Foreign Policy

Opinion/Analysis: America should hit Iran where it hurts after 40 years of undeclared war

Most Americans don’t realize it, but we’ve been at war for the last 40 years with the Islamic state of Iran. This is not a war we declared. And often, it’s been a war that our political and intelligence elites have denied exists. That’s because, just like the war we’ve been fighting since the 9/11 attacks, it’s a war that others declared on us rather than a war of our choosing. It began on November 4, 1979, when “radicals” loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held our diplomats hostage for 444 days. Once the hostages were released, on the very minute President Reagan was sworn into office, most Americans – including our politicians – thought the war was over. We did nothing. On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. (I reported from the scene of that bombing for USA Today at the time). The U.S. government never determined who was behind the attack, although we now know it was Iran. We did nothing. On Oct. 23, 1983, twin truck bombs killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French peacekeepers in Beirut. Once again, Iran ordered and carried out the attacks. We did nothing. Over the years, the Iranian regime, through its top terror-master, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, kidnapped Americans, hijacked U.S. aircraft, and blew up more U.S. embassies while we did nothing. In 1998 Mugniyeh and his Iranian paymasters teamed up with Usama bin Laden, attacking U.S. embassies in Africa, driving a boat laden with explosives into the U.S.S. Cole, and yes, attacking America on Sept. 11, 2001. Victims of the 9/11 attacks have won more than $18 billion in damages against the Islamic state of Iran in U.S. courts, based on evidence that Iran “materially and directly supported al Qaeda” in preparing and executing those attacks. Iran has also targeted U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, killing more than 1,000 U.S. troops with specialized improvised explosive devices in Iraq, placing a bounty on U.S. service personnel in Afghanistan, and most recently targeting U.S. forces in Syria. The carnage just goes on and on. President Trump has said repeatedly that Americans are tired of endless wars. I agree. So here’s a strategy for winning this war and ending it once and for all. First, we need to increase military pressure on Iran by cutting off its “land bridge” through Syria to Israel’s northern border. This can be done by continuing to support the U.S. base at al Tanf in southeastern Syria, whether it is operated by Kurdish or Arab allies or members of the U.S. military. Next, we need to loosen Iran’s stranglehold over Iraq, by convincing the Iraqi government to disband the Iranian-backed Shiite militias that funnel arms and material through Iraqi territory into Syria, and by weeding out Iranian agents in the Iraqi government. Third, we need to provide material, political and diplomatic support to the pro-freedom movement inside Iran, striking the regime at the core of its weakness – its democracy deficiency. And fourth, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo needs to encourage U.S. friends and allies at the international meeting on the Middle East in Poland to enact new multilateral economic sanctions against Iran. These should include measures to freeze Iranian government assets so that the victims of Iranian terrorism with U.S. judgments can file claim to them overseas. Justice for victims of terrorism must be part of the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic dictatorship in Iran. After all, keeping safe those fat overseas bank accounts is something the corrupt mullahs in Iran treasure. Let’s hit them where it hurts.

We agree!!  Thanks to Kenneth R. Timmerman for that outstanding op/ed.  That was spot on!  Having personally spent some time in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Military Intelligence “field grade” officer, I know that we have been fighting a proxy war with Iran for many years.   Kenneth R. Timmerman, best-selling author, lectured on Iran at the Joint Counter-Intelligence Training Academy from 2010-2016. He was jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace prize with Ambassador John Bolton in 2006 for his work on Iran. His latest book is “ISIS Begins: a Novel of the Iraq War.”

Pompeo, at site of Obama’s address to Muslim world, rebukes his legacy: ‘Age of self-inflicted American shame is over’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday launched an astonishing rebuke of former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy at the site of Obama’s famous speech to the Muslim world — declaring that “the age of self-inflicted American shame is over.” Pompeo delivered his remarks in Cairo, where Obama famously spoke in 2009 and promised a new beginning with Muslim and Arab countries. He was criticized by conservatives for placing too much blame on the U.S. for strife in the region. Pompeo, while not mentioning Obama by name, said that “it was here, in this city, another American stood before you” and “told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology.” “He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East,” he said at the American University in Cairo. “He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ The results of these misjudgments have been dire.” Pompeo said that under Obama, the U.S. abandoned its allies and was “timid” about asserting itself, that the U.S. “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” and kept silent as Iranians tried to rise up against the regime in Tehran. He also criticized Obama-era policy for “wishful thinking [that] led us to look the other way” as Hezbollah built up its weaponry in Lebanon, and for doing nothing as Syrian President Bashar Assad gassed his own people. He then took another swipe at the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — from which the U.S. withdrew last year. The U.S. has since re-imposed economic sanctions on the country, including on oil exports. “Our eagerness to address only Muslims, not nations, ignored the rich diversity of the Middle East, and frayed old bonds. It undermined the concept of the nation-state, the building block of international stability,” he said. “And our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran, our common enemy.” But he promised his audience that the Trump administration was ushering in a new era of U.S. foreign policy. “The good news is this: The age of self-inflicted American shame is over, and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real ‘new beginning,’” he said. His speech emphasized America as a force for good in the region. He cited accomplishments under Trump’s leadership — including the pushback of Islamic State, the withdrawal of more troops and personnel from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and building a coalition to push back against Iranian influence. “We have rediscovered our voice. We have rebuilt our relationships. We have rejected false overtures from enemies. And look at what we have accomplished together,” he said. Pompeo’s speech comes as part of a tour of the region, including Jordan and other Gulf nations, as he seeks to coordinate an anti-Iran strategy. It comes after a sudden decision from President Trump last month to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, leading to concern from some allies in the region about U.S. commitments. On Thursday, Pompeo appeared to attempt to assuage those fears by pledging U.S. commitment. “Our aim is to partner with our friends and vigorously oppose our enemies, because a strong, secure, and economically viable Middle East is in our national interest – and yours,” he said. “Let me be clear: America will not retreat until the terror fight is over.”

Trump Picks Retired General John Abizaid for Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

A retired four-star general is President Donald Trump’s pick to be US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, filling a key diplomatic vacancy at a time when US-Saudi relations are being tested by the slaying of a journalist critical of the Saudi royal family. Trump announced Tuesday that he is nominating John Abizaid, the longest-serving commander of the US Central Command, to lead the US Embassy in Riyadh. It’s a post that has been empty since former ambassador Joseph Westphal left in January 2017. If confirmed by the Senate, Abizaid would become ambassador as the Trump administration is weighing the U.S. response to the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials claim Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member assassination squad sent from Riyadh on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revoked the visas of the Saudis implicated in the killing. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said additional measures will be taken. Abizaid, who retired in 2007, served in wars in Grenada, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Following the war in Iraq, Abizaid assumed control of CENTCOM, which overseas military operations in 20 nations stretching from northeast Africa to the Middle East to Central and South Asia. Abizaid, of Nevada, currently works as a private consultant and is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Previously, he was the distinguished chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point. He also served in various senior positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

GEN Abizaid (Ret) is an outstanding choice for Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  Left out of this rather lazy AP story is the fact that GEN Abizaid also happens to be of Lebanese decent (his grandparents immigrated to America), which gives him an Arab connection, which the Saudis will probably appreciate.  And, the man speaks Arabic.  So, as he deals with the Kingdom, that will also come in handy…not the mention the fact that he is a retired Army 4-star General who commanded CENTCOM.  The Saudis respect status, and GEN Abizaid has plenty of that.   GEN Abizaid is a grad of West Point, and got his Masters from Harvard where he wrote a paper on Saudi Arabia that won him accolades.  Little did he know then that’d be considered for this role.  Again, an excellent choice to be the next Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  We hope he is confirmed quickly.     🙂

Trump turns tables, scores wins over Russia

President Trump’s often-criticized effort to forge better relations with Russia has morphed into a confrontational stance that this week scored economic and national security wins. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that her government is backing construction of a shipping depot for importing liquefied natural gas from the U.S., bowing to Mr. Trump’s demand that she loosen Russia’s grip on the country’s energy supply. Mr. Trump then went directly after Moscow. He announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that for the past 31 years limited the development and deployment of missile or launch systems that can threaten Russia’s European neighbors. The president accused Russia of violating the missile system ban for years and, to the Kremlin’s dismay, vowed to force an expensive new arms race. Russian President Vladimir Putin was riled. At a meeting Tuesday in Moscow with National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, Mr. Putin described the developments as “unprovoked moves that are hard to call friendly.” He said a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Trump was in order. Later, Mr. Trump said he is willing to sit down with Mr. Putin when the two men are in Paris next month for events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. “It hasn’t been set up yet, but we probably will” meet, Mr. Trump said at the White House. When he last faced off with Mr. Putin at a July summit in Helsinki, Mr. Trump was roundly criticized for being too soft and timidly accepting the Russian’s denial that his country meddled in the 2016 presidential election. In Paris, Mr. Putin might be looking to reset the relationship. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce told The Washington Times that he welcomed the advances against Russia, saying the LNG terminal would help make Germany “less vulnerable to Russian manipulation.” The California Republican backed up Mr. Trump on quitting the nuclear missile treaty. “The Russians have been violating INF for years, making this deal unsustainable. We need durable arms control agreements,” he said. Russia’s violations of the missile system ban go back 10 years, with allegations of cheating leveled by the Obama administration and European leaders.

More winning!!  For more, click on the text above.     🙂

Opinion/Analysis: What Trump needs to do now with Saudi Arabia

If, as appears increasingly likely, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, then he has joined Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un among the ranks of rogue leaders who assassinate their critics on foreign soil. The only difference is that the Russian president and North Korean leader weren’t reckless and stupid enough to kill their opponents inside their own consulates. The disappearance of Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist, is a horrific crime. His loss will be felt deeply for those who cherish freedom of expression and believe that all people, including those in the Arab world, deserve to be free. Khashoggi’s disappearance is also a betrayal of President Trump. Upon taking office, Trump made Saudi Arabia his first foreign trip and put his new administration’s reputation and prestige behind the crown prince and his reforms. The crown prince, or MBS, as he is widely known, has possibly repaid those efforts by brutally killing a permanent U.S. resident. His betrayal has now put Trump in an impossible bind. The president must now find a way to reconcile three sets of irreconcilable facts: Fact No. 1: The United States can’t simply ignore or sweep Khashoggi’s death under the table. Even if Trump wants to do so, Congress won’t let him — nor should it. There must be consequences. Fact No. 2: MBS is not going anywhere. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. He is the son of the king. He has spent the past few years systematically eliminating his rivals and consolidating power. The idea that a new leader is going to emerge to replace him is not realistic. And if, by chance, such a leader did emerge, it would likely be someone who wants to roll back the crown prince’s efforts to rein in the religious establishment, clean up corruption and open up Saudi society. Be careful what you wish for. Fact No. 3: We need Saudi Arabia, less as a source of oil — the fracking revolution has dramatically expanded our energy independence — than as a counterweight to Iran, which is the main strategic menace to U.S. interests in the region. Saudi Arabia is our most important ally in countering that threat. No other country in the Middle East can play that role. A permanent breach with Saudi Arabia is not an acceptable outcome. How does Trump reconcile these three irreconcilable realities? The answer is: He can’t. The result is going to be unpleasant and unsatisfying. Many Democrats taking shots at the president as he tries to figure out a path forward need to check their hypocrisy. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka pointed out, “if you can’t restrain yourself from blaming Trump, spare a moment to blame [President Barack] Obama for the war in Syria,” where more than 470,000 men, women and children have died while the United States has stood by and done nothing. If you had a role in Middle East policy in the past eight years, that finger you are pointing at the Trump administration has blood dripping off it. So, what is going to happen? While we do need Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia also needs us. Trump said that he has told King Salman that Saudi Arabia would not last “two weeks” without U.S. military support. He’s right. We saved the Saudis from Saddam Hussein’s aggression and now protect them from Iran’s. Moreover, the United States has other leverage. Trump should make clear that Saudi Arabia’s actions have squandered the once bipartisan support in Congress for the kingdom — and that, unlike Saudi Arabia, the United States is not a monarchy. Congress has a say in our Middle East policy. It can impose costs on Saudi Arabia, by blocking military aid and arms sales. A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Trump calling for an investigation under the Magnitsky Act — a U.S. law that mandates sanctions, including travel restrictions and freezing assets, of foreign individuals who have committed gross violations of human rights. Magnitsky sanctions would have real teeth, because members of the royal family love to travel outside the Arabian Peninsula, where they can do things they cannot do at home. If MBS wants to avoid a rupture in relations, then he must accept responsibility and make restitution. He must acknowledge that he understands the gravity of this mistake — that he has made Saudi Arabia an international pariah, and is willing to do what is necessary to dig himself out of that hole through steps such as the release of political prisoners. And he must commit to stopping this kind of brutal behavior. Because his professed desire to modernize Saudi Arabia is incompatible with the medieval horrors that apparently took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Agreed, and well said, Marc.  Author Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

U.S. cancels 1950s treaty with Iran after international court rules against sanctions

The U.S. is pulling out of a 63-year-old friendship treaty with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday, just hours after an international tribunal ruled the Trump administration must roll back some of the sanctions it has imposed on Tehran over its nuclear and missile programs. Mr. Pompeo appeared in the State Department briefing room to personally deliver the news, calling the termination of the 1955 agreement “overdue” and accusing Iran of abusing the International Court of Justice* in The Hague to undercut U.S. policy. Iran cited the 1955 agreement as the basis for arguing at the ICJ that curbs on humanitarian trade announced by the Trump administration after President Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal this spring were illegal under international law. In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation. Mr. Pompeo noted that the court refused to grant Iran much more sweeping relief from U.S. sanctions that Tehran had demanded. He also said the U.S. sanctions policy already took into account exceptions for humanitarian transactions with Iran, and accused the regime in Tehran of spending money on military adventures abroad rather than on the needs of its own citizens. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised the court ruling on Twitter, calling it “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. and a “victory for rule of law,” The Associated Press reported. Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, accused the Trump administration of acting “impetuously” in abrogating the treaty. “That treaty has proven immensely valuable to the United States historically, including in the judgment against Iran over the 1979 hostage crisis,” Mr. Abdi said in a statement. Mr. Pompeo said it remained to be seen what the practical effect of abrogating the 1955 “Amity Treaty” would be. He said Iran has been “ignoring” the agreement for a long time, and the ICJ ruling provided just one more reason for ending the accord.

New York Times: Trump’s Iran Sanctions ‘Working’; Foreign Policy ‘Success’

The New York Times gave President Donald Trump credit for oil sanctions on Iran, which it said had been successful in pressuring the regime without raising oil prices. In an article by Cliffor Krauss titled, “Trump Hit Iran With Oil Sanctions. So Far, They’re Working,” the Times reported that Trump had defied foreign policy experts and achieved what few of them would have thought possible. The Times noted: “When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster. If Mr. Trump’s approach worked too well, oil prices would spike and hurt the American economy. If it failed, international companies would continue trading with Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic unscathed, defiant and free to restart its nuclear program. But the policy has been effective without either of those nasty consequences, at least so far.” “The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm. Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration’s aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge. The article also noted that while European governments have criticized Trump for pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal with Iran, European companies have been supporting Trump’s policy by pulling out of Iran.

Even “the failing New York Times” had to admit that Trump’s pressure on Iran IS working.  I bet that was a painful admission.      🙂