Posted tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

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.

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“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….

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?

February 15, 2017

Is This The Coup the Left Wanted?, The Resurgent, February 15, 2017

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There is no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian intelligence cooperated to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. But the New York Times waits for the third paragraph of this sensational story to tell you. First, they want you to know intelligence sources say Trump campaign staffers had multiple, repeated contacts with the Russians.

What we are seeing is an intelligence community trying to sabotage the President of the United States. We should all be concerned even if we have our own concerns about the President and Russia.

It is more and more apparent that, while Mike Flynn misled Vice President Pence and should have been fired, we only know this because members of the intelligence community engaged in an opposition research dump on Flynn with the media. They engaged as a separate and distinct branch of government, and that is a dangerous situation.

The left is cheering on the outcomes, as are some on the right, but they are all ignoring the process. When the intelligence community ceases to serve the Commander-in-Chief and instead tries to sabotage him because they do not like the direction he is taking the country, they are putting their interests ahead of the voters and the electoral process.

The same problem exists with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and its decision on the immigration order. In large part, the court based its decision on Donald Trump’s campaign statements that he wanted a Muslim ban. At first blush, that may seem legit to people but consider Barack Obama and Obamacare.

Chief Justice John Roberts upheld Obamacare’s constitutionality because he said it fell under the taxation powers of the constitution. But Barack Obama had campaigned on Obamacare saying that it was not a tax. Had the Supreme Court used President Obama’s campaign statements against him, they would have thrown out Obamacare.

While one may cheer on the outcome from the Ninth Circuit, they should not cheer the process and flawed legal reasoning.

Both the intelligence and court situation raise troubling issues. By cheering outcomes based on deeply problematic processes, people are rapidly moving towards “ends justify the means” reasoning. That will bring about the very creeping authoritarianism the left fears from Donald Trump.

They cheer this on now because it is working to their advantage as rogue leakers try to undermine a President they do not like. But it will eventually happen to them. By then they will have surrendered any and all moral high ground to cry foul.

The intelligence community serves at the pleasure of the President, not the other way around. The President must be able to depend on the intelligence community’s assessments. Right now, the intelligence community is causing a breakdown in trust with the Trump Administration through leaks designed to undermine his authority.

If a terrorist attack on our soil happens because the President felt he could no longer trust the intelligence community’s assessments, that will be on them. This behavior, in a democratic republic, must be considered unacceptable.

It is possible to be happy Mike Flynn is gone and also be deeply bothered by the means through the intelligence community designed his ouster. People on all sides should be speaking up loudly that the behavior of the intelligence community in damaging leaks is unacceptable.

Finally, we know that Mike Flynn intended to reform the intelligence community and expose side deals made with Iran to secure a diplomatic agreement. President Trump should commit to replacing Mike Flynn with someone as hell-bent on reform and exposure of the Iran deal as Mike Flynn was. The intelligence community cannot be rewarded for bad behavior that undermines the democratic processes of this nation, even if some of us are happy Mike Flynn is gone.

What Hath Barack Wrought?

January 8, 2017

What Hath Barack Wrought? PJ Media, Michael Walsh, January 7, 2017

obama-salman-saudi-sized-770x415xtObama and Saudi “king” Salman (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst – RTS77JX

Over at the Weekly Standard, my friend Lee Smith — one of the shrewdest voices in American journalism on the subject of the Middle East and foreign policy — takes the measure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It ain’t pretty:

The Obama chapter in American foreign policy ends like the climax of an action movie—with a fireball growing in the distance and filling the screen as a man in silhouette approaches in slow motion and then veers off camera. Barack Obama has set the Middle East on fire, and now it’s spreading.

The Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran has emboldened the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, which now makes war openly in four Arab states (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen) and is a growing threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deal with Tehran that Obama boasts of as his signature foreign policy initiative guarantees, as the president himself acknowledged, that Iran will have an industrial-scale nuclear weapons program within 15 years.

After a 40-year absence from the Middle East, Russia has returned to the region, where it bombs Syria’s schools and hospitals as America and Europe watch helplessly. Washington’s traditional regional allies are scrambling to adjust to the new reality, which for the likes of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey means an opportunistic power on their borders that is allied with their existential enemies.

For Europe, the millions seeking refuge from the conflagration are agents of potential instability on the continent in the years to come; some in their midst are terrorists plain and simple. In just four years, or one presidential term, a civil uprising that started in Syria became a great Middle Eastern war over a host of sectarian, religious, and political hostilities dating back centuries.

Naturally, the country’s first affirmative action president doesn’t see it that way; no doubt, by his lights, he’s still every bit the equal of FDR and Abraham Lincoln he’s always thought himself to be. For a chief executive like Barack Hussein Obama, coddled practically from birth by a series of handlers, sycophants, media worshipers, excuse-makers and hagiographers, being an utter failure means never having to say you’re sorry.  The half-black president with the Muslim name was supposed to at least bring some cultural empathy to the thorny, if not to say intractable, problems of the Middle East — not just the eternal Arab-Israeli conflict but the even more eternal Muslim-Muslim conflict, not to mention the collateral damage of the one-sided Muslim-Christian conflict. That he hasn’t solved any of it is not his fault, but that he has exacerbated it most surely is.

Critics and even admirers of the president say that Syria will be a stain on his record. But that’s not how Obama sees it. The death and suffering of so many undoubtedly pains him, as he says. He says he wonders if he could have done anything else. Of course he could have, but he believed he had better reasons not to….

Obama’s foreign policy issued in part from his understanding of global realities but more from his interpretation of the American character. He believed that Americans tend to make a mess of things around the world. Obama is like a narrator in a Graham Greene novel; in our relations with the rest of humanity, as he sees it, we are 300 million naïfs abroad, whose intentions may be good but who lack the tragic sense that the rest of the world feels in its bones.

So who’s the naif now? Obama was less a Graham Green figure than Mark Twain’s Innocent Abroad. The way Smith sees it, Obama’s entire rationale was to wean America from what he saw as its shoot-first second nature; his entire foreign-policy apparatus became Dickens’ Circumlocution Office from Little Dorrit, dedicated to the proposition of How Not to Do It:

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving — HOW NOT TO DO IT.

And that’s the Obama foreign policy in a nutshell. Of course in domestic affairs, the Choom Ganger from Punahou has been the exact opposite, baldly lying about such sub-rosa proclivities as same-sex marriage and hairy transvestites in the ladies’ loo until he was well past his final election. In both areas, however, he’s been a disgrace to the office and to the country, and we will be well rid of him when he finally leaves on Jan. 20.

Obama’s foreign policy, in the end, was not primarily about the rest of the world—it was about transforming the character of America. So where are we eight years on? Gelded, as he intended.

And, to coin a phrase, that’s one of the many reasons we now have Donald Trump. America never has been and never will be a neutered metrosexual among nations. As the Obama-ites are about to find out.

Facing North Korea and Iran, Trump Must Strengthen Nuclear Deterrence

January 3, 2017

Facing North Korea and Iran, Trump Must Strengthen Nuclear Deterrence, National Review, Tom Rogan, January 3, 2017

Ultimately, the nuclear issue is just one challenge the incoming Trump administration faces in foreign policy. The U.S. needs a new strategy of realist resolution. After years of Obama’s fraying credibility with allies and foes alike, the United States must resume leading. Kim Jong-un and Iranian supreme leader Khamenei are arrogant. If given an inch, they will walk the nuclear mile. And history tells us that great power and totalitarian zealots rarely blend positively.

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How President Trump should strengthen America’s ICBM-deterrence posture. Like Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un holds absolute power. And Kim, the same as his father and grandfather, wants to forcibly unify the Korean peninsula under a xenophobic ideology of self-sufficiency.

Since the end of the Korean War, the Kims’ wacky “Juche” ideology has sparked Western laughter as much as fear. We have rightly assumed the Kims are deterred by their understanding that a conventional-arms conflict with America would destroy them. While the U.S. has had to occasionally reinforce this conventional deterrence, it has been sustained for 60 years.

Over the weekend, Kim Jong-un announced that the North’s development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is advancing rapidly. Unless America appeases him, Kim warned, he will build a “preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force.” Recently successful rocket tests suggest we should take Kim at his word.

Still, it’s not just North Korea the West should be concerned about here.

Today, alongside other malevolent activities, the Islamic Revolutionary Republic’s ballistic-missile research is advancing unabated. In his wisdom, President Obama decided to exclude a ban on such research from his legacy Iran deal. He lacked the threat-of-force credibility to compel the Iranians to cease their missile development. Unfortunately, when Iran perfects ballistic-missile technology, it will break the nuclear deal. By then, sanctions relief will have made Iran tens of billions of dollars richer.

Collectively, these developments threaten not just the stability of international peace, but the civilian population of the United States. They demand a robust response in U.S. nuclear-deterrent posture. President Trump should deliver it.

First, Trump should reform the Iran nuclear deal to include prohibitions on Iranian ballistic-missile development. This is the realist compromise between scrapping the nuclear deal entirely and attempting to make it work better.

Second, Trump should enforce a new, proactive strategy to deal with North Korea’s increasingly advanced ICBM program. Whereas, in the past, the U.S. has simply monitored North Korean missile tests, stronger action is now required. North Korean ICBMs demand it. After all, the base-minimum range of an ICBM is 3,400 miles. But seeing as 1960s-era Soviet and U.S. ICBMs easily exceeded 6,200-mile ranges, we must assume North Korean ICBMs will exceed the minimum range. And with just 125 miles more than the minimum, North Korea could strike Darwin, Australia. An extra 270 miles would put Anchorage, Alaska, in range. Hawaii, a little over 4,300 miles from North Korea, would also be vulnerable.

Countering this threat, Trump should supplement the U.S military’s multi-phase missile-defense programs. He should publicly announce that if the North tests an ICBM, he will establish three North Korea focused missile-test defense sectors. Trump should be clear that any North Korean ICBM that enters or passes these sectors will be shot down. U.S. military planners would, of course, fine-tune such proposals, but here’s one example of what the defense zones might look like.

Trump could establish a northern sector — focused on protecting Alaska — off the Japanese coast in the Sea of Okhotsk. Second, a western sector — focused on protecting Hawaii and the U.S. west coast — could be set up approximately 1,000 miles west of Midway Island, at the southern tip of the Emperor seamounts. Third, a southern sector — to protect Australia — could be established south of Palau Island between Papua and Papua New Guinea. These sectors should be maintained by U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers (and hopefully allied assets), equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system.

Next, Trump should clarify his willingness, where facing imminent nuclear attack, to use nuclear weapons in a “first strike” role. That demand is urgent because President Obama has equivocated on this fundamental precept of U.S. nuclear-deterrent posture. Namely, the understanding that U.S. nuclear weapons serve both deterrence (preventing an attack) and capability (destroying an enemy). A retained first-strike capability is necessary to prevent the loss of millions — or tens of millions . . . or hundreds of millions — of American lives in a nuclear showdown. Yes, ideally, the U.S. would be able to use conventional non-nuclear capabilities to achieve that objective. But idealism is a dangerous master. For one, U.S. military pilots might not be able to penetrate enemy air defenses in time to prevent a ballistic-missile attack. Similarly, conventional bunker-busting bombs might not destroy enemy nuclear platforms.

Fourth, Trump should aggressively confront illicit ICBM research-and-development networks. Specifically, Trump should push Pakistan, Russia, and the former Soviet states to take action against smugglers in their nations. In the case of Pakistan and the former Soviet states, such action should be tied to U.S. aid payments. A philosophical evolution of U.S. tactics is equally important here. Put simply, instead of treating nuclear smuggling as a law-enforcement matter, the U.S. must be prepared to coerce or kill those who support the illicit nuclear industry. Fear is always the best guarantor against a nuclear holocaust.

Ultimately, the nuclear issue is just one challenge the incoming Trump administration faces in foreign policy. The U.S. needs a new strategy of realist resolution. After years of Obama’s fraying credibility with allies and foes alike, the United States must resume leading. Kim Jong-un and Iranian supreme leader Khamenei are arrogant. If given an inch, they will walk the nuclear mile. And history tells us that great power and totalitarian zealots rarely blend positively.

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base

December 12, 2016

ISIS seizes big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2016

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Islamic State forces pushed their assault forward to retake the central Syrian town of Palmyra Monday, Dec. 12. By evening, they had entered the big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base outside the town, carrying off substantial quantities of Russian armaments. Reporting this, DEBKAfile’s military sources add that the booty they snatched included different types of ground-to-ground missiles as well as anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

Russian forces manning the base were hurriedly evacuated from Palmyra and the T-4 base, after the worst defeat Russian armed forces had ever experienced at ISIS hands in Syria. Military circles in Moscow commented grimly that the Russian army had suffered “a major disgrace” in Palmyra.

According to our sources, long convoys of ISIS fighters backed by tanks taken booty from the Syrian army, first forced the Syrian 11th Tank Division to abandon the strategic Jhar Crossroad. After that, the way was clear for the jihadis’ column to reach the T-4 base.

DEBKAfile reported on the ISIS terrorists’ fresh momentum Sunday.

Judging from the rash of reports claiming US-Iraqi military progress in the Mosul offensive against ISIS and the extra American special operations forces personnel posted to Syria for an impending US-Kurdish operation to capture the ISIS Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the Islamic State ought to be cowering under siege, finally defeated – or at least on the run.

But the facts tell another story. ISIS is on the offensive – so far in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Islamist terrorists accounted for dozens of deaths and injured hundreds more.

Sunday, Dec. 11, at least 25 people worshipping at the Coptic St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s church adjacent to St, Mark’s cathedral in Cairo were killed and scores injured. The Coptic pope often leads the prayers there. DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources reveal that the attack was carried out by Islamist terrorists from Raqqa who bided their time until they struck in the Egyptian capital. Saturday, six Egyptian troops were killed by another Islamist bomb near the Giza pyramids.

On the same day, ISIS fighters pushed back into the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, nine months after their expulsion.

The Raqqa terrorist stronghold is clearly alive and kicking on more than one front. A number of contributing factors enable the Islamic State to unleash a fresh spate of terror.

1. The US-Iraqi-Kurdish drive has stalled without driving ISIS out of Mosul or choking off the terrorist fighters’ freedom to move between Mosul and Raqqa, their Syrian bastion.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who arrived in Baghdad Sunday, Dec. 11, was assigned by the Obama administration to make a last effort to reactivate the Mosul campaign. His chances of success are slim. The military coalition which launched the campaign two months ago has lost a vital component, the Kurdish Peshmerga, which backed out three weeks ago. The Iraqi military units which captured some of the city’s outskirts stopped short when they reached the strongest defense lines set up by the Islamic State and have been unable to break through, even with US air support.

The pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite front which undertook to seize Tal Afar in order to sever the ISIS connecting link between Iraq and Syria are parked outside, having been warned by Turkey not to set foot in the town.

Added to these setbacks, the US CENTCOM which is running the aerial war in Iraq is at loggerheads with the Iraqi Air Force command and has practically grounded all Iraqi warplanes.

Even if Carter can wave a magic wand and resolve all these issues, the momentum and high hopes that actuated the Mosul campaign when it started have been lost and can hardly be recovered before Barack Obama leaves the White House.

At least two of the incoming president Donald Trump’s designated security advisers – Defense Secretary Gen, James Mattis and National security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn – have criticized the operation in is current form.

2. What is happening in Raqqa doesn’t fit the designation of an offensive. At most, small Kurdish and Syrian rebel groups are mounting sporadic raids against ISIS fighters on the town’s outskirts, with the support of the Obama administration. Our military experts say that Raqqa can’t be captured from the Islamist terrorists by conventional means – mainly because it is spread over a large area of mostly empty desert. ISIS has taken advantage of this terrain to distribute knots of defenders across a vast area ranging hundreds of kilometers from northern to eastern Syria up to the winding, heavily overgrown banks of the Euphrates River.

So when Ash Carter announced Saturday that he would be sending another 200 Special Operations Forces into Syria to join the battle for Raqqa, he had no idea that he, the Russians and the Syrians were about to be caught off guard by a fresh ISIS initiative to reoccupy Palmyra, the ancient Syrian two from which they are thrown out in March.

This was a poke in the eye for Russian President Vladimir Putin who proclaimed Palmyra’s capture from ISIS as a signal coup for the Russian army in its war on Islamist terror.

3.  He might well commiserate with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi. For two years, the Egyptian armed forces have been fighting an uphill battle to crush the ISIS groups infesting the Sinai Peninsula. The jihadists constantly elude punishment with the help of supportive Bedouin tribes.

Every few months, they pose a real threat to the stability of the El-Sisi regime by striking inside Cairo, the capital, with some terrorist atrocity, for which they are aided by the Muslim Brotherhood underground and Palestinian Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip.

The bombing of the Coptic church Saturday was unusually the work of jihadists deployed from Raqqa, Syria.  Egypt has reacted by placing extra guards at Christian sites and declaring three days of national morning for the disastrous bombing attack on Egypt’s largest minority.

The new Islamist drive is looking ominously like the onset of the Christmas-New Year holiday terror onslaught the Islamic State has threatened to unleash in the Middle East and beyond. US and European security services have been placed on high alert in the belief that returning jihadis are programmed to strike at home.

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings

December 12, 2016

Trump Says He’s ‘A Smart Person,’ Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefings, PJ MediaWalter Hudson, December 11, 2012

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President-elect Donald Trump continues to defy convention and ruffle institutional feathers. In a wide-ranging interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump indicated he will delegate daily intelligence briefings to subordinates. From the Daily Mail:

“I get it when I need it,” [Trump] said on Fox News of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he’s leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a “change” big enough to notify him.

“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump said.

Read in excerpt like that, Trump’s remarks may come across as arrogant. He presumes that he will be in office for two terms, touts his own intellect, and downplays the importance of a critical presidential role.

However, when viewed in context [below], Trump’s position proves much less provocative. His “smart person” comment comes off less as a reference to some exclusive ability, and more like the standard capacity most of us have to remember something when first told. He could have just as easily said, “I’m not an idiot. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words.”

Trump went on to note that his generals and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will receive routine daily briefings, presumably including the redundancies he seeks to avoid. This is consistent with his articulated tendency to delegate tasks to “the best people.”

Trump also addressed bipartisan concerns regarding Russia’s influence in the election.

“It’s ridiculous,” Trump said of the CIA’s assessment [that that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election].

[…]

Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, shrugged off allegations that Russia helped Trump win.

He said: “The Russians didn’t tell Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan.”

The Democratic candidate was expected to win in these two states but they went to Trump instead.

“She lost the election because her ideas were bad. She didn’t fit the electorate. She ignored states that she shouldn’t have and Donald Trump was the change agent,” Priebus said on ABC’s ‘This Week’.

Priebus may be overstating the case when he says the election results “had nothing to do with the Russians.” But those claiming Russia’s influence was decisive likewise overstate their case.

It remains unclear what actionable conclusions could emerge from investigations into suspected Russian hacking. Indeed, given the likely role Hillary Clinton’s private email server played in any such hacking, Democrats might be wise to let the issue go.