US president has long history of lucrative investment deals with Saudi Arabia but few ties to small Gulf nation
Donald Trumps decision to back the siege of Qatar even as US envoys have sharply criticised the embargo follows decades of private business dealings by the US president with the countries leading the charge against the smaller Gulf nation.
Trumps financial history with Saudi Arabia, which is leading the siege, and Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates, includes the purchase of tens of millions of dollars in Trumps real estate properties by wealthy Saudis over the years. The situation raises questions about whether the presidents personal fiscal relationships are dictating US policy, rather than his stated claims that he is concerned about Qatars alleged link to terror financing.
There is no evidence that Trump has been untruthful about his reasons to support the siege. But the US State Department and the Pentagon acutely well informed Qatars role hosting thousands of US and US-led coalition forces on a large airbase south-west of Doha have taken different positions from the White House. A State Department spokeswoman recently said that the Saudi and UAE move against Qatar was amazing.
It is clear that Trump does not have many business connections to Qatar. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly tried but failed to tempt Qatari investors to help recapitalise a huge investment in a New York property 666 Fifth Avenue that is laden with debt.
Saudi Arabia, however, has been an important partner to the president. In 1995, when Trump was struggling to make payments on one of his most important New York properties, the landmark Plaza Hotel, it was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi prince, who came to his rescue with an investment, which relegated Trump to a minority shareholder in the property. A few years earlier, in 1991, bin Talal bought a huge yacht, the Trump Princess, from creditors at a time when Trumps other big venture, the Atlantic City casinos, were under pressure.
It does not mean the two have always had a warm relationship. The Saudi prince fired off an angry tweet in June 2016 after then-candidate Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, describing the president as a humiliation not only to the GOP but to all America. When Trump won the presidency bin Talal congratulated him.
Earlier on the campaign trail, Trump did not hide his appreciation for wealthy Saudis , noting at a rally in Alabama in 2015 that they were frequent purchasers of his apartments.
They expend $40 m, $50 m. Am I supposed to detest them? I like them very much, he said.
More lately, the Saudi government invested $20 bn in a money earmarked for US infrastructure, part of a broader policy that has been endorsed by the White House. The money is being administered by Blackstone, which also has ties to Trump and his family.
A lawsuit brought by two Democratic officials from the US state of Maryland and the DC named Saudi Arabia as one of several foreign countries that have constructed pays to Trumps businesses in alleged violation of an anti-corruption clause in the US constitution. The lawsuit cites a public relations firm that was hired by Saudi Arabia that has spent $270,000 on rooms and snacks at Trumps DC hotel.
We know that foreign governments are spending money there in order to curry favour with the president of the United States, DC us attorney general Karl Racine said.
The White House has dismissed the legal suit as a partisan attack.
Dubai has also been an important bright spot for Trumps business. According to election-related financial disclosures, The Trump Organization, which is run by the presidents son, Donald Jr, has been paid between$ 2m to $10 m for golfing projects in Dubai that bear Trumps name and are being built by a group called DAMAC Properties, which is owned by a Emirati billionaire named Hussain Sajwani.
According to an account in the New York Times, Sajwani, who attended Trumps New Years Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, offered to pay Trump an additional$ 2bn to develop more properties.
A 16 May post on Sajwanis Instagram account showed him having a meal with Trump Jr, who Sajwani called his dear friend and business partner.
Read more: www.theguardian.com