Friday, April 7, 2017

"Trump Was Right to Strike Syria. The crucial question is what comes next." - by Nick Kristof - NYT | Apart from Russia and Iran, the entire world applauded the military operation carried out by the U.S. against the Syrian regime... | Donald Trump’s welcome show of US global leadership - by Nicholas Burns | Syrians hail Donald Trump as their new champion: Abu Ivanka al-Amriki | M.N.: "Divide and conquer" - always works. | “I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly, I will tell you that,” the president said of Syria on Wednesday. “It is now my responsibility.” | Downsizing Mr. Bannon - NYT Editorial - Trump News and Investigations Updates - 4.7.17

Trump News and Investigations Updates - 4.7.17 




"Syria is a spectacular country redolent with history, and inhabited by a normally warm and hospitable people. Yet Obama’s well-meant caution has allowed Syria’s downward spiral to turn it into a symbol of brutality and suffering that has also aggravated the Sunni-Shia schism all over the world.

Because there was no good option on any given day, we always chose to do little or nothing. The result was that more than 300,000 people were killed, vast numbers were tortured and raped, almost five million refugees fled Syria and destabilized other countries, ISIS sowed terrorism worldwide, and genocides unfolded against the Yazidi and Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.

For all the legitimate concerns about the risks ahead, now again we just might have a window to curb the bloodshed in Syria. I’m glad Trump took the important first step of holding Assad accountable for using chemical weapons. But it’s all going to depend now on whether Trump, who so far has been a master of incompetence, can manage the far more difficult challenge of using war to midwife peace."




Apart from Russia and Iran, the entire world applauded the military operation carried out by the U.S. against the Syrian regime 

early on April 7 in retaliation against the latter’s chemical attack near Idlib, which killed dozens of civilians including children. 

U.S. President Donald Trump made clear that such inhumane attacks will not be left unpunished and implied that he would not hesitate to give similar orders to the army after future chemical or biological attacks. 

Like the rest of the world and members of the U.S.-led international coalition fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey also welcomed the action taken by the Trump administration, while repeating demands for more. 


Donald Trump’s welcome show of US global leadership


by: 
In his most consequential national security decision to date, President Donald Trump was right to order US air strikes against the Syrian air force on Friday morning. President Bashar al-Assad’s repeated chemical weapons attacks against his civilian population called for a forceful international response. By ordering a targeted cruise missile strike, Mr Trump sent an unmistakable warning to Mr Assad that any further assaults against defenceless civilians will not be tolerated.
The most surprising aspect of this military action by the new president was its speed. Ordinarily, American leaders would have taken considerable time to assess the risky trade-offs in deploying military force in such a difficult and dangerous environment. Mr Trump’s rapid fire attacks were surely meant to send a signal well beyond Damascus to Iran and Middle East terrorist groups that he will act quickly to defend US interests when provoked.
The strikes were also a warning to Russia that it no longer has sole sway over events in Syria. And Mr Trump’s guest at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, President Xi Jinping of China, undoubtedly now understands that the US president believes he has options in reining in the dangerous and unpredictable North Korean regime. During the 2016 election campaign Mr Trump insisted that he would return strength and decisiveness to American global leadership. The Syria strikes are the first demonstration of that resolve.
The US administration has hinted, however, that the attack was a singular event and does not presage a wider US military involvement in Syria’s brutal civil war. Still, Mr Trump will now be expected to articulate a more detailed strategy for how the US intends to help stem the violence and bloodshed that have left more than half a million Syrians dead and millions more homeless in the world’s most tragic humanitarian conflict. This is a far more demanding calculus for an administration focused to date solely on combating Isis rather than the Assad government.
The options available are all daunting, making Syria one of the most truly complicated issues on the global agenda. President Barack Obama concluded that the risks of action in the mosh pit of Syria’s tangled civil war were far greater than those of doing nothing.
Turkey is pressing the US to join in establishing safe zones and a no-flight zone along its border with Syria to protect civilians and keep rival militias at bay. Mr Trump expressed interest recently in just this idea, but it would be extraordinarily difficult to pull off. Doing so could also put the US president on a collision course with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Russia’s forces, along with Iran and the Syrian army, are the strongest inside the war-ravaged country.
The US, Turkey and local militias would need to carve out a zone inside Syria that they could control and use to repel both the Assad army and terrorist groups such as Isis and the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. It would require a sizeable presence of US and other ground forces as well as a permanent presence of air power to patrol an already crowded, dangerous airspace. Mr Trump’s most difficult task would be to convince a sceptical Congress and American public while memories of the tortuous Iraq war are still vivid.
Alternatively, the US could launch a diplomatic challenge to Mr Assad, Russia and Iran to commit to a serious negotiation with rebel groups about a ceasefire in war-torn Idlib province and eventual talks to end the war itself. This is the Mount Everest of international politics and would require months if not years of patient, painstaking, complex diplomacy. Does Mr Trump have the grit and patience for such an effort?
The most direct way the president could help Syria’s besieged population would be to open America’s doors to Syrian refugees. In every previous refugee crisis since the second world war, the US has taken in half the total refugees to be resettled. Mr Trump’s determination to prevent a single Syrian refugee from entering the US is now called into question by his air strikes. The US can no longer easily stand by and do nothing while Syrians are trapped in desperate refugee camps. If Mr Trump continues to ban all refugees, he will be rightly accused of hypocrisy by the Syrian people and Europeans who have welcomed more than a million refugees.
The Syria strikes have also taught us much about Mr Trump as Commander-in-Chief. His decisive action has restored some of America’s lost credibility in a violent, unstable Middle East. It is an early sign of his inner convictions.
But, the astonishing quickness with which he shifted course this week also illustrates the brash and impulsive side of his character. This was a relatively straightforward mission that earned the support of European and Arab leaders. Yet Mr Trump’s penchant to shoot from the hip and pay scant attention to details and the law of unintended consequences in wartime could also spell trouble ahead. It could even lead to disaster in a future crisis with a more powerful adversary such as North Korea.
Lest the initial plaudits of his Syria strike mislead him, Mr Trump would do well to tread carefully as he traverses the Middle East and global minefields ahead.
The writer is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a former US under­secretary of state
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The president’s aides described a deliberative process with meetings of the National Security Council, military options presented by the Pentagon and a classified briefing for Mr. Trump held under a tent erected in Mar-a-Lago to secure the communications with Washington. They spoke of phone calls to American allies, consultations with lawmakers, and the diplomatic engagement that would follow the Tomahawk cruise missiles.
What is clear, however, is that Mr. Trump reacted viscerally to the images of the death of innocent children in Syria. And that reaction propelled him into a sequence of actions that will change the course of his presidency. Mr. Trump’s improvisational style has sometimes seemed ill-suited to the gravity of his office. In this case, it helped lead him to make the gravest decision a commander-in-chief can make.
“I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly, I will tell you that,” the president said of Syria on Wednesday. “It is now my responsibility.


M.N.: "Divide and conquer" - always works.

“This president’s method of managing is by him personally curating points of views from a diverse group of people in whom he has some trust and credibility,” said Thomas Barrack Jr., a longtime friend of Mr. Trump who led his inaugural festivities. “And he very rarely accepts one course of action or one suggestion without laundering it amongst all of them. And what happens in that process is confusion amongst those from whom he’s seeking advice. What works for him is that, out of that milieu, his instincts take him to the right answer.”
... 
The wrestling match has spilled over into public view as each camp seeks reinforcements among news media and conservative figures. Roger J. Stone Jr., an on-and-off adviser to Mr. Trump for 30 years, accused Mr. Kushner of planting negative views of Mr. Bannon on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a show the president is known to watch.



"Mr. Bannon still has his security clearance, still has Mr. Trump’s ear and still apparently is running a policy shop that is viewed as a competitor to the council. Among those working for Mr. Bannon is Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism adviser and founder of an extreme right-wing party in Hungary in 2007; The Forward has published articles saying that Mr. Gorka publicly supported a violent, racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings. If such charges are true, Mr. Gorka obviously should not be working for the White House.


And the president’s messages have been confusing on Russia, China, North Korea and especially on Syria. Mr. Bannon’s departure gives General McMaster an opening to bring more professional discipline to policy making. Mr. Trump should help him do so."

Downsizing Mr. Bannon - The New York Times

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President Trump’s decision to remove Stephen Bannon, his chief political adviser, from his post as a principal on the National Security Council has led to no end of speculation in Washington, some of it inspired by Mr. Bannon’s rivals in the White House, that this is the beginning of the end of Mr. Bannon’s outsize influence and payback for his role in the administration’s early missteps. But whatever the fallout bureaucratically, on a substantive level the move was a welcome course correction, removing a contentious and extremist political voice from a vitally important policy-making body and thus making it more likely that people with actual expertise will help an inexperienced president make tough choices. That need was driven home as reports came in that the administration had ordered air strikes in Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons.
No presidential adviser in recent memory had so brazenly tried to consolidate power as Mr. Bannon, who moved quickly to establish himself not just as Mr. Trump’s Svengali, but as a kind of de facto president. One sign was an executive order, framed by Mr. Bannon, and issued after the inauguration, that named him to the council’s principals committee, which includes the vice president, secretaries of state and defense and other top officials. It is the primary policy-making body that decides national security questions that do not rise to the level of the president, and it frames the debate over matters that do.
Previous presidents have decided that such decisions should be separate from politics; Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, was barred from council meetings. Mr. Bannon’s appointment was thus widely condemned, not only because he was a political adviser but also because he was a particularly combative one. Mr. Trump, angry he was not warned about the implications of the appointment, briefly considered rescinding it immediately, then did not, fearing even more furor.
The new order has to be seen as a victory for Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the new national security adviser and a respected professional who reportedly insisted on purging Mr. Bannon in an effort to ensure that profound decisions about the country’s security are made without regard to political calculation.
Mr. Trump’s order also corrected another error in the original directive, restoring the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence to the committee. The committee membership has been expanded, and will now include the energy secretary, the C.I.A. director and the United Nations ambassador.
Mr. Bannon, aided by Breitbart News, the alt-right platform he brought to prominence, has tried to spin his removal as a natural evolution in the administration’s governance strategy. He says he was put on the committee to watch over Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, and that with Mr. Flynn out of the picture, his presence was no longer required. Yet if the White House leak machine is to be believed, his influence was already in decline and he had lost favor with other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who have been embarrassed by big defeats on important issues like health care and immigration that Mr. Bannon has had a hand in.
Mr. Bannon still has his security clearance, still has Mr. Trump’s ear and still apparently is running a policy shop that is viewed as a competitor to the council. Among those working for Mr. Bannon is Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism adviser and founder of an extreme right-wing party in Hungary in 2007; The Forward has published articles saying that Mr. Gorka publicly supported a violent, racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings. If such charges are true, Mr. Gorka obviously should not be working for the White House.
And the president’s messages have been confusing on Russia, China, North Korea and especially on Syria. Mr. Bannon’s departure gives General McMaster an opening to bring more professional discipline to policy making. Mr. Trump should help him do so.
Read the whole story

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