Archive for the ‘Trump agenda’ category

Trump signs VA reform bill, following through on campaign promise

June 23, 2017

Trump signs VA reform bill, following through on campaign promise, Fox NewsBarnini Chakraborty, June 23, 2017

President Trump on Friday signed a bill that would protect whistleblowers while making it easier to fire employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act passed by Congress this week streamlines the process to remove, demote, or suspend VA employees for poor performance or misconduct. In addition, it authorizes the VA secretary to recoup any bonuses awarded to employees who have acted improperly.

Under the new law, protections for whistleblowers will be expanded and the VA will be prevented from dismissing an employee who has an open complaint against the department.

The bill helped Trump follow through on a 2016 campaign promise.

The law marks the second time Congress has tried to change the disciplinary process at the VA. In 2014, the Choice Act was passed and tried to cut senior executives’ rights to appeal discipline to the Merit Systems Protection Board. However, a court ruled that it was unconstitutional and violated the Constitution’s appointments clause.

Ahead of the signing, Concerned Veterans for America, a conservative advocacy group, hailed the legislation as a positive step forward in a “new era of accountability, customer focus, and integrity at the department.”

Putin Wins Big

June 23, 2017

Putin Wins Big, Jewish Media Resources, Jonathan Rosenblum, June 23, 2017

(Putin is winning because the national focus is on non-events. Hence, our faith in the electoral system has been damaged and the ability of the Trump administration to focus on the agenda Trump was elected to pursue has been limited. The Congress, rather than focus on legislating, is preoccupied with investigations of non-events. That’s good for America’s enemies and bad for America. President Trump’s successes in focusing on his agenda despite the many distractions speak well of him. — DM)

Smith makes an insightful distinction between “consolations, vicious self-sung lullabies” and “conspiracy theories.” Examples of the former would be: Hillary lost because the Russians hacked the election; our children died because the Jews poisoned the wells.

But such “consolations,” as vicious as they may be, only become full-blown conspiracy theories when weaponized through the mass media for political use. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would be the classic example of such a conspiracy theory. And, Smith points out, Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” do not have the platforms “to proliferate weaponized narratives capable of doing real damage to our polity – the elites do.” And those elites — the press, the intelligence community, political parties – have been used to legitimize a conspiracy theory.

James Kirchik, another anti-Trump pundit (as well as a brilliant analyst on many issues) laments the way the “confirmation bias” has resulted in well-meaning, liberal anti-Trump journalists reporting stories that they want to be true and are emotionally true for them – e.g., stories of threatened or actual violence against minorities – but are factually false.

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It is certain that Russia launched a massive hacking campaign to undermine the U.S. electoral process in 2016. That is a major issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, and steps taken so that it does not recur.

Though the Russian involvement in the 2016 election targeted both presidential candidates at various times, it likely damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign more. Confirmation in the emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee that the DNC had actively favored Clinton over her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, infuriated Sanders supporters. Conceivably enough of those supporters could have decided not to vote for Clinton based on those emails to have made a difference in the three crucial battleground states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Thus far, however, the primary focus on the Russian hacking has been with respect to the far-fetched claim that the Russians colluded with the Trump campaign fashion in some fashion The obsessive focus on that issue has turned the hacking into a major victory for Vladimir Putin by introducing an unparalleled degree of rancor and paralysis into the American political system.

James Kirchik writing in the May 3 American Interest (“Who Killed the Liberal World Order”), describes how at last September’s G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, then President Obama confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Russian hacking of the DNC, and told him to “cut it out” or “face serious consequences.” In October, according to Bloomberg News, the White House used a cyber version of the “red phone” to convey to the Kremlin detailed evidence of Russian hacking of voter data banks in numerous states. On both occasions, Putin, who had long since taken Obama’s measure, did nothing in response.

WHATEVER THE REASON Putin decided to interfere with the 2016 election, it was not because he feared Obama or Obama’s legacy-bearer, former Secretary of State Clinton. Starting with Clinton’s declared “reset” of relations with Russia, shortly after the Obama administration entered office in 2009, until Obama issued his warning at Hangzhou, the United States had repeatedly stood down in every possible confrontation with Russia.

The 2009 reset itself took place in the wake of the assassinations by Russian intelligence agents of Alexander Livinenko in London, where the former Russian intelligence operative he had been granted political asylum, and of Russia’s leading investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russia was also busy hardening control of areas of Georgia occupied by Russian troops. As part of the reset, the Obama administration abandoned plans to provide Poland and Czechoslovakia with anti-missile defenses.

During the 2012 presidential debates, Obama mocked his Republican opponent Mitt Romney for listing Russia as the United States’ primary international foe. “The 80s called. They want their foreign policy back,” teased Obama. And even prior to the 2012 campaign, Obama told Putin’s sidekick Dmitry Medvedev that he’d be able to be “more flexible” after the campaign, and asked for a little breathing room from Russia.

All Obama’s shows of good will, however, went unreciprocated by Putin. In 2013, Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who had exposed the U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance methods. The same year Putin cracked down on foreign-funded NGO’s, and invaded the Ukraine. Obama refused to supply the Ukrainians with defensive weapons, as the United States had committed to do in the Budapest Memorandum, drafted when the former Soviet republics gave up their nuclear stockpiles.

In 2015, Soviet forces entered Syria in force to shore up the Assad regime, fairly daring the United States to challenge them. Previously, Putin had humiliated Obama by offering him a lifeline, when the latter refused to enforce his own redline against Assad’s deployment of chemical weapons.

PUTIN HAD reasons to prefer Trump to Clinton. He harbors a paranoid belief that Hillary orchestrated protests against him in 2011. And, writes Kirchik in the Los Angeles Times, he appreciated that Trump’s ignorant outbursts made “American politics – and by extension America – look like a foolish country.”

Putin may also have thought that Trump’s neo-Jacksonian, quasi-isolationist campaign talk would serve Russia’s interest in carving out a sphere of interest in its near abroad. But, as Kirchik notes in his American Interest piece, Obama’s “interconnected world,” without American power to back it up, had already resulted in a reduction of American influence and allowed Putin free rein in Russia’s near abroad.

The Russians were as shocked as everyone else, however, by Trump’s victory. Their goal was not so much to defeat Clinton, as to render it difficult for her (or Trump) to govern and to thereby “weaken the world’s last superpower,” writes Professor Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations Prague in Tablet. And their means for doing so was to reduce America’s democratic legitimacy by calling the election results into question and reducing the scope for compromise and consensus in the American political system.

Or as veteran Moscow correspondent David Satter argued in the June 12 Wall Street Journal, Putin did not so much support Donald Trump, as he sought American political paralysis. The differences between Trump and Clinton were simply not that significant in his view.

Putin’s method is to sow chaos, to light a hundred brushfires and see which ones turn into full-fledged forest fires. “Putin is not a chess player,” writes Galeotti. “He and his people are improvisers and opportunists. They try to create multiple potential points of leverage, never knowing which will prove useful or not.”

One of those prongs was the so-called “Trump dossier, compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele based on information “sold” to him by Russian intelligence officials. The document bears all the marks of a classic Russian disinformation campaign. “The kind of gossip that fills the Trump Dossier, writes Galeotti, is common currency in Moscow, “even if very little of it has any authority behind it aside from the speaker’s own imagination.”

One thing is almost certain: The Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians. Both Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees investigating Russia’s electoral involvement, respectively, have confirmed that they have seen nothing to implicate Trump or his aides in collusion with Russia.

The absence of collusion is, moreover, logically demonstrable. If there were collusion, the Russians would undoubtedly possess evidence of it. Since coming to office, the Trump administration has taken a much more aggressive anti-Russian stance than Obama ever did – targeting with cruise missiles an airfield and planes of Russian ally Bashir Assad and just this week shooting down a Syrian plane in a dogfight; allowing Montenegro’s entry into the NATO alliance; denying Exxon-Mobil a waiver for energy exploration in Russia; and sharply criticizing Russian support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. If Putin possessed incriminating evidence on Trump, he would have already revealed it in order to destroy President Trump. Elementary, my dear Watson.

DESPITE THE LACK OF ANY PLAUSIBLE EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION, Russian interference in the 2016 election has set in motion a “self-sustaining process,” in Galeotti’s words, in which “America is tearing itself apart with little need for Russian help.”

It is hard to know for sure whether those most actively promoting the Trump-Russian collusion narrative really believe it themselves or just see it as the best way of bringing down the president. About the latter they might be right. Already the anti-Trump forces have succeeded in gaining the appointment of a special prosecutor, and the scope of the special prosecutor’s investigation has expanded to legally flimsy charges of obstruction of justice against Trump. Once a special prosecutor is in the saddle there is no way of knowing where things will go. The longer the investigation continues the greater the chance of a prosecution for something entirely tangential to the original investigation.

Patrick Fitzgerald, for instance, was appointed special prosecutor to investigate the outing of CIA employee Valerie Flame. From the very outset of the investigation, he knew the source of that information; Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage was the one who told it to columnist Robert Novak. Armitage, however, was never prosecuted. But Fitzgerald carried on for years, until he claimed the scalp of Vice-President Richard Cheney’s top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on perjury charges, over statements given to investigators about which there were conflicting memories.

Putin has succeeded in driving a wedge between President and the intelligence agencies upon which he must rely for crucial decisions. Every week, a new leak emerges from some anonymous intelligence official – leaks which, if true, would subject the leaker to up to ten years in prison. Yet the source of these leaks has received little attention from the FBI or other investigative bodies.

Lee Smith bemoans in Tablet that the president’s very real flaws, which are “plain to every sentient being on the planet,” have been supplanted as a topic of discussion by a “toxic fabulism typical of Third World and Muslim societies.” “A vulgar conspiratorial mind-set [has become] the norm among the country’s educated elite . . . and is being legitimized daily by a truth-telling bureaucrats who make evidence-free and even deliberately false accusations behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Smith makes an insightful distinction between “consolations, vicious self-sung lullabies” and “conspiracy theories.” Examples of the former would be: Hillary lost because the Russians hacked the election; our children died because the Jews poisoned the wells.

But such “consolations,” as vicious as they may be, only become full-blown conspiracy theories when weaponized through the mass media for political use. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion would be the classic example of such a conspiracy theory. And, Smith points out, Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” do not have the platforms “to proliferate weaponized narratives capable of doing real damage to our polity – the elites do.” And those elites — the press, the intelligence community, political parties – have been used to legitimize a conspiracy theory.

James Kirchik, another anti-Trump pundit (as well as a brilliant analyst on many issues) laments the way the “confirmation bias” has resulted in well-meaning, liberal anti-Trump journalists reporting stories that they want to be true and are emotionally true for them – e.g., stories of threatened or actual violence against minorities – but are factually false.

He points to the non-stop anti-Trump vitriol from the Twitter feed of the New York Times assistant Washington D.C. editor, Jonathan Weissmann – anti-Trump vitriol that matches his own – as an example of the mainstream press having lost any claim to the public’s trust about the news stories it publishes.

In the short-run the beneficiary of the mainstream media’s reporting of baseless stories, such as that the Russians successfully hacked voting machines in key states, is Donald Trump. By refuting the wilder accusations, he can evade the more substantive ones and, at the same time, stoke the anger that brought him to the presidency in the first place.

But in the long-run, the current state of political toxicity, manifested last week in an assassination attempt against GOP congressman, and the loss of credibility of our major media organizations weakens America and its place in the world. And the big winner from that is Vladimir Putin.

On Mueller investigation, Trump should fight fire with fire

June 22, 2017

On Mueller investigation, Trump should fight fire with fire, American ThinkerKarin McQuillan, June 22, 2017

President Trump has the responsibility to re-establish the rule of law in our country, and he will have the enthusiastic backing of his base if he does so.  It is time to end Democrats’ politically motivated abuse of the law.  Stop the Mueller investigation, and go after Obama Inc.’s multiple crimes.

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John Eastman, law professor at Chapman University, writes in American Greatness this week that the powers invested in Special Counsel Mueller to investigate “Russian hacking/collusion/obstruction poses grave dangers to our body politic and our liberty.”  His advice to President Trump: Fight fire with fire.  Turn the law and the courts back on your opponents. Trump is being investigated without any probable cause of a crime.  The Obama administration, in contrast, is a target-rich arena of criminal activity.

It is unconstitutional to issue a search warrant when there has been no crime and there is no probable cause.  But that is exactly what President Trump’s DOJ has inflicted on the president and his team with Mueller’s special investigation.  It was not just cowardice, but folly for the DOJ to buckle to the left-wing media’s hysterical insistence to investigate our president’s alleged collusion with the FSB.  

According to Professor Eastman:

The special counsel will not to track down the details of a crime known to have been committed and determine “who dunnit,” but will scour the personal and business affairs of a select group of people – the President of the United States, members of his family, his business associates, and members of his presidential campaign and transition teams – to see if any crime can be found (or worse, manufactured by luring someone into making a conflicting statement at some point). This is not a proper use of prosecutorial power, but a “witch hunt,” as President Trump himself correctly observed. Or, to put it more in terms of legalese, this special prosecutor has effectively been given a “writ of assistance” and the power to exercise a “general warrant” against this select group of people, including the President of the United States, recently elected by a fairly wide margin of the electoral vote.

That is the very kind of thing our Fourth Amendment was adopted to prevent. Indeed, the issuance of general warrants and writs of assistance is quite arguably the spark that ignited America’s war for independence.

 Professor Eastman suggests fighting fire with fire, prosecution with prosecution.

Unfortunately, the only antidote may be to fight fire with fire. President Trump: Perhaps it is time to make good on that old pledge to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Clinton “matters” after all. And while you’re add it, add in referrals to the grand jury for the contempt of Congress committed by the IRS’s Lois Lerner and former Attorney General Eric Holder, an FBI investigation of the destruction of government documents and servers in the midst of the IRS scandal, an investigation into alleged perjury committed by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in testimony about those matters given under oath to Congress, an “obstruction of justice” investigation against former Attorney General Eric Holder and others (and related perjury charges against Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez) for allegedly ordering that an egregious voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party be dropped shortly before a default judgment was about to be entered in the government’s favor, etc., etc., etc.

President Obama and his leftist minions spat on our constitution  and flouted the rule of law for eight long years.  Google “Obama flouts constitution,” or see here and here and here and here and here.  Their abuse of power was ignored by the media and our partisan courts, but it has not been forgotten by conservatives.

President Trump’s voters would like to see equality before the law upheld once again in America.  It is bad for our country that rich and powerful Democrat politicians and bureaucrats harm our national security and ruin other people’s lives, in flagrant violation of the law, and are never held to account for their crimes.

Professor Eastman’s advice to fight fire with fire stops short.  Based on his own analysis, it is unconstitutional to do warrantless searches with no probable cause.  Ending the baseless “Russian collusion” witch hunt is fundamental to upholding our constitution.

Those who counseled President Trump to not prosecute Hillary Clinton said a Clinton investigation would distract the White House from furthering Trump’s positive agenda.  That was a strong argument – then.  But as Professor Eastman points out, it backfired.  Perhaps Trump’s civility was taken as a sign of weakness.  Hillary launched the lie that the Russians made her lose the election.  Democrats instigated this phony Russian collusion investigation of Trump, precisely in an effort to distract the White House and halt the Trump agenda.  The best defense is to return to offense.

President Trump has the responsibility to re-establish the rule of law in our country, and he will have the enthusiastic backing of his base if he does so.  It is time to end Democrats’ politically motivated abuse of the law.  Stop the Mueller investigation, and go after Obama Inc.’s multiple crimes.

H/T: Powerlineblog.com

 

Nearly 30% of illegal immigrant children at border have ties to MS-13 or other gangs

June 22, 2017

Nearly 30% of illegal immigrant children at border have ties to MS-13 or other gangs, Washington Times, Stephen Dinan, June 21, 2017

(Please see also, FBI: MS-13 Is Most Violent, Organized Gang in America.– DM)

The Health and Human Services department detains unaccompanied children caught crossing the border illegally and tries to place them with sponsors, but youths often end up with gangs. (Associated Press/File)

[T]he population of children has dropped dramatically under the Trump administration, as stiffer interior enforcement and tough talk from the president have discouraged children — and indeed all migrants — from attempting to cross the border.

That still leaves a large presence in the U.S., and MS-13 — with roots in El Salvador — is a growing threat. . . .

“We know who they are, we know they’re gang members, we know they’re criminals. But if the city, the county, doesn’t allow us to get into that jail then they’re released back into the community,” he said.

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Nearly 30 percent of the illegal immigrant children the U.S. is holding in its dormitories have ties to criminal gangs, the government revealed Wednesday, suggesting that the Obama-era surge of Central Americans has fed the country’s growing problem with MS-13 and other gangs.

Federal officials refused even to guess at the true scope of the problem, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that they can give only small snapshots of what they see. But they said the devastation on communities across the country is clear: killings and chaos, particularly among other immigrants — both legal and illegal.

The Border Patrol identified 160 teens who were known or suspected gang members when they first showed up at the border, but whom the Obama administration said it had to admit under U.S. law.

Meanwhile, a spot check this month of 138 teens being held by the federal Health and Human Services Department identified 39 with gang ties. Four of them were forced into cooperating with the gangs and 35 joined voluntarily, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“It is well-known that MS-13 actively targets and recruits children as young as 8 years old,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee who called Wednesday’s hearing.

“While their illegal status and Central American heritage are a key factor in MS-13’s targeting, without a doubt the failures of the current system for handling these children is also to blame,” he said. “The current system is fraught with abuse, systematic errors and a lack of effective cooperation.”

He was stunned that no agency could say how many “UAC,” as the government dubs unaccompanied alien children, have been recruited.

The agencies point to one another and to federal laws, saying their hands are tied.

UACs are usually arrested by the Border Patrol, which is required to turn them over to the social workers at HHS within 72 hours, ending the Border Patrol’s involvement. HHS says that under the law it must try to place the children with sponsors. Other than limited circumstances, the department says, its involvement ends soon after it sends the children off.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t get involved until a UAC is ordered deported.

That usually leaves the children with no federal supervisions once they are released to sponsors — where they are often prime recruiting targets.

Scott Lloyd, director of the HHS office that handles UAC, said his team is looking to increase monitoring of the minors and is reviewing Obama administration interpretations of policy.

He also said the population of children has dropped dramatically under the Trump administration, as stiffer interior enforcement and tough talk from the president have discouraged children — and indeed all migrants — from attempting to cross the border.

That still leaves a large presence in the U.S., and MS-13 — with roots in El Salvador — is a growing threat, authorities said.

Officials said MS-13 is involved in some drug dealing and does engage in human trafficking, but its real money-making operation is extortion. The gang threatens families — including American citizens — with violence against relatives back in Central America unless those in the U.S. pay them off.

Gang members in the U.S. take directions directly from gang commanders in El Salvador, authorities say.

Kenneth A. Blanco, acting assistant attorney general in the criminal division at the Justice Department, also said immigrants who fail to report crimes to local police are often not afraid of being deported by federal authorities, but rather fear retaliation from the gang members and other criminals who live in their neighborhoods.

He said witnesses’ names become public, making them targets for retribution.

“That really, in my 28 years, has been the fear they have of calling the police. Not so much the other way around,” he said. “They’re really scared of these people.”

That runs counter to the argument made by Democrats and some local police chiefs that illegal immigrants refuse to report crimes because they fear entanglement with federal deportation agents.

Democrats pointed to calculations by some police agencies that crime reporting among Hispanics has dropped dramatically in the months since President Trump took office.

The Democrats say that is one justification for sanctuary city policies — though Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, offered another one Wednesday. He said Chicago, which in 2011 pioneered blanket sanctuary policies, doesn’t want to protect illegal immigrants but is too poor to assist federal agents.

“Come on, Uncle Sam, where’s the money?” Mr. Durbin said.

He said Chicago and Cook County are eager to keep serious criminals and other gang members out of their communities but added that it’s up to the federal government to fund the training he said local authorities need.

“Please help us. Send us some resources,” he said.

Federal officials, though, said they are not looking for locals to do the job, but rather to allow federal officers into their facilities and to share information about releases.

“We’re asking for their cooperation,” said Matthew Albence, executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Albence singled out the Chicago area as one of the most prominent sanctuaries. “Chicago is a large one. We haven’t been able to get into the Cook County Jail for a long time,” he said.

He also named New York City and San Francisco as top sanctuary cities.

The conversation sprang from questioning by Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, who asked about MS-13 and other gang members who are nabbed by local authorities in sanctuary cities.

“These are evil people. It’s pretty hard to miss them. There are tattoos all over their body,” Mr. Kennedy said. “If they’re arrested and they’re in a local jail, there are some cities in the United States that would prevent you from coming in and talking to them?”

“Correct,” Mr. Albence replied.

“We know who they are, we know they’re gang members, we know they’re criminals. But if the city, the county, doesn’t allow us to get into that jail then they’re released back into the community,” he said.

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

June 22, 2017

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 22, 2017

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

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The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.

What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.

What Is the Right U.S. Policy on Iran?

June 21, 2017

What Is the Right U.S. Policy on Iran? Clarion ProjectShahriar Kia, June 21, 2017

Iranian women protest election irregularities in 2009 (Photo: Getty Images)

Tillerson added. “As you know, we have designated the Quds [Force]. Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.”

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United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to a variety of very serious questions raised by House of Representatives members in a recent hearing focusing on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. Representative Ted Poe (R) from Texas touched on what many believe is the ultimate issue when he said:

“I’d like to know what the policy is of the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state. So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful, long-term regime change?”

America’s top diplomat, taking into consideration how the Trump administration’s all-out Iran policy remains an issue of evaluation, answered:

“… our Iranian policy is under development.

“We continually review the merits both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also international consequences of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organization.” 

Tillerson added. “As you know, we have designated the Quds [Force]. Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.”

Iran is terrified of such a stance and responded immediately. In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed that 75 percent of Iran’s population voted in the recent election farce back in May.

Iran’s wrath was not limited to this very issue. Following the twin ISIS attacks targeting Iran’s parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran, senior regime officials sought to portray their apparatus as a victim of terrorism.

Failing to do so, Iranian regime officials accused the US, Saudi Arabia and the main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), of this terrorist plot. A few days ago, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at the US and accused Washington of bringing ISIS to life.

“Who created ISIS? Was it anyone but the U.S.? … The U.S. claim that they have established a coalition against ISIS is a lie; of course, the U.S. is against an ‘unrestrained ISIS,’ however, if anyone truly seeks to eradicate ISIS, they will have to fight against it,” he said.

Now the question is, what is Iran so concerned about and what is the right policy vis-à-vis Iran?

With Obama leaving the White House, Iran forever lost a major international backer. For eight years, the “golden era” as Iran dubbed the Obama years, any and all activities by the Iranian people and their organized opposition for change in Iran was countered by the domestic crackdowns and international hurdles, specifically by the U.S.

Obama’s neglect of Tehran’s crimes in Syria and Iraq led to the disasters we are witnessing today. Internationally, a major overhaul of U.S. policy in the region and establishing a significant Arab-American alliance in the face of Iran’s meddling has become a major concern for the mullahs.

In addition, increasing popular dissent and widespread activities by the PMOI/MEK in the past few months have also raised major concerns for the regime.

Khamenei personally intervened last week, first acknowledging the 1988 massacre, defending the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and those involved in the murder of over 30,000 political prisoners. Most of the victims, all executed in mass groups, were PMOI/MEK members and supporters.

Khamenei’s second concern and that of his entire apparatus is focused on the upcoming Iranian opposition’s annual convention in Paris scheduled for July 1 this year. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main entity representing the Iranian opposition, hosts more than 100,000 Iranians from across the globe each year alongside hundreds of prominent dignitaries delivering their support and speeches seeking true change in Iran.

Last year alone, a very prominent delegation of American dignitaries from both sides of the political aisle included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton from the Republicans, former Democratic National Committee chairman Gov. Howard Dean, former U.S. ambassador to the UN Gov. Bill Richardson took part.

This year’s Iranian opposition rally is already brewing major concerns for Tehran as the regime understands the end of the era of appeasement has led to sweeping changes in Western policy regarding the Middle East, and most importantly Iran.

This is exactly why Tehran is going the limits to prevent the shifting of policy towards the Iranian people. Tehran’s lobbies in the U.S. and Europe are placing a comprehensive effort to demonize the images of the PMOI/MEK and the NCRI to prevent any such changes, especially in Washington.

If Iran resorts to ridiculous remarks of accusing the U.S. and Iranian opposition of staging the recent double attacks in Tehran, the correct policy is none other than supporting the Iranian people and their resistance to realize regime change in Tehran.

Donald Trump Meets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko After Sanctioning Russian-Backed Separatists

June 21, 2017

Donald Trump Meets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko After Sanctioning Russian-Backed Separatists, BreitbartCharlie Spiering, June 20, 2017

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President Donald Trump met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday as his administration imposed sanctions on Russian-backed separatists in the country.

Trump said the two had “very, very good discussions,” calling Ukraine “a place that we’ve all been very much involved in.”

Behind the scenes, the White House revealed that Trump and Poroshenko discussed support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions on two Russian officials and several separatists in Eastern Ukraine to support the Ukrainian amidst ongoing Russian-backed conflicts in the region.

“This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements,” Mnuchin said Tuesday.

Poroshenko said it was a “great pleasure” to meet with Trump to discuss issues important to Ukraine and called the president a “supporter and strategic partner” of the country.

“We’re really fighting for freedom and democracy,” he said.