Posts Tagged ‘McMaster’

U.S. South Asia strategy — What we know from “Fire and Fury”

January 8, 2018
Fire and Fury makes no mention of the two largest countries in South Asia but has a vivid account of how the US president “lost it” when confronted with a plan to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Author Michael Wolff (left), US President Donald Trump and his former adviser, Steve Bannon (right). Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The “high point” of US President Donald Trump’s presidency was his meltdown over increasing American troops in Afghanistan at a meeting where he threatened to fire all his generals, former White House senior counsellor Stephen Bannon told the author of a new book on the first year of the administration.

Already a bestseller, journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – based on his access to the Trump campaign and the White House – has created unusual excitement in Washington. Trump issued a statement accusing Bannon of “losing his mind” after he left the White House, while his lawyers attempted to block the publication, which led the publisher to advance the release date.

The 336-page book has no mention about the two largest countries in South Asia, India or Pakistan. There is a two-line exchange about H1B visas between Trump and Rupert Murdoch, but the context was to illustrate the media baron’s relationship with the US president, and their differing perception of Silicon Valley

The only country in the South Asian region which gets substantial treatment is, not surprisingly, Afghanistan. This was also one issue where Bannon, who was earlier executive chair of  the right-wing website, Breitbart News, and Trump, were on the same side – and therefore, apparently showed Trump in the best light.

On July 19 last year, the White House schedule listed a briefing for Trump from the National Security Council in the Situation Room at 10 a.m. “To Bannon, the meeting was a high point of the Trump presidency to date,” wrote Wolff.

The reason for Bannon’s exultation was Trump exploding in anger and threatening to fire all US generals after they couldn’t give him any alternative to the troop increase proposal.

The generals were punting and waffling and desperately trying to save face – they were, according to Bannon, talking pure “gobbledygook” in the situation room. “Trump was standing up to them,” said a happy Bannon. “Hammering them. He left a bowel movement in the middle of their Afghan plans. Again and again, he came back to the same point: we’re stuck and losing and nobody here has a plan to do much better than that.”

Before this meeting, the US military had expected to give a green signal to their proposal after weeks of negotiation – and therefore, the apparent meltdown came out of the blue.

According to Wolff, Trump “angrily railed” for two hours “against the mess he had been handed in Afghanistan”.

He threatened to fire almost every general in the chain of command. He couldn’t fathom, he said, how it had taken so many months of study to come up with this nothing-much-different plan. He disparaged the advice that came from generals and praised the advice from enlisted men.

Mines for troops

The incident was written by Wolff as narrated by Bannon – however, versions of the July 19 meeting were reported about two weeks later in early August. NBC News had also reported that Trump had used the ’21 Club’ analogy – also mentioned in the book – to illustrate that high-level professionals usually give the more banal advice.

This is just like the 21 Club, he said, suddenly confusing everyone with this reference to a New York restaurant, one of his favorites. In the 1980s, 21 closed for a year and hired a large number of consultants to analyze how to make the restaurant more profitable. In the end, their advice was: Get a bigger kitchen. Exactly what any waiter would have said, Trump shouted.

Incidentally, the New York Post contacted the chief executive of 21 Club during the period of renovation, who claimed that there had been “no consultant and the renovation in 1987 took less than six months”.

Trump’s mercenary demand for Afghan mineral resources in return for keeping troops in the country was also made at this July 19 meeting to his NSC team.

If we have to be in Afghanistan, he demanded, why can’t we make money off it? China, he complained, has mining rights, but not the United States. (He was referring to a 10-year-old U.S.-backed deal.)

Six days later, The New York Times carried a report that Trump had “latched” on to Afghanistan’s mineral resources as a reason to stay in Afghanistan, with the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani even encouraging him.

It reported that policy meetings on the new South Asia strategy were “increasingly heated”, with Trump and Bannon on one side against National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. However, the Times report did not mention that Trump had talked about mining rights at the July 19 meeting. The reports in August by NBC and Reuters did reveal that Trump had spelt out this condition in the NSC meeting.

Factional free-for-all

Wolff also writes about the swirling tensions in White House in the run-up to the July 19 meeting – with Bannon working to get McMaster ousted, which “both head off the strongest voice for more troops and also avenge Bannon’s ouster by McMaster’s hand from the NSC”.

Bannon was apparently confident that McMaster could be shunted off to Afghanistan as the top military commander, after he was made a four-star general.

Meanwhile, Bannon’s nemesis in White House, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and husband, Jared Kushner tried to bring in a more moderate response.

Deputy national security advisor Dina Powell suggested that the “moderate, best-case, easiest-to-sell course” was to send around “send four, five, six, or (tops) seven thousand troops”.

Powell even helped design a PowerPoint deck that McMaster began using with the president: pictures of Kabul in the 1970s when it still looked something like a modern city. It could be like this again, the president was told, if we are resolute.

Bannon had also master-minded a mediacampaignagainst McMaster, which had led to a counter campaign by Kushner and Powell. According to Vox, between July 21 and Aug 22, Breitbart News carried 60 mostly negative articles on McMaster.

It was the establishment and never-Trumpers against the America-first Trumpkins. In many respects, Bannon was outgunned and outnumbered, yet he still thought he had it nailed. And when he won, not only would another grievously drafted chapter in the war in Afghanistan be avoided, but ‘Jarvanka’, and Powell, their factotum, would be further consigned to irrelevance and powerlessness.

The National Security Council proposed three options – withdrawal, outsourcing to private contractors and the CIA as suggested byBlackwater founder Erik Prince, and a limited surge.

Withdrawal was apparently taken off the story as it “still left Donald Trump with having lost a war, an insupportable position for the president”.

The second option, which was propped up by Bannon, was opposed by the CIA, wrote Wolff.

The agency had spent 16 years successfully avoiding Afghanistan, and everyone knew that careers were not advanced in Afghanistan, they died in Afghanistan. So please keep us out of it.

This left the only the third option, which was the reason for the confidence among the military brass that Trump would sign off on it.

But on July 19, at a meeting of the national security team in the situation room at the White House, Trump “lost it”.

Retelling a known story?

It took another month to make Trump to agree on the troop increase, which was unveiled as the Afghanistan and South Asia strategy on August 21 – with a side of tough love for Pakistan. Three days earlier, Bannon had officially left the White House. Around 3800 US troops were sent to Afghanistan, with the total number exceeding 15,000.

The July 19 meeting – and the in-fighting in the White House over the troop surge – gives credence to some of the complaints from mainstream US reporters that much of the information in Wolff’s book was already in the public domain.

(To clarify: what’s infuriating is the narrative that Wolff saw something the rest of the white house press missed. It’s the opposite.) 

Columbia Journalism Review analysis also notes that the “truth that Wolff arrives at in Fire and Fury is pretty much the same one that a regular reader of political reporting for the past year would have gleaned from the work of journalists at mainstream papers”.

At the same time, Wolff painted a “thoroughly readable portrait” of the Trump administration. “He appears to have played a monster hand of access journalism poker, bluffing his way into the good graces of the administration by attacking mainstream reporters for critical reporting in the early months of the Trump presidency only to rake in the pot by producing a devastating account of those who considered him a sympathetic observer,” write CJR’s Nausicaa Renner and Pete Vernon.


The Profound Implications Of A “Bloody Nose” Attack On North Korea

December 21, 2017

The Telegraph discusses rumors of a US limited strike against North Korea.

Again, the idiocy and arrogance of military leadership and strategists.  The hubris of policy makers who are there to advance their personal careers in the context of a power structure they take no personal responsibility for, nor which they fundamentally critique or question.  There are no adults in charge.  The thing is a beast of its own.

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A limited strike against North Korea would change everything.  The notion would be that the US can engage in military strikes without escalating to war.  How long until Moscow gets it’s own “bloody nose”?  After all, with nuclear weapons, total war is a thing of the past.  And, outside of nuclear weapons, the nations of Earth can’t match the “limited strike” capabilities of the US.

Do you think the US would countenance getting its own “bloody nose”, though?

This whole concept is just a way for US policy makers to try and salvage a meaningful notion of hegemony in spite of the destructive implausibility of the concept.  Hegemony is impractical, expensive, and destructive to maintain.  Like an economic monopoly, it’s impossible to actually enforce without self-destruction.

The US wants, more desperately than anything else, the ability to use military force to control outcomes in the world.  It just hasn’t worked out as comprehensively as wished.  North Korea is a trial case – the auction – to see if this ability can exist.

What if America blows up the North Korean nuclear facility?  But doesn’t go after other infrastructure or the regime?  Would the North respond with total war?  Probably not.  They wouldn’t risk annihilation when it’s not necessary.  And they alone won’t stand up against American hegemony overall (as might Russia and China).  They won’t be the hill for American power to die on, they just want to survive.

But then, what are the consequences?  If America can just blow things up anywhere they want, why couldn’t they just begin squeezing the North into a slow bleed annihilation?  The North has to respond, to reciprocate a “bloody nose”.  Would the US tolerate that?

The North would likely blow up some airliners, or likely bomb the Olympics somehow.  What a nightmare.  And would Trump say, “Well, they did bomb the Olympics, but we bombed them first so I guess we’re all even.”  No!  He’d respond, and things would escalate.

Would Russia tolerate “bloody nose” attacks along and across their borders?  No, they’d go to nuclear alert standby the second American tanks mobilize near their border.  If they give up a single inch, they know it’s over for them.  They can’t afford to stand up against conventional American power.  They’d have to fall back on their nuclear deterrent.

And this is why American policy makers are so intent on upgrading the nuclear force.  The first strike doctrine where “only” 200 million Americans would die in a nuclear exchange is the Pentagon’s idea of nullifying the Russian nuclear deterrent.  It’s our side saying, “We’re willing to go there, are you?”

What a bunch of jerks.  Military type-As who betray their own sons and daughters with their stupidity.

I’m what some people might call a “pacifist”, but about Korea I’ll say this: let South Korea handle it.  Let them use war and military strength to deter the North.  If they choose.  Not my preference, but it’s their problem, not mine.

US troops on North Korea’s border, in the context of what US bombs did to North Korea in the Korean War, is why the North’s tyranny is so awful.  Yes, resisting cult-leader authoritarian brainwashed tyranny is tough as hell.  However, I believe it’s very clear that the US troop presence is the unique element which has prevented the North’s harsh system from collapsing or ameliorating after all these years.  Where is there an example in the whole Earth that is similar to that Korean deployment?  With such a one-sided power disparity?  And where is there an example of a regime like the Kim regime?  An interesting correlation, isn’t it?  Two unique phenomena, located right next to each other.

Draw US troops out, offer unconditional non-aggression (peace treaty, redeployment of bomber assets), and then leave it as South Korea’s problem.

Back in the Korean War, Syngman Rhee (the South’s dictator) provoked the North.  He attacked villages across the border for weeks, persistently.  It’s not as if the US leaving in 1950 caused the war.  It seems highly probably that Syngman Rhee was trying to draw the US back in.  US troops from 1945-1950 engaged in and oversaw massacres to support the South’s police state, so you could imagine why Rhee would be uncomfortable with the US leaving.  Moreover, North Korean power was a proxy for global communist expansion and resistance to US hegemony.  None of this is true today.

Pull US troops out, offer unconditional peace from the US, redeploy air assets.  Here are the conditions: North Korea can’t mess with Japan, and if China messes with the Korean peninsula, the US would redeploy to counter.  Then, stay hands off.  Concerning Korea, from the US perspective: no comment.

“Diplomatic” solutions to Korean problems need to come from Europe or non-aligned nations.  The US has historical baggage and should “recuse” itself from the Korean problem, despite its desire to have its fingers in every pie.  This, in the interest of peace.

But then, my proposal fails to achieve one policy outcome: advance US power and economic interests.

My country.  But not my flag, not my government, not my empire.


America Preparing “Bloody Nose” Military Attack On North Korea: Telegraph

December 21, 2017

While North Korea managed to once again drop off the list of immediate geopolitical concerns having kept relative quiet in recent weeks, without any notable provocations or ICBM launches, this may be changing soon, because according to the Telegraph, America is drawing up plans for a “bloody nose” military attack on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program. The UK newspaper’s sources claim that the White House has “dramatically” stepped up preparation for a military solution in recent months amid fears diplomacy is not working. As a result, one option currently under consideration is destroying a launch site before it is used by the regime for a new missile test. Stockpiles of weapons could also be targeted.

The explanation for what would be an act of war, is amusing: “The hope is that military force would show Kim Jong-un that America is “serious” about stopping further nuclear development and trigger negotiations.” Well, yes: launching an offensive war does tend to confirm that one is indeed serious. The question is what will China, Russia and the rest of the all too serious world do in response.

“The Pentagon is trying to find options that would allow them to punch the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that we’re serious”, said one former US security official briefed on policy.

Some further details:

Pentagon Supports Diplomacy In North Korea But Weighs Other Options

Donald Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian government airfield earlier this year to defend America’s “red line” on chemical weapons use is seen as a blueprint.  Details have emerged after this newspaper talked to around a dozen current and former officials in America and Britain about policy towards North Korea.


The conversations show that the Trump administration is more willing to consider military options to end the conflict than widely assumed. 

And while it will hardly come as a major surprise, the Telegraph notes that it can be revealed that senior British diplomats fear America has already begun a “step by step” military build-up in the region that could escalate.

Alastair Morgan, the UK ambassador to North Korea, visited Washington DC for behind-closed-doors talks about forcing the regime to the negotiating table last month.  The UK is also urging Southeast Asian and African countries to expel some North Korean diplomats amid fears they are secretly financing the regime.

Meanwhile, in a continuation of a previous US demand, the Trump administration wants North Korean ships to be stopped and searched amid fears they are being used to get round UN sanctions.

The urgency behind the plan, and the pressure to act comes from the drop in estimated time it will take for North Korea to develop a missile that could hit America with nuclear weapons.

Just a few years ago it was believed the regime was a decade away from that point, but now the figure has dropped to as little as 18 months – though estimates vary.  Senior figures in the Trump administration have made clear in public that it would be unacceptable for North Korea to reach that position.  While Mr Trump has always said a “military option” is on the table, the administration’s focus has been on building economic and diplomatic pressure.



But Mr Kim’s refusal to negotiate has left senior White House figures disillusioned with diplomacy and increasingly considering military avenues.  One British source who recently attended a briefing with H.R. McMaster, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, and other officials left feeling alarmed.


“The Americans said deterrence doesn’t work against North Korea and negotiation doesn’t work,” the source said.


“Those who heard them left with the impression that military action is very much an option they were considering seriously.”

Kori Schake, a former director of defense strategy at the White House’s National Security Council who served under George W Bush, said military action is a real possibility. “The White House very strongly believes that either North Korea will agree to give up its nuclear weapons or we will launch a preventative attack to destroy them,” she said.  “I would put the odds of them actually carrying that out at three in 10. Other policy experts say it is four in ten.”

Still, war is not a guaranteed outcome. On one hand, British officials are continuing to urge their US counterparts to focus on diplomatic solutions and are looking to increase pressure on North Korea.

Separately, while the Trump administration is considering military options, the Telegraph concedes that “it is not a foregone conclusion that the US president will choose to go down that path.  There are major uncertainties about how Mr Kim would react if provoked and the regime already has missiles that could strike nearby countries including Japan and South Korea. 

Ultimately, and as we have said since early in 2017, the decision to attack North Korea will ultimately come down to whether the generals in Trump’s circle of confidence can and will overpower the diplomats:

Experts also say there is a split in the US administration with Mr Trump and Mr McMaster more willing to consider military action than Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Jim Mattis, the defence secretary.

The good news is that – for now at least – Trump no longer needs a major foreign diversion, especially after his biggest political victory of the year, with the passage of the GOP Tax Cut, which tangentially, may have also bought Kim Jong-Un a few additional quarters reprieve.



Marco Rubio: ‘Vladimir Putin chose to interfere in US elections’

December 14, 2017

US Senator Marco Rubio, who ran against President Donald Trump during the Republican primaries, tells DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova that talk of US President Donald Trump’s impeachment over alleged Russian ties is premature.

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Watch video18:14

DW talks to US Senator Marco Rubio

DW:US President Donald Trump is making headlines across the world because of his Russia connections [the Robert Mueller-led investigation into alleged US collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election — the ed.]. What might be the final political consequences for him?

Marco RubioWell, one thing about the US, compared to Vladimir Putin’s government, is that we have a system of checks and balances and a system of rule of law. Right now there are suspicions and allegations that have been made that are being investigated by professional investigators who will make decisions based on the facts. Ultimately, we will let it play itself out and go wherever the truth takes us, that’s the way our system works.

And the people that are accused have a right to defend themselves and prove their innocence. And the government has a burden to prove that. We are not at that stage yet. But what is abundantly clear is that Vladimir Putin chose to interfere in the US elections — in my opinion, not so much to favor one candidate over another, but to sow instability. In many ways he blames the United States for the protests against corruption and against him that took place in 2009, 2010, or 2011. He thinks that the United States was behind it. In many ways, this was a part of getting revenge for that. And the other part of it is that he wanted to destabilize the US, to be able to go back and say to his own people and to the world that America is in no position to lecture anyone about democracy, as their own democracy is flawed. I don’t necessarily disagree that we’re not perfect. The difference is that our imperfections are debated openly in a free society and not presented through a state-controlled media, loyal to one person and one regime.

But I’m talking about this particular investigation. If they prove that Trump had connections to Russia, what would the consequences be for him and his political career? How big is the risk of impeachment, for example?

Well, we’re way ahead of ourselves when talking about impeachment. Right now we have an ongoing investigation, and it may lead to nothing. We’ve already seen a couple of indictments, but it may not ultimately prove that the president did something wrong. We need to wait for that. I don’t want to prejudge that — it would be unfair and prejudicial to do so. But ultimately, I am confident that those doing the investigation are serious and professional people. The truth is going to be out there for courts to look at — in the case of the individuals that have been indicted or may be indicted, and for the voters to look at — in the case of anybody else who is in elected office.

In your estimation, how big is the real impact of Russia’s interference in the US presidential election?

Trump and Putin talking to each otherDid you hear the one about me and the Democrats?

I don’t think it impacted the outcome. But we most certainly need to be aware that foreign governments tried to exploit legitimate divisions in American society for purposes of creating chaos. I think that Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal was not the election of one candidate versus another, although he may have personally preferred one candidate. But his ultimate goal was to ensure that whoever was elected the next US president, they did so with their credibility damaged. I also think that he wanted to exploit the already existing divisions in American society for the purpose of forcing us to go through what we’re going through right now — investigations, divisive debates, talk about impeachment, and the like.

It’s destabilizing. This is a pattern that has repeated itself not simply in the US elections — we saw an attempt to do it in France, Germany, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and even potentially in Mexico this year. This is a sort of hybrid warfare type concept that he has adopted, and it is in line with his training as a KGB officer and the sort of propaganda efforts that existed during the Cold War, without the internet and without Twitter and Facebook.


McMaster Accuses Russia of Waging ‘Campaigns of Subversion’ Against the U.S.

December 13, 2017

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Tuesday described Russia as a top threat, and accused it of waging “campaigns of subversion” against the United States.

“We’re facing a threat from Russia that involves also so-called new generation warfare. And these are very sophisticated campaigns of subversion and disinformation and propaganda, using cyber tools, operating across multiple domains that attempt to divide our communities within our nation and pit them against each other and try to create a crisis of confidence,” he said at an event in Washington hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank.

They were unusual words of criticism coming from a member of an administration that wants to improve relations with Russia. They were also unusual given that the Trump administration has been plagued by accusations from critics that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in President Trump’s favor.

McMaster also called Russia a “revisionist” power that was undermining international order and stability and ignoring the sovereign rights of neighbors and the rule of law.

“They have of course used unconventional forces under the cover of conventional forces to advance their interest and have forcibly changed the borders of Europe for the first time since World War II of their invasions of Georgia and Ukraine,” he said.

He also said the administration’s upcoming National Security Strategy, which will outline the administration’s national security priorities, will be released on Monday.

Erdogan says Jerusalem ‘red line’, could cut Turkey-Israel ties — “We would set the entire Islamic world in motion” — Israel Fires Back at Turkey: Jerusalem Has Been the Jewish Capital for 3,000 Years

December 5, 2017

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File Photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan



ANKARA (AFP) – The status of Jerusalem is a “red line” for Muslims and could even prompt Turkey to cut ties with Israel, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday, as US President Donald Trump mulled whether to recognise the city as the Israeli capital.

Erdogan said Turkey, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), would immediately call a summit meeting of the pan-Islamic group if Trump went ahead with the move.

“Mr Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Erdogan said in a raucous televised speech to his ruling party that was greeted with chants and applause.

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Erdogan said that if such a move was made to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he would summon a summit of the OIC in Istanbul within five to 10 days “and we would set the entire Islamic world in motion”.

As for Turkey, Erdogan said Ankara would “follow this struggle to the very last moment with determination and we could even go right up to cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Last year, Turkey and Israel ended a rift triggered by Israel’s deadly storming in 2010 of a Gaza-bound ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead and led to a downgrading of diplomatic ties.

The two sides have since stepped up cooperation in particular in energy but Erdogan, who regards himself a champion of the Palestinian cause, is still often bitterly critical of Israeli policy.

The United States is a strong supporter of a strong relationship between Turkey, the key Muslim member of NATO, and Israel, which is Washington’s main ally in the Middle East.

Erdogan’s comments came after the White House said Trump would miss a deadline to decide on shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv, after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phonecalls between world leaders.


Israel Fires Back at Turkey: Jerusalem Has Been the Jewish Capital for 3,000 Years

Amid diplomatic backlash over possible change in U.S. status to Jerusalem, top Israeli official says Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 70 years, whether Erdogan recognizes it or not

Noa Landau and Reuters Dec 05, 2017 12:53 PM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a signing ceremony of an agreement between the US and Israel for energy aid given by both countries to Africa, on December 4, 2017 in Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend a signing ceremony of an agreement between the US and Israel for energy aid given by both countries to A MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

A senior Israeli official responded to Turkey’s threat to cut ties with Israel if the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as its capital, saying that “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years and the capital of Israel for 70 years, whether [Turkish President] Erdogan recognizes it as such or not.”


Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is a red line for Muslims.” He warned that if such a decision is made it “will result in Turkey’s cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.”

Erdogan’s comments echo a growing sentiment in the Arab world and international community who are warning the U.S. against the potential fallout from the move.

The Turkish premier’s announcement follows comments by the diplomatic adviser of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who said that the Palestinian leadership would “stop contacts” with the U.S. if Trump follows through with the move.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, during a news conference at the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Erdogan said he's looking forward to a "decisive meeting" with his U.S. counterpart Trump, whose decision to arm Kurdish groups against Islamic State in Syria has stoked tensions between the two NATO members. Photographer: Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, during a news conference at the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday,Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg

U.S. officials have said a possible recognition might come this week, prompting Arab and Muslim backlash.

Abbas’ aide Majdi Khaldi said on Tuesday the U.S. would lose credibility as a Mideast mediator if Trump goes ahead with the move.

Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, had even harsher words.

“So Mr. Trump came up with the slogan of the ‘deal of the century,’ or ‘the mother of all transactions’, as Saddam Hussein would say.  But the mother of all the deals dies here on the rocks in Jerusalem if he says tomorrow that he recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Shaath told reporters. “It removes any chance he will play a role in an agreement. There is no deal that begins with the destruction of the two-state solution.”

According to the Palestinians, they will turn to other countries in the world to serve as mediators in the negotiations should Trump proceed with such a decision on Jeruasalem, like China, Russia or European countries.

“Everyone conveyed a message that it would destroy any chance for peace. We do not want to reach violence, but we cannot prevent violence. ISIS is recruiting people to defend Jerusalem,” said Shaath.

Saudi Arabia also spoke out against the move, saying it hopes the U.S. will not recognize Jerusalem and warned such a decision would have serious implications, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.
“The recognition will have very serious implications and will be provocative to all Muslims’ feelings,” SPA said quoting an unnamed official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry.

“The United States administration should take into account the negative implications of such a move and the Kingdom’s hope not to take such a decision as this will affect the U.S. ability to continue its attempt of reaching a just solution for the Palestinian cause,” the statement added.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Washington Prince Khalid bin Salman said any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem before a final settlement is reached in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would hurt the peace process and heighten regional tensions.

“The kingdom’s policy – has been – and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the U.S. administration,” Prince Khalid said in a statement.

Twenty-five former Israeli ambassadors, academics and peace activists on Monday expressed their opposition to the move in a letter to Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

The letter was written on behalf of The Policy Working Group, an organization of Israeli activists with diplomatic, academic, political and media backgrounds, including former Israeli diplomats such as Ilan Baruch, Alon Liel and Elie Barnavi. The group wrote Greenblatt that “we are deeply concerned by recent reports that President Trump is seriously considering the announcement of his decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.”


“The status of Jerusalem, the city that houses the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions, lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and must be determined within the context of resolving that conflict,” the letter continued.

East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, is home to major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites. The Palestinians seek it as a future capital, while Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Arab League representatives were to discuss the Jerusalem controversy on Tuesday. The organization said on Monday that Trump’s possible recognition would constitute “naked aggression” against Muslims and Arabs.

Noa Landau
Haaretz Correspondent
read more:


“But maybe going against the conventional wisdom is a good thing.”

U.S., foreign officials warn Trump not to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital — “But maybe going against the conventional wisdom is a good thing.”

December 5, 2017


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The possibility that U.S. President Donald Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has stirred opposition from U.S. and foreign officials who fear it could unleash violence.

 President Donald Trump speaks to the press before the UN General Assembly on Sept. 18, 2017, in New York.

Such a decision, which U.S. officials have said has not been finalized, would violate decades of U.S. policy not to take a stance on the fate of Jerusalem on the grounds that this was an issue Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate and decide.

If Trump made such a move, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

© AFP/File | The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The site includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

Israel seized East Jerusalem, which includes the area, during a 1967 war. However, the Waqf, a Muslim religious body, manages the Islamic sites within the compound.

A senior U.S. official told Reuters last week that Trump was likely to make the announcement on Jerusalem’s being Israel’s capital on Wednesday, though his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Sunday said no final decision had been made.

Kushner is leading Trump’s efforts to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts that so far have shown little progress.

The White House said it would not take any action on Monday on whether to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, something that Trump had promised to do in his presidential campaign.

Trump is expected to sign the waiver, according to several U.S. officials. One U.S. official said Trump was likely to accompany the signing with an order for his aides to begin serious planning for an eventual embassy move, though it was unclear whether he would establish a strict timetable.

Two other U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity that news of the plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had kicked up resistance from the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau (NEA), which deals with the region.

“Senior (officials) in NEA and a number of ambassadors from the region expressed their deep concern about doing this,” said one official, saying that the concerns focused on “security.”

The State Department referred questions to the White House. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the concerns of U.S. and foreign officials about the possibility of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A fourth U.S. official said the consensus U.S. intelligence estimate on U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was that it would risk triggering a backlash against Israel, and also potentially against U.S. interests in the Middle East.


The core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist Hamas, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

A general view shows the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem’s Old City December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

U.S. allies voiced their misgivings about the United States unilaterally calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron “expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” during a phone call with Trump on Monday, Macron’s office said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

And in an unusually detailed statement published by Jordan’s official news agency Petra, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was quoted as having warned U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the move in a call on Sunday.

Safadi said such a move would “trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,” Petra reported.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s chief representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said a formal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be the “kiss of death” to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Should such a step be taken it would have catastrophic consequences,” Zomlot told Reuters.

A fifth U.S. official said concerns of Palestinian and other Arab leaders about endorsing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem were being taken into account but no final decisions had been made.

Daniel Benjamin, a former U.S. counterterrorism official now at Dartmouth University, had a simple message: “This is playing with fire.”

Trump recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will cause ‘major catastrophe’

December 5, 2017

The diplomatic status of Jerusalem is one of the world’s thorniest issues

By Alexandra Wilts Washington DC
The Independent

As President Donald Trump edges toward the controversial decision of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, unease is growing in the region over a move that will likely spark waves of protests – with Turkey the latest nation to suggest it would bring “catastrophe”.

As has become usual for his administration, Mr Trump has so far refused to give a definitive answer about what he will do. As well as the decision over the capital, a decision about whether to sign a six-month waiver for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been delayed – despite a deadline for doing so having passed. An announcement on the decision would be made “in coming days,” the White House said.

Mr Trump is expected to announce that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital during a speech this week, as well as eventually sign the waiver pushing back a decision on moving the embassy. But White House adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser HR McMaster have both made it clear in recent days that that they are unsure about what Mr Trump will do.

That lack of firm direction has stoked tensions in the region. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said that Jerusalem’s status has been enshrined in a number of international declarations.

“The status of Jerusalem and Temple Mount have been determined by international agreements. It is important to preserve Jerusalem’s status for the sake of protecting peace in the region,” Mr Bozdag told reporters.

“If another step is taken and this step is lifted, this will be a major catastrophe,” he added.

The diplomatic status of Jerusalem is one of the world’s thorniest issues, and any change could have vast repercussions across the Middle East. The city’s holy sites are sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, with both Israel and the Palestinians claiming it as their capital.  The Palestinians want a number of areas of the city as part of any future state.

Israel occupied the area in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem. According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accord, the city’s final status is meant to be discussed in later peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally. But this is expected to change this week with Mr Trump’s announcement.

France President Emmanuel Macron expressed “concern” over the potential move to recognise Jerusalem on a call with Mr Trump on Monday,

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said: “Any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region”.

In a phone call over the weekend, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are said to have discussed the status of Jerusalem.

According to reports, Mr Erdogan told Mr Abbas that preserving the status of Jerusalem was important for all Muslim countries, adding that international laws and United Nations decisions should be followed on the issue.

Over the weekend, Mr Abbas warned that American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would jeopardize the White House’s Middle East peace efforts.

“Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,” Mr Abbas told a group of Arab legislators from Israel, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Any move by the US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would lead to violence, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

“We say very clearly that taking such action is not justified … It will not serve peace or stability, but will fuel extremism and result to violence,” Mr Gheit said in a statement.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, said he had raised the matter with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Such a decision would trigger anger across Arab Muslim worlds… and jeopardise peace efforts,” he wrote on Twitter.

Jordan has begun consultations on convening an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation ahead of the move by Mr Trump

Jordan, the current president of the Arab summit, would invite members of the two bodies to convene if the recognition is extended, to “discuss ways of dealing with the consequences of such a decision that raised alarm and concern”, one diplomatic source told Reuters.

But while Mr Trump is anticipated to make the move anyway, he will likely hold back on announcing his plans on another controversial issue – his campaign promise to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem.

He is not expected to relocate the US embassy just yet – a deferment that has been viewed as an attempt by his administration to avoid completely derailing the President’s peace initiative in the region.

All countries currently maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital. And each American president since 1995 has signed a national security waiver every six months to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Mr Trump  – under pressure from Arab leaders – also deferred a decision to move it to Jerusalem, even though he said during the campaign that it would be one of his first acts as president.

That action came as leaders warned that the change would spark protests, and advisers – including his son-in-law Jared Kushner – were reported to be concerned that it could complicate the administration’s efforts to foster peace talks.

Mr Kushner is now said to counting on his relationship with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman , to be the key to brokering a Middle East peace agreement. Mr Trump’s son-in-law also hopes this connection could mitigate any Arab uprising that could result from the President’s upcoming announcements.

Mr  Tillerson – who would normally be the official figuring out the US’s Middle East strategy – reportedly disagrees with Mr Kushner’s approach. Mr Tillerson is said to be worried that Prince Mohammed is attempting to use Saudi Arabia’s cooperation and economic support for the peace process as a way to receive funding from the White House to confront Iran, according to US media reports.

“The president is going to make his decision,” Mr Kushner said of the Israel decision, in a rare public appearance at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank on Sunday. “He is still looking at a lot of different facts.”

“I’m not sure what decision he’ll make. We’ve given him options,” Mr McMaster told Fox News. He added that the President’s advisers have discussed a number of options, and that each of these options will allow the United States to take action concerning Jerusalem in a manner that would “gain momentum toward a peace agreement and solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians.”


U.S. Defies North Korea With Drills Involving 230 Aircraft — North hints at atmospheric nuclear test of H-bomb — Potential for war “is increasing every day.”

December 4, 2017


By Kanga Kong

 Updated on 

Image result for F-22 Raptor, photos

The U.S. and South Korea on Monday began a five-day joint air exercise on the Korean peninsula involving 230 aircraft and 12,000 American troops, in what North Korea has dubbed the largest-ever joint aerial drill.

North Korea, which last week launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, said ahead of the Vigilant Ace 18 drills that it would consider the “highest-level hard-line countermeasure in history,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It referred to a similar statement in September, which Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said may include a ground-level test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

A U.S. F-22 Raptor takes off from an air base in Gwangju on Dec. 4.

Source: Yonhap/EPA

North Korea regularly cites military drills around the peninsula as justification for its nuclear and missile-testing program. The isolated regime on Nov. 29 launched an ICBM with improved technology that can deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the U.S, and claimed it had completed its nuclear force.

The exercise is similar in size to previous drills, but with the inclusion of six F-22s, six F-35As and 12 F-35B fighters, according to a U.S. military statement. The U.S. and South Korea said the exercises are an annual event were aimed at ensuring peace and security on the peninsula. Yonhap News reported that the allies planned to stage simulated attacks on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.

Hwasong-15 missile launch on Nov. 29.

Photographer: KCNA/AFP via Getty Images

Talks Proposal

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told Fox News on Sunday that North Korea was the greatest immediate threat to the U.S., saying that the potential for war “is increasing every day.”

H.R. McMaster

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Sen. Lindsey Graham said it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea. “It’s crazy to send thousands of children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea,” the member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Meanwhile, a Russian lawmaker who recently visited Pyongyang as part of a delegation from Moscow said that North Korea is ready for talks with the U.S. as long as Russia participates as a third party, the TASS news agency reportedon Friday.

Vitaly Pashin said that before last week’s ICBM launch, North Korea had refrained from military provocations for 75 days while awaiting reciprocal steps from the U.S., according to TASS. Instead of meeting North Korea halfway, it said, the U.S. “announced large-scale surprise military drills.”


US, South Korea launch massive joint air exercise

December 4, 2017


© AFP Photo / South Korean Defence Ministry | This September 18, 2017 South Korean Defence Ministry handout photo shows USAF B-1B Lancer bombers (L), US F-35B stealth jet fighters (far R) and S. Korean F-15K fighter jets (foreground) over South Korea.


Latest update : 2017-12-04

Hundreds of aircraft including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday as the United States and South Korea launched a massive combined air force exercise.

The war games come a week after North Korea test-fired its most powerful missile ever, an ICBM that may be able to target the eastern seaboard of the United States.

The five-day drill, which is called Vigilant Ace, is meant to improve the allies’ wartime capabilities and preparedness, South Korea‘s defense ministry said.

The U.S. Seventh Air Force sent major strategic military assets, including an unusually large number of the latest generations of stealth fighter jets, for the annual training in the Korean Peninsula. They include six F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighter jets. About 12,000 U.S. military personnel are participating. In total, 230 aircraft will be flying at eight U.S. and South Korean military installations in the South.

An official at the South Korean Defense Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules, corrected his earlier statement that the exercise was the biggest ever.

Some local media report that B-1B bombers will also join aerial drills, but officials did not confirm their participation.

The training, held each year in late fall, is not in response to any incident or provocation, the Seventh Air Force said in a statement.

North Korea’s state media said the drill pushes the Korean Peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war.” Such language is typical in North Korean propaganda because the country claims U.S.-South Korean drills are preparation for invasion.

Still, always bad tensions are at a particularly dangerous point as North Korea edges toward its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped long-range missiles, and as President Donald Trump ramps up his rhetoric toward the North, threatening, for instance, to unleash “fire and fury” against the country.

Pyongyang will “seriously consider” countermeasures against the drill, and the U.S. and South Korea will “pay dearly for their provocations,” the Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday before the start of the exercises.

While many South Koreans typically ignore North Korea’s rhetoric, some senior American officials have expressed worry following the ICBM test, North Korea’s third.

On Sunday, Lindsey Graham, a Republican U.S. senator from the state of South Carolina, said he believes that it’s time for U.S. military families in South Korea to leave the country because conflict with North Korea is getting close. The U.S. government has not announced a formal decision to evacuate U.S. citizens from South Korea, and there were no such signs in the diplomatic community in Seoul. An evacuation of dependents by Seoul’s closest ally and major military defender could prompt a panicked reaction by other countries, and among South Koreans.

In addition to American diplomats and other embassy workers, about 28,500 U.S. troops operate in South Korea, and many come to their posts with their families, who often live on huge, well-guarded military bases.

Also on Sunday, the White House national security adviser said that Trump will take care of North Korean threats by “doing more ourselves.”

“The priorities that the president’s given us to move as quickly as we can to resolve this crisis with North Korea,” General H.R. McMaster told Fox News in an interview.

“If necessary, the president and the United States will have to take care of it, because he has said he’s not going to allow this murderous, rogue regime to threaten the United States.”