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Is Iran Pushing the Envelope on Its Nuclear Deal?

4yrs ago from Weekly Standard
Top Iranian officials are boasting that the nuclear deal enabled the country to make progress in developing advanced centrifuges, and broad production of some advanced models has already begun in the year since the deal was implemented, per Iranian media. The nature of these activities indicates that Tehran is likely looking to develop the technology as part of a nuclear weapons program, according to a top proliferation expert who spoke to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The program from a civilian point of view is just a colossal waste of money, David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, told TWS. Unless of course the ultimate goal is nuclear weapons. Then the amount of money does not matter. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani recently said that the deal enabled Iran to develop advanced uranium enrichment technology.
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Syria: Turkey Shouldn’t Help in Chemical Attack Investigation

4yrs ago from Washington Examiner
A top Syrian diplomat said Turkey can't be trusted to help with the investigation into the recent chemical weapons attack by President Bashar Assad's regime, an accusation made alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The US will not accept an impartial investigation, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said following a meeting in Moscow. The General Secretariat of the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] has a mission operating in Turkey and they are collecting samples from Turkey and I confirm to you that Syria will not accept such an investigation because it serves US aggression. Russia and Iran have provided Assad with the military support required to keep him in power through a six-year civil war. Lavrov hosted al-Moallem and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif just days after President Trump ordered a strike on the Assad regime and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's ensuing trip to Moscow. The trio used their press conference to amplify previous denials of Assad's involvement in the chemical weapons attack, directing blame to the West instead.
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Russia, Iran and Syria Warn US of 'Grave Consequences’ for Additional Strikes

4yrs ago from TPM
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia, Syria and Iran strongly warned the United States Friday against launching new strikes on Syria and called for an international investigation of the chemical weapons attack there that killed nearly 90 people. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hosted his Iranian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow, denounced the U.S. missile strikes on Syria as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Additional such actions would entail “grave consequences not only for regional but global security,” Lavrov said. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the meeting sent a “strong message” to Washington. Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasized that the participants agreed that unilateral actions by the U.S. were unacceptable. The U.S. accuses the Syrian government of deliberately launching the deadly chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. Russia has alleged that the victims were killed by toxic agents from a rebel chemical arsenal hit by Syrian war planes. Moscow has warned against putting the blame on Damascus until an independent inquiry is conducted and vetoed a proposed U.N. resolution on the attack, saying it failed to mention the need to inspect the affected area. Lavrov on Friday expressed skepticism about a preliminary investigation conducted by the U.N.’s chemical weapons watchdog. He alleged that its experts failed to visit the site and said it was unclear to Russia where evidence was taken and how it was In Russia’s view, the probe conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should be widened to include experts from many nations, he said. “If our U.S. colleagues and some European nations believe that their version is right, they have no reason to fear the creation of such an independent group,” Lavrov added. “The investigation into this high-profile incident must be transparent and leave no doubt that someone is trying to hide something.” Lavrov said the U.S. strike on the Syrian base has undermined peace efforts in Syria and reflected Washington’s focus on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government. “Such attempts won’t succeed,” he said. The three ministers also discussed the beefing up of U.S. forces on Jordan’s border with Syria, Moallem said. He added that Russia, Iran and Syria have “common procedures against any aggression,” but wouldn’t offer specifics. Lavrov said Moscow has asked Washington about the purpose of the buildup and received assurances that the U.S. troops were deployed there to cut supply lines between the Islamic State group factions in Syria and Iraq. “We will keep monitoring the issue, since the only possible reason for using military force on the territory of Syria is to fight terrorism,” Lavrov said. Russia has staunchly backed Assad’s government throughout Syria’s six-year civil war. It has conducted an air campaign in Syria since September 2015, saving Assad’s government from imminent collapse and helping to reverse the Syrian military’s fortunes. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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'This Is Like a War': Refugees Shot at on Manus as Cruel Policy Provokes New Violence

4yrs ago from Green Left Weekly
Refugees and asylum seekers in Manus Island detention centre were been attacked on April 14, including being fired on with live ammunition. People inside have described it as being like a war. Papua New Guinea locals started attacking the centre on the evening of April 14. PNG navy, and some reports said police, have also been involved. There are varying reports on their involvement and actions, but some say they fired into the centre. Photos obtained by refugee activists show bullet holes in fox compound, one of the places people are trying to hide in. Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist and asylum seeker jailed in Mainus, tweeted: “Navy have shot more than 100 times, some of them have broken into rooms. The situation on #Manus is critical”
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Ahmadinejad Unexpectedly Enters Iran’s Presidential Race

4yrs ago from The Week
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday unexpectedly filed to run in the country's May election, potentially upending a race that many had predicted to be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Although Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal that got world leaders to lift painful sanctions, has not formally registered, he was widely considered the favorite as conservatives failed to unite behind a single candidate. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recommended in September that Ahmadinejad stay out of the race. Ahmadinejad's fiery style could attract support from hardliners looking for someone to clash with President Trump, a critic of the Iran nuclear deal. Harold Maass
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Tillerson Accuses Russia of Aligning With Terrorist Group

4yrs ago from Washington Examiner
Russian President Vladimir Putin forged an alliance with a terrorist organization in their efforts to defend Syrian President Bashar Assad, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday. Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians, and Hezbollah, Tillerson told reporters at the G-7 Summit in Italy. Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia's interest, or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis? Putin has cultivated the image of a relentless opponent of terrorism since the first year of his rise to power, when he launched a war against Islamists in the Russian-controlled region of Chechnya. Tillerson's emphasis that Russia has an alliance with Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim terrorist group that is fighting on behalf of Assad in Syria and has warred with Israel, attacks that image on the eve of a trip to Moscow that Russia had hoped would lead to foreign policy concessions from the United States.
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The Obama Administration’s Zelig

4yrs ago from National Review
Susan Rice is the real version of Woody Allen’s cinematic character Zelig, who in the movie of the same name popped up almost anywhere as an expert on anything. As U.N. ambassador from 2009 to 2013, and later as National Security Adviser from 2013 to 2017, Rice seemed to have turned up everywhere there was an Obama-administration implosion. She was always eager to offer a supposedly expert assessment — one that also always proved wrong or untrue or both. Rice, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, had a major role in the disastrous Libyan bombing decision and its wasteland aftermath. As U.N. ambassador, she helped the U.N. draft resolutions establishing no-fly-zones and humanitarian aid to curb the violence against Arab Spring protestors. But such U.N. policies were immediately contorted into an active military role when the U.S. and allies supplied direct air support to anti-Qaddafi ground forces. The allied bombing to overthrow Qaddafi gave some credence to Russian complaints that Rice had deceived them about the true intent of the resolutions, which were really used by the Obama administration to facilitate French, British, and American efforts to achieve regime change in Libya. The later Benghazi disaster and the subsequent false narrative of a video-inspired spontaneous riot — aimed at advancing the “al-Qaeda on the run” talking point central to Obama’s reelection campaign —were her most infamous moments of deceit. That fake-news effort eventually led to the unjustifiable imprisonment of the scapegoat (and otherwise shady character) Nakoula Basseley Nakoula on suddenly trumped-up enforcement of his parole violation. Rice’s well-publicized untruth, while helpful to Obama’s reelection effort, was not benign: It obscured the disturbing circumstances in which four brave Americans died. Yet, to be fair, it is difficult to know whether Rice was a seasoned architect of that duplicity. Given her reputation as a useful naïf and loyal fall person, perhaps she was easily manipulated into going on five Sunday shows to mislead and distort. Her subordinate Ben Rhodes needed a vessel to assure the nation that the Benghazi attacks were not due to administration policy failures, and Rice was deemed the ideal vehicle to spread that myth. And the fable of the supposedly honorable Bowe Bergdahl (currently facing Pentagon charges of desertion)? Rice was there, too. To prop up an unhinged trade of five terrorists at Guantanamo for an AWOL soldier, Rice falsely claimed that Bergdahl had “served with honor and distinction.” Then she trumped that with a quite unnecessary fillip: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield.” Left unsaid was that a number of American soldiers were killed as a result of efforts to find his walkabout whereabouts. Again, note always the weird but characteristic Rice emphatics: Just as she did not go on one show but five to disseminate Benghazi falsehoods, so too it was not enough just to leave Bergdahl’s story at “honor and distinction” without the added “captured on the battlefield” nonsense. Unfortunately, she can be counted on to give a tough, no-holds-barred confirmation of something false — on the logic that bogusness gains credibility the louder and stronger it is expressed. The Iran deal? Rice was there, too. Just a few months before American hostages in Iran were released upon receipt of a hushed nocturnal shipment of $400 million in international currencies (a fact hidden from the public for months, given that it seemed to have coincided with the real and final full implementation of the Iran deal), Rice had assured the country that just the opposite would occur: And we were very specific about the need not to link their fate to that of the negotiations, because we had no idea for certain whether negotiations would succeed or fail. We didn’t want to give the Iranians a bargaining chip to use against us in the negotiations. “Bargaining chip” was Rice’s phrase, not that of the opponents of the deal. But notably, on prior occasions, skeptics had feared that Iran would indeed use the hostages as a “bargaining chip” traded for concessions, only to later release them secretly under false premises of not being linked to the deal. All of which happened. Observers have been perplexed about the apparent omnipresence of the Sarin-gas depots in Syria that prompted the recent American strike. Again, it is always wise to find out the reality on the ground by first referencing anything that Susan Rice might have said in the past on the topic — and then assuming its exact opposite. When asked just 90 days ago about Syria’s supposedly nonexistent WMD, Rice reaffirmed to the nation: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical-weapons stockpile.” “Verifiably”? How would we verify? By trusting the word of Bashar al-Assad? The assurances of Vladimir Putin? The assumption of U.N. monitors that they had full access to the Assad inventories? The best spin on Rice’s characteristic deception is that she was offering a defense of outgoing Obama policies that were likely to be attacked in the same way that she herself had attacked Bush policies in the early days of the Obama administration. The least charitable interpretation is that she and others assumed there were no guarantees that Assad had given up his WMDs, and she was simply counting on the likelihood that Assad would not use chemical weapons with an unpredictable Trump in the White House. A characteristic of Rice’s rhetorical gymnastics is that she usually advances the least logical, least empirical, and most easily refuted assumption as the party line. When Rice was initially asked by Andrea Mitchell about disclosures that she, acting as some sort of White House investigator, had made formal requests to unmask Americans found on intelligence intercepts and that she had leaked the results, she assured the country that she knew nothing about that: “I know nothing about this.” Yet just days later she seemed to contradict that very assertion: “It was not uncommon. It was necessary at times to make those requests.” Surely she must have known that her contradictory statements could soon be refuted or affirmed with documentation that is now in the hands of congressional investigatory committees. Her assertions about the removal of Assad’s chemical weapons were easily contradicted by their use; so, too, her denials of unmasking will be refuted — not by right-wing zealots but by documents themselves. Her contortions remind us why Representative Devin Nunes, in such a general climate of omnipresent distrust, chose to go public about what he had discovered, noting that the facts were at odds with what theretofore had been universally claimed and so often leaked. And the Rice denial statement is, by design, enigmatic: “There was no such collection or surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals, it is important to understand, directed by the White House, or targeted at Trump individuals.” The assertion and its qualifiers may allow enough wiggle room to claim that Trump people were in fact surveilled but were not initially the target of that effort. The lawyerly phrasing could also suggest that the surveillance was ordered by people in the Obama administration but not by those who were literally in the “White House” in the sense of the president with his pen and phone at his desk in the Oval Office. In sum, almost anywhere there was a major Obama deception on foreign policy, Rice appeared the counter Forrest Gump of our era. In some sense, this habit was not entirely new. Years earlier when she worked for the Clinton administration, Rice, even as a less influential advisor, was sent out to assure the country that our embassies, after the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, had nonetheless maintained a high degree of security. In her capacity as an Africa expert, she was reportedly instrumental in persuading Clinton to decline the Sudanese offer of delivering bin Laden to the U.S. Why Rice repeatedly was a go-to person, given such a dismal record, is mystifying — and given that her subordinate “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting” Ben Rhodes played a more prominent role in forming the intellectual architecture of the video apologia for Benghazi (“the protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broad failure of policy”) and in crafting the “echo chamber” strategy to mislead the country and sell the Iran deal. Rarely in any administration has one person so willingly assumed the role of scapegoat and fall person. When Rice’s assertions are easily refuted, her supporters usually fall back on boilerplate charges of racism and sexism. Yet other equally high-ranking minority advisers and officials in the Obama administration, such as Loretta Lynch and Valerie Jarrett, always successfully avoided most scandals. They did so, for example during the WikiLeaks disclosures on Team Clinton, perhaps because, as far savvier old hands, they knew how to navigate around rather than wade into media frenzy. All this and more returns us to the original question: Is Rice’s chronic deception socio-pathological? Or is she more a tragic figure, whose outsized ego was manipulated by the Obama administration to ensure that she was on spec, wheeled out as its most devoted apologist, the most practiced in the arts of deception, the most media-hungry, and the most likely to be exempt from criticism? If the former, she needs help. If the latter, it just didn’t work. And she will eventually pay a high but unique price not shared by either her superiors or subordinates, who may have been equally (or more) culpable for the scandals in which she so often found herself. — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, to appear in October from Basic Books.
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Lawmakers to Trump: Cancel Obama-Backed Boeing Sales to Iran

4yrs ago from Washington Examiner
President Trump should cancel airplane sales to Iranian airlines that facilitate terrorism, a pair of Republican lawmakers urged Monday. Iran's commercial airlines have American blood on their hands, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., wrote in a letter to Trump. A government decision to block the aircraft sales would provoke an uproar at home and abroad. It would cost Boeing, which has inked a pair of deals to sell 110 to Iran-based airlines, about $20 billion. It could deter American and European businesses from investing in Iran, which the regime's leaders have argued amounts to violation of the nuclear agreement that former President Barack Obama's team negotiated. The possibility that U.S.-manufactured aircraft could be used as tools of terror is absolutely unacceptable and should not be condoned by the U.S. government, Rubio and Roskam wrote. The United States should revoke authorizations and re-impose sanctions on Iranian airlines found guilty of such support, and should bar U.S. companies from selling aircraft to Iran until the Iranian regime ceases using commercial airliners for illicit military purposes.
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Obama’s Syria Deal Failed; Why Should We Believe Assurances About Iran?

4yrs ago from National Review
This morning, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked Susan Rice’s defense of the Obama administration’s chemical weapons deal in Syria. In January 2016, Rice said: We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. … We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile. Kessler, writing more than a year after Rice’s statement, chronicles Syria’s repeated use of chemical weapons since the “deal” and concludes: The reality is that there were continued chemical-weapons attacks by Syria — and that U.S. and international officials had good evidence that Syria had not been completely forthcoming in its declaration and possibly retained sarin and VX nerve agent. Yet Rice said: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.” She did not explain that Syria’s declaration was believed to be incomplete and thus was not fully verified — and that the Syrian government still attacked citizens with chemical weapons not covered by the 2013 agreement. That tipped her wordsmithing toward a Four [four “Pinocchios”]. Media accountability is worthwhile, but we don’t need fact-checkers to tell us that the Obama administration’s Syria policy was a miserable failure. We saw the evidence in the bodies of the children slain by sarin gas. However, we do need to remember the sorry recent track record for WMD deals with hostile countries. The Clinton administration was supposed to have stopped North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea has nukes. The Obama administration was supposed to have stripped Syria of chemical weapons. Syria gassed its citizens. And that brings us to the Iran nuclear deal. As the editors of the New York Post asked last night, “Why should anyone still believe the same team’s assurances on Iran’s ability to produce nukes?” Vicious liars like the North Koreans, Syrians, and Iranians tend to be vicious liars no matter the documents they sign. That’s a truth worth remembering as another WMD deal collapses and further destabilizes and already-dangerous world. 
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How Trump’s Syria Missile Strike Could Transform the Middle East

4yrs ago from National Review
Call it the Tomahawk strike heard ’round the world, not just in Washington and Damascus and Moscow, but in every capital in the Middle East. By ordering the strike on Al Shayrat Airfield, from which Bashar al-Assad had launched a brutal chemical-weapons attack on his own people just days earlier, President Trump put the U.S. squarely back in the game of Middle East politics. But without further action, it will have been for naught; what must come next is a new regional strategy for the U.S. that is very different from the one adopted by President Obama — one that backs up diplomatic coalition-building with U.S. military strength. In 1990–91, President George H. W. Bush used such a strategy to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Today, the U.S. is once again perfectly positioned to bring together the region’s leading Sunni powers, and Israel, in an alliance against Iran and its Shia allies, who are the real geopolitical threat in Syria. Who would be part of this alliance? Israel and Saudi Arabia, the region’s most powerful Sunni state, have been drawing closer for the past decade, united by their shared interest in counteracting Iranian regional aggression, as have the other majority-Sunni Gulf states. Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Oman could also become strong strategic partners in a U.S.-led coalition designed to thwart Iran’s ongoing efforts to trigger a regional Shia uprising from Syria and/or Yemen. This new alliance would have two prongs, and two aims. The first would be to permanently end Tehran’s designs on becoming a regional hegemon, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, where it is propping up the Assad regime in Syria and sponsoring terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The second aim would be to crush ISIS wherever it holds territory, from Syria and the Sinai to Iraq, as well as to extirpate Sunni radicalism in all its forms. Here the U.S. would have to make it clear to the Saudis and other Gulf states that ISIS, like al-Qaeda, must be destroyed, both on the ground abroad and in the domestic madrassas and mosques that spread its vicious, radical message. That, of course, leaves Russia. Fortunately, Assad’s renewed use of chemical weapons put Vladimir Putin at a disadvantage, since Russia almost certainly knew of the chemical strike, and may even have facilitated it. The Kremlin certainly lied when it assured the world that the regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons had been dealt with. When Secretary of State Tillerson meets with Putin this week, he needs to take advantage of that weakness and stress to Moscow that its support for Assad is now a liability, not an asset. The Russians have already signaled that their support for Damascus is “not unconditional.” Their entire raison d’être for intervention in the Syrian conflict is combating “terrorism.” Now, they must acknowledge that Assad and his Iranian allies are no less “terrorists” than ISIS, and should be dealt with accordingly. Far more is at stake here than removing a brutal dictator; preventing his Iranian patrons from becoming a dominant force in the eastern Mediterranean is just as important. The final goal of Trump’s strategy in the Middle East has to be convincing Putin that his support for and collaboration with Iran is a liability rather than an asset, and that siding with the emerging U.S.–Sunni–Israeli coalition is the best way for Russia to demonstrate a good-faith commitment to fighting terrorism and playing a constructive role in the region. The region’s Sunni powers realize the potency of the Iranian threat, as does Israel. The Obama administration pretended the Iran problem would go way on its own if we sat on our hands. The Trump administration now has an opportunity to reverse course, enlisting a coalition of Sunni partners in the complicated task of isolating and limiting Iran’s power to revise the geopolitical order in the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. In closing, it should be stressed that none of these strategic shifts need involve placing more American troops on the ground in the Middle East. The team is already on the field; all that’s been missing is a quarterback. For the U.S. to fulfill that role, it merely needs a leader willing to reassert the influence that Obama wouldn’t — and that George W. Bush before him squandered in two endless regional wars. Our natural allies in the region have been clamoring for help from Washington for years; Donald Trump now has the opportunity to provide it. — Arthur Herman is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the author of the forthcoming 1917: Vladimir Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, and the Year That Created the Modern Age.
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Women Barred from Tehran Marathon Risked Arrest to Complete Their Own Race Instead

4yrs ago from The Independent
A group of female runners who were told at the last minute they could not take part in the Tehran marathon risked being arrested and detained by Iran’s strict religious authorities in order to stage their own race instead.  Around 160 women out of a total of 600 runners had registered to compete in Friday’s first ever ‘TehRUN’, a 26 mile (42 kilometre) race around the Iranian capital, including dozens of foreigners.
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Top Trump Officials Publicly Urge Russia to Ditch Syria Following Chemical Weapons Attack

4yrs ago from The Week
On Sunday's political talk shows, top officials in President Trump's administration gave different assessments of Trump's goals with Syria and its most important backer, Russia, following Trump's Thursday strike on one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air bases. Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said Assad's ouster was "inevitable" and a top U.S. priority, along with defeating the Islamic State and getting "the Iranian influence" out of Syria. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, making his debut on the talk shows, told Fox News that Assad's removal is key to any political solution to Syria's civil war, but "we're not saying we are the ones to effect that change." Trump is "prepared to do more," McMaster said. "I think what we should do is ask Russia: How could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn't know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?" Russia should also ask itself, "Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?" he added. "Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is traveling to Moscow late Tuesday, said the U.S. doesn't have any proof that Russia was involved in Syria's chemical weapons attack, though the U.S. military is investigating. But he also had some moderately tough words for Russia. America's top priority in Syria is defeating ISIS, he said, but "I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility." You can watch more of Tillerson's thoughts on Russia's involvement with Syria in the CBS Face the Nation clip below. Peter Weber "I think the Russians have played now for some time the role of providing cover for Bashar al-Assad's behavior" -Sec. of State Rex Tillerson pic.twitter.com/K1VKBYQLIh — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 9, 2017
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The Democrats’ Weakest Trump Talking Point

4yrs ago from National Review
President Donald Trump confounded most of his critics and even some of his supporters last week by attacking Syria. Trump came into office promising to stay out of foreign entanglements and advocating outreach to Russia. So the decision to punish Moscow’s Syrian client shocked those on the right who liked the sound of Trump’s “America First” isolationist rhetoric. For mainstream conservatives who hope that his administration will discard his campaign rhetoric on foreign policy, the decision to strike was a tonic. For Democrats, Trump’s move is particularly painful. It throws a wrench into their efforts to portray the president as a moral imbecile or a puppet who was essentially elected by Russians and is now ruled by them. If Trump is going to act like a commander in chief able to make carefully calibrated decisions that starkly contrast with his predecessor’s feckless and immoral dithering on Syria, and if he does this while also offending Russia, the Left’s “resistance” strategy and their truculent anti-Russia tone begin to look less effective. Deprived of the standard talking points they’ve been using to assail Trump since the inauguration, most Democrats are flailing. Some are joining Rand Paul in saying that no president should be able to order a strike without a congressional vote. There is some merit to that argument, but it’s not one most Democrats like, given that they support such actions whenever their party controls the White House. Plus, few liberals have any real enthusiasm for a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Instead, they are falling back on something they do care about: refugees. Democrats are claiming that Trump may have been right to punish the butcher of Damascus for atrocities that President Obama ignored. But there is a disconnect, they say, between his military action and his immigration policies. According to both Hillary Clinton and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, anyone who has compassion for the victims of the Syrian regime’s nerve-gas attacks — as Trump clearly demonstrated — must also be willing to let refugees from that country enter the United States. EDITORIAL: Syria after the Airstrikes While Trump is often guilty of inconsistency, this is a specious argument. America’s role as the world’s only superpower does obligate it to act when the international order is threatened by atrocities. The leader of the free world can and must send a message to rogue regimes that they can’t use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. But this doesn’t mean that everyone affected by those governments automatically gets a ticket to enter the United States. If the U.S. were to admit all refugees from countries where it has fought wars or aided one side or another in a conflict, there would be no limit to those who would have a right to enter the United States. As a matter of law and tradition, the entry of refugees is governed by factors that relate to whether their plight is a special humanitarian concern to Americans, whether there are reasonable alternatives for resettlement, and whether the particular refugees are admissible to the United States. While one may claim that Syrians qualify as a focus of humanitarian concern, they arguably fail under the latter two categories. The Syrian civil war is one of the greatest human-rights catastrophes of the last half-century. Last year, the United Nations said that 13.5 millions Syrians needed assistance inside their country, including 6 million who had been forced from their homes. In January, the U.N. claimed that more than 4.8 million Syrians had fled their country. Many are eager to leave the Middle East and start new lives in more prosperous lands where there is no war. But it’s absurd to think that it’s the West’s responsibility to take in what amounts to close to 22 percent of Syria’s pre-war population. The only rational long-term solution for Syrian refugees is to end the war, not to facilitate Bashar al-Assad’s effort to depopulate his tortured country. RELATED: The Middle East: Where American Idealism Goes to Die Nor is there an immediate need to transfer large numbers of Syrian refugees out of the region to the U.S. Most are living in camps in Jordan or Turkey where conditions are not ideal but apparently livable. Large numbers who are able to leave the camps have already fled to Western European nations such as Germany, which have opened the floodgates to Middle Eastern refugees. Whether that policy is wise or without costs is a matter of debate for Europeans. But no matter what one thinks about that question, what the Europeans have done makes it difficult to argue that the United States must follow suit. The notion that refugees pose no threat at all is based on sentiment rather than evidence or common sense. Trump was accused, not without some justice, of appealing to prejudice during his campaign when he called for a flat, if temporary, ban on entry into the U.S. of all Muslim immigrants. If religion were the only argument against letting in the Syrians, as Trump’s critics assert, the critics would be right. But their effort to ignore the security question is disingenuous. As events in Europe have shown, if you let in large numbers of people from countries where radical Islam has taken hold, it is a given that a certain number of them, even if it is small, will be potential threats. The notion that refugees pose no threat at all is based on sentiment rather than evidence or common sense. While Assad and his Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies as well as ISIS terrorists have victimized the people of Syria, the country has become a hotbed of Islamist extremism. Indeed, the depredations of pro-Assad forces have bolstered support for radical factions such as ISIS. It’s also true that Syria has collapsed as a normal country. As a result, it’s impossible to effectively vet Syrians who wish to come to the U.S. Democrats who have taken up the argument about opening the door to impossible-to-vet Syrian refugees in the wake of last week’s events that, for once, gave Trump favorable press coverage are simply trying to change the subject. Instead, they should support policies that will actually do something to help the refugees go home to a nation no longer ruled by Assad. Genuine compassion means backing measures to force Assad’s ouster, something that will, in turn, lessen support for ISIS. Until that happens, the U.S. must be ready to aid the refugees where they are and ready to use force to punish Assad for violating international norms. Trump must also apply diplomatic and economic pressure to send the same message to Assad’s Russian and Iranian enablers. Anything else said about Trump and Syrian refugees is pure political hypocrisy. — Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributor to National Review Online. READ MORE: Trump’s Syria Strikes Altered Perceptions of His Presidency  Trump Blows Up Obama’s Foreign Policy Straw Men Trump Enforces Obama’s Red Line  
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Hall of Mirrors in Syria

4yrs ago from National Review
Syria is weird for reasons that transcend even the bizarre situation of bombing an abhorrent Bashar al-Assad who was bombing an abhorrent ISIS — as we de facto ally with Iran, the greater strategic threat, to defeat the more odious, but less long-term strategic threat, ISIS. Trump apparently hit a Syrian airfield to express Western outrage over the likely Syrian use of chemical weapons. Just as likely, he also sought to remind China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that he is unpredictable and not restrained by self-imposed cultural, political, and ethical bridles that seemed to ensure that Obama would never do much over Chinese and Russian cyber-warfare, or Iranian interception of a U.S. warship or the ISIS terror campaign in the West or North Korea’s increasingly creepy and dangerous behavior. But the strike also raised as many questions as it may have answered. Is Trump saying that he can send off a few missiles anywhere and anytime rogues go too far? If so, does that willingness to use force enhance deterrence? (probably); does it also risk further escalation to be effective? (perhaps); and does it solve the problem of an Assad or someone similar committing more atrocities? (no). Was the reason we hit Assad, then, because he is an especially odious dictator and kills his own, or that the manner in which he did so was cruel and barbaric (after all, ISIS burns, drowns, and cuts apart its victims without much Western reprisals until recently)? Or is the reason instead that he used WMD, and since 1918 with a few exceptions (largely in the Middle East), “poison” gas has been a taboo weapon among the international community? (Had Assad publicly beheaded the same number who were gassed, would we have intervened?) Do we continue to sort of allow ISIS to fight it out with Syria/Iran/Hezbollah in the manner of our shrug during the Iran-Iraq War and in the fashion until Pearl Harbor that we were okay with the Wehrmacht and the Red Army killing each other en masse for over five months in Russia? Or do we say to do so cynically dooms innocents in a fashion that they are not quite as doomed elsewhere, or at least not doomed without chance of help as is true in North Korea? Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Syria, deriding the Iraq War, and questioning the Afghan effort. Does his sudden strike signal a Jacksonian effort to hit back enemies if the mood comes upon us — and therefore acceptable to his base as a sort of one-off, don’t-tread-on-me hiss and rattle? Or does the strike that was so welcomed by the foreign-policy establishment worry his supporters that Trump is now putting his suddenly neocon nose in someone’s else’s business? And doing so without congressional authorizations or much exegesis? Does the Left trash Trump for using force or keep quiet, given the ostensible humanitarian basis for the strike, and the embarrassing contrast with Obama, whose reset with Russia led to inviting Putin into the Middle East to solve the WMD problem that we could not, and which Obama and Susan Rice not long ago assured us was indeed solved by our de facto friend at the time Putin? These dilemmas, apart from Obama’s prior confusion about Syria and Russia, arise in part because Trump never thought it wise or necessary to resolve contradictions in Trumpism — especially at what point the long overdue need to restore U.S. respect and deterrence to end “lead from behind” appeasement becomes overseas entanglements not commensurate with Trump’s “America First” assurances. At some point, does talking and tweeting toughly (“bomb the sh** out of ISIS”) require a Tomahawk missile to retain credibility? And does “Jacksonianism” still allow blowing some stuff up, but not doing so at great cost and for the ideals of consensual government rather than immediate U.S. security? Most likely for now, Trump’s strike resembles Reagan’s 1986 Libyan bombing that expressed U.S. outrage over Libyan support for then recent attacks on Americans in Berlin. But Reagan’s dramatic act (in pursuit of U.S. interests, not international norms) did not really stop Moammar Qaddafi’s support for terrorists (cf. the 1988 likely Libyan-inspired retaliatory Lockerbie bombing) or do much else to muzzle Qaddafi. About all we can say, then, about Trump’s action was that he felt like it was overdue — or like a high-school friend once put to me after unexpectedly unloading on a school bully who daily picked on weaklings, “It seemed a good idea at the time.”
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Rubio: Cancel Boeing Deal to Hurt Russia, Syria

4yrs ago from Washington Examiner
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Sunday said a new multi-billion dollar deal between Boeing and an Iranian airline should be canceled. We should be increasing sanctions significantly on Iranian and Russian interests that are helping Assad. In particular, this Boeing deal should be canceled, Rubio said. Last week, Boeing said it had agreed to sell $3 billion in airplanes to an Iranian airline, though President Trump could thwart the deal. Rubio also said Sunday he is concerned about the Trump administration's Syria strategy following Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments about tackling the Islamic State before stabilizing Bashar Assad's country. The Foreign Relations Committee member is worried that new comments by Tillerson do not take the necessary steps against helping Syria and its allies.
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Amb. Nikki Haley: We Don’t See Peace in Syria With Assad

4yrs ago from NBCNews.com
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in an interview that aired Sunday declared that the Trump administration does not see peace and stability in Syria with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. On Sunday's 'Meet The Press,' Haley told host Chuck Todd, 'In no way do we look at peace happening in that area with Iranian influence. In no way do we see peace in that area with Russia covering up for Assad. In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government.'
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