Posts Tagged ‘McMaster’

Undoing the Nuclear Deal Could Propel Iranian Race for the Bomb

April 8, 2018

John Bolton’s aggressive push for military confrontation combined with Trump’s vindictive obsession with undoing Obama’s legacy could spell disaster for the Iran nuclear deal, which would drive Iran’s nuclear ambitions and erode trust around the globe, says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council

Image result for Trita Parsi, photos

The appointment of John Bolton as national security adviser to President Donald Trump has everyone worried that he will advise the president to cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran. In his article in Foreign Policy, titled “Blame Trump When Iran Races for the Bomb,” Trita Parsi argues that canceling the deal will make the U.S. less trustworthy to North Korea, for example, and that it will make reaching a disarmament agreement with Pyongyang very difficult if Trump will, at a whim, just cancel the agreement. It will also give Iran, Trita argues, that it will give Iran a strong incentive to quickly develop a nuclear weapon. Here is Trump speaking about the Iran nuclear deal.

DONALD TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.

SHARMINI PERIES: Joining us now to discuss Bolton in the context of the Iran deal is Trita Parsi. Trita is founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He’s the author of several books, and his most recent is “Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” Thanks for joining me, Trita.

TRITA PARSI: Thank you for having me today.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, President Trump sees the Iran nuclear deal as President Obama’s signature deal, and that the deal somehow offended Israel and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Why is it that Trump is so opposed to the nuclear agreement with Iran, and what will Bolton add to this fierce opposition?

TRITA PARSI: Well, Trump has listed several different reasons. But when you scratch the surface this really seems to come down to what you just mentioned, that this is Obama’s deal. And everything that he’s been doing elsewhere, it’s been quite clear that he’s very eager to undo the legacy of Obama, almost a vindictive approach. And this is the most important foreign policy achievement that the Obama administration had. So it seems to be targeted very much as a result of that.John Bolton has a completely different reason.

John Bolton ultimately wants to have the United States enjoying a hegemonic position in the Middle East and be dominant. Iran is a challenge, an obstacle to that objective. So he has a very aggressive posture towards Iran. And any type of a deal that actually resolves problems between the United States and Iran is a problem in the eyes of John Bolton because he wants a war. He has been very, very clear and honest about his desire for a military confrontation. And as a result he doesn’t want the nuclear deal for that reason. I think he’s now joining the administration because he believes that he can manipulate the Trump, Trump himself, towards taking military action that it’s not entirely clear that Trump would prefer to do on his own.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, you say an aggressive posture towards Iran. Give us some examples of where he’s done this.

TRITA PARSI: Well, John Bolton has a very lengthy career in which he’s rarely missed any opportunity to be able to call for military or other forms of confrontational measures towards Iran. He had a piece in The New York Times not too long ago saying got to avoid an Iranian bomb you have to bomb Iran. He’s even had the piece in which he has argued for preemptive nuclear strikes against North Korea.So this is not a person who, unlike some of the proponents of war, is trying to hide his desire for war and who is essentially trying to claim that look, we’re looking for a peaceful solution, but in reality they’re pushing things towards military action. John Bolton is very frank and honest about the fact that he wants to have military confrontation. He wants to have regime change in Iraq.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Now, the article that you referred to in the New York Times, bomb bomb bomb, bomb Iran, the phrase came out of that article that then got repeated by people like Cheney during the Bush administration. Is there any more recent statements that Bolton has said that concerns you?

TRITA PARSI: Every time he talks about the nuclear deal with Iran he says something. And just a couple of months ago he was at the conference of an organization called Iranian Mujahedin, which is a terrorist organization that has been responsible for killing a very large number of Iranians, Iraqis, as well as U.S. personnel.

But John Bolton has been a longtime supporter of this terrorist organization, and mindful of the fact, of the way that they pay American officials to speak on their behalf. It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility that he’s actually a paid spokesperson for them. And at that meeting he made similar claims and then he said that, you know, within a year we’re going to have this conference in Iran, meaning that there would be a regime change that probably will be preceded by a military confrontation.So he’s been very clear about this. Debating his desire for war or not war is very, very different when it comes to other voices who have been a little bit more careful not to give up their end objective.

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses

John Bolton

With Bolton, at least in some ways, perhaps, it’s a little bit easier because he’s very frank about it.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, now, at least there is a buffer in terms of this nuclear agreement. It is not a bilateral agreement with the Iranians. It is a multilateral one. There is P5+1. The Europeans have, you know, very clearly articulated their support for it and not wanting to dismantle it. Is that going to have any influence on the Trump-Bolton efforts?

I guess I should get Netanyahu to the picture as well.

TRITA PARSI: I think there is an effort from the Europeans and others to try to prevent Trump in going in this direction. By now I think the likelihood of success is very little. Trump doesn’t listen to a lot of people who are even in his own administration, let alone listening to Europeans or others. And the fact that he’s now surrounding himself with people that share his view and desire to kill the Iran deal such as John Bolton, such as Mike Pompeo, and the ousting of individuals like Tillerson and McMaster who were not supporters of the deal but at least did not want the United States to just walk away from it, it’s changing the internal balance within the administration.

It’s very difficult to see how the Europeans would be able to be more successful than they have been so far under much better circumstances and trying to protect the deal.I think to a certain extent the Europeans missed an opportunity, because had they been much firmer much earlier, and had they pushed and cleared the way for investments, et cetera, to come into Iran, perhaps the deal would have been a little bit better insulated right now than it currently is from the type of attacks that the Trump administration is presenting.

SHARMINI PERIES: In your article in Foreign Policy you take up the issue how North Korea would react to the canceling of the agreement. Give us a better sense of why North Korea would even care, since they’re not party to this agreement.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the general view in Washington is that it would be foolish for Trump to kill the Iran deal before he goes to North Korea because why would the North Koreans trust Trump if they’ve seen him actually renege on an existing deal. And I think that’s very logical and makes sense. I just don’t believe that Trump is particularly keen on following that type of logic. I think the logic he sees is that if he actually kills the Iran deal before he goes and talks to the North Koreans he will have signal to them in his mind that he is so tough that he’s actually willing to uproot an existing deal if he doesn’t get what he wants.

The North Koreans should have no illusions that Trump will walk away from the negotiations if they don’t give him what he wants. It’s a much more of a bullying type of logic that I think he follows.So I find it not unlikely that he actually would try to kill the deal not just because he hates the deal, but also because he actually believes that it would strengthen his position within North Koreas.

I think that’s the wrong analysis. I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s perhaps the way that you would deal with subcontractors in a real estate development project in Manhattan, which is the world that Trump perhaps knows a little bit better. But it’s not the way that you can deal with sovereign states, because sovereign states are not subcontractors of the United States.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. Now, Trump seems to be a person who, say, who thinks of himself as the best deal maker there is, and therefore he wants to renegotiate anything that’s in place, including NAFTA, various trade agreements, and so forth. If Trump got his way and he was able to renegotiate the Iran deal on his terms , what would he be asking for, in your assessment?

TRITA PARSI: There is no renegotiation of the Iran deal. He’s never going to be able to get to that point, and I frankly don’t think that that’s actually what he’s looking for. Saying that he wants to renegotiate is just a way of trying to pretend that he’s not killing the deal when in reality he is killing the deal. There is no reason why anyone else would engage in any such negotiations, particularly when the way Trump is approaching this is saying that I want so much more from the Iranians, but I’m not willing to give them anything in return.

The Iranians are not idiots. They’re actually pretty good negotiators. And they’re not going to strike a deal with someone as unreliable as Trump who is offering them less than what Obama offered and demanding more. There’s absolutely no incentives for them to do so. This is just a smokescreen for people to think that he’s actually trying to fix something that isn’t broken, whereas in reality he is actually moving towards a situation in which he’s just looking to find an excuse to kill the deal.

SHARMINI PERIES: Trita, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, known as MBS, was recently in the United States. And while he was here he made some very derogatory comments about Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, comparing him to Adolf Hitler. And there seems to be this growing opposition to, to Iran, which is very concerning, particularly given that there’s this alliance forming between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States. This triangle is a very dangerous one when it comes to the security and peace in the region. Give us a sense of why the United States is forging this alliance and what it means in the region.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I think the reason why you’re seeing this rather unlikely, at least if you look at the region from an ideological prism, it would be very difficult to envision an openly Zionist state striking a deal with an openly Wahhabi state such as Saudi Arabia. But that’s because at the end of the day ideology and religion is not what is driving what is happening in the region. It’s for geopolitics, and from a geopolitical perspective the Saudis and the Israelis see common interest in the sense that they did not want to see a nuclear deal with Iran, not because of the details of the nuclear deal but because a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran and the other states would put an end to three decades of isolating and containing Iran. It would mean that the United States has accepted that Iran is a major power in the region and it has to be included in the regional decision making political and economic processes.

And that’s the nightmare scenario from them, because they prefer to see their rival contained and isolated and weakened, not by their own power but by the power of the United States. And that’s part of the reason, the main reason I would say, that they’ve been so adamantly opposed to the nuclear deal. And with Trump they’re seeing this opportunity to be able to reverse which Obama did and bring back a geopolitical balance in the region that existed not just before the nuclear deal but before the 2003 war, in which the U.S. was in a hegemonic position, strong hegemony.

Israel and Saudi Arabia enjoyed maximum maneuverability because their regional rivals were all checked and isolated and contained by the United States.Now, you can see why that perhaps would be attractive from a Saudi perspective. Why wouldn’t you want to have the superpower essentially check your regional enemy, which you don’t have the power to do yourself? But from an American perspective no one has been able to actually address how does this make sense from a U.S. national interest perspective? Is the United States just supposed to be essentially a proxy army that is used at the will of the House of Saud or others in the region, or does the U.S. actually have its own interests that should be the primary factor dictating its policies?

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us, and thank you for watching the Real News Network.

http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=21510

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(From: Foreign Policy)

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Trump Make a Snap Decision To Replace McMaster With John Bolton

March 23, 2018

Bloomberg

By Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev

  • McMaster Ousted Days After His Briefing to Trump on Putin Call
  • Trump names ex-U.S. envoy Bolton as national security adviser

Video: H.R.Mcmaster out, John Bolton to come in…

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms
 Image result for John Bolton, photos
Trump Continues to Shake Up the Administration

President Donald Trump made a snap decision to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, moving as the administration weighs tough actions against Russia and acting far sooner than many White House aides expected.

McMaster’s departure had been the subject of intense speculation in recent days, yet most administration officials thought it wouldn’t come for weeks. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said just a week ago that the two men had a great working relationship.

Trump and McMaster

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

But Trump changed all that on Thursday evening, abruptly replacing McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and proponent of the 2003 Iraq War best known for his hawkish views.

The move was announced by Trump on Twitter so quickly on Thursday afternoon that many of the president’s top aides didn’t know it was coming.

Even by the standards of Trump, it was a turbulent day that left staff frustrated and demoralized. Earlier, the president rattled markets by imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, saw one of his top lawyers in the Russia probe quit in frustration and watched Congress struggle to try to avoid a government shutdown.

Read more: This is John Bolton’s view of the world

The ride isn’t over: Sunday brings a “60 Minutes” interview with porn actress Stormy Daniels, who is expected to say she slept with Trump just months after his wife Melania gave birth to their son in 2006.

North Korea

The McMaster move also means Trump is heading into talks with North Korea with a new national security team, having also just sacked his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump’s tariffs meanwhile risk alienating one of the most important countries to the success of those talks, China — which retaliated early Friday with $3 billion in levies on imports from the U.S.

McMaster’s exit also comes as Trump faces tough decisions on whether to punish Russia for the attempted assassination of a former spy in the U.K. His security advisers discussed on Wednesday a list of options to present to the president, including fresh sanctions, closing consulates and expelling Russians from the U.S., according to two people familiar with the matter. Trump has been asking aides what allies — including France and Germany — are doing in response to the attack, conducted with what the U.K. says was a Soviet Union-designed nerve agent.

Earlier this week, McMaster briefed Trump for a call with Vladimir Putin and didn’t warn against offering congratulations on the Russian leader’s election win, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Written guidance prepared for the president by White House advisers ahead of Tuesday’s phone call explicitly cautioned against complimenting Putin. But in a verbal briefing he personally delivered to Trump before the call, McMaster didn’t emphasize what not to say about the election, said the people, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Trump likely didn’t read the written guidance before speaking with his Russian counterpart, and he ended up offering good wishes to Putin on his re-election. That congratulatory message — uttered as the U.S. considers a tougher stance toward Moscow — prompted sharp criticism from senior Republican lawmakers and intensified tensions among White House aides involved in Russia matters.

McMaster’s omission may not have made much difference. By the time the call was set up at Trump’s request, two of the people said, most of the president’s advisers widely believed their boss wanted to congratulate Putin and would have ignored any advice to the contrary.

The administration’s stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin had been the source of friction between McMaster and Trump. Last month, McMaster echoed the sentiments of top U.S. intelligence officials who told Congress that Russians are targeting the 2018 elections with potential cyber attacks and efforts to sow political division.

Trump Conflict

“The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said on Feb. 17, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted a Russian “troll farm” and its operators for an alleged covert social media campaign to influence the election.

McMaster called the Russian actions as described in the indictment a “sophisticated form of espionage.”

Trump rebuked him on Twitter, saying McMaster “forgot” to say that the results of the election weren’t changed by the Russian meddling — something the indictment didn’t address — and that the only collusion was between the Russians, Clinton and Democrats.

During his 30-minute call with Putin Trump didn’t mention such sensitive issues as the U.K. poisoning or ongoing concerns over Russian interference in U.S. elections. He conducted the conversation while alone in the White House residence, though some Trump aides were on the line. There has been some second-guessing in the White House that Trump was left without the proper staffing support at his side for this call.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, assailed Trump’s outreach to the Russian leader.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

Later, the Washington Post reported that written guidance for Trump had advised him not to congratulate Putin.

McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, had been the focus of recent speculation that he would soon leave as Trump reshaped his foreign policy team. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was said to be in consultations with Pentagon officials about finding a command that would have allowed McMaster to obtain a fourth star. In a statement released by the White House after his departure was announced, McMaster said he would retire from the military this summer.

Later Thursday night, after Trump announced his replacement, McMaster attended a dinner for visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Washington and received a standing ovation after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush pointed him out in the crowd from the stage.

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-23/trump-makes-snap-move-to-oust-mcmaster-as-russia-decision-looms

Trump Taps John Bolton for National Security Advisor as McMaster Departs

March 23, 2018

President had discussed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s departure for ‘some time,’ White House says

Trump Taps John Bolton for NSA Post as McMaster Departs

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is replacing H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is replacing H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser CREDIT: REUTERS

President Donald Trump said he named former Ambassador John Bolton as his new national security adviser, succeeding Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor,” Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday. “I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-names-john-bolton-as-new-national-security-adviser-1521758149

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Donald Trump replaces HR McMaster with foreign policy hawk John Bolton as national security adviser

The Telegraph

Donald Trump has ousted HR McMaster as his national security adviser and will appoint hardliner John Bolton in his place, it emerged on Thursday.

The US president announced the news in a tweet, with the change set to take place on April 9.

The move comes despite repeated rebuttals from the White House over whether Mr McMaster would be removed from office.

It also continues a tumultuous period that has seen a string of major staff departures from the White House and the cabinet.

Mr McMaster, who had never met Mr Trump before being interviewed for the role, clashed with the president over the Iran nuclear deal and Afghanistan policy.

Mr Bolton, who served as George W Bush’s UN ambassador and reportedly held talks with Mr Trump on Thursday, is known for his hawkish foreign policy views that are more in line with Mr Trump’s stances.

Last month he wrote an article headlined “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First”.

Mr Bolton called the appointment “an honour” in a statement late on Thursday, saying he looks “forward to working with President Trump and his leadership team” to “make our country safer at home and stronger abroad.”

In a Fox News interview after news of his appointment broke, Mr Bolton appeared to temper his often harsh rhetoric. “Frankly, what I have said in private now, is behind me, at least effective April 9,” he said, referring to the date he is scheduled to take over from Mr McMaster.

My official statement on accepting @POTUS‘ request to become the next National Security Advisor.

Some members of Congress immediately questioned his selection for the critical position in the White House.

“This is not a wise choice. Mr. Bolton does not have the temperament or judgment to be an effective national security adviser,” Democratic Senator Jack Reed said in a statement.

One Republican operative, speaking on condition of anonymity, admitted to some concerns about the appointment.

“Some folks think he’s a little too hawkish,” the source told Agence France-Presse.

“But people who have worked with him think he’s a pro and will step into the job knowing the key players, processes and issues.”

Mr Trump praised Mr McMaster in his tweet announcing the change.  “I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend,” he said.

Mr McMaster is expected to retire rather than be fired, with reports that the pair had been discussing his departure for weeks.

I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.

Mark Sedwill, the UK National Security Adviser and Mr McMaster’s opposite man in Britain, praised him as a “great US patriot, great ally [and] great friend” on hearing the news.

Congrats to @AmbJohnBolton. Look forward to new partnership. Thanks to my comrade from many conflicts @HRMcMasterNSC: great US patriot, great ally, great friend. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/976948306927607810 

In the last month Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, Gary Cohn, Mr Trump’s top economics adviser, and Hope Hicks, his communications director, have all left the administration.

The changes have raised claims that Mr Trump is getting rid of ‘no men’ and putting people in line with his policy preferences in place instead.

It was the second staff change to emerge on Thursday after John Dowd, Mr Trump’s lawyer, quit amid reports he feared the president was no longer following his advice.

The New York Times reported that Mr Trump wants his new top foreign policy advisers in place before his planned face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Mr Bolton’s appointment, taken together with Mr Tillerson’s replacement with Trump ally Mike Pompeo, the CIA head, hints at a change in foreign policy approach.

Mr Trump has called for the Iran nuclear deal to be torn up – something over which Mr McMaster and Mr Tillerson urged caution behind the scenes.

Mr Bolton has been a vocal critic of the deal, writing a piece last October headlined: “Mr. President, don’t put America at risk with flawed Iran deal.”

The appointment also marks a return to frontline politics for Mr Bolton, 69, who served as Mr Bush’s representative at the UN from 2005 to 2006.

The news broke on the same day as Mr Dowd’s resignation from Mr Trump’s legal team amid reports the pair clashed on how to handle Robert Mueller, the man leading the Russian investigation.

Mr Dowd was said to have advised against Mr Trump agreeing to be interviewed, but the president was increasingly bullish about doing so in order to bring the long investigation to a head.

Shortly after his top lawyer’s resignation, Mr Trump was asked if he was still willing to be interviewed by Mr Mueller. He replied: “I would like to.”

In recent days, against Mr Dowd’s advice, Mr Trump also began publicly attacking Mr Mueller, including by name on Twitter, where he called the probe a biased “witch hunt”.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/22/trump-ousts-mcmaster-makes-bolton-national-security-adviser/

 

John Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as White House national security adviser, Trump says

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that former United Nations Amb. John Bolton will replace Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser effective April 9 — the latest in a growing list of White House staff shakeups over the past year.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor. I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9,” Trump tweeted.

The president’s announcement came after months of speculation over whether McMaster would resign or be fired.

Bolton told Fox News’ “The Story” Thursday evening, “I didn’t really expect that announcement this afternoon, but it’s obviously a great honor. It’s always an honor to serve our country and I think particularly in these times internationally, it’s a particular honor.”

But on Thursday evening, a White House official said that the president and McMaster “mutually agreed” that he would resign. The two have been discussing this for some time, the official said, noting that the timeline was expedited as they both felt it was important to have a new team in place, instead of constant speculation.

Trump tweeted that John Bolton will be the new national security adviser; the former ambassador shares his reaction to his new job on 'The Story with Martha MacCallum.'

A White House official said the decision was not related to any one moment or incident, but rather the result of ongoing conversations between the two.

The official told Fox News that the move has been contemplated for some time, and was just about the “worst-kept secret” in Washington.

The president took his time to find a replacement for McMaster because he wanted the “right person.”

While Trump spoke to Bolton many times about the job, the deal was cemented in an Oval Office meeting between the two Thursday afternoon.

National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin and chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge on President Trump tapping the Fox News contributor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser.

Bolton told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum that the process of his hiring “came to a conclusion this afternoon, but … there’s still a transition. I look forward to working with H.R. and his team and the other senior members of the president’s team on national security and I have no doubt there’s a lot of work to do.”

Bolton has previously served as a Fox News contributor, as well as in the Republican administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and served as a Bush lawyer during the 2000 Florida recount.

A strong supporter of the Iraq war and an advocate for aggressive use of American power in foreign policy, Bolton was unable to win Senate confirmation after his nomination to the U.N. post alienated many Democrats and even some Republicans. He resigned after serving 17 months as a Bush “recess appointment,” which allowed him to hold the job on a temporary basis without Senate confirmation. The position of White House national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Bolton’s appointment.

“Mr. Bolton’s tendency to try to solve every geopolitical problem with the American military first is a troubling one,” Schumer said. “I hope he will temper his instinct to commit the men and women of our armed forces to conflicts around the globe, when we need to be focused on building the middle class here at home.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted that Bolton “was too extreme to be confirmed as UN ambassador in 2005 and is absolutely the wrong person to be national security advisor now.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was “deeply concerned” by Bolton’s positions and said he hoped Bolton would “moderate his positions and work closely with our military, diplomatic, intelligence, and development professionals before rushing into armed conflict.”

In a statement, McMaster said he was “thankful to President Donald J. Trump for the opportunity to serve him and our nation as national security adviser. I am grateful for the friendship and support of the members of the National Security Council who worked together to provide the President with the best options to protect and advance our national interests.”

McMaster said he was “especially proud” to have served with National Security Council staff, who he said “established a strong foundation for protecting the American people, promoting American prosperity, achieving peace through strength, and advancing American influence.

“I know that these patriots will continue to serve our President and our nation with distinction,” McMaster said.

White House chief of staff John Kelly said McMaster is “a fine American and Military officer.”

“He has served with distinction and honor throughout his career in the U.S. Army and as the National Security Advisor,” Kelly said Thursday. “He brought and maintained discipline and energy to our vital interagency processes. He helped develop options for the president and ensured that those options were presented fully and fairly. A true solider-scholar, his impact on his country and this government will be felt for years to come.”

Bolton, who served as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005, will take over for McMaster next month.

“Thank you to Lieutenant General HR McMaster for your service and loyalty to our country. Your selfless courage and leadership has inspired all of us. Most of all, thank you for your friendship,” current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted.

A White House official said Bolton is one of the strongest voices and experts on the full range of national security issues and challenges facing the U.S.

McMaster’s retirement comes just one week after the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Twitter, and after other high-profile administration departures. Earlier this month, Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn resigned amid disagreements over a round of steel and aluminum tariffs, which Trump supported.

McMaster was brought in after Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was dismissed after less than a month in office. White House officials said he was ousted because he did not tell top advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the full extent of his contacts with Russian officials.

Fox News’ Kristin Brown, Chad Pergram, John Roberts, Samuel Chamberlain and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Donald Trump and John Kelly Reach Truce

March 16, 2018

White House chief of staff had made cryptic comments suggesting he may have been the next senior adviser to step down

White House chief of staff John Kelly, right, has settled tension with President Donald Trump, at least temporarily, as recent departures from the administration increased expectations that Mr. Kelly might step down soon.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, right, has settled tension with President Donald Trump, at least temporarily, as recent departures from the administration increased expectations that Mr. Kelly might step down soon. PHOTO: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly have settled on a truce, at least temporarily, as the latest round of staff tumult continues to ripple through the West Wing, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Jarred by the treatment of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom the president fired by tweet on Tuesday morning, Mr. Kelly suggested to colleagues that he may be the next to be pushed out of the White House. Mr. Kelly’s cryptic comments left several White House staffers with the impression that Mr. Kelly would force the issue with the president, and that they should start looking for new jobs, too.

The internal drama heightened when Mr. Kelly flew with the president to California on Tuesday, but returned alone and was working in his West Wing office on Wednesday morning. Mr. Kelly’s allies in the White House, however, said the chief of staff had always planned on flying the 4,500-mile round-trip between Washington and San Diego in less than a day.

But on Thursday, Messrs. Trump and Kelly had a productive meeting that left both men reassured. Mr. Trump told advisers afterward that Mr. Kelly was “100% safe.” Mr. Kelly told his associates that, at least for the moment, he and the president had patched things up. “I’m in,” Mr. Kelly told staff.

Asked about Mr. Kelly’s comments earlier in the week, and the meeting between the president and his staff chief on Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a five-word statement: “Kelly is not going anywhere.”

The back-and-forth between Mr. Trump and the chief of staff suggested that the easing of tensions may be more of a temporary detente than a ironclad peace agreement. The president and Mr. Kelly are well known around the White House for engaging in tense arguments, and Mr. Trump has made repeated public comments that manage to both underscore his satisfaction with Mr. Kelly, while also raising doubts about how long the two will continue to work together.

“He likes what you do better than what he does,” Mr. Trump told a group of Marines in San Diego about Mr. Kelly, a former four-star general in the Marines. “But he’s doing a great job. He misses you.”

The exchange between the retired four-star general and the prime-time TV star-turned president was just one storyline playing out in a particularly tumultuous week. The president has often said he encourages conflict among his staff, and has spoken favorably about the internal skirmishing. “They’re fighting over who loves me the most,” he said about his staff last summer.

The president has also told his team that he wants to replace Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser. But the timing of that departure was unclear, with one official saying it could happen “imminently” and another saying it could be weeks, even months.

Gen. McMaster had told associates earlier in the week that he believed he was safe, and that the president urged him to remain in the job until after the midterm elections in November.

Gen. McMaster attended a White House event Thursday evening honoring the Irish prime minister and joked with reporters there, including responding to one question that appeared to touch on his future by asking: “Have you heard anything?”

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-and-john-kelly-reach-temporary-truce-1521209445

Wall Street Journal: “H.R. McMaster’s position appeared increasingly precarious” — Expected to be fired by Trump soon — Jeff Sessions, John Kelly, others could be on Trump’s chopping block

March 16, 2018

Washington girded for further change in President Donald Trump’s administration, as national security adviser H.R. McMaster’s position appeared increasingly precarious and a series of staff departures prompted a U.S. senator to publicly urge the president not to fire his attorney general.

Mr. Trump has decided to oust Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and has conveyed that decision to John Kelly, his chief of staff, according to administration officials. The timing of a departure was unclear, with one official saying it could happen “imminently” and another saying it could be weeks, even months.

Mr. Trump doesn’t yet have a replacement in mind, and is unlikely to force a departure before he has one, the officials said. The president wants a more graceful exit for his national security adviser than he afforded Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state he fired via Twitter earlier this week, one official said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Thursday evening that she had spoken to the president and his national security adviser and that “contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the [National Security Council].”

Gen. McMaster attended a White House event Thursday evening honoring the Irish prime minister and joked with reporters there, including responding to one question that appeared to touch on his future by asking: “Have you heard anything?”

The military is actively looking for a new job for Gen. McMaster, but it could take time to find a suitable position, U.S. officials said.

In recent days, Mr. Trump began discussing potential successors for Gen. McMaster, according to former Trump administration officials. Mr. Trump met last week with John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has openly discussed his interest in the national security post.

Mr. Trump was expected to speak with other potential replacements this weekend, the former officials said, including Stephen Biegun, an executive at Ford Motor Co. , who previously served on the National Security Council. The president’s plan to oust Gen. McMaster was reported by the Washington Post on Thursday evening.

Following the recent departures of several senior staff members, Mr. Trump has signaled this week that he may seek to remove other officials. On Thursday, he played down predictions of a shake-up coming, but previewed some further changes.

“There will always be change, but very little,” he said. “I think you want to see change. I want to also see different ideas.”

Mr. Trump said earlier this week he was “very close” to having the cabinet he wanted.

The president’s constant criticism of Jeff Sessions has prompted speculation that the attorney general could be among the next targets, drawing pushback from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said he “would not be comfortable” if Mr. Trump fired the attorney general. Mr. Grassley would oversee the process for confirming any new attorney general, so his concern about a potential dismissal of Mr. Sessions is significant. Last July, faced with rumblings about the possibility of Mr. Sessions being fired, Mr. Grassley warned that the Senate wouldn’t move to confirm any successor.

Mr. Grassley has been at odds with Mr. Sessions over sentencing legislation backed by the senator that would, among other things, cut mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. After Mr. Sessions attacked Mr. Grassley’s bill, the senator said he didn’t appreciate the comments and noted that he came to Mr. Sessions’ defense when Mr. Trump first criticized him.

Mr. Trump has spent months attacking Mr. Sessions’ recusal from an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. That decision, plus Mr. Trump’s firing of James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, which has ensnared several top Trump campaign associates.

On Thursday, in response to a question about whether Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt could become Mr. Trump’s new attorney-general nominee, a possibility that some have floated, Mr. Grassley said: “That’s speculation. I don’t even know whether that’s the real world.” He said he had had no conversations with the White House about Mr. Pruitt.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have warned the president for months against firing Mr. Sessions, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Grassley’s comments came amid questions over the status of another top official at the agency. Andrew McCabe, who was told to leave his post as deputy director of the FBI earlier this year, may be fired ahead of his expected retirement from the bureau on Sunday, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. McCabe was meeting Thursday with staffers in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office in a last-ditch attempt to avert his dismissal for allegedly not being forthcoming in an internal investigation, one of the people said.

Ms. Sanders said that decisions about Mr. McCabe’s status should be left to the Justice Department but that the White House did acknowledge “some cause for concern.”

Besides Mr. Sessions and Gen. McMaster, administration officials whose futures appeared uncertain this week were Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Mr. Kelly, the chief of staff.

Mr. Shulkin on Thursday said before a congressional committee that he regretted “distractions” that travel costs have brought his leadership into question and pledged to move on, following a watchdog report last month that found he misspent taxpayer money and misused department resources on an official trip to Europe. Mr. Shulkin had gained bipartisan praises for his leadership before the travel issue was raised last month.

Mr. Trump also praised his chief of staff on Tuesday, saying Mr. Kelly was “doing a great job in Washington.” Yet he added to the uncertainty facing many of his top officials by telling Marines gathered in San Diego “that he’s doing a great job. [But] He misses you.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com, Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chuck-grassley-says-hed-be-uneasy-with-firing-of-jeff-sessions-1521141593

White House Denies Report That Trump Is About to Oust McMaster

March 16, 2018

Bloomberg

By Margaret Talev

  • Report comes amid shakeup, departures in the administration
  • Sanders says McMaster, Trump have ‘good working relationship’
McMaster Said to Be Removed According to Washington Post
Bloomberg’s Jodi Schneider discusses a report that Trump plans to remove H R McMaster as National Security Adviser.
Video:

President Donald Trump is not preparing to oust his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said late Thursday night.

“Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster — contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.

Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.

H.R. McMaster

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

The comment came after the Washington Post reported that Trump was planning to remove McMaster, with whom he has occasionally clashed.

Trump has been shaking up his national security team even as a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un approaches. The president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, saying the two had disagreed on the Iran nuclear deal and other matters of foreign policy. Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and an ardent critic of the Iran accord, has been chosen to replaced Tillerson.

There had been reports that more members of the Trump administration would soon be leaving.

McMaster is traveling to California tomorrow to meet Saturday with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan to continue discussions on North Korea, their third such meeting, a White House official said. The meeting reflects the depth of McMaster’s involvement on the North Korea issue that will be a central focus for Trump over the course of the coming months.

McMaster, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the 1991 Persian Gulf campaign, joined the administration a year ago after Trump dismissed his predecessor, Michael Flynn, for lying to Vice President Mike Pence. He has traveled with Trump to several countries and helped craft the administration’s national security approach to North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran.

The Pentagon has been preparing options for a possible new job for McMaster, an army lieutenant general, fueling speculation that he would soon leave the White House.

Although praised for the calm command and deep experience he brought to the post, McMaster has had run-ins with the president. Last month, Trump rebuked him on Twitter for neglecting to defend the president’s 2016 victory while discussing U.S. claims that Russia interfered in the election.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-16/white-house-denies-report-that-trump-is-about-to-oust-mcmaster

Trump decides to oust national security advisor H.R. McMaster — Will John Bolton get the nod ?

March 16, 2018

AFP

H.R. McMaster is pictured. | Getty Images

 

President Donald Trump named H.R. McMaster national security adviser in February 2017. | Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump has decided to sack National Security Advisor HR McMaster, in what would be the latest in a string of high-profile White House departures, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The newspaper reported that Trump is discussing potential replacements for McMaster, but is willing to take his time because he wants to avoid humiliating him as well as to have a successor ready.

The report comes just two days after the president fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state — a move announced on Trump’s Twitter account.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic advisor, resigned earlier this month, and Trump’s White House tenure has also seen the departure of his chief strategist, chief of staff and his first national security advisor, among other officials.

© 2018 AFP

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and suit

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton met with President Trump in the White House recently and has been mentioned as a possible replacement for McMaster.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the members of the media while departing the White House on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Public reports ‘clearly show’ Assad’s use of chemical weapons: McMaster

February 17, 2018

Reuters

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) – U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government to account.

“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at a major international security conference taking place in Munich.

“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.

McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine gas, but stressed that the U.S. did not have evidence of sarin gas use.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this is the case.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.

In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.

Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.

Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress towards ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

NORTH KOREA

McMaster called on the international community to do more on North Korea.

“We must pressure the Kim regime, using all available tools, to ensure that this cruel dictatorship cannot threaten the world with the most destructive weapons on earth,” he said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The United States has appeared to endorse closer post-Olympics engagement between North and South Korea with an eye to eventual U.S.-North Korean talks, but has agreed with Seoul that sanctions must be intensified to push Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program.

The prospect of negotiations comes after months of tension over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader traded insults and threats, while the U.N. tightened sanctions.

“Nations that evade full enforcement and fail to take these steps are acting irresponsibly, now is the time to do more,” McMaster said, calling on countries to cut off military and commercial ties with Pyongyang.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrea Shalal and Andrew Bolton)

Tillerson heads to Turkey to ease tensions over Syria

February 15, 2018

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Turkey’s operation “detracted” from the fight against Daesh terrorists. (AFP)
ANKARA: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Turkey on Thursday seeking to ease tensions with its NATO ally that have reached fresh heights over Ankara’s ongoing operation inside Syria.
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During his two-day trip to the Turkish capital, Tillerson — who last visited in July 2017 — will hold talks with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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Turkey’s operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria has added a potentially insurmountable new problem to the litany of issues clouding the relationship between Washington and Ankara.
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Analysts said the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let US troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
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Turkey’s operation against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara blacklists as a terror group, has seen troops fighting a militia which is closely allied with the US in the battle against extremists.
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And Erdogan has further upped the ante by warning US troops to steer clear of Manbij, a YPG-held town east of Afrin where the main operation is happening, raising fears of a clash.
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“We are going to go to Manbij and if they are there, it’s too bad for them,” a senior Turkish official said.
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When a US commander told the New York Times it would respond “aggressively” to any attack by Turkey, Erdogan didn’t mince his words.
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“It’s very clear that those who make such remarks have never experienced an Ottoman slap,” he said, using the term for a backhander which, according to legend, could kill an opponent in one stroke.
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For Ankara, the YPG is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is blacklisted as a terror outfit by the US and the EU.
But for Washington, the YPG is an ally.
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On Tuesday, Tillerson said Turkey’s operation “detracted” from the fight against Daesh terrorists, saying Kurdish fighters had been “diverted” from where they were really needed in order to fight in Afrin.
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Former State Department official Amanda Sloat said Washington did not appear to have “developed a clear way forward on Syria nor determined how its plans address Turkish security concerns.”
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And if Ankara expected any clarity from US officials on the way forward in Syria, it would be “disappointed,” said Sloat, now a senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution.
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Speaking ahead of the visit, a senior State Department official said “eyes had to be on” the defeat of Daesh.
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“It’s complicated enough. Let’s not make it more so.”
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But Cavusoglu warned Washington that ties were at a “critical point” where relations would “be fixed or… completely damaged.”
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Ties were damaged after the failed coup of 2016 with Turkey stung by a perceived lack of US solidarity and angered by its intransigence over the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric blamed for ordering the putsch.
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There is still no US ambassador to Turkey after the departure of John Bass last year, and it was only in December that the two sides ended a row following tit-for-tat suspensions of visa services.
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Last month, Ankara reacted furiously to the conviction in New York of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla on charges of violating sanctions against Iran.
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And Washington has expressed concern that several of its citizens, as well as Turkish employees of US missions, have been caught up in the post-coup crackdown.
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Last week, NASA scientist Serkan Golge, a dual national, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for being a member of Gulen’s movement, with the State Department saying he had been convicted “without credible evidence.”
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Another case is that of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who ran a church in Izmir, who has been held on similar charges since October 2016.
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Such tensions have affected the Turkish public with 83 percent holding unfavorable views of the US, a Center for American Progress (CAP) poll showed this week.
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“The Turkish public has long been skeptical of the US, but Erdogan and the (ruling party) have chosen to inflame the public’s anger to score political points,” said CAP’s associate director Max Hoffman.

US and Turkey at odds in Syria ahead of Rex Tillerson’s visit

February 15, 2018

The war in Syria has escalated Washington-Ankara tension. But ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit this week, former US Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson told DW he’s hopeful cooler heads will prevail.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrard left, thanks Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel during a visit to a small outpost near the town of Manbij, northern Syria

DW: Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria has further strained the already tense ties between Ankara and Washington. Do you fear that this latest development might lead to an armed confrontation between US and Turkish soldiers in the region?

Ross Wilson: Obviously the war of words has grown dramatic. Anger in Ankara over what Turkish officials regard and see as broken American promises, anger in the Pentagon especially over what they regard as excessive reactions on the Turkish side… This is not leading in a good direction. Having said that, I think the prospects of an armed confrontation are low. Cooler heads, particularly cooler military heads, I think will prevail.

Read more: US-Turkey ties at make-or-break point

Turkey says that US support for the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria is in fact strengthening the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and risking the formation of an autonomous region along Turkey’s border controlled by the PKK. Is the US actively pursuing a policy that will help to form a Kurdish autonomous region in northern Syria that would be controlled by the PKK, a group Washington and Ankara both consider a terrorist organization?

If you read what [US Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson said in a speech he gave at the Hoover Institution, he seemed, I thought, pretty clearly not to suggest that the US is in favor of a Kurdish autonomous region or a Kurdish independent region in northern Syria… He talked about Syria’s unity… And I thought that was important. In practice what the US military has been engaged in in Syria has been support of Kurdish aspirations or particularly the PYD’s political and military aspirations in northern Syria. And that is a significant problem.

I don’t think it’s our military’s intention to create an independent Kurdish state. Their focus has been fighting against ISIL (the “Islamic State”) and I think now in securing the border from the leakage of former ISİL fighters out of Syria, which in general is probably a good thing including for Turkey. But the means that they have used to go about it have, I think, ended up being counterproductive to what it was that Secretary Tillerson spoke out about just a number of days ago.

Read more: Who are the Kurds?

 Ross Wilson ARCHIV 2005 (picture alliance/AP Photo)

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Ross Wilson is the former US ambassador to Turkey

Can the US and Turkey find a way to de-escalate the tension?

I assume that that’s going to be one of the objectives Secretary Tillerson has when he is in Ankara … My own view is that the way forward has got to involve some combination of things. One is a little bit more realism in Washington about what’s possible in Syria, including with respect to the resources that the US is prepared to bring to bear to transform the situation there. The most likely scenario is that [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad is going to remain in power and will regain control over most the country.

By the same token it’s very clear that the Syrian Kurds are emerging from the last two to three years’ fight against ISIL considerably strengthened, and will play a different kind of role in whatever sort of Syria emerges now over the course of the next year or two … They are not going to go anywhere. And that’s a fact that Turkey is not really in a position to prevent, unless Turkey is prepared to take over the whole of northern Syria, which isn’t realistic. And at the same time Turkey does have a legitimate security problem with respect to the PKK. I have been one that has long thought that the PYD is more or less the same thing. In any case it’s a subsidiary or an ally of the PKK at a minimum. And the way forward needs to deal with those three realities.

Tillerson and Erdogan (picture alliance/dpa/Prime Minister's Press Service)

Tillerson visited Turkey twice during his first year in office

We are witnessing a growing rift between the two countries, who are NATO allies. Many Turks suspect that the 2016 coup attempt was backed by Washington. Several US consulate employees are still under arrest and US politicians are voicing concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.

Bilateral tensions and deep concerns about the domestic developments in Turkey are important impediments. But Syria is the most important issue. If the US and Turkey can find a reasonably cohesive way forward with respect to Syria, the other problems are more or less manageable, they have been managed for the last couple of years. It is extremely important and good that Secretary Tillerson has included Turkey on his mission to the region, it’s good that National Security Advisor [H.R.] McMaster took the time to visit Turkey. A frank exchange of views is important. Tillerson’s visit can offer an opportunity to try to reset things if cool-headedness would prevail.

Read more: NATO says US and Turkey aiming to avoid direct clashes in Afrin

Following McMaster’s recent trip to Ankara, both sides reaffirmed their long-term strategic partnership. But can you still describe this relationship as a strategic one?

Turkey remains a member of NATO and that makes it an important strategic partner for the US by definition. Turkey is an extremely important asset for the US in a very, very difficult part of the world. By the same token, the US connection and the alliance connection is extremely important for Turkey — a huge asset that gives Turkey a kind of importance in the region. It’s profoundly in the interest of both countries to keep that alliance intact, even while we sort out some tough issues … It’s clearly a less friendly relationship than it used to be but it’s extremely important to both Washington and to Ankara.

Ross Wilson is a distinguished senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He served as the US ambassador to Turkey from 2005 to 2008.

http://www.dw.com/en/us-and-turkey-at-odds-in-syria-ahead-of-rex-tillersons-visit/a-42593549