Archive for the ‘Foreign policy’ category

Dr. Jasser participates in a panel discussion about the state of the Middle East & ISIS

February 25, 2017

Dr. Jasser participates in a panel discussion about the state of the Middle East & ISIS, AIFD via YouTube, February 24, 2017

(It’s an about thirty-five minute long video about Middle East related topics, including America’s relations with Russia, Islamist terrorism, Islamist nations, the clash between Judeo-Christian and Islamist cultures and what the Trump administration can and should do. — DM)

 

Newly Installed NSA McMaster Reassures National Security Staff: No Witch Hunts Coming

February 24, 2017

Newly Installed NSA McMaster Reassures National Security Staff: No Witch Hunts Coming, Washington Free Beacon, February 24, 2017

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. McMaster will be the new national security adviser. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as President Donald Trump makes the announcement at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. McMaster will be the new national security adviser. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

To help with this effort, McMaster recommended several books meant to help current White House officials understand his own foreign policy vision.

One senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon described the reading list as pleasantly surprising and a vast departure from the former Obama administration’s own national security vision.

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Incoming White House National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster sought to reassure senior Trump administration officials during his first “all hands” staff meeting Thursday, according to those who attended the get together and told the Washington Free Beacon that McMaster informed staffers he does not intend to pursue a major shakeup of President Donald Trump’s national security team.

McMaster, who replaced Michael Flynn following his resignation last week, plans to navigate a vast departure from the Obama administration’s foreign policy vision, according to senior White House officials who described the meeting as “reassuring.” McMaster emphasized that he will not dismantle the team that Flynn had built.

As part of his discussion with White House national security staff, McMaster recommended a comprehensive reading list that included President Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” and several other tomes by leading historians about how to get the upper hand on America’s enemies. White House staff are said to have been mostly “thrilled” when hearing about the book list.

Sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about McMaster’s vision, as laid out in the Thursday meeting, expressed optimism about his appointment and pushed back on what they described as false media narratives centered around White House disarray following Flynn’s departure.

“It’s no secret we’ve had a few more all-hands meetings than we intended in our first month—but General McMaster used this event to both reassure the NSC staff and to give us the tools to continue the mission,” said one senior White House National Security Council official who requested anonymity while discussing internal White House meetings.

McMaster explicitly told White House officials that he does not aim to dismantle Trump’s foreign policy team or push out those perceived as still loyal to Flynn. These comments run counter to a recent New York Times report claiming that McMaster is pursuing a massive reorganization of the president’s national security team.

“He made it clear he wasn’t there to grind a political axe or engage in a witch hunt,” the senior White House official said. “He was there to provide leadership, including direction on how to think about the task in front of us.”

To help with this effort, McMaster recommended several books meant to help current White House officials understand his own foreign policy vision.

One senior White House official who spoke to the Free Beacon described the reading list as pleasantly surprising and a vast departure from the former Obama administration’s own national security vision.

In addition to Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” McMaster recommended reading his own book, “Dereliction of Duty,” which catalogues the mistakes that led the United States into a quagmire in Vietnam.

He also requested that White House staffers read Peter Rodman’s “Presidential Command,” which McMaster reportedly referred to as the “gold standard” in foreign policy history. Rodman was an top official in the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and both Bush administrations.

Senior White House staff are said to have found the mention of the book “very reassuring.”

“It’s certainly encouraging to see General McMaster highlighting his legacy,” one source said.

McMaster went on to further recommend two books by Zachary Shore, a historian and international conflict expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School.

One Shore book, “Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions,” was described as “a cautionary tale for the staff” at the White House. The other, “A Sense of the Enemy,” examines methods to overtake rival forces.

Lastly, McMaster recommended staff read an essay by Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan titled, “The Rhyme of History,” which tackles lessons from World War I.

Senior White House officials who took part in the meeting described the reading list as encouraging and part of an effort to restore conservative principals focused primarily on defending the U.S.’s best interests.

The mention of MacMillan’s essay in particular “suggests General McMaster does not consider the 21st century a sort of post-historical bubble, but rather that there is a great deal to be learned from history as we chart our path forward,” said one official who described McMaster as advocating a wholesale reversal from the Obama administration’s vision.

Several historians currently serve on the White House’s national security team, including Col. Derek Harvey, a former advisor to Gen. David Petraeus; Michael Anton, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and Victoria Coates, a former top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and art historian.

Toward a True US-Israel Partnership

February 24, 2017

Toward a True US-Israel Partnership, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 24, 2017

us_israeli_flags_wikimedia_commons

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Unlike the US, Israel has used the past generation to develop cutting edge technological capabilities in almost all of the areas where the Americans are lagging behind their competitors. Under these circumstances, Obama’s military assistance is exposed not merely as bad for Israel. It is bad for the US as well.

Israel can help the US compensate for its current scientific disadvantages. Israeli technological innovations can help the US to rebuild its independent capabilities and leapfrog its competitors far more rapidly than it can do on its own today.

An R&D partnership with Israel is also aligned with Trump’s vision for a renewed role for the US in global affairs. As Defense Secretary James Mattis told the US’s NATO allies this week, the US will not continue carrying the load of protecting the West on its own. It wants its allies to be its partners, not its dependents.

In Mattis’s words, “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”

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In his speech before the members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations in Jerusalem this week, President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel has three overriding foreign policy concerns: “Number 1: Relations with America. Number 2: Relations with America. Number 3: Relations with America.”

There is a lot of truth in Rivlin’s hyperbolic statement.

Israel’s security depends on its relationship with the US. After all, the Russians and the Chinese won’t sell Israel fighter planes. Russia couldn’t develop strategic ties with Israel even if it wanted to. Its Iranian ally wouldn’t let it.

As for China, its mercantilist view of the Middle East makes it indifferent to the power balances in the region. Beijing may not harbor hostile intentions toward Israel, but it will act in a hostile fashion if it views China’s interests as advanced by such hostility.

While Israel rightly is working to diversify its foreign ties to move beyond the narrow scope of its alliance with the US, the fact is that with or without Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, the US remains Israel’s irreplaceable ally.

Unfortunately, today even the friendliest US administration cannot be relied on to secure Israel’s long-term capacity to defend itself. Israel faces enemy forces equipped with Russian and Chinese technologies – including Russian forces in Syria – that are rapidly challenging American systems in key areas. So long as the US remains behind the technological eight ball, Israel’s long-term reliance on its military ties to the US is a dangerous proposition.

Things didn’t use to be this way. At the start of the 21st century, America’s military power was unrivaled. From the end of the Cold War until the turn of the century, neither Russia nor China could challenge the US and its status as the sole global superpower.

That is no longer the case.

In a distressing article published this week in the American Affairs Journal, David Goldman details the technological crisis the US is steeped in today.

Goldman notes that the US is lagging behind the Russians and the Chinese in air defense systems and technologies, missile technology, particularly hypersonic missile technologies, submarine warfare, cyber warfare technologies and satellite interdiction capabilities.

To bridge the gap and outpace the Chinese and the Russians, Goldman argues that the US needs to initiate massive government-funded research and development programs.

In the post-Cold War era, Goldman notes ruefully, Americans have forgotten that they were ever vulnerable, that their victory against the USSR was anything but preordained.

The actual history, Goldman reminds us, was quite different. The US victory in the Cold War was the result of conscious decisions by US leaders to outstrip Soviet technology after American technology was shown to be lagging behind.

In 1957, the Americans reacted to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik with a crash program in space exploration. That program, which benefited from lavish federal funding, ended the Soviets’ advantage in aerospace technology inside of a decade.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Americans realized that the Egyptian success in downing Israeli jets over Sinai in the early days of the war meant that the Soviet surface-to-air missiles Egypt fielded had neutralized US air superiority. The Americans realized that the Soviets’ technological advantage meant that they would win a land war in Europe.

Consequently, Goldman explains, the US initiated détente to avert a war in Europe. At the same time, the Americans began to develop the technologies to defeat the Soviets. Massive public investments in defense R&D followed. A decade later, Ronald Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative; the Soviets realized they couldn’t compete, and eight years later, the USSR collapsed.

The Americans weren’t the only ones to respond to Israel’s air losses in 1973 with a massive investment in defense R&D aimed at destroying Russia’s technological advantage with its surface-to-air missiles.

Israel responded to its exposed vulnerabilities by developing the electronic warfare capabilities to neutralize Soviet SAM batteries. As Goldman recalls, in 1982, Israel matched US air platforms – the F-16 and F-15 – used in combat for the first time in the Lebanon War – with its own homegrown computer- based electronic warfare systems. So equipped, Israel eliminated Syria’s Soviet-built surface-to-air batteries and its Soviet-supplied air force, in a stunning air victory.

Whereas in the 1950s and the 1970s, the US had the domestic scientific capacity to quickly regroup in the face of Soviet technological advances, today the US’s path to rebuilding its technological advantage is less clear. Since the Cold War, the US government slashed its investment in military R&D.

According to Goldman, as a percentage of GDP, today US government investment in R&D is barely half of what it was in 1978.

Goldman bemoans the self-imposed evisceration of America’s capacity to develop the knowledge it requires to regain the technological advantage over the Chinese and the Russians.

In his words, “The national laboratories are hollowed out, and the major corporate laboratories (at IBM, the Bell System, General Electric, and RCA among others) that contributed significantly to defense R&D during the Cold War no longer exist. Within the shrinking defense R&D budget, a disproportionate share has been squandered on the F-35, a poorly conceived and executed weapons system with the highest price tag in defense history.”

And it won’t be easy to rebuild them. For 25 years, the US has not only shut down its own laboratories, it has done little to encourage its citizens to acquire the knowledge they need to rebuild that capacity.

Goldman notes for instance that currently, China graduates twice the number of STEM PhDs from its universities as the US.

This brings us back to Israel. In the 1980s, the US regarded the stunning technological advances Israel had made with suspicion. America feared that Israel’s growing technological capabilities would diminish its dependence on the US, at a time when the US was most concerned with keeping the Arab states inside the anti-Soviet bloc and keeping the Soviets out of the Middle East.

Last year, then-president Barack Obama forced Israel to agree to a multi-year military assistance package that if implemented will diminish Israel’s independent technological capabilities while expanding Israel’s technological dependence on the US.

While the aid package increases the amount of US funds Israel is permitted to spend on US systems from $3.1 billion to $3.3b. per year, the deal phases out Israel’s right to use a quarter of the funds on its domestically built systems.

Obama’s aid package also denies Israel and Congress the ability to initiate joint projects to meet new challenges as they arise.

In short, Obama’s deal ensures Israel will be incapable of acting on its own and will remain dependent on US goodwill and technologies for the foreseeable future.

This then brings us back to the US’s swiftly vanishing technology advantage.

Unlike the US, Israel has used the past generation to develop cutting edge technological capabilities in almost all of the areas where the Americans are lagging behind their competitors. Under these circumstances, Obama’s military assistance is exposed not merely as bad for Israel. It is bad for the US as well.

Israel can help the US compensate for its current scientific disadvantages. Israeli technological innovations can help the US to rebuild its independent capabilities and leapfrog its competitors far more rapidly than it can do on its own today.

An R&D partnership with Israel is also aligned with Trump’s vision for a renewed role for the US in global affairs. As Defense Secretary James Mattis told the US’s NATO allies this week, the US will not continue carrying the load of protecting the West on its own. It wants its allies to be its partners, not its dependents.

In Mattis’s words, “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.”

Earlier this month, Prof. Hillel Frisch published a short paper for Bar-Ilan University’s BESA Center showing the utter dishonesty of the claim that Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid. Frisch noted that US military assistance to Japan, Germany, Italy and South Korea far outstrips its assistance to Israel. All of those states receive US military assistance in the form of US forces permanently deployed to their territory to protect them. Israel, on the other hand, receives aid in military equipment only. No US assets are endangered, no US forces are required to defend Israel. And the financial burden of the former is far great than that of the latter.

Trump is interested in states like Japan and Germany transforming their strategic relations with the US from relationships based on dependency to partnerships by increasing their military spending.

What Israel’s technological and innovation prowess shows is that as far as Israeli defense assistance is concerned, the US should base its relations with Jerusalem on each sides’ complementary capabilities.

America and Israel should abrogate Obama’s military assistance package and replace it with a partnership based on US finance of Israeli R&D projects geared toward developing weapons systems and technologies that both the US and Israel require.

The deal should stipulate the modalities for both sides sharing the technologies with third parties, and their rights to use the technologies developed by Israel with US capital for civilian commercial purposes. Israel should be permitted to purchase US platforms based on Israeli-developed technologies.

Such a partnership would enable Israel to ensure that its continued dependence on the US won’t place it at a disadvantage vis-à-vis its enemies such as Iran, which are able to purchase advanced weapons systems from Russia and China. Such a partnership would ensure that both the US and Israel have the systems they need to outpace Chinese and Russian technological advances and develop the weapons systems they need to win tomorrow’s wars.

In his remarks before the Conference of Presidents, Rivlin voiced concern at the fact that Israel has become a partisan football in US politics. His concern is well placed.

Assuming that Israel’s dependence on the US will be a fixed variable for the foreseeable future, Israel needs to consider the best way of ensuring that the alliance will persevere regardless of the partisan attachments of future presidents.

The best way to ensure the resilience of the US-Israel alliance over time is for Israel to transform its military dependence into a mutually beneficial alliance with the US. A new military relationship based on joint technology development rather than Israeli purchase of US platforms is the best way to accomplish that goal, for the benefit of both countries.

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally

February 22, 2017

An Émigré Explains Why The U.S. Should Want Russia As An Ally, TheFederalist, February 22, 2017

(Please see also, Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead? — DM

I am a Russian-born U.S. citizen. Since my old country is all in the news now, unsurprisingly, several people have asked me about the latest spat between the two countries. I have rounded up a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) in no particular order, and here they are.

Question: Is Russia our foe or ally?

Answer: Neither. Lord Palmerston famously quipped, “Great Britain has no friends, only interests,” and the same applies to other countries. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were geopolitical adversaries during the Cold War. Prior to that, they were allies in World War II when both faced an existential threat from Nazi Germany and Japan. Now both Russia and the United States are facing a threat of radical Islam, which may bring the two countries together again.

Q: But can we cooperate with the Russians after they captured large chunks of Ukraine and Georgia?

A: Well, the Soviet Union captured Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1939, yet Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill cooperated with Joseph Stalin and actively supported his war efforts. The West never recognized the annexation of the Baltic republics; it just put that matter on the back burner for the sake of a more urgent goal. Henry Kissinger calls this realpolitik.

Q: Donald Trump has picked Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile, as his secretary of State. Tillerson has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. How do we know which side Tillerson is on?

A: Let me cite a historical precedent. Another famous American oil executive was friendly with Soviet leaders. His name was Armand Hammer. He had numerous personal and business ties with the USSR, starting in the 1920s. In 1957, Hammer became president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. He used his connections to end the Cold War between the two countries. According to his biographer, Hammer was “a go-between for five Soviet General Secretaries and seven U.S. Presidents.” Paradoxically, Hammer’s efforts on behalf of the USSR made him a darling of the American Left, even though he supported the Republican Party.

Q: Has Putin ordered the murder of Russian journalists and other political opponents?

A: That has not been proven conclusively, but is plausible. Regardless of whether that is the case, it should not determine American foreign policy. That was clear to FDR and Churchill, who were well aware of Stalin’s atrocities.

Q: Did Russia side with Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race?

A: Of course, it did. Nations do take sides and interfere in other nations’ internal affairs all the time. For example, the United States actively encouraged the Arab Spring in several countries and even supported Syrian and Libyan “moderate” rebels. It was the job of the sitting U.S. president to prevent any Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Q: Is Russian spying on U.S. institutions a new phenomenon?

A: Absolutely not! However, things change. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, it was the conservative Right that was alarmed by Russian spying and Communist infiltration of the federal government. The Left dismissed that concern, mocking it as looking for “reds under the beds.” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of spying for Russia and executed, became martyrs of the Left. Even in the 1970s when I arrived in the United States, the Left’s favorite motto was “it’s better be red than dead.” Things really changed in the 1980s.

Q: What happened in the 1980s?

A: When Ronald Reagan became president, he faced fierce opposition from the Left. The media elite ridiculed him as an unsophisticated cowboy and right-wing warmonger for calling the USSR an evil empire. The opposition became violent when Reagan proposed an anti-missile defense system, which the media dismissed as a “star wars” program. However, when an opportunity came up, Reagan held productive summits with former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev. These summits eventually led to the end of the Cold War.

Q: Is Putin a reincarnation of Stalin?

A: The two leaders represent two different generations separated by a period of 70 years. During those 70 years, the world has changed, and so has Russia. Stalin ruled Russia with an iron fist, while today’s Russians enjoy a degree of freedom. Putin is more pragmatic than Stalin. Yet contemporary Russian society is still quite different from its Western European counterparts, which is perhaps just fine, given that the latter are in a deep crisis now.

Q: Can the United States rely on Russia in the war on radical Islamic terrorism?

A: If it were a matter of life or death, I would always choose to have Russia on my side, rather than a Western ally, such as France. When Russians wage a war, they do it to win, not to satisfy lawyers by following every rule specifying acceptable ways of killing the enemy.

Here is an example. Somalian pirates threatened international shipping in the Indian Ocean between 2005 and 2013 by taking hostages. The American, French, Italian, and other navies rescued many hostages, caught pirates, and sent them to their countries. The arrests, trials, appeals, and imprisonment cost hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a Guardian report, there was a fear that “trials in European courts would encourage, rather than deter, pirates from committing crimes of piracy.”

In contrast, when a Russian destroyer rescued a Russian tanker with its crew from pirates in 2010, they did not arrest the pirates. They disarmed the pirates and set them adrift in an inflatable boat. The released pirates did not reach the coast. Rumor has it that the rescuers made a hole in the boat before releasing it.

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked

February 20, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked, Dan Miller’s Blog, February 20, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

Evidence of political corruption should be.

It has been obvious since the early Republican primaries that most media coverage of a Trump presidency would be adverse and presented out of context. Perhaps a recent editorial at The Week Magazine explains why, albeit inadvertently. Or maybe this cartoon better explains the media view:

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

According to The Week Magazineall leaks are equal. However, we approve of those which fit our politics and disapprove of those which don’t.

Live by the leak, die by the leak. When WikiLeaks was releasing a steady stream of embarrassing emails hacked from Democratic officials during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her supporters cried foul, and urged the press not to report their contents. Donald Trump applauded every new revelation, saying the leaks provided voters with important information, and gleefully invited the Russians to find and publish emails she had deleted. “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?” Trump exulted. Now that it’s Trump who is being tortured by leaks, he’s complaining they’re illegal and “un-American.” Democrats, meanwhile, are welcoming the torrent like a rainstorm after a long drought. (See Main Stories.) When it comes to leaks, everyone is a hypocrite. “Good” leaks are ones that damage our opponents. “Bad” leaks are those that hurt Our Side. [Emphasis added.]

But let’s set partisanship aside for a moment. Is it always in the public interest for government officials to leak, and for the media to publish leaked material? Crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald—who angered the Obama administration by publishing Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents—argues in TheIntercept.com this week that all leaks exposing “wrong-doing” are good ones, regardless of the leaker’s motives. “Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers),” Greenwald says, “precisely because political officials want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection.” The implication of this argument, of course, is that governments, politicians, and organizations should not keep any secrets—that when people in power conceal documents, emails, or information that could embarrass them, they are by definition deceiving the public. Radical transparency certainly sounds noble—but I suspect it’s a standard no public official, or indeed most of us, could survive. It’s so much more convenient to have a double standard: Transparency for thee, but not for me.

I disagree. Leaks of unclassified materials demonstrating corruption of the political process by either party are necessary for an effectively functioning democracy. Leaks of highly classified national security information — particularly in the area of foreign policy — endanger our democracy, are crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly. When the media sensationalize leaks of the latter type, they are complicit and must be criticized vigorously.

The press has long served as an objective fail-safe to protect the public from the powers-that-be. That objectivity is now absent and the media’s role in our democratic society is in jeopardy. Rather than self-reflect as to how they got off course, the press have opted to label the man who exposed this derailment as un-American.

What’s un-American is the belief that the press should be unaccountable for its actions. What’s un-American is the belief that any attempt to criticize the press should be viewed as heresy. What’s un-American is the belief that the press is akin to a golden calf that compels Americans, presidents included, to worship the press.

Two very different types of leaks

a. DNC and Podesta e-mails:

The DNC and Podesta e-mails were released as written and posted by DNC officials and Podesta for transmission on unsecured servers easily hacked by modestly competent teenage hackers. I have seen no suggestion that the e-mails were classified. The intelligence community opined that Russian agents had done the hacking, but offered no significant proof beyond that the methods used by the hacker(s) were comparable to those used by Russian hackers in the past.

They found no discrepancies between the original e-mails and those posted by WikiLeaks (which denied that Russia had been the source). The e-mail leaks damaged the Clinton campaign because they portrayed, accurately — and in their own words —  dishonest efforts of high-level DNC and Clinton campaign personnel to skew the Democrat primary process in Ms. Clinton’s favor. They did not involve American foreign policy until Obama — who had previously done nothing of significance to halt Russia’s hacking of highly classified information from our intelligence establishment beyond asking, “pretty please, stop” — decided that Russia must be punished for Hillary’s loss of the general election through sanctions and by the expulsion of thirty-five of its diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had been expected to respond in kind, with the expulsion of US diplomats from its territory.

However, he later said he would not “stoop” to “irresponsible diplomacy”, but rather attempt to repair relations once Donald Trump takes office.

Mr Trump praised the decision as “very smart.”

b. Flynn telephone conversations:

Neither transcripts nor audio recordings of the Flynn telephone conversations were released. Instead, conclusions of the leakers were released. According to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes,

“I think there is a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump. The rank and file people that are out doing jobs across the world — very difficult places — they don’t pay attention to what is going on in Washington,” the California representative told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.

“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press,” Nunes added. “And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there were nine people who said this, these are nine people who broke the law.” [Emphasis added.]

Nunes said the FBI and other intelligence agencies ought to investigate who has leaked information to the press because so few people in the administration knew these secrets, that it would have had to have been someone at the “highest levels of the Obama administration” who is an acting official until Trump replaces him or her.

Did the leaker(s) try to present the conversations honestly, or to damage President Trump’s efforts to deal with Russia in matters of foreign policy where American and Russian interests coincide? To disrupt America’s badly needed “reset” with Russia which seemed likely to succeed under President Trump after Clinton’s and Obama’s efforts had failed?

resetbutton

Remember the Obama – Romney debate when Romney characterized Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat and Obama responded that the cold war was over and that “the 1980’s are calling and want their foreign policy back”?

The position now asserted by the Democrats and the media seems rather like the position that Obama rejected. If the position(s) of the Democrats and the media are now correct and Russia is again our enemy, might it be due to actions which Obama took or failed to take over the past eight years?

It is unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of Democrat (and some Republican) Russophobia when Russia is reassessing her relationship with Iran and America.

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote. [Emphasis added.]

An American – Russian realignment in areas of mutual concern — which as suggested below had seemed to be progressing well until General Flynn ceased to be involved — would be good, not bad. We have many areas of mutual concern, and Iran is one of them. The war in Syria is another. When were Russians last directed to yell Death to America? Or to refer to America as the “Great Satan?”

c. General Flynn, Russia and Iran

General Flynn had, at President Trump’s request, been dealing with Russia concerning the future roles of Iran, Russia and America in the Syria debacle:

Overlaying US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary, hour-long skirmish with reporters Thursday, Feb. 16, was bitter frustration over the domestic obstacles locking him out from his top security and foreign policy goals. [Emphasis added.]

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

But his antagonists, including elements of the US intelligence community, were turning his strategy into a blunderbuss for hitting him on the head, with the help of hostile media.

Thursday, in a highly unconventional meeting with the world media, he tried to hit back, and possibly save his strategy.

That won’t be easy. The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

Deeply troubled by this prospect, Tehran sent Iran’s supreme commander in the Middle East, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow this week to find out what was going on.

Flynn’s departure put the lid on this progress. Then came the damaging leak to the Wall Street Journal, that quoted an “intelligence official” as saying that his agencies hesitated to reveal to the president the “sources and methods” they use to collect information, due to “possible links between Trump associates and Russia.. Those links, he said “could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.”

A first-year student knows that this claim is nonsense, since no agency ever share its sources and methods with any outsider, however high-placed.

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

It is too soon to say whether his Russian policy is finally in shreds or can still be repaired. Trump indicated more than once in his press briefing that he would try and get the relations back on track.

Asked how he would react to Russia’s latest provocative moves, he said: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what responses I do. I don’t talk about military responses. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he stressed.

At all events, his administration seems to be at a crossroads between whether to try and salvage the partnership with Russia for Syria, or treat it as a write-off. If the latter, then Trump must decide whether to send American troops to the war-torn country to achieve his goals, or revert to Barack Obama’s policy of military non-intervention in the conflict. [Emphasis added.]

Substantially more is generally involved in matters of foreign policy than is facially apparent or than government officials should discuss publicly, particularly while negotiations with foreign powers are underway. Leaks by held-over members of the intelligence community did much to reveal the opinions of the leakers but little to reveal what General Flynn had been doing, while upsetting the chances of better American – Russian relations in areas of mutual concern.

Conclusions — The Administrative State

The Federal Government has grown far too big for its britches, giving the unelected “administrative state” substantially more authority, and hence power, than is consistent with a properly functioning democracy. As they have been demonstrating in recent months, holdovers from one administration can succeed, at least partially, in paralyzing a new and democratically elected president. Holdovers with political appointee status can generally be fired. Few others who should be can be.

Getting rid of the obstructionist “civil servants” who have become our masters should rank very high on President Trump’s “to do” list and should be accomplished before it’s too late. The task may be difficult but is not impossible. Perhaps some particularly obnoxious Federal agencies (or departments within those agencies) can be relocated to places less congenial than Washington. Inner City Chicago comes to mind. So do otherwise pleasant cities in California, where housing prices are much higher than in the Washington, D.C. area. How many Federal employees faced with the choice of relocating or resigning would choose the latter option?

There are likely other and probably better ways to get rid of the fatheads. President Trump’s administration should devise them.

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran

February 19, 2017

US twin sea buildup against China, NKorea, Iran, DEBKAfile, February 19, 2017

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

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Donald Trump marked his first month as US President with two major military gambits in the Middle East, Asia and the South China Sea. Early Sunday, Feb. 19, the US Navy said that the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group had begun patrols in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. With them are three air squadrons coming from their Naval Air Station Lemoore: the USS Lake Champlain guided missile cruiser and two guided missile destroyers, the USS Michael Murphy and the USS Wayne E. Meyer.

The deployment comes after Beijing’s warning that a US naval unit sailing near the disputed Spralys, where China has built islands and a military presence, would be seen as a violation of sovereignty, which the US and Japan refuse to recognize.

The Trump administration’s move therefore opens up a potential arena of confrontation between the US and China.  It also caries a message for North Korea, which Trump has called “a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”

A week ago, on Feb. 12, North Korea launched a missile, using new “cold eject” technology which makes it possible to fire a missile from a submarine. Military experts in Washington and Jerusalem estimate that once Pyongyang has perfected the system, it will be passed to Tehran, an eventuality covered in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s White House talks with President Trump last week, our sources reveal.

Our military sources add that while Washington has publicly announced the transfer of a naval-air force to the South China Sea, the deployment of the large 11th Marine Expeditionary Combat Unit to the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea is being kept low key.

The conventional thinking until now was that, in the event of an Iranian clash with the US or Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran would push back by blocking the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Today, American forces have been placed in position to prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Mandeb, and so choking the main sea route used by oil and merchant shipping sailing to and from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, by posting missile bases on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast.

The 4,500-strong contingent of MEC marines and sailors is supported by the fighters and attack helicopters on board the USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship, the USS Somerset amphibious transport and the USS Comstock dock landing ship. Their task is to keep the strategic waterway open and safe.

The deployment of the USS Cole destroyer around the strait was announced on Feb. 3, days after a suicide boat attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels on the Saudi frigate Al Madinah off the Yemeni port of Al Hudaydah.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts note that the deployment of these naval and air forces in two international maritime arenas offers President Trump a flexible operational scenario. He can order one of those forces to go on the offensive as a warning to hostile elements in the other one – or go into action in both simultaneously – for example the US could strike North Korean and Iranian targets synchronously.

In line with these moves, a US flotilla departed its Arabian Sea base at Duqm in Oman on Feb. 12 and is sailing towards Bab Al Mandeb.

Tehran reacted Monday, Feb. 20, by embarking on a large-scale three-day military exercise titled Grand Prophet 11. Gen. Mohammed Pakpour, commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, announced that the drill would include missile launches, without specifying their types or ranges.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly stated that they would not allow American warnings to deter them from their missile program, any more than Pyongyang hesitated to fly in the face of those warnings. Those warnings are now backed up by America’s sea and air might in combat positions.

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department

February 17, 2017

Champagne time: it’s a “bloodbath” at the State Department, Jihad Watch

(Next? How about the “intelligence community?” — DM)

Break out the hats and hooters: the failed State Department establishment, which has applied and reapplied and reapplied again failed policies that have been shown to be based on false analysis time and time again (Poverty causes terrorism! Islam is a religion of peace!), is finally being cleaned out. May this swamp-draining long continue.

rex-tillerson

“It’s a bloodbath at the State Department,” New York Post, February 17, 2017:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cleaning house at the State Department, according to a report.

Staffers in the offices of deputy secretary of state for management and resources as well as counselor were shown the door Thursday, according to CBS News.

Many of those let go were on the building’s seventh floor — top-floor bigs — a symbolically important sign to the rest of the diplomatic corps that their new boss has different priorities than the last one.

The staffing changes came as Tillerson was on his first foreign trip — attending a G-20 meeting in Bonn, Germany.

“As part of the transition from one administration to the next, we continue to build out our team. The State Department is supported by a very talented group of individuals, both Republicans and Democrats,” State Department spokesman RC Hammond told CBS.

“We are appreciative to any American who dedicates their talents to public,” he added.

This week’s round of firings marks the second time State Department personnel have been cleared out since President Trump took office last month.

Four top officials were cleared out of the building at the end of January….