa­nies got secret autho­riza­tions and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and those com­pa­nies don’t want to talk about it:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Trump Admin Gives OK to Sell Nuclear Tech to Saud­is

    Want to help the errat­ic, mur­der­ous Sau­di regime devel­op nuclear tech­nol­o­gy? That’s OK with the Depart­ment of Ener­gy.

    Erin Ban­co
    03.27.19 12:51 PM ET

    The U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy has approved six autho­riza­tions for U.S. com­pa­nies seek­ing to con­duct nuclear relat­ed work in Sau­di Ara­bia, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of those approvals.

    Fed­er­al law stip­u­lates that com­pa­nies obtain clear­ance from the U.S. gov­ern­ment for export­ing nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to or engag­ing in the pro­duc­tion or devel­op­ment of spe­cial nuclear mate­r­i­al in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    The authorizations—known as Part 810s, refer­ring to a clause in fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions —allow U.S. com­pa­nies to divulge spe­cif­ic details about plans for work­ing in Sau­di Ara­bia and cer­tain infor­ma­tion about the nuclear tech­nol­o­gy. For exam­ple, a com­pa­ny would need a Part 810 to trans­fer phys­i­cal doc­u­ments, elec­tron­ic media, or the “trans­fer of knowl­edge and exper­tise” to Sau­di Ara­bia, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of Ener­gy.

    It’s been unclear to what extent the U.S. gov­ern­ment, and U.S. com­pa­nies, have com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Riyadh about nuclear ener­gy, espe­cial­ly in the wake of the bru­tal mur­der of jour­nal­ist Jamal Khashog­gi and amid claims by Democ­rats on the Hill that indi­vid­u­als in the nation­al secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty attempt­ed to dis­cuss a nuclear deal with Riyadh with­out going through the prop­er reg­u­la­to­ry approval process.

    The DOE autho­riza­tions, pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed, indi­cate that U.S. com­pa­nies are indeed mov­ing ahead in their plans to engage with Sau­di Ara­bia on nuclear tech­nol­o­gy and nuclear ener­gy devel­op­ment. The com­pa­nies began seek­ing con­tact with Riyadh in Novem­ber 2017.

    It’s unclear which U.S. com­pa­nies have obtained autho­riza­tions. The Depart­ment of Ener­gy has not respond­ed to a Dai­ly Beast Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request. How­ev­er, a con­gres­sion­al source said U.S. com­pa­nies have the option of request­ing their autho­riza­tions remain pri­vate and do not land in the department’s pub­lic read­ing room. The com­pa­nies that received the Part 810s under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion have made such a request, accord­ing to that source.

    IP3, a firm that includes for­mer gen­er­als, diplo­mats, and ener­gy experts, was men­tioned in a recent report by the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee. That report said IP3 had devel­oped a pro­pos­al for Sau­di Ara­bia that was “not a busi­ness plan” but rather “a scheme for these gen­er­als to make some mon­ey.” That report said For­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn had ties to the firm dur­ing his time work­ing in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    “IP3 was formed as a bipar­ti­san com­pa­ny to sup­port the devel­op­ment of a pub­lic-pri­vate mod­el for the peace­ful intro­duc­tion of nuclear pow­er by the Unit­ed States and its allies,” said Mike Hewitt, CEO of IP3. “There are con­cerns over Rus­sia and China’s expan­sion into glob­al nuclear pow­er devel­op­ment and the inher­ent geo-polit­i­cal and nation­al secu­ri­ty issues. The Mid­dle East is but one region where this com­pe­ti­tion is play­ing out and cur­rent­ly the Unit­ed States and its indus­try are not com­pet­i­tive in this grow­ing mar­ket.”

    IP3 still is in con­ver­sa­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er coun­tries across the Mid­dle East about nuclear ener­gy relat­ed work, a source with direct knowl­edge of the firm’s plans told The Dai­ly Beast. The firm’s pro­pos­als, how­ev­er, look much dif­fer­ent than what’s pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, the source said, adding that they focus on secu­ri­ty and pro­tec­tion of nuclear ener­gy infra­struc­ture.

    In a hear­ing with Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo Wednes­day, Rep. Brad Sher­man raised the issues of the part 810 autho­riza­tions and asked that Pom­peo share those doc­u­ments with the com­mit­tee.

    “One thing that is in our inter­est is to pre­vent Sau­di Ara­bia from get­ting a nuclear weapon,” Sher­man said. “What I’ve seen in this admin­is­tra­tion recent­ly ... is an effort to evade Con­gress and to some extent evade your depart­ment and pro­vide sub­stan­tial nuclear tech­nol­o­gy and aid to Sau­di Ara­bia while [the coun­try] refus­es to abide by any of the con­trols we would like to see regard­ing repro­cess­ing, enrich­ment.”

    Pom­peo said the State Depart­ment is still look­ing into the assis­tance Sau­di Ara­bia could receive from U.S. com­pa­nies on nuclear devel­op­ment and how to pre­vent the coun­try from devel­op­ing nuclear weapons.

    The Dai­ly Beast pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed that as of late last year, mem­bers of the State Depart­ment were work­ing active­ly to devel­op what’s known as a 123 agree­ment under the Atom­ic Ener­gy Act.

    The deal would pro­vide the over­all struc­ture for nuclear coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and Sau­di Ara­bia and would help guide the process of Amer­i­can com­pa­nies export­ing their nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to Riyadh.

    The Atom­ic Ener­gy Act requires legal­ly bind­ing com­mit­ments from coun­tries that work with U.S. nuclear tech­nol­o­gy that they will not use those mate­ri­als for mak­ing nuclear weapons. The law also man­dates that the U.S. has to approve any enrich­ment of ura­ni­um involv­ing Amer­i­can tech­nol­o­gy. The U.S. has over two dozen 123 agree­ments with coun­tries such as Egypt, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, and Cana­da.

    Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kush­n­er met with Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and oth­er mem­bers of the Sau­di gov­ern­ment in Riyadh last month. Sources told The Dai­ly Beast that mem­bers of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh were essen­tial­ly shut out of those con­ver­sa­tions, rais­ing con­cern by Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers that Kush­n­er and MBS had dis­cussed a nuclear deal with min­i­mal over­sight.

    ———-

    “Trump Admin Gives OK to Sell Nuclear Tech to Saud­is” by Erin Ban­co; The Dai­ly Beast; 03/27/2019

    “The DOE autho­riza­tions, pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed, indi­cate that U.S. com­pa­nies are indeed mov­ing ahead in their plans to engage with Sau­di Ara­bia on nuclear tech­nol­o­gy and nuclear ener­gy devel­op­ment. The com­pa­nies began seek­ing con­tact with Riyadh in Novem­ber 2017.”

    Full (fis­sion heat­ed) steam ahead! That appears to be what the Depart­ment of Ener­gy has already secret­ly declared with the “Part 810” autho­riza­tions for these com­pa­nies. But we don’t get to know which com­pa­nies because the Depart­ment of Ener­gy isn’t respond­ing too FOIA requests and these com­pa­nies appar­ent­ly have the right to request that their iden­ti­ties be kept secret:

    ...
    The authorizations—known as Part 810s, refer­ring to a clause in fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions —allow U.S. com­pa­nies to divulge spe­cif­ic details about plans for work­ing in Sau­di Ara­bia and cer­tain infor­ma­tion about the nuclear tech­nol­o­gy. For exam­ple, a com­pa­ny would need a Part 810 to trans­fer phys­i­cal doc­u­ments, elec­tron­ic media, or the “trans­fer of knowl­edge and exper­tise” to Sau­di Ara­bia, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of Ener­gy.

    ...

    It’s unclear which U.S. com­pa­nies have obtained autho­riza­tions. The Depart­ment of Ener­gy has not respond­ed to a Dai­ly Beast Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request. How­ev­er, a con­gres­sion­al source said U.S. com­pa­nies have the option of request­ing their autho­riza­tions remain pri­vate and do not land in the department’s pub­lic read­ing room. The com­pa­nies that received the Part 810s under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion have made such a request, accord­ing to that source.
    ...

    But, it still seems like a pret­ty safe bet IP3 is one of those com­pa­nies:

    ...
    IP3, a firm that includes for­mer gen­er­als, diplo­mats, and ener­gy experts, was men­tioned in a recent report by the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee. That report said IP3 had devel­oped a pro­pos­al for Sau­di Ara­bia that was “not a busi­ness plan” but rather “a scheme for these gen­er­als to make some mon­ey.” That report said For­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn had ties to the firm dur­ing his time work­ing in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    “IP3 was formed as a bipar­ti­san com­pa­ny to sup­port the devel­op­ment of a pub­lic-pri­vate mod­el for the peace­ful intro­duc­tion of nuclear pow­er by the Unit­ed States and its allies,” said Mike Hewitt, CEO of IP3. “There are con­cerns over Rus­sia and China’s expan­sion into glob­al nuclear pow­er devel­op­ment and the inher­ent geo-polit­i­cal and nation­al secu­ri­ty issues. The Mid­dle East is but one region where this com­pe­ti­tion is play­ing out and cur­rent­ly the Unit­ed States and its indus­try are not com­pet­i­tive in this grow­ing mar­ket.”

    IP3 still is in con­ver­sa­tions with Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er coun­tries across the Mid­dle East about nuclear ener­gy relat­ed work, a source with direct knowl­edge of the firm’s plans told The Dai­ly Beast. The firm’s pro­pos­als, how­ev­er, look much dif­fer­ent than what’s pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, the source said, adding that they focus on secu­ri­ty and pro­tec­tion of nuclear ener­gy infra­struc­ture.
    ...

    And it’s not just the pub­lic that this infor­ma­tion is being hid­den from. Con­gress is also being shut out of the process. And appar­ent­ly Jared Kush­n­er even shut out the US embassy in Riyadh dur­ing his trip to Sau­di Ara­bia last month:

    ...
    In a hear­ing with Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo Wednes­day, Rep. Brad Sher­man raised the issues of the part 810 autho­riza­tions and asked that Pom­peo share those doc­u­ments with the com­mit­tee.

    “One thing that is in our inter­est is to pre­vent Sau­di Ara­bia from get­ting a nuclear weapon,” Sher­man said. “What I’ve seen in this admin­is­tra­tion recent­ly ... is an effort to evade Con­gress and to some extent evade your depart­ment and pro­vide sub­stan­tial nuclear tech­nol­o­gy and aid to Sau­di Ara­bia while [the coun­try] refus­es to abide by any of the con­trols we would like to see regard­ing repro­cess­ing, enrich­ment.

    Pom­peo said the State Depart­ment is still look­ing into the assis­tance Sau­di Ara­bia could receive from U.S. com­pa­nies on nuclear devel­op­ment and how to pre­vent the coun­try from devel­op­ing nuclear weapons.

    ...

    Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kush­n­er met with Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and oth­er mem­bers of the Sau­di gov­ern­ment in Riyadh last month. Sources told The Dai­ly Beast that mem­bers of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh were essen­tial­ly shut out of those con­ver­sa­tions, rais­ing con­cern by Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers that Kush­n­er and MBS had dis­cussed a nuclear deal with min­i­mal over­sight.
    ...

    And that’s pret­ty much all the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is reveal­ing at this point. Although it’s worth not­ing that Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry did sort of try and give an expla­na­tion for why these com­pa­nies that got the Part 810 autho­riza­tions want­ed all of this done in secret: the com­pa­nies want­ed to keep their pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion out of the pub­lic domain. That’s appar­ent­ly the excuse the Depart­ment of Ener­gy is giv­ing for not even releas­ing the names of these com­pa­nies:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump admin­is­tra­tion autho­rized nuclear ener­gy com­pa­nies to share tech­no­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia

    By Steven Muf­son
    March 28, 2019 at 6:04 PM

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has kept secret sev­en autho­riza­tions it has issued since Novem­ber 2017 allow­ing U.S. nuclear ener­gy com­pa­nies to share sen­si­tive tech­no­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia, even though the king­dom has not yet agreed to anti-pro­lif­er­a­tion terms required to con­struct a pair of U.S.-designed civil­ian nuclear pow­er plants.

    The Ener­gy Depart­ment and State Depart­ment have not only kept the autho­riza­tions from the pub­lic but also refused to share infor­ma­tion about them with con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees that have juris­dic­tion over nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion and safe­ty.

    The autho­riza­tions, issued to at least six com­pa­nies, cov­er “Part 810” infor­ma­tion, named for a reg­u­la­to­ry clause that allows U.S. com­pa­nies to divulge some design infor­ma­tion to com­pete for con­tracts with for­eign buy­ers. The reg­u­la­tions for Part 810 tech­nol­o­gy-shar­ing pro­vide a list of “gen­er­al­ly autho­rized des­ti­na­tions.” Sau­di Ara­bia is not on the list.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has said it wants to build two nuclear pow­er plants, and com­pa­nies from Rus­sia, Chi­na, South Korea, France and the Unit­ed States have expressed inter­est in obtain­ing the con­tracts.

    If a U.S. con­sor­tium is to build a reac­tor in Sau­di Ara­bia, the king­dom would have to com­mit to what is known as a “123 agree­ment.” With­out that, Con­gress could vote to block. The king­dom so far has refused to give up its right to enrich ura­ni­um or reprocess spent fuel, both of which can be used to build nuclear weapons.

    In a “60 Min­utes” inter­view last year, Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that “Sau­di Ara­bia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but with­out a doubt if Iran devel­oped a nuclear bomb, we will fol­low suit as soon as pos­si­ble.”

    In a Decem­ber email obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, an Ener­gy Depart­ment offi­cial con­ced­ed that “gen­er­al prac­tice is to place signed autho­riza­tions in the Department’s [Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act] Pub­lic Read­ing Room.” How­ev­er, in jus­ti­fy­ing the han­dling of Part 810 infor­ma­tion, the Ener­gy Depart­ment has cit­ed the com­pa­nies’ requests to pro­tect pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion.

    ...

    “These U.S. com­pa­nies that are going to be doing this work want to keep that pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion from being out in the pub­lic domain,” Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry tes­ti­fied Thurs­day before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “I total­ly under­stand that.”

    Mem­bers of Con­gress are upset about the administration’s stance and are try­ing to learn whether the Unit­ed States has been shar­ing infor­ma­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia even after the Octo­ber killing in Istan­bul of Wash­ing­ton Post con­tribut­ing colum­nist Jamal Khashog­gi, a Sau­di cit­i­zen and U.S. res­i­dent.

    Sen. Tim Kaine (D‑Va.) ques­tioned Per­ry about whether any Part 810 licens­es for Sau­di Ara­bia were issued after the killing of Khashog­gi. Per­ry said he did not know. “I’ll get back to you,” he said.

    Per­ry said that since 2017, there had been 65 appli­ca­tions from com­pa­nies seek­ing to share infor­ma­tion under Part 810 of the leg­is­la­tion autho­riz­ing the licens­es. So far, Per­ry said, the depart­ment has issued 37 autho­riza­tions, includ­ing six to Sau­di Ara­bia and two to Jor­dan. The Ener­gy Depart­ment lat­er issued a cor­rec­tion say­ing there were sev­en for Sau­di Ara­bia. “Frankly, I think the word ‘secret’ is what gets every­body spun up,” Per­ry added. “What we’re talk­ing about here is some­thing that goes on every day in this town and across this coun­try.”

    Rep. Brad Sher­man (D‑Calif.) pressed Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo at a House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee hear­ing Wednes­day to keep nuclear tech­nol­o­gy out of Sau­di hands by stick­ing to the terms in the “gold stan­dard” 123 agree­ment with the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. “It appears this is an end run around the law in an effort to achieve a pol­i­cy,” Sher­man said. “Do we want to pro­vide nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia before they enter into agree­ments for no repro­cess­ing and no enrich­ment?”

    Under cur­rent law, Con­gress has 90 days to act to block 123 agree­ments for new nuclear export deals. If Con­gress does not act, the agree­ment goes into effect.

    ...

    ———-

    “Trump admin­is­tra­tion autho­rized nuclear ener­gy com­pa­nies to share tech­no­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia” by Steven Muf­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 03/28/2019

    “The Ener­gy Depart­ment and State Depart­ment have not only kept the autho­riza­tions from the pub­lic but also refused to share infor­ma­tion about them with con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees that have juris­dic­tion over nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion and safe­ty.”

    Yep, even the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees with juris­dic­tion over nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion and safe­ty aren’t be giv­en access to any infor­ma­tion about the com­pa­nies that got these Part 810 autho­riza­tion. And, again, the Saud­is still refuse to pledge to not enrich the spent fuel:

    ...
    If a U.S. con­sor­tium is to build a reac­tor in Sau­di Ara­bia, the king­dom would have to com­mit to what is known as a “123 agree­ment.” With­out that, Con­gress could vote to block. The king­dom so far has refused to give up its right to enrich ura­ni­um or reprocess spent fuel, both of which can be used to build nuclear weapons.

    In a “60 Min­utes” inter­view last year, Sau­di Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that “Sau­di Ara­bia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but with­out a doubt if Iran devel­oped a nuclear bomb, we will fol­low suit as soon as pos­si­ble.”
    ...

    But the Ener­gy Sec­re­tary assures us that this extreme secre­cy is sim­ply being done to pro­tect the pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion of these com­pa­nies. Pro­pri­ety infor­ma­tion that appar­ent­ly includes their names:

    ...
    In a Decem­ber email obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, an Ener­gy Depart­ment offi­cial con­ced­ed that “gen­er­al prac­tice is to place signed autho­riza­tions in the Department’s [Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act] Pub­lic Read­ing Room.” How­ev­er, in jus­ti­fy­ing the han­dling of Part 810 infor­ma­tion, the Ener­gy Depart­ment has cit­ed the com­pa­nies’ requests to pro­tect pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion.

    ...

    “These U.S. com­pa­nies that are going to be doing this work want to keep that pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion from being out in the pub­lic domain,” Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry tes­ti­fied Thurs­day before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “I total­ly under­stand that.”
    ...

    And note that the Ener­gy Depart­ment actu­al­ly issued a cor­rec­tion: it was­n’t six Part 810 autho­riza­tions for com­pa­nies work­ing in Sau­di Ara­bia. It was sev­en. So there’s an addi­tion­al mys­tery com­pa­ny already involved. But Per­ry assures us that there’s real­ly noth­ing to wor­ry about and this is all very typ­i­cal and hap­pens every day:

    ...
    Per­ry said that since 2017, there had been 65 appli­ca­tions from com­pa­nies seek­ing to share infor­ma­tion under Part 810 of the leg­is­la­tion autho­riz­ing the licens­es. So far, Per­ry said, the depart­ment has issued 37 autho­riza­tions, includ­ing six to Sau­di Ara­bia and two to Jor­dan. The Ener­gy Depart­ment lat­er issued a cor­rec­tion say­ing there were sev­en for Sau­di Ara­bia. “Frankly, I think the word ‘secret’ is what gets every­body spun up,” Per­ry added. “What we’re talk­ing about here is some­thing that goes on every day in this town and across this coun­try.”
    ...

    “Frankly, I think the word ‘secret’ is what gets every­body spun up...What we’re talk­ing about here is some­thing that goes on every day in this town and across this coun­try.”

    So we have extreme Trump admin­is­tra­tion secre­cy sur­round­ing this issue and non­sense rea­sons giv­en for the extreme secre­cy. Isn’t that reas­sur­ing.

    Also, note how two Part 810 autho­riza­tions were grant­ed to Jor­dan. And, again, keep in mind that the big “Mar­shall plan for the Mid­dle East” that Michael Fly­nn was propos­ing includ­ed nuclear plants being built in Jor­dan and Egypt. Might we be see­ing that plan actu­al­ly com­ing to fruition? That’s unclear because, of course, it’s a secret.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 29, 2019, 12:50 pm
  27. Call­ing all QAnon/Pizzagate enthu­si­ast! We found an elite pedophile oper­at­ing in cir­cles of pow­er! Oh, wait, it turns out he’s deeply tied to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Nev­er mind, no one cares!

    That’s more or less what hap­pened over the last cou­ple of days after we learned that George Nad­er, the inter­na­tion­al man of mys­tery who has popped up in numer­ous sto­ries relat­ed to #TrumpRus­sia and who report­ed­ly was close­ly work­ing with the Trump cam­paign, was charged for pos­ses­sion of child pornog­ra­phy last year.

    Recall the numer­ous dif­fer­ent sto­ries Nad­er has popped up in. He’s like the ‘Where’s Wal­do’ of this sto­ry. First, we saw Nader’s work as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the UAE and Saud­is dur­ing the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ meet­ing between Erik Prince, Kir­ill Dmitriev, and Nad­er. Nad­er and Prince almost made the August 3, 2016 trip to Trump Tow­er with Psy­Group CEP Joel Zamel in order to inform the Trump cam­paign that the crown princes of Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE want­ed to help Trump win and pitched a social media manip­u­la­tion cam­paign to be run by Psy­Group. But as we learned, Nad­er had actu­al­ly start­ed approach­ing the Trump cam­paign in ear­ly 2016, dur­ing the pri­maries, with offers of UAE assis­tance for Trump. Nad­er also report­ed­ly held numer­ous meet­ings with Trump cam­paign offi­cials in the final weeks of the cam­paign, which cer­tain­ly sug­gests that the Trump team did indeed accept the offer of Psy­Group’s help even though that’s nev­er been admit­ted.

    But there’s more. After the 2016 elec­tion, Nad­er teamed up with close Trump ally Elliot Broidy to begin lob­by­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress on behalf of Sau­di Ara­bia the UAE. Broidy was at that point the deputy finance chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Nad­er and Broidy report­ed­ly met dur­ing the Trump inau­gur­al fes­tiv­i­ties in Jan­u­ary of 2017 and agreed to set up their joint lob­by­ing shop at that point. Most of the lob­by­ing was focused on get­ting the US to take a hard­er line against Iran and Qatar and also for Trump to have pri­vate meet­ings with UAE crown prince MBZ. Broidy was also the fig­ure who hired Michael Cohen’s ser­vices in late 2017 to make $1.6 mil­lion in finan­cial pay­ments to a Play­boy mod­el he impreg­nat­ed and then encour­aged to get an abor­tion (although many sus­pect that Broidy was actu­al­ly act­ing as a stand-in for Don­ald Trump in that trans­ac­tion).

    And that’s just the Nad­er-relat­ed sto­ries from the last few years. There’s also the fact that he was, for decades going back to the 1980’s, a trust­ed mid­dle-man who vol­un­teered to act as a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the US and Mid­dle East­ern gov­ern­ments. He was a walk­ing, breath­ing, one-man ‘back chan­nel’, which is made all the more intrigu­ing by the fact that Nad­er has also pre­vi­ous­ly plead­ed guilty to pos­sess­ing child pornog­ra­phy and sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors. On mul­ti­ple occa­sions span­ning decades. He appears to be a ser­i­al pedophile. So it is per­haps unsur­pris­ing that when the FBI stopped Nad­er at Dulles Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in Jan­u­ary of 2018 to ask him ques­tions they found a bunch child pornog­ra­phy on his smart­phone. Specif­i­cal­ly, they found 12 sex­u­al­ly explic­it videos of boys aged 2 to 14. It was in the fol­low­ing weeks after that dis­cov­ery that Nad­er start­ed coop­er­at­ing with inves­ti­ga­tors. So it appears that the dis­cov­ery of child porn on his smart­phone may have played a role in his will­ing­ness to coop­er­ate. Two days ago he was charged for that pos­ses­sion in a fed­er­al court. If con­vict­ed, Nad­er faces a min­i­mum of 15 years in prison. He was orig­i­nal­ly charged in April of 2018 under seal but had left the coun­try by that time.

    This is the guy trust­ed by gov­ern­ments to be a mid­dle-man in negotiations...someone who appears to rou­tine­ly trav­els the world with child porn. It all adds to Nader’s rep­u­ta­tion as being a ‘Man of Mys­tery’. A mys­tery with a crim­i­nal­ly per­verse sub-mys­tery of how on earth he man­ages to retain his ‘Man of Mys­tery’ sta­tus after being repeat­ed­ly out­ed as a ser­i­al pedophile. And the fol­low­ing arti­cle describes, in part, how Nad­er man­aged to main­tain his ‘Man of Mys­tery’ mid­dle-man role despite repeat­ed­ly get­ting caught for child pornog­ra­phy and sex­u­al abuse: When Nad­er was con­vict­ed by US author­i­ties in 1991 for trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy he was giv­en a reduced sen­tence due to all the assis­tance he gave to the US gov­ern­ment in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs. So Nad­er is appar­ent­ly such a use­ful human ‘back chan­nel’ for the US he was able to get his child porn sen­tence reduced. At least for that par­tic­u­lar 1991 con­vic­tion. We’ll see how he does with the new charges:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Fig­ure linked to Trump tran­si­tion charged with trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy

    By Devlin Bar­rett and
    Rachel Wein­er June 3, 2019

    A key wit­ness in for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian elec­tion inter­fer­ence has been charged with trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy last year, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

    George Nad­er, who has a pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion on such charges, was charged in fed­er­al court in Vir­ginia and is expect­ed to make an ini­tial court appear­ance in New York.

    ...

    Offi­cials said Nad­er, 60, was charged by crim­i­nal com­plaint over mate­r­i­al he was trav­el­ing with when he arrived at Wash­ing­ton Dulles Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Jan. 17, 2018, from Dubai. At the time, he was car­ry­ing a cell­phone con­tain­ing visu­al depic­tions of minors engaged in sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­duct, offi­cials said. The charges were unsealed after his arrest Mon­day morn­ing at John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in New York.

    Lawyers for Nad­er did not return calls seek­ing com­ment. At a brief court appear­ance in New York, Mag­is­trate Judge Cheryl Pol­lak ordered Nad­er to remain in cus­tody, pend­ing a fur­ther hear­ing Tues­day.

    If con­vict­ed, Nad­er faces a min­i­mum of 15 years in prison and a max­i­mum of 40 years, offi­cials said.

    Nad­er was known to Trump asso­ciates as some­one with polit­i­cal con­nec­tions in the Mid­dle East who could help them nav­i­gate the diplo­ma­cy of the region.

    He helped arrange a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles in Jan­u­ary 2017 between Erik Prince, a Trump sup­port­er who found­ed the pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm Black­wa­ter, and a Russ­ian offi­cial close to Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. The pur­pose of the meet­ing was of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tors, and some ques­tions about it remain unan­swered, even after Mueller issued a 448-page report on his find­ings.

    A Lebanese Amer­i­can busi­ness­man, Nad­er was stopped by fed­er­al agents when he arrived at Dulles in Jan­u­ary 2018. Those FBI agents served him with a sub­poe­na and want­ed to ques­tion him as part of the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, accord­ing to peo­ple, who like oth­ers famil­iar with the issue, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

    Accord­ing to the com­plaint, Nad­er was inter­viewed by FBI agents at the air­port, and one of his three iPhones was searched for rea­sons unre­lat­ed to child pornog­ra­phy. But on the phone, author­i­ties found 12 sex­u­al­ly explic­it videos fea­tur­ing boys approx­i­mate­ly rang­ing in age from 2 to 14, accord­ing to the court doc­u­ments.

    Over the fol­low­ing weeks, Nad­er began to coop­er­ate with author­i­ties, pro­vid­ing grand jury tes­ti­mo­ny about his inter­ac­tions with Trump sup­port­ers, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Author­i­ties said he was charged under seal on the alleged child pornog­ra­phy in April 2018, but he had left the coun­try at that point.

    Prince has insist­ed, pub­licly and to Con­gress, that his meet­ing in the Sey­chelles with Kir­ill Dmitriev, the head of a Russ­ian gov­ern­ment-con­trolled wealth fund, was a chance encounter that occurred because he hap­pened to be meet­ing with Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates offi­cials at a lux­u­ry hotel in the Indi­an Ocean nation.

    At the time, Nad­er had been work­ing for years as an advis­er to the UAE. Nad­er told inves­ti­ga­tors it was a meet­ing planned in advance, as an explorato­ry back chan­nel between a Trump emis­sary and a Krem­lin offi­cial, to allow for infor­mal dis­cus­sions of future rela­tions between the two coun­tries, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Nad­er also vis­it­ed the White House sev­er­al times after the Sey­chelles encounter, meet­ing with senior advis­er Stephen K. Ban­non and Jared Kush­n­er, the president’s son-in-law and senior advis­er, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his vis­its.

    Nad­er was con­vict­ed 28 years ago of trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy, a case in which he received a reduced sen­tence after influ­en­tial fig­ures argued pri­vate­ly to the court that he was play­ing a valu­able role in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs — try­ing to free U.S. hostages then held in Lebanon.

    Born in Lebanon, Nad­er came to the Unit­ed States as a teen and lat­er found­ed Mid­dle East Insight, a mag­a­zine ded­i­cat­ed to cov­er­age of the region — a role that led him to trav­el fre­quent­ly and inter­view world lead­ers and top U.S. politi­cians.

    In the 1980s, he devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a back-chan­nel nego­tia­tor with access to top offi­cials in Israel, Syr­ia and Iran, as well as lead­ers of the Hezbol­lah move­ment, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his work. In the past few years, he has worked as an advis­er to senior offi­cials in the UAE.

    Amid his inter­na­tion­al work, Nad­er had repeat­ed­ly been inves­ti­gat­ed by law enforce­ment offi­cials, accord­ing to court fil­ings.

    In 1985, he was indict­ed by a fed­er­al grand jury in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on two counts of mail­ing and import­ing child pornog­ra­phy. Court doc­u­ments show those charges were dis­missed before tri­al after Nader’s lawyers suc­cess­ful­ly argued that author­i­ties had ille­gal­ly seized evi­dence in the case. Records show that Nad­er became a U.S. cit­i­zen while await­ing tri­al in the case.

    Dur­ing two instances in 1988, Nad­er received sex­u­al­ly explic­it mate­r­i­al, fea­tur­ing under­age boys, sent to him via a post office box in Cleve­land, accord­ing to court fil­ings. He was not charged, although his home was searched, and pros­e­cu­tors say child pornog­ra­phy was found in his toi­let.

    In the 1991 case, Nad­er plead­ed guilty to one count of trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy and served about six months in fed­er­al cus­tody in a facil­i­ty on work release, court records show.

    Nad­er had pow­er­ful sup­port­ers who appealed to the court on his behalf, argu­ing that he was engaged in high-stakes nego­ti­a­tions to assist the U.S. gov­ern­ment in free­ing hostages in Lebanon.

    Nad­er was ulti­mate­ly giv­en con­sid­er­a­tion in his sen­tence because of what a fed­er­al judge termed his “extra­or­di­nary coop­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment in cer­tain areas,” accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

    More recent­ly, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press has report­ed that Nad­er was con­vict­ed of 10 cas­es of sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors in Prague in May 2003 and sen­tenced to one year in prison. His expul­sion from the coun­try was also ordered. Nader’s lawyers have pre­vi­ous­ly declined to com­ment on the Prague case.

    ———-

    “Fig­ure linked to Trump tran­si­tion charged with trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy” By Devlin Bar­rett and Rachel Wein­er; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 06/03/2019

    Offi­cials said Nad­er, 60, was charged by crim­i­nal com­plaint over mate­r­i­al he was trav­el­ing with when he arrived at Wash­ing­ton Dulles Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Jan. 17, 2018, from Dubai. At the time, he was car­ry­ing a cell­phone con­tain­ing visu­al depic­tions of minors engaged in sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­duct, offi­cials said. The charges were unsealed after his arrest Mon­day morn­ing at John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in New York.”

    Yep, in Jan­u­ary of 2018, when it should have been obvi­ous that Nad­er would be a per­son of inter­est by US inves­ti­ga­tors, George Nad­er was trav­el­ing with child pornog­ra­phy on his phone. Some of the videos fea­tures kids as young as 2 years old. It was after this dis­cov­ery that Nad­er began to coop­er­ate with inves­ti­ga­tors. He was charged under seal over the child porn in April of 2018 but had left the coun­try before that:

    ...
    If con­vict­ed, Nad­er faces a min­i­mum of 15 years in prison and a max­i­mum of 40 years, offi­cials said.

    ...

    A Lebanese Amer­i­can busi­ness­man, Nad­er was stopped by fed­er­al agents when he arrived at Dulles in Jan­u­ary 2018. Those FBI agents served him with a sub­poe­na and want­ed to ques­tion him as part of the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, accord­ing to peo­ple, who like oth­ers famil­iar with the issue, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

    Accord­ing to the com­plaint, Nad­er was inter­viewed by FBI agents at the air­port, and one of his three iPhones was searched for rea­sons unre­lat­ed to child pornog­ra­phy. But on the phone, author­i­ties found 12 sex­u­al­ly explic­it videos fea­tur­ing boys approx­i­mate­ly rang­ing in age from 2 to 14, accord­ing to the court doc­u­ments.

    Over the fol­low­ing weeks, Nad­er began to coop­er­ate with author­i­ties, pro­vid­ing grand jury tes­ti­mo­ny about his inter­ac­tions with Trump sup­port­ers, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    Author­i­ties said he was charged under seal on the alleged child pornog­ra­phy in April 2018, but he had left the coun­try at that point.
    ...

    And he was trav­el­ing with this mate­r­i­al despite his long his­to­ry of legal trou­bles for exact­ly that. Then again, this long his­to­ry also includ­ed lenient treat­ment so per­haps Nad­er was count­ing on that hap­pen­ing again. For exam­ple, in 1985 he was indict­ed for mail­ing and import­ing child porn. He got the evi­dence thrown out and man­aged to get his US cit­i­zen­ship while await­ing tri­al for the case:

    ...
    Amid his inter­na­tion­al work, Nad­er had repeat­ed­ly been inves­ti­gat­ed by law enforce­ment offi­cials, accord­ing to court fil­ings.

    In 1985, he was indict­ed by a fed­er­al grand jury in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on two counts of mail­ing and import­ing child pornog­ra­phy. Court doc­u­ments show those charges were dis­missed before tri­al after Nader’s lawyers suc­cess­ful­ly argued that author­i­ties had ille­gal­ly seized evi­dence in the case. Records show that Nad­er became a U.S. cit­i­zen while await­ing tri­al in the case.
    ...

    In 1988, Nad­er received more child porn in the mail. His home was search and child porn was found in his toi­let but he was nev­er charged:

    ...
    Dur­ing two instances in 1988, Nad­er received sex­u­al­ly explic­it mate­r­i­al, fea­tur­ing under­age boys, sent to him via a post office box in Cleve­land, accord­ing to court fil­ings. He was not charged, although his home was searched, and pros­e­cu­tors say child pornog­ra­phy was found in his toi­let.
    ...

    In 1991, Nad­er plead­ed guilty to trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy and was sen­tenced to six months in fed­er­al cus­tody on work release. In that case his sen­tence was reduced based on Nader’s “extra­or­di­nary coop­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment in cer­tain areas”:

    ...
    Nad­er was con­vict­ed 28 years ago of trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy, <ia case in which he received a reduced sen­tence after influ­en­tial fig­ures argued pri­vate­ly to the court that he was play­ing a valu­able role in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs — try­ing to free U.S. hostages then held in Lebanon.

    ...

    In the 1991 case, Nad­er plead­ed guilty to one count of trans­port­ing child pornog­ra­phy and served about six months in fed­er­al cus­tody in a facil­i­ty on work release, court records show.

    Nad­er had pow­er­ful sup­port­ers who appealed to the court on his behalf, argu­ing that he was engaged in high-stakes nego­ti­a­tions to assist the U.S. gov­ern­ment in free­ing hostages in Lebanon.

    Nad­er was ulti­mate­ly giv­en con­sid­er­a­tion in his sen­tence because of what a fed­er­al judge termed his “extra­or­di­nary coop­er­a­tion with the gov­ern­ment in cer­tain areas,” accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.
    ...

    So Nad­er was repeat­ed­ly get­ting extreme­ly lenient treat­ment from the US which was clear­ly tied to his work as a human ‘back chan­nel’ to the Mid­dle East.

    In 2003, he final­ly served time in prison. But this time is was in the Czech Repub­lic after get­ting con­vict­ed of 10 cas­es of sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors (which still seems like a lenient sen­tence):

    ...
    More recent­ly, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press has report­ed that Nad­er was con­vict­ed of 10 cas­es of sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors in Prague in May 2003 and sen­tenced to one year in prison. His expul­sion from the coun­try was also ordered. Nader’s lawyers have pre­vi­ous­ly declined to com­ment on the Prague case.
    ...

    So giv­en that dis­turb­ing his­to­ry of Nad­er repeat­ed­ly get­ting lenient treat­ment after caught with child pornog­ra­phy, or direct­ly sex­u­al­ly abus­ing minors, it is far less sur­pris­ing to learn that Nad­er was just walk­ing around with this stuff on his phone despite the fact that he was clear­ly a per­son of inter­est in one of the high­est pro­file inves­ti­ga­tions in US his­to­ry in 2018. While Nader’s role in set­ting up the Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ was­n’t pub­licly known by Jan­u­ary of 2018 when the FBI stopped him at the air­port for ques­tion­ing, the fact that there was a Sey­chelles ‘back chan­nel’ was already in news by that point. But giv­en his legal his­to­ry, who knows, maybe he assumed the US gov­ern­ment was fine with his child porn addic­tion.

    So one of the key play­ers in the UAE/Saudi chap­ter of the #TrumpRus­sia fias­co (which looks a lot more like a #Trump­Saudi­UAE fias­co based on avail­able evi­dence) is a ser­i­al pedophile who was work­ing close­ly with the Trump cam­paign in 2016 in order to coor­di­nate the Saudi/UAE efforts to help Trump get elect­ed. And this ser­i­al pedophile has a long his­to­ry of get­ting lenient treat­ment after repeat­ed­ly get­ting caught. The QAnon/Pizzagate folks are going to be wild over this one, right? And indeed they are...by ped­dling pho­tos of Bill Clin­ton on vaca­tion with a group of men, one of whom is indeed George Nad­er. Except it’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent “George Nad­er” and it’s obvi­ous he’s a dif­fer­ent per­son. That’s seri­ous­ly how the QAnon folks and the right-wing dis­in­fo­tain­ment com­plex are deal­ing with the recent Nad­er rev­e­la­tions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2019, 3:16 pm
  28. Here’s a pair of arti­cles with some chill­ing updates ongo­ing moves by Sau­di Ara­bia to acquire nuclear weapons and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s appar­ent eager­ness to help make that hap­pen by giv­ing the green light for nuclear tech­nol­o­gy trans­fers:

    First, it sounds like the Sau­di gov­ern­ment has­n’t just been try­ing to acquire the kind of nuclear fuel enrich­ment tech­nolo­gies that could enable the coun­try to cre­ate its own fis­sile mate­r­i­al. The Saud­is have also been acquir­ing new bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy. From Chi­na. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been aware of these moves while try­ing to keep it secret from Con­gress. Plus, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo basi­cal­ly came out and said, yeah, the Saud­is and oth­ers are try­ing of obtain a nuclear deter­rent, but only because of Iran. It’s anoth­er con­se­quence of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion uni­lat­er­al­ly pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal: the Saud­is got the ‘excuse’ to acquire nuclear war­heads and the bal­lis­tic mis­siles to deliv­er them:

    CNN

    Exclu­sive: US intel shows Sau­di Ara­bia esca­lat­ed its mis­sile pro­gram with help from Chi­na

    By Phil Mat­ting­ly, Zachary Cohen and Jere­my Herb
    Updat­ed 6:01 PM ET, Wed June 5, 2019

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN)The US gov­ern­ment has obtained intel­li­gence that Sau­di Ara­bia has sig­nif­i­cant­ly esca­lat­ed its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram with the help of Chi­na, three sources with direct knowl­edge of the mat­ter said, a devel­op­ment that threat­ens decades of US efforts to lim­it mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East.

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion did not ini­tial­ly dis­close its knowl­edge of this clas­si­fied devel­op­ment to key mem­bers of Con­gress, the sources said, infu­ri­at­ing Democ­rats who dis­cov­ered it out­side of reg­u­lar US gov­ern­ment chan­nels and con­clud­ed it had been delib­er­ate­ly left out of a series of brief­in­gs where they say it should have been pre­sent­ed.

    The pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed clas­si­fied intel­li­gence indi­cates Sau­di Ara­bia has expand­ed both its mis­sile infra­struc­ture and tech­nol­o­gy through recent pur­chas­es from Chi­na.

    The dis­cov­ery of the Sau­di efforts has height­ened con­cerns among mem­bers of Con­gress over a poten­tial arms race in the Mid­dle East, and whether it sig­nals a tac­it approval by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as it seeks to counter Iran. The intel­li­gence also rais­es ques­tions about the admin­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East and the extent to which Con­gress is kept abreast of for­eign pol­i­cy devel­op­ments in a volatile region.

    The devel­op­ment comes amid grow­ing ten­sions between Con­gress and the White House over Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Despite bipar­ti­san crit­i­cism over the King­dom’s war in Yemen and its role in the mur­der of jour­nal­ist Jamal Khashog­gi, the White House has sought an even clos­er rela­tion­ship with the Saud­is, as evi­denced by its recent deci­sion to sell the King­dom bil­lions of dol­lars in weapons and muni­tions despite oppo­si­tion in Con­gress.

    While the Saud­is’ ulti­mate goal has not been con­clu­sive­ly assessed by US intel­li­gence, the sources said, the mis­sile advance­ment could mark anoth­er step in poten­tial Sau­di efforts to one day deliv­er a nuclear war­head were it ever to obtain one.

    The King­dom’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, has made clear that should Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, Sau­di would work to do the same, telling 60 Min­utes in a 2018 inter­view that, “With­out a doubt, if Iran devel­oped a nuclear bomb, we will fol­low suit as soon as pos­si­ble.”

    Though Sau­di is among the biggest buy­ers of US weapons, it is barred from pur­chas­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles from the US under reg­u­la­tions set forth by the 1987 Mis­sile Tech­nol­o­gy Con­trol Regime, an infor­mal, mul­ti-coun­try pact aimed at pre­vent­ing the sale of rock­ets capa­ble of car­ry­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion.

    Yet the Saud­is have con­sis­tent­ly tak­en the posi­tion that they need to match Iran’s mis­sile capa­bil­i­ty and have at times sought help on the side from oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na, which is not a sig­na­to­ry to the pact.

    Sau­di Ara­bia is known to have pur­chased bal­lis­tic mis­siles from Chi­na sev­er­al decades ago, and pub­lic reports spec­u­lat­ed that more pur­chas­es may have been made as recent­ly as 2007. The King­dom has nev­er been assessed to have the abil­i­ty to build its own mis­siles or even effec­tive­ly deploy the ones it does have.

    Instead, the Saud­is’ arse­nal of Chi­nese-made bal­lis­tic mis­siles was a way to sig­nal its poten­tial mil­i­tary strength to region­al foes, pri­mar­i­ly Iran.

    That, the sources told CNN, has shift­ed based on the new intel­li­gence.

    US-sup­plied air pow­er

    For decades, the US worked to ensure that Sau­di Ara­bia had air suprema­cy in the region, large­ly through its pur­chas­es of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary air­craft, pre­cise­ly so that it would­n’t seek to go around the US to upgrade its mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties.

    “Sau­di Ara­bia need­n’t race Iran to pro­duce or pro­cure bal­lis­tic mis­siles. It already has a sig­nif­i­cant con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary advan­tage,” said Behnam Tale­blu of the Wash­ing­ton-based think tank Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies.

    But ques­tions have arisen in recent months about whether that ratio­nale still stands, par­tic­u­lar­ly as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and the King­dom faces bal­lis­tic mis­sile threats from Iran prox­ies in Yemen.

    Satel­lite imagery, first report­ed by the Wash­ing­ton Post in Jan­u­ary, sug­gest­ed the King­dom had con­struct­ed a bal­lis­tic mis­sile fac­to­ry. Ana­lysts who viewed the images said they appeared to match tech­nol­o­gy pro­duced by the Chi­nese.

    A sec­ond image of the same mis­sile facil­i­ty obtained by CNN shows a sim­i­lar lev­el of activ­i­ty at the site on May 14, 2019, accord­ing to Jef­frey Lewis, direc­tor of the East Asia Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Pro­gram at the Mid­dle­bury Insti­tute.

    “Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s report­ed inter­est in domes­tic bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­duc­tion should right­ly raise eye­brows,” Tale­blu said. “Both the report­ed mis­sile base and Riyad­h’s inter­est in a domes­tic fuel cycle indi­cates, how­ev­er nascent, a desire to hedge against Iran.”

    The CIA and the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence declined to com­ment on any intel­li­gence relat­ed to Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile activ­i­ty or whether the US believes the King­dom is con­tract­ing in that area with for­eign part­ners.

    ...

    In a state­ment, the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry said that Chi­na and Sau­di Ara­bia are “com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ners,” and that both coun­tries “main­tain friend­ly coop­er­a­tion in all areas, includ­ing in the area of arms sales. Such coop­er­a­tion does not vio­late any inter­na­tion­al laws, nor does it involve the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

    A State Depart­ment offi­cial declined to com­ment on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence mat­ters, but told CNN that Sau­di Ara­bia remains a par­ty to the Nuclear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and has accept­ed an oblig­a­tion nev­er to acquire nuclear weapons. The spokesper­son also point­ed to a recent state­ment by a US State Depart­ment offi­cial reaf­firm­ing the US com­mit­ment to “the goal of a Mid­dle East free of weapons of mass destruc­tion and deliv­ery sys­tems.”

    Sources said there has been no indi­ca­tion from the admin­is­tra­tion that there has been an explic­it pol­i­cy shift as it relates to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion of bal­lis­tic mis­siles in Sau­di, but not­ed the admin­is­tra­tion’s aware­ness of the intel­li­gence — and lack of con­crete action to halt the advances since it was obtained.

    Beyond satel­lite imagery

    US intel­li­gence agen­cies con­stant­ly mon­i­tor for­eign bal­lis­tic mis­sile devel­op­ment and the flow of mate­ri­als around the world. Relat­ed intel­li­gence is ana­lyzed on a dai­ly basis and any sig­nif­i­cant change would like­ly make it into the Pres­i­den­tial Dai­ly Brief­ing, accord­ing to two for­mer senior US intel­li­gence offi­cials.

    The Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has been giv­en access to the Sau­di intel­li­gence, though it has not received a spe­cif­ic brief­ing on the sub­ject, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    But the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee, which has over­sight of the State Depart­ment and US for­eign pol­i­cy broad­ly, learned about the Sau­di intel­li­gence ear­li­er this year only after it was dis­cov­ered by Demo­c­ra­t­ic staff on the com­mit­tee, includ­ing in one instance when a staff mem­ber on an unre­lat­ed trip to the Mid­dle East was informed of details through a for­eign coun­ter­part, two of the sources told CNN.

    There had already been at least two clas­si­fied brief­in­gs on issues relat­ed to the top­ic where the infor­ma­tion could have been dis­closed to sen­a­tors, accord­ing to one source.

    When the staff brought the new infor­ma­tion to the pan­el’s top Demo­c­rat, Sen. Robert Menen­dez of New Jer­sey, he imme­di­ate­ly request­ed– and was grant­ed– a clas­si­fied, sen­a­tors-only brief­ing for com­mit­tee mem­bers on the details, a rare occur­rence that under­scored the impor­tance of the dis­cov­ery and the admin­is­tra­tion’s fail­ure to ini­tial­ly brief the com­mit­tee on the mat­ter.

    Sev­er­al sources said the analy­sis pre­sent­ed in the clas­si­fied brief­ing, held on April 9, went far beyond the Jan­u­ary Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry about the satel­lite images, and pro­vid­ed con­crete evi­dence that Sau­di Ara­bia has advanced its mis­sile pro­gram to a point that would run in direct con­flict with long-estab­lished US pol­i­cy to lim­it pro­lif­er­a­tion in the region.

    The day after the clas­si­fied brief­ing, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo tes­ti­fied pub­licly in front of the com­mit­tee as part of a rou­tine hear­ing on the State Depart­ment bud­get.

    Over the course of a few hours, the dis­pute over intel­li­gence shar­ing began to spill out into the open, turn­ing a rel­a­tive­ly benign bud­get hear­ing into a debate over a poten­tial­ly cru­cial shift in US pol­i­cy over mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East.

    Though at the time, it was hard to notice.

    With­out going into specifics, Menen­dez cas­ti­gat­ed Pom­peo for the admin­is­tra­tion’s deci­sion not to share clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion with the com­mit­tee until it was brought to the admin­is­tra­tion by the sen­a­tor him­self.

    “That’s sim­ply unac­cept­able,” Menen­dez told the coun­try’s top diplo­mat, adding that if Con­gress is to per­form its con­sti­tu­tion­al duties, the State Depart­ment “needs to do a bet­ter job of engag­ing with us, brief­ing us and respond­ing to our requests.”

    Lat­er in the hear­ing, three oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors oblique­ly ref­er­enced the issue in their ques­tions to Pom­peo, cit­ing pub­lic reports relat­ed to Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile ambi­tions.

    Nei­ther the sen­a­tors nor Pom­peo men­tioned the pre­vi­ous day’s brief­ing, or that their ques­tions or answers were based on spe­cif­ic intel­li­gence.

    But in hind­sight, the exchanges shed light on the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s hard­line posi­tion that coun­ter­ing Iran is the ulti­mate pri­or­i­ty in the region — regard­less of long-held US non-pro­lif­er­a­tion posi­tions.

    In his respons­es, Pom­peo made clear the admin­is­tra­tion’s pref­er­ence that Sau­di Ara­bia buy US tech­nol­o­gy, a pos­si­ble nod, mul­ti­ple US offi­cials said, to inter­nal oppo­si­tion inside the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to restric­tions on US sales of bal­lis­tic mis­siles to the King­dom.

    “There’ve been those who’ve urged the Unit­ed States to take a dif­fer­ent pos­ture with respect to Sau­di Ara­bia, not to sell them tech­nol­o­gy,” Pom­peo said. “I think you see the risks that are cre­at­ed. It would be bet­ter if the Unit­ed States was involved in those trans­ac­tions than if Chi­na was.”

    While Pom­peo acknowl­edged under ques­tion­ing that it is still US pol­i­cy to oppose pro­lif­er­a­tion of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy in the Mid­dle East, a telling exchange occurred lat­er.

    Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mex­i­co Demo­c­rat, cit­ing the Wash­ing­ton Post report on the satel­lite images, asked what the US was doing to pre­vent for­eign sales of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Pom­peo made clear, inten­tion­al­ly or not, a pre­vail­ing admin­is­tra­tion posi­tion that has guid­ed much of its pol­i­cy in the region — includ­ing its knowl­edge of the expand­ing Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram.

    “This is cer­tain­ly some­thing that we all need to keep an eye on,” Pom­peo said, before adding that “most of the folks who are work­ing to build out mis­sile sys­tems” were doing so in direct response to Iran’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue to enhance its mis­sile pro­gram under the 2015 nuclear accord.

    “Oth­ers are doing what they need to do to cre­ate a deter­rence tool for them­selves,” Pom­peo said. “It’s just a fact.”

    Udall, who a source con­firmed had been in the clas­si­fied brief­ing the day pri­or, respond­ed after a pause by press­ing the admin­is­tra­tion to stick to the long-held US pol­i­cy to deter mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion in Sau­di “Well, I very much hope that the admin­is­tra­tion will push back in terms of what’s hap­pen­ing in mis­siles across the Mid­dle East.”

    Ten­sions over Sau­di pol­i­cy

    The new rev­e­la­tions come at a par­tic­u­lar­ly fraught time in the Saudi‑U.S. rela­tion­ship.

    Last year, as evi­dence of the Sau­di gov­ern­men­t’s role in the mur­der of Khashog­gi emerged, GOP Sen­a­tors includ­ing Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­oli­na and then-For­eign Rela­tions Chair­man Bob Cork­er of Ten­nessee pub­licly con­demned the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s timid response.

    “There’s not a smok­ing gun, there’s a smok­ing saw,” Gra­ham said after emerg­ing from a clas­si­fied brief­ing in Decem­ber, refer­ring to reports that the Sau­di team had includ­ed a foren­sic expert who arrived in Turkey with equip­ment to dis­mem­ber Khashog­gi’s body.

    In an inter­view with Axios on HBO that aired on Sun­day, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advis­er Jared Kush­n­er refused to go into details about his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with the Sau­di crown prince, and main­tained that the Saud­is are a key ally in help­ing the US con­tain Iran.

    Asked whether he would join Khashog­gi’s fiancée in call­ing on the Sau­di gov­ern­ment to release Khashog­gi’s body, Kush­n­er demurred, say­ing the deci­sion “would be up to the Sec­re­tary of State” and that “we’ll do every­thing we can to try to bring trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty for what hap­pened.”

    Anger over the admin­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the Khashog­gi mur­der led to bipar­ti­san sup­port for res­o­lu­tions to end US involve­ment in the war in Yemen, where the Sau­di-led coali­tion has been accused of indis­crim­i­nate­ly bomb­ing civil­ians. The con­flict has result­ed in wide­spread famine and put an esti­mat­ed 14 mil­lion peo­ple at risk of star­va­tion, accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations.

    In March, law­mak­ers pushed through the House and Sen­ate a mea­sure that would’ve forced Trump to get per­mis­sion from Con­gress before allow­ing the US mil­i­tary to aid Sau­di Ara­bia in its fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Law­mak­ers were ulti­mate­ly unable to over­ride Trump’s veto.

    Ten­sions between the admin­is­tra­tion and law­mak­ers were again exac­er­bat­ed by the admin­is­tra­tion’s May 24 announce­ment that it would declare an emer­gency over esca­lat­ing ten­sions with Iran in order to bypass Con­gress to com­plete an $8.1 bil­lion sale of weapons, muni­tions, intel­li­gence and main­te­nance to var­i­ous coun­tries includ­ing Sau­di Ara­bia and UAE.

    A bipar­ti­san group of sev­en sen­a­tors, includ­ing Menen­dez and Gra­ham, on Wednes­day said they were intro­duc­ing res­o­lu­tions to block all 22 arms sales tied to the admin­is­tra­tion’s move.

    There is also an ongo­ing bipar­ti­san effort to final­ize a new sanc­tions pack­age tar­get­ing Sau­di Ara­bia — one opposed on its face by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which tends to cast its view of the King­dom as a bina­ry choice: you either sup­port Sau­di Ara­bia or you sup­port Iran.

    For Sen. Chris Mur­phy, a Con­necti­cut Demo­c­rat on the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee and sharp crit­ic of the admin­is­tra­tion’s Sau­di pol­i­cy, the choice is not that sim­ple when it comes to bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion.

    “I think it’s a total mis­read of the region to think that the Saud­is are the good guys in this equa­tion. The Ira­ni­ans do real­ly awful things in the region. But so do the Saud­is. ”

    Mur­phy declined to com­ment on the Sau­di mis­sile intel­li­gence he received dur­ing the April 9 brief­ing, but was will­ing to address the broad­er issue, includ­ing the long-term impli­ca­tions should the US aban­don its pol­i­cy of mis­sile deter­rence in the Mid­dle East.

    “For decades the US has had a pol­i­cy of try­ing to quell, not ignite an arms race in the Mid­dle East, and for good rea­son,” said Mur­phy. “It stands to rea­son we would want less weapons point­ed at each oth­er.”

    ‘It was egre­gious’

    The whole inci­dent puts the pan­el’s Repub­li­can chair­man, Sen. Jim Risch of Ida­ho, in a tricky spot. Com­pared to his pre­de­ces­sor Cork­er, an avid Trump crit­ic, Risch has refrained from crit­i­ciz­ing the admin­is­tra­tion, and has attempt­ed to strike a bal­ance between tend­ing the con­cerns of angry com­mit­tee mem­bers while also try­ing not to under­cut Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy strat­e­gy.

    Risch, who also sits on the Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, dis­missed com­plaints that the intel­li­gence omis­sion was inten­tion­al and chalked it up to a sim­ple over­sight, giv­en the sheer vol­ume of infor­ma­tion the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty gath­ers each day.

    “There’s no doubt that fac­tu­al mat­ters that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has some­times don’t get into the hands of sen­a­tors sim­ply because there is too much of it,” Risch told CNN, not­ing that he had­n’t received any com­plaints from Repub­li­can mem­bers of the pan­el. “It’s not inten­tion­al at all. It’s just sim­ply that it can’t be done.”

    Menen­dez does­n’t buy into that the­o­ry.

    “You can’t lose track of some­thing like this,” said Menen­dez, who would not dis­cuss the top­ic of the under­ly­ing intel­li­gence at issue. “It was egre­gious.”

    Menen­dez is now pres­sur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide a clas­si­fied brief­ing on the issue for all 100 sen­a­tors.

    While frus­tra­tions over access to clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion by the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee go back years, they have become par­tic­u­lar­ly acute dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, sen­a­tors and aides inter­viewed for this sto­ry said.

    “I think our [intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty] knows a lot and they don’t want to tell us,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Vir­ginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who declined to address the spe­cif­ic sub­ject mat­ter. Kaine not­ed that there are a series of issues — sev­er­al relat­ed specif­i­cal­ly to Sau­di, includ­ing autho­riza­tions to sell civil­ian nuclear tech­nol­o­gy to the coun­try — that have remained shroud­ed in secre­cy, despite repeat­ed requests to the admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide brief­in­gs or doc­u­men­ta­tion.

    Kaine on Tues­day revealed for the first time at least two of the tech­nol­o­gy sales occurred after Khashog­gi’s mur­der, includ­ing one that was final­ized just 16 days after the jour­nal­ist was killed in the Sau­di con­sulate in Istan­bul.

    The divide between Con­gress and the admin­is­tra­tion on Sau­di has led to increas­ing­ly hos­tile recep­tions for Trump offi­cials who come to Capi­tol Hill to tes­ti­fy. It’s also one that has large­ly left the US pub­lic in the dark as to the admin­is­tra­tion’s actions with its clos­est allies in the region.

    For at least one Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty even as he declined to address the under­ly­ing Sau­di intel­li­gence, it’s all part of a broad­er trend of the admin­is­tra­tion refus­ing to share intel­li­gence with Con­gress.

    The admin­is­tra­tion “has tak­en a posi­tion of: you don’t need to know any­thing,” the sen­a­tor said. “Which, of course, is con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly inac­cu­rate.”

    ———–

    “Exclu­sive: US intel shows Sau­di Ara­bia esca­lat­ed its mis­sile pro­gram with help from Chi­na” by Phil Mat­ting­ly, Zachary Cohen and Jere­my Herb; CNN; 06/05/2019

    “The dis­cov­ery of the Sau­di efforts has height­ened con­cerns among mem­bers of Con­gress over a poten­tial arms race in the Mid­dle East, and whether it sig­nals a tac­it approval by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as it seeks to counter Iran. The intel­li­gence also rais­es ques­tions about the admin­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East and the extent to which Con­gress is kept abreast of for­eign pol­i­cy devel­op­ments in a volatile region.

    Are the Saud­is try­ing to obtain nuclear armed bal­lis­tic mis­siles and is the Trump admin­is­tra­tion assist­ing them in that and effec­tive­ly aban­don­ing the US’s com­mit­ment to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East? Those seem like pret­ty rea­son­able ques­tions to be ask­ing right giv­en that the answers are obvi­ous­ly ‘yes’ and ‘yes’. Espe­cial­ly after the dis­cov­ery that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been delib­er­ate­ly not shar­ing with the appro­pri­ate con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees the intel­li­gence about the new Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram:

    ...
    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion did not ini­tial­ly dis­close its knowl­edge of this clas­si­fied devel­op­ment to key mem­bers of Con­gress, the sources said, infu­ri­at­ing Democ­rats who dis­cov­ered it out­side of reg­u­lar US gov­ern­ment chan­nels and con­clud­ed it had been delib­er­ate­ly left out of a series of brief­in­gs where they say it should have been pre­sent­ed.

    The pre­vi­ous­ly unre­port­ed clas­si­fied intel­li­gence indi­cates Sau­di Ara­bia has expand­ed both its mis­sile infra­struc­ture and tech­nol­o­gy through recent pur­chas­es from Chi­na.

    ...

    US intel­li­gence agen­cies con­stant­ly mon­i­tor for­eign bal­lis­tic mis­sile devel­op­ment and the flow of mate­ri­als around the world. Relat­ed intel­li­gence is ana­lyzed on a dai­ly basis and any sig­nif­i­cant change would like­ly make it into the Pres­i­den­tial Dai­ly Brief­ing, accord­ing to two for­mer senior US intel­li­gence offi­cials.

    The Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has been giv­en access to the Sau­di intel­li­gence, though it has not received a spe­cif­ic brief­ing on the sub­ject, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    But the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee, which has over­sight of the State Depart­ment and US for­eign pol­i­cy broad­ly, learned about the Sau­di intel­li­gence ear­li­er this year only after it was dis­cov­ered by Demo­c­ra­t­ic staff on the com­mit­tee, includ­ing in one instance when a staff mem­ber on an unre­lat­ed trip to the Mid­dle East was informed of details through a for­eign coun­ter­part, two of the sources told CNN.

    There had already been at least two clas­si­fied brief­in­gs on issues relat­ed to the top­ic where the infor­ma­tion could have been dis­closed to sen­a­tors, accord­ing to one source.

    When the staff brought the new infor­ma­tion to the pan­el’s top Demo­c­rat, Sen. Robert Menen­dez of New Jer­sey, he imme­di­ate­ly request­ed– and was grant­ed– a clas­si­fied, sen­a­tors-only brief­ing for com­mit­tee mem­bers on the details, a rare occur­rence that under­scored the impor­tance of the dis­cov­ery and the admin­is­tra­tion’s fail­ure to ini­tial­ly brief the com­mit­tee on the mat­ter.

    Sev­er­al sources said the analy­sis pre­sent­ed in the clas­si­fied brief­ing, held on April 9, went far beyond the Jan­u­ary Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry about the satel­lite images, and pro­vid­ed con­crete evi­dence that Sau­di Ara­bia has advanced its mis­sile pro­gram to a point that would run in direct con­flict with long-estab­lished US pol­i­cy to lim­it pro­lif­er­a­tion in the region.
    ...

    And note how the State Depart­ment is play­ing dumb issu­ing state­ments about how the Saud­is are still in the nuclear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion treaty at the same time Mike Pom­peo is char­ac­ter­iz­ing the Sau­di nuclear ambi­tions as sim­ply a fact that should be accept­ed and the fault of Iran. So Trump pulls the US out of the Iran nuclear deal and then uses that as an excuse for why the Saud­is should get nukes:

    ...
    In a state­ment, the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry said that Chi­na and Sau­di Ara­bia are “com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ners,” and that both coun­tries “main­tain friend­ly coop­er­a­tion in all areas, includ­ing in the area of arms sales. Such coop­er­a­tion does not vio­late any inter­na­tion­al laws, nor does it involve the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

    A State Depart­ment offi­cial declined to com­ment on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence mat­ters, but told CNN that Sau­di Ara­bia remains a par­ty to the Nuclear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and has accept­ed an oblig­a­tion nev­er to acquire nuclear weapons. The spokesper­son also point­ed to a recent state­ment by a US State Depart­ment offi­cial reaf­firm­ing the US com­mit­ment to “the goal of a Mid­dle East free of weapons of mass destruc­tion and deliv­ery sys­tems.”

    Sources said there has been no indi­ca­tion from the admin­is­tra­tion that there has been an explic­it pol­i­cy shift as it relates to non-pro­lif­er­a­tion of bal­lis­tic mis­siles in Sau­di, but not­ed the admin­is­tra­tion’s aware­ness of the intel­li­gence — and lack of con­crete action to halt the advances since it was obtained.

    ...

    Lat­er in the hear­ing, three oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors oblique­ly ref­er­enced the issue in their ques­tions to Pom­peo, cit­ing pub­lic reports relat­ed to Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile ambi­tions.

    ...

    In his respons­es, Pom­peo made clear the admin­is­tra­tion’s pref­er­ence that Sau­di Ara­bia buy US tech­nol­o­gy, a pos­si­ble nod, mul­ti­ple US offi­cials said, to inter­nal oppo­si­tion inside the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to restric­tions on US sales of bal­lis­tic mis­siles to the King­dom.

    “There’ve been those who’ve urged the Unit­ed States to take a dif­fer­ent pos­ture with respect to Sau­di Ara­bia, not to sell them tech­nol­o­gy,” Pom­peo said. “I think you see the risks that are cre­at­ed. It would be bet­ter if the Unit­ed States was involved in those trans­ac­tions than if Chi­na was.”

    While Pom­peo acknowl­edged under ques­tion­ing that it is still US pol­i­cy to oppose pro­lif­er­a­tion of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy in the Mid­dle East, a telling exchange occurred lat­er.

    Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mex­i­co Demo­c­rat, cit­ing the Wash­ing­ton Post report on the satel­lite images, asked what the US was doing to pre­vent for­eign sales of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy to Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Pom­peo made clear, inten­tion­al­ly or not, a pre­vail­ing admin­is­tra­tion posi­tion that has guid­ed much of its pol­i­cy in the region — includ­ing its knowl­edge of the expand­ing Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram.

    “This is cer­tain­ly some­thing that we all need to keep an eye on,” Pom­peo said, before adding that “most of the folks who are work­ing to build out mis­sile sys­tems” were doing so in direct response to Iran’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue to enhance its mis­sile pro­gram under the 2015 nuclear accord.

    “Oth­ers are doing what they need to do to cre­ate a deter­rence tool for them­selves,” Pom­peo said. “It’s just a fact.”

    ...

    And note how, at the same time the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is clear­ly giv­ing its bless­ing to the Sau­di nuclear pro­gram, it also used the excuse of ‘esca­lat­ing ten­sions with Iran’ to bypass Con­gress and push through a new weapons pack­age for the Saud­is. And yet one of the fun­da­men­tal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions the US has used for the Saud­is’ large pur­chas­es of US mil­i­tary air­craft is pre­cise­ly so it would­n’t need to upgrade its mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties. Hav­ing a tech­no­log­i­cal­ly cut­ting-edge air force was sup­posed to be a replace­ment for nukes. But now we have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion push­ing through weapons sales over con­gres­sion­al oppo­si­tion at the same time it’s hid­ing from con­gress evi­dence of Sau­di bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams:

    ...
    US-sup­plied air pow­er

    For decades, the US worked to ensure that Sau­di Ara­bia had air suprema­cy in the region, large­ly through its pur­chas­es of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary air­craft, pre­cise­ly so that it would­n’t seek to go around the US to upgrade its mis­sile capa­bil­i­ties.

    “Sau­di Ara­bia need­n’t race Iran to pro­duce or pro­cure bal­lis­tic mis­siles. It already has a sig­nif­i­cant con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary advan­tage,” said Behnam Tale­blu of the Wash­ing­ton-based think tank Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies.

    But ques­tions have arisen in recent months about whether that ratio­nale still stands, par­tic­u­lar­ly as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and the King­dom faces bal­lis­tic mis­sile threats from Iran prox­ies in Yemen.

    ...

    Ten­sions over Sau­di pol­i­cy

    The new rev­e­la­tions come at a par­tic­u­lar­ly fraught time in the Saudi‑U.S. rela­tion­ship.

    ...

    Anger over the admin­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of the Khashog­gi m