Posted tagged ‘Trump and Iran’

U.S. Considers Re-Imposing All Sanctions on Iran, Dismantling Nuke Deal

April 19, 2017

U.S. Considers Re-Imposing All Sanctions on Iran, Dismantling Nuke Deal, Washington Free Beacon, , April 19, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. Photo credit: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Obama administration officials, while selling the nuclear deal to Congress, vowed that Iran would roll back its nefarious activities if it received relief from sanctions.

Tillerson informed Congress this has not happened. After receiving billions in cash assets and other economic relief, Iran invested heavily in its military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to meddle in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and a host of other countries.

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The Trump administration is considering re-imposing a massive set of economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the landmark nuclear agreement that gave Tehran billions in economic support, according to U.S. officials who told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s military buildup and disregard for international law could prompt U.S. reprisal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in a letter sent Tuesday that Iran is complying with requirements for its nuclear program imposed under the nuclear accord. However, Tillerson emphasized that Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

Tehran’s malign activities across the Middle East and elsewhere have prompted the Trump administration to place all aspects of the nuclear agreement under critical review, which is viewed by some as a first step to nixing some controversial aspects of the accord, including the massive sanctions relief package.

U.S. officials familiar with the review told the Free Beacon that Iran’s continued support for terrorism has become a sticking point for the Trump administration as it reviews the agreement and the previous administration’s policy toward Iran.

“I think the key is what comes next,” one senior White House official familiar with the interagency review told the Free Beacon. “The question of ongoing sanctions relief will be critical—Iran has already gotten significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal and we need to take a hard look at what Iran is doing with the resources that continue to flow in.”

The Trump administration has been paying close attention to Iran’s ongoing military buildup, including its continued work on ballistic missiles and other offensive weapons aimed at interfering with U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf region.

“Yesterday was the annual Army Day celebration—also known as Death to Israel day—and they paraded some pretty serious new hardware through the streets,” the White House official disclosed. “That has to be a significant concern.”

The White House’s national security apparatus will closely monitor Iran’s behavior as it makes a decision about re-imposing sanctions lifted by the Obama administration.

Tillerson’s emphasis on Iran’s terror operation is “a first step, but we have to remain focused on the threat Tehran poses to America and our allies,” the official said.

Obama administration officials, while selling the nuclear deal to Congress, vowed that Iran would roll back its nefarious activities if it received relief from sanctions.

Tillerson informed Congress this has not happened. After receiving billions in cash assets and other economic relief, Iran invested heavily in its military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to meddle in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and a host of other countries.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson told Congress. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” Tillerson wrote.

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars

April 18, 2017

We’re turning a blind eye to Iran’s genocidal liars, The Australian, Michael Oren, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran. DM)

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

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The US has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes — Syria and North Korea — brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from Donald Trump. But the third agreement — with Iran — is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honouring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.

The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognised that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both ­assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.

All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed ­intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the US and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.

Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a US Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frame­­works and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of ­America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.

Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfil its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behaviour and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state: Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.

This, for Israel and our neighbouring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.

A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas”, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a ­future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime — which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009 — has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the present regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.

How can the US and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalising Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as UN restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate ­Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their ­tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire.

In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has taken a major step towards restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The US, Israel and the world will all be safer.

Michael Oren is Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, a member of the Knesset and a former ambassador to Washington.

Trump’s Strategy for Dividing the Enemy Alliance

April 15, 2017

Trump’s Strategy for Dividing the Enemy Alliance, Iran News Update, April 14, 2017

 

Russia and Iran still needed to be dealt with, so Tillerson met with Putin Wednesday, and Buckley writes, “…from our perspective the possibility of a rapprochement with Russia is greater now than it was before the attack on the Syrian air base: Trump no longer has to worry about critics who say he’s soft on Russia.”

He continues, “As for the Russians, they’re the ultimate realists. We’ve signaled to them that we’re not going to try to dislodge them from Syria. But everything else is on the table. We’re telling them they can move in more civilized company if they want. Only it’s going to cost them, if we’re to accept them as civilized players.”

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The past few weeks were a triumph for America.

“Now what?” asks F.H. Buckley, Scalia Law School professor, and author of “The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America.”

In an article for the New York Post Buckley writes, “When facing three opponents, as America is with Russia, Syria and Iran, the most obvious response is to try to break them up through a side deal with one of them. That’s the signal Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nicki Haley sent to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad on March 30 in saying we’d be prepared to live with him.”

In essence, the message was, “Be nice, Assad, distance yourself from Iran and we’ll accept a solution to the Syrian civil war that leaves you in power,” writes Buckley. The offer’s chance of being accepted was slight. Syria, under Assad, is dependent on Iran. More fighters take orders from Tehran than there are members of Assad’s army, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

No one has asked is why Assad ordered the Sarin attack, but Buckley assumes that it “…had simply been ordered to employ chemical weapons by Tehran, as a means of turning down the American overture. It signaled that the Iranian-Syrian alliance could not be broken.”

Next came our attack on the Syrian Shayrat airbase last week.

However, Russia and Iran still needed to be dealt with, so Tillerson met with Putin Wednesday, and Buckley writes, “…from our perspective the possibility of a rapprochement with Russia is greater now than it was before the attack on the Syrian air base: Trump no longer has to worry about critics who say he’s soft on Russia.”

He continues, “As for the Russians, they’re the ultimate realists. We’ve signaled to them that we’re not going to try to dislodge them from Syria. But everything else is on the table. We’re telling them they can move in more civilized company if they want. Only it’s going to cost them, if we’re to accept them as civilized players.”

Finally, Buckley talks about Iran. He writes, “Of the three countries, only Iran under the mullahs is America’s implacable enemy, one with whom a peaceful resolution of differences is entirely impossible. More than that, the mullahs take our willingness to reach out to them as a sign of weakness they can exploit. They constantly test our resolve, and when we fail to respond, they take it one level further.”

Some options remain, and one of them is to push back when pushed. The Iranian regime’s legitimacy is threatened by liberal opposition groups, particularly the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The National Council revealed Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, and it’s been praised by Elie Wiesel, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey.

Support for the NCRI and other Iranian dissident groups is a good place to begin change, and end the years of acquiescence to Iran.

Trump Administration Sanctions Iran Prison Torture Industry

April 13, 2017

Trump Administration Sanctions Iran Prison Torture Industry, Washington Free Beacon, April 13, 2017

An Iranian inmate peers from behind a wall as a guard walks by at the female section of the infamous Evin jail, north of Tehran, 13 June 2006. (AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration is leveling new economic sanctions against senior Iranian officials and its prison system for widespread human rights abuses, including the systematic torture of those being held in these facilities, according to White House officials familiar with the matter.

The latest sanctions target the Tehran Prisons Organization and Sohrab Suleimani, a senior official in the prison system and the brother of Qassem Soleimani, a senior Iranian military figure responsible for operating Iran’s rogue activities in Syria and elsewhere.

Sohrab Soleimani is responsible for overseeing Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, which is known for torturous interrogations, forced interrogations, and widespread mistreatment of inmates.

The latest sanctions are certain to rankle Tehran, already the subject of a range of new sanctions under the Trump administration, which is currently conducting a widespread review of all matters related to the landmark nuclear agreement.

A senior official on the White House National Security Council told the Washington Free Beacon that the Soleimani family has a history of fomenting violence and unrest both inside and outside Iran.

“It’s no coincidence that Sohrab Suleimani is the brother of the notorious Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Quds Forces, who has been responsible for so much of the violent disruption Iran has been spreading through the region,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record.

Iranian human rights abuses have only grown under the leadership of so-called reformist President Hassan Rouhani, the official said. This includes the detention of U.S. citizens

“There has been a disturbing and significant increase in the number of detentions and executions of Iranian citizens under President Rouhani, and the infamous Evin Prison under Sohrab Suleimani’s control has been a key facility in this program of domestic repression,” the official said.

The Trump administration is holding meetings with the family members of American citizens still being detained in Iran and believed to be subjected to torture.

“In addition, we have been deeply concerned by the treatment of American citizens in this prison, and in others throughout Iran,” the official said. “Just today, senior officials in the Trump administration met with members of the Namazi family representing Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi who have been unjustly detained in Iran since October, 2015 and February, 2016, respectively.”

“Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens,” John E. Smith, director of the Treasury Department’s Official of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. “We will continue to identify, call out, and sanction those who are responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran.”

The sanctions do not conflict with U.S. obligations under the nuclear agreement and are not being leveled as part of that agreement, according to U.S. officials.

The sanctions were formulated following a series of investigations by the U.S. government into Iran’s systematic breach of human rights.

“These designations are in response to what we see as pattern of human rights abuses by the Government of Iran and reflect the United States’ deep concern regarding the human rights situation in Iran,” the State Department explained in a background document provided to reporters.

“We continue to see Government of Iran officials engage in repressive behavior against its own citizens, including through their mistreatment and abuse of prisoners,” the document states. “This is especially evident at Evin Prison, which is where numerous prisoners of conscience are held. We have documented these and many other human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Iran in our annual State Department authored Human Rights, Religious Freedom, and Trafficking in persons reports.”

Soleimani’s role in Iran’s prison system makes him one of the foremost human rights abusers worldwide.

Soleimani oversaw an April 2014 incident at the Evin Prison in which dozens of security guards and prison officials beat a number of political prisoners. The attack is believed to have lasted several hours and impacted more than 30 prisoners. Many of these prisoners were later denied medical treatment.

Evin Prison is home to large number of Iranian political dissidents and other government opponents, who are routinely shut down and arrested by the Iranian regime for political activities targeting those in power.

Boeing Trying to Sell Planes to Leading Official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

April 12, 2017

Boeing Trying to Sell Planes to Leading Official of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Washington Free Beacon, April 12, 2017

(Please see also, Airplane Sales to Iran Put Under Critical Review By Trump Admin. — DM)

The Boeing logo on the first Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane is pictured during its rollout for media at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington on March 7, 2017. /  JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S airline manufacturer Boeing is coming under renewed criticism following disclosures that its latest deal with Iran is being inked with a senior regime official and leading member of the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has sponsored terrorism across the Middle East and is responsible for helping to kill U.S. soldiers.

Boeing’s latest deal—which the Washington Free Beacon first reported last week has been put under a critical review by the Trump administration—is being inked with Iran Aseman Airlines, which is owned and controlled by the state. The CEO of Aseman Airlines is Hossein Alaei, a “prominent and longtime member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” or IRGC, according to several members of Congress who are petitioning the Trump administration to cancel the sales.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) expressed concern that Boeing’s sale of around 60 new planes to Aseman Airlines will bolster the IRGC’s global terrorism operation and help the Iranian regime transport weapons and troops to conflict areas such as Syria.

The lawmakers called on the Trump administration to immediately suspend licenses permitting these sales and conduct a review of Iran’s effort to use commercial aircraft for illicit activities.

“Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has systematically used commercial aircraft for illicit military purposes, including to transport troops, weapons, and cash to rogue regimes and terrorist groups around the world,” the lawmakers wrote. “The possibility that U.S.-manufactured aircraft could be used as tools of terror is absolutely unacceptable and should not be condoned by the U.S. government.”

Rubio and Roskam asked the administration to “suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to commercial Iranian airlines until your administration conducts a comprehensive review of their role in supporting Iran’s illicit activity.”

Instead of granting Boeing a license for these sales, the United States should take immediate steps to “revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes,” according to the letter.

The latest information about Boeing’s deal with Aseman Airlines and IRGC leader Alaei has only heightened concerns about the danger of the Trump administration approving the sales.

Alaei served as commander of the IRGC Navy until 1990. During that time, Alaei oversaw the harassment of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and efforts by the IRGC Navy to plant mines in international waters.

Alaei also served as the head of the IRGC’s general staff and a deputy minister of defense before assuming control of Iran’s Aviation Industries Organization, which is currently subject to U.S. sanctions.

Alaei serves as a lecturer at Iran’s Imam Hossein University, the IRGC’s national defense college, which also has been sanctioned by the United States.

“With his deep ties and service to the IRGC, Hossein Alaei’s position as CEO of Aseman therefore casts a dark shadow on the corporate ownership of and control over the airlines, and raises significant concerns that Iran Aseman Airlines is part of the IRGC’s economic empire and a tool used to support its malign activity abroad,” according to Rubio and Roskam.

Boeing also is pursuing deals with Iran Air, the country’s flagship carrier, and Mahan Air. Both have been sanctioned by the United States.

These carriers have been accused of using “commercial aircraft to transport weapons, troops and other tools of war to rogue regimes like the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al Assad, terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, and militant groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen,” the lawmakers wrote.

Boeing could bolster Iran’s illicit activities and help the country revamp its aging fleet of planes, according to the lawmakers.

“There is no reason to believe Iran has ceased its malicious activity,” Rubio and Roskam wrote. “Compelling evidence indicates that commercial Iranian airliners remain pivotal in delivering military support to terrorist groups and dictatorships around the Middle East.”

“Iran’s commercial airlines have American blood on their hands,” they wrote.

Mission accomplished in Syria

April 12, 2017

Mission accomplished in Syria, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May. April 12, 2017

(Accomplished or just begun? — DM)

Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

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If you’re still unsure about whether U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week, consider the alternative.

He knew that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had yet again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians, women and children prominent among them. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others. He knew he had two choices.

He could shrug, instruct his U.N. ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the “international community” to do something, and then go play a round of golf. Or he could demonstrate that the United States still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists, thereby beginning to re-establish America’s deterrent capability.

In other words, this was what Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz would call a no-brainer. (Well, loosely translated.) A mission was accomplished. Do harder missions lie ahead? Yes, of course. But I suspect Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster have made that abundantly clear to the new president.

We now know for certain that Russia failed to live up to its 2013 commitment to ensure that Assad surrendered all his illegal chemical weapons under the deal it brokered. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acerbically questioned whether that was the result of complicity or incompetence or whether Russia allowed itself to be duped by Assad.

The strike ordered by President Trump was not “unbelievably small” — then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of the punishment then-President Barack Obama decided not to impose in response to Assad’s earlier use of chemical weapons. It was big enough to make clear that American diplomats are again carrying big sticks. (For Obama to insist that diplomacy and force are alternatives was patently absurd.)

Conveniently, Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the strikes occurred. It’s fair to speculate that Xi is today thinking harder about American requests to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator whose drive to acquire nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the American mainland has become what Tillerson called an “imminent” threat.

Having passed his first major national security test, Trump is now obliged to demonstrate firmness and consistency. What plans might the Pentagon have on the shelf to respond to further provocations? The next round of Tomahawk missiles could permanently ground Assad’s air force. That would make it easier to then establish no-fly zones. If such measures do not alter the calculations of Assad and his Iranian and Russian patrons, consideration could be given to leveling his defense, intelligence and command-and-control centers as well.

Another idea under discussion: setting up safe havens, or, to use a better term, “self-protection zones,” for those fleeing the Syrian regime and various jihadist forces, Sunni and Shiite alike. Israel and Jordan could help the inhabitants of such areas adjacent to their borders defend themselves. The Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis could contribute to the cost. Might this lead to the partition of Syria? Most likely, but it’s difficult to imagine a “political solution” that would not include such readjustments.

All this, while useful and perhaps even necessary, should be seen as insufficient. Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe but only one piece in a much larger geopolitical puzzle. Sooner rather than later, the Trump administration needs to develop what Obama refused to contemplate: a comprehensive and coherent strategy to counter the belligerent, imperialist and supremacist forces that have emerged from the Middle East and are now spreading like weeds around the world.

The Islamic State group will of course need to be driven off the lands on which it has attempted to establish a caliphate. After that, its terrorists will have to be hunted, along with those of al-Qaida, wherever they hide (e.g., Egypt where, over the weekend, they bombed two Coptic Christian churches).

But — and this is crucial — accomplishing these missions must not serve to further empower Iran’s jihadist rulers, who dream of establishing an expanding imamate, the Shiite version of a caliphate.

Most immediately, Congress should send Trump the legislation it is now considering, seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran in reprisal for its continuing support of terrorists, its missile tests and its maintenance of more than 35,000 troops in Syria, including its own, those of its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Shiite fighters recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suspending Iran’s deal with Boeing/Airbus would be useful, too. Only the willfully credulous believe that Iran’s theocrats won’t use such aircraft for illicit military purposes.

That the United States cannot solve all the world’s problems was one of Trump’s campaign themes. But the implication is not necessarily, as some of his supporters hoped, that he would turn a blind eye to all atrocities and threats not already within America’s borders.

In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and communists, enemies whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.

In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. If Trump has grasped that within his first 100 days, he’s not off to such a bad start.

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.