State Department Waging “Open War” on White House

Gatestone Institute, by Soeren Kern, 

  • “It’s not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss’s rapprochement with the Israeli government.” — Foreign policy operative, quoted in the Washington Free Beacon.
  • Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Rex Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict President Trump’s key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.
  • “Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created.” — Veteran foreign policy analyst, quoted in the Free Beacon.

The U.S. State Department has backed away from a demand that Israel return $75 million in military aid which was allocated to it by the U.S. Congress.

The repayment demand, championed by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was described as an underhanded attempt by the State Department to derail a campaign pledge by U.S. President Donald J. Trump to improve relations with the Jewish state.

The dispute is the just the latest example of what appears to be a growing power struggle between the State Department and the White House over the future direction of American foreign policy.

The controversy goes back to the Obama administration’s September 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel, which pledged $38 billion in military assistance to Jerusalem over the next decade. The MOU expressly prohibits Israel from requesting additional financial aid from Congress.

Congressional leaders, who said the MOU violates the constitutional right of lawmakers to allocate U.S. aid, awarded Israel an additional $75 million in assistance in the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.

Tillerson had argued that Israel should return the $75 million in order to stay within the limits established by the Obama administration. The effort provoked a strong reaction from Congress, which apparently prompted Tillerson to back down.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) “strongly warned the State Department that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) added:

“As Iran works to surround Israel on every border, and Hezbollah and Hamas rearm, we must work to strengthen our alliance with Israel, not strain it. Congress has the right to allocate money as it deems necessary, and security assistance to Israel is a top priority. Congress is ready to ensure Israel receives the assistance it needs to defend its citizens.”

A veteran congressional advisor told the Free Beacon:

“This is a transparent attempt by career staffers in the State Department to f*ck with the Israelis and derail the efforts of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to rebuild the US-Israel relationship. There’s no reason to push for the Israelis to return the money, unless you’re trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Congress, which is exactly what this is. It won’t work.”

Another foreign policy operative said: “It’s not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss’s rapprochement with the Israeli government.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and President Donald J. Trump (right) on February 1, 2017. (Image source: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict Trump’s key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.

August 10. The State Department hosted representatives of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group established by the Muslim Brotherhood with the aim of mainstreaming political Islam in the United States. Behind closed doors, they reportedly discussed what they said was Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and the removal of all Israeli control of the Temple Mount and holy areas of Jerusalem. Observers said the meeting was part of larger effort by anti-Israel organizations to drive a wedge between the Trump administration and Israel. The USCMO includes a number of organizations, including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which promote “extreme anti-Israel views” and “anti-Zionist” propaganda, and which support boycotts of the Jewish state.

July 19. The State Department’s new “Country Reports on Terrorism 2016” blamed Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorism against Jews. It attributed Palestinian violence to: “lack of hope in achieving statehood;” “Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank;” “settler violence;” and “the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount.” The report also characterized Palestinian Authority payments to the families of so-called martyrs as “financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners…to reintegrate them into society.”

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) called on the State Department to hold the PA accountable in State Department Country reports: “The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism…. At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause — PA leadership.”

June 14. Tillerson voiced opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, saying that such a classification would complicate Washington’s relations in the Middle East. During his confirmation hearings on January 11, by contrast, Tillerson lumped the Brotherhood with al-Qaeda when talking about militant threats in the region. He said:

“Eliminating ISIS would be the first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies. 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.”

June 13. During testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson said he had received reassurances from President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would end the practice of paying a monthly stipend to the families of suicide bombers and other attackers, commonly referred to by Palestinians as martyrs. One day later, Palestinian officials contradicted Tillerson, saying that there are no plans to stop payments to families of Palestinians killed or wounded carrying out attacks against Israelis.

May 22. Tillerson sidestepped questions on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, while telling reporters aboard Air Force One they were heading to “Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.” Asked directly whether he considers the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty, Tillerson replied: “The wall is part of Jerusalem.”

May 15. In an interview with Meet the Press, Tillerson appeared publicly to renege on Trump’s campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem:

“The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding what such a move, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have.”

Tillerson also appeared to equate the State of Israel and the Palestinians:

“As you know, the president has recently expressed his view that he wants to put a lot of effort into seeing if we cannot advance a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine. And so I think in large measure the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”

Critics of this stance have argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would, instead, advance the peace process by “shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

March 8. The State Department confirmed that the Obama administration’s $221 million payment to the Palestinian Authority, approved just hours before Trump’s inauguration, had reached its destination. The Trump administration initially had vowed to freeze the payment.

In July 2017, the Free Beacon reported that Tillerson’s State Department was waging an “open political war” with the White House on a range of key issues, including the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Iran portfolio, and other matters:

“The tensions have fueled an outstanding power battle between the West Wing and State Department that has handicapped the administration and resulted in scores of open positions failing to be filled with Trump confidantes. This has allowed former Obama administration appointees still at the State Department to continue running the show and formulating policy, where they have increasingly clashed with the White House’s own agenda.”

A veteran foreign policy analyst interviewed by the Free Beacon laid the blame squarely on Tillerson:

“Foggy Bottom [a metonym for the State Department] is still run by the same people who designed and implemented Obama’s Middle East agenda. Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created.”

Notable holdovers from the Obama administration are now driving the State Department’s Iran policy:

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. Ratney, who was the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem between 2012 and 2015, oversaw $465,000 in U.S. grants to wage a smear to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office in 2015 parliamentary elections, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Ratney admitted to Senate investigators that he deleted emails containing information about the Obama administration’s relationship with the group.

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 warnedthat 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.

Chris Backemeyer is now the highest-ranking official at the State Department for Iran policy. During the Obama administration, Backemeyer made his career by selling the Iran deal by persuading multinational corporations to do business with Iran as part of an effort to conclude the Iran nuclear deal.

Ratney, Shannon and Backemeyer, along with Tillerson, reportedly prevailed upon Trump twice to recertify the Iran nuclear deal. The Jerusalem Post explained:

Washington was briefly abuzz on the afternoon of July 17 when rumors began to circulate that President Trump was eager to declare that Iran was in breach of the conditions laid out in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA).

Those receptive antennas were further heightened given the previous signals sent. After all, the State Department already released talking points to reporters on the decision to recertify Iran. The Treasury Department also had a package of fresh sanctions on over a dozen Iranian individuals and entities ready to announce to appease the hawks who were eager to cut loose from the deal.

But Trump didn’t want to recertify Iran, nor did he want to the last time around in April. That evening, a longtime Middle East analyst close to senior White House officials involved in the discussions described the scene to me: “Tillerson essentially told the president, ‘we just aren’t ready with our allies to decertify.’ The president retorted, ‘Isn’t it your job to get our allies ready?’ to which Tillerson said, ‘Sorry sir, we’re just not ready.'” According to this source, Secretary Tillerson pulled the same maneuver when it came to recertification in April by waiting until the last minute before finally admitting the State Department wasn’t ready. On both occasions he simply offered something to the effect of, “We’ll get ’em next time.”

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone InstituteFollow Soeren Kern on Twitter and Facebook

Also see:

Projecting Weakness: President Trump Allows Inner Circle to Publicly Disparage Him as Globalists March

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Matthew Boyle, Aug. 27, 2017:

In the past several days, several members of President Donald J. Trump’s inner circle have publicly disparaged him—and the president has done nothing public to stop them.

First, National Economic Council (NEC) director Gary Cohn—the former number two banker at Goldman Sachs and a top Democrat who joined the Trump administration after the president’s election—bashed the president in an on-record interview with the Financial Times.

“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” Cohn said when asked by the Financial Times about his thoughts on the president’s response to the incidents in Charlottesville. “As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post as director of the National Economic Council because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. I believe this administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. As a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job. I feel deep empathy for all who have been targeted by these hate groups. We must all unite together against them.”

The New York Times also reported that Cohn drafted a resignation letter, and came under enormous pressure from his own family including his wife to resign, but has remained in the White House.

“Mr. Cohn, who is Jewish, seriously considered resigning and even drafted a letter of resignation, according to two people familiar with the draft,” the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Kate Kelly wrote on Friday, adding later in the piece details about Cohn’s plans for potential resignation.

“In the days after the Charlottesville violence, Mr. Cohn’s family — including his wife — told him he needed to think seriously about departing, according to two people briefed on the discussions,” Haberman and Kelly wrote. “Several of his friends in the business community also urged him to step away from the administration. Mr. Cohn is a former executive at Goldman Sachs. Mr. Cohn came close to resigning, according to one of the people briefed on the discussions. He met with Mr. Trump privately at the president’s golf club in New Jersey last Friday, scrapping his plans to spend the evening at his second home in the Hamptons.”

The Washington Post added in its own reporting that Cohn was overheard in a Long Island restaurant trashing President Trump.

“On Wednesday evening, Cohn complained loudly about Trump while dining with friends at a Long Island restaurant called the Frisky Oyster,” the Washington Post’s Damien Paletta and Philip Rucker reported on Friday. “Cohn explained to his companions — in a loud voice overheard by others — that he had to be careful not to give Trump too much lead time about some new ideas because the president could disclose the information prematurely and upend the planning process, according to a person familiar with the dinner.”

Now, after Cohn’s threats to resign over his disagreements with the president, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on Fox News Sunday this weekend to also disparage the president. Tillerson declined to say that the president supports American values, saying that the State Department does but that “the president speaks for himself.”

In addition, Tillerson defended globalists arguing that he does not “see any division” between those who support globalization and those who support the “America First” agenda that the president campaigned on.

“I think it’s a question of tactics and how you achieve those objectives,” Tillerson told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “I think the president has been clear in his speech in Afghanistan that we are not undertaking nation-building. We will be shifting our diplomatic and aid in development as well to coincide with the present fear that the Afghan government and that Afghan people must own their form of government and they must come to reconciliation with all ethnic groups including the Taliban. A peaceful country who does not support terrorism does not provide safe havens are terrorist and does not align itself with any terrorist organizations or countries that do. That’s what winning looks like.”

He also said that Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s criticism of the Afghanistan speech’s lack of any mention of “radical Islam” or “radical Islamic terrorism”—a sharp departure from the campaign vision of President Trump—is “completely wrong.”

“It shows a lack of understanding of the president’s broader policy when it comes to protecting Americans at home and abroad from all acts of terrorism,” Tillerson said of Gorka’s criticism. “Terrorism, as we’ve said, it manifests itself in many types of organization. The president has charged us to develop policies and tactics most diplomatically and militarily to attack terrorism in as many forms wherever it exists in the world and wherever it might present a threat to the homeland or to Americans anywhere. This means that we have to develop techniques that are global in nature. All we want is to ensure that terrorists do not have the capability to organize and carry out attacks.”

Gorka resigned from the White House on Friday in part due to the failures on the Afghanistan speech and vision from the president, which were pushed in large part thanks to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

Together with Cohn, McMaster, and Tillerson, others in the White House have banded together to form the “West Wing Democrats.” They include the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Deputy National Security adviser Dina Habib Powell—who worked with Cohn at Goldman Sachs—as well as new chief of staff John Kelly. Powell claims to be a Republican due to her short tenure in the George W. Bush White House, and Tillerson was a longtime GOP donor, but this cadre of individuals and others reportedly view their role as moderating the president’s campaign positions to protect the established order and status quo in Washington. They work closely with congressional leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to achieve their ends against the president’s agenda.

Interestingly, as Cohn and Tillerson were publicly attacking the president over the weekend, so was Ryan—for a different topic, the president’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

White House interim communications director Hope Hicks has not replied to a series of questions from Breitbart News about why the president is letting these people get away with this public humiliation of him, and how it shows weakness on his behalf. It remains to be seen if the president will do anything about it, but the display of lack of control of his own supposed allies weakens his position heading into what is likely to be one of the bloodiest legislative months in recent history. In September, Trump and Congress need to pass a spending bill, raise the debt ceiling, revisit efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, and begin tax reform.

Also see:

In Afghanistan, End the Trump-Obama Taliban Fantasy

Tenth Marine Regiment Marines on patrol in Habbib Abad, Afghanistan, 2012. (Photo: Lance Corporal Robert Reeves)
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450831/donald-trump-afghanistan-plan

However many troops we send, the Taliban will always outlast us.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Aug. 26, 2017:

On the matter of an outcome in Afghanistan after 16 years of fitful war, President Trump is adamant. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” he proclaimed in Monday night’s big speech. “They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”

The president hammered home the point, again and again:

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.

Stirring stuff. Or at least it would have been if Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had not, less than 24 hours later, undercut his boss’s bold message. Victory? There is no battlefield victory to be had in Afghanistan, Tillerson maintained at Foggy Bottom. Instead, the modest goal is to convince the Taliban that, while “we might not win,” they won’t win either.

Eh . . . not so stirring.

By the time the secretary was done tinkering with the president’s “plan for victory,” one couldn’t be sure if the Taliban was an enemy, a terrorist organization, or a “peace partner.” Indeed, not content to leave pathetic enough alone, Tillerson contemplated “political legitimacy” for the mullahs, proclaiming that the Trump administration “stand[s] ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without precondition.” You read that right: without precondition — not even the condition that they abandon their alliance with al-Qaeda (you know, the reason we went to Afghanistan in the first place). As the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes observed, this is “the same kind of diplomatic tail-chasing that was a priority of the Obama administration’s failed approach.”

The band’s got new players. The pitch is a bit higher. But the song remains the same.

Ultimately, Tillerson elaborated, “it is going to be up to the Afghan government and the representatives of the Taliban to work through a reconciliation process.” Sound familiar? Yeah . . . just like Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, during an April 2016 trip to Kabul, expressing “support for the government of Afghanistan’s efforts to end the conflict in Afghanistan through a peace and reconciliation process with the Taliban.”

The Taliban has now been recognized by the Obama and Trump administrations as the solution to the Afghanistan problem. That is, Trump has adopted The Way of the Swamp: Any problem that won’t go away eventually becomes “the solution.” The strategy — and who says hope isn’t a strategy? — is that the mullahs will finally come to their senses, end their remorseless jihad, and join the ineffective regime we have struggled to prop up for over a decade.

There are two major problems with this approach.

First, the Taliban believe they will win without negotiating because they are confident they will outlast us. They responded to Trump’s speech (and Tillerson’s revise-and-extend exercise) by promising to “sustain our jihad” as long as it takes. Obama could not get them to the table despite having over 100,000 American troops in theater. Trump currently has 8,400, a paltry number he is reluctantly willing to increase by about 4,000 (the administration is being coy about the exact number). Even if he were to double that (not likely), what would be accomplished?

The president rebuked his predecessor over the futility of waging war by advance announcements to the enemy of his withdrawal timelines. Trump has a point. There was no sense in Obama’s approach: pegging wartime troop levels to political rather than military considerations, imposing force-reduction timelines with no regard for battlefield conditions and requirements. All that said, though, from 2009 through mid 2014, Obama kept in Afghanistan a force between three and eight times the size that Trump will have after his mini-surge. Yet, unfazed and unmoved by Obama-Kerry pleas for “reconciliation,” the Taliban continued to fight. As they and their jihadist allies gained ground, Obama responded by withdrawing troops. The Taliban knew they were winning.

Now, beneath Trump’s “we will fight to win” applause lines, the Taliban see that he is resistant to anything but a marginal escalation in what is a skeleton force, on hand more in an advisory than a combat role. They read the papers. They know the president didn’t even want to do that much. They realize that Trump has stated, time and again over the years, that he does not believe any American troops should still be in Afghanistan.

To summarize, the Taliban know they are on their home turf against a commander-in-chief who doesn’t want to be there and who was contemplating total withdrawal as a serious option just a month ago. Why should they budge?

I said that there are two major problems with Trump’s strategy. Alas, the one I’ve just described is the easier one. The second, tougher problem is that the Taliban are still the Taliban.

They are the vanguard of fundamentalist Islam, the Sunni version of sharia supremacism. So virulently anti-American is their totalitarian ideology that the Taliban are making common cause with their Shiite counterparts in Iran to persevere in their jihad against American forces.

It can get tiresome recounting this history, but it is worth remembering that our forces invaded Afghanistan all those years ago because the Taliban, while ruling that country beginning in the mid-1990s, gave safe haven to al-Qaeda to plot, train for, and orchestrate several attacks against the United States. The 9/11 atrocities were not a one-off; they were the last in a series. Even so, President George W. Bush offered to give the mullahs a pass on the condition that they turn al-Qaeda’s leadership over to the United States. Only when the Taliban refused, knowing it meant they would be driven from power, did our forces invade.

The Taliban is the creation of fundamentalist Islamic elements of Pakistani intelligence, conceived as a geopolitical weapon against India. The Pashto word “taliban” means students – and, as you’ve no doubt guessed, we are not talking about students of comparative lit or macroeconomics. They are students of sharia, Islam’s ancient societal framework and legal code. They refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They rose to power and have been sustained through 16 years of war because, contrary to what Western progressives would have you believe, they have significant support in what is a modernity-resistant sharia society. That is why they gave al-Qaeda sanctuary. It is why, to this day, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with al-Qaeda in the jihad.

So what’s our plan? Why, we’re going to “reconcile” them so they can have a share of power. Fabulous.

Of course, if the Taliban were interested in the foot in the regime door that we are offering, it would only be for the purpose of retaking full power once we leave. If that seems perfectly obvious to you, you are clearly not wired for diplomatic work. The State Department — regardless of which party is in the White House — proceeds on the assumption that the Taliban will make peace with the rickety regime in Kabul. They will join in the governance of the emirate — um, I mean, the country. This time they’ll behave themselves, eventually deep-six their al-Qaeda alliance, and go easy on the subjugation of women, the killing of homosexuals, the death sentences for apostates, the effacement of non-Islamic cultural vestiges, the jihad against the West, and the rest of the classical sharia vision these students have been studying for decades.

Crazy? No crazier than State’s convincing itself that Iran is complying with Obama’s legacy deal and has no interest in acquiring nukes. As the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Tom Joscelyn explains, “officials in the State Department and elsewhere in government are heavily invested in the idea that the Taliban is a legitimate, albeit noxious, political faction that must be reconciled with the Afghan government,” even though “this policy goal has been betrayed by reality at every turn.”

With Trump’s State Department sounding exactly like Obama’s State Department, is it any surprise that The Donald is starting to sound like Imam Barack? Did you notice what was missing from Monday night’s speech? Though Trump was addressing a war with jihadists in which we’ve been mired for 16 years, there was not a single utterance about “radical Islamic terrorism.” That, you may recall from the 2016 presidential campaign, is the enemy Trump has repeatedly said we cannot be afraid to name. On Monday, to the contrary, the president assured us that “terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.”

Does he reckon that’s what they believe throughout Afghanistan?

To be fair, there are no good answers about what to do in that awful country. But it is hard to imagine a worse answer than trying to reconcile the Taliban to the regime.

There is a vital American interest in preventing ungoverned territories from becoming sanctuaries where jihadists plot against us. In most places, we deal with this challenge without having thousands of U.S. troops on the ground. If you were waiting to hear the president explain why, after all our sacrifice, Afghanistan should not be one of those places, you waited in vain.

The problem in Afghanistan is not the Taliban. The problem in Afghanistan is Afghanistan. The Taliban (and al-Qaeda, and the Haqqanis, and the “ISIS-K” in Khoransan province) are an inevitable consequence of sharia society, not its cause. We cannot change that. Contrary to Washington wisdom, there are no “vacuums” in the Middle East. There is Islamic fundamentalism. Absent the intervention of military force or tyrannical regimes, Islamic fundamentalism produces sharia societies that guarantee savage infighting and repression. As long as such societies endure, there will always be another Taliban to partner with another al-Qaeda; and there will always be Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey and the rest to support and exploit them — all the while posing as opponents of “extremism.”

We should be taking every sensible step to protect our society from the threats — kinetic and cultural, ideological and legal — posed by these aggressor societies. On that score, what we do on visa policy and border security is much more important than what we do in Afghanistan. Congress, moreover, should be enacting a new authorization of military force that solidifies the president’s authority to strike jihadist sanctuaries in Afghanistan and wherever else the enemy plots against us.

But let’s face facts: We are now 16 years down the road, and our government still refuses to be clear-eyed about sharia-supremacist ideology. We’ve lost thousands of valiant lives and wasted trillions of dollars trying to better the lot of people who hate us. Our nation, moreover, has no appetite for the formidable war effort it would take to pursue actual victory against our enemies and their sponsors. We should not inch up our forces in Afghanistan. We should strip down to the minimum assets needed to carry out and support counterterrorism strikes. And we should have as little to do with this region as our vital interests allow.

***

Also see:

Secretary of State Tillerson Attacks Gorka on “Radical Islam”

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 27, 2017:

The foreign policy deck has been cleared of Islam realists. And it shows.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that Sebastian Gorka was “completely wrong” in his resignation letter’s assessment of the battle over Trump administration policy.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked Tillerson about Gorka’s accusations, especially regarding the president’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“Sebastian Gorka in his resignation letter wrote this about the Afghanistan speech: ‘the fact that those who drafted and approved the speech remove any mention of radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a crucial element of the presidential campaign has been lost.’ Is he right?” Wallace asked.

“I think he’s completely wrong, Chris,” Tillerson said. “And I think it shows a lack of understanding of the president’s broader policy when it comes to protecting Americans at home and abroad from all acts of terrorism. The president has charged us to develop policies and tactics, both diplomatically and militarily, to attack terrorism in as many forms wherever it exists in the world and wherever it might present a threat to the homeland or to Americans anywhere.”

“This means that we have to develop techniques that are global in nature. All we want is to ensure that terrorists do not have the capability to organize and carry out attacks,” he added.

Are there any non-Islamic global terrorist threats? What are we fighting in Afghanistan except Islamic terrorism?

Are we at war with Mormons or the Amish in Afghanistan? Who are the Taliban again? Or the Haqqani Network? Or the Islamic State?

Best not to ask. See nothing. Hear nothing. Say nothing. It’s worked brilliantly since 9/11. I can imagine how different things might have been under Secretary of State Bolton. But as Whittier said, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”

Or as Obama put it, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”.

Meanwhile it’s interesting how selective Tillerson is when claiming to speak for Trump.

The myth of a ‘moderate’ Taliban

KaninRoman | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, Aug. 23, 2017:

In his defense of President Trump’s strategy to once again bolster U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has explained that the Trump administration may seek to engage with “moderate elements” of the Taliban to achieve peace and stability in the war-torn country.

“We think there are plenty of others that we’re going to call upon for assistance as well,” Tillerson stated Tuesday in a State Department briefing.

“Rather, we’re there to facilitate and ensure that there is a pathway for reconciliation and peace talks as this pressure begins to take hold, and we do … we believe, we already know there are certain moderate elements of the Taliban who we think are going to be ready and want to help develop a way forward. How long that will take will be, again, based on conditions on the ground.”

The idea that there is a “moderate Taliban” in Afghanistan has been promoted largely by both the Republican and Democratic foreign policy establishment in Washington, D.C. Before President Trump came into office, the Obama administration and former presidential contender Hillary Clinton spoke of peace talks with the “moderate Taliban,” seeking to distance this supposed faction with the jihadist Taliban that commits acts of carnage against innocents.

It would be quite convenient for there to be a “moderate” Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban has agents embedded in the Afghan government, and the Taliban now contests or controls about 40 percent of the country (not to mention the backing of state actors like Russia and Iran).

But comparable to the so-called Arab “moderate Syrian rebels” — who all too often have gone off to join ISIS and al-Qaida — the “moderate Taliban” is just as unreliable and nonexistent.

Experts on the country have near-unanimously lambasted the Obama administration’s search for a moderate Taliban.

“Where are the so-called moderate Taliban? Who are the moderate Taliban?” asked Waheed Mozhdah, a former Afghan official, in 2009. Analyst Qaseem Akhgar also weighed in, adding:   “Moderate Taliban is like moderate killer. Is there such a thing?”

But the myth of a moderate Taliban continues, and it’s being adamantly pushed by actors in the Gulf, such as the state of Qatar.

Qatar often hosts Taliban delegations for talks with Western governments. From the Taliban’s political office in Doha, the group sometimes teases the West by floating the idea of peace. But this is ultimately a soft-power play to legitimize its cause of ruling Afghanistan.

And realities on the ground show that the Taliban wants conquest, not peace. Further, the Afghan people — in survey after survey — express extreme doubt over the Taliban’s sincerity concerning peace negotiations.

There are no records of moderate Taliban factions departing from their Islamic supremacist, Caliphatist ideology. And worse, Taliban factions deemed by some Western analysts as “moderate” have later led slaughter campaigns against thousands of people.

A U.S.-initiated strategy to legitimize any element of the Taliban would mean America taking an active role in normalizing an evil jihadist cult. The Taliban kills hundreds (if not thousands) of innocents each year, using suicide attacks and other vicious and indiscriminate methods to rack up the casualty count.

It’s bad enough that President Trump has chosen to bolster the U.S. role in Afghanistan without defining what “victory” is, or mapping out an exit plan. It’s worse that he’s flirting with helping a terrorist organization secure its grip over the country.

There are no moderate elements of the Taliban, just as there are no moderate elements of al-Qaida or ISIS.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.

Why is the State Dept Undermining President Trump’s Egypt Policy?

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 23, 2017:

President Trump has been very clear that he wants to pivot away from Obama’s backing for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the Arab Spring’s whole democratization program.

Senator McCain has been equally clear that he wants to double down on it.

Guess whom the State Department is listening to?

Egypt passed a law restricting foreign funding of NGOs. Egypt joins a number of countries, including Hungary, Poland and Israel, that are working to curb the influence of the Leftist/Islamist network which operates internationally through non-profit NGOs. Each such effort has led to hysteria and angry threats from the political figures associated with those networks.

Now the State Department is taking action against Egypt over the NGO law.

Officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold $65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said.

At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2016.

When Trump met with el-Sissi in the White House in April he made no mention of Egypt’s human rights record in the post-meeting statement, an omission that many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration. Yet, two months later, two senators from Trump’s Republican Party slammed as “draconian” the law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental organizations and urged that it be repealed.

Can you guess who those 2 senators are?

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called it “draconian legislation” and they said the US Congress should in response “strengthen democratic benchmarks and human rights conditions on the US assistance to Egypt.”

US Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and nine other senators sent Trump a letter on June 19 urging the president to press Sisi on the issue.

Unless I missed something, President John McCain is not in the White House. So why is Tillerson listening to him instead of to Trump?

According to Egyptian officials, this is an effort to stem funding to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Alaa Abed, chairman of the Free Egyptian Party’s parliamentary bloc, told The Daily Caller in a recent interview that although the idea behind NGOs is charitable and very needed in his country, a good number of them have taken a wrong turn.

“And the proof of that are the billions that have been given to these NGOs without any noticeable results that you can see,” Abed said.

According to Abed, about 48,000 NGOs are in Egypt and some are supported by the state. Of that number, though, “Only 500 receive foreign funds and 10 operate within the norms of the law…the rest (490) take the money into their pockets and 30 or 40 use the money to transfer to the [Muslim Brotherhood] or small terror cells.”

It obviously also starves some leftist NGOs of funds.

Why is McCain so agitated over it? The media won’t tell you. Few sources will.

But McCain chairs the International Republican Institute. The IRI was a Reagan idea to fight Communism. It’s since gone way off course and was involved in the Arab Spring. Sam LaHood was at the center of it. The international advisory board includes Mo Ibrahim whose daughter is a board member of the Clinton Foundation.

The question here is who is running the country. Whom did American vote for?

It was Trump who was running against nation building. Particularly of the ugly kind we’re seeing here. But Tillerson is obeying President McCain instead of President Trump. Our foreign policy is still being made by the same old people. That’s why the Iran deal is in place (and has not been made public), it’s why Israel is still being pressured to make concessions to terrorists and there’s yet more pressure on Egypt’s President Sisi to open the door to the same folks who brought you the Arab Spring.

It’s why Tillerson backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s backers in Qatar while Trump initially backed pressure on the terror state.

T o change the outcome, you have to change the policy. To change the policy, you have to change the people. Under McMaster and Tillerson, the foreign policy will be set by President McCain, not President Trump.

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Also see:

Has Trump Kept His Word on Radical Islam?

King Salman welcomes the Trumps to Saudi Arabia (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Meira Svirsky, Aug. 15, 2017:

In a foundational speech made on the campaign trail in Youngstown, Ohio, then businessman Donald Trump outlined his policy on Islamic extremism among other pledges relating to foreign policy.

Has Trump kept his promises? Do these first seven months indicate what we can expect to see in the coming years?

Clarion Project gives our readers an overview of now President Trump and his policymakers in the first seven months of this administration in light of those promises.   

Convene an international conference to halt the spread of radical Islam and “take on the ideology of Radical Islam” including “speak[ing] out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith”

The president got off to an impressive start in a ground-breaking keynote speech he made four months after his inauguration at the Arab Islamic American Summit held in Saudi Arabia in May 2017.

The summit was true to his promise of convening an international conference to halt the spread of radical Islam.

Trump delivered a bold speech in which he clearly laid out to the heads of Muslim states that they had arrived at a pivotal moment:

It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.
 DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.
DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and
DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.

In concept and execution, the Trump Administration used the summit to mark a clear U-turn away from the Obama doctrine of embracing Iran at the expense of America’s Sunni Arab allies.

During the trip, Trump inaugurated the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, more than ironic considering the historical role of Saudi Arabia’s extremist form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fomenting terror and radicalism around the world.

Work “side by side with our friends in the Middle East…”

The trip to Saudi Arabia was followed by a positive visit to Israel where Trump affirmed his friendship with the Jewish state and used his time with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to excoriate Abbas for lying him during Abbas’ earlier trip to Washington about the role of the P.A. in inciting the Palestinians to violence against Israelis.

A good start. What has happened since Trump’s opening volley to the Muslim world?

On the very positive side, an alliance of Gulf and other Muslim states led by Saudi Arabia and including Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen and others severed all relations with Qatar because of Qatar’s funding of terrorism (Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taiban and Al Qaeda) and Qatar’s ties with Iran and Turkey.

For a documentation of Qatar’s terror-funding history, click here

Yet, while Trump himself expressed support for the Arab World’s unprecedented pressure on Qatar and described Qatar as a major terror-financier, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly criticizedSaudi Arabia, called Qatar “very reasonable” in its reaction to the pressure, said the U.S. is “mystified” by their complaints and made moves towards Turkey (who was aiding Qatar in the crisis).

Tillerson then signed a counter-terrorism agreement with Qatar, spitting in the faces of the Arab countries fed up with Qatar’s support of terrorism.

(Perhaps Tillerson’s favoring of Qatar has something to do with the close relationship he had with the Qatari government as a businessman with ExxonMobil, which has a decades-long association with Qatar’s rulers.)

Immediately after signing the deal, Qatar reiterated its commitment to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the U.S.

The Trump administration agreed to sell 36 fighter jets to Qatar right after the Arabs launched their campaign.

Tillerson also signaled his opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in mid-June.

Under Tillerson, State Department lawyers are reportedly removing the word “genocide” in speeches and documents describing the persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. The move was described as “ideologicial” not bureaucratic by sources.

“Our great ally Israel”

In his Youngstown speech, Trump vowed to work side by side “our great ally Israel.” The State Department, again under the leadership of Tillerson, recently issued its annual country by country terrorism report. Shockingly, it put the majority of blame for Palestinian terror on Israel.

The report makes the blatantly false claim that the Palestinian Authority’s calls for terrorism are “rare.” The report flies in the face of facts, particularly the incessant incitement against Israel, Israelis and Jews by President Abbas and on his state-run media.

From paying salaries to terrorists and their families to naming schools, sports facilities and the like after the most brutal Palestinian terrorists to running TV shows for young children that glorify killing Jews, the P.A. has been responsible for mass incitement of its population for over a decade. Such incitement has been highly documented.

The report also flies in the face of the positions of Trump who forcefully called out Abbas over this incitement in a face-to-face meeting during the American president’s recent trip to Israel.

While the State Department plans a 28% cut in foreign aid to places around the world, the department is planning to increase aid to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority reportedly uses the equivalent of half of the foreign aid it receives to sponsor terrorism. It is increasing its compensation for terrorists in Israeli prisons by 13% and its financial aid to families of killed terrorists by 4%.

“We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan…”

King Abdullah was singled out by Trump as one of America’s partners who realize the “ideology of death must be extinguished.” Yet, in a speech Abdullah gave to the U.N. General Assembly in which he addressed “extremist terrorists” and their desire to “erase human civilization, and drag us back to the dark ages,” he chided Western officials, media leaders and policy makers for not understanding the “true nature of Islam,” which he said “teaches that all humanity is equal in dignity. There is no distinction among different nations or regions or races. The Qur’an forbids coercion in religion. Every citizen is guaranteed the state’s protection for their lives, families, properties, honor, privacy, and freedom of religion and thought.”

Clearly, part of Trump’s challenge with such “American partners,” is their failure to acknowledge the extremist parts of Islam that contribute to Islamist terror – namely the lack of religious freedom in Islamic societies including Jordan (as well as a host of others who are called “American partners.”)

Islamic blasphemy is on the books in Jordan. Also, in Jordan, Jews are not even allowed to pray in privateor wear hidden articles of Jewish significance.

During the recent crisis on the Temple Mount in Israel – in which Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the mount after weapons were smuggled inside and used to kill Israeli police officers guarding the site for all worshipers — King Abdullah sided with the Waqf, the Islamic authority that administers the site and which demanded the metal detectors be removed. After the crisis was resolved (through Israel removing the detectors), Abdullah promptly pledged $1.4 million to the Waqf, which refuses to allow any prayer at the site except Islamic prayer.

“We will seek to starve funding for Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah”

Unfortunately, Trump’s recent agreement with Russia regarding a ceasefire in Syria empowers Iran, and hence Hezbollah, which expands its reach through the Syrian war.

In terms of Hamas, Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster chose as his top adviser on Israel Kris Bauman, who is known for blaming Israel and the West for failing to see “Hamas’ signals of willingness to moderate.” Bauman advocates a policy that includes “Hamas in a solution,” dismissing Hamas’ oft-stated pledge to destroy Israel and kill Jews until the end of time.

“Establish a Commission on Radical Islam”

In Youngstown, Trump vowed that “one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam – which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community … This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators and immigration screeners.”

Unfortunately, such a commission has not been established and those voices have largely not been heard in the White House.

Instead, an Islamist coalition of Muslim Brotherhood front groups was recently invited to the State Department and boasted they were asked to provide their perspective on the Temple Mount crisis.

At the same time, anti-Islamist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was scheduled to present a paper on radical Islamic terror at the National Security Council, was banned by McMaster and his senior director of counter-terrorism, Mustafa Javed Ali.

Hirsi Ali was also reportedly banned from visiting the White House.

A source reported, “Mustafa Javed Ali said she was Islamophobic, and that the only way she could present her paper would be to have someone from CAIR come in to refute her work.”

McMaster himself is against even using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he says is counterproductive, however his boss (Trump) still uses the term.

“Aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS”

With the improved help of the American coalition under Trump, the president is well on his way to success in keeping this promise — at least in Iraq and Syria.  Particularly commendable is the decision by America to arm the Syrian Kurds, a worthy slap in the face to Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has used every opportunity to fight ISIS as an excuse to attack the Kurds.

The Kurds have arguably been the most successful fighting force against ISIS to date. It remains to be seen whether or not the Trump administration will back them in any future bid for independence.

Worldwide, however, ISIS will not be crushed until those in power address the ideology that drives the terror group and come up with a workable plan to stop the ideological radicalization of Muslim youth. Ideology. Merely concentrating on countering violent extremism is too little, too late.

Clearly, the apparent power play within the Trump administration between those who recognize this reality and those who don’t will be pivotal to whether or not the president will be able to keep his Youngstown promises.

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