Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

Obama administration had the chance to cripple the global heroin trade — But passed

July 9, 2018

The Obama administration reportedly had the chance to cripple the global heroin trade funding terrorism in war-torn Afghanistan, but it shelved the plan to advance a broader political agenda.

The administration, citing political concerns, shut down a plan to stop the spread of narcotics around the world, prevent Afghanistan’s emergence as a narco-state, and sever the critical revenue streams financing the deadly insurgency American troops are fighting and dying to end, Politico’s John Meyer reported Sunday.

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The plan — Operation Reciprocity — was drafted by Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice legal advisers, but the high-stakes strategy was strangled in its crib by the Obama administration’s deputy chief of mission in Kabul, Tina Kaidanow, to protect the administration’s strategic ambitions.

Kaidanow told Politico that there were serious concerns the plan would impact the White House’s Afghanistan strategy, including but not limited to the proposed drawdown of America’s military presence in the region. At the time Operation Reciprocity was just starting to gain momentum in the summer of 2013, the conflict in Afghanistan had already cost American taxpayers $686 billion, not to mention the more than 2,000 American lives sacrificed to the war. It appears the administration caved to the political pressure.

Afghanistan opium poppy heroinAfghan men harvest opium in a poppy field in a village in Golestan district of Farah province, May 5, 2009. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

The plan’s architects argued that Operation Reciprocity was in line with the administration’s initiatives and crucial to securing a better future for Afghanistan.

“This was the most effective and sustainable tool we had for disrupting and dismantling Afghan drug trafficking organizations and separating them from the Taliban,” Michael Marsac, the DEA regional director for Southwest Asia who helped draft the plan with DOJ law enforcement adviser John Seaman, told reporters, adding that the plan to indict 26 Taliban commanders and allied drug lords and try them in U.S. courts — a strategy based on that used against guerrillas in Colombia — “lies dormant, buried in an obscure file room, all but forgotten.”

Operation Reciprocity’s designers argue that the plan was abandoned not only because the Obama administration feared it would impact plans for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also because it threatened engagement and peace talks with the Taliban, as well as negotiations for a prisoner swap that would ultimately see the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five senior terrorist leaders held in Guatanamo Bay. (RELATED: FLASHBACK: The 5 Terrorists Obama Let Out Of Gitmo For Bergdahl)

There were also bureaucratic reasons for the shutdown, specifically chain-of-command and procedural errors.

The drug lords in the crosshairs were supporting Taliban forces and other regional extremists, as well as supplying more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin, which included heroin fueling an emerging opioid crisis in the U.S.

After the Operation Reciporcity agents were given the stand-down order in 2013, drug raids occurred infrequently, and the narcotics trade flourished. By 2015, Taliban forces, operating with increased funding, surpassed the Islamic State as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. Poppy cultivation and heroin production are surging to record highs as extremists seize more territory and carry out terrorist attacks with greater frequency, Politico reports, citing Department of State statistics.

The Trump administration has made the targeting of Taliban revenue sources a priority, with American bombers even setting records for the number of bombs dropped on training and narcotics facilities. (RELATED: US Air Force B-52 Shatters Bombing Record While Blowing Taliban Training And Narcotics Facilities To Bits)

But the architects of Operation Reciprocity are hoping the administration will pull the old plan out of the mothballs, dust it off, and put it into action as part of the administration’s evolving strategy in Afghanistan.

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Expose the Palestinian ‘Refugee’ Scam

July 6, 2018

Obama concealed a myth-smashing report. Trump can reveal it to the world.

Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, May 22.
Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, May 22. PHOTO:MAHMOUD AJOUR/ZUMA PRESS


If President Trump wants to promote peace in the Middle East, his first step should be to declassify a key State Department report that would end the myth of Palestinian “refugees.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is singularly devoted to the Palestinian refugee issue. Unrwa labels more than five million Palestinians “refugees”—an impossible figure. The first Arab-Israeli war, in 1948, yielded roughly 800,000 Palestinian Arab refugees. Perhaps 30,000 remain alive today, but Unrwa has kept the refugee issue alive by labeling their descendants—in some cases great-great-grandchildren—as “refugees,” who insist on the “right of return” to their ancestors’ homes. Israel categorically rejects this demand.

Unrwa’s operations run counter to the broader mission of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is to resettle those displaced by war. Unrwa’s mission, on the other hand, keeps the conflict’s embers glowing by refusing to resettle Palestinians in neighboring countries or even in the Palestinian territories.

If Mr. Trump wants his peace plan to have a chance, he has to challenge false Palestinian narratives. He did this by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. Embassy there. For decades, Palestinian leaders issued maximalist claims on Jerusalem. Mr. Trump’s move sent the message that making peace requires accepting reality.

Mr. Trump can send the same message by declassifying one document. In 2012 Congress ordered the State Department to disclose how many Palestinians currently served by Unrwa fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and how many are merely their descendants. The Obama administration classified the report, citing national security—as if revealing foreign census data were a threat to America.

A year and half into office, Mr. Trump hasn’t reversed this policy, but momentum is building against it. In April more than 50 House members urged State to declassify the report. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has done the same.

Removing the label of “refugee” from millions of Palestinians wouldn’t hurt them. Instead, it would unlock their economic potential and create an opportunity for lasting peace. Perhaps that’s why the Palestinian leadership is fighting it. Once the refugee issue is exposed as a scam, Palestinian leaders would have to learn how to govern, not merely stir up antagonism with Israel.

The inability of Palestinian leaders to detach from this 70-year-old story raises real concerns about whether peace is possible. But if Mr. Trump is committed, he can send a clear message to the millions living in Unrwa camps: Your leaders want to keep you in squalor, while America wants you to prosper. It’s the most pro-Palestinian step an American president could take.

Mr. Goldberg is a senior adviser and Mr. Schanzer senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Appeared in the July 6, 2018, print edition.

The Threat to Privacy of Opinion

June 29, 2018

The NAACP fought to protect names of members and donors, but advocacy groups still face pressure.

NAACP leaders Henry Moon, Roy Wilkins, Herbert Hill and Thurgood Marshall.
NAACP leaders Henry Moon, Roy Wilkins, Herbert Hill and Thurgood Marshall. PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/GETTY IMAGES


Alabama’s political establishment was in a tight spot in the summer of 1956. Public officials were still resisting the command to integrate schools, which the U.S. Supreme Court had handed down two years before with Brown v. Board of Education. But African-Americans in the state capital, Montgomery, were exacting a heavy economic toll on the city by boycotting buses.

The source of the segregationists’ troubles was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. One NAACP activist, Autherine Lucy, had brought the case that desegregated the state university, and another, Rosa Parks, ignited the bus boycott. The NAACP had litigated Brown and was backing new lawsuits—not only to enforce Brownbut also to secure voting rights, due process in criminal proceedings, and nondiscriminatory treatment in public accommodations.

In response, Alabama Attorney General John Patterson used a legal technicality to ban the NAACP from the state. When the NAACP contested the order in court, Mr. Patterson demanded, under the rubric of judicial discovery, the names and addresses of the organization’s members and financial supporters.

The probable effects of compliance with Mr. Patterson’s demand were obvious. Public officials could have used the information to harass the NAACP’s supporters, deny them legal protections, boycott their businesses, and even assault them physically. Financial and public support for the organization would disappear. As the NAACP wrote in a legal brief, “the truth is that Alabama seeks . . . to eradicate effective opposition to continued governmental maintenance of racial segregation.”

But on June 30, 1958, the Supreme Court held that Alabama’s demands for the NAACP’s member and donor information violated the organization’s and its members’ freedom of association. “It is hardly a novel perception,” wrote Justice John M. Harlan II, “that compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute [an] effective . . . restraint on freedom of association.” Alabama’s demand, he continued, “may induce members to withdraw from the Association and dissuade others from joining it because of fear of exposure of their beliefs.”

Today politicians routinely demand that the law be changed to require disclosure of names and personal information of donors to any organization that is involved in public affairs. Concerns about privacy are brushed off with the response that such donors no longer face any substantial threat. And it is true that few causes today generate the potential for violence that faced civil-rights protesters 60 years ago in the deep South.

But NAACP v. Alabama wasn’t a one-off. It was merely the most dramatic of a series of midcentury decisions that protect the right of Americans to support causes without fear of retaliation. The parties protected against compulsory disclosure include union members and organizers (Thomas v. Collins, 1945), those paying for flyers critical of business practices (Talley v. California, 1960), donors to charities (Bates v. Little Rock, 1960), and public-school teachers (Shelton v. Tucker, 1960), among others.

Retaliation from compelled disclosure remains a live risk in the contemporary political scene. Vandalism, boycotts and bullying by both online and real-life mobs are well-documented. In some cases, elected officials have used disclosure information to retaliate against citizens for their lawful support of organizations critical of those same officials. Consider:

• In 2008 restaurant manager Margie Christoffersen contributed $100 to support Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. Opponents of the measure boycotted and picketed the family-owned restaurant where she worked, requiring the intervention of riot police on one occasion. As sections of the restaurant closed and employees were laid off, Ms. Christoffersen resigned rather than see others suffer.

• Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla, was hounded from his role as chief executive six years after contributing to the same ballot measure.

• The venerable outfitter L.L. Bean faced an organized boycott in 2017—not for anything the company did, but because board member Linda Bean, a granddaughter of the founder, made a personal contribution to a pro-Trump organization.

• In 2007, President Bush was forced to withdraw the nomination of Sam Fox, a respected businessman and philanthropist, as ambassador to Belgium—not because Mr. Fox was unqualified, but because Senate Democrats uncovered that Mr. Fox had made lawful contributions to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group critical of then-Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry.

Federal law, and the laws of every state, already requires disclosure of the names, addresses, and, in most cases, employer information of all but the most de minimis donors to campaigns, political parties, and political-action committees. But today legislators in at least 24 states have proposed expanding compulsory disclosure to include financial support for think tanks and other nonprofit groups. In other words, organizations like the NAACP.

Unfortunately, many lower courts have treated NAACP v. Alabama as a dead letter, inapplicable to other cases. The Supreme Court has so far failed to give its handiwork a robust defense.

As a consequence, a legal framework is now growing that enables harassment and intimidation of those who support disfavored causes. But civil-rights advocates fought for decades to establish Americans’ right to associate and seek change without first having to register and report their activities. The anniversary of NAACP v. Alabama is a good occasion to remember that disclosure isn’t always benign, and that once the right to privacy of opinion is gone, it may take decades to get back.

Mr. Smith is chairman of the Institute for Free Speech, a professor of law at Capital University, and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

Appeared in the June 29, 2018, print edition.

Dossier Author Steele Visited State Department in Oct. 2016

June 21, 2018

Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the infamous Trump dossier, visited the State Department weeks before the 2016 presidential election to discuss his findings about then-candidate Donald Trump.

“Based upon our review of the visitor logs at the State Department, Mr. Steele visited the State Department, briefing officials on the dossier in October 2016,” Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, The Daily Caller reported.

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Christopher Steele

The dossier was compiled over several months and made allegations Trump had ties to the Russian government. Some of the claims in the document were scandalous.and most unverified.

The dossier was leaked to the media and published by BuzzFeed News a short time before Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017.

Steele’s visit to the State Department had not been made public until Wednesday.

Burr cited an exchange he had with former State Department official Victoria Nuland — who worked for the department during the Obama administration — in revealing Steele’s trip to Washington, D.C. Nuland said she saw portions of the dossier in July 2016.

Former FBI Director James Comey briefed President Donald Trump on the dossier after he won the election but before he took office. It has also been reported former Secretary of State John Kerry and others might have seen the document before its publication.

The Steele dossier was one of the sources FBI officials used to obtain multiple FISA warrants to spy on certain members of the Trump campaign in 2016.

Read Newsmax: Report: Dossier Author Steele Visited State Department in Oct. 2016 |

Former Obama aide blames Netanyahu for failure of Israeli-U.S. relations

June 6, 2018

Ben Rhodes’ book ‘The World As It Is’ dishes on 8 acrimonious years of US-Israel ties, when the PM, he says, proved adept at turning Jewish leaders against the president

June 6, 2018
Times of Israel

US President Barack Obama (left) walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2011. (Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)

US President Barack Obama (left) walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2011. (Avi Ohayon/Government Press Office/Flash90)

WASHINGTON — At no point was former president Barack Obama more “annoyed” in his eight years in office than before his address to AIPAC’s annual policy conference in 2012, right in the middle of his re-election campaign.

The event came one year after Obama had given his speech calling for a return to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, a position that was met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s derision, and an insulting Oval Office lecture, in front of the cameras, about the history of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “These lines are indefensible,” Netanyahu told Obama.

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According to a new memoir released Tuesday by Obama’s former deputy national security adviser and one of his closest aides, Ben Rhodes, the Israeli premier had used that moment, skillfully, to turn the American Jewish establishment against the American president.

“It was the perfect way to mobilize opposition to Obama among the leadership of the American Jewish community, which had internalized the vision of Israel constantly under attack,” Rhodes writes in his 422-page book.

Ben Rhodes in a 2015 file photo. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“I was familiar with the emotions,” adds the once aspiring novelist, who grew up with a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. “As secular Jews in postwar New York City, my mother’s family maintained its sense of Jewishness in part through support for Israel. Some of this was rooted in guilt — they’d emigrated to Brooklyn, not Tel Aviv; and some was rooted in the heroic Israel of the 1960s and ’70s, Jews building a nation in the desert, fighting off the Arab armies, led by towering figures like Golda Meir, who seemed both indefatigable and profoundly just.”

Yet later in life, Rhodes writes, “the Israel that my mother’s generation idealized was increasingly eclipsed by an Israel driven by the settler movement and ultra-Orthodox emigres. That was Netanyahu’s political base, and he knew how to play in American politics on their behalf.”

In the book, titled “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House,” Rhodes argues that Netanyahu assiduously blocked Obama’s efforts to resolve the conflict. That was in part due to Netanyahu’s continual approval to build settlement projects and his reluctance to embrace Obama’s vision of a two-state outcome.

But Netanyahu, Rhodes explains, was remarkably shrewd at galvanizing the kind of pressure on Obama that made it politically unfeasible for the president to push forward on his peace plan.

Ben Rhodes’ The World As It Is.

After Netanyahu’s Oval Office lecture to Obama in 2011, Rhodes writes that he was then “given a list of leading Jewish donors to call, to reassure them of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides.”

“It was far too painful to wade into these waters with no prospect of success,” he goes on, explaining the administration’s reluctance to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even more of a central focus. “Netanyahu had mastered a certain kind of leverage: Using political pressure within the United States to demoralize any meaningful push for peace, just as he used settlements as a means of demoralizing Palestinians.”

Just before the 2012 AIPAC speech, as Obama was preparing to go up in the general election against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had charged the president had “thrown Israel under the bus,” Obama asked Rhodes to edit the draft of his remarks, which was written by another speech writer on staff.

US President Barack Obama (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) prepare for a press session in the White House in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. (AP/Charles Dharapak)

But Obama, Rhodes recalls, also wanted to vent. “This is as annoyed as I’ve been as president,” the president told him, perturbed by his inability to make his private positions public on four final-status issues in peace negations — borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees — and his need to placate the mostly right-wing crowd.

Based on the recommendation of his Middle East advisers Dennis Ross and Tom Donilon, Obama had decided to not take a public stance on the status of Jerusalem or how to resolve the refugee issue — to avoid any political fallout.

“It’s not on the level,” Rhodes said to the president of Netanyahu and AIPAC’s machinations, evoking a phrase he writes that the two used to describe “the dishonesty” they often felt they were surrounded by in Washington.

“It’s not on the level,” Obama repeated back to him. “Dealing with Bibi is like dealing with the Republicans.”

Rhodes writes that he told the president it was frustrating for him on a personal level, based on his Jewish background, to watch AIPAC and Netanyahu inflict political constraints on Obama that made it difficult for him to advocate positions he felt were actually in Israel’s long-term interests. Obama told him he felt the same way.

Deputy National Security Adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes stands at right as President Barack Obama and Polish PM Donald Tusk leave the stage after making statements to reporters in Warsaw, Poland, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“Me too,” Obama said. “I came out of the Jewish community in Chicago. I’m basically a liberal Jew.”

Obama notedly skipped Israel in his first trip to the Middle East, in 2009, when he gave his Cairo speech addressing the Muslim world. Rhodes writes that they waited to schedule his visit to the Jewish state for when “there was an opening in the peace process.” Yet four years into the presidency, Rhodes writes, it was clear “that an opening might never come.” Obama eventually went to Israel on the first foreign trip of his second term, in March 2013.

In a noteworthy dig at a vociferous Obama critic, Rhodes describes coordinating the trip with Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

President Barack Obama welcomes Ambassador Michael B. Oren of the State of Israel to the White House Monday, July 20, 2009, during the credentials ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States. (White House photo)

“In multiple conversations, he encouraged me to have Obama visit a village of Ethiopian Jews,” Rhodes writes of Oren. “I demurred, a little put off by this persistent suggestion that Obama would want to see black Jews more than others.”

Rhodes also describes the trip as being filled with conflicting emotions for him personally.

“Working on Obama’s speech, I felt a bit like a bystander, aware of my own half heritage, neither full Jew nor non-Jew,” he recalls. “Israel’s history is in no way normal, and its security concerns are rooted in a history of anti-Semitism that continues to the current day. At the same time, I had to confront the intractability of the Palestinian predicament as I wrote the last appeal for peace, knowing it would likely fall on deaf ears.”

In one harrowing passage in his book, Rhodes describes a meeting Obama had with young Palestinians the morning before his speech in Jerusalem on that trip.

US President Barack Obama and PA President Mahmoud Abbas wave to the crowd during Obama’s visit to Ramallah, March 21, 2013 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Flying to Ramallah, Rhodes writes that he felt a sense that the settlements were corroding the possibility of an eventual Palestinian state’s emergence, as well as noticing the inequality of resources that were plainly visible between those settlements and West Bank villages.

“I looked out at rolling hills and could see where Israeli settlements were splitting the West Bank in two,” he writes. “We were in the air for less than ten minutes, but the contrast could not have been starker: Israel from the air resembles southern Europe; the settlements looked like subdivisions in the Nevada desert; the Palestinian towns looked shabby and choked off.”

A picture taken from the Israeli settlement of Kedar shows the West Bank Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim (foreground-R), a few kilometers from East Jerusalem (background) on October 26, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

In that meeting, young Palestinians went around in a circle to describe their experiences living under Israel’s rule over the West Bank.

The last student was visibly tense the whole way through, Rhodes recalls. And then, when his turn came, he said with force, “Mr. President, we are treated the same way the black people were treated in your country. Here, in this century.” He then paused, allowing a moment of silence to add some affect. “Funded by your government, Mr. President.”

Shortly thereafter, Obama told Rhodes, “It took a lot of guts for him to do that.”

“Well,” Rhodes said, “that makes our theory more necessary: Show Israelis you love them but also challenge them.”

Obama’s guiding principle to Israel was often characterized as that of a friend who won’t let another drive drunk: that he believed settlements and the prospect of Israel perpetually occupying the West Bank would abrogate Israel’s status as a Jewish-democracy. Yet Rhodes less than subtly suggests that he himself may have been the architect of that approach.

“That’s your theory,” Rhodes said Obama replied. “The Ben Rhodes theory.”

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Houthi rebels in Yemen launch an Iranian ballistic missille into Saudi Arabia in 2018

Barack Obama (right) speaking to advisers Tony Blinken (foreground), and Ben Rhodes (background), regarding the Iran nuclear deal, on Sunday, November 24, 2013. (Pete Souza/White House)

China Has Harsh Words for U.S. After China Kicked Out of U.S. Military Exercise

May 24, 2018

The Pentagon’s withdrawal of the invitation was ‘an initial response’ to what it called China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea

South China Morning Post
Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 6:15am

China’s top diplomat denounced a rebuke by the US military while in Washington, the latest test of a bilateral relationship already damaged by recriminations on the economic front.

The US military said it had disinvited China from a multinational military exercise to be held this summer in the Pacific as “an initial response” to what it called “China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea”.

News of the withdrawn invitation, which broke shortly before China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, prompted Wang to accuse the US of having a “negative mindset”.

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During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea. Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with China’s Wang Yi.

“China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region,” Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a spokesman at the US Defence Department, said in a statement explaining the withdrawal of China’s invitation to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval drills.

“China’s behaviour is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the Rim of the Pacific exercises.”

The US’s move comes just days after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force disclosed that its highly advanced H-6K strategic bomber landed for the first time on an island reef in the South China Sea, which the US Defence Department immediately denounced.

The inclusion of China in the Pacific naval drills was “designed to help with misunderstandings and to build upon cooperation, which was supposed to help deal with the most contentious issues”, said Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University and the Jeane Kirkpatrick Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The logic behind these military exchanges has weakened,” Mastro said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

“The US position was that through engagement, China would come to understand that they were better off when the US is in charge,” she said. “I thought that was naive from the very beginning, but now I think many areas of the US government are coming to that conclusion.”

In its statement, the Pentagon said the US had “strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands (Nansha in Mandarin) region of the South China Sea”.

“China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island (Yongxing in Mandarin) has also raised tensions,” the statement said.

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Speaking in a joint press conference with Pompeo, Wang said: “We find the Pentagon’s decision today of dis-invitation a very non-constructive move. It is also a decision that’s taken lightly. It’s unhelpful to the mutual understanding between China and the US.”

Pompeo said in the briefing that he had raised the US “concern” about China’s activities in the South China Sea with Wang, and that he would leave decisions about international military exercises up to the Defence Department.

Hong Kong-based military observer Song Zhongping said that China’s landing of the H-6K bomber on Woody Island was aimed at strengthening China’s military presence in the region after US B-52 bombers flew there during a so-called routine training mission in April, flights described by Beijing as a “provocative move”.

The US has called on China to remove the military systems immediately and reverse course on the militarisation of disputed South China Sea features, the Pentagon said.

China is “using techniques and tools below the threshold of armed conflict as a way to coerce the behaviour of other countries and ultimately be able to establish its claims [in the South China Sea], whether or not they are consistent with international law”, Evan Medeiros, the managing director of Asia at the Eurasia Group, said this week in a panel discussion organised by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

“That has generated a lot of reaction on the part of America and East Asia and it’s intensified the security dilemma,” said Medeiros, who served as special assistant to former president Barack Obama and as an Obama-era senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

“While I’ve often thought the US-China security relationship was best characterised as a low-intensity security dilemma, I think it’s inevitable that it’s moving into a period of high-intensity security dilemma and that’s only going to increase in the next five to 10 years,” he said.

The PLA Navy had been invited in May 2017 to take part in this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercises. The world’s largest international naval exercise, it is held biennially in the summer months of even-numbered years in the waters around the Hawaiian islands and southern California.

Twenty-six nations originally were to participate in the drill, which usually lasts a couple of weeks. China has taken part twice. In 2016, its navy dispatched five ships and 1,200 personnel to the exercises.

Earlier this month, the White House had said it was prepared to take measures against the militarisation of the South China Sea, after Beijing reportedly installed new missiles on outposts in the Spratlys, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.


In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

“We’re well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. “We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.”

US network CNBC had reported that the Chinese military had installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on the islands, citing sources close to US intelligence.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying would neither confirm nor deny the deployment.

“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defence facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” she said. “Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry.”

The US Navy itself frequently sends warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the area.

“China has to realise that they’ve benefited from the free navigation of the sea, and the US Navy has been the guarantor of that,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. “We will continue to do our operations. ”

Washington and Beijing are already engaged in high-level dialogues to resolve disputes over a record trade deficit China has with the US, restrictions that foreign companies in the country face in terms of market access, and forced transfers of technology to Chinese companies.

A second round of negotiations between the two countries’ top economic advisers last week helped stave off an all-out, bilateral trade war.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers are pushing legislation that would tighten scrutiny over Chinese acquisitions of US companies, citing concerns that such activity is undermining America’s national security.


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.



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Above: China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier

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The Philippines says it “owns” Mischief Reef, but there is not one known Filipinos living there. China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines

US: We have strong evidence China deployed missiles, bombers in Spratlys near the Philippines

May 24, 2018

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Above: Philippine Coast Guard on Patrol.

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – May 24, 2018 – 11:07am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing strong evidence that Beijing has deployed weapons and jammers in the Spratly Islands, Washington called out Chinese President Xi Jinping for violating his promise not to militarize the South China Sea.

The Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac), a multinational naval exercise that the US hosts every year.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said in a statement.

China’s landing of bomber aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands has also raised tension, the Pentagon noted.

Logan pointed out that China’s behavior in the South China Sea was inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RimPac Exercise, which the US military considers the largest international maritime exercise.

The Pentagon said that the decision to disinvite China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from the maritime exercise was an “initial response” to China’s militarization of the disputed waterway.

“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Logan said.

Beijing has insisted that the construction of artificial islands were meant for non-military functions but the installment of weapons on the islands is for military use, the Pentagon said.

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meanwhile, said that the decision was “unhelpful to mutual understanding” between the two countries and urged the US to change its “negative mindset.”

In a joint news conference with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington, Wang described the deployments as necessary defense of China’s sovereign territory. He compared China’s defense facilities to US military presence in Hawaii and Guam.

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During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea

Washington’s decision to disinvite Beijing from RimPac comes a week before the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense summit which will be held in Singapore.

Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at Rand Corporation, said that disinviting China shortly before the defense summit was “pretty cold” and “embarrassing” for Beijing.

“[US Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis now has real momentum going into [Shangri-La Dialogue] as most participants agree with US position,” Grossman said in Twitter.

China had insisted that the deployment of an H-6K bomber on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracels, were a normal training of Chinese military.

“The South China Sea Islands are China’s territory. The relevant military activities are the normal training of the Chinese military and there is no need for other parties to over-interpret that,” Chinese Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing Monday.


In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

China Disinvited from Participating in 2018 RIMPAC Exercise

The People’s Republic of China Chinese Navy multi-role frigate Hengshui (572) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) transit in formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 28, 2016. US Navy photo.

The U.S. military has disinvited China from participating in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, a Defense Department spokesman announced.

Citing actions in the South China Sea that run counter to international norms and a pursuit of free and open seas, Department of Defense spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would not be participating in the exercise despite its participation in submarine safety and other non-warfighting components of the exercise in previous years.

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Logan said.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions,” he continued.
“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

U.S. 3rd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland told USNI News that China had been scheduled to be part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 175, led by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750) and joined by ships from several nations’ navies, as well as in CTF 171, led by U.S. naval expeditionary dive and salvage forces. PLAN would have brought four ships total, including its hospital ship Peace Ark, as well as a salvage diving team.

China participated in the 2016 exercise despite tensions at the time. Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in April 2016, “Our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that’s our basic approach. So even as we stand strong and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies – and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we don’t have decades of experience with, like the Philippines; they’re all coming to us, in part because they’re concerned about China – but we’re still taking the approach of, everybody ought to work together here. So if the Chinese want to participate, I think it’s the right place for us to be. Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said, the Asian miracle possible.”

In 2012 China was invited to participate in the 2014 exercise – where the PLAN sent four invited ships and one uninvited spy ship – and soon afterwards the U.S. invited China to rejoin them again in 2016. Despite South China Sea tensions and other friction between the two countries, naval leaders have long spoke of the importance of rehearsing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills together, communicating at sea to avoid collisions, and practicing safe ship handling and rescue drills in case of an emergency.

Russia, however, was not allowed to participate in 2016 due to its annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Still, the Russian Navy sent a destroyer to follow USS America (LHA-6) and a spy ship to monitor the exercise.


The following is the complete statement by Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan: 

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise.”

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions.”

“While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection, and other non-military functions the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use.”

“We have called on China to remove the military systems immediately and to reverse course on the militarization of disputed South China Sea features.”

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

China’s foreign minister to visit Washington — After Trump urged China on Monday to “be strong & tight” along its border with North Korea

May 22, 2018

China said its Foreign Minister Wang Yi would visit Washington on Wednesday, as trade tensions ease but new strains arise over North Korea and Beijing’s military moves in the South China Sea.

“China and the US will exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interest,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, announcing the visit Tuesday.

Wang is stopping over in the US capital on his way home from Argentina, where he is attending a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting and has reportedly discussed contentious South China Sea issues with some of his counterparts.

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Tensions have risen since China flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island in the South China Sea last week.

The Pentagon condemned Beijing’s “continued militarisation of disputed features” in the waterway.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has urged China to maintain tight control over its border with North Korea until he signs a denuclearisation deal with Kim Jong Un. A summit is set for June 12.

“The word is that recently the Border has become much more porous and more has been filtering in,” Trump tweeted Monday.

The two nations may also lock horns over China’s business ties with Iran after Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal and said he would reimpose sanctions.

China voiced regret at the decision and vowed to “safeguard” the agreement.



Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images


“China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Trump pushes China to be ‘strong & tight’ on North Korea border

President Donald Trump urged China on Monday to “be strong & tight” along its border with North Korea as preparation continues for his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month in Singapore.

“China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The word is that recently the Border has become much more porous and more has been filtering in. I want this to happen, and North Korea to be VERY successful, but only after signing!”

It was not immediately clear what the president was referring to in writing “I want this to happen” and White House spokespeople did not return emails seeking clarification.

The White House is currently in the midst of planning for Trump’s announced summit with Kim Jong Un, a meeting that, if it happens, would represent the first ever face-to-face meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader. China, as North Korea’s largest trade partner and patron on the world stage, holds outsized influence with the Kim regime. Defectors fleeing from North Korea often do so across the border with China, while consumer goods and foreign media, including South Korean music, movies and TV shows, flow the opposite direction.

Until recently, plans for Trump’s meeting with Kim had progressed surprisingly smoothly, including the two trips by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North Korea and the release of three Americans who had been held as prisoners by the repressive communist nation. Kim also met last month with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, who will visit the White House later this week.

Planning for the Trump-Kim summit appeared to hit a snag last week when the North Korean government demanded that joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises be canceled, threatening to pull out of the summit if they were not. Kim’s government also released a statement lashing out at White House national security adviser John Bolton and declaring it is uninterested in a meeting with Trump if that meeting is to be one-sided.

At least outwardly, the Trump administration was undeterred by the shift in tone from North Korea, with the president himself and multiple spokespeople continuing to express hope that the meeting will go off as planned while leaving open the possibility that it might not.


Bolton: European nations ‘will see that it’s in their interests’ to stay or withdraw from Iran deal

May 13, 2018

National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday he believes European nations will ultimately join the U.S. and leave the Iran nuclear agreement.

“I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us,” Bolton said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Bolton’s comments come despite pledges from European leaders across the board that they will uphold the agreement, even after President Trump announced last week the U.S. would no longer honor it.

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“And they may try to [stay in the deal], in part because I think despite President Trump’s complete consistency in opposition to the deal … many people, including, apparently, former Secretary of State John Kerry, thought that we never would get out of it,” Bolton said.

Bolton added that, once it sinks in that the U.S. doesn’t plan to adhere to the deal, other nations will follow in suit.

Trump‘s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear came despite pleas from European allies to remain in the Obama-era agreement.

The 2015 deal offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. The White House has said the U.S. will put those sanctions back into place.

European leaders vowed in the wake of the announcement that they would remain in the pact. They called on the U.S. not to prohibit the future success of the deal, despite its withdrawal.

Asked if the U.S. would consider imposing sanctions on European nations that continue to honor the deal, Bolton said “it’s possible.”

“It depends on the conduct of other governments,” he said.


Backlash against liberals is growing — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing

May 13, 2018

Liberals may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way.

I know many liberals, and two of them really are my best friends. Liberals make good movies and television shows. Their idealism has been an inspiration for me and many others. Many liberals are very smart. But they are not as smart, or as persuasive, as they think.

And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected.

By Gerard Alexander

Mr. Alexander is a professor of political science at the University of Virginia.

Credit Illustration by Alvaro Dominguez; Photographs by ZargonDesign/E+, via Getty Images, and Renaud Philippe/EyeEm, via Getty Images

People often vote against things instead of voting for them: against ideas, candidates and parties. Democrats, like Republicans, appreciate this whenever they portray their opponents as negatively as possible. But members of political tribes seem to have trouble recognizing that they, too, can push people away and energize them to vote for the other side. Nowhere is this more on display today than in liberal control of the commanding heights of American culture.

Take the past few weeks. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, the comedian Michelle Wolf landed some punch lines that were funny and some that weren’t. But people reacted less to her talent and more to the liberal politics that she personified. For every viewer who loved her Trump bashing, there seemed to be at least one other put off by the one-sidedness of her routine. Then, when Kanye West publicly rethought his ideological commitments, prominent liberals criticized him for speaking on the topic at all. Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from California, remarked that “sometimes Kanye West talks out of turn” and should “maybe not have so much to say.”

Liberals dominate the entertainment industry, many of the most influential news sources and America’s universities. This means that people with progressive leanings are everywhere in the public eye — and are also on the college campuses attended by many people’s children or grandkids. These platforms come with a lot of power to express values, confer credibility and celebrity and start national conversations that others really can’t ignore.

But this makes liberals feel more powerful than they are. Or, more accurately, this kind of power is double-edged. Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be. In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.

In fact, liberals may be more effective at causing resentment than in getting people to come their way. I’m not talking about the possibility that jokes at the 2011 correspondents’ association dinner may have pushed Mr. Trump to run for president to begin with. I mean that the “army of comedy” that Michael Moore thought would bring Mr. Trump down will instead be what builds him up in the minds of millions of voters.

Consider some ways liberals have used their cultural prominence in recent years. They have rightly become more sensitive to racism and sexism in American society. News reports, academic commentary and movies now regularly relate accounts of racism in American history and condemn racial bigotry. These exercises in consciousness-raising and criticism have surely nudged some Americans to rethink their views, and to reflect more deeply on the status and experience of women and members of minority groups in this country.

But accusers can paint with very wide brushes. Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully. Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans — specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump.

In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.

It doesn’t help that our cultural mores are changing rapidly, and we rarely stop to consider this. Some liberals have gotten far out ahead of their fellow Americans but are nonetheless quick to criticize those who haven’t caught up with them.

Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women.

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

This judgmental tendency became stronger during the administration of President Barack Obama, though not necessarily because of anything Mr. Obama did. Feeling increasingly emboldened, liberals were more convinced than ever that conservatives were their intellectual and even moral inferiors. Discourses and theories once confined to academia were transmitted into workaday liberal political thinking, and college campuses — which many take to be what a world run by liberals would look like — seemed increasingly intolerant of free inquiry.

It was during these years that the University of California included the phrase “America is the land of opportunity” on a list of discouraged microaggressions. Liberal politicians portrayed conservative positions on immigration reform as presumptively racist; Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, once dubiously claimed that she had heard Republicans tell Irish visitors that “if it was you,” then immigration reform “would be easy.”

When Mr. Obama remarked, behind closed doors, during the presidential campaign in 2008, that Rust Belt voters “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” it mattered not so much because he said it but because so many listeners figured that he was only saying what liberals were really thinking.

These are the sorts of events conservatives think of when they sometimes say, “Obama caused Trump.” Many liberals might interpret that phrase to mean that America’s first black president brought out the worst in some people. In this view, not only might liberals be unable to avoid provoking bigots, it’s not clear they should even try. After all, should they not have nominated and elected Mr. Obama? Should they regret doing the right thing just because it provoked the worst instincts in some people?

This is a limited view of the situation. Even if liberals think their opponents are backward, they don’t have to gratuitously drive people away, including voters who cast ballots once or even twice for Mr. Obama before supporting Mr. Trump in 2016.

Champions of inclusion can watch what they say and explain what they’re doing without presuming to regulate what words come out of other people’s mouths. Campus activists can allow invited visitors to speak and then, after that event, hold a teach-in discussing what they disagree with. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states had to allow same-sex marriage, the fight, in some quarters, turned to pizza places unwilling to cater such weddings. Maybe don’t pick that fight?

People determined to stand against racism can raise concerns about groups that espouse hate and problems like the racial achievement gap in schools without smearing huge numbers of Americans, many of whom might otherwise be Democrats by temperament.

Liberals can act as if they’re not so certain — and maybe actually not be so certain — that bigotry motivates people who disagree with them on issues like immigration. Without sacrificing their principles, liberals can come across as more respectful of others. Self-righteousness is rarely attractive, and even more rarely rewarded.

Self-righteousness can also get things wrong. Especially with the possibility of Mr. Trump’s re-election, many liberals seem primed to write off nearly half the country as irredeemable. Admittedly, the president doesn’t make it easy. As a candidate, Mr. Trump made derogatory comments about Mexicans, and as president described some African countries with a vulgar epithet. But it is an unjustified leap to conclude that anyone who supports him in any way is racist, just as it would be a leap to say that anyone who supported Hillary Clinton was racist because she once made veiled references to “superpredators.”

Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.

Those prejudices will be validated even more if Mr. Trump wins re-election in 2020, especially if he wins a popular majority. That’s not impossible: The president’s current approval ratings are at 42 percent, up from just a few months ago.

Liberals are inadvertently making that outcome more likely. It’s not too late to stop.

Gerard Alexander is an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia.

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A version of this article appears in print on  of the New York edition with the headline: Liberals, You’re Not As Smart as You Think.