The Trump/Putin Seychelles Back Channel
Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater security, met with the unnamed Russian on the 11th of January in the Seychelles – 10 days before Trump took his oath of office. The meeting was arranged by the United Arab Emirates who it is alleged were seeking concessions on Russia’s relations with Iran.
Why a civilian who had no part in the Trump campaign – aside from sizable donations – was allowed to act as envoy to Trump in a secretive meeting on an island thousands of miles from both Russia and the US is unknown. What is known is that the meeting is of interest to one organization in particular – the FBI.
- Prince denies involvement.
- The Prince/Trump Connection
- Why the interest of the Emiratis?
- The Seychelles – The perfect location?
Erik Prince is most well known for founding the security firm Blackwater, which experienced a series of controversies relating to the war in Iraq – including human rights abuses and killing of civilians.
In response to the meeting becoming public knowledge, Prince’s spokesman released the following statement disavowing any connection to Trump or links with Russia:
“Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication. The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”
Erik Prince: brother of Betsy DeVos
Prince’s effort to distance himself from Trump could not have been more thinly-veiled given his widely known history. His most direct link to Trump and his administration being the $250,000 dollars that he contributed to the president’s campaign.
However, perhaps more interesting is his relationship with Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and the fact that he is brother to Betsy Devos, Trump’s recently confirmed education secretary. In addition to these obvious links to the administration, Prince was also seen numerous times in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.
The meeting it seems was preliminarily arranged during a December meeting, in New York, between Bannon, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Officials said Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser, arranged the meeting between Prince and Russian government officials with the specific aim of creating an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin.
Emiratis eager to address Russia’s relations with Iran
The key to the UAE’s desire to broker a meeting between the representatives of Russia and the US is Iran. Iran is considered to be the main enemy of the UAE and at present Russia represents Iran’s main ally. Given the military resources of Putin, and his success in backing Assad in Syria (in spite of attempts of the west to depose the Syrian president), Iran’s threat to the UAE remains.
It is the desire to isolate Iran from Russia that unites the UAE and Trump’s team. As such it is highly likely that a review of American sanctions placed on Russia would be a key bargaining chip in any discussions between the two superpowers. It is this that makes the content of the talks so important.
For an American citizen to be discussing foreign policy with a hostile nation before those whom he represents have taken office is considered illegal. Hence the extreme interest of the FBI in the matter.
The evidence mounts
The Seychelles was chosen for this meeting due to the privacy and secrecy that it affords. Furthermore, the island nation has a long history of Russian and Emirati activity. Signs can be found in Cyrillic in certain parts and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, president of the UAE, is known to have built a hilltop palace for himself there.
In their attempt at subterfuge, however, Prince and his acquaintances perhaps could have chosen an alternative location. The use of the island for their clandestine meeting did not surprise Barry Faure, the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs of the Seychelles.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all… The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”
Trump continues to deny links to Russia, labeling them ‘fake news’ and this weekend doubled his tweeting efforts to highlight leaking and unsubstantiated wiretapping claims. However, it so far has not deterred investigations or publicity – and this will continue to be the case. Such cloak and dagger operations only serve to exaggerate the perception of guilt.
(Photo Credit: Tobi 87)