Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Youtube discussed on The Lawfare Podcast


You talk a lot. About how m b s. weaponize is the internet in his favor saudis are very online and he him and his deputy sort of figure that out and develop like you called an offensive information operations within the kingdom. Talk a little bit about that. So let's use example of twitter so you know in the united states. Some people are on twitter. Some people aren't you know it's it's just kind of part of the social media universe. You know some people over facebook some people on instagram twitter kind of one of the things that some people are into and in saudi arabia. Twitter twitter is absolutely central. I mean everybody seems to be on twitter. Some people have multiple. Twitter accounts and saudis. Partly because social life has been kind of traditionally so constricted. Online life is incredibly active. People spend a huge amount of time on their phones. They're some of the world's highest consumers of youtube their massive of users of twitter and so twitter is just very much this this outlet for many saudis to the rest of the world. It's how they get. Their news is how they understand. What's happening in the kingdom. How they communicate with each other and and there was this whole sense when twitter started spreading in saudi arabia. There are a number of articles written talking about how this was going to democratize information. You know that you couldn't hide information anymore because people would find out about it on twitter and and dumb. There was kind of this optimism in that turns out sorta looking back to have been very ill-founded. Because i think nbs and his deputies they just basically realized that it wasn't that hard to manipulate the stuff you know. There was a combination of you know sort of using dot campaigns these. They basically realized that if there was a conversation going on that they didn't like it didn't really take very many accounts to get involved with it to change the direction of the conversation so they would either get in there and they would sorta muddy the waters by providing sort of alternative information. That may not be exactly true but that sort of muddy the waters of what what was going on in the conversation. Sometimes they would report content that they didn't like and get it taken down and you know maybe twitter went evaluated and find that it wasn't actually offensive but by then the wave had passed They went after a lot of people in real life. They had a whole program where they unmasked people who had anonymous accounts and a number of them were arrested ended up sort of on trial or in jail or and so it became very clear over time. You know there was a period when we used to watch saudi twitter very closely to find out what saudis were thinking you know and and that is almost now i mean there's still you know they're still good information on there and they're still many saudis who have public profiles that they used to share information but but they did make it very clear from the top that you know the rules were if you if you agree with mohammed bin salman and if you agree with the reforms than you can praise and you can talk and you can gush about how wonderful everything. But if you're unhappy you better just be quiet about it or you know we're gonna come for you and so in terms of the the u. s. saudi relationship so mb s and other saudis. Did not get along particularly well with the obama administration but things seemed to have been different with president trump and sort of the defining tie in the us. Saudi relationship is this connection between mohammed bin. Salman and jared kushner whose president's son-in-law and his senior adviser talk a little bit about that that the first meeting you talk about between kushner and the saudis becomes clear. Kushner does does not know very much at all about saudi arabia. How does that evolve into sort of the lynch pin of us middle east relationships. What i think. It's one of the more remarkable things that that the saudis did. And i think it was kinda it was a profound success for. Mvs and quite surprising. I think in two thousand sixteen. You know the saudis like many people expected that hillary clinton was going to be the next president of the united states and they knew her and they you know from time the secretary of state and i think they just assumed okay. She'll be the next president and will deal with her and then all of a sudden. Donald trump wins. And there's this sort of panic moment where they say you know. This guy has a record of saying pretty nasty things about muslims and saying some pretty nasty things specifically about us including during the campaign. And what are we going to do like. We need to be close to the white house because it's hugely important for our security. So they put together a delegation and send them to the east coast and they go and basically to a fact finding mission about this incoming administration and find out. Who had you know. Who are these people. And how do we deal with them. They interview a number of trump's Business associates they interviewed a bunch of his political associates. They meet with jared kushner and that sort of the profile that they come back with this. I think was very accurate and very smart. They said you know. These people are not traditional politicians. They're dealmakers their business people. They're interested in the bottom line. Don't really know very much about the middle east. They certainly don't don't know much about saudi arabia. What they do know about in the middle east as israel which is what they really care about and And they craft their approach to this administration based on that and it ends up being this wild success so much. So the donald trump after his inauguration decides that the first foreign trip of his presidency is not going to be to one of the us historic allies. He's not gonna go to the uk or to you know which is what i think. Probably every previous american president had done. He makes his first foreign trip to saudi arabia. And the saudis are overjoyed and they they make more than just a bilateral visit. They decide to invite all these heads of state from across the islamic world. They turned it into this gigantic summit and and that really lays the groundwork for this relationship between the trump administration and mohammed bin. Salman sort of going on underneath that is the relationship with jared kushner kushner meets. Mvs and you know the the the strangely they actually have quite a lot in common. I mean they're both young men who have great ambitions who have been given tremendous power by older relatives and who basically don't feel like. They should be confined by the traditional ways of doing things. They wanna do things differently and they wanna see if they can get different results than their elders. And so you know they form this relationship and they communicate a lot on. What's another messaging programs and to jared kushner sometimes travels to saudi arabia and meets with nbs out in the desert in a when..

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