Archive for January 6, 2019

Pompeo Launches Middle East Tour to Galvanize Region Against Iran

January 6, 2019

Source: Pompeo Launches Middle East Tour to Galvanize Region Against Iran

Trump admin says U.S. not vacating region amid troop pullout

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / Getty ImagesBY: 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to depart on a tour of the Middle East next week in a bid to galvanize regional leaders to confront Iran and remind allies that the United States is not disappearing from region amid the Trump administration’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria and possibly Afghanistan, according to senior State Department officials.

Pompeo will depart next week on his way to meet with government leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

The goal of the trip is to show regional allies that the “United States is not leaving the Middle East,” according to senior State Department officials who previewed the secretary’s itinerary on Friday.

Regional allies and enemies alike have been up in arms over the Trump administration’s surprise decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria and Afghanistan. Rogue regimes such as Iran and Russia, as well as regional jihadi groups, have celebrated the decision to withdraw, claiming victory.

U.S. officials, sensitive to the negative press surrounding the decision to withdraw, emphasized that the Trump administration is not abandoning America’s role in the region and its allies.

“Despite reports to the contrary and false narratives surrounding the Syria decision, we are not going anywhere,” said one senior State Department officials. “The secretary will reinforce that commitment to the region and our partners.”

Efforts to combat Iran’s growing influence in the region and ongoing support for terror groups also will top the agenda.

“The Iranian regime is the most dangerous actor in the region,” said the U.S. official. “There is no greater threat to stability than the Iranian regime. The 12 demands that the United States has asked for remain. The secretary will continue his work on galvanizing our regional partners and allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activities.”

In Jordan, for instance, Pompeo will tout the country’s role in combatting ISIS and ensure greater U.S. assistance makes its way to the country.

“Jordan, of course, has been a key partner in the campaign to defeat ISIS and has long been a key stabilizing element in the broader region,” according to the State Department officials. “And this is why the United States continues to be the single largest donor of economic security and humanitarian assistance to Jordan, providing $1.3 billion in bilateral foreign assistance to Jordan and $200 million in DOD support to Jordan’s armed forces in Fiscal Year ’17.  And the United States’ largest … aid program is in Jordan as well, and our foreign military financing with Jordan is the third largest in the world.”

The number of nations on Pompeo’s agenda is ambitious and signals the administration is aware of the backlash resulting from its decision to withdrawal from Syria. While the withdrawal has been celebrated by isolationist elements in the Republican Party, leaders on Capitol Hill have expressed frustration, arguing the Trump administration is abandoning the Middle East to Iran and other rogue actors.

It is “highly unusual for a secretary of state to visit all of these countries on one particular trip,” according to the administration officials. “He’s visited several of them already as the secretary of state, and of course, numerous of them previously as the CIA director.”

“He’ll be able to underscore the importance of maintaining key partnerships as we tackle common regional challenges like Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and it will—his trip will also follow up on the president’s summit in Riyadh in May 2017 and regular, consistent travel by cabinet officials to the Gulf such as former Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin, Secretary of Energy Perry, who all had strong engagements in the Gulf,” the official said.

The administration officials also said there is no hard timeline of the troop withdrawal from Syria, a policy that has evolved since it was first announced.

“We have no timeline for our military forces to withdraw from Syria,” the administration officials said. “The president has made the decision that we will withdraw our military forces from Syria, but that it will be done in a deliberate, heavily coordinated way with our allies and partners.  It will be done in such a way that we maintain—we and our allies and partners maintain pressure on ISIS throughout, and that we do not open up any vacuums for terrorists to exploit.”

The withdrawal is likely to be coordinated with regional allies and plans are currently being developed to facilitate the pullout.

“The president has made the decision that we will withdraw, and we are formulating the plans to do that right now, as I said, in a deliberate and heavily coordinated way, but we will be leaving,” the officials aid. “But as I said, we will be leaving in such a way that we do not open up vacuums for terrorists to exploit and that we do not allow for the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS anywhere, and that we continue to maintain the pressure against ISIS remnants now that the ISIS territorial caliphate is essentially defeated.”

 

Off Topic: ‘LA Times’ publishes column excusing antisemitism 

January 6, 2019

Source: ‘LA Times’ publishes column excusing antisemitism – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post

( Symptomatic of the left’s antisemitism and bigotry.  They’ve also made it a crime to be white, male, or straight. “Intersectionality.” – JW )

The newspaper was slammed by critics for publishing an op-ed dismissing the Women’s March’s ties to Louis Farrakhan.

BY AMY SPIRO
 JANUARY 6, 2019 14:13

People walk past the building of Los Angeles Times newspaper

The Los Angeles Times published a column on Friday evening excusing the charges of antisemitism against the leaders of the Women’s March.

The op-ed, written by the newspaper’s columnist Robin Abcarian was titled, “Can you admire Louis Farrakhan and still advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions.”

In the column, Abcarian claimed that she thinks “it is possible to be repulsed by [Farrakhan’s] hateful rhetoric about white people, especially Jews, and still appreciate some of the empowerment work that he has done in the black community.”

Though she criticized the Women’s March organizers for taking too long to respond to accusations of antisemitism, Abcarian wrote that the fruits of the march were so inspirational as to eclipse that.

“While organizers of the Women’s March battled over who said what to whom about Jewish people when, and the merits of a noted antisemite, American women stood up by the millions and changed the country,” Abcarian wrote. “For that, everyone involved in the Women’s March can take a bow.”

But many people – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – were far from moved by Abcarian’s dismissal of antisemitism by both the Women’s March and Farrakhan.

A tweet from the newspaper’s “L.A. Now” Twitter account with a link to the article was subject to what’s known on Twitter as “the ratio.” As of Sunday morning, the tweet had been liked just 294 times, while it had been the subject of close to 2,500 irate replies on the social media platform.

L.A. Times: L.A. Now

@LANow

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions https://lat.ms/2GRHFUn 

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradic…

The Women’s March, a spontaneous eruption of rage and political passion after the 2016 election of President Trump, has lost some of its steam. Recent controversies threaten to overshadowed its…

latimes.com

2,643 people are talking about this

Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the UK’s Holocaust Educational Trust, wrote on Twitter, “Great work championing women’s rights, don’t worry about hatred of Jews. How depressing.”

Karen Pollock

@KarenPollock100

“Life is full of contradictions” Indeed. Great work championing women’s rights, don’t worry about hatred of Jews. How depressing ⁦@latimes⁩: Can you admire Louis Farrakhan and still advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions https://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-womens-march-20190104-story.html 

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradic…

The Women’s March, a spontaneous eruption of rage and political passion after the 2016 election of President Trump, has lost some of its steam. Recent controversies threaten to overshadowed its…

latimes.com

Jewish Chronicle editor-in-chief Stephen Pollard shared a link to the article, writing, “Ladies and gentlemen, here’s this year’s ‘Mussolini made the trains run on time’ piece.”

Stephen Pollard

@stephenpollard

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s this year’s ‘Mussolini made the trains run on time’ piece.
https://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-womens-march-20190104-story.html 

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradic…

The Women’s March, a spontaneous eruption of rage and political passion after the 2016 election of President Trump, has lost some of its steam. Recent controversies threaten to overshadowed its…

latimes.com

Rabbi Joshua Yuter pointed out that this was “the second week in a row, a Woman’s March apologia for antisemitism gets disseminated on Shabbat.”

Rabbi Josh Yuter

@JYuter

For the second week in a row, a Woman’s March apologia for anti-Semitism gets disseminated on Shabbat. We *do* go online after havdallah

L.A. Times: L.A. Now

@LANow

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions https://lat.ms/2GRHFUn 

And historian, economist and former White House official Bruce Bartlett shared a link to the article, writing, “The open displays of antisemitism I see today would have been unthinkable in the past.” Hundreds of other social media users accused the newspaper of hypocrisy and of whitewashing antisemitism.

Bruce Bartlett@BruceBartlett

L.A. Times: L.A. Now

@LANow

Can you admire an anti-Semite and advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions https://lat.ms/2GRHFUn 

Responding to one such criticism on Twitter, Abcarian essentially doubled down on her column, writing that she wasn’t okay with admiring Farrakhan, but rather that she “questioned the very need for such a women’s organization. I believe it is possible to work to advance women’s rights and also, foolishly, embrace a bigot.”

Thousands appear to disagree.

 

U.S. ambassador to Israel: Trump’s peace plan delayed ‘for several months’ 

January 6, 2019

Source: U.S. ambassador to Israel: Trump’s peace plan delayed ‘for several months’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

The comments came during National Security Advisor John Bolton’s visit to Israel this week.

BY JERUSALEM POST STAFF
 JANUARY 6, 2019 13:53
U.S. ambassador to Israel: Trump's peace plan delayed 'for several months'

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Sunday that the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan – the “deal of the century” – will be delayed “for several months.”

The comments came during National Security Advisor John Bolton‘s visit to Israel this week. Bolton arrived on Saturday evening, and is scheduled to meet Netanyahu Sunday night. He was last in Israel in August, and this will be his second visit to the country since taking over as National Security Advisor in April. He will travel from Israel to Turkey for talks there expected as well to focus on the situation in Syria.

“It is not clear in which century Trump intends to announce his ‘deal of the century,'” Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said in response to Friedman’s announcement Sunday.” But we do not need to wait for anyone in order to begin the most important thing for the future of the State of Israel: a peace accord with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has already been negligent for a decade while not starting negotiations, and it is sad that Trump’s way to help him in the elections is to delay announcing his plan, instead of accelerating it.”

Trump’s long-awaited plan has been delayed time after time. With Israel heading toward elections on April 9, a further delay was likely.

On one hand, Trump’s peace team says it cannot be responsible for embarrassing the country, the president or the administration by publishing a plan that falls flat on its face out of the gate. Yet it also refuses to give up, insisting that circumstances will serendipitously change just enough for the world to take the plan seriously.

Trump’s team – led by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; Jason Greenblatt, his special assistant and envoy to the process; and David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel – have floated trial balloons on some of their proposals. Some have flown and some have not. But no one knows precisely what their initiative entails – many in Washington doubt a full draft actually exists – and so it is fair to say that its contents might still surprise the region and reframe discussion around the peace process in more productive terms.

Nikki Haley certainly thinks so. In her final speech as Trump’s ambassador to the UN, the celebrity envoy became only the third senior administration official – save the president himself – to offer glimpses of detail into the plan.

“It is time we faced a hard truth: both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more,” Haley told a routine Security Council meeting on the Middle East peace process. “It is with this backdrop in mind that the Trump administration has crafted its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“I don’t expect anyone to comment on a peace proposal they have not read. But I have read it. And I will share some thoughts on it now. Unlike previous attempts at addressing this conflict, this plan is not just a few pages, containing unspecific and unimaginative guidelines – it is much longer. It contains much more thoughtful detail. It brings new elements to the discussion, taking advantage of the new world of technology that we live in.”

Herb Keinon, Michael Wilner and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Off Topic: Israeli spacecraft set to land on moon in coming weeks 

January 6, 2019

Source: Israeli spacecraft set to land on moon in coming weeks – Israel Hayom

 

US to stay in Syria, warns Assad against using chemical weapons

January 6, 2019

Source: US to stay in Syria, warns Assad against using chemical weapons – Israel Hayom

 

Off topic: Egyptian policeman dies trying to defuse bomb outside church

January 6, 2019

Source: Egyptian policeman dies trying to defuse bomb outside church

CAIRO – An Egyptian policeman was killed as he was trying to defuse a homemade explosive device near a church in a residential Cairo district, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said Sunday.

The blast late on Saturday in the Egyptian capital also wounded the commander of the bomb squad. It came just two days before the Orthodox Coptic Church, the dominant denomination among Egypt’s estimated 10 million Christians, celebrates Christmas.

The incident likely will force authorities to further tighten security around churches.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which has targeted Christians over the past years, killing more than a hundred of them in attacks on churches and buses carrying pilgrims to remote desert monasteries.

 

US to be ‘very supportive’ of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria | The Times of Israel

January 6, 2019

Source: US to be ‘very supportive’ of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria | The Times of Israel

Trump adviser Bolton in the country to allay concerns sparked by surprise American troop drawdown

US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump administration's Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, December 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

US National Security Advisor John Bolton unveils the Trump administration’s Africa Strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, December 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The White House has sent national security adviser John Bolton on a mission to allay Israel’s concerns about US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, with one official saying Washington will be “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in the country.

The pullout announced before Christmas was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of Congress for a more orderly drawdown.

Bolton planned to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials on Sunday before traveling to Turkey. Israeli officials have expressed alarm that a swift withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 troops could enable Iran to expand its influence and presence in Syria, wracked by a years-long civil war and Islamic State militancy.

Trump’s move has raised fears about clearing the way for a Turkish assault on Kurdish fighters in Syria who have fought alongside American troops against IS extremists. Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

A Trump administration official told reporters traveling with Bolton that Bolton intended to discuss the pace of the drawdown, as well as American troop levels in the region. Bolton was expected to explain that some US troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that some American forces may remain at a key military outpost in al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region.

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet fires a ‘Rampage’ air-to-ground rocket in an undated photograph. (Israeli Military Industries Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries)

Bolton also was to convey the message that the United States will be “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton’s plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

Netanyahu has said that the US pullout will not deter Israel from continuing to attack Iranian military interests in Syria. On Thursday, he told IDF cadets at Bar Ilan University that Israel was continuing to “act determinedly against anyone seeking to endanger us.”

Bolton warned Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, not to use the US drawdown as a pretext to use chemical weapons against Syrians, saying there is “no change” to the US position that their use is a “red line.” Trump has twice carried out airstrikes in Syria in response to apparent chemical attacks, with the intention of deterring Assad.

“We’ve tried twice through the use of military force to demonstrate to the Assad regime the use of chemical weapons is not acceptable,” Bolton said while en route to Israel. “And if they don’t heed the lessons of those two strikes, the next one will be more telling.”

Trump’s announcement about the intended troop withdrawal was greeted by surprise and condemnation from many US lawmakers and allies, and prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the US special envoy for the anti-IS coalition in protest.

This week, Trump sparked further consternation in Israel when he said that Iran “can do what they want” in Syria, appearing to give Tehran free rein to further entrench itself in the country, though he also said Iran was pulling its forces out of the country.

A US soldier walks on a newly installed position, near the tense front line between the US-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council and the Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria, April 4, 2018. (AP/Hussein Malla)

A senior Israeli official said Monday that Netanyahu had asked Trump to stagger the US withdrawal over a lengthy period of time, rather than carry out an immediate pullout. The New York Times then reported that Trump has agreed to allow the US military to gradually pull troops out of Syria over a period of about four months, rather than the rapid withdrawal he had initially indicated when announcing the measure.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is following Bolton to the Mideast this coming week for an eight-country tour of Arab allies to shore up support for the administration’s partners in the region.

While in Israel, Bolton also planned to encourage officials to take a tougher stance against Chinese electronics manufacturers ZTE and Huawei. The US has expressed concerns about potential cyber-penetration by those companies.

Joining Bolton in Turkey will be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford. In meetings with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other officials, they are expected to warn against an offensive targeting the Kurdish fighters in Syria.