Archive for the ‘McMaster and Hezbollah’ category

U.S., Israel Reject Claims Relationship Strained, Deny Closed Door Shouting Match

September 15, 2017

U.S., Israel Reject Claims Relationship Strained, Deny Closed Door Shouting Match, Washington Free Beacon, September 14, 2017

(Please see also, Fake News About H.R. McMaster? and EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah. — DM)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Donald Trump in Tel Aviv on May 23 / Getty Images (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

The issue of Hezbollah’s rise in the region—and the direct threat this poses to Israel as Iranian-backed forces gather closer to its borders—has been a mainstay of ongoing dialogue between the United States and Israel, with multiple senior Trump administration sources telling the Free Beacon that McMaster’s NSC fully agrees with Israel’s concerns and supports Hezbollah’s designation as a global terrorist organization.

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Senior U.S. and Israeli officials deny the relationship between the two countries has been strained over differences in how to deal with the threat of Hezbollah, according to multiple senior government officials from both countries who told the Washington Free Beacon that recent reports of a yelling match between senior Trump administration and Israeli government officials are false.

Recent media reports allege the Trump administration and Israel have been in conflict over the best way to deal with the threat posed by Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror organization that has played a major role in bolstering embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Tensions are said to have come to a head during a high-level August meeting between the countries in which White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is alleged to have yelled at his Israeli counterparts and dismissed concerns about Hezbollah being a terror organization—a charge that multiple senior U.S. and Israeli officials denied in conversations with the Free Beacon.

Further allegations that the Israeli delegation asked White House National Security Council staffer Mustafa Javed Ali to leave the room over concerns that he does not view Hezbollah as a terror organization also are being called untrue, according to both U.S. and Israeli officials who were present in the Aug. 17 meeting.

A copy of the official list of U.S. and Israeli officials participating in the high-level meeting shows that Ali was never scheduled to attend, according to a copy of that list viewed by the Free Beacon.

The situation is being portrayed in the U.S. and Israeli media as further proof of tension between McMaster’s NSC and their Israeli counterparts.

The issue of Hezbollah’s rise in the region—and the direct threat this poses to Israel as Iranian-backed forces gather closer to its borders—has been a mainstay of ongoing dialogue between the United States and Israel, with multiple senior Trump administration sources telling the Free Beaconthat McMaster’s NSC fully agrees with Israel’s concerns and supports Hezbollah’s designation as a global terrorist organization.

Michael Anton, spokesman for the White House NSC, denied that McMaster ever yelled at his Israeli counterparts and described multiple media reports claiming otherwise as flatly untrue.

Anton further disclosed to the Free Beacon that, as part of a renewed push to counter Hezbollah’s influence in the region, McMaster “has directed the NSC staff to look at ways the U.S. can be more aggressive in its posture towards Hezbollah.”

The effort to counter Hezbollah, which is supported by the Israelis, is “a major element of our Iran strategy,” according to Anton, who described this policy as directed at ensuring that Iran and it’s terror proxies do not retain a permanent foothold in Syria, where they would “endanger Israel’s borders.”

Anton further knocked down allegations that NSC aide Ali was asked to leave the meeting by the Israelis, telling the Free Beacon that he was never scheduled to participate in the discussions and was not present at any point.

Senior Israeli officials independently confirmed to the Free Beacon that recent media reports about the tension are false.

“Israel never asked for Mustafa Ali to not attend a meeting on Hezbollah, Syria, or any other matter,” Itai Bardov, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, told the Free Beacon. “Israel is not aware of any Trump administration official that does not consider Hezbollah a terror organization, and Gen. McMaster never yelled at Israeli officials.”

“The allegations in the article relating to Israel are totally false,” Bardov said, adding, “Israel appreciates Gen. McMaster efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Trump administration to counter the threats posed by Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah.”

A copy of the internal White House list of those participating in the meeting confirms comments from the senior U.S. and Israeli officials.

The meeting included McMaster, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, senior NSC official Dina Powell, senior White House Israel adviser Jason Greenblatt, senior NSC official Victoria Coates, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, among several others.

Ali is not included on the list, as initial reports claimed.

On the Israeli side, participants included Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, Mossad Director Yosef Cohen, Israeli Defense Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Acting Israeli National Security Adviser Eytan Ben-David, Israeli Defense and Armed Forces Attaché to the United States Maj. Gen. Michael Edelstein, and other Israeli embassy personnel, according to the list viewed by the Free Beacon.

In a high-level meeting such as this, it would be atypical for an official such as Ali to participate.

One senior Trump administration official who participated in the meeting further disclosed to the Free Beacon that the United States added one more official at the last moment: Sigal Mandelker, the undersecretary of treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The addition was meant to let the Israeli delegation know the Trump administration is serious about tackling Hezbollah, and the inclusion of Mandelker signaled the Trump administration is using all avenues to target the terror group, including sanctions, according to senior administration sources.

“Kind of a funny person to add if you’re going to argue Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist group,” said one senior NSC official. “The Israelis were delighted to see her because her presence demonstrated Gen. McMaster’s key point—Hezbollah is of course a terrorist organization but the problem is compounded because they have grown into so much more—so straight [counter-terrorism] isn’t going to work against them.”

Bossert’s inclusion in the meeting was meant to signal that counter-terrorism remains a priority, but McMaster and other NSC officials believe “we also need all the other tools we have at our disposal,” according to the senior administration official.

“So it’s not that he [McMaster] disputes they are terrorists, and it’s not that he disputes the fact that they are a terrible threat—both to Israel and to us. He was simply pointing out the full scope of that threat,” the official explained, noting that given the nature of the subject matter, the discussions were “certainly intense,” but it was “a meeting of close friends and allies.”

Senior Trump administration sources further took exception to portrayals in the media that NSC official Ali is an enemy of Israel and that he remains sympathetic to Hezbollah.

Ali has been accused in the past of attempting to block human rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali from attending a meeting at the White House—a charge U.S. officials familiar with the matter flatly denied.

Hirsi Ali, in fact, did meet with NSC staff at the White House.

Other rumors claiming that NSC official Ali once worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, a Muslim advocacy group hostile to Israel, also are untrue, according to senior NSC sources, who told the Free Beacon that Ali has flatly denied the charges in conversations with U.S. officials.

Fake News About H.R. McMaster?

September 15, 2017

Fake News About H.R. McMaster? Power LinePaul Mirengoff, September 14, 2017

(Please see also, EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah. Who is pushing “fake news” and why?– DM)

I have reservations about McMaster, and PJ Media attributed its report to “several administration sources, members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and a source within the Israeli government.” However, the idea that McMaster and his main counter-terrorism guy are soft on Hezbollah struck me as dubious. So I checked with Steve Hayward’s friend Michael Anton, who serves as spokesman on McMaster’s staff.

Anton told me that (1) Ali wasn’t at the meeting in question (which occurred on August 17, not the week of August 27, as reported), was never scheduled to be present, and thus was never asked to leave or not attend the meeting, (2) neither McMaster nor Ali has ever questioned Hezbollah’s status as a terrorist organization, (3) McMaster has asked his staff for ideas on how to be more aggressive towards Hezbollah, and (4) the Israelis were going to issue a statement debunking PJ Media’s story.

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Yesterday, PJ Media published a disturbing report about H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser. It said that at a

meeting during the week of August 27 at the White House, McMaster brought with him Mustafa Javed Ali, NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism. According to PJ Media’s report, Ali has been described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.”

The Israelis reportedly demanded that Ali leave the room. Supposedly, they meant the demand to serve as a message to President Trump that McMaster’s behavior has subverted Trump’s stated Middle East policy.

The report also said that during the meeting, McMaster explicitly dismissed the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah. In particular, he blew off the concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria would immediately become a safe haven from which Hezbollah could operate. In addition, McMaster reportedly yelled at the Israelis during the meeting.

I have reservations about McMaster, and PJ Media attributed its report to “several administration sources, members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and a source within the Israeli government.” However, the idea that McMaster and his main counter-terrorism guy are soft on Hezbollah struck me as dubious. So I checked with Steve Hayward’s friend Michael Anton, who serves as spokesman on McMaster’s staff.

Anton told me that (1) Ali wasn’t at the meeting in question (which occurred on August 17, not the week of August 27, as reported), was never scheduled to be present, and thus was never asked to leave or not attend the meeting, (2) neither McMaster nor Ali has ever questioned Hezbollah’s status as a terrorist organization, (3) McMaster has asked his staff for ideas on how to be more aggressive towards Hezbollah, and (4) the Israelis were going to issue a statement debunking PJ Media’s story.

Anton has also denied that McMaster shouted at the Israelis during the meeting. I should add, though, that doing so would hardly constitute a major offense. Exchanges can become heated, even among friends.

Israel now has denied the substance of the PJ Media report. Here is what Itai Bardov, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Washington, told Jeff Dunetz:

The allegations in the article relating to Israel are totally false.

Israel never asked for Mustafa Ali to not attend a meeting on Hezbollah, Syria or any other matter.

Israel is not aware of any Trump administration official that does not consider Hezbollah a terror organization, and General McMaster never yelled at Israeli officials.

Israel appreciates General McMaster’s efforts to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Trump administration to counter the threats posed by Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah.

In addition, the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo has reviewed a copy of the official list of U.S. and Israeli officials participating in the meeting at issue. According to Kredo, the list confirms that Ali was never scheduled to attend. And Dunetz has posted a “team picture” of those who participated in the August 17 meeting. He says Ali is not in the picture.

I have no personal knowledge of who was at the meeting, what transpired, or what McMaster believes about Hezbollah. However, the evidence that Ali wasn’t at the meeting seems quite strong. And, though I’m not a fan of McMaster, I continue very much to doubt that he is soft in any respect on Hezbollah.

Israeli Team Refused to Brief Trump Officials As Long as McMaster Appointee Ali Was in the Room

September 14, 2017

Israeli Team Refused to Brief Trump Officials As Long as McMaster Appointee Ali Was in the Room via YouTube, September 13, 2017

(Please see also, EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah. — DM)

EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah

September 13, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Gen. McMaster Sparked a Row With the Israeli Delegation at a White House Meeting on Hezbollah, PJ MediaDavid Steinberg, September 12, 2017

H.R. McMaster (Rex Features via AP Images)

Friction between General McMaster and the Israeli delegation did not end with Israel’s demand that Ali leave the room.

Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah.

In particular, the Israelis expressed concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria — an idea that had been vociferously supported by Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran — would immediately become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate.

McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting

None of the several sources were aware if Trump had been made aware of the incident.

As has been widely reported, Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly has instituted tight restrictions on information and contacts reaching the president. Additionally, Kelly has been said to be working closely with General McMaster on issues related to the flow of information within the administration.

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During the week of August 27, an Israeli delegation met with members of the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House to discuss the current threat to Israel by the terror group Hezbollah.

Israel believes this threat is currently dire. This meeting preceded a two-week long Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) exercise to rehearse for possible war with Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post described this exercise, which commenced on September 4 and is ongoing, as the IDF’s largest in 20 years.

Hezbollah has been a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997. However, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly brought NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism Mustafa Javed Ali to the White House meeting with Israel. Ali, a McMaster appointee, is described by a senior administration source as being “opposed to Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization.”

What then transpired at the meeting has been confirmed to PJ Media by several administration sources, by members of non-governmental organizations involved in national security, and by a source within the Israeli government.

The Israeli delegation demanded that Mustafa Javed Ali leave the room.

This demand was made despite the clear likelihood that Ali would later be privy to the meeting’s materials and discussion. As such, sources speculated that Israel intended the demand to serve as a message to President Trump that McMaster’s behavior has constituted a subversion of Trump’s stated Middle East policy.

Mustafa Javed Ali, second from right, attending West Point’s 2015 Senior Conference. The conference was described as having focused on “unconventional approaches to counterterrorism.”

None of the several sources were aware if Trump had been made aware of the incident.

As has been widely reported, Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly has instituted tight restrictions on information and contacts reaching the president. Additionally, Kelly has been said to be working closely with General McMaster on issues related to the flow of information within the administration.

Friction between General McMaster and the Israeli delegation did not end with Israel’s demand that Ali leave the room.

Sources reported that McMaster went on to explicitly dismiss the Israelis’ specific concerns about Hezbollah.

In particular, the Israelis expressed concern that the “safe zone” currently being established within Syria — an idea that had been vociferously supported by Hezbollah’s sponsor, Iran — would immediately become a safe zone for Hezbollah to operate.

McMaster was said to “blow off” this major Israeli concern, and to be “yelling at the Israelis” during the meeting.

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For months, General McMaster has been under fire regarding his personnel decisions from Trump voters and the large majority of Americans who support Israel. McMaster has fired or otherwise removed all NSC appointees who strongly supported President Trump’s Middle East campaign platform.

Trump had repeatedly promised that his administration would reject the Bush/Obama policy of denying the doctrinal Islamic roots of terror, most notably expressed by Trump’s willingness to declare jihadist attacks to be “radical Islamic terrorism.” Indeed, Trump honored this pledge early in his term via the many appointees to the NSC brought on by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and others.

Under McMaster, however, all of these voices have been removed from the NSC in what has been described as a “purge.”

In their stead, McMaster has astonishingly welcomed figures such as Kris Baumanand Robert Malley to his NSC. Bauman’s and Malley’s careers have been so objectively subversive to the Trump agenda on Israel that McMaster might as well have appointed Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

Mustafa Javed Ali in attendance at former President Obama’s 2010 White House Iftar Dinner. Ali worked within the FBI at the time. Per a source: “No Muslim reformers or liberals were welcome at those events.” (List of expected attendees available at link.)

Little information has previously been public about McMaster appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. Regarding Israel’s demand that he leave the meeting, a source claimed:

Israel possibly knows more about Javed Ali than [the Trump administration] does.

Earlier this year, Ali was rumored to have caused the cancellation of a scheduled talk to the NSC by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on account of her “Islamophobia.” Mrs. Ali, who escaped to the Netherlands from Kenya after fleeing a forced marriage, violence, and being a victim of female genital mutilation, is now an activist exposing Islamic doctrine. She has lived under 24/7 protection since 2004, when a Muslim murdered Dutch film director Theo van Gogh for making a film with Mrs. Ali that criticized Islam. A five-page note threatening the same fate for Ali was left pinned to van Gogh’s chest with a knife.

Sources within the Trump administration have confirmed to PJMedia that this rumor about Mustafa Javed Ali was correct: Mrs. Ali had been invited to speak to the NSC. She was later disinvited due to Javed Ali’s interference.

On August 11, Mrs. Ali published a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Trump for “losing focus” on his terrorism campaign pledges. Within the op-ed, she chose to mention only the “most charitable” criticism being floated about General McMaster:

Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of military problems.

But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest.

Yet senior administration sources are far less charitable about McMaster and his appointee Mustafa Javed Ali. As mentioned above, they described Ali as taking the breathtaking position that Hezbollah should not be a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. They described Ali as holding the same view regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.

They claimed Ali’s work within the NSC essentially amounts to him attempting to prevent the Trump administration from using any of the means at its disposal to target Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood as organizations. They claimed Ali advocates only targeting such groups’ identifiably “violent” members, and ignoring all other elements of their activities that may be subversive of U.S. interests.

These are recognizable as Obama-era policies — the “smart set” foreign policy strategies behind the Obama administration’s disastrous “Countering Violent Extremism” programs. This is the thinking that marched the Middle East to bloody catastrophe: a half-million dead in Syria.

Yet General McMaster appointed Ali as NSC Senior Director on Counter-Terrorism, and purged the NSC of voices supporting President Trump’s Mideast agenda. Then McMaster reportedly sat Ali in front of an Israeli delegation visiting the White House to share its concerns about Hezbollah.

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I have previously reported here at PJMedia of an extensive public relations push — coordinated by administration supporters of General McMaster — to encourage conservative outlets and think-tanks to reject claims that McMaster is antagonistic to Trump’s foreign policy and to the State of Israel in general. That push was remarkably successful: an online search for critical McMaster stories from the right will reveal such articles virtually halted in mid-August.

The broader questions of President Trump’s continued silence are more difficult to read. None of the sources contacted for this article believe the president has fundamentally shifted his thinking.

Trump likely understands he would not have defeated Hillary Clinton without stating “radical Islamic terrorism.” Yet sources could offer only speculation as to how Trump intends to win his Middle East agenda while saddled with a National Security Council subversive to those goals.