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Tillerson and Haley’s trash-talk on Iran was brought to you by Sheldon Adelson

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Two days ago the State Department said that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, then yesterday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stomped all over that headline, saying the deal is a “failed approach” and the U.S. is reassessing Iran– with the suggestion that the U.S. might back out of the deal.

I regard Tillerson’s remarks as “performative,” to use the leftwing word for lip service. Donald Trump has also blustered about the deal. And there is one clear context for Tillerson’s remarks. The Trump’s administration’s dependence on a donor, Sheldon Adelson.

The same day that Tillerson woofed at Iran, it came out that Adelson had given $5 million to Trump’s inauguration festivities– the largest such donation in U.S. history, per the New York Times. We all know how important that celebration was for Trump.

Adelson was similarly generous to the Trump campaign. A year ago, Adelson “announced he will pour $100 million into the formerly self-funded Trump campaign,” per Newsweek. There was no clear bottom line on that spending through November. But it was a lot. $25 million, according to the Guardian, $35 million, according to the Forward,

Adelson’s one issue is Israel; and his view of Iran is entirely oppositional. In 2013 at Yeshiva University in New York, he called on the United States to nuke Iran– with Bret Stephens, since minted a New York Times columnist, sitting there scratching his forehead.

What are we going to negotiate about? I would say ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

The new ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is also echoing the Adelson line. Bloomberg reports today:

On Thursday, Haley will try to turn the spotlight from Israel to Iran, the latest target of the Trump administration’s tough talk.

Haley, who holds the rotating presidency of the United Nations’ top decision-making body for April, wants to use a monthly meeting on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” to tackle Tehran’s role in Yemen and Syria and its support for Hezbollah, topics she sees as more central to the theme of Middle East peace.

Haley is also in the hole to Adelson. Last year Adelson gave $250,000 to a political committee in South Carolina that targeted opponents of then-Governor Haley:

Conservative mega-fundraisers Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers gave Gov. Nikki Haley’s political advocacy group a major infusion of cash to help in her bid to remove four Republican state Senate rivals in primaries this spring.

Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul who was the top Republican donor of the 2012 presidential campaign, sent $250,000 to Haley’s A Great Day SC three weeks before the June primaries.

The Koch brothers gave the group $50,000, according to quarterly Internal Revenue Service filings.

Haley had come through for Adelson in 2015, when she passed the first law against boycotts of Israel— about the same time as Adelson convened an anti-BDS summit in Las Vegas.

And Haley was the belle of the ball at the AIPAC conference last month, when she went on and on about kicking Israel’s enemies with her high heels and stomping on BDS and UN apartheid reports and even moderate Palestinian appointees at the U.N.

Ironically, Trump himself noted Adelson’s use of money to exert political influence. In October 2015, Trump warned that Adelson was going to own FL Senator Marco Rubio, making him his “perfect little puppet.”

But two months later, per Newsweek, Adelson and Trump met, and Trump said: “Sheldon knows that nobody will be more loyal to Israel than Donald Trump.”

Trump gave a rightwing pro-Israel speech to AIPAC, the Israel lobby group, last spring, reportedly written by his adviser, Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner (who fired me over Israel issues 10 years ago). Last summer, Politico reported that Kushner was “having direct conversations with billionaire Sheldon Adelson.”

Trump met with Adelson again in New York ahead of the Inauguration gift. Sean Spicer’s media call that day:

Finally, he met with Mr. Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Los Angeles — Las Vegas Sands Corporations; A-D-E-L-S-O-N.

But as Lobelog pointed out, no one in the media took note of the meeting.

“Has Trump become Adelson’s perfect little puppet?” Jim Lobe and Eli Clifton asked. They said that Trump had pivoted on Israel issues during the campaign because of the financial influence of Adelson, as exercised through Ron Dermer and Jared Kushner:

Trump’s pivot reflects the growing influence on Trump of both Kushner and Dermer—and the desire to gain the Adelsons’ financial backing. Both Kushner and Dermer have become critical conduits to the multi-billionaire couple who, despite Sheldon’s early support for Rubio and Miriam’s for Cruz, ultimately became Trump’s biggest financial backer… Although [Adelson’s contribution] was considerably short of the roughly $100 million the Adelsons contributed to the Romney campaign in 2012, it was still more than the billionaire-candidate himself ploughed into his own election effort ($18.3 million, according to FEC filings).

Just as he did in the George W. Bush administration 16 years ago, Adelson has sought to create what Jim Lobe describes as a burgeoning neocon braintrust in the Trump administration. Money plays a big part: 

Although Adelson has maintained a low profile since the inauguration, he clearly enjoys unusual access to both Kushner and Trump. Indeed, the fact that Sean Spicer reportedly apologized personally to Adelson, of all people, almost immediately after his “Holocaust center” fiasco last week serves as a helpful reminder that, as much as the various factions, institutions, and individuals jockey for power in the new administration, money—especially campaign cash—still talks in Washington. This is a reality that neoconservatives absorbed long ago.

Right: Spicer reached out to apologize to Adelson after he got it wrong about Hitler’s chemical attacks on his own people.

The warhorse Elliott Abrams keeps getting ready to serve in the Trump administration. He gave an interview to Politico, repeatedly praising Jared Kushner’s judgment.

As for his own future with Trump, Abrams teased that it may still be in front of him, depending on how things shape up with [Stephen] Bannon and Kushnerthe latter of whom he kept going out of his way to praise.

The only way Adelson’s influence will end is if the media make a lot of what is a corrupt process; and Adelson’s actions get politicized. That won’t be happening any time soon.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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13 Responses

  1. just on April 20, 2017, 5:33 pm

    Thanks so much for connecting the horrific dots, Phil. If they are watching MSNBC, Adelson, Abrams, et al must be nearly orgasmic with the talk of terror, Iran, NK, nukes, armadas, etc. They even pulled out O’Hanlon from Brookings!

    You neglected to mention Mad Dog Mattis:

    “… Mattis is on his third day of a five-day tour of the Middle East, having already visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt. On his first trip to Israel in his current capacity, he will spend the next two days meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

    Mattis is also expected to discuss the monitoring of Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with the major powers, as well as next month’s presidential election in Iran.

    Mattis is considered a relative hawk on Iran. He has said that the three most urgent problems for the United States in the Middle East are “Iran, Iran and Iran.” Lieberman has also advocated a tougher policy on Iran, which he considers Israel’s main problem.

    “Everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters in Riyadh after meeting with senior Saudi officials on Wednesday.

    In Israel, Mattis was received at Ben-Gurion Airport by members of the U.S. Embassy and Israel’s defense attaché in Washington, Gen. Mickey Edelstein.

    An honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv will receive him on Friday, after which he will meet with Lieberman and hold a joint press conference. ”

    read more:

    I literally went hysterical when I read that Iran is the root of all “trouble in the region”! C’mon! Really? KSA, Israel and the US are the major instigators and destroyers of life and liberty “in the region”. Pakistan played no small part with their coveting of Afghanistan and neither was the Soviet invasion of same. So was US- supported Saddam with his chemical and other deadly munitions war against Iran~ that was until the US turned on him and had him eliminated with such spectacular results! And ISIS was born, thanks to so many of US “allies” and their own collective greed and desire for regional (perhaps global) hegemony .

    Jeebus~ do they all think we are ALL so stupid and forgetful?

    (for some background:

    “James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran

    Many in the Pentagon worry that Trump’s pick for defense secretary is looking for a fight in the Middle East. …

    The military officials I spoke with say that Mattis is the quintessential Marine; it defines everything he does and believes, from how he treats his soldiers and disciplines his commanders to how he views the world. Most critically, perhaps, for the United States and its future, Mattis has embraced the Marine Corps’ longstanding grievance against Iran, one that goes back to the 1980s.

    In fact, Mattis’ anti-Iran animus is so intense that it led President Barack Obama to replace him as Centcom commander. It was a move that roiled Mattis admirers, seeding claims that the president didn’t like “independent-minded generals who speak candidly to their civilian leaders.” But Mattis’ Iran antagonism also concerns many of the Pentagon’s most senior officers, who disagree with his assessment and openly worry whether his Iran views are based on a sober analysis or whether he’s simply reflecting a 30-plus-year-old hatred of the Islamic Republic that is unique to his service. It’s a situation that could lead to disagreement within the Pentagon over the next four years—but also, senior Pentagon officials fear, to war.

    “It’s in his blood,” one senior Marine officer told me. “It’s almost like he wants to get even with them.” …”

    Much more @

    Back to the s.o.s on crack.

  2. JWalters on April 20, 2017, 9:25 pm

    A bombshell new article by prize-winning independent journalist Robert Parry examines Israel’s influence on US politics and asks Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’?

    On a related note, Ed Schultz has moved from MSNBZ to RT. There he is free to discuss the actual evidence for all the establishment’s conspiracy theories about Russia, unlike the people at MSNBZ (or the PBS Newshour for that matter). Abby Martin at RT has some crackerjack shows also looking at glaring evidence that America’s oligarchy-controlled media is keeping under wraps.

    These seem to me among the best news shows available to the American public today because of their freedom and honesty. The American media is a sorry, soggy lot by comparison. Ironically, this may be one of the reasons the Israel-controlled “American” media is frothing so vehemently in its conspiracy theories about Russia. And it may be why it seems some corporate ISPs are throttling some of RT’s video streams. The war profiteering oligarchy may be feeling the heat of the truth.

  3. Ossinev on April 21, 2017, 7:30 am

    “The only way Adelson’s influence will end is if the media make a lot of what is a corrupt process; and Adelson’s actions get politicized. That won`t be happening anytime soon”

    I think that apart from the money he may well be advising Trump on hairstyle matters – he has long standing expertise in toupees.

    And look on the bright side he is getting on a bit – he must be increasingly frustrated that he will not live to see that scorpion nuking demo in the Iranian “desert” which is his heart`s desire. For whatever strange reason he dribbles with passion when talking about his patriotism and love for his country ( no stupid not America , Israel ) but he hasn`t moved to his beloved Zioland. I wonder why.

  4. inbound39 on April 21, 2017, 7:53 am

    It is thoroughly distasteful and appalling that Sheldon Adelson is free to meddle in US Gvt policies by ensuring plenty of his money is seen entering the hands of US Govt members who then act on his behalf to ensure Israel gets what it wants. It is plain,in the open,outright bribery and corruption of the democratic process and the FBI first and foremost needs to shut him down and charge him with attempts to pervert and manipulate the democratic process. Americans need to send emails to their elected officials and demand action against him and an explaination as to why it is allowed to happen. Adelson is a clear and present foreign agent acting against the interests of the American people.

    • hophmi on April 21, 2017, 1:30 pm

      Yeah, yeah, let’s charge him with “manipulating the democratic process” because he gave money to a political party. What statute is that again? Oh yes, the First Amendment to the Constitution.

      • Mooser on April 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

        ” Oh yes, the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

        “Hophmi”, money doesn’t talk- it swears.

      • Keith on April 21, 2017, 6:52 pm

        HOPHMI- “What statute is that again? Oh yes, the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

        Nonsense, the Constitution says no such thing. The Citizens United interpretation of money as free speech was a travesty and a perfect example of the power of money to shape the political process and Supreme Court opinion. Money is economic power and the US has morphed into a corporate-financial oligarchy. Your depiction of this as “citizen” Adelson engaging in democratic activism is preposterous. A quote for you.

        “Ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis made the elementary Aristotelian observation that Americans “must make our choice. We may have democracy,” Brandeis wrote, “or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

  5. Kay24 on April 21, 2017, 8:43 am

    Of course US policy has always been directed (and in some cases bills written) by staunch Israeli supporters who call themselves Americans. The money and lobbying comes from zionist sources like this billionaire who looks like he rose up from the dead. It is hard to understand why a wealthy nation like the US has to get it’s orders from a parasitic nation that feeds off the US for aid and weapons. This will never change in our lifetime. It is the same ole story.

    Meanwhile the king of the zionists shows satisfaction that the new war monger in town is doing exactly what they want, and seems to be pushing for that Iran war they are blood thirsty for. He tried to push Obama to attack Iran so hard, even making an idiot of himself at the UN with that cartoon bomb, and since that did not work, he is now manipulating the idiot in the WH. Easy prey.

    Netanyahu Meets Mattis, Lauds ‘Change in U.S. Leadership, Policy’ in Mideast
    Meeting took place after U.S. defense chief Mattis sat down with Israeli counterpart in Tel Aviv, said Iran continues to threaten Israel with ballistic missiles
    read more:

    • Mooser on April 21, 2017, 1:18 pm

      “Slowly, but surely, the Alt-right is being shoved aside while the Neocons are making their way into the Administration.”

      And Trump can make his pivot from Russian money back to American financing, as the ” Donald Risk” becomes “Full Faith and Credit”.

  6. genesto on April 21, 2017, 12:45 pm

    Slowly, but surely, the Alt-right is being shoved aside while the Neocons are making their way into the Administration. Abrams is sure to get his seat at the table eventually. There’s just too much money involved for the Neocons to remain on the sidelines much longer. Attacking Syria, based on false charges against Assad for the latest chemical weapons attack, was a major victory for our Neocon ‘friends’, as they were successful in dragging Trump and the US more deeply into the Syrian swamp. I’m afraid there will be many more such victories in the coming years.

    At the end of the day – if not the REAL End of Times – Trump is ignorant, impulsive and narcissistic enough to be the perfect tool for the Neocons to finally get their war with Iran. Heaven help humanity if (when?) that occurs!

    • inbound39 on April 24, 2017, 2:10 am

      If Israel,Netanyahu, convinces America to assist in an attack on Iran it will be devastating for Israel in that millions will die in Israel. Similar numbers of Americans based in the middle east will be targeted by Iran and though the end result may be an American win it should not be forgotten that American generals worked out that if a battle fleet was placed in the Persian Gulf it would not get out. They would lose all the ships and men. Iran is not Iraq or Syria or Libya….it is more than adequately able to defend itself and has a huge army and thousands upon thousands of missiles of various types. Iran will be far to costly to America to sanely consider attacking. But then Trumps sanity is in question. All the more reason to finally rid America of Israeli foreign agents in America.

  7. James Canning on April 21, 2017, 2:03 pm

    How disappointing, to have Rex Tillerson spouting rubbish about Iran, fed to him by fanatical supporters of endless occupation of the West Bank by Israel.

    • CigarGod on April 23, 2017, 10:23 am

      Thats what happens when we hire people that dont know anything.
      Take them in a room and fill in the blanks. Abra cadabra…you’re an expert.
      Then, in another room…or just as an aside while walking down the hall…talk about the money…who has it and who gets some if the donor gets some things going his way.

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