President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly arrived in Baghdad this morning, in a surprise visit with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, to meet U.S. and Iraqi officials and to receive military briefings on the fight against the Islamic State. Kushner is the first member of Trump’s inner circle to visit the country, currently engaged in a fight to drive the militant group from Mosul and other areas.
The visit comes at a critical time, as the Department of Defense crafts the new administration's strategy to combat the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, Kushner is a relative newcomer to foreign policy but has been given broad authority over a number of sensitive issues including the brokering of a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump told Kushner at a gala a few days before his inauguration.
Mr. Kushner, 36, a newcomer to foreign policy issues, has taken an active role as an adviser to Mr. Trump on national security and foreign policy. Last month, Mr. Kushner made, for a White House official, a rare appearance at the Pentagon, where he met Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman during his meeting with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
He has also been influential with his father-in-law on issues pertaining to Mexico and other countries, and he has been given broad authority by his father-in-law to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Mr. Kushner, a multimilliionaire businessman and developer interested in how technology can reform organizations, launched an innovation office for the White House last week that intends to help reform government.
Kushner’s Iraq trip marks an early foray for the Trump administration into the situation in Iraq and comes just two weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he was assured by the president the U.S. will accelerate its support for his country’s struggle against the Islamic State group.
Al-Abadi met with Trump and Kushner in Washington last month and said he had the impression that the Trump administration would take a more aggressive approach in combatting ISIS than the Obama administration did.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently presented the president with the outlines of a comprehensive approach to defeating IS and other extremist groups on a global scale, but specifics have yet to be released. That said, the new strategy, or a refinement of it, may include additional U.S. troops for both Iraq and Syria, possible changes that could put American soldiers closer to the front lines, and an accelerated airstrike campaign.
“I think anyone who’s involved in the discussion on where we go strategically—having good situational awareness about what’s happening tactically and hear it first hand and unfiltered, how our advisers assess the Iraqi security forces, both the opportunities and the challenges—will feed into somebody’s strategic view,” Gen. Dunford told the small group of reporters traveling with him on a military jet.
As we noted last week, Kushner was also the latest Trump associate to be swept up in the ongoing media crusade to link the Trump administration to Russian spies. The White House confirmed last week that he had volunteered to be interviewed by the Senate intelligence committee. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s chairman, said that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a “private interview” about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.
We expect confirmation from CNN at any moment on whether there are any senior Russian officials currently in Iraq, anywhere in Kushner's general vicinity.