Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’

Jerusalem Responds to Russia: Iranian Aggression Is Destabilizing Syria – Not Israel

April 12, 2018

Putin called Netanyahu yesterday and urged Israel to refrain from taking action in Syria ■ PM told Russian leader that Israel won’t allow Iran to set up military presence in Syria

.Putin Netanyahu at a Black Sea resort of Sochi, 2013.
Putin Netanyahu at a Black Sea resort of Sochi, 2013.REUTERS

Israel responded to Russia’s claim that it’s alleged attack in Syria “only worsened” the situation there. “What is destabilizing Syria is the Iranian aggression and attempts by Iran to set up a military presence in Syria to threaten Israel and other nations, a senior diplomatic source in Jerusalem says.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that a strike on a Syrian airbase carried out by Israel has only “worsened stability” in the war-torn country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Wednesday, when the Russian leader urged Israel not to take action in Syria and to threaten its security. Israeli officials confirmed the call took place and said that Netanyahu told Putin that Israel will not permit Iran to set up a military presence in Syria.

Moments after the Russian foreign ministry issued the statement, a Russian lawmaker announced that Russian ships have left the Tartus naval base in Syria. Interfax news agency quoted Vladimir Shamanov, who chairs the Russian defense committee of the lower house of parliament, as saying that the vessels had left the Mediterranean base for their own safety, adding that “this is normal practice” when there are threats of an attack.


FILE - This Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad watching troops march at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. In comments published on the official presidency Telegram channel Wednesday, March 14, 2018, Assad said his country's war on terrorism will continue as long as there is "a single terrorist" on Syrian territories. Russia and Iran have been strong backers of Assad, helping him in his bid to regain control of territories. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE – This Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Syrian President Bashar Assad watching troops march at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. In comments published oMikhail Klimentyev/AP

Putin has also reached out to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Syria by phone Thursday afternoon.

Later Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress that Russia was complicit in Syria’s retention of chemical weapons.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France has proof the Syrian government was behind the suspected chemical attack last week in Douma, but added that he would decide whether to intervene once all the necessary information had been gathered.

“We have proof that last week… chemical weapons were used, at least chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” Macron said during a television interview.

Macron said French and U.S. officials were “working together very closely, and we will have decisions to take, at the time we choose, when we consider it most useful and most effective.”

‘Don’t test Israel’

Also Wednesday, following the call, Netanyahu threatened Iran in a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony. “I have a message for the leaders of Iran: Don’t test Israel’s resolve,” he declared.

“To the Iranian people, he said: “The regime is oppressing you and when this regime disappears off the face of the earth then our two peoples can live together once more in coexistence,” he said.

>> This is not a drill: Syria showdown could spark Israeli-Iranian and U.S.-Russian clashes ■ Revenge by Iran could push Israel to terminate its Syrian presence

Netanyahu also took the opportunity to condemn the Syrian regime and the recent chemical attack in Syria, saying that “murderous evil that is not stood up against spreads rapidly.”

Israel is on high alert for any Iranian retaliation after Tehran’s direct threat Tuesday, as well as any possible U.S. strike against Syria’s Assad regime in retaliation to the chemical attack at Douma.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted early Thursday morning that the U.S. attack on Syria “could be very soon or not so soon at all.”

Trump wrote on Twitter, “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

Trump appears to be closer to taking action in Syria after Saturday’s deadly chemical attack, for which he vowed “animal Assad” would “pay a heavy price.”

An earlier tweet by Trump Wednesday said: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

>> Israel on high alert, prepares for possible Iranian retaliation after strike on Syrian base ■ Revealed: The Iranian compound targeted by the ‘Israeli strike’ in Syria

The American president followed that tweet with an assessment of U.S.-Russia relations, writing, “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”


Iranian Nuclear Program? Trump Will Soon Have to Decide About the Saudis Too

March 24, 2018


Riyadh says it has the right to enrich uranium just as the Iranians have been awarded, while Israel, which is pressuring Trump to leave the Iran deal, may find itself facing two nuclear powers

.Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, March 20, 2018.
Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, March 20, 2018.Alex Wong / AFP

The short video was posted on social media in fluent Hebrew. “Several Israeli journalists incited Bibi, or Benjamin Netanyahu, against Saudi Arabia and said there’s a Saudi nuclear threat. And I say to you, the Jewish people: Has Saudi Arabia ever threatened its neighbors? The answer is no. Does Saudi Arabia have aspirations to expand in the region? The answer is no. Read the news carefully, people of Israel. Thanks and see you next time.”

The speaker was Loay al-Shareef, a Saudi television host who has close ties with the royal house.

This public relations campaign didn’t impress the Israeli government or the U.S. Congress. They began their own campaign to prevent the Trump administration from letting American companies build nuclear reactors for electricity generation in Saudi Arabia. The fear is that this technology may  later be used as the foundation to produce nuclear weapons.

>Will Saudi Arabia follow Iran and seek nukes? ■ The Middle East is marching toward Israel’s nuclear nightmare scenario ■ Israel is setting the price for Riyadh to go nuclear

These fears need no further proof. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said unequivocally that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will too. In a coddling interview with CBS, he said his country only wanted equal rights. In other words, if Washington adheres to the 2015 agreement with Iran, which lets Tehran enrich uranium to a low level, Saudi Arabia deserves that right too.

The Saudis, as opposed to Iran, have their own uranium and want to enrich it. This is the heart of the disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem on one side and Riyadh on the other. According to Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954, Congress has the right to reject any transfer of nuclear technology, materials or equipment to another country – and in doing so prevent uranium enrichment by that country.

In 2009, an agreement was signed with the United Arab Emirates for the construction of nuclear reactors based on this section of the law, but Netanyahu doesn’t consider these restrictions adequate. This month, the prime minister shared his opinion on the matter with members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and some of the senators agreed with the Israeli view.

In comparison, U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing to approve construction of the reactors because of the expected profits for American companies including Westinghouse Electric, whose proposal has a good chance of being chosen by the Saudis. Moreover, Trump owes the Saudis, who a few months ago signed a $35 billion agreement to buy American weapons.

Pakistan, Russia and China

Saudi Arabia declared its intention to build nuclear reactors for “peaceful purposes” – in other words for research and generating electricity – as part of the crown prince’s Saudi Vision 2030 program. The explanation is based on the need to diversify the kingdom’s energy sources and reduce its dependence on oil, as well as preparation for the day when the oil and natural gas run out – in part because of Saudi Arabia’s constant growth in electricity demand.

The plan includes 16 nuclear reactors, with two to be built in the first stage. Each reactor would produce 12,000 to 16,000 megawatts of power. The opponents of the project say Saudi Arabia, which holds the world’s second largest oil reserves, has no need for nuclear power. In addition, the global trend is to move from nuclear power to renewable energy such as wind and solar power, which are both abundantly available in Saudi Arabia. Either way, the crown prince’s statements make this argument rather irrelevant.

Whether Saudi Arabia is serious about its nuclear power plans or not, the nuclear-deterrence equation it has presented puts Washington in a difficult dilemma. If the Americans refuse to sell the Saudis nuclear technology, it can turn to other countries such as Pakistan, with which it has excellent relations, Russia or China. They all have no problem selling nuclear technology to the Saudis – even beyond that needed for civilian purposes.

To strengthen this part of the Saudi argument, Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has said his country has discussed the construction of the nuclear reactors with at least 10 countries and has even conducted advanced negotiations with China. Under such a scenario, the United States would not be allowed to get its foot in the door of the Saudi nuclear industry, and Russia or China would become strategic allies of the kingdom, say U.S. officials. And this is without mentioning the huge profits the nuclear deal would bring in.

As far as the United States is concerned, an even larger danger lies in wait because – as opposed to Iran – the Saudis have no knowledge or experts of their own to build such reactors or make nuclear weapons, so whichever of the powers wins the bidding for the project, it will be happy to have to operate and maintain the reactors.

An example of such a case is the reactors Russia will finance, build and operate in Egypt in cooperation with Egyptian engineers, or the reactor that will soon be launched in Turkey with Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance. But completely different than Turkey or Egypt, which have made very clear they have no aspirations for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia hasn’t ruled this out.

This possibility greatly worries Israel, which has worked intensively to convince Trump and members of Congress that although Saudi Arabia may be considered a close friend of Washington at the moment, the kingdom is unstable and radical Islamist movements freely operate there. Also, the construction of nuclear reactors would train a generation of Saudi engineers and other nuclear experts who would be able to develop a military nuclear program in the future.

Saudi Arabia, which hired the expensive services of three top-tier American lobbying firms, will explain in response that if it wanted nuclear weapons it could just buy them and doesn’t need to train its own experts. The U.S. State Department knows this claim quite well and has presented it to Trump as a reason to agree to the sale of American nuclear technology to the Saudis – and in doing so require them to meet strict American supervision.

Known unknowns

Until the balance of nuclear deterrence between Saudi Arabia and Iran comes about, if it ever does, the United States will have to reach an agreement with the Saudis not just over uranium enrichment. Another issue that will require Trump to provide answers to Congress is the supervision of the Saudi reactors.

For now, the model for the oversight of the Iranian nuclear deal has proved itself – at least according to the International Atomic Energy Agency – and could serve as a basis for any agreement with Saudi Arabia.

But countries can progress to dangerous stages in nuclear weapons development without UN inspectors or intelligence agencies detecting it. (Or the other way around; for example, the IAEA asked to tighten its supervision of an Iraqi nuclear program that no longer existed.) For example, there’s a lack of oversight over the nuclear programs of Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel, which are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and don’t forget the Israeli intelligence failure in identifying the Syrian nuclear reactor so late.

Saudi Arabia, which has not signed the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which includes safeguards for much stricter supervision than the original treaty did, will not find it hard to move on from civilian nuclear energy to military use while staying below the international radar.

The question is whether a battle of honor and prestige will break out over the Saudi demands and whether the United States will be forced to say yes in order to preserve its good relations between with Riyadh, or whether Saudi Arabia will suffice with a more modest alternative such as a sophisticated defense pact with Washington and a U.S. commitment to protect the kingdom from any threat, Iranian or otherwise. The crown prince is now visiting the United States on a three-week trip, which will end around the time Trump will have to decide on the Iran agreement.

The paradox lies in the Saudi opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal. Ostensibly, the kingdom, which says deterring Iran is a weighty justification for its own nuclear needs, should support the Iran agreement and try to convince Tehran not to abandon it. The deal is supposed to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat and give the Saudis time to develop their own program without the risk of a regional war that could turn into an international conflagration.

After failing in Yemen and suffering serious defeats in Syria, the Saudis can’t allow themselves another such war where they’ll be dependent on Washington’s willingness to do the dirty work.

Israel, which has been pressing Trump to leave the Iranian deal, or at least make changes that Iran would be unlikely to agree to, may find itself facing two nuclear powers instead of one: Iran, which has declared that it will restart its nuclear program if the agreement is violated, and Saudi Arabia, which would want to acquire nuclear weapons too as a deterrent against an Iran freed from the bonds of its nuclear agreement.

Rocket Attack Greets U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Arrival in Afghanistan

September 27, 2017


Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

FILE PHOTO — U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis

KABUL (Reuters) – Several rockets exploded in and around Kabul airport on Wednesday hours after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in the Afghan capital on an unannounced visit, police said.

There were no reports of casualties or damage and Mattis was not near the airport when the rockets exploded.

Reporting by Kabul Bureau; Editing by Nick Macfie


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warn U.S. against terrorist designation, new sanctions — U.S. announces new sanctions

July 18, 2017

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned the United States on Monday that if it designated the group a terrorist organization and applied new sanctions its action could be perilous for U.S. forces in the region.

U.S. officials said earlier this year that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering a proposal that could lead to potentially categorizing the powerful Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

In Mid-June the U.S. Senate voted for new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers in 2015.

To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.

“Counting the Revolutionary Guards the same as terrorist groups and applying similar sanctions to the Revolutionary Guards is a big risk for America and its bases and forces deployed in the region,” said Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri, according to Sepah News, an official news site of the Guards.

He did not give details on what form of risk he foresaw for U.S. forces and bases.

The Revolutionary Guards are the most powerful security force in Iran, overseeing vast economic holdings worth billions of dollars and wielding huge influence in its political system.

Baqeri said on Monday that Iran’s missile program was defensive and would never be up for negotiation, according to Sepah News.

Three days after the U.S. Senate voted on the new sanctions, Iran fired missiles into eastern Syria, targeting bases of Islamic State which had claimed responsibility for attacks in Tehran which killed 18 people.

The Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria against militant groups which oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

Baqeri was also critical of recent remarks by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that regime change would be necessary before the United States could normalize relations with Iran.

“American officials should speak a little more wisely, thoughtfully and maturely about other countries, particularly a powerful country like Iran which has stood against all plots with strength and pride,” he said, according to Sepah News.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Richard Balmforth


U.S. targets Iran with new sanctions over missile program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday unveiled new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and for contributing to regional tensions and said it was deeply concerned about its “malign activities across the Middle East.”

The announcements came a day after President Donald Trump’s administration warned Tehran that it was not following the spirit of its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

The U.S. Department of Treasury said in a statement it was targeting 16 entities and individuals for supporting what is said was “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.”

Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, it said. Others had “orchestrated the theft of U.S. and Western software programs” sold to Iran’s government, the Treasury Department said.

The U.S. State Department had also designated two Iranian organizations involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, according to the Treasury Department.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity,” the State Department said in a statement.

It said the activities “undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge” from the nuclear agreement.

The statement listed Iranian support for groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas movement as well as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The Trump administration declared on Monday that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal concluded between Iran and six world powers under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy

Chinese official warns U.S. not to use North Korea as excuse for imposing sanctions — Talk of cutting off all U.S. companies from doing business with China due to North Korea mess

July 6, 2017


China’s vice-finance minister said Beijing would implement all sanctions imposed on North Korea as a result of its missile tests, but warned the U.S. not to use them as an excuse to impose sanctions against China’s financial institutions.

“As a Security Council permanent member, China will of course implement all relevant resolutions,” he said. “But the U.S. should not use their domestic laws as excuses to levy sanctions against Chinese financial institutions.”

Speaking ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Zhu Guangyao also called on leading economies to cooperate on global steel overproduction rather than engage in finger-pointing, since overcapacity could harm global growth.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Andrew Roche)


On Fox News Channel on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, Kirk Lippold, a news analyst on Neil Cavuto’s afternoon program, suggested that the White House needs to be discussing cutting off all U.S. companies from doing business with China due to North Korea missile test….

Image result for Scott Lippold,Fox news, photos

Kirk Lippold on the Fox News Channel


U.S. Prepared To Use Force On North Korea ‘If We Must’: U.N. Envoy

People watch a TV broadcast of a news report on North Korea's ballistic missile test, at a railway station in Seoul
People watch a TV broadcast of a news report on North Korea’s ballistic missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, July 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

July 6, 2017

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States cautioned on Wednesday it was ready to use force if need be to stop North Korea’s nuclear missile program but said it preferred global diplomatic action against Pyongyang for defying world powers by test launching a ballistic missile that could hit Alaska.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council that North Korea’s actions were “quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution” and the United States was prepared to defend itself and its allies.

“One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction,” Haley said. She urged China, North Korea’s only major ally, to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

Speaking with his Japanese counterpart on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis underscored the “ironclad commitment” of the United States to defending Japan and providing “extended deterrence using the full range of U.S. capabilities,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

Mattis’ assurances to Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada came during a phone call to discuss the North Korean test, the statement said.

Taking a major step in its missile program, North Korea on Tuesday test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

North Korea says the missile could carry a large nuclear warhead.

The missile test is a direct challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

He has frequently urged China to press the isolated country’s leadership to give up its nuclear program.

Haley said the United States would propose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea in coming days and warned that

if Russia and China did not support the move, then “we will go our own path.”

She did not give details on what sanctions would be proposed, but outlined possible options.

“The international community can cut off the major sources of hard currency to the North Korean regime. We can restrict the flow of oil to their military and their weapons programs. We can increase air and maritime restrictions. We can hold senior regime officials accountable,” Haley said.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

“Much of the burden of enforcing U.N. sanctions rests with China,” Haley said.

The United States might seek to take unilateral action and sanction more Chinese companies that do business with North Korea, especially banks, U.S. officials have said.

China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, told the Security Council meeting that the missile launch was a “flagrant violation” of U.N. resolutions and “unacceptable.”

“We call on all the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialogue and work actively together to defuse the tension,” Liu said.


The United States has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty and the past six decades have been punctuated by periodic rises in antagonism and rhetoric that have always stopped short of a resumption of active hostilities.

Tensions have risen sharply after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the ICBM test completed his country’s strategic weapons capability that includes atomic and hydrogen bombs, the state KCNA news agency said.

Pyongyang will not negotiate with the United States to give up those weapons until Washington abandons its hostile policy against the North, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

“He, with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased … as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ on its ‘Independence Day,’” KCNA said, referring to the missile launch on July 4.

Trump and other leaders from the Group of 20 nations meeting in Germany this week are due to discuss steps to rein in North Korea’s weapons program, which it has pursued in defiance of Security Council sanctions.

Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy said on Wednesday that military force should not be considered against North Korea and called for a halt to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

He also said that attempts to strangle North Korea economically were “unacceptable” and that sanctions would not resolve the issue.

The U.S. military assured Americans that it was capable of defending the United States against a North Korean ICBM.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis noted a successful test last month in which a U.S.-based missile interceptor knocked down a simulated incoming North Korean ICBM.

“So we do have confidence in our ability to defend against the limited threat, the nascent threat that is there,” he told reporters. He acknowledged though that previous U.S. missile defense tests had shown “mixed results.”

The North Korean launch this week was both earlier and “far more successful than expected,” said U.S.-based missile expert John Schilling, a contributor to Washington-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North.

It would now probably only be a year or two before a North Korean ICBM achieved “minimal operational capability,” he added.

Schilling said the U.S. national missile defense system was “only minimally operational” and would take more than two years to upgrade to provide more reliable defense.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)

Trump gives U.S. military authority to set Afghan troop levels: U.S. official

June 14, 2017


Tue Jun 13, 2017 | 9:19pm EDT

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

U.S. President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday, opening the door for future troop increases requested by the U.S. commander.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400.

The Pentagon declined to comment.

The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the U.S.-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier on Tuesday. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”

Mattis said the Taliban were “surging” at the moment, something he said he intended to address.

A former U.S. official said such a decision might allow the White House to argue that it was not micromanaging as much as the administration of former President Barack Obama was sometimes accused of doing.

Critics say delegating too much authority to the military does not shield Trump from political responsibility during battlefield setbacks and could reduce the chances for diplomats to warn of potential blowback from military decisions.

It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed “a few thousand” additional forces, some potentially drawn from U.S. allies.

Current and former U.S. officials say discussions revolve around adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Those forces are expected to be largely comprised of trainers to support Afghan forces, as well as air crews.

Deliberations include giving more authority to forces on the ground and taking more aggressive action against Taliban fighters.

Some U.S. officials have questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security. To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001.

Any increase of several thousand troops would leave American forces in Afghanistan well below their 2011 peak of more than 100,000 troops.

The Afghan government was assessed by the U.S. military to control or influence just 59.7 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts as of Feb. 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

A truck bomb explosion in Kabul last month killed more than 150 people, making it the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 by a NATO-led coalition after ruling the country for five years.

On Saturday, three U.S. soldiers were killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in eastern Afghanistan.

The broader regional U.S. strategy for Afghanistan remains unclear. Mattis promised on Tuesday to brief lawmakers on a new war strategy by mid-July that is widely expected to call for thousands more U.S. troops.

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, pressed Mattis on the deteriorating situation during the Tuesday hearing, saying the United States had an urgent need for “a change in strategy, and an increase in resources if we are to turn the situation around.”

“We recognize the need for urgency,” Mattis said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali. Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and John Walcott.; Editing by Andrew Hay and Bill Trott)


U.S. Defense Secretary mentions Taiwan at Asia Security Summit

June 3, 2017

First mention of Taiwan at event since 2002

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Shangri-La Dialogue. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – United States Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Asia Security Summit in Singapore that Washington would abide by its commitment to Taiwan, reportedly angering Chinese delegates at the event, reports said Saturday.

In his speech at the first plenary session of the event, which is also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Trump Administration official included Taiwan in its regional strategic partnership with countries in the Asian region for the first time since the summit was launched in 2002.

“The Department of Defense remains steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan and with its democratic government to provide it the defense articles necessary, consistent with the obligations set out in the Taiwan Relations Act, because we stand for the peaceful resolution of any issues in a manner acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” Mattis was quoted by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post as saying.

No automatic alt text available.

The Taiwan Relations Act was passed after U.S. President Jimmy Carter recognized China and allows Washington to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen’s government is expected to hand over a list with a request for weapons to the Trump Administration, which has been regarded as more willing to supply arms to the island than its predecessors.

Mattis’s speech touched off a furious reaction from Chinese military delegates attending the summit, reports said. The defense secretary sent the wrong message to Taiwan’s pro-independence organizations, the South China Morning Post quoted one Chinese officer as saying.

Another senior military official from China said Mattis should also have mentioned agreements with Beijing, though the defense secretary later actually emphasized that the U.S. would stand by the “One China” principle, reports said.


 (Contains related articles)

U.S. defense secretary says Syria dispersed warplanes, retains chemical weapons

April 21, 2017


By Idrees Ali | TEL AVIV

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically.

The United States launched dozens of missiles earlier this month against a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack that killed 90 people, including 30 children. It says the Syrian government launched the attack from the Shayrat air base.

The Pentagon has said that the strike had damaged or destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian military’s operational aircraft.


During a press conference alongside his Israeli counterpart, Mattis was asked whether the Syrian military had moved warplanes to a Russian base in Latakia.

“They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt. They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days,” Mattis said.

Mattis also reiterated that the United States believed Syria had retained some chemical weapons.

“The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” Mattis said.

Israel’s military said on Wednesday it believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces still possess several tonnes of chemical weapons.

A senior Israeli military officer told Israeli reporters that “a few tonnes of chemical weapons” remained in the hands of Assad’s forces, a military official told Reuters.

In a 2013 agreement brokered by Russia and the United States, Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons, a global watchdog, said sarin or a similar banned toxin was used in the April 4 strike in Syria’s Idlib province.

Mattis later met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Before the start of their talks, Netanyahu said he was optimistic about relations between the two countries under the new U.S. administration.

The two countries are working to set a more positive tone after eight years of friction under President Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Gareth Jones and Richard Lough)

Iran Tests Another Ballistic Missile — “A failed test of a reentry vehicle”

January 30, 2017

Iran has conducted another ballistic missile test, Fox News in the U.S. is reporting.

More to follow…


 (In a phone call with President Trump, Saudi King Salman stressed the importance of closely monitoring Iran’s compliance with the Iran Nuclear deal…)


Iran conducts ballistic missile test, US officials say

How would Gen. Mattis handle threat posed by Iran?

Iran on Sunday conducted a ballistic missile test in yet another apparent violation of a United Nations resolution, U.S. officials told Fox News.

The launch occurred at a well-known test site outside Semnan, about 140 miles east of Tehran.

The missile was a Khorramshahr medium range ballistic missile and traveled 600 miles before exploding, in a failed test of a reentry vehicle, officials said.

U.N. resolution 2231 — put in place days after the Iran nuclear deal was signed — calls on the Islamic Republic not to conduct such tests, however, this is at least Iran’s second such test since July. The resolution bars Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years and went into effect July 20, 2015.

Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” according to the text of the resolution.

The landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers does not include provisions preventing Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests.

Iran claims its ballistic missile tests are legitimate because they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews


25 Sep 2016 18:48:03 GMT
Service: Iran
Iran Says It Is Able To Produce Any Kind of Missile
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Three types of missiles to be unveiled

Iran’s defense minister said on Sunday Iran is now capable of designing and producing missiles with any range as well as any level of precision and destructive power.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan made the remarks at a plenary session of the Iran’s Parliament on Sunday, IRNA reported.

Dehqan also said the Islamic Republic is set to unveil three new types of missiles in the coming months, adding that state-of-the-art ballistic missile Zolfaqar has been put on the production line.

Iran is observing the Sacred Defense Week, which marks the 36th anniversary of the eight-year Iraqi war against the country.

“We will begin manufacturing three fundamental products in the area of missile [development] by the end of the year,” said the Iranian minister, stressing that the latest defense achievements will greatly promote the country’s defense might.

“These three missiles include Qadir, Sejil (solid-fuel long-range models) as well as high-precision Khorramshahr,” he added.

He further announced that Iran has now launched the production line of precision-guided solid-fuel anti-radar jamming missile Zolfaqar, Press TV reported.

Zolfaqar, with a range of 750 kilometers, is a multiple reentry vehicle (MRV) missile capable of carrying several warheads.

It is the latest generation of Iran’s long-range missiles and can carry out precision strikes against targets on the ground and airport tarmacs.

The missile was unveiled during a recent large-scale naval parade in Iran’s port city of Bandar Abbas.

Iran is now capable of designing and producing missiles with any range as well as any level of precision and destructive power when it comes to cruise types and the ones using solid or liquid fuel, he added.

In the future, Iran will develop ground-to-ground ballistic missiles that can hit maritime targets far away, Dehqan pointed out.

“In the area of missile defense, we know no limits to our might, and that is why we will continue to boost our defense power as scheduled,” Dehqan said.

He said Iran is the only country that enjoys peace and stability in a region severely troubled by violence, adding that the Islamic Republic is the standard-bearer of the fight against terror and leaves no stone unturned to restore calm to the region.

In recent years, Iran has made major breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing important military equipment and systems.

Iran has also conducted military drills to enhance the defense capabilities of its armed forces and to test modern military tactics and state-of-the-art army equipment.

The Islamic Republic maintains that its military might poses no threat to other countries, stating that its defense doctrine is merely based on deterrence.

France, Germany ‘worried’ about Trump’s moves to limit refugees

January 28, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP | French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault holds a joint press conference with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel  in Paris on January 28, 2017.


Latest update : 2017-01-28

France and Germany voiced disquiet on Saturday over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to limit immigration and refugees from some Muslim countries, and they reaffirmed a firm line on Russian sanctions.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Paris with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said many of Trump’s decisions worried the two U.S. allies, including new immigration restrictions.

Trump on Friday signed an executive order that will curb immigration and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries and he separately said he wanted the United States to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.

Donald Trump will sign the Executive Orders today at 4:30 PM EST. This is a breakdown of the orders.

“This can only worry us, but there are many subjects that worry us,” Ayrault said, adding that he would soon invite his future American counterpart Rex Tillerson to Paris to explain Europe’s interests, values and vision of the world.

“Welcoming refugees who flee war and oppression is part of our duty,” Ayrault said.

Germany has taken in more than one million refugees and migrants, mainly from the Middle East, since 2015.

Although traditionally open to asylum seekers, France has taken in far fewer refugees than Germany since the migrant crisis erupted. Some in the French government, mostly ex-premier Manuel Valls, criticising Berlin’s open-door policy, as has Trump.

“The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbour is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” said Germany’s Gabriel, who was on his first trip abroad since his nomination as foreign minister.

“I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans.”

The two countries also reiterated their position on Russian sanctions, saying they could only be lifted if progress was made in the peace process for eastern Ukraine, where a pro-Russian separatist insurgency began in 2014.

They joined British Prime Minister Theresa May in cautioning Trump against premature moves on the issue.

“Let’s not forget there was a war, that Russia sought to take over parts of Ukraine,” Ayrault said.

Trump said on Friday he was only in the early stages of considering whether to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia, but insisted he wanted to follow through on his campaign pledge to pursue better relations with Russia.

The French and German ministers also said the United Nations remained the best framework to lead peace talks about Syria in the aftermath of Russian-led efforts in the Kazakh capital Astana that some diplomats say might undermine the UN process.

Separately, Germany and France are also continuing to work on creating a joint tactical airlift pool of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J military transport planes, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said on Saturday.

He could not confirm a report in Der Spiegel newsmagazine that the two countries expected to complete work on the deal and present it to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels next month.

The magazine said German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen hoped to present the joint airlift as evidence of Germany’s willingness to contribute more to NATO.

Trump has criticised many European countries for not meeting a NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence.



Mattis Tells German Defense Secretary US Under Trump Still Committed to NATO

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told German Defense Secretary Urusla von der Leyen that the administration of President Donald Trump remains committed to the NATO alliance.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The administration of President Donald Trump remains committed to the NATO alliance, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told German Defense Secretary Urusla von der Leyen in a telephone conversation, the Department of Defense said in a read out.

“The secretary assured the minister of the United States’ enduring commitment to the NATO alliance,” the read out stated on Thursday night.

Mattis also thanked von der Leyen for Germany’s leadership in NATO activities on the eastern flank and in Afghanistan, and acknowledged the role that her country plays in fighting terrorism, especially in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, the read out noted.

The two defense chiefs pledged to consult in the months to come and looked forward to working together at the Munich Security Conference in February, the read out added.

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