Blackwater

washingtonpost.com
Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel
Erik Prince met with a Russian close to the Kremlin in a meeting brokered by the United Arab Emirates.
By https://www.facebook.com/kevin.sieff

Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff, and Karen DeYoung at Washington Post

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to comment.

The Seychelles encounter, which one official said spanned two days, adds to an expanding web of connections between Russia and Americans with ties to Trump — contacts that the White House has been reluctant to acknowledge or explain until they have been exposed by news organizations.

“We are not aware of any meetings, and Erik Prince had no role in the transition,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

A Prince spokesman said in a statement: “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?”

Prince is best known as the founder of Blackwater, a security firm that became a symbol of U.S. abuses in Iraq after a series of incidents, including one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and later criminally convicted — of killing civilians in a crowded Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was subsequently re-branded, but has continued building a private paramilitary empire with contracts across the Middle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based company known as the Frontier Services Group.

Prince would probably have been seen as too controversial to serve in any official capacity in the Trump transition or administration. But his ties to Trump advisers, experience with clandestine work and relationship with the royal leaders of the Emirates — where he moved in 2010 amid mounting legal problems for his American business — would have positioned him as an ideal go-between.

The Seychelles meeting came after separate private discussions in New York involving high-ranking representatives of Trump with both Moscow and the Emirates.

The White House has acknowledged that Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s original national security adviser, and Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in late November or early December in New York.

Flynn and Kushner were joined by Bannon for a separate meeting with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undisclosed visit to New York later in December, according to the U.S., European and Arab officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

In an unusual breach of protocol, the UAE did not notify the Obama administration in advance of the visit, though officials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight manifest.

Officials said Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser, coordinated the Seychelles meeting with Russian government officials with the goal of establishing an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin.

Officials said Zayed wanted to be helpful to both leaders, who had talked about working more closely together, a policy objective long advocated by the crown prince. The UAE, which sees Iran as one of its main enemies, also shared the Trump team’s interest in finding ways to drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran.

Zayed met twice with Putin in 2016, according to Western officials, and urged the Russian leader to work more closely with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia — an effort to isolate Iran.

At the time of the Seychelles meeting and for weeks afterward, the UAE believed that Prince had the blessing of the new administration to act as its unofficial representative. The Russian participant was a person whom Zayed knew was close to Putin from his interactions with both men, the officials said.

One of my Pseudomystus heokhuii “hiding” under a leaf in her sweet new home. (The 60g Sumatra tank.)

She is that round because she’s a mature, eggy little lady. :) Hopefully with the new setup providing the correct conditions, someone in here will have some successful spawns! (It is a breeding group - 4 female, 2 male.)

4

– dedicated to @leahlahote. merry christmas, from the shittiest secret santa ever! 

Wow. There is almost nowhere online that people regularly discuss blackwater aquariums? That’s kind of sad.

I mean, I know its kind of a niche subset of aquarium hobbyists that take interest in them, but I would have expected them to have some sense of community somewhere online?

I guess they’re just not popular enough? Too many aquarists want those pristine, manicured aquascapes with crystal clear water that sparkles in the LEDs. People talk about that all over the various planted tank forums and resources.

Blackwater was originally never something I was interested in either - who wants dark, decaying plant matter when you can have lush, vibrant live plants? But I’ve started keeping fish that naturally occur in blackwater, so I set up blackwater tanks to provide what’s best for them. It’s very different, but I’m finding that I like these set ups a lot too. It’s nice to be able to have and appreciate both. There’s more to these tanks than the dark water, dark wood, dark leaves.

There’s tons of planted tank forums and groups, I’ve even found a catfish forum and a catfish facebook group - I can’t believe no one has made a blackwater group somewhere?

I don’t know, I want to geek out about blackwater tanks a bit. Fishblr, what do you think of blackwater? Anyone have nice blackwater tanks to share? I know there’s a couple more people maintaining them on here….

youtube

Some of my followers are a bit too young to remember about this.
It was on the 4th of April 2004 in Najaf, Iraq.
A few US servicemen (Marines mostly) and a group of private military contractors were stuck on a rooftop. They held their position for hours against hundred of Shia insurgent of the Mahdi Army.
Among the PMC guys (from Blackwater, boohoo the evil, etc) was Travis Haley, better known for having been the CEO of Magpul, and Ben Thomas (who was, by his own admittance, “a Navy SEAL for five minutes”, quiet a controversial character).
Despite all the political/ethical questions around the persons involved, I think this is an interesting part of the war in Iraq.

Oh, I should add: with them, there were a few soldiers from El Salvador who were really hardcore people. And one Spanish soldier who didn’t run away like the rest of his team.