Foreign Affairs

Opinion/Analysis: In Syria, Trump needs a strategy to keep Russia, Assad and Iran off-balance – and US involvement to a minimum

President Trump has sent a message that his “red line” will not be crossed. It was important to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability and that’s what we did. In addition, President Trump’s actions were not lost on Kim Jong Un and I believe this also weighed into the president’s calculus. The North Korea nuclear threat is the greatest threat facing the United States today. American strength and leadership has brought Kim Jong Un to the table to discuss denuclearization. Kim Jong Un was watching how we would respond to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attack on his own people, and he saw that with this president, “red lines” will not be crossed. Another complicating factor was Iran. Iran has been a “great enabler” of the North Korean nuclear threat, but they are also in Syria. This also had to weigh in on the president’s decision making process. The big question now is “What is the next step?” It is important that the United States execute a “3 Pronged Strategy” simultaneously designed to drive a wedge between Russia, Assad, and Iran. Let’s keep them busy and off balance, focusing on their own problems, so they have less time for mischief and we can focus on our greatest national security challenge—North Korea. Here’s a framework of how it could look: Assad—Support an international campaign to go after him as a war criminal. Yes, I understand the problem of having the UN Security Council (because of a Russian veto) referring this to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. However, look at what’s going on in Sweden and Germany. Swedish and German prosecutors have been in the forefront of prosecuting Syria war crimes. And the Swiss have begun legal proceedings against Rifaat al-Assad, former Syrian Vice President and Bashar al-Assad’s uncle. Further, Carla del Ponte, a former member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, has said the evidence is there to convict Bashar al-Assad of war crimes. Let’s build on all of this. Russia—Here, let’s focus on the 2013 UN Security Council Agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program. Why has Russia been AWOL for the past five years and what happened to the inspections and required monthly reports? And why did Russia veto the continuation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism which was investigating chemical weapons use in Syria? Iran—Tension has been growing with a number of Arab states who have had it with Iran. In the fall of 2016, some 11 Arab nations complained to the United Nations that Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism. This was followed up in late 2017 with several Arab nations saying they would bring specifics to the UN Security Council. Let’s encourage these Arab nations to have a sustained plan to keep Iran busy having to deal with its own problems. Anyone who looks at the history of Syria realizes that the phrase “constant turmoil” best describes it. It is a quagmire and the U.S. needs to take steps now so that our involvement there doesn’t escalate and the situation doesn’t get out of control. President Trump’s action in degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability was the right one and it showed both Assad and Kim Jong Un that with him, “red lines” won’t be crossed. Implementing a “3 Pronged Strategy” designed to drive a wedge between Russia, Assad and Iran and force them each to focus on their own problems will help ensure that American involvement in Syria doesn’t escalate and we can focus on the greatest national security threat to America today—North Korea.

An interesting op/ed by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army, Van Hipp.  If only it were that simple…

North Korea willing to hold talks with US, ex-spy chief says

North Korea has “enough” willingness to hold talks with the U.S., a former intelligence chief from the rogue country believed to be the mastermind behind a deadly attack on South Korea told the country’s president on Sunday. The Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, reported Sunday the news of the meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yong Chol, a senior official of the North’s ruling Worker’s Party, during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap News Agency. “President Moon pointed out that U.S.-North Korea dialogue must be held at an early date even for an improvement in the South-North Korea relationship and the fundamental resolution of Korean Peninsula issues,” spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said of the meeting. The two met for an hour in Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap. “The North Korean delegation too agreed that North Korea-U.S. relations must develop along with the South-North Korea relationship while noting [the North] has enough intention to hold North Korea-U.S. dialogue,” the spokesman added. The United States and North Korea, which have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war after an armistice in 1953, have been at odds for decades. In recent months the war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump has escalated as the North tests nuclear missiles and Washington pushes the Hermit Kingdom to disarm. The White House said in a statement on Sunday that “denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.” “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” the statement read.

For more of this story, click on the text above.

Officials: Mike Pence Did Not Snub North Koreans Seated Nearby at Olympics Opening Ceremony

Officials traveling with Vice President Mike Pence during his trip to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies pushed back on reports that Pence snubbed the North Koreans and that he knowingly chose to accept a seat in South Korea’s box in which North Korean representatives were also seated. Earlier on Friday, Pence and second lady Karen Pence met with North Korean defectors at the Cheonan Memorial, which is located outside of Seoul, South Korea. The Pences were joined by Otto Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier. Pence told the defectors that he was “very grateful for [their] presence and very grateful for [their] courage.” He added that he “wanted the honor of meeting with the men and women who fled the tyranny of North Korea.” Pence told the defectors that it was important that the truth about North Korea is known during the Olympic Games. The Vice President held a press gaggle outside of the memorial during which he was asked whether his message on North Korea was being overshadowed by Olympic fever or Kim Jonh-un’s sister’s presence there. Pence responded that President Donald Trump sent him there to “reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.” He then added that the President also sent him to South Korea to: Make sure that as north Korea engages in what prime minister Abe rightly called a “charm offensive” around the Olympics. A charm offensive that they’ve have done before at the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2006 – which as I mentioned earlier this week – it would just be a matter of eight months after the 2006 winter Olympics that North Korea tested their first nuclear bomb. Pence also told the press that the night prior, he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in “reaffirmed our commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” He added that Moon repeated a message in private that Moon has spoken in public, “that South Korea stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and our allies in continuing to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically.” During a pre-Olympics Opening ceremonies reception in Pyeongchang later that day, Pence “did not come across” the North Korean delegation, according to a spokesman for the Vice President. The North Koreans were present at the reception at the same time as Pence. Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence sat in South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s box for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. They sat in the same row as President Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The three had held a meeting ahead of the ceremony. Both Kim Yong Nam and Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, also sat in Moon’s box. A White House official indicated that it was fair to cast the lack of interaction between Pence and the North Koreans in Moon’s box as mutual. White House officials clarified for the press that it was known ahead of time that the North Koreans would also be seated in Moon’s box, and Pence knowingly chose to sit in Moon’s box instead of in the U.S. delegation box. White House officials told the press: We wanted to show the alliance seated together. We wanted the North Koreans to see the vice president, Abe and Moon sitting directly in front of them for the Opening Ceremonies, and it would show that that alliance is strong. At any moment, he could have gotten up and left and sat somewhere else, and then you would have had the imagine of North sitting in the box with South Korea and Japan. But he stayed there the entire time. Pence sat in front row and talked to Moon and Abe and their spouses, and the North Koreans sat in the back and didn’t talk to anybody, and that image is telling,” the officials said. The North Koreans had met with Abe at the earlier reception and with Moon. “I just don’t think you talk geopolitics over speed skating. He’s been very clear what his message is. Fred Warmbier attended the ceremony as Pence’s guest, but in the U.S. delegation box. The North and South Korean Olympic athletes entered the ceremony together under a united flag. White House officials speaking with the press after the evening’s Opening Ceremony pushed back on reports in the South Korean media that Pence had snubbed the North Koreans.

Nikki Haley Threatens to Yank Funding from U.N. over Jerusalem Resolution: ‘This Vote Will Be Remembered’

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tore into the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, threatening to pull U.S. funding from the international body in response to a resolution condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” Haley said in remarks to the assembly in New York. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations and we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit,” she warned. The resolution, which passed 128-9, expressed “deep regret” at the call made by President Trump, and calls on “all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.” It was sponsored by Turkey and Yemen and comes after the U.S. vetoed a similar resolution at the Security Council. The U.S. does not hold veto power at the General Assembly. Haley’s remarks were her toughest to date in her career as ambassador, where she has consistently grilled various U.N. officials over the body’s anti-Israel and anti-American bias. She has repeatedly noted the enormous U.S. contributions to the U.N. and has demanded better value for money from the bloated bureaucracy. While Haley has repeatedly pointed to bias at the U.N., the latest resolution from the GA is different in that it directly singles out the U.S. for a decision in line with long-standing U.S. policy, and it seeks to shame the U.S. Haley has frequently contrasted the treatment of the U.S. and Israel with countries that have appalling human rights records like Cuba, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia – all three of which remain on the Human Rights Council. The Trump administration has shown a willingness to back up its tough talk with action. In October, the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural body, over that organization’s long-standing anti-Israel bias. Haley’s remarks emphasized democratic accountability and took a possible swipe at countries that oppose the U.S., countries which are frequently lacking in such accountability. She warned: ” America will put our embassy in Jerusalem, that is what the American p[eople want us to do, and it is the right thing to do. No vote at the United Nations will make any difference on that, but this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N. and this vote will be remembered.” Haley’s remarks come a day after President Trump also warned about pulling money from “nations that take our money and vote against us.” “They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars then vote against us, well we’re watching those votes,” he said. “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

YES!!!  It’s about time we started to push back against the bloated U.N.!!  For decades they have taken BILLIONS and BILLIONS of our hard-earned tax dollars, and all the while pushing agendas NOT in our country’s national security, or economic, interests.  Yet, we continue to just take it and look the other way.  Ask yourself…  When was the last time the UN did ANYTHING that was in the national security interests of the U.S.?  How about NEVER!  Yet, not only are we the largest contributor to the UN in terms of money.  But, we also provide the overwhelming number of military personnel to support UN efforts worldwide.  It’s high time we kicked the UN out of NYC and sent them to Geneva or some other western European location.  And, while we SHOULD maintain a voting/diplomatic presence at the UN (as well as veto authority on the Security Council), we should seriously reduce our monetary contributions as well as troop contributions until the UN starts supporting an agenda more in line with our national security and economic agendas.  MAJOR kudos to Ambassador Nikki Haley for slapping these self-righteous, entitlement-minded, hypocritical, America-hating countries right across the face.  And, it would also appear that Pres. Trump has her back.  Outstanding!!!    🙂

Turkey’s relationship with the West crumbles amid new jail sentence for American journalist

A Wall Street Journal reporter’s sentencing by a Turkish court this week, to two years behind bars by “spreading terrorist propaganda,” marks the latest in the government’s escalating hostility not only with the press, but with any figure tied to the West. Ayla Albayrak — a dual Finnish-Turkish citizen — was tried in absentia, and thus won’t have to join the prison ranks unless she returns, but dozens of other western professionals aren’t so fortunate. Serkan Gölge, a 37-year-old NASA scientist of Turkish descent, who was vacationing with family in the quiet southern town of Hatay recently was arrested by the government, as was Turkey-based American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been residing in Turkey without incident for more than 20 years. Furthermore, Ismail Kul, a chemistry professor at Widener University in Pennsylvania and his real estate agent brother, Mustafa Kul, were apprehended in August last year while on summer vacation in Bursa. Then last week, Turkish authorities arrested U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz on terrorism charges and this week, they announced that they were seeking a second unnamed U.S. consulate worker. In February, fellow consulate employee Hamza Uluçay too was abruptly detained. These are just a few of the many western-linked — most of whom hold dual citizenship in Turkey — who have been swept up in President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ongoing purge in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup attempt to remove him from power. The common thread with all who are being incarcerated? Suspected ties — however indirect, vague or unproven — to Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric who Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the coup despite his vehement denials, or to The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The Kurdish militant group is closely associated to The Women’s Protection Units or YPJ, who the U.S. is training and funding to fight ISIS in Syria. But any ties are considered terrorist ties and diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the United States seemingly have been escalating since the failed coup attempt and since the U.S. upped its support of People’s Protection Units or YPG in closing in on the ISIS-controlled Raqqa over a year ago. And those tensions hit a high this week, with governments in both countries precipitously suspending nonimmigrant visas for each other’s citizens. Some experts anticipate that things are likely to only get worse, and more westerners will be jailed or targeted inside the country as collateral damage, if the U.S. does not cave to pressure and agree to Gülen. “Bilateral relations with Turkey are deteriorating because President Erdoğan seeks to use the U.S. as a scapegoat to advance his political agenda and maximize his own political power,” Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said…

Agreed..   This story is developing..

China’s Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020

China has drawn up secret military plans to take over the island of Taiwan by 2020, an action that would likely lead to a larger U.S.-China conventional or nuclear war, according to newly-disclosed internal Chinese military documents. The secret war plan drawn up by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese Communist Party’s armed forces, calls for massive missile attacks on the island, along with a naval and air blockade that is followed by amphibious beach landing assaults using up to 400,000 troops. The plans and operations are outlined in a new book published this week, The Chinese Invasion Threat by Ian Easton, a China affairs analyst with the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank. The danger of a Taiwan conflict has grown in recent years even as current tensions between Washington and Beijing are mainly the result of U.S. opposition to Chinese militarization in the South China Sea and China’s covert support of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. “Of all the powder kegs out there, the potential for a war over Taiwan is by far the largest and most explosive,” the 290-page book states, adding that the growing likelihood of a war over Taiwan will dominate worries within the Pentagon for years to come. “China has made clear that its primary external objective is attaining the ability to apply overwhelming force against Taiwan during a conflict, and if necessary destroy American-led coalition forces,” the books says. Democratic-ruled Taiwan poses an existential threat to China’s communist leaders because the island, located some 90 miles off the southeast coast “serves as a beacon of freedom for ethnically Chinese people everywhere,” the book states. “Consequently, the PLA considers the invasion of Taiwan to be its most critical mission, and it is this envisioned future war that drives China’s military buildup.” Parts of the PLA invasion scheme were first revealed publicly by the Taiwan Defense Ministry in late 2013. The plan calls for military operations against the island to be carried out by 2020. The invasion program was confirmed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the major Communist Party meeting five years ago when Xi committed to “continue the 2020 Plan, whereby we build and deploy a complete operational capability to use force against Taiwan by that year.” Other internal PLA writings that surfaced recently indicate China is ready to use force when it believes non-military means are not successful in forcing the capitulation to Beijing’s demands, and if the United States can be kept out of the battle. Current U.S. law under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to provide defensive weaponry to Taiwan to prevent the use of force against the island. China currently is using non-lethal means—psychological, diplomatic, propaganda, and informational warfare—against Taiwan. Once these are exhausted, the plan for large-scale amphibious assault will be carried out. Any attempt by the Chinese military to take the island will be difficult and costly, the book says. The island has rough, mountainous terrain that has created a wind tunnel effect in the strait that produces very difficult weather for carrying troop and weapons transports, both air and sea. Taiwan is around 230 miles long and 90 miles wide. Taiwanese military forces have been preparing for an invasion since Chinese nationalist forces first took refuge on the island at the end of the civil war with the communists in 1949. However, since the 1980s, China has been rapidly building up its military capabilities for a battle to forcibly unify the island with the mainland. Over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles currently are stationed within range of Taiwan. According to the book, China’s invasion plan is known as the Joint Island Attack Campaign.

Definitely something to keep an eye on..   Bestselling author, and veteran defense writer Bill Gertz is responsible for that excellent piece.  Bill is very well connected in the defense community, and is a very credible source of information.  To read more, click on the text above.

Obama Admin Hid Intel on Iranian Militants in Syria to Push Nuclear Deal

The Obama administration likely hid information about Iran illicitly ferrying militants into Syria on commercial aircraft in order to promote the landmark nuclear deal and foster multi-billion dollar business deals with Tehran’s state-controlled airline sector, according to lawmakers and other sources familiar with the matter. The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed last week that congressional leaders are calling for an investigation into Iran for using its state-controlled air carrier, Iran Air, to ferry militant fighters into Syria, where they are taking up arms in defense of embattled President Bashar al-Assad. Photographs provided to Congress show Iran using Iran Air to ferry these soldiers between 2016 and 2017, in part when the Obama administration removed sanctions on Iran Air and promoted multi-billion dollars sales between the carrier and aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which is seeking to provide Iran Air with a fleet of new planes that many suspect will be used to carry terrorist fighters and weapons into regional hotspots. This behavior violates international laws governing the nuclear deal and has now led lawmakers and others to accuse the Obama administration of downplaying Iran’s illicit activity in order to promote the nuclear deal and ensure Tehran receives a new commercial fleet. Multiple senior Obama administration officials, including former secretary of state John Kerry, traveled the globe to promote trade with Iranian companies, including Iran Air, at the same time Iran was found to be ferrying militants into Syria. Lawmakers and others suspect the Obama administration either hid or downplayed this information in order to preserve the nuclear deal. “The Obama administration lifted sanctions against Iran Air as a political concession during nuclear negotiations with Iran, not because of any change in its activity,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), one of the lawmakers calling for an investigation into Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes, told the Free Beacon. “Using social media and public flight tracking websites, any person with a computer can document Iranian military transports to Syria on commercial jets,” Roskam said. “The Obama administration undoubtedly knew Iranian airliners were being used to fuel Assad’s atrocities in Syria, but the administration officials who were globetrotting as Tehran’s chamber of commerce trying to shore up the nuclear deal didn’t care.” “Iran Air continues to support the Iran-Assad war machine to this day, and the Trump administration must hold the airline accountable and work to stop them,” the lawmaker said. Roskam and a delegation of other Republican congressmen petitioned the Trump Treasury Department last week to investigate photographic evidence showing Iran using Iran Air to ferry militants into Syria. “Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the lawmakers wrote..

This is one of those stories you won’t see anywhere in the dominantly liberal mainstream media.  And, with what’s going on in Texas, this is getting buried “below the fold.”