Archive for April 14, 2017

Trump Calls Putin’s Bluff, In Syria and Beyond

April 14, 2017

Trump Calls Putin’s Bluff, In Syria and Beyond, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, April 14, 2017

(“Putin’s puppy” does not wag his tail; he bites. — DM)

(Sergey Guneev/Sputnik via AP)

[A]ll those pundits who belittled the Tomahawk attack have missed a very important point. Over the past eight years, Russia’s effective power in the world had grown far beyond its real power. That has now changed, and you can expect our actual and would-be allies, and our global enemies, to change their recent tunes.

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You may have noticed that Vladimir Putin is distinctly annoyed with us, and he is right to be. For we have deprived him of his great dream to join, and perhaps even lead, the ranks of the world’s most important leaders. Today, following the attack on the Syrian air base, Putin is just one more dictator.

During the Obama years, the Russian tyrant had grown accustomed to getting his way most everywhere. Invade Crimea? Fine. Grab slices of eastern Ukraine? No problem. Open military bases in Syria and Libya? You bet. We wouldn’t challenge him.

Along with these actions was a kind of implied Brezhnev Doctrine (according to which, once a country joined the Soviet bloc, it would never leave it): If you allied with Putin, he’d protect you. Nobody would invade, and Russian antiaircraft missiles would defend against air attack.

As Richard Perle has said, Putin’s Russia is not a major military power.

“The appearance that Vladimir Putin is strong is largely the result of weakness displayed by the United States in the [Barack] Obama years. Russia is not a very strong country.

“Its military is relatively weak and ineffective, even though they spend a lot of money. It’s true they have nuclear weapons, but no one can quite imagine those being brought to play.”

So Putin’s posture as the leader of a major power was blown up in Syria, along with the airplanes and jet fuel storage tanks, and you can be sure that the Russian antiaircraft systems do not seem to have functioned at all.

Thus, all those pundits who belittled the Tomahawk attack have missed a very important point. Over the past eight years, Russia’s effective power in the world had grown far beyond its real power. That has now changed, and you can expect our actual and would-be allies, and our global enemies, to change their recent tunes.

When America moves decisively, the whole world changes. It is now likely that countries like Egypt, which had taken out insurance against American weakness by buying Russian weapons and permitting Russian special forces to operate on Cairo’s side of the Egyptian/Libyan border, will find it easier to support the United States. And you can see the same effect in recent declarations from NATO, bragging about the increases in defense spending throughout the alliance.

On the other side of the global war, the Iranians have of course enlisted in Putin’s disinformation campaign, accusing Trump of falsifying the evidence of Syrian chemical weapons, and thumping their chests, warning of dire consequences if the United States dares to move against Tehran.

But if you think Russia’s not a credible military threat to us, Iran is much more toothless, and Khamenei faces a far greater internal threat than Putin does. All Iranians understand that if Trump is willing to strike Syria, he is likely willing to strike Iran, without whose fighters and weapons the Syrian dictatorship would be doomed. They are also impressed with the deployment of the Mother Of All Bombs in Afghanistan. That sort of thing resonates with the Persians. If they had such power, they’d certainly use that sort of language. Thankfully, they don’t have the power, and so they resort to fantasies.

Exciting times, and not nearly so bad as the old Chinese curse would have you believe. As I’ve said for years, we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift. Nobody knows how it will turn out, but the news is certainly not all bad.

Immigration Hawks Ascend to Senior DHS Positions

April 14, 2017

Immigration Hawks Ascend to Senior DHS Positions, Breitbart, John Binder, April 14, 2017

David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two leading advocates for reforming illegal and legal immigration enforcement were appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as senior advisors for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Jon Feere, the former legal analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, and Julie Kirchner, the previous executive director for the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), have both been appointed to senior positions.

Feere, who work with the Trump campaign and transition team on immigration policy, will serve as the senior adviser to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency Director Thomas Homan.

Kirchner, a campaign alum as well, will serve as the senior adviser to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian told Breitbart Texas that the Trump Administration appointed a person who “knows the ins and outs” of immigration when they chose Feere to serve.

“ICE needs somebody like Jon because he’s worked on immigration policy for many years,” Krikorian said. “After eight years of Obama, there were civil servants and people at ICE who weren’t as quite up to date on immigration enforcement.”

FAIR spokesperson Ira Mehlman told Breitbart Texas that Kirchner’s appointment is welcome news.

“They’re both people with long experience and deep knowledge and they’re highly qualified for their positions,” Mehlman said.

Both the Center for Immigration Studies and FAIR have long been advocates for increased border security, a wall, reforming foreign guest worker visas and lower levels of legal immigration to help American wages to rise.

The appointments have come with the usual media backlash that the Trump Administration has grown accustomed to.

CNN, for instance, has written that Feere and Kirchner’s appointments have “alarmed” the open borders lobby. The network propped up opposition to the appointments through the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, with Director Heidi Beirich claiming that that the Center for Immigration Studies and FAIR publish “racist” and “xenophobic” reports.

Krikorian, though, said the open borders lobby is only outraged because they know how effective both nominees could be.

“This isn’t a complaint about qualification,” Krikorian told Breitbart Texas. “Jon and these others know what they’re doing and that’s what the anti-borders groups are afraid of.”

4/14/2017: Press Release – Muslim Doctor Welcomes Arrest, Demands Full Investigation of Physician Who Mutilated Girls in U.S.

April 14, 2017

4/14/2017: Press Release – Muslim Doctor Welcomes Arrest, Demands Full Investigation of Physician Who Mutilated Girls in U.S., AIFD, April 14, 2017

(Please see also, Detroit doctor charged with female genital mutilation of seven-year-olds. – DM)

Since girls were brought to Nagarwala from out of state, it appears that she may be just a piece of a network of individuals facilitating the mutilation of girls and women in the United States.

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Today, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), a Muslim-led organization whose founding principles include gender equality, welcomes the news that Jumana Nagarwala, a Detroit-based physician, has been arrested for allegedly carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) against girls here in the United States. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, AIFD president and a physician who has long championed efforts against the barbaric practice, said:

“Healthcare professionals, especially physicians, should be the safest people our children encounter outside of their families. What we at the front lines of reform against radical Islamism know is that one of the ideology’s symptoms is the regular violation and abuse of women and girls, especially through efforts to control or destroy their bodies and sexuality. As a physician, Muslim, father, and husband – I am appalled – but not surprised – to learn of this doctor’s mutilation of girls. I urge authorities to conduct a full and vigorous investigation. Since girls were brought to Nagarwala from out of state, it appears that she may be just a piece of a network of individuals facilitating the mutilation of girls and women in the United States.

As a physician, Ms Nagarwala – I will not call her ‘doctor’ – knows full well the position of the American Medical Association on this issue. As an expert on medical ethics and a person of conscience, I must urge that her license(s) be revoked, that she remain jailed, and that all who acted with her be brought to justice. Further, any girls and women she harmed must receive intensive counseling, and their families investigated. I also encourage investigations of their schools, universities, and other places where they may have complained of physical pain, or been absent for periods of time during which the mutilation took place and immediately after.”

Reading Iran’s Reaction To US Missile Strikes In Syria

April 14, 2017

Reading Iran’s Reaction To US Missile Strikes In Syria, Long War Journal, April 14, 2017

Seyyed Hossein Taghavi-Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Iranian parliament’s hawkish National Security and Foreign Policy Committee exclaimed: “The truth is that the Americans and some regional countries which are supporters of terrorism and terrorist groups were defeated in the Syrian arena… [therefore] the Americans entered so as to revive the terrorists and develop a support umbrella for them.” Taghavi-Hosseini’s comments are designed to alter international public opinion. Should Taghavi-Hosseini’s erroneous narrative go unchecked, Iran, along with its Russian partners, could more aggressively look to offer themselves as guarantors of the regional order.

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On the evening of Thursday April 6, Washington time, President Donald Trump ordered the US military to respond to the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons which had “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.” In so doing, the US launched 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles at the Shayrat Airfield in Homs belonging to the Syrian government.  The strikes, according to a Pentagon press statement, were delivered from two US destroyers stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean. According to a more recent Department of Defense evaluation, “20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft” were wrecked by strike.

To date, international reactions have been somewhat predictable. US partners and allies in the Middle East, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, endorsed the kinetic action. Conversely, government officials from the Syrian Arab Republic and Islamic Republic of Iran admonished the move. Such censures nonetheless provide insight into Iran’s framing of the war in Syria, as well as the methods of argumentation Iran has long used to support the Assad regime. As always, vitriolic anti-Americanism featured prominently in Tehran’s diplomatic response.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, called the strike a “strategic mistake.” He also ominously warned that the US was about “to repeat their past mistakes” in the region. “Former American officials created DAESH or helped it, and current American officials are in a state of strengthening DAESH or groups like it,” he alleged.

The conspiracy theory that the US has had a hand in the creation of the Islamic State is as old as the group itself, and is a narrative both favored and promoted by regime elites in Tehran. Over time it has even made itself manifest in elements of the Iranian population. On April 8, part of the headline above the fold on the front cover of the hardline Kayhan newspaper – whose editor-in-chief is a close Khamenei confidant – read: “America formally stood beside DAESH.”

Several other Iranian officials also framed American involvement in the region as a boost to such groups. Seyyed Hossein Taghavi-Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Iranian parliament’s hawkish National Security and Foreign Policy Committee exclaimed: “The truth is that the Americans and some regional countries which are supporters of terrorism and terrorist groups were defeated in the Syrian arena… [therefore] the Americans entered so as to revive the terrorists and develop a support umbrella for them.” Taghavi-Hosseini’s comments are designed to alter international public opinion. Should Taghavi-Hosseini’s erroneous narrative go unchecked, Iran, along with its Russian partners, could more aggressively look to offer themselves as guarantors of the regional order.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the Chairman of the same parliamentary committee, cited themes about perceived US desperation in his post-strike commentary. He told members of the Iranian press that, “The recent American action in Syria is indicative of the defeat of the statesmen and government of this arrogant country in the region and in the world.” Despite the obvious imbalance in capability, Iranian officials have often sought to position themselves as more adept than the US in the region, whom they accuse of being in retreat and decline. While Iran’s military assistance has been critical in the form of money, men, and munitions to the Assad regime, Iran lacks the conventional military power to project force in the region, and has therefore had to rely on tried and true asymmetric methods. For conventional force projection, Iran has turned to another state: the Russian Federation.

In a telephone call with Iran’s closest state partners, Syria and Russia, the latter of whom has provided air power and advanced Surface-to-Air Missiles to the beleaguered Assad regime, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani similarly took to condemning the strike. Rouhani reportedly told Russian President Vladimir Putin that “We condemn America’s missile attack on Syria and believe it to be a case of gross violation of the sovereignty of an independent country which makes it necessary for this unilateral action to be investigated and condemned by the United Nations Security Council.”

The citing of the Assad regime as “independent” is in line with the Islamic Republic’s anti-Western and anti-imperialist governing ideologies. But it also draws from the lexicon of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself. At least twice in 2016 (once in July and once in October), the Iranian press reported comments by Assad attempting to frame his regime’s actions as measures needed to keep Syria independent because the West “cannot tolerate” or “does not accept” a sovereign Syrian state. The irony being that the longer the Assad regime lives on, the more reliant it will be on foreign patrons like Moscow and Tehran should they decide to reconquer lost territory or merely govern and hold the territory it presently controls.

Similarly, Tehran has long insisted on the “territorial integrity” of Syria, as well as that of Iraq, where it is using the campaign against the Islamic State to cement its presence through armed networks. These armed networks are seldom mentioned by Iranian diplomats.

Formally, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif and its Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi also critiqued the strike. Zarif took to one of Iran’s new favorite mediums – Twitter – to berate the US for “impetuous unilateralism based on self-serving allegations.” Zarif bandwagoned on the argument made by Kayhan about the US and Salafist-terrorist groups. He purported that “Not even two decades have passed since the events of the 11th of September and America’s armed forces now fight beside al-Qaeda and DAESH in Yemen and Syria in a [unified] front.” This gross mischaracterization of recent US actions in the Middle East notwithstanding, Zarif also drew on Iran’s harrowing experiences during the Iran-Iraq War to bolster an argument against chemical weapons and WMD-use more generally.

In so doing, Zarif failed to mention that one of the strategic drivers of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program was its own eight-year conflict with Iraq. The same logic also helped guide Iran to develop and retaliate against Iraq’s chemical attacks by weaponizing pathogens of its own.

While Iranian military and religious elites also commented on the strike along themes already noted in this article, Iran’s regional proxies also weighed-in on the matter. Lebanese Hezbollah issued a press release calling the move a transgression of “Syrian sovereignty” that was ultimately in the “service of the Zionist entity.” Another militia, the Iran-linked Nujaba movement of Iraq noted via its spokesman that, “This missile attack does not change the rules of the Syrian conflict.” The spokesperson for Nujaba echoed themes about how American military action in Syria was merely a “tool… used to save terrorist groups.”

Conversely, Muqatada al-Sadr, the infamous Iraqi Shiite cleric who led the Mahdi Army (which despite being “disbanded” has been partially reconstituted into the “Peace Brigades” and is believed to be active in Syria) did not tow Tehran’s line on the strike and Assad’s future. According to reporting by Reuters, the cleric said, “it would be fair for President Bashar al-Assad to offer his resignation and step down in love for Syria, to spare it the woes of war and terrorism …and take a historic, heroic decision before it is too late.”

Despite the marked difference in tone by the leader of a prominent Shiite militia, Iranian officials have not seen the strike as inhibiting their support for Assad. While Iranian capabilities (presently comprised of ground assets often delivered by plane) do not appear to be impaired by the strike, there has been no overt escalation by Tehran at the time of this writing in the Syrian theater. Tehran also lacks the capability to respond on the same scope and scale as 59 cruise missile strikes against US assets without launching a major war. Rather, Iran appears to have fallen back on gloating, intimidation, and misinformation tactics that so often characterize Persian-language reporting. Nonetheless, Iranian officials would be wise to not write off the strike. US military power was just demonstrated on a key Iranian partner with exceeding ease. At a minimum, that should remind both Damascus and Tehran to be cognizant of escalation dynamics as the Syrian conflict drags on.

Yet, whatever the proximate cause for varying levels of Iranian activity in Syria, the root cause for the country’s continued involvement there remains the survival of the Islamic Revolution and its rejectionist message. To export this revolution and keep conflict away from Iranian territory, Tehran has continuously and successfully relied on a diverse array of non-state actors, terrorists, and armed religious networks across jurisdictions of weak central authority. But the Assad regime (both in its present incarnation under Bashar and previously under his deceased father, Hafez), has long represented the enduring value of a pro-Iranian state on Israel’s doorstep. Put differently, Tehran’s relationship with Damascus has permitted the Islamic Republic to inject hard- and soft-power into the Levantine theater for over three decades.

Time will tell if Iran will ultimately read the strike as a show of American resolve or indecision. But until then, sentiments such as those from 2013 by Hojjat al-Eslam Mehdi Taeb, the leader of the Ammar Base – an organization tasked with fighting the “soft war” – appear to be guiding Iran’s approach to the country: “Syria… is a strategic province for Iran… If we lose Syria, we will be unable to keep Tehran.”

Tom Fitton Discussing the Anti-Trump ‘Deep State’ and JW’s Lawsuits Over Voter Rolls & Ammo Bans

April 14, 2017

Tom Fitton Discussing the Anti-Trump ‘Deep State’ and JW’s Lawsuits Over Voter Rolls & Ammo Bans, Judicial Watch via YouTube, April 14, 2017

Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain

April 14, 2017

Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain, Gatestone Institute, Khadija Khan, April 14, 2017

As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce – allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.

If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not.

The UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law. In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization.

It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

 

The most recent scandal surrounding the sexual exploitation of Muslim women by Islamic religious leaders in the UK is yet further proof of the way in which Britain is turning a blind eye to horrific practices going on right under its nose.

A BBC investigation into “halala” — a ritual enabling a divorced Muslim woman to remarry her husband by first wedding someone else, consummating the union, and then being divorced by him — revealed that imams in Britain are not only encouraging this, but profiting financially from it. This depravity has led to many such women being held hostage, literally and figuratively, to men paid to become their second husbands.

This ritual, which is considered a misinterpretation of Islamic sharia law even by extremist Shi’ites and Saudi-style Salafists, is practiced by certain Islamic sects, such as Hanafis, Barelvis and Deobandis. When a husband repeats the Arabic word for divorce — talaq — three times to his wife, these sects consider a Muslim marriage null and void. For such a woman to be allowed to return to the husband who banished her, she must first marry someone else — and have sex with him — before the second husband divorces her.

These divorce rites, despite the laws of the land, are common in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries, where a majority of the people belong to the Hanafi, Barelvi or Deobandi sects. Nevertheless, local seminaries, mosques and online services openly advertise and promote halala with impunity; it is accepted by society and rarely monitored by state authorities.

In Britain, halala has emerged as a booming business, with websites and social media sites offering to provide women with second husbands for exorbitant sums of money. As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce — allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.

One Muslim woman, who changed her mind about going through with halala after looking into the process, told the BBC that she knew others who did undergo the process, and ended up being sexually abused for months by the second husbands paid to marry them. According to a report in The Guardian, the Sharia Council of Britain says it deals with hundreds of divorce cases annually.

This infamous council is indirectly responsible for what essentially has become a rape pandemic, since it does nothing to stop or refute halala. In fact, it declares that the practice is completely legal under sharia law. The only caveat, the council states, is that the imams presiding over it are not following the proper guidelines, according to which the second marriage and divorce should not be premeditated, but rather happen naturally.

If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not. But young Muslims in the UK are discouraged by their communities from marrying through the British system, and are told to have imams perform their weddings and sharia councils register their marriages. Couples who comply end up being at the mercy of Islamic authorities in family matters, including divorce.

Due to its often unethical practices conducted in the name of religious law, the Sharia Council has come under scrutiny a number of times. Last November, for instance, the UK-based NGO, Muslim Women’s Network, penned an open letter — with 100 signatories — to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law.

In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be “Islamophobic” and accused the Muslim Women’s Network of being an anti-Muslim organization. In addition, Labour MP Naz Shah jumped to the defense of the Sharia Council, rejecting the idea of an inquiry, on the grounds that shutting down such councils could mean that more women would be stuck in abusive marriages.

While acknowledging that these councils could be used as a tool to deny women their rights, Shah said that they also serve as valuable arbitrators in marital disputes.

Her claims are totally baseless. It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen.

Haitham al-Haddad is a British shari’a council judge, and sits on the board of advisors for the Islamic Sharia Council. Regarding the handling of domestic violence cases, he stated in an interview, “A man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them. Leave them alone. They can sort their matters among themselves.” (Image source: Channel 4 News video screenshot)

Had the British government addressed Sharia Council malpractice when it was first revealed, we would not be facing this pandemic today. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.

It is time for the British government to wake up and take a tough stand on such unethical, and probably illegal, system. And the sooner the better, lest the whole sharia council system go “underground” and out of reach to protect thousands of women from abuse.

US May Launch Preemptive Strike On North Korea Ahead Of Nuclear Test

April 14, 2017

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that Kim Jong Un is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, NBC reports.

Source: US May Launch Preemptive Strike On North Korea Ahead Of Nuclear Test | Zero Hedge

With just two days to go until North Korea’s “Day of the Sun” celebrations, when as reported yesterday it may conduct its 6th nuclear test at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, NBC reports citing multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials that in the latest stepwise escalation, the U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that Kim Jong-Un’s nation North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test. Note: North Korea does not even have to carry out the text: mere conviction on the side of the US that it would, is sufficient.

As first reported yesterday, North Korea warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend. According to multiple sources, the U.S. intelligence community has reported with “moderate confidence” that North Korea is preparing for its sixth underground nuclear test, though the U.S. is also in the dark regarding the specific timing.

The launch of a preemptive attack would naturally threatens a counterattack by Kim: the U.S. is thus “worried” that its strikes could provoke the volatile and unpredictable North Korean regime to launch its own blistering attack on its southern neighbor. “The leadership in North Korea has shown absolutely no sign or interest in diplomacy or dialogue with any of the countries involved in this issue,” said Victor Cha, the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials have told NBC News that the U.S. Navy has positioned two destroyers capable of shooting Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, one just 300 miles from the North Korean nuclear test site. Additionally, American heavy bombers are also positioned in Guam to attack North Korea should it be necessary, and earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group was being diverted to the area.

Earlier in the week, North Korea said it would “hit the U.S. first” with a nuclear weapon should there be any signs of U.S. strikes. On Thursday, North Korea warned of a “merciless retaliatory strike” should the U.S. take any action. It is almost as if the U.S. is eager to provoke the “irrational” North Korean dictator.

“By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the US is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war,” said North Korea’s statement, which actually sounded quite rational and measured.

Futhermore, virtually everyone knows that Kim’s threats are those of a paper tiger: North Korea is not believed to have a deliverable long-range nuclear weapon, according to U.S. experts, nor does it yet possess an intercontinental missile. Which begs the question: why is the US getting involved in yet another regime change operation half way around the world?

South Korea’s top diplomat said today that the U.S. would consult with Seoul before taking any serious measures, or at least he hoped: “U.S. officials, mindful of such concerns here, repeatedly reaffirmed that (the U.S.) will closely discuss with South Korea its North Korea-related measures,” foreign minister Yun Byung told a special parliamentary meeting. “In fact, the U.S. is working to reassure us that it will not, just in case that we might hold such concerns.”

Of course, if the U.S. does not “closely discuss” any pre-strike plans, then… oops.

In any case, a new war may break out as soon as this weekend: “Two things are coming together this weekend,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, former commander of NATO and an NBC analyst. “One is the distinct possibility of a sixth North Korean nuclear weapons detonation and the other is an American carrier strike group, a great deal of firepower headed right at the Korean Peninsula.”

The U.S. is aware that simply preparing an attack, even if it will only be launched if there is an “imminent” North Korean action, increases the danger of provoking a large conflict, multiple sources told NBC News.

 

“It’s high stakes,” a senior intelligence official directly involved in the planning told NBC News. “We are trying to communicate our level of concern and the existence of many military options to dissuade the North first.”

 

It’s a feat that we’ve never achieved before but there is a new sense of resolve here,” the official said, referring to the White House.

The unofficial admission that a preemptive strike is imminent comes on the same day the U.S. announced the use of its MOAB in Afghanistan, attacking underground facilities, and on the heels of U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airbase last week, a strike that took place while President Trump was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

Earlier today, Trump gave China what amounted to a tacit ultimatum: deal with North Korea, or Trump will.

And as the clock is ticking, officials have told NBC that Trump has talked to Chinese president Xi twice about North Korea since their Florida summit.

China has since sent its top nuclear negotiators to Pyongyang to communicate the gravity of the situation to the North, officials say. On Wednesday, President Xi called for a peaceful resolution to the escalating tensions.

It’s not just China: “Moscow has weighed in as well: “We are gravely concerned about Washington’s plans regarding North Korea, considering hints about the unilateral use of a military scenario” the Putin government said in a press release issued on Tuesday.”

Ultimately, the only thing standing between Kim and a Tomahawk is a decision by South Korea, where as a reminder, the political regime has been in chaos since the impeachment of former president Park.

Implementation of the preemptive U.S. plans, according to multiple U.S. officials, depends centrally on consent of the South Korean government. The sources stress that Seoul has got to be persuaded that action is worth the risk, as there is universal concern that any military move might provoke a North Korean attack, even a conventional attack across the DMZ.

Tensions have escalated on the Korean Peninsula, as this Saturday marks the anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder — Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. At the highest levels in South Korea and the U.S., sources told NBC News, there are fears North Korea could mark the “Day of the Sun” by testing a nuclear device. As discussed yesterday, North Korea in the past has used these national holidays to celebrate the strengths of the regime and to reinforce the national narrative of their independence, as confirmed by Cha.

“I think that is what President Trump is getting trying to get the Chinese to do,” said Cha. “[It] would impose real pain and force real choices on North Korea — whether the costs are worth it for them to continue to pursue this program if they no longer have any sustenance.”

In addition to the coal ships, the Chinese made an important gesture at the UN Thursday: A surprising abstention on a Security Council resolution condemning a Syrian chemical weapons attack. China didn’t stand with the Russians on Syria, as it has in the past.

But the biggest indicator may have been the market: for the first time in month, the S&P closed on the lowest tick of the day ahead of a long weekend, almost as if traders had no desire to go long into a the 72 hours in which there is a non-trivial chance that, in some form or another, a nuclear device may go off, coupled with the launch of an unknown number of US Tomahawk missiles.