Tag Archives: Syria

Trump appoints the right team to regain the Middle East

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The Trump administration is dedicated to undoing the harm done by the Obama administration in the Iran Deal. To succeed, it needs the right team.

Relatively few people have heard of the Center for Security Policy. That’s about to change because it is playing a prominent, if not dominant role, in the Trump transition team in matters relating to Iran, Russia, China and Islam. Gone from the corridors of power is the Brookings Institution, who have a satellite office in Doha, Qatar along with their Vice President and Director for Foreign Policy, Martin Indyk.  Soon, President Obama, the golfer, Secretary Kerry, the bicyclist and Secretary Clinton, the failure, will also be gone.

The CSP is a think tank created and led by Frank Gaffney, Jr. He formerly acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the Reagan Administration, following four years of service as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. Previously, he was a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator John Tower, and a national security legislative aide to the late Senator Henry M. Jackson.

The background of other staff members may be found here. Of particular note are Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez.

Mr. Fleitz served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years at the CIA, DIA, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, Mr. Fleitz was chief of staff to John Bolton, then Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.  During his tenure with the House Intelligence Committee, he was the staff expert on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs and briefed key National Intelligence Estimates on these issues to committee members.

Ms. Lopez, among other credits, is the author of an acclaimed paper for the Center, The Rise of the Iran Lobby, and co-author/editor of the Center’s Team B II study, Shariah: The Threat to America, as well as The Tiger Team’s The Secure Freedom Strategy: A Plan for Victory Over the Global Jihad Movement.  She co-authored Gulen and the Gulenist Movement with CSP’s Vice President for Outreach, Christopher Holton, and See No Shariah: ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ and the Disarming of America’s First Line of Defense with Frank Gaffney.

Finally, Alex VanNess is the Director of the Middle East Peace and Security Policy at the Center for Security Policy.  He writes extensively on issues relating to U.S. defense spending, the U.S./Israel strategic relationship, and the existential threats posed by Islamic fundamentalism.

Closely associated with them is the newly appointed National Security AdviserGen Michael T Flynn. He had been Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency until Pres Obama forced him to resign because of his vocal opposition to the Iran Deal and his belief that the Islamists were stronger than ever. He recently wroteField of Flight in which he forcefully argues that the Islamist ideology must be defeated in order to defeat the Islamists.

All of them have positions of influence due to their recognition that the Islamist ideology embodied in Sharia and Jihad must be defeated.

Israel

During the Bush administration and before, AIPAC was a powerful force in Washington. With the Election of President Obama and the creation of J Street, it began to lose considerable power. It no longer was the sole voice for American Jewry. In addition, the Democratic Party, which was its power base, was moving to the left and away from supporting Israel.
With the election of Donald J Trump, it lost even more influence due to the fact that a big majority of American Jews voted for Clinton and were anti-Trump. In addition, its public policies are to the left of Trump, leaving them in an awkward position. They would have to support settlements and be flexible on the Two-State solution to be of any value to Israel. I don’t see that happening.

On the other hand, the Zionist Organization of America, which had been shunned by Obama, is replacing AIPAC as the leading Jewish voice. Its policies are totally aligned with those of the Trump administration in the making. And, of course, so are the views of the soon to be appointed US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who supports the settlement enterprise and annexation of all or part of the West Bank. Also, Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner an orthodox Jew is slated to be one of his key advisers on Israel and he too is supportive of the settlement enterprise.

On Dec 15/16, at an elegant gala in New York City, the Center for Security Policy conferred awards on Rom Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States and Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America. Judge Jeanine Pirro, a stalwart supporter of Trump and Israel, introduced them.  Video messages from Caroline Glick and David Horowitz were viewed. And many other people who are in the frontlines of fighting Islamists were in attendance.

The first priority for the Trump administration is to neuter the Iran Deal. DEBKAreported that the Trump team is drawing up a deal more to its liking, which will probably remove any possibility of Iran getting a bomb in 10 years and require them to abandon terror and terror groups. To get them to agree, the US has to have leverage. Russia is the key to this. But why should Russia agree?  She obviously has to be induced.

It is in the interests of the US and Israel that Russia and Iran not get full control of Syria and Iraq unless an enforceable agreement can be reached akin to a peace agreement. It’s either that or force must be mustered to stop them. As part of that agreement Israel would get to keep the Golan and Syria would agree to create a large buffer where no military activities would be allowed. That buffer would also extend to the land adjacent to Jordan.

In any scenario, the US must fully embrace Israel as a partner. The US has no military presence in the Middle East outside of a few aircraft carriers.  Thus, the presence of the Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) on the front lines greatly strengthens the US’s ability to project power immediately. This will add to her leverage.

It is also in the interests or the US to strengthen Israel by supporting a solution to the Palestinian problem in which Israel gets to annex all of Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The Palestinians would get autonomy only. Plus, the US must get the UN and the EU off Israel’s back. This will normalize Israel and enable her to play a larger regional role to the benefit of the US.

Furthermore, as ISIS is brought to heel in Syria and Iraq, it will foster terror cells all over the world. Gen. Flynn is tasked with not only defeating ISIS but defeating the Islamic ideology that fuels it. Israel, who has the most experience in fighting terrorism and the best intelligence, will be of great help and a willing partner. All the more reason, she must be normalized.

Finally, strengthening cyber security has become a national imperative. Once again Israel is one of the leading experts.

With these challenges in mind, President-Elect Trump has surrounded himself with the right people.

First there is the team at CSP who are dedicated to defeating the radical Islamic ideology who will support Gen Michael T. Flynn in this endeavor. This is of particular importance if the State Department is not cooperative. It will lessen dependence on it.

He has embraced strong Zionists, including ZOA, Friedman and Kushner who can help and direct him in how best to normalize Israel.

Finally he has nominated Rex Tillerson to be his Secretary of State.   Who better to find a way to bring Russia on board?

U.S. Navy ship targeted in failed missile attack from Yemen

By Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON

A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer was targeted on Sunday in a failed missile attack from territory in Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, a U.S. military spokesman told Reuters, saying neither of the two missiles hit the ship.

The attempted strike on the USS Mason, which was first reported by Reuters, came just a week after a United Arab Emirates vessel came under attack from Houthis and suggests growing risks to the U.S. military from Yemen’s conflict.

The U.S. government, which has become increasingly vocal about civilian casualties in the war, this weekend announced a review of its support to a Saudi Arabia-led coalition battling the Houthis after a strike on mourners in the capital Sanaa that killed up to 140 people.

The failed missile attack on the USS Mason began around 7 p.m. local time, when the ship detected two inbound missiles over a 60-minute period in the Red Sea off Yemen’s coast, the U.S. military said.

“Both missiles impacted the water before reaching the ship,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said. “There were no injuries to our sailors and no damage to the ship.”

Saudi Arabia and the United States blame Shi’ite Iran for supplying weapons to the Houthis. Tehran views the Houthis, who are from a Shi’ite sect, as the legitimate authority in Yemen but denies it supplies them with weapons.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the first missile triggered counter-measures from the USS Mason. It was not immediately clear whether those defenses may have helped prevent a direct hit on the ship.

The USS Mason did not return fire, the official said, adding that the incident took place just north of the Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen’s southern coast.

Last week’s attack on the UAE vessel also took place around the Bab al-Mandab strait, in what the UAE branded an “act of terrorism.”

In 2013, more than 3.4 million barrels of oil passed through the 20 km (12 mile)-wide Bab al-Mandab each day, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

It was unclear what actions the U.S. military might take, but Davis stressed a commitment to defend freedom of navigation and protect U.S. forces.

“We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of our ships and our servicemembers,” he said.

The attack also came the same day that Yemen’s powerful former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key Houthi ally, called for an escalation of attacks against Saudi Arabia, demanding “battle readiness at the fronts on the (Saudi) border”.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war. The United Nations blames Saudi-led coalition strikes for 60 percent of some 3,800 civilian deaths since they began in March 2015.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Paul Tait)

Nothing can be done in Syria? Not true.

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With world leaders gathered in Jerusalem for the funeral of Shimon Peres, a unique opportunity presents itself for decisive action by the West to intervene in the Syrian bloodbath.

First, it’s simply false that nothing can be done.

In her 2002 book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, current American U.N. ambassador Samantha Power makes this point over and over again.  In reviewing the history of the genocides in Armenia, European Jewry, Bosnia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Kosovo, Power makes the case that in all but one of those instances, the United States and the other major powers knew what was going on and did nothing.

In each case, the West went through three phases: warning, recognition, and response.

Only in Kosovo did America and the EU act decisively – after widespread publicity and public outcry.

Well, we certainly have that now.  And, after Mr. Kerry’s latest pratfall, it’s time to pass the baton to someone else.

And, as it happens, Samantha Power – with coauthor Derek Chollet – has written a highly relevant book: The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World, published in 2011.  It was written while Power was already on the Obama National Security Council and addresses the career of the late Richard Holbrooke.  In particular, it tells the tale of the U.S. diplomatic tactics, ploys, and military moves that ended the Serbian genocide against the Muslims of the former Yugoslavia.

It’s engrossing and informative and a homage to the Democratic Party’s brightest – and most controversial – diplomatic star.  It’s a pretty question whether, had Holbrooke not collapsed and died in Hillary Clinton’s Foggy Bottom office, he would have succeeded her as secretary of state.  But the relevance of the read today is as a toolbox for answering the question: what would Richard Holbrooke do in Syria?

In A Problem from Hell, Power found that three excuses occurred again and again for non-action: futility, perversity, and jeopardy.  All have been heard in the course of the Syrian catastrophe.

“Futility” is what we’re hearing now: nothing can be done.

“Perversity” is the danger of unintended consequences.  Syria is already a stew of unintended consequences run riot.  This excuse doesn’t hunt, either.

“Jeopardy” hasn’t come up yet.  But it probably will – because there are Russian and Iranian military assets in Syrian territory.

Here’s one we may also hear.  Because of the closeness of the American election and impending change of chief executive, nothing can be done.  Mr. Obama should leave this one to his successor.

Let me knock the futility” excuse in the head and be done.  Here is an options list for the principals and their deputies in Jerusalem to consider.

First, options unlikely to result in casualties:

a) Recall U.S., U.K., and French ambassadors from Moscow and go to the United Nations General Assembly to seek a declaration that Syria’s seat at the U.N. is vacant.  When passed, close Syria’s mission to the U.N. in New York.

b) Ask the U.N. General Assembly to amend the U.N. Charter to eliminate Russia’s permanent seat (and veto) on the Security Council.

c) Announce a no-fly zone over Syria, which will start on Monday.

d) Proclaim a naval blockade of Syria, including of the Russian naval base at Latakia, to start on Monday.

e) Present a resolution to the Security Council authorizing the use of force in Syria.  When Russia vetoes that, introduce a uniting-for-peace resolution in the General Assembly, which will have the same effect.

f) Present a resolution in the Security Council to create an international war crimes tribunal for Syria.  If the Russians are still able to veto that, seek a referral to the International Criminal Court.  If that’s blocked, France and the U.K. should sue Russia in the International Court of Justice for a declaration that they and their ally, the Assad regime, have committed war crimes in Syria.

In other words: raise holy hell.  And don’t stop.

Second, besides proclamation and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Syria, what military options are available to accomplish a humanitarian intervention?

a) Remote destruction of Syrian artillery and anti-aircraft facilities, including radar installations.

b) If necessary to stop Syrian attacks, remote targeting of Syria’s top leadership and command and control.

c) If Syrian attacks still don’t stop, use cruise missiles to target Syria’s national command authority, including President Assad.

d) Once the no-fly zone is in place, send in guarded relief convoys, accompanied by troops, helicopters, and drones.

e) As soon as possible, reopen airports to deliver people, supplies, and equipment by air.

f) Pending that, drop food and medical supplies in conflict areas.

g) Declare and establish “safe zones” for refugees.

h) Set up of temporary hospitals in conflict areas.

i) Deployment of two Saudi Arabian mechanized divisions, with American advisers, to enforce a truce.

j) Deployment of Jordanian military police, with U.S. contractors, to provide security and day-to-day law enforcement.

In short, decisive action.  The time for talking is over.  The only question now is the famous one from The Untouchables: “What are you prepared to do?”

Mr. President?  Mr. Secretary General?

Ambassador Power?