If all this seems incredibly twisted, it’s really not. Trump loves money. Kushner desperately needs money. Neither of them is picky about the source of that money. The Saudis, UAE, and Qataris all have money. They also involved in a multi-faction fight for influence in which all of them are supporting various organizations—including groups involved in terrorism—not because they’re particularly supportive of the ideologies behind those groups. None of the countries involved is a democracy. Not Saudi Arabia, which is a totalitarian regime under the capricious thumb of a royal family that itself is convulsing in internecine warfare. Not Qatar, which is … ditto. And certainly not UAE, which is actually seven tiny kingdoms, bound together against any attempt to make their leadership give up power.
Both the Saudis and the Qataris support terrorist groups as a means of extending their own influence, and keeping those groups fighting against some other group of royalists. This frequently means that some terrorist groups are taking cash from multiple sides in this war by proxy. It also means that Qatar gave money to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, who are far from the worst group when it comes to international terrorism, but a big pain to the Saudis because the Brotherhood has stirred up unrest against the royal family.
And it apparently means that both the Saudis and the UAE discovered that Donald Trump and company could be treated as just another group they could buy.
During the campaign, when someone who had connections to a foreign government came calling to offer up some of those funds in return for a little goodwill to his clients, and maybe a little thought about some future work for his personal army of mercenaries, they didn’t turn him away.
In one example of Mr. Nader’s influential connections, which has not been previously reported, last fall he received a detailed report from a top Trump fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, about a private meeting with the president in the Oval Office.
Mr. Broidy owns a private security company with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the United Arab Emirates, and he extolled to Mr. Trump a paramilitary force that his company was developing for the country. He also lobbied the president to meet privately “in an informal setting” with the Emirates’ military commander and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan; to back the U.A.E.’s hawkish policies in the region; and to fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson.
And there’s growing evidence that the reward for allies who are generous toward Trump and his friends is that they get to set US policy in their region.
Mr. Trump has closely allied himself with the Emiratis, endorsing their strong support for the new heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, as well as their confrontational approaches toward Iran and their neighbor Qatar. In the case of Qatar, which is the host to a major United States military base, Mr. Trump’s endorsement of an Emirati- and Saudi-led blockade against that country has put him openly at odds with his secretary of state — as well as with years of American policy.