Posts Tagged ‘Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’

Trump weighing aggressive Iran strategy — More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

September 14, 2017
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WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

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In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for U.S. policy but leave it to U.S. military commanders, diplomats and other U.S. officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The White House declined to comment.

The plan is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programs and support for militants, several sources said.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said another senior administration official.

The proposal also targets cyber espionage and other activity and potentially nuclear proliferation, the official said.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former U.S. official said.

The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi’ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.

In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.

U.S. ships have fired flares and warning shots to drive off IRGC boats that made what were viewed as threatening approaches after refusing to heed radio warnings in the passageway for 35 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum exports.

U.S. commanders now are permitted to open fire only when they think their vessels and the lives of their crews are endangered. The sources offered no details of the proposed changes in the rules, which are classified.

ISLAMIC STATE FIRST

The plan does not include an escalation of U.S. military activity in Syria and Iraq. Trump’s national security aides argued that a more muscular military response to Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq would complicate the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, which they argued should remain the top priority, four of the sources said.

Mattis and McMaster, as well as the heads of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Forces Command, have opposed allowing U.S. commanders in Syria and Iraq to react more forcefully to provocations by the IRGC, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, the four sources said.

The advisers are concerned that more permissive rules of engagement would divert U.S. forces from defeating the remnants of Islamic State, they said.

RELATED: Ballistic missile testing in Iran

Moreover, looser rules could embroil the United States in a conflict with Iran while U.S. forces remain overstretched, and Trump has authorized a small troop increase for Afghanistan, said one senior administration official.

A former U.S. official said Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq have been “very helpful” in recapturing vast swaths of the caliphate that Islamic State declared in Syria and Iran in 2014.

U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters battling Islamic State in Syria have been wrestling with how to respond to hostile actions by Iranian-backed forces.

In some of the most notable cases, U.S. aircraft shot down two Iranian-made drones in June. Both were justified as defensive acts narrowly tailored to halt an imminent threat on the ground.

 

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Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers.

Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions.

“The main issue for us was to get the president not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran,” one of the two U.S. officials said. “Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other (issues.)”

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(Writing by Jonathan Landay.; Reporting by Arshad Mohammed,Jonathan Landay, and Steve Holland.; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and John Walcott; Editing by Howard Goller)

Includes videos:

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/09/12/report-trump-weighing-aggressive-iran-strategy-against-malign-activities/23206015/

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Donald Trump is pictured here. | Getty Images
President Donald Trump’s administration has been reviewing the Iran nuclear deal. | Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

More than 80 experts on nuclear proliferation urged the Trump administration not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in a statement on Wednesday.

The agreement, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama in 2015, ended several sanctions against Iran in exchange for that country taking steps to dismantle its nuclear program. Iran is subject to regular inspections to monitor whether it adheres to those rules under terms of the agreement.

The signatories, which include many academics and some former State Department officials, wrote that they are “concerned by statements from the Trump administration that it may be seeking to create a false pretext for accusing Iran of noncooperation or noncompliance with the agreement in order to trigger the re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.”

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley described the deal as a “very flawed and very limited agreement” and contended that “Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half.”

The experts who signed the letter, though, described the agreement as “an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts” and warned against leaving it.

“Abandoning the deal without clear evidence of an unresolved material breach by Iran that is corroborated by the other EU3+3 partners runs the risk that Tehran would resume some of its nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium to higher levels or increasing the number of operating centrifuges,” they wrote. “These steps would decrease the time it would take for Iran to obtain enough nuclear material for a warhead.”

President Donald Trump was a critic of the Iran deal as a candidate, but he has not taken steps to abandon it since taking office. His administration, however, has been reviewing the deal.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/13/trump-iran-nuclear-deal-letter-242655

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Israel Hopes For a New Policy Toward Iran Soon

September 13, 2017
BY MICHAEL WILNER, REUTERS
 SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 06:32

At Rosh Hashana reception, Israeli ambassador lays out Jerusalem’s expectations for the new year.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. (photo credit:MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON — The Israeli government hopes that the coming weeks “will bring about a dramatic change” in the trajectory of a nuclear deal between Iran and international powers, the nation’s ambassador, Ron Dermer, said on Tuesday, before a room full of lawmakers and Trump administration officials.

At his annual Rosh Hashana reception, the ambassador listed Iran as the greatest threat to Israel and the wider region. The administration is considering declaring Iran in noncompliance of the agreement next month — a move that would promote a new, heated congressional debate on whether to leave the landmark nuclear accord.

Dermer offered praise for US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace team, one of whose leaders, Jason Greenblatt, was in attendance. The team is “very quietly working to advance a serious process” toward regional peace, he said.

The envoy also called on lawmakers to pass the Taylor Force Act, a bill making its way through Congress that would threaten the Palestinian Authority with an aid cut should it continue a program compensating the families of terrorists and murderers convicted in Israel.

Dermer’s statements came in the wake of reports by six current and former US officials that US President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive US responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for US policy but leave it to US military commanders, diplomats and other US officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive US interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former US official told Reuters.

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South Korea, U.S. plan more military drills after North Korea nuclear test rattles globe

September 4, 2017

Reuters

By Christine KimDavid Brunnstrom

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, right, speaks to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, regarding the escalating crisis in North Korea’s nuclear threats. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – South Korea said on Monday it was preparing fresh military drills with its ally the United States and ramping up its ballistic missile defenses in response to North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test a day earlier.

The United Nations Security Council was set to meet later on Monday to discuss fresh sanctions against the isolated regime. U.S. President Donald Trump had also asked to be briefed on all available military options, according to his defense chief.

South Korea’s air force and army conducted exercises involving long-range air-to-surface missiles and ballistic missiles on Monday, the joint chiefs of staff said in a statement. More drills were being prepared with U.S. forces in the South, it said.

South Korea’s environment ministry will also announce on Monday its approval of an environmental assessment report for the deployment of a controversial U.S. anti-missile defense system, a ministry official told Reuters.

South Korea said in June it would hold off installing the remaining components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system until it completed an assessment of its impact on the environment.

North Korea said Sunday’s nuclear test was of an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile, prompting the threat of a “massive” military response from the United States.

“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said outside the White House after meeting Trump and his national security team.

“We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,” Mattis said. “But as I said, we have many options to do so.”

Trump has previously vowed to stop North Korea developing nuclear weapons and said he would unleash “fire and fury” if it threatened U.S. territory. That prompted the North to threaten to fire missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, although it has since appeared to back away from that threat.

TOUGHER SANCTIONS?

Despite the tough talk, the immediate focus of the international response was expected to be on tougher economic sanctions against Pyongyang.

Diplomats have said the UN Security Council could now consider banning Pyongyang’s textile exports and the North’s national airline, stop supplies of oil to the government and military, prevent North Koreans from working abroad and add top officials to a blacklist to subject them to an asset freeze and travel ban.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Sunday he would put together a package of new sanctions to potentially cut off all trade with North Korea.

“If countries want to do business with the United States, they obviously will be working with our allies and others to cut off North Korea economically,” Mnuchin told Fox News.

North Korea, which carries out its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN resolutions and sanctions, said on state television the hydrogen bomb test ordered by leader Kim Jong Un had been a “perfect success”.

The test had registered with international seismic agencies as a man-made earthquake near a test site. Japanese and South Korean officials said the tremor was about 10 times more powerful than the one picked up after North Korea’s previous nuclear test a year ago.

China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration said data from radiation monitoring stations near the North Korean border showed no impact on “China’s environment or populace”.

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South Korean troops fire Hyunmoo Missile into the waters of the East Sea at a military exercise in South Korea September 4, 2017. Defense Ministry/Yonhap/via REUTERS 

Japanese and South Korean stock markets were both down modestly on Monday, while safe haven assets including gold and sovereign bonds ticked higher, but trade was cautious. [MKTS/GLOB]

“Assuming the worst on the Korean peninsula has not proven to be a winning trading strategy this year,” said Sean Callow, a senior forex strategist at Westpac Bank. “Investors seem reluctant to price in anything more severe than trade sanctions, and the absence of another ‘fire and fury’ Trump tweet has helped encourage markets to respond warily.”

South Korea’s finance minister vowed to implement policies to support financial markets if instability caused by the latest test showed signs of spreading to the real economy.

“We are aware that there could be negative ripple effects should geopolitical risks resurface,” Kim Dong-yeon said in a policy meeting urgently scheduled with the central bank and financial regulators before financial markets opened.

The size and scope of the latest test set off a new round of diplomatic handwringing after weeks of profound tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met on the sidelines of a BRICS summit in China, agreed to “appropriately deal” with North Korea’s nuclear test, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

As North Korea’s main ally, China said it strongly condemned the nuclear test and urged Pyongyang to stop its “wrong” actions.

In a series of early morning tweets, Trump appeared to rebuke ally South Korea.

“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” Trump said on Twitter.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has argued for continuing dialogue with its neighbor over its nuclear program, while also supporting international sanctions.

Still, Trump’s response was more orderly and less haphazard than he had offered to other provocations by North Korea.

His handling of Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test reflected a more traditional approach to crisis management, which U.S. officials said illustrated the influence of Mattis and new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly.

Pyongyang tested two ICBMs in July that potentially could fly about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting many parts of the U.S. mainland within range and prompting a new round of tougher international sanctions.

Hours before the latest nuclear test, North Korean state news agency KCNA released pictures showing Kim inspecting a silver, hourglass-shaped warhead during a visit to the North’s nuclear weapons institute.

KCNA said North Korea “recently succeeded” in making a more advanced hydrogen bomb. It says its weapons programs are needed to counter U.S. aggression.

For a graphic on nuclear North Korea, click: here

Additional reporting by Shin-hyung Lee, Hyunjoo Jin, Cynthia Kim in SEOUL, Steve Holland and John Walcott in WASHINGTON, Wayne Cole in SYDNEY; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait

The American Spirit Is Alive in Texas — Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick.

September 1, 2017

Give Texas what it needs. It has endured a disaster without precedent. Washington must move quickly, generously. There should be no “The relief bill must be offset by cuts in federal spending.” There should be no larding it up or loading it down with extraneous measures. This is an emergency.

This is no time to threaten government shutdowns. It’s no time to be dilating on debt ceilings. This is the time to know as never before that everything that holds us together as a nation must be strengthened wherever possible, and whatever sinks us in rancor avoided and shunned.

Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick.

Most Americans, including Texans, don’t have more than a few hundred dollars in available savings. Most live close to the edge, paycheck to paycheck. Most homeowners in Houston don’t have flood insurance. When they’re lucky enough to get out of the shelter, they’ll return to houses that are half-ruined—wet, moldy, dank, with no usable furniture—and with kids coming down with colds and stomach ailments from stress or from standing water that holds bacteria and viruses. It will be misery for months. When the trauma is over, there’ll be plenty of time for debate. Do we need to hold more in reserve for national disasters? Do local zoning laws need rethinking? All worthy questions—for later.

There is such a thing as tact. It has to do with a sense of touch—an ability to apprehend another’s position or circumstances, and doing or saying the right thing. There is, believe it or not, such a thing as political tact. It too involves knowing the positions of others, and knowing what time it is.

Politicians, don’t use this disaster to score points or rub your ideology in somebody’s face or make your donors smile by being small, not big.

Give Texas what it needs. Keep the government up and running. Don’t even consider doing otherwise.

Now another subject, which ties back to Houston. A lot of people this week were saying, “You should see that Mattis speech.” A frequent answer was: “I did. I play it over and over.”

A week or so ago, probably in Jordan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had an impromptu meeting with what looked like a few dozen U.S. troops. Someone taped it. This is what Mr. Mattis said: “Hold the line.”

“For those of you I haven’t met, my name’s Mattis,” he began. “Thanks for being out here, OK? I know at times you wonder if any of us know . . . but believe me, I know you’re far from home every one of you, I know you could all be going to college you young people, or you could be back on the block. [We’re] just grateful. . . .

“The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is gonna survive is if we’ve got tough hombres like you. . . . We don’t frickin’ scare, that’s the bottom line.

“You’re a great example for our country right now. It’s got some problems—you know it and I know it. It’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, of being friendly to one another. That’s what Americans owe to one another—we’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”

He ended: “I flunked retirement, OK? Only reason I came back was to serve alongside young people like you, who are so selfless and frankly so rambunctious.”

This was the voice of true moral authority, authority earned through personal sacrifice. Speeches like that come only from love.

But it was particularly poignant that Mattis’s speech, with its refrain—“Hold the line”—spread so far and fast this week.

And so, to selfless and frankly rambunctious Texas:

If you gave just a few minutes to the news, you saw it all—the generosity and courage, the sense of community, of people who really care about each other. You saw the pontoons and air mattresses and bass boats and rowboats and pool floats in which people were rescued. No one knows how many were saved or how many saved them. Every disaster at some point becomes a jumble, and people stopped counting. But surely tens of thousands were saved.

We all saw it, often live, on television and the internet because of excellent reporters and crews:

A mother with little children was marooned, the water in her home rising dangerously. “I didn’t know who to call. I didn’t know if it was going to be too late.” Suddenly, there were men outside the house coming for her. “It was just an angel,” she said as she wept from the back of their boat.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo honored Steve Perez, the 60-year-old cop who drowned in his patrol car. When Mr. Acevedo spoke to Perez’s widow, she told him she’d begged her husband not to go in but he’d told her, “We’ve got work to do.” The chief told her: You know who he was, if he had to die, he wouldn’t want it to be home in bed, he would have wanted it to be on the job and trying to help. “Because he has that in his DNA,” said Mr. Acevedo.

On one channel they were looking for what they’d heard was a group of abandoned horses being led through the streets by a guy in a jet ski. In Columbia Lakes a local man showed a reporter the homemade barrier he’d built to protect his neighbors in case the levee broke. He wasn’t afraid: “We don’t do drama.”

On Facebook there was the story of the woman who went into labor while the waters quickly rose. Word spread through the apartment complex. Soon a huge, heavy truck made its way to her door. Neighbors formed a human chain to help her out. She got to the hospital and gave birth to a girl.

There were a lot of human chains. And often when they showed people being pulled from houses the families were all ethnicities and races, the whole American mix—black mamas, white papas, mixed kids, an Asian child. On the national level America always sounds like a constant argument over race. On the local level, meantime, everybody has been happily integrating in the most personal possible ways.

The local ABC station caught a young Catholic priest, a French Canadian assigned to a Houston parish, out in a kayak in heavy rain looking for people who could use a Mass. “I guess this is how the Americas were evangelized as well with a canoe,” he said, “and this is a kayak. I hope that can bring a smile to a few people.” Noticing the TV cameras, he said: “I guess we’re live. The Lord is alive, and the Lord is always with us as well.”

And of course there was the Cajun Navy, from Louisiana, performing its own spontaneous Dunkirk. Texas had taken them in after Katrina. Now it was “Sam Houston, we are here.”

We are a great nation. We forget. But what happened in Texas reminded us. It said: My beloved America you’re not a mirage, you’re still here.

If they’d done only that, they’d deserve whatever they need.

They held the line.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-american-spirit-is-alive-in-texas-1504221483

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U.S. Says It Has 11,000 Troops in Afghanistan, More Than Formerly Disclosed

August 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United States has about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, acknowledging for the first time publicly that the total forces there are higher than formally disclosed in recent years.

Previously, Defense Department officials had said 8,400 troops were in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. An additional 2,000 American troops, which military officials have not publicly acknowledged, are in Afghanistan to help local forces conduct counterterrorism missions.

The new count includes covert as well as temporary units, defense officials said.

The disclosure came after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed frustration with how troops in war zones were counted. To get around Obama-era restrictions on the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders sometimes resorted to ad hoc arrangements.

“The secretary has determined we must simplify our accounting methodology and improve the public’s understanding of America’s military commitment in Afghanistan,” said Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman.

Before Mr. Mattis sends 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as he is expected to do under President Trump’s new strategy for the war there, he has said he wants to know how many troops are on the ground.

“The first thing I have to do is level the bubble and account for everybody who’s on the ground there now,” Mr. Mattis told reporters last week. “The idea being that we’re not going to have different buckets that we’re accounting for them in, to tell you what the total number is.”

Read the rest:

The Danger of a Jihadist Pakistan

August 29, 2017

Careless U.S. pressure could push the country’s nukes into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. China can be helpful.

By John Bolton
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 28, 2017 6:54 p.m. ET

Almost certainly, the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan. President Trump’s announcement last week that he will send more U.S. troops—some sources say another 4,000—to Afghanistan represents a change in tactics from President Obama’s policy. But the ultimate objective is still opaque, and even once the specifics are articulated, what may ultimately matter more is the still-undeveloped “South Asia policy” promised by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

That means dealing with Pakistan. Islamabad has provided financial and military aid, including privileged sanctuaries, to the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Islamic State, al Qaeda and other malefactors, allowing them not just to survive but flourish. President Trump rightly says this must stop and is encouraging Pakistan’s principal adversary, India, to increase its economic assistance to Afghanistan.

But the task isn’t so straightforward. The Bush and Obama administrations also criticized Pakistan’s support for terrorists, without effect. Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamists, who grow stronger by the day.

Read the rest:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-danger-of-a-jihadist-pakistan-1503960880

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Written by C. Raja Mohan | Updated: August 29, 2017 12:42 am

One of the important objectives of President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy is to end the Pakistan army’s four decades of addiction to jihadi terrorism. While many in America think it’s a great idea, there are very few who are willing to bet on Rawalpindi kicking the habit. They point to the fact that support for terror sanctuaries has become too entrenched in the Pakistan army’s domestic and regional calculus.

Jihad as foreign policy was indeed encouraged by the US in the 1980s and blessed by many leading Islamic countries, Western Europe and China as part of the global effort against the Soviet army’s occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s support to violent extremism played a key role in trapping and bleeding the Russian bear in Afghanistan. It was critical in compelling Moscow to accept a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of the 1980s.

Image result for the indian express, logo

As the Americans turned their back on the region in the 1990s, amidst the focus on constructing the post-Cold War political arrangements in Europe, Rawalpindi persisted with the jihadi strategy across its eastern borders with Afghanistan. It also lent a new edge to cross-border terrorism across its eastern frontiers in India.

When America returned to Afghanistan and Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, it rightly underlined the urgency of draining the terror swamps in the north-western marches of the Subcontinent. But over the last two decades, America has discovered how hard it is to change Pakistan’s course. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama found that neither money (military and economic assistance more than $30 billion since 2002), love (declaring Rawalpindi as a “major non-Nato ally”) or coercion (raining drones across Pakistan’s western borderlands) seemed to have any effect.

Many in the US argue it is not only futile but also dangerous to even try and change Pakistan’s behaviour, either at home or in the region. They insist that the tyranny of Af-Pak geography can’t be overcome. If the US wants to have troops in landlocked Afghanistan, it needs Pakistan’s logistical support. They underline the value of Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation in the global war on terror.

American sceptics also say too much pressure on Rawalpindi is not wise, for “Pakistan is too nuclear to fail”. They never cease sounding the alarm bells about the dangers of a nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India. They raise the fear of Pakistan exporting its nuclear and missile technology to other states in the region and beyond. Put simply, Trump’s critics say the US has no option but to acquiesce in the Pakistan army’s nuclear blackmail, accommodate its claims for a dominant role in Afghanistan, and acknowledge its deep insecurities about India.

Initial responses to Trump’s speech do confirm the difficulty of getting Pakistan’s security establishment to see reason. Rawalpindi has publicly rejected Trump’s demands to shut down terror sanctuaries and has outlined its own counter demands — like getting Kabul to end its support to the groups fighting Pakistan and Delhi to make concessions on Kashmir.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s public threat to cut off aid last week has helped rally Pakistan’s public opinion behind the flag. Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, has argued that “We are not looking for any material or financial assistance from USA but trust, understanding and acknowledgement of our contributions to the war on terror.” The political class and the talking heads have taken the cue to denounce America’s betrayal.

Pakistan also feels buoyed by the diplomatic support it has received from old friends in Beijing and the new suitors in Moscow. It has postponed different levels of consultations with Washington and is dispatching its foreign minister on a defiant visit to China, Russia and Turkey. The objective is to demonstrate that the US can’t isolate Pakistan.

Does this mean Trump has to simply back down and return to the default mode when it comes to Pakistan’s jihadi strategy? Not so fast. The difficulties of sustaining the current US position do seem insurmountable in the face of America’s past record with Pakistan. Trump’s team has surely taken all these problems into consideration when it got the US President to demand that Pakistan must end — right now — its unacceptable commitment to jihadi terrorism.

The Trump team is saying the past is not always a guide to the future. Just because some lines of pressure on Pakistan were not tried out does not mean they won’t be now. While signalling a new political will to do things it would not in the past — kinetic and financial targeting of terror groups and their facilitators in Pakistan’s security establishment — the Trump administration has held these measures close to its chest. How and when they might be unveiled will depend on the political engagement with Pakistan in the coming weeks.

Although it has thumbed its nose at Trump, Rawalpindi is bound to talk with Washington sooner than later. It has always valued the special relationship with America and is aware of the dangers of inviting Washington’s wrath. Pakistan’s upper crust too has many personal and pecuniary links with the West. While defiance marks Rawalpindi’s public posture, its private approach might well be defined by pretended deference, claims of victimhood, protests against abandonment and obfuscation on supporting terror.

The writer is director, Carnegie India, Delhi and the contributing editor on foreign affairs for ‘The Indian Express’

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Raja Mandala: Curing Rawalpindi

How to Resolve the North Korea Crisis

August 13, 2017

An understanding between the U.S. and Beijing is the essential prerequisite. Tokyo and Seoul also have key roles to play.

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People in Tokyo walk past a screen showing news on North Korea, Aug. 10.
People in Tokyo walk past a screen showing news on North Korea, Aug. 10. PHOTO: REUTERS
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Aug. 11, 2017 6:08 p.m. ET

For more than 30 years, the world’s response to North Korea’s nuclear program has combined condemnation with procrastination. Pyongyang’s reckless conduct is deplored. Warnings are issued that its evolution toward weaponization will prove unacceptable. Yet its nuclear program has only accelerated.

The Aug. 5 sanctions resolution passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council marked a major step forward. Still, an agreed objective remains to be established. But the North Korean success in testing a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile eliminates the scope for further equivocation. If Kim Jong Un maintains a nuclear program against the opposition of China and the U.S. and a unanimous Security Council resolution, it will alter the geostrategic relationship among the principal players. If Pyongyang develops a full-scale nuclear capacity while the world dithers, it will seriously diminish the credibility of the American nuclear umbrella in Asia, especially for our allies in Tokyo and Seoul.

The long-term challenge reaches beyond the threat to American territory to the prospect of nuclear chaos. An operational North Korean ICBM arsenal is still some time away given the need to miniaturize warheads, attach them to missiles, and produce them in numbers. But Asia’s nations are already under threat from North Korea’s existing short- and intermediate-range missiles. As this threat compounds, the incentive for countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Japan to defend themselves with their own nuclear weapons will grow dramatically—an ominous turn for the region and the world. Reversing the progress Pyongyang has already made is as crucial as preventing its further advancement.

American as well as multilateral diplomacy on North Korea has been unsuccessful, owing to an inability to merge the key players’ objectives—especially those of China and the U.S.—into an operational consensus. American demands for an end to the North Korean nuclear program have proved unavailing. U.S. leaders, including in the military, have been reluctant to use force; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has described the prospect of a war over Korea as “catastrophic.” Thousands of artillery tubes entrenched within range of the South Korean capital demonstrate Pyongyang’s strategy of holding hostage greater Seoul’s population of 30 million.

Unilateral pre-emptive military action by the U.S. would involve a risk of conflict with China. Beijing, even if it temporarily acquiesced, would not long abide an American strategy of determining by itself outcomes at the very edge of China’s heartland, as its intervention in the Korean War of the 1950s demonstrated. The use of military force must be carefully analyzed, and its vocabulary must be restrained. But it cannot be precluded.

Considerations such as these have caused the administration’s attempt to enlist China in a diplomatic effort to press Korea toward denuclearization. These efforts so far have had only partial success. China shares the American concern regarding nuclear proliferation; it is in fact the country most immediately affected by it. But while America has been explicit about the goal, it has been less willing to confront its political consequences. Given North Korea’s enormous and disproportionate allocation of national resources to its nuclear-weapons program, abandoning or substantially curtailing it would produce a political upheaval, perhaps even regime change.

China surely understands this. Therefore one of the most conspicuous events of current diplomacy is Beijing’s support in principle of North Korean denuclearization. At the same time, the prospect of disintegration or chaos in North Korea evokes at least two major concerns in China. The first is the political and social effects of a North Korean internal crisis on China itself, re-enacting events familiar from millennia of Chinese history. The second involves security in Northeast Asia. China’s incentive to help implement denuclearization will be to impose comparable restraints on all of Korea. To be sure, South Korea has no visible nuclear program or announced plans for it, but an international proscription is another matter.

China would also have a stake in the political evolution of North Korea following denuclearization, whether it be a two-state solution or unification, and in restrictions on military deployment placed on North Korea. Heretofore, the administration has urged China to press North Korea as a kind of subcontractor to achieve American objectives. The better—probably only feasible—approach is to merge the two efforts and develop a common position jointly pursued with the other countries involved.

Statements defining the U.S. goal as bringing Pyongyang to the conference table reflect the assumption that negotiations are their own objective, operating according to their own momentum, separate from the pressures that brought them about and are needed to sustain them. But American diplomacy will, in the end, be judged by the outcome, not the process. Repeated assurances that the U.S. seeks no unilateral advantage are not sufficient for countries that believe the Asian security structure is at risk.

So which parties should negotiate, and over what? An understanding between Washington and Beijing is the essential prerequisite for the denuclearization of Korea. By an ironic evolution, China at this point may have an even greater interest than the U.S. in forestalling the nuclearization of Asia. Beijing runs the risk of deteriorating relations with America if it gets blamed for insufficient pressure on Pyongyang. Since denuclearization requires sustained cooperation, it cannot be achieved by economic pressure. It requires a corollary U.S.-Chinese understanding on the aftermath, specifically about North Korea’s political evolution and deployment restraints on its territory. Such an understanding should not alter existing alliance relationships.

Paradoxical as it may seem in light of a half-century of history, such an understanding is probably the best way to break the Korean deadlock. A joint statement of objectives and implicit actions would bring home to Pyongyang its isolation and provide a basis for the international guarantee essential to safeguard its outcome.

Seoul and Tokyo must play a key role in this process. No country is more organically involved than South Korea. It must have, by geography and alliance relationship, a crucial voice in the political outcome. It would be the most directly affected by a diplomatic solution and the most menaced by military contingencies. It is one thing for American and other leaders to proclaim that they would not take advantage of North Korea’s denuclearization. Seoul is certain to insist on a more embracing and formal concept.

Similarly, Japan’s history has been linked with Korea’s for millennia. Tokyo’s concept of security will not tolerate indefinitely a nuclear Korea without a nuclear capability of its own. Its evaluation of the American alliance will be importantly influenced by the degree to which the U.S. management of the crisis takes Japanese concerns into account.

The alternative route of a direct U.S. negotiation with Pyongyang tempts some. But it would leave us a partner that can have only a minimum interest in implementation and a maximum interest in playing China and the U.S. off against each other. An understanding with China is needed for maximum pressure and workable guarantees. Instead, Pyongyang could best be represented at a culminating international conference.

There have been suggestions that a freeze of testing could provide an interim solution leading to eventual denuclearization. This would repeat the mistake of the Iranian agreement: seeking to solve a geostrategic problem by constraining the technical side alone. It would provide infinite pretexts for procrastination while “freeze” is defined and inspection mechanisms are developed.

Pyongyang must not be left with the impression that it can trade time for procedure and envelop purpose in tactics as a way to stall and thus fulfill its long-held aspirations. A staged process may be worth considering, but only if it substantially reduces the Korean nuclear capacity and research program in the short term.

A North Korea retaining an interim weapons capability would institutionalize permanent risks:

• that a penurious Pyongyang might sell nuclear technology;

• that American efforts may be perceived as concentrating on protecting its own territory, while leaving the rest of Asia exposed to nuclear blackmail;

• that other countries may pursue nuclear deterrent against Pyongyang, one another or, in time, the U.S.;

• that frustration with the outcome will take the form of mounting conflict with China;

• that proliferation may accelerate in other regions;

• that the American domestic debate may become more divisive.

Substantial progress toward denuclearization—and its attainment in a brief period—is the most prudent course.

Mr. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser in the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Appeared in the August 12, 2017, print edition.

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China, U.S. Agree Aim of ‘Complete, Irreversible’ Korean Denuclearisation

June 24, 2017

BEIJING — China and the United States agreed that efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula should be “complete, verifiable and irreversible”, Chinese state media said on Saturday, reporting the results of high level talks in Washington this week.

“Both sides reaffirm that they will strive for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” a consensus document released by the official Xinhua news agency said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said on Thursday that the United States pressed China to ramp up economic and political pressure on North Korea, during his meeting with top Chinese diplomats and defence chiefs.

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui met Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during the talks. Yang later met with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House, where they also discussed North Korea, Xinhua reported.

Image result for Yang Jiechi, photos, june 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

The consensus document also highlighted the need to fully and strictly hold to U.N. Security Council resolutions and push for dialogue and negotiation, which has long been China’s position on the issue.

Military-to-military exchanges should also be upgraded and mechanisms of notification established in order to cut the risks of “judgement errors” between the Chinese and U.S. militaries, the statement also said.

Chinese state media described the talks, the first of their kind with the Trump administration, as an upgrade in dialogue mechanisms between China and the United States, following on from President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Trump in Florida in April.

Xi and Trump are next expected to meet again in Hamburg during the G20 Summit next month.

A day last week’s talks, President Donald Trump said China’s efforts to use its leverage with North Korea had failed, raising fresh doubts about his administration’s strategy for countering the threat from North Korea.

The death of American university student Otto Warmbier earlier this week, after his release from 17 months of imprisonment in Pyongyang, further complicated Trump’s approach to North Korea.

China, North Korea’s main trading partner, has been accused of not fully enforcing existing U.N. sanctions on its neighbour, and has resisted some tougher measures.

Washington has considered further “secondary sanctions” against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea, which China opposes.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Simo cameron-Moore)

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U.S., China meet on North Korea after Trump points to failed Chinese effort

June 21, 2017

Reuters

By David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON

Top diplomats and defense chiefs from the United States and China began a day of talks in Washington on Wednesday looking for ways to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

The talks come a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea to rein in its weapons programs had failed, ratcheting up the rhetoric after the death of an American student who had been detained by Pyongyang.

Trump’s statement is likely to increase pressure on Beijing at the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which pairs U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and General Fang Fenghui, chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

The State Department says Wednesday’s talks would focus on ways to increase pressure on North Korea, but also cover such areas as counter-terrorism and territorial rivalries in the South China Sea.

The U.S. side is expected to press China to cooperate on a further toughening of international sanctions on North Korea. The United States and its allies would like to see an oil embargo and bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers among other moves, steps diplomats say have been resisted by China and Russia.

Trump has had high hopes for greater cooperation from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticizing Chinese trade practices.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis meet with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Staff Department prior to the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It was unclear whether his remark represented a significant shift in his thinking in the U.S. effort to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and its test-launching of missiles or a hardening in U.S. policy toward China.

China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Beijing had made “unremitting efforts” to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula, not as a result of external pressure but because China was a responsible member of the international community and resolving nuclear issue was in its own interests.

On Tuesday, a U.S. official said U.S. spy satellites had detected movements recently at North Korea’s nuclear test site near a tunnel entrance, but it was unclear if Pyongyang was preparing for a new nuclear test, perhaps to coincide with Wednesday’s high-level talks.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said North Korea remained prepared to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time but there were “no new unusual indications that can be shared.”

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in September, but it has conducted repeated missile tests since and vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, putting it at the forefront of Trump’s security worries.

Trump has hardened his rhetoric against North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died on Monday. He had returned to the United States in a coma after being held captive in North Korea.

On Tuesday the president called what happened to Warmbier “a disgrace.”

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said Chinese officials must be wary that Warmbier’s death might push Washington to put greater pressure on Beijing, but China would not act as a “U.S. ally” on the issue.

If Washington imposed sanctions on Chinese enterprises dealing with North Korea, it would lead to “grave friction” between the two countries, wrote the paper, which does not represent Chinese government policy.

Trump’s tweet about China took some advisers by surprise. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had limited options to rein in North Korea without Chinese assistance.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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Trump says China tried but failed to help on North Korea

June 21, 2017
Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON
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President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea to rein in its nuclear program have failed, ratcheting up the rhetoric over the death of an American student who had been detained by Pyongyang.

Trump has held high hopes for greater cooperation from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticizing Chinese trade practices.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

It was unclear whether his remark represented a significant shift in his thinking in the U.S. struggle to stop North Korea’s nuclear program and its test launching of missiles or a change in U.S. policy toward China.

“I think the president is signaling some frustration,” Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, told MSNBC. “He’s signaling to others that he understands this isn’t working, and he’s trying to defend himself, or justify himself, by saying that at least they tried as opposed to others who didn’t even try.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet and the Hero Defence Detachment on Mu Islet located in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 5, 2017. KCNA/ via REUTERS
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On Tuesday, a U.S. official, who did not want to be identified, said U.S. spy satellites had detected movements recently at North Korea’s nuclear test site near a tunnel entrance, but it was unclear if these were preparations for a new nuclear test – perhaps to coincide with high-level talks between the United States and China in Washington on Wednesday.

“North Korea remains prepared to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time when there is an order from leadership but there are no new unusual indications that can be shared,” a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Seoul was in close consultation with Washington over the matter, the official added.

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in September, but it has conducted repeated missile test since and vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, putting it at the forefront of Trump’s security worries.

U.S.-CHINA DIALOGUE

The Trump statement about China was likely to increase pressure on Beijing ahead of Wednesday’s Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which will pair U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis with China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and General Fang Fenghui, chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

 Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting, Monday, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harnik – Associated Press)

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The State Department says the dialogue will focus on ways to increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, but also cover such areas as counter-terrorism and territorial rivalries in the strategic South China Sea.

The U.S. side is expected to press China to cooperate on a further toughening of international sanctions on North Korea. The United States and its allies would like to see an oil embargo and bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers among other moves, steps diplomats say have been resisted by China and Russia.

In a sign that U.S.-Chinese relations remain stable, a White House aide said Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, were invited by the Chinese government to visit the country later this year.

Trump has hardened his rhetoric against North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died on Monday in the United States after returning from captivity in North Korea in a coma.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing

Otto Warmbier

“A DISGRACE”

In a White House meeting with visiting Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Trump criticized the way Warmbier’s case was handled in the year since his arrest, appearing to assail both North Korea and his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

“What happened to Otto is a disgrace. And I spoke with his family. His family is incredible … but he should have been brought home a long time ago,” Trump said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and urged Pyongyang to release three other Americans who are detained.

Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, said Chinese officials must be wary that Warmbier’s death might push Washington to put greater pressure on Beijing.

“China has made the utmost efforts to help break the stalemate in the North Korean nuclear issue. But by no means will China, nor will Chinese society permit it to, act as a ‘U.S. ally’ in pressuring North Korea,” the Global Times said in an editorial.

If Washington imposes sanctions on Chinese enterprises, it would lead to “grave friction” between the two countries, said the paper, which does not represent Chinese government policy.

Trump’s tweet about China took some advisers by surprise. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States had limited options to rein in North Korea without Chinese assistance.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said a meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is less likely following Warmbier’s death.

Spicer said Trump would be willing to meet Kim under the right conditions, but “clearly we’re moving further away, not closer to those conditions.”

For graphic on Americans detained by North Korea, click: tmsnrt.rs/2r5xYpB

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, David Alexander and John Walcott in Washington, Jack Kim in Seoul and Michael Martina in Beijing; Editing by Howard Goller, Leslie Adler and Lincoln Feast)

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