PACKER’S CORNER: There are Fires Burning All Around Us

Last night we celebrated Lag B’Omer all over Israel by lighting bonfires (background: They are oodles of fun, and only slightly dangerous. However there are other fires burning in the region, so let’s talk about those.
Over the past week or so, Israel has seriously bombed Iranian targets in Syria. How many? Not clear. All the info comes from Syria, so that’s worth about as much as their currency and integrity combined. Nonetheless, its safe to say that Israel is putting the hurt on them pretty good. So far, Iran hasn’t been able to muster much of a response other than a solid mix of redundant threats and pre-school style whining.
In addition to these attacks, probably the biggest news of the week: The Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Agency, known for daring overseas missions, has captured and brought to Israel something like 110,000 documents about Iran’s “secret” nuclear program. This week, the Prime Minister did a live presentation on Israeli TV about some of that information. Some critics are claiming that there is nothing new in the info. That is pure idiocy. How about that there is literally a half-ton of documents on all kinds of things. This is without speaking about how incredible it is that they found and got these documents to Israel in the first place. In short, major coup for the Mossad, Israel and Netanyahu.
And how about the timing?!!! Just 2 weeks before President Trump has to decide if the US will stay in Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran or pull out. Shocker alert: this info ain’t great for the deal. Can’t ever predict what Trump will do, but not even Obama would waste his time praying to allah on this one.
This one is far from over, but its not like it just started either. In the meantime, Iran is shooting ballistic missiles from Yemen on Saudi Arabia. So they got alot going on.
The Arab attacks on the border between Israel and Gaza continue. Mostly on Fridays, but on other days as well. On the whole, these violent pep rallies have been abysmal failures. The only “bright” spots for the terrorists are their “success” in flying burning kites – some with swastikas on them for effect, and honesty – into Israel and setting fields on fire. The biggest such fire was today and burned an otherwise pretty field. Let’s hope and pray this continues to be their greatest “success”.
In President Trump news:
-Good chance he’ll free Jonathan Pollard in the near future
-Good chance he might come for the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem or soon thereafter
It is becoming harder and harder for loyal Jews to complain about him. When they do, they appear more and more like that skank comedienne “lady” from the fake news prom this past Sat. night = SAD.
But we aren’t supposed be sad today – Happy Lag B’Omer!

U.S. Confirms Authenticity of Secret Iran Nuclear Docs, Officials See Game Over for Deal

Trump administration officials praise Netanyahu’s ‘powerful presentation’

U.S. officials and congressional insiders view the disclosure Monday by Israel of Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop a nuclear weapon as game over for the landmark nuclear deal, telling the Washington Free Beacon that new evidence of Iran’s top secret nuclear workings makes it virtually impossible for President Donald Trump to remain in the agreement.

Senior Trump administration officials confirmed the findings as authentic and praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s for disclosing thousands of secret documents proving Iran lied about its past work on a nuclear warhead, telling the Free Beacon the revelation was a “powerful presentation” by Israel outlining why the Iran deal must be fixed or killed.

U.S. officials who reviewed the secret documents confirmed their authenticity and said that Israel has shared the information fully with the United States, most likely to help build the case for Trump to abandon the nuclear deal, rather than try to fix what the White House views as a series of insurmountable flaws.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon say that Monday’s presentation by Netanyahu resulted from a recent conversation between the prime minister and Trump, who has expressed his opposition to remaining in the deal.

During his presentation, Netanyahu disclosed that Israel had obtained some 100,000 secret documents that provide “conclusive proof” Iran lied to the world about its past nuclear work. The Israeli leader further presented information from these documents purporting to show that Iran continues to build on its nuclear know-how in pursuit of a fully functioning weapon.

While Trump has not made a final decision on whether to scrap the deal, sources close to the president say he is increasingly wary of the deal itself, as well as proposed fixes to the deal currently being discussed by the Europeans.

One senior administration official, speaking only on background, confirmed to the Free Beacon that the United States assessed the secret documents obtained by Israel to be fully authentic.

“All the materials we have reviewed are in our assessment authentic,” the official said, praising Netanyahu for presenting the evidence to the world.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful presentation today of compelling new evidence documenting Iran’s determined pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” the senior official said. “It certainly would have been helpful to have this information when the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] was negotiated but the Iranians decided to lock it away in a secret vault for future reference.”

The cache of documents showing that Iran has retained the infrastructure and know-how to produce a nuclear weapon has cast further doubts on U.S. efforts to broker a series of fixes to the landmark agreement.

“Only the regime knows what else they’re hiding, but the revelations today don’t give us much confidence in their protestations that they have never had interest in militarizing their nuclear program,” the official said. “They’re showing us in Syria how they plan to deploy their existing arsenal—we would be foolish to think that behavior is going to change because of a deal that was implemented two years ago that was based on a lie.”

Following Netanyahu’s remarks, Trump emphasized his opposition to the deal.

Those familiar with the president’s thinking said that he has soured on efforts to fix the deal and would prefer to see a wholly new agreement, a demand Iran has rejected in recent days.

Trump “made a clear signal today that he’s not confident in the JCPOA,” said the senior administration official. “The decision is with him and I don’t think he’s made it, but he seemed to indicate he’s more open to a new deal then to try to fix something this broken.”

A senior congressional official who has worked closely with the White House on the Iran issue told the Free Beacon the news has sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill.

“Everything the Obama administration told us about the Iranian nuclear program was a lie,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. “They assured us that we knew everything about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, that it was put on ice, and that the intelligence community had full insight into what was going on.”

“Now we find out the Iranians have warehouses of nuclear weapons designs. People are in shock,” the source said. “Forget the policy implications, which get to the heart of the deal, this shows how the whole sale was built on a lie. Expect to see momentum build in Congress for just scrapping the whole thing.”

The White House National Security Council and the State Department have yet to comment formally on Netanyahu’s disclosures.

Originally Published in the Free Beacon.


Pompeo, Iran, and the Coming Middle Eastern Storm

With thirteen days left until Trump announces his intention to either certify or decertify the Iranian nuclear deal, an eerie calm has engulfed the Middle East.  This calm has been broken only by the new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s whirlwind tour of the region shortly after being confirmed by the Senate.

With no one knowing what Trump will decide on May 12th, the region understands that either decision could in fact draw the Middle East into an intractable conflict. This has been clear given Russia’s stepped up arms shipments to Syria after Trump’s bombing of Syrian chemical weapon’s sites.   Add in Iran’s bellicose statements about attacking the US if they decertify the JCPOA and the tension is palpable.

President Trump is clearly in a bind.  If he decertifies the nuclear deal he will most surely be propelling the Middle East into a conflict of unknown directions.  If he recertifies the deal, he will buy the USA and the world only a short time.  Iran thrives off weakness and if Trump decides to stay in the deal, the Iranians will see that as a go ahead to bolster their positions in Syria. Israel, Saudi, Arabia, and other Gulf States will have a choice to make: Go it alone now and risk being embroiled in a war against Iran or wait and most likely face an even stronger enemy.

Picking Pompeo for Secretary of State is a message that Trump is willing to put his foot down when necessary.  With the growing Iranian menace drawing closer to Israel, Pompeo’s ascendancy is no accident.  To be clear, the USA appears to be set on drawing down their troop levels in Syria if possible, but this means that greater back up will be given to regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mike Pompeo said this today after meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.

Regarding the JCPOA, President Trump’s been pretty clear: this deal is very flawed. He’s directed the administration to try and fix it, and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal. It’s pretty straightforward.

Unlike the past administration, President Trump has a comprehensive Iran strategy that is designed to counter the full array of threats emanating from Tehran.

As part of the President’s comprehensive Iran strategy, we are also working to counter the broad set of non-nuclear threats: Iran’s missile systems, its support for Hezbollah, the importation of thousands of proxy fighters into Syria and its assistance to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. We look forward to working closely with strong allies like Israel in countering these threats and rolling back the full range of Iranian malign influence.”

It is apparent that barring a last minute change that Trump is moving towards decertifying the JCPOA, which would collapse the Iranian nuclear accords.  This will put the region on edge.  With an America depleted after fighting several wars over the last 15 years, the Trump administration finds itself having to back up its regional allies.

This was clearly why it was necessary for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to fly immediately to the Middle East even before he had moved into his office.

The drums of war are pounding away.

The storm is approaching.



Understanding Trump’s America First foreign policy.

It’s really not that complicated.

But President Trump’s Syria strikes have reopened the debate over what defines his foreign policy. Is he an interventionist or an isolationist? Foreign policy experts claim that he’s making it up as he goes along.

But they’re not paying attention.

President Trump’s foreign policy has two consistent elements. From threatening Kim Jong-Un on Twitter to moving the embassy to Jerusalem to bombing Syria, he applies pressure and then he disengages.

Here’s how that works.

First, Trump pressures the most intransigent and hostile side in the conflict. Second, he divests the United States from the conflict leaving the relevant parties to find a way to work it out.

North Korea had spent decades using its nuclear program to bully its neighbors and the United States. Previous administrations had given the Communist dictatorship $1.3 billion in aid to keep it from developing its nuclear program. These bribes failed because they incentivized the nuclear program.

Nukes are the only thing keeping North Korea from being just another failed Communist dictatorship.

Instead, Trump called North Korea’s bluff. He ignored all the diplomatic advice and ridiculed its regime. He made it clear that the United States was not afraid of North Korean nukes. The experts shrieked. They warned that Kim Jong-Un wouldn’t take this Twitter abuse and we would be in for a nuclear war.

But the Norks folded.

The Communist regime held high level talks with the United States and South Korea. It’s reportedly planning to announce an official end to the war. That probably won’t amount to much in the long term, but it shifts more of the responsibility for the conflict away from the United States and to the Koreas.

Trump accomplished more with a few tweets than previous administrations had with billions of dollars.

An instinctive negotiator, Trump’s realpolitik genius lay not in ideology, but in grasping the core negotiating strategy of the enemy and then negating it by taking away its reason not to make a deal.

When Trump called North Korea’s bluff, its nuclear weapons program was transformed from an asset that it used to blackmail aid from its potential targets into a liability that could end with its destruction.

Trump did the same thing with Jerusalem.

The PLO had refused to make a deal with Israel because its constant refusals to negotiate allowed it to keep escalating its demands. The more it sabotaged negotiations, the better the offers became.

The PLO’s Palestinian Authority didn’t have nukes, but its weapon of choice was terrorism. And it had played the same game as North Korea for decades. It would begin negotiations, demand payoffs, then sabotage negotiations, threaten violence, and demand an even higher payoff for ending the violence.

The PLO/PA knew that it could get the best possible deal by not making a deal.

Just like North Korea, Trump cut the PLO down to size by negating its negotiating strategy. Instead of the deal getting better and better, Trump showed that it would get worse by taking Jerusalem off the table.

Previous administrations had rewarded the PLO/PA for its refusal to make a deal by sweetening the pot. Instead Trump threatened to take away Jerusalem, the biggest prize in the pot. And then he warned that the PLO would lose even more of its demands if the terrorist group continued to refuse to make a deal.

Unlike Clinton, Bush and Obama, Trump did not overcompensate for the US-Israel relationship by pressuring the Jewish State to make a deal with the PLO so as to seem like an “honest broker”. Instead he leveraged that relationship to move the United States away from the conflict.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem sends the signal that the US-Israel relationship doesn’t depend on a deal with the PLO. That’s the opposite of the messages that Clinton, Bush and Obama had sent.

Their old failed diplomacy that made the US-Israel relationship dependent on a deal with the PLO had given the terrorists control over our foreign policy. The US and Israel were perversely forced into appeasing the terrorists of the PLO just to be able to maintain a relationship with each other.

Trump kicked the PLO out of the driver’s seat. And the terrorist group is becoming isolated.

Saudi Arabia and its allies are much more focused on Iran than the old proxy war against Israel. And, for the moment, that leaves the PLO with few allies. If it doesn’t make a deal, then the United States will rebuild its relationship with Israel around regional security issues. And the Saudis have signaled that they are willing to do the same thing. Then everyone else exits the conflict except Israel and the PLO.

Trump left it to the South Koreans to decide the conflict with North Korea. Ditto for Israel.

The United States will put forward proposals, but the long game is to get America out these conflicts. And Trump does that by turning the United States from an eager mediator to a bully with a big stick.

He made it clear to Kim Jong-Un that he would have a much easier time negotiating with South Korea than with America. And he’s made it equally clear to the PLO that it’s better off turning to Israel than to its allies in the State Department. The message is, “You don’t want to get the United States involved.”

Previous administrations believed that the United States had an integral role in resolving every conflict. President Trump’s America First policy seeks to limit our involvement in foreign conflicts without robbing us of our influence by making those interventions as decisive and abrasive as possible.

It breaks every rule of contemporary diplomacy. But it has plenty of historical precedents. And it works.

President Trump wants to get out of Syria. But he doesn’t want to hand Iran another win. And he doesn’t want to get the United States bogged down in another disastrous regional conflict.

So, just like in North Korea and Israel, he sent a decisive message of strength.

The strikes were a reminder that unlike his predecessor, he was not afraid of using force. But just as in North Korea and Israel, the show of strength was only a lever for disengaging from the conflict.

Instead, Trump wants to bring in an “Arab force” to stabilize parts of Syria. That would checkmate Iran, split Syria between the Shiites and Sunnis, and ‘Arabize’ the conflict while getting America out of it.

The threat of more strikes would give an Arab force credibility without an actual American commitment.

And the threat of a Sunni Arab force is meant to pressure Assad into making a deal that would limit Iran’s influence over Syria. If Assad wants to restore complete control over Syria, he’ll have to make a deal with the Sunnis inside or outside his country. And that will limit Iran’s influence and power in Syria.

The debates over chemical attacks were never the real issue. Keeping weapons like that out of the hands of terror-linked states like Syria is good policy. But there was a much bigger picture.

Iran took advantage of the Obama era to expand its power and influence. Trump wants to roll back Iranian expansionism while limiting American exposure to the conflict. Once again he’s using a show of strength to mobilize the local players into addressing the problem while keeping his future plans vague.

Assad’s biggest reason for refusing to make a deal was that Iran’s backing made his victory inevitable. Iran and Hezbollah had paid a high price for winning in Syria. But they were unquestionably winning. The only thing that could change that is direct American intervention. And Trump wants Assad to fear it.

Trump is offering Assad the rule of his country. But to get it, he has to dump his biggest partner.

When Trump came into office, the two bad options were arming the Sunni Jihadis or letting Iran’s Shiite Jihadis win. Instead Trump has come up with a third option. Either keep the war going or force a deal.

Either the conflict will drag on, but with minimal American involvement. Or Assad will sell out Iran.

None of these are ideal options. But there are no good options. Not in North Korea, Israel or Syria. The Norks and the PLO aren’t likely to reform. Syria, like Iraq, will stay divided between feuding Islamic sects. None of these problems will go away at the negotiating table. And Trump understands that.

Trump is too much of a dealmaker to believe in the unlimited promise of diplomatic agreements.  He knows that it takes leverage not just to make a deal, but to keep it in place. And he doesn’t believe that the United States can make a deal work when a key player really doesn’t want the deal to happen.

Trump’s Art of the International Deal identifies the roadblocks to previous agreements, breaks them down, puts the local players in the driver’s seat and then makes fixing the problem into their problem.

Obama’s people dubbed his failed diplomacy, “Smart Power”. Call Trump’s diplomacy, “Deal Power.”

Originally Published in FrontPageMag

Caroline Glick: 5 Key Points About the U.S.-Led Syria Strike

The United States, United Kingdom, and France joined in a combined operation on April 14 that used “precision” strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure. The following are key points about the raid.

1. Operationally, the strike showed the U.S. has the capacity to conduct airstrikes with allies, against significant targets, with minimal lead time.

It took less than a week for the U.S. and its allies to organize and position the air and naval platforms they used to carry out the missile assault. Indeed, according to the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Defense James Mattis delayed the strikes twice, despite operational readiness.

This demonstration of operational speed and competence tells us two things. First, President Donald Trump is respected by U.S. allies. French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May trusted Trump’s seriousness of purpose enough to join him in launching the missile strikes with little to no diplomatic jockeying.

In 2013, when then-president Barack Obama geared up to attack Syrian regime targets after Syrian President Bashar Assad killed 1,400 people in a sarin gas attack on East Ghouta, the British parliament refused to authorize British forces to participate in the planned strike.

The French, for their part, were left in a lurch by Obama. French bomber pilots were in their cockpits waiting to take off when they were informed that Obama had called off the airstrikes at the last minute.

In addition, Saturday’s strike showed that the U.S. has the capacity to degrade and destroy high value targets through indirect fire. U.S. pilots did not have to fly over their targets to bomb them. By the same token, if it chooses to do so, the U.S. can destroy the vast majority of Iran’s nuclear installations from a safe distance with Tomahawk and other precision guided weapons.

2. The operational success of the missile strike does not infer either tactical or strategic gains.

Tactically, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is correct that by bombing chemical weapons targets, the U.S. and its allies “set [the Syrians’] chemical weapons program back years.”

At the same time, the advance warning the U.S. provided the Syrians regarding the impending strike gave the Syrians the opportunity to remove significant assets and manpower from bases and installations before they were attacked.

As a consequence, high value materials and personnel were probably not at the installations when they were attacked on Saturday morning.

Haley said on CBS News’ Face the Nation that the U.S. was not interested in “killing anyone” in the attack. That is fine in and of itself. But by providing advance warning of the impending strike, the U.S. diminished the tactical losses that Syria incurred. This is doubly true given that according to Mattis and Marine General James Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the installations attacked were engaged in developing sarin gas. To date, the U.S. and its allies have said that they lack conclusive evidence that the April 7 chemical attack involved sarin. According to Mattis, they have only been able to determine conclusively that the Assad regime used chlorine gas in the attack. In other words, Syria’s ability to carry out further chlorine attacks was apparently not diminished on Saturday morning.

3. From a strategic perspective, it is difficult to know whether the strike was meaningful, largely because the Trump administration has given contradictory statements about its actual goals in Syria.

Officially, the Trump administration’s goal in Syria is the same goal that the Obama administration articulated: defeating the “Islamic State,” or ISIS. Mattis has been assiduous in opposing the expansion of that strategic goal. His insistence on preserving Obama’s strategy in place in Syria has confounded observers, who note that the purpose of Obama’s campaign against Islamic State was to protect the Assad regime to placate Iran in the hopes of developing a strategic alliance with Teheran. Obama’s keenness to align U.S. policy with Iranian interests made him blind to the threat that Teheran’s expansionism and nuclear proliferation constituted to the U.S. and its allies.

On Saturday, Mattis told reporters the missile strike was a “one-time shot.” Last Thursday, Mattis told  Congress, “Our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS. We are not going to engage in the civil war itself.”

Following Saturday’s strike, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said, “This operation does not represent a change in U.S. policy nor was it an attempt to depose the Syria regime.”

But then, it isn’t clear the degree to which Mattis speaks for President Trump.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump pushed Mattis and his generals to expand the range of the attack to punish Iran and Russia for enabling the regime’s use of chemical weapons. Trump was reportedly “unhappy with the more limited options they… presented to him.” The same report indicated that Mattis said that “anything other than a ‘show strike’ risked broader escalation with the Russians in particular.”

With former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gone, the Journal report claimed that Mattis was the lone voice calling for the U.S. to take no strategically significant action. Haley, along with new National Security Advisor John Bolton and Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan, all supported a more expansive effort.

In her interview on Face the Nation, Haley contradicted Mattis’s position that Obama’s strategy in Syria must be preserved. Haley indicated that the U.S. goals in Syria extend beyond defeating ISIS. Haley said the US has three goals it needs to achieve before it can withdraw its military forces from the country. First, she said, the US needs to ensure that there can be no “chemical weapons usage anywhere.” Second, she said that ISIS needs to be fully defeated. Third, Haley said, “We want to make sure that the influence of Iran doesn’t take over the area. They continue to cause problems throughout the region and we want to make sure that there is a hold.”

Haley added, “The president has asked the allies to step up and do more when it comes to Syria.” Apparently, they are.

On Saturday night, the Syrian media reported loud explosions at an Iranian base south of Aleppo. According to reports – which were contradictory – unidentified aircraft executed the strike. Some reports alleged that the aircraft were Israeli. If Israel did strike the Iranian base, it would be the second Iranian position Israel has been accused of bombing in the past week.

Speaking to his cabinet Sunday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The element that is undermining the Middle East more than any other is Iran, and … President Assad must understand that when he allows Iran and its proxies to establish its military presence in Syria, he is endangering Syria and the stability of the entire region.”

4. The U.S.-led attack signaled that at least for now, the U.S. has made its peace with Russian power in Syria and the wider Mediterranean basin.

Mattis succeeded in blocking any action against Russian interests in Syria. As Dunford noted, the Pentagon was in close contact with the Russians to ensure that there was no conflict between U.S. and Russian forces in Syria. Mattis’s explicitly stated concern with avoiding conflict with Russia indicated that at least as far as the Pentagon is concerned, the U.S. must not challenge Russia’s entrenchment in Syria.

Regardless of the actual policy adopted regarding Russia, objectively, Russia’s presence in Syria is a problem for the U.S. for three main reasons. First, Russia views its deployment in Syria first and foremost as a means to restore Russia’s superpower status by challenging U.S. power. In other words, Russia’s main goal in Syria is to weaken the U.S.

Second, U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia are no match for Russia. So long as Russia remains in Syria, it facilitates and protects Iran’s entrenchment in the country. Since neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia can contend with Russia, they cannot prevent Iran from effectively taking over the country both directly and through its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies. In other words, dealing with Russia is a job the U.S. cannot subcontract to its regional allies and they cannot achieve their regional goals so long as Russia remains unchallenged.

Finally, the Russian presence in Syria is a problem for the U.S. because it expands Russia’s influence over Turkey at America’s expense. It is true that Turkey has not been a credible U.S. ally for several years. But it is also true that the more Putin pushes Turkey away from the U.S., the more damage the U.S. will suffer to its strategic interests in the region.

The U.S. may very well lack good options for challenging Russia. Obama’s acquiescence to Russia’s entrenchment in Syria destroyed U.S. dominance in the Middle East in one fell swoop. Haley claimed Sunday that the U.S. intends to punish Russia for its facilitation of Assad’s war crimes by implementing new sanctions against Russian “companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”

It remains to be seen how those sanctions will impact Putin’s cost-benefit analysis. But it is hard to see that sanctions, however harsh, will outweigh what Putin perceives as the benefits of maintaining Russia’s presence in Syria.

5. Saturday’s strike showed that the U.S. is again a force to be reckoned with in Syria.

Despite the limited if not altogether nonexistent immediate tactical and strategic significance of the strike, by undertaking it, Trump took another important step towards restoring U.S. credibility and power in the region. This is a necessary precursor to any tactically and strategically significant operation in the future. Since the administration is clearly revisiting its strategic posture and goals in Syria, this is an altogether positive achievement.

Obama wrecked U.S. credibility in the Middle East, and arguably worldwide, in 2013, when at the last moment he failed to enforce the red line he drew regarding chemical weapons attacks. It is not clear that his red line, according to which the U.S. would respond to chemical weapons attacks, was a reasonable one. By saying the U.S. would respond to chemical attacks, Obama signaled that conventional killing methods were fine by him. Assad, who used conventional munitions to kill nearly half a million people, understood the message and continued killing.

But whether or not Obama’s red line was rational is beside the point. Once Obama drew a line in the sand, and then failed to maintain it when it was challenged, he weakened America in a fundamental way.

As a consequence, Trump has to defend Obama’s red line to restore American power and credibility. By retaliating against Assad’s April 7 chemical attack in Douma — and doing so with Britain and France – Trump communicated clearly that the U.S. demands respect. This message was a necessary precondition for successfully implementing whatever strategic goal the president and his team adopt regarding Syria and its Iranian and Russia sponsors.

Originally Published in Breitbart.

Three Potential Responses Putin May Take to a USA Attack on Syria

It is safe to assume that the current war of words between President Trump and Putin will escalate to a US attack on Syria.  At this point there is little doubt that Trump will follow through on his threats to attack Assad.  “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!'” Trump Tweeted yesterday.

The real unknown is the Russian response to a NATO backed US attack on Syria.

Putin will likely decide to create as much chaos as possible in responding to the USA.  Three things to expect after the attack (assuming the attack is limited to infrastructure) are the following:

Iranian Attack on Israel: Iran and Hezbollah will be given a green light to attack Israel in both the Galilee and the Golan.  This will draw Israel into a direct war, which has the potential to decimate Israeli population centers and more importantly for Russia to remove Israel from a position of help to the USA.

Overthrow elected governments in Lithuania and Latvia: These two Baltic States have been a  target for Putin’s desire to rebuild the former Russian empire.  Not only can he pull off coups in both places, he can easily move his forces into both countries using Russian separatists in the same way he has in Ukraine’s Donbass. This will be a major blow to both EU and NATO expansion and send the continent into a frantic tailspin.

Support Transnistria: Putin has long thrown soft support behind the Moldovian province of Transnistria, which would give him an anchor on the west of the Black Sea.  This may not be as threatening as overturning Lithuania or Latvia, but the message would be clear.  Russia is on the move and a real threat to European stability.

World War Three?

The above responses assume that Trump’s attack will be limited, but if Trump and his NATO allies or Israel actually take out Assad, then Russia and perhaps China will use that as a reason to threaten the USA and the West in a far more global manner.

Why America Shouldn’t Leave Syria, and the Kurds, Behind

President Donald Trump may about to throw the Kurds under the bus – and with them, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and American interests in the Middle East.

If concerns for securing the Pentagon budget are what convinced Trump to sign the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill last month, Pentagon concerns about keeping Islamist Turkey in NATO seem to be informing Trump’s thinking about abandoning the Kurds.

To the dismay of America’s allies and the delight of its enemies, President Trump declared last Thursday, in a speech in Ohio focused on infrastructure renewal, that he will soon recall U.S. forces now deployed to Syria to fight the Islamic State (or ISIS).

In his words: “We’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”

On its face, Trump’s statement seems reasonable. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama received congressional authorization to deploy U.S. forces to Syria to defeat ISIS, which had seized large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq, and had set up its so-called capital in Raqqa, Syria. But Obama’s war against ISIS was lackadaisical and inconclusive.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to obliterate ISIS. Upon taking office, he loosened the rules of engagement for U.S. forces, and devolved authority for making attacking decisions from Washington to the forces on the ground.

The results paid off. In December 2017, Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi announced that ISIS had been defeated in Iraq.

In October 2017, U.S. forces working with the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces defeated ISIS forces in Raqqa.

If fighting ISIS were the only reason for US forces to be in to Syria, then a reasonable argument could be made for leaving and letting “the other people take care of it [Syria] now.”

But that’s the thing, ISIS was arguably the group in Syria that constituted the smallest strategic threat to the US and its allies. Indeed, while supporting Obama’s decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior Israeli defense and military officials saidrepeatedly that Iran’s entrenchment in Syria constituted a far greater threat to the region and to global security than ISIS ever did.

Which brings us to the issue of “the other people” in Syria that Trump expects to take care of things after he removes U.S. forces.

Those “other people,” are not American allies. To the contrary.

The forces in position to take over the areas where U.S. forces are now deployed are Turkish, Iranian, and Russian. Unlike the Israelis and Saudis, the Iranians, Turks, and Russians share none of America’s interests in Syria.

Which brings us to the Kurds, who will be the immediate casualty of an American withdrawal from Syria.

The US victory against ISIS in Syria and Iraq would never have happened without the Kurdish YPG and the YPG-dominated SDF militia in Syria, nor without the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq. The Kurds were the ground forces that won the war.

Through their successful operations in Iraq and Syria, the Kurds earned U.S. support for their political aspirations for an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, and an independent Kurdish region in post-war Syria. Such independent Kurdish zones serve the larger American strategic interest of blocking Iran’s imperial aspirations. An independent Kurdistan in Iraq would block Iran from controlling the Iran-Iraq border. An independent Kurdish province in a post-war Syria would prevent Iran from controlling the Iraqi-Syrian border and thereby from gaining the capacity to extend its hegemonic reach from Tehran to Lebanon.

For the past several months, at a minimum, the Pentagon has been Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s most powerful ally in his political and military campaign against the Syrian Kurds in Washington.  The Pentagon’s consistent preference for Turkey over the Kurdish forces that brought the U.S. victory against ISIS springs from its desire to keep Turkey in NATO. The U.S. directs its operations in Syria through NATO’s Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The U.S. also stores nuclear warheads at the base.

After the failed military coup against Erdogan in July 2016, the regime cut off the power to Incirlik and effectively held the NATO personnel stationed there, including 2,700 U.S. military personnel, prisoner for several days. Rather than take the hint and make plans to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from the base and diminish American reliance on the base for NATO operations in the Middle East, the Pentagon worked to salvage U.S. relations with Turkey and Erdogan.

The argument has always been that no one wants to “lose” Turkey. But in the time that has elapsed since the failed coup, Erdogan has made clear that Turkey is already gone. In December, for example, he concluded a deal in to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense system. The U.S. has repeatedly said that the deal is unacceptable given Turkey’s NATO membership.

Turkey has also been threatening U.S. forces in Manbij, Syria, for months, claiming the YPG forces there are terrorists aligned with the Turkish Kurdish PKK force, which the U.S. has designated a terror group.

US and Kurdish forces seized Manbij from Islamic State in 2016. Until then, the Manbij was the hub of ISIS’s supply chain from Turkey. Indeed, Manbij’s fall exposed Turkey’s key role in facilitating ISIS operations in Syria.

Turkey launched an assault against the Kurdish-controlled Afrin province along the Turkish border in western Syria in January. In the three-month operation, the U.S. provided no support for the Kurdish YPG fighters while the Russians permitted the Turks to bomb the population from the sky at will.

In mid-March, the Kurdish defenders were routed and a massive stream of refugees, including Yazidis and Christians as well as Kurds, abandoned the area to the Turks. Speaking to Reuters and other media outlets, a Kurdish spokesman said that the Turks’ aim was demographic displacement and ethnic cleansing, as fleeing Kurds, Christians, and others were replaced by Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

Fresh on the heels of his victory in Afrin, this week Erdogan aannounced his intention to attack Kurdish PKK forces in Sinjar, Iraq. Kurdish forces in Sinjar have protected the Yazidis, who returned to the area after it was overrun by ISIS in 2014.

On March 28, Defense Secretary Mattis indicated that the U.S. supports the Turkish intention to remove the PKK forces from Sinjar.

But rather than demonstrating appreciation for the administration’s support, Erdogan is escalating his strategic embrace of Russia and Iran  – at America’s expense.

On Tuesday, Erdogan will host Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Mediterranean coastal town of Akkuyu for a ceremony marking the opening of a Russian-built nuclear power plant at the site. From there, the two leaders will travel to Ankara for a trilateral summit on the future of Syria with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

If the U.S. removes its forces from Syria, Iran and Turkey can be expected to annihilate the Kurds. And, as they did in Afrin, the Russians will stand on the sidelines.

A rout of the Kurds in Syria will be an unmitigated strategic disaster for the U.S. and its allies on two levels.

First in relation to Syria itself, without the Kurds, the U.S. will have no allies on the ground. The Turks, Iranians and Russians will divide the country between them. Iran will have accomplished its goal of controlling a contiguous band of territory stretching from Iran to Lebanon. With its gains in Syria consolidated, the prospect of war between Iran and Israel on the one hand, and Iran and Saudi Arabia on the other, will rise to near-certainty.

In the event of such a war, the damage will not be limited to America’s chief strategic allies in the Middle East, which will absorb devastating losses through joint attacks by Iran and its Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iraqi proxies.

As global financial analyst and strategic commentator David Goldman notes, the prospect of a global financial shock will rise to near certainty. “When you throw a lit match into a barrel of gas, you will get a big fire,” Goldman explains.

If Iran and Saudi Arabia go to war, they will target one another’s oil installations, he explains. “The price of a barrel of oil will rise to $200. Even though the U.S. is energy independent, the global price will still rise due to supply loss, and the global economy will be shut down.” Goldman continues.

“This will be the Trump Depression,” he concludes.

In other words, the 2,000 American troops in Syria are what stand between the U.S. and a meltdown of the global economy. They prevent war in the Middle East by denying Iran the ability to consolidate its victories in Syria and to launch wars directly, or through its proxies, against Israel and Saudi Arabia.

This brings us to the second problem with Trump’s appeasement of Turkey and his intent to withdraw from Syria.

If the U.S. betrays the Kurds in Syria, it will scupper any prospect of a popular rebellion inside of Iran that can destabilize and ultimately overthrow the regime. The Iranian Kurds, like the Syrian, Turkish and Iraqi Kurds, suffer from state-sponsored discrimination and oppression. They are geographically and culturally distinct from the rest of Iran. If inspired to do so, they would play a key role in a popular uprising against the regime. Without the Kurds, it is difficult to see how such a revolution could succeed or even begin.

If the U.S. abandons the Kurds of Syria, any chance that the Iranian Kurds would rise up is gone.

In the next five weeks, Trump will decide whether to remain in Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran or to abandon it. If the U.S. remains in Syria, then a U.S. abandonment of the nuclear deal coupled with a reinstatement of significant economic sanctions against Tehran would diminish Iran’s regional standing and economic prospects. But if Trump abandons the deal and abandons Syria, the moves would likely cancel one another out.

Iran will be so empowered by a U.S. abandonment of Syria that it will likely be in a position to abandon the nuclear deal in response to a U.S. move, reinstate its high-level uranium enrichment activities, and suffer few consequences. No longer concerned about U.S. responses, many nations will make their peace with a nuclear-armed Iran and defy American sanctions.

Trump is right to wish to bring the troops home from Syria. But the price American will pay – militarily, strategically and economically — for removing U.S. forces from Syria and abandoning the Kurds will far outpace the advantages of walking away from the mess.

Indeed, the price America will pay for “losing” the already-lost Turkey will be far lower than the price the US will pay for abandoning its Kurdish allies.

Originally Published in Breitbart.

Americans Acknowledge Deep State as Public Disclosure of Crimes Looms

A stunning poll from Monmouth University revealed how a clear majority of Americans have woken up to the concept of a ‘deep state’.

 ‘Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington. This includes 27% who say it definitely exists and 47% who say it probably exists. Only 1-in-5 say it does not exist (16% probably not and 5% definitely not).’

This poll validates the genuineness of the ‘great awakening’ facilitated by President Trump (and his close associates). Every day, thousands of Americans achieve awareness of the unbelievable level of corruption in the political system. I have covered how, in the past, a number of politicians alluded to this concept of a deep state. Examples include President Eisenhower’s reference to the military–industrial complex and President Kennedy’s speech warning of ‘secret societies’ and a ‘monolithic and ruthless conspiracy’. Shockingly, just this past Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul answered ‘absolutely’ when directly asked if a deep state exists.

For specific names of deep state activists, you can point to a former employee of both the CIA and FBI Philip Mudd who, in referring to the President, said they [the deep state] will ‘kill this guy’. Interestingly, Mr. Mudd is alleged to be a direct descendant of Samuel Mudd, an American physician who was imprisoned for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I suppose there is some genetic disposition within the Mudd family to overthrowing governments.

In January, President Trump referenced the ‘deep state’ in a tweet. But, in a speech last month at CPAC, he vaguely referred to ‘forces’ that don’t have the people’s best interest: 
‘We’re fighting a lot of forces.  They’re forces that are doing the wrong thing.  They’re just doing the wrong thing.  I don’t want to talk about what they have in mind.  But they do the wrong thing.  But we’re doing what’s good for our country for the long-term viability and survival.’

The President is most likely hinting at a much darker reality where his enemies are not simply part of rogue intelligence agencies. Perhaps, he is channeling the qanon posts, described by New York Magazine as:

‘…someone calling themselves Q began posting a series of cryptic messages in a /pol/ thread titled “Calm Before the Storm” (assumedly in reference to that creepy Trump quote from early October). Q claimed to be a high-level government insider with Q clearance (hence the name) tasked with posting intel drops — which he, for some reason, called “crumbs” — straight to 4chan in order to covertly inform the public about POTUS’s master plan to stage a countercoup against members of the deep state.’

These posts have been widely mocked by mainstream media publications like Newsweek as ‘fake news’. Curiously, Newsweek did notreceive a comment from the White House on a claim made by Alex Jones that he was told by them to start covering the qanon posts. As of today, there has been no public statement from the Trump administration on the authenticity of these qanon posts. The silence speaks for itself.

Originall Published in News with Chai.

PACKER’S CORNER: Trump Will Negate Obama’s Iran Deal

The President of the “Palestinian Authority” Abu Mazen called the American Ambassador to Israel a “son of a bitch”. That doesn’t happen everyday. But in fairness to Abu Mazen, America has never had such a proud Jew as an ambassador before. The last few have been quite the sellouts. Abu Mazen probably loved them! David Friedman, not so much.

However, this just wasn’t enough excitement, so… Israel officially revealed that they bombed a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007. Now that is exciting! Most folks were already pretty aware of this, but now we had details. This, predictably, started a whole war of words (luckily not a real war with Syria) between different Israeli political and security figures. They argued like bickering children over who should get the credit, how the strike happened, how war was avoided and whether or not this information should have been released now. Somehow Netanyahu will get the credit (despite not being in power at the time), he’s just that good at this.

Many think this is a message to Iran not to mess. With the new and improved Trump Administration potentially poised to negate Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran in the next few months, Iran needs to know its place. Showcasing Israel’s ability to blow up nuclear facilities would be a nice warning. Additionally, as the Syrian government creeps closer to winning the civil war in their country, they also need to know that messing with Israel is never a good idea. I like to think of the whole thing as an early Happy Ramadan message to the entire muslim world, and don’t mess.

Very unfortunately, there have been victims of terror attacks in the past week in Israel. Two soldiers were killed (and two injured) in the northern Shomron and an Israeli civilian was killed in the Old City of Jerusalem. These attacks appear to have been carried out by individuals and not so premeditated. One attacker was captured and one killed. The terrorist who killed Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal was also captured this week in Shechem. They never get away. They know this, but they do it anyway. Something to ponder.

Remains to be seen how/if Israel will respond to these attacks. Will keep everyone posted.

In some good news, it looks like former residents of the destroyed community of Amona will move into houses this week, before Passover, in the new community of Amichai – near Shiloh. Rarely does Israel meet deadlines, but Passover is Passover. Hopefully the large families will experience a sense of “freedom” from the small dormitory rooms they’ve been confined to for the past year. Looking forward to those pictures.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to be questioned about something next week. At this point, even the left seems bored with this. Makes more sense for them to go through the Haggadah to be ready for the Seder(s)!

BREAKING: Turkish Forces Begin Assault on Afrin City

Sources on the ground in northern Syria report that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and their terrorist allies the FSA Turkish division have commenced their assault on Afrin City itself.  Afrin City is a Kurdish majority city in the heart of the isolated Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

The TAF reportedly already cut off water to the city last week and has prepared for the assault by surrounding the city.  Turkish President Erdogan has claimed that the Kurds are terrorists that need to be wiped out.  Afrin City has been playing host to hundreds of thousands of refugees whose homes were taken by the TAF during the current operation Olive Branch.  Reports that the TAF and its jihadist allies have been handing out captured Kurdish homes to fighters.

The TAF has been reportedly firing on unarmed civilians and killing defenseless Kurds .

Despite the USA’s military backing the Kurds in their fight against ISIS, as far as Turkey is concerned the Trump administration has surprisingly remained silent.

The Kurdish Regional Council in Iraq has continued to back their bretheren in Syria with the assistant to President Masoud Barzani saying releasing this Tweet:

In the coming days the USA can still step in and save what’s left of Afrin, but that would require Trump to stand up to a fellow NATO ally.