- By Robbie GramerRobbie Gramer is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. He writes for The Cable, FP’s real-time take on all things, well, foreign policy. Before he joined FP in 2016, he used to think in a tank, managing the NATO portfolio at the Atlantic Council for three years. He’s a graduate of American University’s School of International Service, where he studied international relations and European affairs. He has lived in both Washington and Brussels, though he grew up in Idaho and Oregon, so he’s a West Coaster at heart. When he’s not busy reporting, he’s probably busy starting three new books before he has finished the last one or planning a trip to a national park he hasn’t visited yet.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law turned White House senior advisor flew to Iraq on Monday to assess the war on the Islamic State from the frontlines.
Kushner is accompanying the senior most U.S. military commander, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, and White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert on the trip. It’s Kushner’s first to Iraq, and his highest-profile international trip yet. It could provide him a chance to boost his diplomatic credentials after ethics watchdogs criticized Trump for ignoring nepotism standards in appointing his son-in-law to a senior White House role.
Dunford said the trip will provide Kushner a “first-hand and unfiltered” account of the war against ISIS. “The more appreciation you could have for what’s actually happening on the ground, the more informed you are when you start talking about the strategic issues,” Dunford said.
Kushner is slated to meet with senior U.S. advisors, forces, and Iraqi officials during the visit. He is traveling to Iraq on behalf of the president to express support for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for Dunford.
While Kushner prepares to testify before the Senate for his ties to executives of sanctioned Russian banks, he also struggles to manage the broad portfolio of foreign policy issues his father-in-law handed him. He botched his first foray into Middle East diplomacy before Trump even stepped into office after lobbying Britain to scuttle a U.N. vote on denouncing Israeli settlements, behind the back of sitting U.S. President Barack Obama’s outgoing administration. His efforts failed, and the vote passed 14-0 with a U.S. abstention.
The trip provides a way for Dunford to curry favor with one of Trump’s closest confidantes, while other senior government officials struggle to crack into the president’s tight-knit inner circle. (China is reportedly funneling its messages to Trump through Kushner rather than the State Department, the New York Times reported Sunday).
Kushner arrives in Iraq after a wave of successful but bloody offensives against ISIS. Iraqi government forces are slogging their way through Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in deadly house-to-house fighting to liberate the city from ISIS. In Syria, U.S.-backed forces are laying the groundwork for an eventual offensive against Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital.
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