Posted tagged ‘Trump and Assad’

Trump in Israel

May 23, 2017

Trump in Israel, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, May 23, 2017

Every act of Islamic terror educates us. It is a difficult and bloody education. We graduate when we realize who our enemies are and how impossible it is to achieve any peace with them.

President Trump’s walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre required thousands of police officers, closed stores and houses filled with snipers while their residents were evacuated. 

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

It’s not only presidents who have to live this way. It’s all of us in Jerusalem and Paris, in Manchester and in Rome where there are soldiers in the street and cries of “Allah Akbar” in the air. And then a car speeds up, a knife slashes, a plane crashes or a bomb goes off. 

And the education continues.

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When President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu met on the tarmac, they and their spouses chatted easily. The two conservative leaders have much in common. They are political insurgents who draw their support from a rougher working class overlooked and despised by leftist elites.

The polls said that Netanyahu and Trump would lose their respective elections. Instead they won big. They prevailed despite accusations of bigotry, attacks by celebrities and a torrent of fake media scandals. The media decided that the big story of Trump’s arrival in Israel would be their claim that Melania Trump had swatted her husband’s hand away. A few months ago, Netanyahu was in court testifying against a lefty journalist for spreading fake news that his wife had kicked him out of the car.

Like so much of the fake media news aimed at Trump, it was sourced from an anonymous source through another anonymous source who knew someone’s dog.

And, sure enough, Sara Netanyahu and Melania Trump bonded on the tarmac over the media’s hatred.

Trump and Netanyahu are political pragmatists with a strong economic focus who run to the right. Trump is a developer. Netanyahu has a degree in architecture. Trump has a Queens accent and Netanyahu still has his Philly accent.  And they prevail despite the opposition of leftist elites.

Subtract the geography and this news story from Netanyahu’s victory would sound familiar to Trump. “Leftist, secular Tel Aviv went to sleep last night cautiously optimistic only to wake up this morning in a state of utter and absolute devastation.”

But there is one difference between the two men.

An hour before President Trump landed in Israel, a car struck people in Tel Aviv. Usually when a car hits people, it’s an accident. But in Israeli and in European cities, car ramming has become a terrorist tactic.

And so the incident was one of the first things that Trump heard about when he landed.

Police decided that it was an accident, but as the presidential visit got underway, there was the usual litany of violence; stonings, a fatality and a stabbing. And the question that so many of us now ponder across the civilized world rose unspoken each time blood was shed. Was it Islamic terrorism?

The efforts of conservative Israeli prime ministers to contain the fallout of a disastrous peace process with terrorists set into motion by leftist prime ministers have reduced the violence so that it no longer touches the lives of most Israelis on a regular basis. But it is always there. And it never truly goes away.

That is what must be understood when we talk about “peace”.

No amount of outreach to Muslim terrorists ends the violence. Not in Europe or America. And not in Israel; the country that has become the test case for whether Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist.

President Trump’s itinerary of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome is a gamble that “the three Abrahamic Faiths” will join in a coalition to take on Iran and ISIS. It’s a better plan than Bush’s push for regional democracy or Obama’s violently destructive backing for Islamist political takeovers in the Arab Spring. A common enemy is more likely to get different groups behind the same cause. But having a common enemy should not be confused with having peace. At best it means a very temporary truce.

Netanyahu understands this because he has far more experience with Islamic terrorism. When it comes to Islamic terrorism, there are few countries that have faced it as consistently and constantly as Israel.

Muslim terrorists have struck America before. But only in the last decade were the Islamic colonies in the United States large enough and young enough to mount a constant drumbeat of attack plots.

Thousands of terrorism investigations are still new to America. They’re a way of life in Israel.

Terrorism is a bloody education. Trump knows far more about Islamic terrorism than Bush did. And Bush knew far more than his father. Most Americans still can’t conceive of the idea that peace is impossible. It’s too grim and hopeless. We’ve come a long way since the Obama years. But we aren’t there yet.

In the spring of his first year, Obama traveled to the Middle East to seek a “new beginning” with the Muslim world. He stopped off first in Saudi Arabia, but saved his speech calling for political change until his arrival in Egypt. Trump delivered his key speech in Saudi Arabia disavowing calls for political change. Instead America’s relationship with the Muslim world would be defined by its national security needs.

Obama blamed colonialism for the poor relations between the West and the Muslim world. His solution was to dismantle Western power. Trump defined Islamic terrorism as the problem and unity against it as the solution. Obama had bypassed Israel and traveled on to Germany making a heavily publicized visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Trump continued on to Israel instead.

The difference was profound.

Obama was more comfortable engaging with Jews as victims and, in a typically egotistical manner, envisioning what the victims of the Holocaust might have made of his visit. “They could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them.” His Cairo speech reduced Israel to a byproduct of the Holocaust. If so, Israel’s capital might as well be in Buchenwald.

Trump however is ready to interact with the living Jewish present in Israel. His trip to the Western Wall, the first by a sitting president, and a cancelled visit to Masada, sought to engage with Israel’s national and religious identity. They signify a recognition that Obama never offered to Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, President Trump rolled out a vision of relationships based on national interest. And no such relationship can be built without recognizing national identity. Trump’s recognition of Israel’s national identity adds a note of respect. But Israel is one of the few nations in the region.

Nations can make peace. They can put aside their bloody past and at least learn to ignore each other. And in the West, religion has come to act as a moral operating system within the infrastructure of nations. Religion provides guidelines that transcend the law. The legal system can only tell us what we must do or may not do to each other. Religion tells us what we ought to do or not do to each other. It is a personal conscience and a relationship to a higher authority than mere government.

Saudi Arabia isn’t a nation. Neither is “Palestine”. They’re powerful extended families whose form of worship is terrorism. Islamic terrorism isn’t a perversion of Islam. It’s the implementation of Islam.

Islam provides the morale and motive for the conquest. And once the conquest is complete, it provides the framework for the kingdom. Islam’s message is the inferiority of Muslims to non-Muslims. War affirms the message. Oppression internalizes it. Islam is meaningful only when it is killing and oppressing infidels. It is not a religion of the persecuted, but the persecutors. Its theology is violent supremacism.

President Trump deserves credit for refusing to let the Saudis pretend that some Islamic terror groups are more legitimate than others by classing together ISIS with Hamas. But the only Islamic terrorism that the Saudis will reject is that which does not serve their interests. And even if they wanted to, they could no more end popular support for Islamic terrorism than Iraq could become a multicultural utopia through the magic of democracy.

Nor can Israel make peace with Islamic terrorists no matter how many more concessions Prime Minister Netanyahu offers them. President Trump calls it a tough deal. But you can only make a deal with someone who follows some of the same rules you do. You can’t make a deal with Islamic terrorists whose only rules are that the Koran lets them [say] anything they want to you.

President Trump called Islamic terrorism evil. And it is. But it’s not just evil. Its codes and ethics are utterly incompatible with our own. The only way to negotiate is through threats. And even threats only go so far with fanatics who believe that if they die, they will earn 72 virgins in paradise.

Islamic entities will tell any lie and commit any crime to accelerate their objective of conquering us. Whether they tell a lie or commit a crime depends on whether they’re moderates or extremists.

Yesterday, I heard Geert Wilders speak. And I recognized a leader who understands this grim reality. Few of his fellow Europeans do. Even fewer American politicians share that understanding. Europe is facing a deeper threat than America. And Israel has been confronting a bigger threat than Europe.

Every act of Islamic terror educates us. It is a difficult and bloody education. We graduate when we realize who our enemies are and how impossible it is to achieve any peace with them.

President Trump’s walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre required thousands of police officers, closed stores and houses filled with snipers while their residents were evacuated.

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

It’s not only presidents who have to live this way. It’s all of us in Jerusalem and Paris, in Manchester and in Rome where there are soldiers in the street and cries of “Allah Akbar” in the air. And then a car speeds up, a knife slashes, a plane crashes or a bomb goes off.

And the education continues.

Palestinians: Tomorrow’s Secret ‘Day of Rage’

May 21, 2017

Palestinians: Tomorrow’s Secret ‘Day of Rage’, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, May 21, 2017

(Perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu will arrange for a bit of sightseeing or at least whisper in President Trump’s ear and provide some videos. — DM)

What is really driving this Palestinian hatred of Trump and the U.S.? The Palestinians and the Arabs have long been at war with what they regard as U.S. bias in favor of Israel. What they mean is that U.S. support for Israel stands in their way of destroying Israel.

Abbas is not going to tell Trump about the “Day of Rage” because it flies in the face of his repeated claim that Palestinians are ready for peace and are even raising their children in a culture of peace.

Once again, Abbas is playing Americans and other Westerners for fools. His people remain unwilling to recognize Israel’s very right to exist as a state for Jews. And so, Abbas will talk peace and coexistence while his people organize yet another “Day of Rage.”

Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA), preparing to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump to Bethlehem, are seeking to create the impression that their sentiments are shared by their people. Yet many Palestinians are less than enthusiastic about the visit.

It is in the best interests of Abbas and the PA to hide the truth that many Palestinians view the U.S. as an Israel-loving enemy.

While the PA president and his aides attempt to bury that inconvenient fact, they are also doing their best to cover up the truth that many Palestinians have been radicalized to a point that they would rather aim a gun or knife at Israelis than aim for peace with them.

The strongest and most vocal protests against Trump’s visit have thus far come from Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians.

Ramallah is regularly described by Western journalists as a base for moderation and pragmatism. It is in this city that Abbas and the top PA leadership live and work.

In a statement published earlier this week, the National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah and El-Bireh, a coalition of various Palestinian political and terror groups, called for a “Day of Popular Rage” in the West Bank to protest the imminent presidential visit.

In Palestinian-speak, a “Day of Rage” is a call for intensified violence and terrorism directed mainly against Jews.

The term was formally introduced during the First Intifada, which erupted in late 1987, and consisted of stone and petrol-bomb attacks against Israel Defense Force soldiers and Jews residing in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Similarly, during the Second Intifada, which began in 2000, Days of Rage were associated with suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other acts of terrorism and assorted crimes perpetrated against Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as within Israel.

In recent years, Abbas’s Fatah faction and other groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have used different occasions to urge Palestinians to declare a Day of Rage against Israel.

Generally speaking, such calls come in response to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount — visits that have been taking place since East Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian occupation in 1967.

The visits were temporarily suspended, however, for security reasons in the first years of the Second Intifada, out of concern for the safety of visitors. It is worth noting that non-Muslims are allowed to tour the Temple Mount, as has been true for the past five decades. The Palestinians, however, are specifically opposed to Jews visiting the site, under the false pretext that Jews are plotting to rebuild their Temple after destroying the Islamic holy sites there. This charge is, of course, another Palestinian blood libel against Jews.

So here we are again. Palestinians are calling for marking Trump’s visit with a Day of Rage (read: heightened terrorism). The statement issued by the National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah and El-Bireh is a clear and direct invitation to Palestinians to take to the streets and mow down Jews.

What is really driving this Palestinian hatred of Trump and the U.S.?

From the Palestinian point of view, were it not for the U.S., the Palestinians and the Arabs would have succeeded long ago in achieving their goal of destroying Israel.

“We reject American bias in favor of Israel,” read the statement. “We call for popular marches and rallies to affirm our people’s adherence to their legitimate rights, including the right of return and self-determination.” The statement also warned against U.S. pressure on Abbas and the PA leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

The so-called “right of return” demanded by Palestinians means the right to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians, in order to create an Arab-majority state where Jews would live as a minority. This would come in addition to the creation of another Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians and the Arabs have long been at war with what they regard as U.S. bias in favor of Israel. What they mean is that U.S. support for Israel stands in their way of destroying Israel. They are saying: Only if Americans would stop supporting Israel financially, militarily and politically, we would be able to remove Israel from the face of the earth.

Neither Trump nor any members of his entourage is likely to notice the latest Palestinian Day of Rage. The strict, unprecedented security measures surrounding Trump’s planned visit to Bethlehem, and the fact that the stop is to last for only for 45 minutes, will make sure of that. Trump will not see Palestinians protesting against his visit. Nor will he see, during his visit, Palestinians closing their businesses and hurling stones and petrol bombs at Jews.

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK – MAY 15: (ISRAEL OUT) Palestinian demonstrators throw stones toward Israeli soldiers during clashes outside of Ofer Prison on May 15, 2012 near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinians mark Israel’s establishment in 1948 with “Nakba” or “catastrophe” day on May 15, to remember the thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the creation of the Jewish state and the subsequent war. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Trump’s Palestinian hosts will do their utmost to disguise many unpleasant truths. For instance, they probably will not mention that Palestinians are taking to the streets to protest his visit as well as to go after Jews. Abbas is not going to tell Trump about the Day of Rage because it flies in the face of his repeated claim that Palestinians are ready for peace and are even raising their children in a “culture of peace.”

The Palestinian Day of Rage during Trump’s visit is a further sign of the increased radicalization among Palestinians and their unwillingness to accept Israel’s right to exist as a state for Jews. Days of Rage are far from contained responses to particular Israeli policies or actions on the ground. The Day of Rage can be traced to the Arab and Muslim world with the establishment of Israel in 1948, and continues to be used by Arabs and Muslims as a tool of terrorism.

In truth, such days are an expression of rage over the presence of Jews in a sovereign state in the Middle East, and of wrath over U.S. support for Israel and of Palestinian support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. Days of Rage will continue as long as Palestinians continue to believe that Israel can and should be destroyed.

Once again, Abbas is playing Americans and other Westerners for fools. His people remain unwilling to recognize Israel’s very right to exist. And so, Abbas will talk peace and coexistence while his people organize yet another Day of Rage.

Why Is the US Still Funding Palestinian Terrorism?

April 19, 2017

Why Is the US Still Funding Palestinian Terrorism? Gatestone Institute, Shoshana Bryen, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, Towards the pending Abbas visit to Washington D.C. — DM)

Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and — perhaps more importantly — that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.

“The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the ‎same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners… PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of ‎the PLO Commission.” — Palestinian Media Watch.

In 2016 Bashar Masalha, who murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded several others, was hailed on official PA media outlets as a “martyr.” A few months later, Abbas said on PA TV, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem…. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”

The U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.

British exchange student Hannah Bladon was stabbed to death on a Jerusalem light rail train last Friday. Her murderer was identified as an East Jerusalem resident who had previously been convicted of molesting his daughter and had tried to commit suicide. Failing at that, he apparently opted for terrorism, on the assumption that the police would kill him. They didn’t. “This,” the Shin Bet said in a statement, “is another case, out of many, where a Palestinian who is suffering from personal, mental or moral issues chooses to carry out a terror attack in order to find a way out of their problems.”

“Suicide by cop” is not unheard of, but the real incentives need to be spelled out.

Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and — perhaps more importantly — that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.

To take the PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas, at his word, the PA itself does not pay salaries or pensions to terrorists in Israeli jails or to their families; the money — instead! — comes from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That sleight-of-hand would make this a perfect time for the United States, an ally of the UK and properly appalled by terrorism, to take a step it has been avoiding for more than 25 years: to close the PLO office in Washington — preferably before the planned visit by Abbas in May.

The PLO was once understood to be a terrorist organization and a terror umbrella. It hijacked airplanes and threw an elderly disabled man in a wheelchair overboard from a cruise ship. Black September, an arm of the PLO, murdered 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich. The PLO has committed acts of horrific terror in Israel — including massacring bus drivers and their families on holiday. Twenty-five adults and 13 children were killed and 71 others wounded. The PLO has also committed acts of war against the United States by killing American diplomats in Sudan.

In the 1970s and 80s, the U.S. generally knew what it was looking at.

During the Reagan-to-Bush “41”-transition, however, the U.S. dropped its ban on officially talking to then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. (Full disclosure: Colin Powell, then national security advisor, gave this author a “heads up”: “Everyone has something to say,” he said. “The U.S. government already knows what Arafat has to say,” I said, and it is unacceptable.” He was not interested.)

Talking was not the same as opening an office; that move was still prohibited by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987. However, in the post-Oslo Accords euphoria, Senate legislation permitted the PLO an official mission in Washington “to implement the accords,” and it allowed President Clinton to waive the law barring U.S. funds to international organizations that gave money to the PLO. The House passed similar legislation. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said at the time:

“This legislation provides a limited, temporary and conditional waiver of restrictions in United States law that would seriously impede the ability of Israel and the PLO to proceed with negotiating and implementing their landmark peace agreement.”

It was “conditional” on the PLO meeting its Oslo Accords obligations, including refraining from terrorism and renouncing international moves that would impede bilateral agreement on final status issues. While the legislation was, as Berman said, “temporary,” it came with the usual waiver provision, ultimately allowing Presidents to do as they wished.

Presidents, therefore, beginning with President Clinton, did exactly that, even as the Palestinian Authority supplanted the PLO as the “peace partner” and ignored the Oslo Accords at will.

In 2003, the height of the so-called “second intifada,” the Palestinian terror war against Israel, Colin Powell, by then Secretary of State, waffled through a statement suggesting that the Palestinians kindly refrain from not killing so many Jews. “We need to see a more concerted effort against the capacity for terrorist activity on the Palestinian side… It’s not enough just to have a cease-fire.” He then noted “progress in reducing attacks against Israelis” — but without mentioning that the IDF and Shin Bet had reduced them; not the PA. Nevertheless, President Bush exercised the waiver.

A 2011, a Palestinian bid for recognition as a full member of the UN failed, but the waiver remained. Over U.S. objections, “Palestine” joined the International Criminal Court in 2015. President Barack Obama waived the sanctions every six months — right through two Hamas wars against Israel.

Largely through the work of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the question of payments to terrorists and their families has come to the fore. Worried about foreign aid payments from the U.S. and the EU, in 2014 the Palestinian Authority claimed it stopped paying salaries and that future money would come from a new PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs. However, PMW reported from Palestinian sources:

The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the ‎same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners; the ‎former PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Karake, became the Director of the new ‎PLO Commission and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of ‎the PLO Commission.

Tower Magazine reported that in 2015, a year after the PA “officially” transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, it also transferred an extra 444 million shekels (more than $116 million) to the PLO — nearly the same amount that the PA had allocated in the previous years to its now-defunct Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.

Citing PMW, Tower wrote that the transfer to the PLO was meant to evade pressure from Western governments that demanded an end to terrorist salaries — specifically the United States and the UK, which froze payments to the PA in 2016 over the problem.

In the end, perhaps, it does not matter whose bank account transfers the money to whose bank account:

In 2016 Bashar Masalha, who murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded several others, was hailed on official PA media outlets as a “martyr.” A few months later, Abbas said on PA TV, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”

 

Abbas has not said much about Jamil Tamimi, last Friday’s murderer, and it is time to stop encouraging, threatening or demanding that he do so. Rather, the U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.

Russia ‘furious’ with Assad over gas attack

April 11, 2017

Russia ‘furious’ with Assad over gas attack, Al Monitor,

(From the for “whatever it’s worth” department.– DM)

A Syrian man collects samples from the site of a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, on April 5, 2017. (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Privately, Russian officials are furious with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected April 4 chemical weapons attack in Idlib province that killed over 80 people, Russia analysts said. They see it as threatening to sabotage the potential for US-Russia rapprochement ahead of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first visit to Moscow this week.

But Russia is also confused by what it perceives as contradictory statements from various top Trump Cabinet officials on whether US policy is shifting to demand Assad’s ouster, to what degree does the United States think Russia is culpable for Assad’s behavior, and more broadly, who from the administration speaks for Donald Trump, they said.

“Assad committed suicide here,” Michael Kofman, a Russia military expert with the Kennan Institute, told Al-Monitor in an interview April 10. Russia “will never forgive him for this.”

The suspected April 4 nerve gas attack on rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun that killed over 80 people, many of them children, “is a complete disaster” for Russia, Kofman said. “It destroyed the legacy of the 2013 deal [to remove Syria’s chemical weapons] that both countries [the United States and Russia] certified. So it made liars of both of us.”

He noted, “It provided all the ammunition to sabotage rapprochement between the United States and Russia. Look at the atmospherics. It caused public embarrassment. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has to swallow US cruise missile strikes. Notice he has not defended Assad. It looks bad for Russia.”

Kofman added, “It demonstrates … in terms of Putin being a power broker … that the Russian role is very aspirational. It prevented him from doing this.”

“The Russians weren’t happy about what happened,” Nikolas Gvosdev, a Russia expert and professor at the US Naval War College, told Al-Monitor, referring to the April 4 chemical weapons attack. “They don’t like unpredictability … when things happen that throw what they are planning off course.”

“The Russians don’t like to be surprised,” Gvosdev added. “They don’t like … [to be made to] look like they can’t enforce agreements or don’t have as much influence over Assad as they were suggesting.”

Trump discussed Syria during a phone call with British Prime Minister Theresa May on April 10, and according to the British readout, the two leaders said they saw an opportunity to press Russia to break its alliance with Assad.

May and Trump “agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest,” a Downing Street spokesman said in a press release.

While US officials have said the US cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat air base on April 6 were to punish and deter Syria’s use of chemical weapons, there has been some confusion caused by statements from different Trump Cabinet officials on whether US policy is creeping toward regime change. US officials, including US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, have also suggested Russia was either complicit or incompetent for Assad’s chemical weapons attack. They have expressed anger that Russia has, in their opinion, tried to publicly sow disinformation about it.

“You know the interesting thing, Chuck, is when this chemical weapons murder happened to so many people, Russia’s reaction was not ‘oh how horrible’ or ‘how could they do this to innocent children’ or ‘how awful is that,’” Haley told Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 9. “Their initial reaction was Assad didn’t do it, the Syrian government didn’t do it.”

“Why were they that defensive that quick?” Haley continued. “The first priority for them was to cover for Assad. So what we knew from intelligence, that the Syrian regime had done this again, as they had done so many times before. We had evidence they had done it. It’s obviously classified, so I’m not the one that would release the information, but it was enough that the president knew.”

Even while pressuring Russia because of its diplomatic and military support to Assad, McMaster reiterated that the United States is still looking for a political resolution to end Syria’s civil war.

“What we really need to do, and what everyone who’s involved in this conflict needs to do, is to do everything they can to resolve this civil war,” McMaster told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace April 9.

“What’s required is some kind of a political solution to that very complex problem, and … it’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation [of] the Assad regime,” McMaster said. “Now we’re not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves, what are we doing here? Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?”

Tillerson, who is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow April 12, expressed disappointment at Russia’s public criticism of the US airstrikes, but he said he did not conclude Russia was complicit in the Syrian regime’s suspected chemical weapons attack.

“I’m not seeing any hard evidence that connects the Russians directly to the planning or execution of this particular chemical weapons attack, and indeed, that’s why we’ve been trying to be very clear that the Russians were never targeted in this strike,” Tillerson told George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “This Week” on April 9.

“Why Russia has not been able to achieve that [removal of Syria’s residual chemical weapons] is unclear to me,” Tillerson said. “I don’t draw conclusions of complicity at all; but clearly, they’ve been incompetent, and perhaps they’ve just simply been outmaneuvered by the Syrians.

But Tillerson said he still holds out hope for productive talks with the Russians when he travels there this week, and he hopes Russia can press Assad to never use chemical weapons again.

“I’m hopeful that we can have constructive talks with the Russian government, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and have Russia be supportive of a process that will lead to a stable Syria,” Tillerson said. “Clearly, they … have the greatest influence on Bashar al-Assad and certainly his decisions to use chemical weapons. They should have the greatest influence on him to cause him to no longer use those. I hope that Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer in to some level of responsibility.”

The changing US calculus on Assad and Russia is making it harder to see what Russia and the United States would be negotiating when Tillerson meets Lavrov April 12, Gvosdev said.

“The ask and the give are harder to ascertain,” Gvosdev said. “Two weeks ago, it was how do we move this [Syria] political process along.”

But now Tillerson is likely to tell the Russians that domestic politics in the United States is playing a bigger role in this, and “I can offer you less upfront,” Gvosdev speculated. “At a time when the Russian establishment very much … wants certain things upfront.”

“We are no longer talking about sanctions relief, [but how to] prevent new sanctions from being imposed,” Gvosdev said.

Assad’s actions have upended what was an important foreign policy priority for Putin — exploring the potential for cooperation with the United States on Syria and a possible rapprochement — and have seemingly taken sanctions relief off the table for discussion for now, and Russia will not forgive him, Kofman said.

“They are furious; it is very clear,” Kofman said, noting that there has been “no actual statement from Putin in support of Assad.”

“That is why I am saying he has signed his own political death warrant,” Kofman said of Assad. “They [the Russians] will never forgive him. They will wait. The time will come when Syria is stabilized, and they can actually have a change of power at the top. And then come for him.”

 

Trump Sends a Message to China Through Syria

April 10, 2017

Trump Sends a Message to China Through Syria, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, April 10, 2017

On Thursday evening, President Trump met with China’s President Xi and bombed Syria. The decision came as Trump traveled on Air Force One to meet with Xi at Mar-a-Lago. An hour into their dinner, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched and pounded an airbase in Syria. The message wasn’t just for Assad and Putin. It was for Xi and his North Korean client state. The era of a weak America was over.

Xi had come to America expecting an easy photo op visit. President Trump would urge action on North Korea and Xi would smile coldly and shoot him down. Talk of fairer trade would be similarly dismissed.

And then Xi would go home and laugh that the bold new American leader was another paper tiger.

Except that President Trump had a different plan. Instead of Xi showing how tough he could be, Trump gave him a front row seat to a display of American power. The message was both obvious and subtle.

And President Xi, along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, aren’t laughing.

The obvious part was as blatant as a 1,000 pound explosive warhead slamming into concrete and steel, and as obvious as upstaging Xi’s efforts to stonewall Trump while warning that North Korea could be next if the Chinese leader continues to be obstinate.

Trump had warned throughout the campaign that he would not be laying his military plans on the table. “You’re telling the enemy everything you want to do!” he had mocked Clinton.

His address to the nation came an hour after the missiles had struck. The element of surprise had held.

And Xi came away with a very different message. The Obama era was over. The new guy was bold, dangerous and unpredictable. Like many of Trump’s American opponents, Xi understood now that the jovial man sitting next to him could and would violate the rules of the game without prior warning.

China would have to be careful. There was a cowboy in the White House again.

And that was the subtle part. Trump does not care very much about Assad. What he truly cares about is American power. Left-wing critics quickly pounced on Trump’s past opposition to strikes on Syria and his criticisms of Obama for not enforcing his own “red line”.

There is no contradiction.

Trump didn’t believe that strikes on Syria were a good idea. But once we had committed to a red line, then we had to follow through if we were going to be taken seriously.

And so Trump enforced Obama’s red line. Not because of Obama or Syria. But because of America.

“When he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world because it was a blank threat,” President Trump said.

President Trump intends to get things done. And he knows it won’t happen with “blank” threats.

Asked about whether the strikes represented a message to Xi and North Korea, Secretary of State Tillerson replied, “It does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they have made.”

“President Trump has made that statement to the world tonight,” he added.

The message is more subtle than a 1,000 pound warhead. But not by that much.

President Trump’s move bewildered leftist critics who had to shift from accusing him of having a secret relationship with Russia to accusing him of ruining our relationship with Russia. It also enraged some supporters who maintained a dogmatic non-interventionist position. But Trump doesn’t make decisions based on ideology. He measures policies against real world objectives, not abstract philosophies.

What he has always wanted to do is solve real problems.

The problem he was solving on Thursday wasn’t Assad. President Trump recognizes that Syria is an unsolvable problem and that little good can come of extended engagement with it. There are no good guys in Syria. Only Sunni and Shiite Jihadis and their victims. Syria is and will always be a dead end.

The problem is that Obama thoroughly wrecked American prestige and power over eight years. And that makes it painfully difficult to get anything done when no one in the world will take us seriously.

President Trump sees North Korea’s nuclear weapons as a major threat. But he also sees the crisis as a way to leverage our military might to achieve better trade deals with both partners and rivals. He is not wedded to a globalist or anti-globalist ideology. Instead he sees every problem as an opportunity.

He is not committed to any international coalition, globalist or anti-globalist, except where it temporarily serves American purposes. That is what being a true nationalist actually means.

That is what makes him so unpredictable and so dangerous.

President Trump made a point in Syria. He timed that point for maximum effect. The point isn’t that Assad is a bad man. Though he is. It’s not that he isn’t a Russian puppet, though only the lunatic left could have believed that. The point is that he is determined that America will be taken seriously.

Cruise missile diplomacy isn’t new. Bill Clinton fired over 500 cruise missiles into Iraq. Not to mention Sudan. Bush fired cruise missiles into Somalia. Obama signed off on firing cruise missiles into Yemen and Syria at terrorist targets. The difference is that Trump isn’t just saving face with cruise missile diplomacy.

President Trump’s real objective isn’t the Middle East. It’s Asia. He doesn’t see Russia as our leading geopolitical foe, but China. Syria was the opening shot in a staring contest with the People’s Republic. The moves in this chess game will sometimes be obvious and sometimes subtle. And Trump is usually at his most subtle when he’s being obvious. That’s what his enemies usually miss.

President Trump’s first step in Syria was to reestablish physical and moral authority on the international stage while the President of China had to sit there and watch. He humiliated Democrats and their media operation at the peak of their Russia frenzy. And he sent the message that America is back.

It’s not a bad return on a $60 million investment. We’ve spent much more in the field with less to show for it.

The Obama era in international affairs ended with whimper and a hollow Nobel Peace Prize as a trophy. The Trump era in international affairs began with 59 cruise missiles and a big bang.

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base

April 8, 2017

US Air Force to quit Incirlik, move to Syria base, DEBKAfile, April 8, 2017

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

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Several US engineering teams are working round the clock to build a big new air base in northern Syria after completing the expansion of another four. They are all situated in the Syrian borderland with Iraq, DEBKAfile’s military forces report.

This was going on over the weekend as senators, news correspondents and commentators were outguessing each other over whether the US missile attack on the Syrian Shayrat air base Friday, in retaliation for the Assad regime’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, was a one-off or the start of a new series.

As the White House parried those questions, the Trump administration was going full steam ahead on the massive project of preparing to pull US air force units out of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey, in active American use since 2002. Those units were in the middle of a big moving job to the five new and expanded air bases in Syria. Their hub is to be Tabqa, which is just 110km west of the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, Raqqa. The other five are Hajar airport in the Rmelan region, two small air fields serving farm transport in Qamishli, which have been converted to military us; and a fifth in the Kurdish Kobani enclave north of Aleppo near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Tabqa is also becoming the main assembly-point for the joint US, Kurdish, tribal Arab force that is coming together in readiness for a major charge on Raqqa.

When the work is finished, the rising complex of air bases will enable America to deploy twice as many warplanes and helicopters in Syria as the Russians currently maintain.

The site of the Tabqa air field was captured as recently as late March by the Syrian Democratic Force (Kurdish-Arab fighters) which were flown in and dropped there by the US Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. It was quickly dubbed “Incirlik 2” or “Qayyarah-2” after the US command center running the Iraqi military offensive against ISIS in Mosul.

Tabqa is designed to accommodate the 2,500 US military personnel housed at Incirlik. Like the Americans, the German Bundeswehr is also on the point of quitting Incirlik and eying a number of new locations in Cyprus and Jordan. The Germans are pulling out over the crisis in their relations with Ankara. The Americans are quitting because President Donald Trump wants to chill US ties with Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and cooperation with the Turkish army.

The five US bases in Syria are part of Trump’s three-pronged strategy which aims at a) fighting Islamist terror; b) blocking Iran’s land and air access to Syria; and c) providing the enclaves of the Syrian Kurdish-PYD-YPG with a military shield against the Turkish army.

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria

April 7, 2017

KLEIN – Iran Is the Wild Card Following U.S. Air Strikes In Syria, BreitbartAaron Klein, April 7, 2017

U.S. Navy/via AP

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.

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TEL AVIV – Following the U.S. launch of Tomahawk missiles targeting a strategic Syrian airfield on Thursday night, Iran must be monitored carefully for the possibility that it may use its proxies for retaliation, especially against Israel’s northern border.

Following eight years of inaction on Syria under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump demonstrated last night that he is willing to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account, this time by striking the Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs that was believed to have been utilized to carry out a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians.

The U.S. airstrikes signaled to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers that Trump will act in Syria and the administration strongly supports the removal of the Syrian president – an important strategic ally of Moscow and Tehran. The U.S. military move demonstrates to Israel and the Sunni Arab bloc cast aside by Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs that American leadership has officially returned to the region.

Assad himself is unlikely to retaliate since the last thing he wants amidst a years-long insurgency attempting to topple his regime is to go to war with Trump or expand the battlefield to U.S. ally Israel.

Trump’s bold authority in Syria directly threatens Russian interests since it was Moscow that largely filled the security vacuum in that country when Obama repeatedly failed to take any meaningful action against Assad. However, Russia’s direct response will most likely be confined to vocal protestation, such as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the U.S. strikes “aggression against a sovereign nation” carried out on a “made-up pretext.”

President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.

Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond.  Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground.  The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.

And that brings us to Iran.  Trump’s embrace of America’s traditional Sunni Arab partners at the expense of Tehran and his strong positions against the disastrous international nuclear agreement have been deeply concerning to the expansionist, terrorist-supporting Twelvers in Tehran.  And while the removal of Assad from power would be a blow to Russia, depending on the ultimate outcome such a move could be disastrous for Iran’s position in Syria.  Iranian Revolutionary Guard units have been fighting the anti-Assad insurgents alongside the Syrian military and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.  Syria represents a key pawn in Iran’s geopolitical chessboard that stretches across the vital region.

In recent weeks, there have been strong indications that Iran has been seeking to arm its Hezbollah proxy with even more advanced weapons that can target the Jewish state. Last month, Israel took the unusual step of striking a Hezbollah weapons convoy near the city of Palmyra that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was transporting advanced weapons to the Iran-backed militia.

Israeli leaders and Hezbollah terrorists have in recent weeks ratcheted up war rhetoric, with Israeli officials warning that Hezbollah, which can only act at the direction of Iran, has been preparing for conflict.

Last Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned the IDF would not hold back from striking Lebanese state institutions in a future conflict with Hezbollah. “The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval,” Eisenkot stated.

Hezbollah is not Iran’s only option. Breitbart Jerusalem has been reporting on the formation of a “Golan Liberation Brigade,” which was announced last month by the secretary-general of the Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba Shiite militia and is reportedly being trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The so-called militia is another Iranian front that could be used to target Israel’s Golan Heights at the behest of Tehran.

The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.