Talk about high life this is not. I smelled a rat long ago, but then the scent got weaker and weaker. Now it’s back — and stronger than ever. I’m talking here, of course, about the Saudis, the Qataris and the son-in-law who has also risen, Jared Kushner.
Almost a year ago the Saudis issued an ultimatum to Qatar to meet its list of demands or face a blockade by Saudi-allied countries in the Gulf. All sorts of accusations were made and the Qataris were given 24 hours to comply. While the 300,000 Qatari citizens froze en masse, the couple of million non-Qatari migrant workers went about their business. In fact, they welcomed the crisis because it momentarily stopped them being mistreated and abused by Qatari locals, who were busy hiding under their beds. Twenty-four hours came and went and nothing happened. The blockade is still ongoing but the Qataris have found alternative sources of food and consumer goods. The country’s TV network is still on-air and the only thing that has cramped its citizens’ style is that they have to fly in their hookers and they cannot use Saudi limo services. So much for Saudi threats and resolve. Bullshit would be a far more appropriate word.
As with everything else in that One Thousand and One Nights world, it just doesn’t seem to make much sense. The Saudis have been bogged down for three years fighting the Houthis in Yemen. All they have managed, with American help, is to starve thousands of children to death, help spread cholera, bomb weddings and funerals, and illustrate to the world that in an unlikely war between Monte Carlo and the Saudi ‘kingdom’, the former would be a hot favourite.
Uncle Sam, needless to say, is busy selling Qatar and Saudi Arabia more arms than the whole of Nato and the Russian Federation possess together. Only last June the good uncle sold Qatar F-15 fighters worth $12 billion and I hate to think how American- and British-made planes and missiles have devastated the poorest country in the Arab world and made it even poorer.
Enter the son-in-law. As everyone who has ever heard of Donald Trump knows, Kushner’s family needs moolah badly. The Kushner firm owns tens of thousands of apartments in New Jersey and Maryland, but owes $1.4 billion, due early next year, for 666 Fifth Avenue, a (literally) white elephant that Jared bought ten years ago for the then unheard of price of $1.8 billion. (The white elephant is half-empty, its last facelift decades ago.)
The Kushners were sweating nervously when something happened in November 2016 that made some people very angry and others very happy. The son-in-law’s father-in-law became President of the United States of America. All sorts of Kushner-named people went running to China to drum up business and to try to flog 666 Fifth Avenue. Jared’s sister went as far as to give a press conference in China exhorting the Chinese to come and do business with us now that we’re in the White House. They were happy to go to the White House but not happy even to inspect the white elephant. There was Chinese takeout but no Chinese takeover of 666 Fifth Avenue.
Enter the Donald. Forming an unholy alliance with Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi strongman, and Palestinian poster boy Benjamin Netanyahu, the 45th President shifted the balance of power in the Middle East with a flick of his middle finger. Enter Jared once again. Two weeks after the Donald–MBS summit in Riyadh, the blockade was sprung on Qatar. Suspicious folk raised their collective eyebrows because one month before, the Qatari finance minister had gone to the Big Bagel looking for investment opportunities. Kushner’s father Charles, who had done hard time, asked for funds to rescue 666. A huge renovation plan was pitched to the camel-driver from Qatar costing around $1 billion. The Qatari inspected the site and gave a resounding no. Terribly suspicious people have been asking ever since whether a blockade would have been imposed if the Qataris had rescued the Kushners. And if Jared Kushner and the heavily Lebanese-muscled Mohammed bin Salman had not spent three days and nights together eating their dates and planning to rule the world.
Personally, I think the blockade will soon be lifted. The Saudi–Israel–US troika is out to sink Iran and doesn’t need the tiny shithole of Qatar to distract from the quest to do an Alexander the Great and finish off the Persians. Kushner is in financial trouble but too many people are looking into the 666 white elephant for him to pull a fast one. And the Qataris have hired every single lobbyist in Washington, every one not already being paid by the Saudis and the Israelis, that is. It’s a hell of a world when great civilisations like the Saudi and Qatari ones clash over a building on Fifth Avenue. At least we Greeks went to war over a woman, not an ugly pile.