Dr. Sebastian Gorka to Astroturf Protesters: You Are ‘Victims of Fake News’

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Adelle Nazarian and Edwin Mora, april 25, 2017:

GEORGETOWN, DC – An astroturf protest campaign targeted Donald Trump’s national security adviser Dr. Sebastian Gorka Monday, who appeared on a panel on cyber security at Georgetown University. Gorka branded the protesters “victims of fake news.”

Approximately 20 protesters gathered inside the hall where the event was held with signs falsely accusing Gorka of being a Nazi, a war criminal, and a fascist.

At the prestigious foreign policy event, Gorka discussed a variety of topics relevant to foreign policy and national security scholars. His remarks focused primarily on personal experiences in dealing with fake news and the manipulation of facts by the mainstream media:

“Eight out of ten times, I can read something written in the daily paper about an event that occurred the night before, and it is literally 180 degrees incorrect,” said Gorka in his remarks to the crowded room. “It is totally contrary to what happened inside the building 80 percent of the time. That’s something that has opened my eyes to the lack of true investigative journalism.”

He labeled “the idea that a 22-year-old with access to Google is a journalist” as “problematic” and noted his view that the days of classic investigative journalism, which required in-depth research, “are behind us.”

Gorka discussed his parents’ experiences fleeing both Nazis and Communists in his native Hungary and how biased journalists have manipulated the facts of his early life to create the impression that Gorka himself is a member of the Nazi and Communist organizations he fled.

Gorka is not a member of a Nazi organization and has never pledged loyalty to any such organization.

The media accusations claim a pin Gorka wears to remind him of his parents’ struggle against communists and fascists ties him to these illicit groups. When he was eight years old, Gorka’s father was awarded a medal that is associated with a military order, the ‘Hungarian Order of Heroes, Vitezi Rend,’ created after the First World War. An anti-Communist organization gave it to him, recognizing him for his resistance to fascists and Communist dictatorship.

On Monday, he explained once again the story behind the pin he wears:

My parents died 14 years ago, and in their memory, for what they suffered under the Nazis and the Communists — my father tortured in the basement of Andrássy út 60 (the secret police headquarters of the fascists first and then the Communists)–I wear that medal to remember their suffering and their resistance. And today, because I work for somebody named Donald J. Trump, that fact is used as part of a fake news propaganda campaign that brought those people in the back of the room, sadly, to a point where they are the victims of fake news.

Gorka also confronted the leftist protesters about their signs calling him an antisemite and fascist. Two of the female students wore hijabs, and one man wore garments traditionally worn by observant Jews. He tied the Jewish prayer shawl (known as Talis) over his shoulders like it was a fashionable scarf:

Every single person holding a placard to protest my parents and myself, I challenge you now: Go away and look at everything I have said an written the last 46 years of my life and find one sentence that is antisemitic or that is anti-Israeli. Because you won’t find it. You’ll find the opposite. My book Defeating Jihad, everything I’ve said on the conference circuit–in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem–tells you why I’m in this administration. Because this is one of the most pro-Israeli administrations in U.S. history. I’m sorry for you. You are the victims of fake news. But I’ll leave with this: I do what I do because I’ve learned that there is a connective tissue between Nazis, Communists, and Jihadists; they are all the same because they are all totalitarians. And if you perpetuate fake news, you are helping the bad guys.

Gorka cited a case study from the end of the Cold War by National Defense University’s Active Members Working Group as a model on how to identify and combat fake news during the Soviet era:

He explained how this group had “as its mandate, from the highest levels in the Reagan administration, the mission to identify Soviet propaganda, illuminate its sources, and destroy it from the inside to show just how much the message was a lie.” He suggested this group’s case study could be used to similarly combat fake news propagated over social media through mediums like Telegram and Twitter.

In conclusion, Gorka said:

What we are witnessing today–whether it’s RT, whether its ISIS tweets, Telegram–none of it is new. The platforms may be new, but the concepts of propaganda, dezinformatsiyaMaskirovka, none of these are true. They are just being packaged in new and far more effective ways. And this administration, with our allies and partners, including Israel, intends to take it very, very seriously. Thank you.

None of the few demonstrators congregated would talk to Breitbart News when Edwin Mora asked them to share their position on camera. Mora worked with Gorka during the latter’s tenure as Breitbart News’s National Security editor. Instead, the protesters shared a document accusing Breitbart News of perpetrating fake news.

No protesters responded to Gorka’s request to verbally defend their protest before the panel.

Follow Adelle and Edwin on Twitter @AdelleNaz and @EdwinMora83

Also see:

Trump Has a Foreign Policy Strategy

Donald Trump at the Department of Homeland Security. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

Yes, there is a method to Trump’s foreign-policy “madness.”

The National Interest, by James Carafano, April 21, 2017:

For two weeks, the White House has unleashed a foreign-policy blitzkrieg, and Washington’s chattering classes are shocked and, if not awed, at least perplexed.

CNN calls Trump’s actions a “u-turn.” Bloomberg opts for the more mathematical “180 degree turn,” while the Washington Post goes with “flipflop.” Meanwhile, pundits switched from decrying the president as an isolationist to lambasting him as a tool of the neocons. Amid all the relabeling, explanations of an “emerging Trump Doctrine” have proliferated faster than North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Here’s my take on what’s going on:

• Yes, there is a method to Trump’s “madness.”

• No, there has been no big change in Trump’s strategy.

The actions that flustered those who thought they had pigeon-holed Donald Trump simply reflect the impulses that have driven the direction of this presidency since before the convention in Cleveland.

At the Center of the Storm

Where is the head and heart of the president’s national-security team? Ask that question a year ago, and the answer would have been simple: General Mike Flynn, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Jeff Sessions.

Today, Flynn is gone. Giuliani never went in. Sessions is still a crucial voice in the administration, but his duties as Attorney General deal only partially with foreign policy and national-security matters.

The new team centers round Jim Mattis at the Defense Department, Rex Tillerson at the State Department, John Kelly at the Department of Homeland Security and H. R. McMaster in the West Wing—ably assisted by Nikki Haley at the United Nations. Trump barely knew these people before the election.

There is little question that the new team’s character and competence affected the White House response to the recent string of high profile events and activities—from presidential meetings with Egypt and China and Tillerson’s tête-à-tête with Putin, to the ominous developments in Syria and North Korea. Though on the job for only about dozen weeks, the new administration handled a lot of action on multiple fronts quite deftly. Much of that can be credited to the maturity and experience of Trump’s senior national-security team.

But how the administration responded was purely Trumpian—reflecting an impulse that transcends the makeup of his foreign team or other White House advisors.

Decoding Trumpian Strategy

Since the early days of the campaign, one thing has been clear: trying stitch together an understanding of Trump’s foreign and defense policy based on Trump’s tweets and other off-hand comments is a fool’s errand. That has not changed since the Donald took over the Oval Office.

That is not to say that none of Trump’s rhetoric matters. He has given some serious speeches and commentary. But pundits err when they give every presidential utterance equal merit. A joint address to Congress ought to carry a lot more weight than a 3 a.m. tweet about the Terminator.

But especially with this presidency, one needs to focus on White House actions rather than words to gain a clearer understanding of where security and foreign policy is headed. Do that, and one sees emerging a foreign and defense policy more conventional and more consistent than what we got from Bush or Obama. Still, a deeper dive is necessary to get at the root of Trump’s take on the world and how it fits with recent actions like the tomahawk strikes in Syria and the armada steaming toward North Korea.

I briefed Candidate Trump and his policy advisors during the campaign. I organized workshops for the ambassadorial corps during the Cleveland Convention and worked with the presidential team through the inauguration. Those experiences let me observe how the policies from the future fledgling administration were unfolding. Here are some observations that might be helpful in understanding the Trumpian way.

At the core of Trump’s view of the world are his views on the global liberal order. Trump is no isolationist. He recognizes that America is a global power with global interests and that it can’t promote and protect those interests by sitting at home on its hands. Freedom of the commons, engaging and cooperating with like-minded nations, working to blunt problems “over there” before they get over here—these are things every modern president has pursued. Trump is no different.

What distinguishes Trump—and what marks a particularly sharp departure from Obama—is his perception of what enabled post–World War America and the rest of the free world to rise above the chaos of a half century of global depression and open war.

Obama and his ilk chalked it all up to international infrastructure—the UN, IMF, World Bank, EU, et al. For Trump, it was the sovereign states rather than the global bureaucracies that made things better. The international superstructure has to stand on a firm foundation—and the foundation is the sovereign state. Without strong, vibrant, free and wealthy states, the whole thing collapses like a Ponzi scheme.

Trump is an arch nationalist in the positive sense of the term. America will never be safe in the world if the world doesn’t have an America that is free, safe and prosperous.

That belief is at the heart of Trump’s policies designed to spark an economic revival, rollback the administrative state and rebuild the military. It lies at the core of his mantra: make America great again.

Even the strongest America, however, can’t be a global power without the willingness to act globally. And that’s where Trump’s declaration of “America First” comes in.

What it means for foreign policy is that the president will put the vital interests of the United States above the maintenance of global institutions. That is not an abandonment of universal values. Every American president deals with the challenge of protecting interests and promoting values. Trump will focus on American interests and American values, and that poses no threat to friends and allies. In many cases, we share the same values. In many cases, what’s in America’s vital interest is also in their interest—and best achieved through joint partnership.

Here is how those animating ideas are currently manifesting themselves in Trump’s strategy:

A strategy includes ends (what you are trying to accomplish), means (the capabilities you will use to do that) and ways (how you are going to do it). The ends of Trump’s strategy are pretty clear. In both talk and action in the Trump world, it boils down to three parts of the world: Europe, Asia and the Middle East. That makes sense. Peace and stability in these regions are vital to U.S. interests and are under assault. The United States wants all three parts of the world to settle. It is unrealistic to think all the problems can be made to disappear, but it is not unrealistic to significantly reduce the potential for region-wide conflict.

The means are more than just a strong military. Trump believes in using all the instruments of power, hard and soft. He has unleashed Nikki Haley on the United Nations. He has ordered Rex Tillerson to revamp the State Department so that it is focused on the core tasks of statecraft and the effective and appropriate use of foreign assistance. He wants an intelligence community that delivers intelligence and doesn’t just cater to what the White House wants to hear. And he has ordered Homeland Security to shift from being politically correct to operationally effective. Further, it’s clear that Tillerson, Kelly, Mattis and Sessions are all trying to pull in the same direction.

The ways of the Trump strategy are not the engagement and enlargement of Clinton, the rearranging of the world by Bush, or the disengagement of Obama. The world is filled with intractable problems. Trump is less interested in trying to solve all of them in a New-York minute and more concerned about reducing those problems so that they give the United States and its friends and allies less and less trouble.

Trump is traveling a path between running away and invading. It might be called persistent presence. The United States plans to engage and use its influence in key parts of the world consistently over time to protect our interests. Done consistently, it will not only protect our interests; it will also expand the global safe space by causing bad influences to fade.

Recent activities in the Middle East are a good example. The bomb strike on Syria was not a prelude to regime change or nation-building in Syria. It was a warning shot to Assad to cut it out and stop interfering in U.S. efforts to finish off ISIS, stabilize refugee populations and keep Iraq from falling apart. Engagement with Egypt was to signal America is back working with partners to stabilize the region and counter the twin threats of Islamist extremism and Iran. Neither is a kick-ass-and-withdraw operation. These are signs of long, serious engagement, shrinking the space in which bad actors can operate.

The U.S. regional strategies for Europe and Asia are the same, and it seems clear that Chinese and Russian leaders have gotten the message. In the wake of recent meetings, both countries have reacted by treating Trump with the seriousness he has demanded. Others get it too. I’ve talked to many foreign officials who have come through Washington, DC this year and they have all told me that they got the same impression: this administration is about resolve and persistence. Still, no strategy is without risks and pitfalls. This one is no different. Here is how Trump might screw up or be upended by a smarter or luckier enemy:

Pop goes political will. A strategy of persistent presence can work only if the United States persists. It took past presidents over a decade to screw things up. It is going to take at least eight years of reassuring friends and wearing down adversaries to fix it. Trump will have to get reelected.

Strength for the fight. Trump has to deliver guns and butter: a rebounding economy at home and a strong face abroad. That means a combination of growth and fiscally responsible federal spending—a challenge that eluded the last two presidents.

Mission creep. Presence can lapse into ambition, which can become overreach, or certainly taking on more than make sense to handle. There might always be temptation to deal with a North Korea, Syria or Iran once for all.

Blindsided. There are other parts of the world. An administration can’t be indifferent to effective engagement in Latin America and Africa.

Distractions. Persistence is boring. There is always the temptation to follow the bright foreign-policy object.

Enemy gets a vote. The United States has to be strong in three theaters at the same time, so there will always be a temptation for its competitors to coordinate efforts or seize opportunities to give the United States multiple problems to solve, straining its capability to persist in each theater.

Black Swans. Competitors might get tired of the long war and risk throwing in a game changer. For example, rolling the dice on an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. Effective persistence requires a measure of paranoia. Competitors are never inanimate entities to be pushed around. They have agency, and they are always looking for a way to make a bad day for the other guy.

It remains to be seen if Trump can become a strategic leader capable of steering America past all these obstacles, but certainly he sees the path forward much more clearly than his domestic opponents are willing to recognize or acknowledge.

A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research program for national security and foreign relations.

***

Trump drew his gas-attack red line 6 months ago

Tomahawk missile fired at a Syrian air base from the USS Porter April 6, 2017

WND, by Garth Kant, April 13, 2017:

WASHINGTON – Many of President Trump’s supporters are wary, some even critical, of the cruise-missile strikes against Syria because he had so severely criticized previous U.S. foreign interventions, particularly in the Mideast.

However, candidate Trump actually gave a warning half-a-year ago that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line for him.

In an interview with Sara Carter of Circa News in September, the candidate said an ISIS mustard-gas attack on U.S. troops at a training facility in northern Iraq that had just happened was intolerable.

“When you look at [the fact that] they’re starting to hit us with gas now on top of everything else, that’s a total lack of respect and you cannot let them get away with it,” candidate Trump told her. “You have to go after them big league.”

Carter wrote that Trump said anyone who uses chemical weapons should expect military action.

“You have to hit them so hard and the people that did it,” said Trump. “Don’t forget they’re out there looking to do it again.”

Still, some voters and pundits seem to feel double-crossed by the president after he ordered 59 cruise missiles to hit a Syrian airbase on Thursday in retaliation for the gruesome and deadly gassing of Syrians.

As WND reported, perhaps the president’s biggest supporter in the 2016 campaign, columnist Ann Coulter, tweeted, “Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates.”

Talk-show giant Michael Savage declared, “This beating of the war drums with Russia has to stop.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said, “Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”

On Tuesday, the Washington Times’ Byron York cited a Washington Post poll showing only 35 percent of the public would support another round of airstrikes, and 54 percent opposed that.

York asserted, “[L]eaders don’t surprise the voters with an out-of-the-blue act of war. In the case of Syria, Trump moved so quickly, and with such little effort at public persuasion beforehand, that he maintained the element of surprise on his own voters. That’s not a good idea.”

York cited comments made by radio host Laura Ingraham on Fox News Tuesday morning that Trump’s campaign had “focused on America first. Jobs, the economy, wages going up – that’s it.”

She also quipped, “I’m not sure getting rid of Bashar al-Assad was at the top of the list of the people in Pennsylvania.”

But, also on Tuesday, the president’s top military man sought to reassure the public that America was not heading into another war.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident that “it will not spiral out of control,” and that the cruise-missile strikes were a one-off mission to deter any more chemical attacks by the Assad regime.

However, he did add that any more such attacks would cause Assad to “pay a very, very stiff price.”

WND spoke with one of the nation’s top Middle East experts, who, like the president, is opposed to expanding U.S. intervention in the region but considers the missile strikes the right thing to have done.

Clare Lopez, vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy

Clare Lopez is vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy and has an impressive array of credentials. In addition to spending two decades in the field as a CIA operations officer, Lopez was an instructor for military intelligence and special forces students; has been a consultant, intelligence analyst and researcher within the defense sector; and has published two books on Iran. She also served as a foreign-policy adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Lopez said: “I’ve long opposed U.S. intervention in the middle of an intra-Islamic sectarian fight between Sunnis and Shiites, now much muddled by all kinds of external actors and powers. I still do.”

But, she looks at President Trump’s strike on Syria “in a couple of ways,” detailed in comments emailed to WND:

  • “Iran, Russia, Syria and the U.S. are all signatories to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which obligate us to enforcement of its provisions. President Trump accepted and fulfilled that obligation, not so much in opposition to Assad or in support of any opposing force(s), but in defense of whatever international order still exists.
  • “I believe in so doing, the president not only reasserted U.S. power and influence in the region and put other international leaders on notice, but, in a way, reshuffled the deck in the Middle East to set the stage for what will come next.
  • “Al-Sham (a historic name for Syria) is splintering and will not be put back together again. The best we can salvage out of all that are some autonomous, and perhaps more stable, regions: a Kurdish one (but one that does not touch Turkey’s borders); an Alawite one under the control of a leader in Damascus, but not necessarily current President Assad; and a Sunni-controlled territory to replace the Islamic State – but one that is not, and must not be allowed to be, jihadi.
  • “I think Russia could be a constructive partner in achieving something like this. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not personally wedded to al-Assad remaining in power, and he does not seek to empower Hezbollah to destroy Israel (like Iran does). Moscow wants an arms client in Damascus; its two military bases in Latakia and Tartus; a foothold in the southeastern Mediterranean and influence in the region. It will have those anyway, with or without the involvement of the U.S. government. It’s better, I say, that we are involved than not involved.
  • “At the February 2017 talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, Russian officials already openly and explicitly expressed a willingness to see Assad go. They even suggested, as a temporary placeholder, retired Brigadier General of the Syrian Republican Guard Manaf Tlass (from the regime of Assad’s father) who defected and went into exile in 2011. Why aren’t we jumping all over that, especially as I know for a fact that a number of Free Syrian Army rebel commanders (officers who defected from the Syrian Armed Forces) would also accept such an arrangement? As an interim replacement, Tlass would only serve a while, but he’d keep the Damascus regime in Alawite hands, and not ones from an Assad clan. The Sunnis will fight from now until Armageddon unless the Assads go.
  • “The Islamic State is not now and never has been an existential threat to the USA. Let the regional forces take care of them. But Iran is an existential threat to us and to Israel. It is a nation state, has nuclear programs plus ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles), chemical and biological weapons, and has been enabled to solidify a Shiite crescent around the region (including Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Tehran and maybe Yemen). And it projects power via terror militias like Hezbollah all over the world, including the Western Hemisphere and right here in America.
  • “The Trump team needs to focus on a broad strategic vision for region that prioritizes core, compelling U.S. national security objectives. It must first establish a strategic policy, then react only within that when events demand and exigencies arise – not the other way around. No knee-jerk responses in response to everything that happens but without the framework of a national strategy to guide us.
  • “We can only hope the National Security Council, Pentagon and White House will be able to develop such a plan with some good advice from knowledgeable experts. And at all costs, avoid any more U.S. troop deployments over there. As Caroline Glick wrote in the Jerusalem Post a few weeks ago, ISIS is a vanguard for Iran, which is why neither Damascus nor the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its foreign-specialist Qods Force, nor Hezbollah, nor the Russians ever really went after it in a serious way. ISIS served their purpose, which was to advance and expand Iranian power. Wherever ISIS is, or even recedes from, Iran and Shiites fill in. Is that what the American military is for?! To clear the decks for a Shiite crescent across the Middle East? I don’t think so.”

Radical Iran-led Axis Confronted with U.S. Deterrence for First Time

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
April 11, 2017

The conflict in Syria has long ceased being a civil war, becoming instead a clash between coalitions and blocs that divide the entire Middle East.

The Iranian-led axis is the most dangerous and highly armed bloc fighting in Syria. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is not an independent actor, but rather, a component of this wider axis. In many respects, Assad is a junior member of the Iranian coalition set up to fight for him.

Russia joined the Iranian axis in 2015, acting for its own reasons as the pro-Assad coalition’s air force, helping to preserve the Syrian regime.

This coalition enabled the Assad regime to conduct mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Syria, while also using unconventional weapons against civilians in an effort to terrorize rebel organizations into submission.

Feeling confident by its growing control of Syria, Iran also uses its regional coalition to arm, finance, and deploy Shi’ite jihadist agents all over the Middle East, and to attack those who stand in the way of Iranian domination.

The Iranian-led axis has been able to spread violence, terrorism, and Islamic militancy without facing repercussions.

Until recently, the United States focused its attention exclusively on Sunni jihadist threats – ISIS and al-Qaida-affiliated groups. While these terrorists certainly need to be attacked, turning a blind eye to the activities of the more powerful radical Shi’ite coalition did nothing to stop the region’s destabilization. In this context, Assad’s numerous crimes against humanity went unanswered.

This helped embolden Assad to use chemical weapons. It also gave the Iranians confidence to magnify their meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and to target many other states. The end result is Iran’s enhanced ability to export its Khomeiniest Islamic fundamentalist doctrine.

That sent a troubling message to America’s regional allies, who, in the face of these threats, formed a de facto coalition of pragmatic Sunni states – a coalition that includes Israel.

On April 6, the U.S. sent a signal that something may have changed. A cruise missile attack on an Assad regime air base, in response to a savage chemical weapons massacre in Idlib, Syria, was, first and foremost, a moral response to an intolerable act of evil.

But the strike also carries a wider prospective message about Washington’s new willingness to enforce red lines against Assad and his Shi’ite allies.

Potentially, it is an indication that the U.S. is willing to use its military prowess beyond the objective of targeting ISIS, and that it recognizes that Sunni jihadists are not the only global security threat that warrants the use of military force.

Statements by senior Trump administration officials indicate that a shift has occurred. “What you have in Syria is a very destructive cycle of violence perpetuated by ISIS, obviously, but also by this regime and their Iranian and Russian sponsors,” National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster told Fox News Sunday.

Russia must choose between its alignment with Assad, Iran, and Hizballah, and working with the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday. The firm comment was made hours before he touched down in Moscow for talks.

According to U.S. officials, the April 6 missile attack destroyed 20 percent of Assad’s fighter jets. It represents the first time that Washington has taken military action against a member of the Iranian-led coalition.

The strike could evolve into a ‘dialogue of deterrence’ that the U.S. initiates against dangerous actors. These radical actors all have ‘return addresses,’ and are likely to prove responsive to cost-benefit considerations, despite their extreme ideology. They may think twice before considering further development and usage of unconventional weapons.

Washington is now able to exercise muscular diplomacy – the only kind that is effective in the Middle East – and inform all members of the Iran’s pro-Assad coalition that the deployment of unconventional weapons will not be tolerated. It can also begin to rally and strengthen the pro-American coalition of states in the Middle East, who seek to keep a lid on both ISIS and Iran.

With American officials indicating that they are “ready to do more” in Syria if necessary, signs suggest that the strike represents the start of a policy of deterrence, and leaving open future options for drawing additional red lines.

In theory, should Washington decide that Iran’s transfer of weapons and extremist Shi’ite military forces to other lands has reached unacceptable levels, or that Iran’s missile development program has gone far enough, it could call on Tehran to cease these activities. This call would carry substantially more weight following last week’s missile attack on the Syrian airbase.

The U.S. is in a better position to inform Assad and his allies that there is a limit to how far they can go in pursuing their murderous ambitions.

While the objective of creating a renewed American deterrent posture is vital, it should not be confused with plans for wider military intervention in the seemingly endless Syrian conflict.

There is little reason to believe that conventional weapons use against Syrian civilians is going to stop any time soon, or that the enormous tragedy suffered by the Syrian people is about to end.

And there is certainly no indication that the U.S. is planning to initiate large-scale military involvement in this failed state.

Hence, the missile strike should be seen for what it is: an attempt to boost American deterrence, which can then be leveraged to restrain radical actors that have, until now, been operating completely unchecked.

That is a message that will likely be heard loud and clear not only in Damascus, but also in Tehran, which has not given up its long-term ambition of building nuclear weapons.

North Korea, which helped build Syria’s plutonium nuclear plant (destroyed in 2007 in a reported Israeli air strike), and which maintains close links with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, can be expected to take note as well.

If a policy of strategic deterrence follows the strike, it could have an impact on a coalition that is not just keeping Assad’s regime alive, but spreading its radical influence in many other areas.

In Syria, the Iranian Republican Guards Corps (IRGC) oversees ground operations across many battlefields to prop up Bashar al-Assad. Iran has gathered and armed tens of thousands of Shi’ite militia members from across the region into Syria, and manages a local force composed of 100,000 members. They fight alongside the Syrian Arab Army against Sunni rebel organizations, thereby increasing and entrenching Iranian influence.

The IRGC and its elite Quds Force are also helping to fill Hizballah’s weapons depots in Lebanon, with a vast array of surface-to-surface projectiles that are all pointed at Israel, often using Syria as an arms trafficking transit zone. Syria acts as a bridge that grants Iran access to Lebanon, and allows it to threaten both Israel and Jordan.

Jordan, an important U.S. ally, is deeply concerned by Iran’s actions in Syria, as evidenced by recent comments made by King Abdullah, who told the Washington Post that “there is an attempt to forge a geographic link between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah/Lebanon.” IRGC forces are stationed within a mere 45 miles from Jordan’s border, he warned, adding that any hostile forces approaching the Hashemite Kingdom “are not going to be tolerated.”

Hizballah, a Lebanese-based Iranian Shi’ite proxy, evolved into a powerful army by sending 7,000 to 9,000 of its own highly trained members into Syria’s ground war. It helped rescue the Assad regime from collapse, and took part in battles stretching from Aleppo to the Qalamoun Mountains northeast of Damascus.

Last year, the Arab League and the Sunni countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council all declared Hizballah to be a terrorist entity.

Just as Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have poured into Syria, the same has happened in Iraq, where 100,000 fighters supported by Tehran fight alongside the Iraqi government forces against ISIS. The IRGC’s network extends to Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah forces, who receive Iranian assistance. Ansar Allah, a heavily armed Shi’ite military force, fires ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia on a regular basis.

The IRGC and Hizballah have been linked to a recent large-scale terrorist plot in Bahrain.

If the message addressed in the cruise missile strike is followed up with a strategy of deterrence, addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei as much as it was addressed to Assad, the U.S. could begin projecting to the world that it recognizes the threat posed by Shi’ite jihadists as much as it takes seriously the threat from their fundamentalist Sunni equivalents.

Washington’s campaign to pressure Russia to distance itself from its Middle Eastern allies could play an important part of this message.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

U.S. Unleashes 59 Tomahawk Missiles on Syrian Airbase Pinpointed as Origin of Sarin Attack

The USS Ross, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, fires a Tomahawk missile in the Mediterranean on April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, April 7, 2017:

WASHINGTON — Declaring “no child of God should ever suffer such horror” as the “Black Tuesday” neurotoxin attack on a Syrian neighborhood, President Trump ordered a flurry of cruise missiles fired at the airbase from which the Assad regime planes that struck Khan Shaykhun originated.

Fifty-nine Tomahawks from two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, the USS Ross and USS Porter, targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs province at 4:40 a.m. local time. Defense officials reportedly used radar tracking to pinpoint the base as the originating location of the planes bearing an agent that produced symptoms consistent with sarin.

Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the missiles “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.”

“As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict,” Davis said. “Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.”

“The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.”

Defense officials informed Russia ahead of time about the planned airstrike time and location, citing their previous deconfliction agreement to improve flight safety after near-misses as the Russians flew missions with Assad forces against Assad’s opposition and the U.S. flew missions against ISIS. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” Davis said.

The Pentagon is assessing the results of the strike, but “initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,” Davis said.

“The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated,” he added.

Pentagon sources told CNN that they believe Russians were at the airfield when the sarin attacks were launched earlier in the week. Arab reports tonight indicated Hezbollah were among the casualties at the base.

“Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children,” Trump said in a message to the country tonight from Mar-a-Lago. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Trump emphasized “it is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council,” he said. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

“Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.”

Also down at Mar-a-Lago, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told reporters that “there were three options we discussed with the president” at the National Security Council,” and Trump “asked us to focus on two options in particular, to mature those options.”

After “two rather large and formal meetings” and “a far-reaching discussion, the president decided to act,” McMaster said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration “coordinated very carefully with our international partners in terms of communicating with them around the world.”

“I would tell you that the response from our allies, as well as the region and the Middle East has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action we taken,” he said, adding that he personally believed Trump “made the correct choice and made the correct decision.”

Trump’s action drew praise from some of his foreign policy detractors. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement that “unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action.”

“For that, he deserves the support of the American people. Building on tonight’s credible first step, we must finally learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress,” they added. “That means following through with a new, comprehensive strategy in coordination with our allies and partners to end the conflict in Syria.”

“The first measure in such a strategy must be to take Assad’s air force — which is responsible not just for the latest chemical weapons attack, but countless atrocities against the Syrian people — completely out of the fight. We must also bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition and establish safe zones to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. As we do, we can and must continue the campaign to achieve ISIS’s lasting defeat.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.‎”

“It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it,” Schumer added. “I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the strikes “appropriate and just.”

“These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on American inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people,” Ryan said. “Resolving the years-long crisis in Syria is a complex task, but Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable and his enablers must be persuaded to change course. I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was not as pleased as his congressional colleagues: “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked,” he said. “The president needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate.”

“Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different,” Paul added.

And there was bipartisan agreement that Congress wants to be involved: “Whatever the merits of a military strike on Syria, there is no doubt the Constitution demands it be congressionally authorized,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Trump was cheered on social media by some in the Arab world, referring to him as Abu Ivanka (father of Ivanka):

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CAIR thinks the Muslim Brotherhood has triumphed. The Trump administration should prove them wrong

Belal Darder | AP Photo

Conservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, Aprl 5, 2017:

Back in January, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke ranks with his predecessors in a fundamental and dramatic way during his confirmation hearings.

“The demise of ISIS would also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran,” said Tillerson, who would be tasked with leading the historically progressive Foggy Bottom agency that had actively partnered with both the Muslim Brotherhood and mullah-controlled parties within Iran during the Obama years.

Calling the Muslim Brotherhood an “agent of radical Islam” and lumping it in with ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Shia jihadists in Iran during prepared remarks signaled the Trump administration’s commitment to defeating radical Islam.

For in spite of its portrayal by the Obama administration and its media allies as a “moderate” organization, the Muslim Brotherhood is the tip of the Islamic supremacist spear.

Its credo, which it has never disavowed, reads: “Allah is our objective; the Koran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

It engages in activities both “peaceful” and violent, covert and overt, geared toward the goal of spreading Sharia over all the world.

As summarized in a recent piece for the Gatestone Institute, legislation re-upped by Senator Ted Cruz provides a wealth of evidence for designating the group as a foreign terrorist organization, including:

  • The many countries that have declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization or barred it from operating
  • The explicit calls for violent jihad, with the end goal of imposing Islamic law over all the world of the group’s founder and spiritual leader Hassan al-Banna, and the consistently violent Islamic supremacist content of the Brotherhood’s core membership texts
  • The terrorist efforts of numerous jihadist groups explicitly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the efforts of individual Muslim Brotherhood members designated as terrorists by the U.S. government themselves
  • The litany of terrorist financing cases involving the Muslim Brotherhood, including the … Holy Land Foundation case, whereby:

Department of Justice officials successfully argued in court that the international Muslim Brotherhood and its United States affiliates had engaged in a widespread conspiracy to raise money and materially support the terrorist group Hamas …

Developments large and small are testing the administration’s commitment to countering Islamic supremacist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood — essential tests to pass if the president is to carry out his stated agenda to defeat radical Islam.

Mere months after Secretary Tillerson put the Muslim Brotherhood on notice, followed by news that the administration was indeed evaluating designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, recent reports indicate that the administration has now shelved this plan.

What changed within the first hundred days of the Trump presidency?

The Muslim Brotherhood and much of the foreign policy establishment carried out a concerted campaign to protect the organization from terrorist organization designation, producing a loud echo chamber that would make Ben Rhodes blush.

As documented by the Middle East Media Research Institute, as early as November 2016, the Muslim Brotherhood undertook efforts to develop a lobby and execute an information operation geared towards dissuading the U.S. government from pursuing actions against it.

The Clarion Project revealed that a senior Muslim Brotherhood official let it be known through the Arab language press that the group was putting $5 million behind such a public relations effort.

According to the Washington Times, officials from Arab governments like Jordan allegedly advised U.S. government officials against such a designation.

Meanwhile, fixtures of the foreign policy establishment took to publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Foreign Policy, publishing and/or providing comments for a slew of pieces defending the Muslim Brotherhood, while arguing that terrorist designation was either wholly unmerited, impractical, or impracticable. The New York Times notably gave the Clinton Foundation-linked, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad space on its editorial page to propagandize.

In early February, as these efforts were ramping up, Politico obtained a CIA memo signaling its aversion to Muslim Brotherhood terrorist designation, on grounds that it could “fuel extremism.” National security analyst Patrick Poole suggests that this was no coincidence. According to Poole, “the CIA and the U.S. intelligence community were directly involved in funding the experts who pushed the bogus ‘moderate Muslim Brotherhood’ narrative beginning in the latter end of the Bush administration.” More importantly, Poole suggests that this report is dubious in that it contradicts the recent intelligence assessments of several European nations and the CIA’s own prior analyses on the Muslim Brotherhood, which indicate the group’s continued devotion to its Islamist creed.

The State Department also apparently produced a memo advising against foreign terrorist organization designation, which may have been the decisive effort that caused the administration to drop the executive order.

Of course, as readers know, Obama administration officials continue to populate key positions in the State Department. They are likely supportive of his pro-Muslim Brotherhood posture. This leads to several questions. Among them: Who produced the Muslim Brotherhood memo at State? If it was not President Trump’s appointees, was the memo subjected to significant scrutiny?

Concurrent with the Muslim Brotherhood campaign, counter-jihadists in the Trump administration — and those most likely to support measures to neutralize the Brotherhood — such as Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton were subjected to constant attacks. The targeting of these individuals came on the heels of the departures of counter-jihadists including Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and would-be Deputy National Security Advisor Monica Crowley, who themselves were in part victims of smear campaigns.

Last but not least, the president’s terror entry/immigration executive order, a lynchpin of his counter-jihadist policy, has fallen under siege, remaining mired in litigation.

In the face of this onslaught, did the president’s brain-trust deem an executive order aimed at designating the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization politically untenable?

Or was it that their philosophical view on the issue shifted?

These are critical questions demanding answers.

For what it’s worth, if the actions of its offshoots are any indication, it would appear that the Muslim Brotherhood believes it has won.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the aforementioned Holy Land Foundation case, continues audaciously attempting to discredit and ultimately claim the scalps of national security officials who understand the jihadists’ threat doctrine.

Readers will recall that at the urging of groups including CAIR, under its “countering violent extremism” paradigm, the Obama administration engaged in a purge of the very training materials that would have provided national security officials with an understanding of the jihadist threat based upon the theopolitical Islamic supremacist ideology at its core.

It also waged war on the officials best equipped to train national security officials in countering the jihadist threat.

Judicial Watch reports that one such expert, Patrick T. Dunleavy, is now being targeted by CAIR for removal from his role as counterterrorism instructor at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) in Florida.

According to CAIR, Mr. Dunleavy is an “anti-Muslim propaganda mouthpiece…[who] has made a number of false statements betraying a personal prejudice against Islam and Muslims.”

These attacks are self-evidently baseless and outrageous.

Dunleavy’s real crime, apparently, is his willingness to confront the jihadist threat and dedicate his career to waking others up to it, as he has done through his book, The Fertile Soil of Jihad: Terrorism’s Prison Connection, congressional testimony, and roles briefing America’s national security officials at institutions like USAFSOS.

That CAIR would strive to bring down Dunleavy, a former New York State deputy inspector general for New York’s Department of Corrections who has investigated jihadist infiltration of our prison system, is telling.

It means it believes the status quo is going to be maintained and it can continue to act with impunity.

The status quo means continuing to seek to silence and thus chill anyone who speaks openly and honestly about the jihadist threat.

CAIR’s actions can be seen as a proxy for the Muslim Brotherhood’s view as to America’s willingness to counter it.

The Trump administration can send a clear signal that it remains dedicated to defeating radical Islam by standing with Mr. Dunleavy.

Ben Weingarten is Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. A graduate of Columbia University, he regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal, The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

White House Officials Divided on Islam, ISIS, Israel and Iran

Gatestone Institute, by Soeren Kern, April 5, 2017:

  • The decision to select Army Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster to replace retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security advisor is setting into motion a cascade of other personnel decisions that, far from draining the swamp, appear to be perpetuating it.
  • Trump has decided to retain Yael Lempert, a controversial NSC staffer from the Obama administration. Analyst Lee Smith reported that, according to a former official in the Clinton administration, Lempert “is considered one of the harshest critics of Israel on the foreign policy far left.”
  • Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who served as the NSC’s Iran director during the Obama administration, is now in charge of policy planning for Iran and the Persian Gulf at the Trump State Department. Nowrouzzadeh, whose main task at Obama’s NSC was to help broker the Iran Nuclear Deal, is a former employee of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a lobbying group widely believed to be a front group for the Islamic dictatorship in Iran.
  • “The people who are handling key elements of those conflicts now are the same people who handled those areas under Obama, despite the results of the last election. No wonder the results look equally awful.” — Lee Smith, Middle East analyst.

The people U.S. President Donald J. Trump has chosen to lead his foreign policy team may complicate efforts to fulfill his inaugural pledge to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism” “from the face of the Earth” — a Herculean task even under the best of circumstances.

An analysis of the political appointments to the different agencies within the U.S. national security apparatus shows that the key members of the president’s foreign policy team hold widely divergent views on the threat posed by radical Islam — and on the nature of Islam itself. They also disagree on approaches to Iran, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the European Union, Russia, globalism and other national security issues.

The policy disconnect is being exacerbated by the fact that dozens of key positions within the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies remain unfilled. The result is that the administration has been relying on holdovers from the Obama administration to formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy.

Current foreign policy advisors can be roughly divided into several competing factions and ideological schisms: career staffers versus political appointees, civilian strategists versus military tacticians, Trump supporters versus Obama loyalists, politically correct consensus-seekers versus politically incorrect ideologues, New York moderates versus populist hardliners, Palestinian sympathizers versus advocates for Israel, proponents of the Iran deal versus supporters of an anti-Iran coalition — and those who believe that Islamism and radical Islamic terrorism derive from Islam itself versus those who insist that Islam is a religion of peace.

The winners of these various power struggles ultimately will determine the ideological direction of U.S. policy on a variety of national security issues, including the war on Islamic terror.

During his presidential campaign, voters were promised a radical shift in American foreign policy, and the consensus-driven foreign policy establishment in Washington was repeatedly blamed for making the world less stable and more dangerous.

Although much can change, the current incarnation of the national security team indicates that the administration’s foreign policy, especially toward the Middle East and the broader Islamic world, may end up being more similar than different to that of the Obama administration. Those hoping for a radical change to the politically correct status quo may be disappointed.

National Security Advisor

Among recent personnel decisions, arguably the most fateful has been to select Army Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster to replace retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security advisor. This change is setting into motion a cascade of other personnel decisions that, far from draining the swamp, appears to be perpetuating it.

Flynn, who resigned on February 13 after leaked intelligence reports alleged that he misrepresented his conversations with a Russian diplomat, has long argued that the West is in a civilizational clash with Islam, and that the war on terror must be expanded and intensified to reflect this reality.

By contrast, McMaster emphatically rejects the notion of a clash of civilizations. His statements on Islam are highly nuanced and not materially different from those of former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump appears with Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster, on February 20, 2017. (Image source: PBS News video screenshot)

Flynn, in a speech delivered at a synagogue in Stoughton, Massachusetts in August 2016, warned that the ultimate goal of radical Islam is world hegemony:

“We are facing another ‘ism,’ just like we faced Nazism, and fascism, and imperialism and communism. This is Islamism, it is a vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people on this planet and it has to be excised.”

That same month, Flynn addressed a Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas:

“I don’t see Islam as a religion. I see it as a political ideology that will mask itself as a religion globally, and especially in the West, especially in the United States, because it can hide behind and protect itself by what we call freedom of religion.”

In Flynn’s book, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War against Radical Islam and its Allies,” he warned:

“We’re in a world war against a messianic mass movement of evil people, most of them inspired by a totalitarian ideology: Radical Islam…. We’ve got to stop feeling the slightest bit guilty about calling them by name and identifying them as fanatical killers acting on behalf of a failed civilization.”

In an opinion article published by the New York Post in July 2016, Flynn wrote that America’s war against radical Islam is being run by political leaders who refuse to see the big picture:

“If our leaders were interested in winning [the war against radical Islam], they would have to design a strategy to destroy this global enemy. But they don’t see the global war. Instead, they timidly nibble around the edges of the battlefields from Africa to the Middle East, and act as if each fight, whether in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya or Afghanistan, can be peacefully resolved by diplomatic effort….

“No, we’re not going to talk our way out of this war, nor can we escape its horrors. Ask the people in San Bernardino or South Florida, or the relatives of the thousands killed on 9/11. We’re either going to win or lose. There is no other ‘solution.’

“I believe we can and must win. This war must be waged both militarily and politically; we have to destroy the enemy armies and combat enemy doctrines. Both are doable. On military battlefields, we have defeated radical Islamic forces every time we have seriously gone after them, from Iraq to Afghanistan. Their current strength is not a reflection of their ability to overwhelm our armed forces, but rather the consequence of our mistaken and untimely withdrawal after demolishing them….

“We have the wherewithal, but lack the will. That has to change. It’s hard to imagine it happening with our current leaders, but the next president will have to do it.”

McMaster, however, has openly repudiated Flynn’s — and Trump’s — views on Islam. He rejects any connection between terrorism and Islam, even though Islamic scripture clearly states that true Muslims are duty-bound to wage jihad on non-Muslims until the entire world is brought under the submission of Islam and Sharia law.

On February 23, during his first staff meeting as the newly minted national security advisor, McMaster reportedly urged National Security Council employees to avoid using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” because, according to McMaster, groups such as the Islamic State represent a “perversion of Islam” and are therefore “un-Islamic.” McMaster added that “he’s not on board” with using the term because it castigates “an entire religion” and may alienate Muslim allies in the Middle East.

Less than a week later, McMaster urged Trump to remove references to “radical Islamic terrorism” from the speech the president was to deliver to Congress on February 28. The president nevertheless prevailed. “We are also taking strong measures,” he said, “to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.”

Long before becoming America’s leading advisor on national security matters, McMaster, who has a long history of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, consistently echoed the Obama administration’s rhetorical efforts to delink Islamic terrorism from Islamic doctrine.

In November 2016, during a speech to the Virginia Military Institute, McMaster said that the Islamic State “cynically uses a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”

In May 2016, during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he said:

“Groups like the Islamic State use this irreligious ideology, this perverted interpretation of religion to justify violence. They depend on ignorance, and the ability to recruit vulnerable segments of populations to foment hatred, and then use that hatred to justify violence against innocents.”

In August 2014, when McMaster was the featured speaker for the President’s Lecture Series at the National Defense University, he reportedly declared: “The Islamic State is not Islamic.”

In 2010, McMaster enthusiastically endorsed a book entitled, “Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat,” by U.S. Navy Commander Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and published by the Naval Institute Press. A review by analyst Youssef M. Ibrahim found its claims, “many of which the Obama administration followed to disastrous results, to be incorrect and problematic.”

Aboul-Enein’s central objective is to urge American policymakers to distinguish between militant Islamists such as members of the Islamic State and non-militant Islamists such as members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ibrahim counters: “In reality, all Islamists share the same ultimate goal of global Islamic hegemony. They differ in methodology — but not in their view of us as the enemy to be crushed.”

Ibrahim continues:

“Aboul-Enein also suggests that if an American soldier ever desecrates a Koran, U.S. leadership must not merely relieve him of duty, but offer ‘unconditional apologies,’ and emulate the words of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, which Aboul-Enein quotes as exemplary: ‘I come before you [Muslims] seeking your forgiveness, in the most humble manner I look in your eyes today, and say please forgive me and my soldiers,’ followed by kissing a new Koran and ‘ceremoniously’ presenting it to Muslims.

McMaster’s endorsement of the book, which appears on the jacket cover, reads:

“Terrorist organizations use a narrow and irreligious ideology to recruit undereducated and disenfranchised people to their cause. Understanding terrorist ideology is the first and may also be the most important step in ensuring national and international security against the threat that these organizations pose.

“Youssef Aboul-Enein’s book is an excellent starting point in that connection. Militant Islamist Ideology deserves a wide readership among all those concerned with the problem of transnational terrorism, their ideology, and our efforts to combat those organizations that pose a serious threat to current and future generations of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

McMaster’s position on the nuclear deal with Iran remains unclear. If his views on Islam are any indication, McMaster, unlike Flynn, probably does not view Iran in ideological terms.

The president has described the “Iran Deal” as a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.” On February 1, after Iran launched a ballistic missile, the White House signaled a tougher line on Tehran. Flynn said:

“President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran, the Obama administration as well as the United Nations as being weak and ineffective. Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”

Flynn’s ouster less than two weeks later was rumored to have been orchestrated by Obama confidants in order to preserve the Iran Deal. According to reporter Adam Kredo:

“The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes — the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber — included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.

“The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.”

Strategic Initiatives Group

McMaster’s views on Islam are also diametrically opposed to those held by Stephen K. Bannon, the administration’s chief political strategist. Bannon has long warned that the Judeo-Christian West is in a civilizational conflict with Islam.

On January 28, the president signed an executive order making Bannon a permanent invitee to all meetings of the National Security Council, and also making him a regular member of the so-called Principals Committee, the Cabinet-level senior interagency forum that is led by the national security advisor and decides foreign policy issues that do not go to the president. The executive order significantly increased Bannon’s influence and power in the White House decision-making process.

At the same time, Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have established the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House think tank that some analysts believe will challenge policy advice coming from McMaster and the National Security Council.

The Strategic Initiatives Group, which has been described as a “shadow NSC,” is run by assistant to the president Christopher Liddell and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and includes deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka, author of the book, “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.” Like Bannon, Gorka believes that “the global jihadi movement is a modern totalitarian ideology rooted in the doctrines and martial history of Islam.”

McMaster is rumored to be considering a reorganization of the White House foreign policy team that would give him more control. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said that McMaster has full authority to organize his staff, but that any change in Bannon’s status must be approved by the president. Either way, conflict between McMaster and Bannon seems inevitable.

National Security Council

McMaster’s first personnel decision was to name Dina Powell to serve as Deputy National Security Advisor, the number two position on the National Security Council — and a post already filled by K.T. McFarland.

McFarland, a former official in the Reagan administration, has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s timidity in the face of radical Islam, which she has described as “the most virulent, lethal, apocalyptic death cult in history.” In an opinion article that was published in the wake of the jihadist attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016, McFarland wrote:

“Global Islamist jihad is at war with all of Western civilization. President Obama and other Western leaders may not see it as a war, but the other side does. Left largely unchecked over the last seven years, radical Islam has exploded worldwide….

“We have been one step behind this enemy for years. We’re still tongue-tied by political correctness, while they’re setting off bombs at train stations, airports and community centers.

“We are losing this war. Our losses grow greater every day, while terrorists recruit off the images of the West’s most innocent and vulnerable fleeing in horror. The hour is already late to defeat this growing scourge. But if we are to defeat radical Islam, it will be only with a multifaceted, comprehensive strategy that calls on all the aspects of the national power of ourselves and our allies — like we summoned to defeat the Nazis in World War II or the Communists in the Cold War.”

McFarland, whose future at the NSC has been uncertain since Flynn resigned, reportedly has been offered the post of U.S. ambassador to Singapore.

Dina Habib Powell, 43, a former executive with Goldman Sachs, is the first Arab-American to join the Trump White House. She was born in Egypt and immigrated to the United States as a child with her Coptic Christian parents. Fluent in Arabic, she worked in the Bush administration, on public diplomacy to improve perceptions of America in the Arab world.

Powell is also said to be close to many Democrats, including some who have worked in the Obama administration. According to Politico, Powell has a strong personal relationship with Valerie Jarrett, one of the closest advisors to Barack Obama. Jarrett, who was born in Iran, and is widely rumored to be the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal, reportedly has moved into Obama’s home in Washington, D.C. to lead a resistance movement against Trump’s efforts to reverse his predecessor’s foreign and domestic policies.

Powell’s ascendancy is tied to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who hired her to provide advice on politics in Washington. Powell has been described as “Ivanka Trump’s woman in the White House.”

Meanwhile, McMaster has tried to replace Ezra Watnick-Cohen, the NSC’s senior director for intelligence programs. Watnick-Cohen, another Flynn protégé, is a 30-year-old intelligence operative with the Defense Intelligence Agency who has reportedly fallen out of favor with some people at the Central Intelligence Agency. Politico reported that Cohen-Watnick and Flynn “saw eye to eye about the failings of the CIA human intelligence operations,” according to an operative. “The CIA saw him as a threat, so they tried to unseat him and replace him with an agency loyalist,” he said.

Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to Bannon and Kushner, both of whom brought the matter to Trump. The president eventually agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director.

McMaster reportedly also wanted to replace Cohen-Watnick with Linda Weissgold, a longtime CIA official. During the Obama administration Weissgold served as director of the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis. Journalist Michael Warren wrote:

“In her position at OTA, she was also involved directly in drafting the now infamous Benghazi talking points, which government officials revised heavily to include factually incorrect assessments that stated the attackers were prompted by protests. According to the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s report, Weissgold testified she had changed one such talking point to say that extremists in Benghazi with ties to al Qaeda had been involved in ‘protests’ in the Libyan city, despite the fact that no such protests occurred there on the day of the attack.”

The CIA also rejected a security clearance for Robin Townley, the NSC’s senior director for Africa and one of Flynn’s closest advisors. The denial of a request for so-called “Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearance forced Townley, a former Marine intelligence officer who had long maintained a top secret-level security clearance, out of his NSC post. The rejection was approved by Mike Pompeo, the new CIA director.

Flynn and his allies reportedly believed that the rejection was motivated by Townley’s skepticism of the intelligence community. “They believe this is a hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him,” said one source, who argued that some in the intelligence community felt threatened by Flynn and his allies. “Townley believes that the CIA doesn’t run the world,” the source said.

The Cohen-Watnick and Townley episodes have highlighted ongoing tensions between the CIA and Trump advisors who are skeptical of the agency. Flynn was said by some as waging “a jihad against the intelligence community” while others have pointed to Flynn’s ouster as an example of how the CIA is trying to undermine the Trump administration and retain its own autonomy.

At the same time, Trump has decided to retain Yael Lempert, a controversial NSC staffer from the Obama administration. Analyst Lee Smith reported that, according to a former official in the Clinton administration, Lempert “is considered one of the harshest critics of Israel on the foreign policy far left.” The source added:

“From her position on the Obama NSC, she helped manufacture crisis after crisis in a relentless effort to portray Israel negatively and diminish the breadth and depth of our alliance. Most Democrats in town know better than to let her manage Middle East affairs. It looks like the Trump administration has no idea who she is or how hostile she is to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Smith noted:

“This is the same Trump administration that said it was going to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem? Making big promises to Jewish voters during campaign season and then dumping them in the trash along with yesterday’s campaign lawn signs is old hat in Washington, though. And after eight years of Obama’s very public ministrations to his favorite ‘donors,’ Jewish votes are especially cheap — you can name Louis Farrakhan’s former spokesman as vice chairman of your party and the faithful will sigh with relief. So why should Trump bother?”

Smith also revealed that the Trump administration has retained Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s special envoy to lead the campaign against the Islamic State. According to Smith:

“One of the main reasons Obama’s ISIS policy failed was because Sunni actors refused to engage in an intramural civil war whose spoils would go to the Iranians and their Shia allies. McGurk was the point man on this pro-Iran policy, famously arranging for Iran to get $400 million in cash delivered on wooden pallets to the IRGC in exchange for American hostages.

“Remember when the Trump administration promised to make public the secret agreements that Obama made with Iran? McGurk signed some of the secret documents, relieving sanctions on a key financial hub of Iran’s ballistic-missile program, and dropping charges against 21 Iranian operatives linked to terrorism. Notably, none of those documents has actually been made public. Maybe that’s because McGurk’s name is on them.”

State Department

Meanwhile, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who served as the NSC’s Iran director during the Obama administration, is now in charge of policy planning for Iran and the Persian Gulf at the Trump State Department. Nowrouzzadeh, whose main task at Obama’s NSC was to help broker the Iran Nuclear Deal, is a former employee of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a lobbying group widely believed to be a front group for the Islamic dictatorship in Iran.

In an opinion article published by the Washington Examiner on March 16, Amir Basiri, an Iranian human rights activist wrote:

“Obama’s failed Iran policy is a clear testament to the damage that appeasement and rapprochement does to the Iranian people, Middle East nations, and U.S. interests. The ill that Nowrouzzadeh and her ilk have caused only underlines the necessity to drain the Iran appeasement swamp in the State Department, and to stand with the Iranian people for a change.”

Other notable holdovers from the Obama administration include:

  • Chris Backemeyer, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for Iranian affairs under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Backemeyer is now the highest-ranking official at the State Department for Iran policy. During the Obama administration, Backemeyer was tasked with persuading multinational corporations to do business with Iran.
  • Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., a career foreign service officer who serves as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Shannon, the State Department’s fourth-ranking official, has warned that scrapping the Iran Deal would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “Any effort to step away from the deal would reopen a Pandora’s box in that region that would be hard to close again,” he said. His statement indicates that Shannon could be expected to lead efforts to resist any attempts to renege or renegotiate the deal; critics of the deal say that Iran’s continued missile testing has given Trump one more reason to tear up his predecessor’s deal with the Islamist regime.
  • Michael Ratney, a top advisor to former Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria policy. Under the Trump administration, Ratney’s role at the State Department has been expanded to include Israel and Palestine issues. In July 2016, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations disclosed that Ratney, who was the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem between 2012 and 2015, oversaw $465,000 in U.S. grants to the OneVoice Movement, a liberal group that waged a clandestine campaign to smear and remove Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office. Ratney admitted to Senate investigators that he deleted emails containing information about the Obama administration’s relationship with the non-profit group.

On March 30, Trump’s State Department announced that it would allow Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian official known for promoting the murder and kidnapping of Israelis, into the United States for a series of high-level meetings on the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Rajoub was sentenced in September 1970 to life in prison for throwing a grenade at an Israeli Army bus near Hebron. He served 15 years in prison, but was released in a 1985 prisoner exchange. Since then, he has repeatedly praised Palestinian terrorists who kill Israeli civilians. In an October 2015 television interview, Rajoub said:

“These are individual acts of bravery, and I am proud of them. I congratulate everyone who carried them out. I say to you, we are proud of you. Whoever confronts, fights, dies as a Martyr, is arrested or injured, they are assets to the entire Palestinian people.”

The Trump administration issued an anodyne statement that could easily have come from the Obama administration:

“The U.S. government does not endorse every statement Mr. Rajoub has made, but he has long been involved in Middle East peace efforts, and has publicly supported a peaceful, non-violent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We continue to press Fatah officials, including Rajoub himself, to refrain from any statements or actions that could be viewed as inciting or legitimizing others use of violence.”

Foreign affairs columnist Lawrence J. Haas has sharply criticized the administration’s embrace of Rajoub:

“Rajoub is no peace activist who just needs to tone down his rhetoric. He’s a hardcore Israel rejectionist who honors ‘martyrs,’ promotes murder and kidnapping, and envisions a Palestine that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, erasing Israel in the process.

“The embrace of Rajoub raises profound questions as to whether President Donald Trump has a coherent policy toward Israel or, as seems more likely, disjointed policies are emerging from competing power centers across the administration that view Israel and the U.S.-Israeli alliance in profoundly different ways.”

Historian Daniel Pipes believes the Trump administration may follow Obama’s footsteps and ultimately turn against Israel. In an interview, Pipes said:

“I also wouldn’t be surprised if he [Trump] turned against Israel, seeing it as the intractable party because that is what often happens. Look at Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama: they make efforts and they get frustrated that the Israelis don’t give more because there is an enduring belief that if only the Israelis gave more, the Palestinians would relent and stop being rejectionists and everything would be fine. So, I am worried.”

Department of Defense

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis’s initial choice to be his second in command was Michèle Flournoy, a Democrat who was seen as a leading candidate for Defense Secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration. Flournoy turned down Mattis’s offer and the position continues to be filled by Robert O. Work, who was appointed to the job by President Obama. Some Republicans blame Work for Mattis’s failure to advocate for a greater increase in the defense budget.

Mattis, who fell out with the Obama administration over Iran, also proposed Anne W. Patterson as his choice for undersecretary for policy. Patterson served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, a time when the Obama administration supported the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of then-President Mohamed Morsi. Patterson’s nomination was vetoed by the White House. The position is being filled by Theresa Whelan, a career member of the Senior Executive Service.

For the post of undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Mattis proposed Rudy de Leon, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by Clinton acolyte John Podesta. De Leon, it so happens, signed a January 30 letter opposing Trump’s moratorium on migrants from six Muslim countries. The letter says the suspension is “inhumane” and “beneath the dignity of our great nation.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed frustration with Mattis. An aide to a Republican Senator on the Armed Services Committee said: “He certainly has got a tough job, but it sometimes feels like he forgets that we won the election.” Another said: “We’ve waited eight years for this, to be able to fill these posts with Republicans. We know Trump isn’t part of the establishment and that it’s going to be a bit different, but it should go without saying that a Republican administration is expected to staff federal agencies with Republicans.”

National Economic Council

The National Economic Council, the main forum for developing and coordinating the president’s economic program, is headed by Gary Cohn, a registered Democrat and, like Dina Powell, a former executive of Goldman Sachs. So far, so good.

As Trump’s top economic policy advisor, however, Cohn has sparred with Bannon over key aspects of the administration’s economic, tax and trade policies. Among other issues, the two men are said to have competing positions on the border adjustment tax (Bannon is for it, Cohn is not), the carbon tax (Cohn is for it, Bannon is not) and trade. Cohn is a free trade globalist who supports multilateral trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), while Bannon is an economic nationalist who eschews them.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly described NAFTA as a “disaster” and vowed to renegotiate the deal. On March 30, however, the Wall Street Journal, reviewing an administration draft proposal, reported that the White House is now seeking mostly minor changes to NAFTA and plans to retain some of its most controversial provisions.

Fox Business Correspondent Charlie Gasparino wrote:

“How Bannon and Cohn became senior officials in the Trump administration speaks to the president’s unorthodox management style, where he appoints people to key positions often based on gut and personal relationships.

“While Trump was naturally attracted to Bannon’s political and economic policies, he is said to be fond of Cohn’s assertive management style and stature; while at Goldman, Cohn was an imposing figure on the firm’s trading floor and later as a top executive, where he was regarded as the heir apparent to the firm’s chief executive Lloyd Blankfein.

“But now Trump’s management style is being put to the test on economic issues as Bannon and Cohn compete for the president’s ear.”

Roger Stone, a longtime Trump loyalist, has accused Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, of feeding “lies and intel” to the media to hurt Bannon and others who are arguing against the “globalist agenda.” In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Stone said:

“The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, perhaps the one presidential aide who cannot be fired, is now in regular text-message communications with Joe Scarborough [a cable news and talk show host],” Stone said. “Many of the anti-Steve Bannon stories that you see, the themes that you see on ‘Morning Joe’ are being dictated by Kushner.”

Cohn and Powell are said to be allied with Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka and Kushner. They are allegedly leading a White House faction that has been referred to as the “New York liberals.” They are reportedly battling with the Bannon faction of populist hardliners for policy influence on a wide variety of policy issues.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to the president, put it this way: “It would be interesting to see to what degree the New York liberals change Trump and to what degree Trump changes the New York liberals.”

Conclusion

Trump has the opportunity to fill as many as 4,000 leadership and policymaking positions across the federal government, but he has vowed to leave many political appointments unfilled “because they’re unnecessary to have.”

As Lee Smith points out, the policy implications of the unfilled vacancies and the ongoing turf wars within the Trump administration are far-reaching:

“The main point is this: While the Trump cabinet is at daggers drawn, while it can’t hire the staff to implement the policies the president campaigned on — to destroy ISIS, to rein in Iran and crash the nuclear deal, to protect American citizens and interests, and to realign with allies like Israel that Obama made vulnerable — there are much more decisive and deadly conflicts going on almost everywhere around the world. The people who are handling key elements of those conflicts now are the same people who handled those areas under Obama, despite the results of the last election. No wonder the results look equally awful.”

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him onFacebook and on Twitter.