Posts Tagged ‘Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’

Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet


June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

“In regions where the…



Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet


Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

Russia’s Lavrov calls on U.S. to respect Syria’s integrity — After U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Jet

June 19, 2017

The United States should respect Syria’s territorial integrity and refrain from unilateral actions in this country, Russian news agencies quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday.

Lavrov made his remarks after a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian army jet on Sunday in the southern Raqqa countryside, with Washington saying the jet had dropped bombs near U.S.-backed forces and Damascus saying the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants.

Lavrov also said that a new round of peace talks on Syria in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana would tale place on July 10.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov)


U.S. Says It Shot Down Syrian Aircraft

Move marks the first time coalition forces have struck a regime plane in the nation’s civil war


Updated June 18, 2017 11:01 p.m. ET

An American warplane shot down a Syrian government jet on Sunday, the Pentagon said, marking the first time in Syria’s civil war that a U.S. pilot has struck a regime plane and signaling an increased willingness by the Trump administration to directly challenge President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

On Sunday, the U.S. military said it had shot down the Syrian SU-22 after regime forces twice attacked members of American-backed…



Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows warplanes inside the Kweiras air base, east of Aleppo, Syria, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (SANA via AP)


The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The shootdown was near the Syrian town of Tabqa.

The U.S. military statement said it acted in “collective self defense” of its partner forces and that the U.S. did not seek a fight with the Syrian government or its Russian supporters.

According to a statement from the Pentagon, pro-Syrian regime forces attacked the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces-held town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqah in northern Syria, wounding a number of SDF fighters and driving the SDF from the town.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force and stopped the initial pro-regime advance toward the town, the Pentagon said. Following the pro-Syrian forces attack, the coalition called its Russian counterparts “to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” according to the statement.

A few hours later, the Syrian SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters and, “in collective self-defense of coalition-partnered forces,” was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet, the Pentagon said.

“The coalition’s mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” the Pentagon said, using an abbreviation for the Islamic State group. “The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat. ”

U.S. forces tangled earlier this month with Syria-allied aircraft in the region. On June 8, U.S. officials reported that a drone likely connected to Iranian-supported Hezbollah forces fired on U.S.-backed troops and was shot down by an American fighter jet. The incident took place in southern Syria near a base where the U.S.-led coalition was training Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon said at the time that the drone carried more weapons and was considered a direct threat, prompting the shootdown.


Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Egypt Foreign Minister Says Libyan Militant Camps Direct Threat

May 29, 2017

CAIRO — Militant training camps in Libya are a direct threat to Egypt’s national security, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Shoukry said the latest attacks on Egypt’s Christians prove that Libyan militants are able to target Egypt.

Shoukry added that Egypt’s ongoing military operations are in full coordination with the Libyan National Army.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Giles Elgood)

“Battle between good and evil” — Donald Trump at Arab Islamic American Summit to Urge More United Fight Against Terrorism

May 21, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Bandar al-Jaloud, Saudi Royal Palace, AFP | US President Donald Trump (centre), First Lady Melania Trump (left), and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, on May 20, 2017

Latest update : 2017-05-21

Even as his administration fights for its travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump is using the nation that is home to Islam’s holiest site as a backdrop to call for Muslim unity in the fight against terrorism.

Trump’s Sunday speech, the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, will address the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries to cast the challenge of extremism as a “battle between good and evil” and urge Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship,” according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press.

Trump, whose campaign was frequently punctuated by bouts of anti-Islamic rhetoric, is poised to soften some of his language about Islam. Though during the campaign he repeatedly stressed the need to say the words “radical Islamic terrorism” – and criticized his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for not doing so – that phrase is not included in the draft.

The speech comes amid a renewed courtship of the United States’ Arab allies as Trump is set to have individual meetings with leaders of several nations, including Egypt and Qatar, before then participating in a roundtable with the Gulf Cooperation Council and joining Saudi King Salman in opening Riyadh’s new anti-terrorism center.
The address also notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights – topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing – in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

“We are not here to lecture – to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be. We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all,” according to the copy of his speech.

Two different sources provided the AP with copies of the draft of his remarks, billed as a marquee speech of the trip. The White House confirmed the draft was authentic, but cautioned the president had not yet signed off on the final product and that changes could be made.

Trump may seem an unlikely messenger to deliver an olive branch to the Muslim world.
During his campaign, he mused, “I think Islam hates us.” And only a week after taking office, he signed an executive order to ban immigrants from seven countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – from entering the United States, a decision that sparked widespread protests at the nation’s airports and demonstrations outside the White House.

That ban was blocked by the courts. A second order, which dropped Iraq from the list, is tied up in federal court and the federal government is appealing.

White House officials have said they consider Trump’s visit, and his keynote address, a counterweight to President Barack Obama’s debut speech to the Muslim world in 2009 in Cairo.

Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America’s missteps in the region. That speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of the United States’ Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.

Saudi Arabia’s leaders soured on Obama, and King Salman did not greet him at the airport during his final visit to the kingdom. But on Saturday, the 81-year-old king, aided by a cane, walked along the red carpet to meet Trump as a fleet of military jets swept through the sky, leaving a red, white and blue trail in their wake. During a ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king awarded Trump the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud, the theocracy’s highest civilian honor.

Trump bent down so the king could place the gold medal around his neck. Saudi Arabia has previously bestowed the honor on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Obama.

The president’s stop in Saudi Arabia’s dusty desert capital kicked off his first foreign trip as president, an ambitious, five-stop swing that will take him through the Middle East and into Europe. He’s the only American president to make Saudi Arabia – or any Muslim-majority nation – his first overseas visit.

Trump arrived in Riyadh besieged by the fallout from his controversial decision to fire FBI Director James Comey and more revelations about the federal investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. But escaping Washington for the gold-plated embrace of the Saudi royal family – a decor not so unlike Trump’s own Manhattan home – appeared to give the president a boost.

The president was largely kept out of earshot from reporters, rendering them unable to ask about the tumult back home. But he did make a brief utterance to the press pool, deeming the proceedings “a tremendous day.”

Trump is scheduled to leave Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, early Monday to head to Israel.


Trump to Seek Reset With Islamic World as Arab Islamic American Summit Kicks Off

May 21, 2017

RIYADH — U.S. President Donald Trump, struggling to shake a brewing scandal at home, will attempt a reset on Sunday with the Islamic world after frequently attacking Muslims on the campaign trail last year and trying to ban many from the United States.

Trump’s afternoon speech at an Arab Islamic American Summit (4:20 p.m. local/9:20 a.m. EDT) will include appeals for Muslims to unite against the threat of Islamic militants.

A senior administration official said Trump’s basic theme in the speech will be to call for unity and say Muslims need to confront radicalism.

Whether he would use his signature campaign phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe the threat was unclear. His speech was still being worked on late on Saturday, and some advisers were cautioning him against using the term.

Saudi Arabia is the first stop on Trump’s initial foreign trip, a nine-day journey through the Middle East and Europe.

Trump drew the ire of Muslims during his presidential campaign by calling for a ban on them entering the United States. His attempt early in his presidency to ban people from seven Muslim-majority nations has been blocked by the courts.

The speech comes as Trump tries to escape the fallout from his May 9 firing of former FBI Director James Comey amid accusations he was trying to stop a federal investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia last year.

The New York Times reported Trump called Comey a “nut job” in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week. The Washington Post said the probe had reached into the White House to include a Trump adviser, who was not named.

Trump showed little sign of the pressure during a day of diplomacy on Saturday during which he was warmly welcomed by Saudi King Salman.

At a royal banquet on Saturday night, Trump walked into a colorful spectacle: Men in ceremonial dress and carrying swords chanted in unison to beating drums in a courtyard. Trump, clearly enjoying himself, smiled and swayed, even seeming to dance a little at the center of the group.

A strong breeze later blew sand through the area.

Trump on Sunday is to meet leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council as part of his effort to counter Iran with a NATO-like Arab force.

Trump and the leaders will also establish a center aimed at cracking down on the ability of Islamic militants to spread their message.

He will meet individually with the leaders of Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Oman.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


Saudis Welcome Trump’s Rebuff of Obama’s Mideast Views

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — With trumpets blaring, cannons booming and fighter jets streaking overhead trailed by red, white and blue contrails, President Trump arrived in the scorching heat of the Arabian desert on Saturday hoping to realign the politics and diplomacy of the Middle East by forcefully reasserting American support for Sunni Muslim countries and Israel against Iran’s Shiite-led government.

The start of Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since becoming president — coming amid the scandals and chaos engulfing his administration — was intended to be a blunt rejection of President Barack Obama’s vision for the region. Mr. Obama sought a reconciliation with Iran and negotiated a deal intended to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The day proved to be almost everything a besieged White House could have wanted. After weeks of stormy politics and out-of-control news cycles, the president stayed rigorously on script and restrained himself on Twitter. His staff boasted about the business deals being signed, and the visual images beamed to Americans back home showed a president seemingly in command of a world stage.

The Saudis treated him like royalty, with red carpets, lavish meals and American flags flying everywhere. They repeatedly used the word “historic” to describe his visit, gave him a medal, projected a multistory image of his face on the side of the palatial Ritz-Carlton hotel where he was staying, and treated him to a colorful dance display in which his staff joined in with scores of white-robed Saudis and even the president swayed back and forth.

As Mr. Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia, Iranians re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, who sealed the nuclear deal. Officials of both countries used the president’s visit to press Iran to halt support for terrorism and to stop interfering in the affairs of its neighbors.

At the Royal Court Palace, President Trump was presented with Saudi Arabia’s highest honor.Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

“We are closely coordinating our efforts in terms of how to counter Iran’s extremism and its export of extremism,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said at a joint news conference in Riyadh with Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister.

Mr. Jubeir praised Mr. Trump for renewing ties between the two countries, and pointed to the “extremely, extremely productive and historic visit.”

For Mr. Trump, the warm embrace by the Saudi monarchy was a welcome break from the cascade of bad news in Washington. Even as Air Force One took off from a Maryland air base on Friday afternoon, headlines revealed new details about the swiftly expanding investigation into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Questions about those headlines followed Mr. Trump across the globe, a reminder of the political troubles dogging him back home. But the president at least initially resisted the temptation to deviate from his diplomatic script to address reports that he had referred to James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, as “a nut job” during meetings with Russian officials in the Oval Office.


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Putin ‘ready to provide recording’ of Lavrov-Trump exchange — But he’s not helping the U.S. with North Korea, Increases trade

May 17, 2017


© POOL/AFP / by Yuri KADOBNOV with Maria ANTONOVA in Moscow | Vladimir Putin joked that Lavrov hadn’t passed on the information


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow could provide a recording of a controversial exchange between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US President Donald Trump that has plunged the White House into turmoil.

His comments were the first since Trump was hit with accusations that he shared secrets while meeting Lavrov in Washington, the latest crisis to hit the White house amid existing investigations into whether Trump’s aides colluded with Moscow during the campaign.

Putin said he was pleased with Lavrov’s visit to Washington last week but mocked the idea that Trump had shared secrets during the meeting, calling the allegations “political schizophrenia” and saying people spreading them are either “dumb” or “corrupt.”

“We can see that political schizophrenia is developing in the United States,” Putin told reporters after talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

“I cannot otherwise explain the accusations of the president that he handed Lavrov some sort of secrets,” Putin added.

“If the US administration finds it possible, we are ready to provide a recording of the conversation between Lavrov and Trump to the US Congress and Senate,” Putin said.

Although Putin used the Russian word for audio recording at the press conference, his foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said that “audio is not made” at such meetings.

“There is a recording kept by a special person present at conversations,” Ushakov clarified to Russian news agencies.

Citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported that Trump had shared intelligence with Lavrov regarding an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes.

According to sources cited in the report, that intelligence came from a US ally who had not authorised Washington to pass it on to Moscow.

– ‘Simply dumb’ –

The fresh US crisis sank the dollar early Wednesday as well as Hong Kong stocks amid worries that Trump’s economy-boosting and tax-cutting agenda could be derailed, with some experts mentioning possible impeachment.

As news emerged that Israel was the initial source of the intel, it attempted to contain the fallout from the scandal, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying security ties would continue to be “unprecedented” in scope.

A US administration official confirmed to AFP on condition of anonymity that the original intelligence came from Israel, which was initially reported by the New York Times.

British PM Theresa May meanwhile said Trump is free to decide what to discuss with White House visitors, while stressing that London’s relationship with Washington was “the most important defence and security relationship” around the world.

Putin mocked the idea that Trump went off-script to share secrets with the Russians, saying he could issue a “reprimand” to Lavrov since the minister hadn’t passed on the information.

“(Lavrov) didn’t share these secrets with us — neither with me nor with the representatives of the Russian security services. That is very bad of him,” Putin said to sniggers from the audience including Lavrov himself.

– ‘Absolute right’ –

The visit had already generated its share of scandal after Moscow released pictures of the closed-door Oval Office meeting showing Trump and Lavrov grinning after White House officials presumed they would not be made public.

Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster denied the president caused any security lapses while Trump himself insisted he had the “absolute right” to share “facts pertaining… to terrorism and airline flight safety” with Russia.

Adding to the confusion, Russian senator Alexei Pushkov on Wednesday tweeted that “US media were hysterical with Trump because he told us about IS plans to detonate our passenger plane.”

Putin on Wednesday also slammed critics who spread allegations about Trump’s ties with Russia.

“What else will the people generating such drivel and nonsense think of next?” he said. “They are shaking up their internal politics while using anti-Russian slogans.”

“They either don’t understand that they are hurting their own country, and then they are simply dumb, or they understand everything and then they are dangerous and corrupt people,” Putin added.

by Yuri KADOBNOV with Maria ANTONOVA in Moscow

Putin ‘ready to provide recording’ of Lavrov-Trump exchange in White House

May 17, 2017


© RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY/AFP/File | US President Donald J. Trump (left) poses with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC on May 10, 2017

SOCHI (RUSSIA) (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow could provide a recording of the exchange between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US President Donald Trump, who is accused of sharing classified intelligence.

“If the US administration finds it possible, we are ready to provide a recording of the conversation between Lavrov and Trump to the US Congress and Senate,” Putin said during a press conference.

He mocked the idea that Trump went off-script to share secrets with the Russians, saying he could issue a “reprimand” to Lavrov since he hasn’t passed on the information.

Putin said on Wednesday that  Trump had not passed any secrets onto Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington last week and that he could prove it

Putin said on Wednesday that Trump had not passed any secrets onto Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington last week and that he could prove it

It isn’t at all clear that the Russians would be able to produce a document that would disprove a bombshell Washington Post report that said President Trump passed on highly classified information to Lavrov during the meeting.

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“(Lavrov) didn’t share these secrets with us — neither with me nor with the representatives of the Russian security services. That is very bad of him,” Putin said to sniggers from the audience as he answered questions after talks with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

Citing unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that Trump had shared intelligence with Lavrov regarding an Islamic State group terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on airplanes.

According to sources cited in the report, that intelligence came from a US ally who had not authorised Washington to pass it on to Moscow.

Putin slammed critics who spread allegations about Trump’s ties with Russia.

“What else will the people generating such drivel and nonsense think of next?” he said. “They are shaking up their internal politics while using anti-Russian slogans.”

“They either don’t understand that they are hurting their own country, and then they are simply dumb, or they understand everything and then they are dangerous and corrupt,” Putin added.

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Republicans reject Putin’s offer to share transcripts of Trump’s meeting with Russian officials

Both Republicans and Democrats have dismissed Putin’s offer to help US politicians  ascertain whether Mr Trump did share highly classified intelligence with Moscow.

“The idea that we would accept any evidence from President Putin is absurd,”  Susan Collins a Republican senator from Maine told CNN.

“Its credibility would be less than zero,” Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS.

Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman was even more passionate:  “I don’t talk to murderous dictators,” he said on CBS.

Israeli Intel Experts Alarmed by Trump Leak but Play Down Any Damage

May 17, 2017


MAY 17, 2017, 6:51 A.M. E.D.T.

JERUSALEM — Israeli intelligence experts are gravely concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump’s sharing of classified information with Russia may have compromised an Israeli agent, but don’t expect any long-term consequences for intelligence cooperation.

Trump has confirmed via Twitter that during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week he shared information related to a potential airline plot by Islamic State, thought to involve a laptop bomb.

The New York Times, citing a current and a former U.S. official, reported on Tuesday that the information Trump divulged came from an Israeli intelligence asset based in Islamic State-held territory in Syria.

Israeli officials have declined to confirm whether they were the source of the information Trump shared, but have been quick to say counter-terrorism coordination with the United States is strong.


Republicans, Democrats demand ‘full explanation’ on Trump sharing secrets with Russia — “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president.”

May 16, 2017


© Handout photo Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP | (L to R): Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, US President Donald Trump and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office.

Latest update : 2017-05-16

US President Donald Trump is facing criticism for sharing top secret intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week, prompting both Democrats and Republicans to demand a “full explanation”.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump revealed highly classified information on the plans of the Islamic State (IS) group during a May 10 meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

Citing unnamed officials, the Post reported that the intelligence included plans by the Islamic State group to threaten airliners in a plot involving laptop computers.

The intelligence originated from a Middle Eastern ally that did not authorise the United States to pass the information on to Russia. The rules of espionage usually allow governments and intelligence agencies to have a significant say in how their information is shared.

By not respecting these protocols, the officials said, Trump’s revelation threatened the cooperation of an ally “that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State”.

“This is code-word information,” a US official familiar with the matter told the Post, referring to an intelligence classification that ranks even above top secret. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies”.

One official with knowledge of the Oval Office meeting said Trump told Lavrov of the “great intel” he receives as president. “I have people brief me on great intel every day,” he said.

Such seemingly off-the-cuff revelations could prompt allies and sources in the field to avoid passing sensitive intelligence to the White House in the future, thereby jeopardising US operations and security.

Divulging such information could also place intelligence sources at imminent risk. The source in question, moreover, was not a US informant but one cultivated by an allied nation.

Senior Security Contributor Michael Morell says the source that says Pres. Trump gave classified information to Russians “is now at risk”

While Trump did not reveal how the intelligence was gathered, he did reveal the name of the IS group-controlled city where the threat was detected. From this location Russia could likely identify the US ally who gathered the information or determine which intelligence capabilities were involved, the Post said.

Russia and the United States are both battling the Islamic State group in Syria and do share some information about the jihadists’ moves. But Russian operations in the country are largely aimed at bolstering the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, while the Trump administration launched air strikes on Assad targets following a deadly chemical attack in April and has said Assad should play “no role” in Syria’s future.

Trump’s meeting with the Russian envoys was controversial from the start, as Russian photographers were allowed to take pictures while US media were barred from the Oval Office.

The White House later expressed outrage that photos of the gathering were made public after the Russian embassy posted them on Twitter.

@realDonaldTrump meeting has just started | В Овальном кабинете началась встреча С.Лаврова с Д.Трампом

“They tricked us,” one White House official told CNN, adding: “That’s the problem with the Russians – they lie.”

WH furious over Russian government photos of Trump meeting with Lavrov/Kislyak. “They tricked us,” an official said of Russians “They lie.”

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as the FBI, continue to investigate the extent of Russian attempts to influence the US presidential election. The meeting with Russian officials came the day after Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing the bureau investigation.

Ambassador Kislyak has also figured prominently in the allegations of improper contact between Trump associates and Russian officials. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after not revealing the true nature of his talks last year with Kislyak while Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any Russia investigations after he failed to disclose his meetings with the ambassador while being questioned under oath.

Soon after the talks, senior White House officials appeared to recognise that the discussions had taken a problematic turn, with the Post reporting that a series of calls was made to the CIA and the National Security Agency in what were likely attempts at damage control.

Political aftershocks

National Security Adviser HR McMaster was unequivocal in denying that sources had been compromised, emphasising that Trump had not revealed any “intelligence sources or methods” in his meeting with the Russians. He said that Trump and Lavrov had merely “reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation”.

“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state (Rex Tillerson), remember the meeting the same way and have said so,” McMaster continued.

But despite the denials, the Post report sent shock waves around Washington, with Republicans joining Democrats in calls for a “full explanation” from the White House.

“We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount,” said Doug Andres, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

This sentiment was echoed by the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

“Revealing classified information at this level is extremely dangerous and puts at risk the lives of Americans and those who gather intelligence for our country,” Schumer said on Twitter.

“The president owes the intelligence community, the American people and Congress a full explanation.”

“To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, told reporters. “That’s why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening.”

Some legal experts said the allegations involved potentially serious wrongdoing on the part of the president.

“This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States,” said Alan Dershowitz, a prominent US legal expert and former Harvard Law professor, in an interview with CNN on Monday.

.@AlanDersh reacts to WaPo story: “This is the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president”

But others pointed out that the US president has a legal right to declassify information as he sees fit, so Trump’s decision to share intelligence broke no laws.

“The classification system is not based on a law,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy specialist with the Federation of American Scientists, in comments to the New York Times. “It is an expression of presidential authority, and that means that the president and his designees decide what is classified, and they have the essentially unlimited authority to declassify at will.”

Trump himself seized on this justification on Tuesday, tweeting that he had the “absolute right” to share the information.

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he wrote in two tweets.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

Anyone else sharing sensitive intelligence, however, risks losing security clearance and his or her government position. An individual could also face up to 10 years in prison on charges related to the Espionage Act, which makes it a felony to reveal certain information on US national defence to unauthorised sources.

Date created : 2017-05-16

Russia’s Lavrov to meet with Trump on Syria amid uproar — Arctic Council could also be discussed

May 10, 2017


© AFP/File | Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who last set foot in Washington in 2013, would be the highest ranking Russian official to meet President Donald Trump since he took office

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump will receive Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov at the White House Wednesday even as a political firestorm has put Moscow’s alleged meddling in the US election back in the spotlight.

Lavrov’s visit, confirmed by the White House late Tuesday, centers on a Russian proposal to de-escalate the violence in Syria’s civil war.

But it comes just a day after the president stunned Washington by firing James Comey as director of the FBI amid an investigation into whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia to sway the November elections.

The sacking prompted angry Democrats to call for the Russia probe to be placed in the hands an independent prosecutor or commission.

The uproar seemed certain to complicate Lavrov’s mission in search of US support for a Russian plan to create safe zones in Syria.

He first holds talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then goes on to the White House to meet Trump.

Lavrov, who last set foot in Washington in August 2013, would be the highest ranking Russian official to meet with Trump since he took office.

Relations between the two former Cold War foes soured under former president Barack Obama over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its unyielding support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Since March 2011 the Syrian conflict has caused more than 320,000 deaths and forced millions of refugees to flee. Neither Washington, which backs the opposition, nor Moscow, a longtime ally of the Syrian regime, have managed to find to a solution to the conflict.

Since the end of Obama’s presidency the United States has gradually withdrawn from the diplomatic process, leaving Russia to take the lead.

The US was not part of a deal by government backers Russia and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey, signed last Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana on establishing safe zones in Syria.

– ‘De-escalation zones’ –

The agreement calls for the creation of four “de-escalation zones” to shore up a ceasefire, ban flights and allow for deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Washington has given the deal a skeptical welcome, citing concerns about Iran’s role as a guarantor even as it expressed hope the agreement could set the stage for a later settlement.

“We will look at the proposal, see if it can work,” said Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Monday.

Several ceasefires have been agreed on since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011, but they have failed to permanently stem the fighting.

Over the past six years Moscow and Washington have sparred multiple times over the conflict in Syria, especially concerning Assad’s fate.

Donald Trump’s White House takeover has not brought the former Cold War adversaries closer to seeing eye to eye — and in early April the US even launched direct military action against the Syrian regime in retaliation for a chemical attack attributed to it.

Both countries have recently indicated that relations under Trump have never been so bad.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday that Moscow expected “above all coming to a common understanding on the need for de-escalation in Syria.”

– ‘Common position’ –

“If we manage to find… a common position with the United States on this issue, it will be the most important result,” he said, quoted by the state news agency Interfax.

The US State Department said that “on Syria, the secretary intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict.”

Regarding Ukraine, the State Department also said “the sides will discuss the need to stop the violence in eastern Ukraine and resolve the conflict through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

After talks Wednesday the two diplomats will again meet Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska for the Arctic Council meeting, an intergovernmental forum for cooperation on the environment, oil and mining, shipping, fisheries and tourism. It brings together the eight countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, the US, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

Tillerson and Lavrov’s meeting in Alaska comes 150 years after Washington purchased the US state from Moscow.