The North Korean Crisis: Immediate Considerations

Real Clear Defense, By Michael J. Del Rosso, Brian Kennedy & Stephen Meyer, August 17, 2017: (H/T John Guandolo)

Whatever respite there may be between North Korea and the United States, make no mistake that the possibilities of a nuclear conflict with North Korea and, by extension, the People’s Republic of China, remain.  As our nation faces this threat, there are very few options to deter this perilous situation. This does not have to be the case. We have an opportunity to remedy long standing vulnerabilities.

Strategic nuclear affairs are poorly understood by the American public and their representatives in Congress. Few know that the condition of our nuclear arsenal is suspect, our missiles defenses are of uncertain effectiveness and coverage, the probability for nuclear deterrence failing is quite high, and our national civil defenses are severely atrophied.

The United States is at this point because members of Congress have relied upon military leaders and defense experts, who over time, seemed driven by political correctness and flawed nuclear deterrence theories. As a matter of policy, the United States has decided to leave the American people vulnerable to missile attack and to rely, instead, on the threat of nuclear retaliation. This policy was continued at the same time both the Russians and Chinese proliferated nuclear weapon and ballistic missile technology to the likes of Iran and North Korea and built or are building their own missile defenses.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have presided over the systemic national security failure to address the threat of ballistic missile attack that now confronts President Trump. This failure presents an existential threat to the United States that must be immediately addressed.

A factual threat analysis will show that the United States should:

  1. Introduce a robust and more certain, multi-tier, national missile defense capability that includes introducing both Space-Based and Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV)-based Boost Phase Interceptors (BPI) which can be rapidly developed using existing, mature technologies. Unlike existing ballistic missile defense systems, BPIs are less expensive and have a higher kill probability, targeting missiles in the most vulnerable phases of flight. Why deploy both basing schemes? Because we have committed adversaries who threaten the further existence of the Republic and it is about time America respond proportionately.
  2. Harden our critical infrastructure to the effects of a nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.
  3. Modernize our nuclear triad for enhance deterrence.
  4. Reintroduce national civil defense down to the community, household, and individual level. This initiative should be instituted immediately no matter what other courses of action are decided upon. It is immoral not to alert the U.S. population of the probability and severity of the risks they face and educate them on how to mitigate that risk. A prepared population adds to our overall deterrence.
  5. Re-evaluate the responsible executive branch agencies’ decision-making processes and methodologies by which risks from threats and hazards are rank-prioritized and recommendations for risk-proportionate mitigation and response activities generated.

The Threat

Russia and the People’s Republic of China both possess large arsenals of intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. According to defectors, these warheads are currently targeting the major cities of the United States and that of our allies in Europe, Asia, and Israel. The revolution in precision guidance gives these weapons decapitating, first-strike thermonuclear capabilities against our nuclear forces. For more than 20 years both the Russians and the Chinese have been modernizing the lethality of their warheads and expanding their arsenals.

Of concern are nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) devices that detonate at 100 to 150 km altitude.  Indeed, Kim Jong-un’s threat of final doom is likely based on a single NEMP.  A single NEMP permanently destroys power and communication infrastructures over many hundreds of miles and does not require either re-entry or precision guidance.

We must assume that North Korea possesses NEMP devices.

In 1995 the Russian military think tank that serves the Russian General Staff, known as INOBIS, issued a paper recommending that Russia deliberately proliferate missile and nuclear weapon technology to nations hostile to the United States.  The rationale was that nuclear proliferation would balance growing U.S. power, and thwart Washington’s efforts to establish a New World Order dominated by America.

In 2004 Russian flag officers gave testimony to the U.S. Congressional EMP Commission that super EMP weapon technology in fact “leaked” to North Korea; and it is being developed with help from Russia, China, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In 2013 South Korea’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), said in a report to parliament that North Korea was using Russian technology to develop electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons aimed at destroying military electronic equipment south of the border.

We also must assume that North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile is now capable of attacking the United States with an NEMP device.

Additionally, North Korea has two satellites, KMS 3-2 and KMS 4, which are presently orbiting at an altitude of 300 miles. Their trajectories put them over the continental U.S. daily. Their payloads may be NEMP devices waiting to be used. Erring on the side of caution, consideration should be given to shoot them down preemptively so that the debris field falls upon a benign area of the earth, with WC-135C Constant Phoenix “sniffer” aircraft on the ready to sample the debris paths for radiological indications of the payloads.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the flawed agreement with the Obama administration, continues to pursue the building of nuclear warhead technology.  It is very likely that they already possess a handful of nuclear warheads acquired from Russia, China, North Korea or Pakistan.  The quality and reliability of these warheads are questionable, and their numbers are insufficient for power projection. For this reason, Iran is seeking to build nuclear warheads. It is believed every nuclear test conducted in North Korea has included Iranian scientists.

Iranian nuclear war fighting doctrine scenarios include the use of their Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile launched from a freighter ship. Twice during the 1990s, the Iranians conducted successful tests from a barge in the Caspian Sea where they launched such a missile. In both tests, the warheads exploded in the high atmosphere simulating an electromagnetic pulse attack.

If the Iranians can deploy the right kind of nuclear warhead on such a missile, and if they are able to detonate one over a region of the United States, they could destroy some or all of the electric and electronic infrastructure of the United States.  Such a nuclear explosion in the high atmosphere destroys both critical microelectronics and the large transformers that distribute electric power through the three major electric grids of the United States.

A highly successful EMP attack could result in a sovereignty ending event. A less successful attack could mean the destruction of the U.S. economy. Because the missile was launched from a ship, attribution of the culprit may not be immediately possible.  If an adversary were to launch an EMP weaponized missile from a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, not only are there no missile defense assets in place to defend against it, we even lack southern-facing radar to detect such a launch.

Finally, the Russians and the Chinese, in addition to their own nuclear ballistic missile arsenals, have spent decades developing their surrogates, Iran and North Korea, into existential, nuclear threats to the United States and the West. They have given them material and technical support and may have even transferred nuclear warheads to them directly.

The purpose of these actors’ nuclear arsenals is to destroy the civilian population of the United States, exert influence over a U.S. President with nuclear blackmail, and check the strategic capabilities of the United States.

Re-introduce Civil Defense

It should be something of a scandal that we have left the people of the United States undefended from a nuclear attack. Even more so because the Russians have their own national missile defense, however crude, it may be, and the Chinese are building their own missile defense as well. Both Russia and China believe that if war comes, they should be able to win. In October 2016, Russia performed a three-day nuclear war training exercise in which 40 million people engaged in civil defense drills. China also maintains extensive public shelters for nuclear war protection.

In contrast, national Civil Defense capabilities no longer exist in the United States. The logic behind abandoning Civil Defense, explained in declassified Presidential Decision Memoranda from the Kennedy administration, might best be described as immoral; politicians thought it would be “destabilizing” for Americans to be stronger and more survivable than the Soviets.  In the early decades of the Cold War, billions of dollars were spent understanding how to mitigate nuclear weapons effects. For the past several months the state of Hawaii has started to reintroduce this knowledge. The rest of the nation should follow suit, immediately, including community, household, and individual resiliency and preparedness. Leadership and informed citizens are primarily all that is needed. Civil Defense is a very cost-effective means of mitigating nuclear weapons effects and saving millions of American lives. It also contributes to America’s overall deterrence.

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Michael Del Rosso is Vice President of the American Strategy Group

Brian T. Kennedy is President of the American Strategy Group

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute

Forget about Trump and the Russians. The real action is with the Awan brothers and Fusion GPS.

Photo: Dulles International Airport (Joe Ravi CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Creative Commons)

The American Spectator, by Scott McKay July 28, 2017:

From a press release that hit on Thursday…

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Republicans today sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate unaddressed matters, some connected to the 2016 election and others, including many actions taken by Obama Administration officials like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter follows yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee approval of H. Res. 446, as amended, to request documents pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary Clinton.

In their letter, the Judiciary Committee members express concern that the directive given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is narrow in scope and many concerns arising out of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath are not being investigated. The members call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate grave concerns such as former Attorney General Lynch’s directive to former FBI Director Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the investigation into former Secretary Clinton; the FBI and Justice Department’s investigative decisions related to the Clinton email investigation, including the immunity deals given to potential co-conspirators; selected leaks of classified information that unmasked U.S. persons incidentally collected upon by the intelligence community; and the FBI’s reliance on “Fusion GPS” in its investigation of the Trump campaign, among many others issues.

If you’re sick and tired of the never-ending “Trump And The Russians” scandal, which for all its hype has produced scant little actual evidence of anything other than desultory cooperation on the part of the president’s camp with an investigation it quite reasonably believes is a kangaroo court, this letter from Goodlatte’s committee might just be what the doctor ordered.

Because as Washington scandals go, Trump And The Russians doesn’t even make it out of Double-A ball. What Goodlatte and the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee want is a special counsel to take us up to the Triple-A or major league scandal level, because there are opportunities for playing time available.

The unmasking issue still has a lot of undiscovered meat on its bones; we’ve already seen a little evidence of that. The Lynch-Comey-Phoenix Airport nexus deserves a lot more scrutiny than it’s received, as do those immunity grants. And the leaks without a doubt deserve a full investigation, and some smug SOB’s from the Deep State surely deserve lengthy prison terms.

But the Fusion GPS business — and the long-simmering and now-burgeoning Awan brothers scandal — are monsters hiding in D.C.’s closet. Here’s to both those scandals continuing to crackle and spark over the next several months, on the way to full explosions the legacy media can no longer contain.

Readers of this column already have an understanding of the Awan brothers scandal, as this space covered a substantial amount of the background of it back in February when things first started happening. Click here to see that background; we’ll give a very short summary of it now.

The central figure in this scandal is a Pakistani national named Imran Awan, who appears to be connected in some way to his country’s intelligence service. Awan is an IT professional who was hired in 2004 to handle computer equipment for Florida Democrat congressman Robert Wexler, and he then picked up a job as a shared staffer to work for Wexler’s colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Awan rode along with Wasserman Schultz as she ascended to the top of the Democratic Party structure, and soon not only was his boss the chair of the Democratic National Committee but Awan’s relationship with her led to his building a client list of some 80 Democrat House members who were using either Imran or other members of his family (a pair of brothers, one of their wives, his own wife) in a sizable little empire he’d built.

And in the meantime, the Awan family was engaging in a pattern of financial activities that looked a whole lot like a mafia operation — questionable real estate deals, bank fraud, kidnapping and extortion, a used-car dealership that might well have been a front for moving stolen cars to Pakistan for sale, and so on. Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Monday as he tried to flee the country while the FBI and Capitol Hill Police were closing in on a bank fraud indictment. In January he had wired some $283,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union to two individuals in Pakistan; he was trying to board a flight to Lahore when he had the cuffs put on him.

But the real juice with the Awans isn’t the bank fraud or the possible stolen cars. The real scandal here is the stolen computers — and the stolen information. It’s alleged that the Awans illegally downloaded documents from their clients, some of whom were on the House Intelligence Committee and other sensitive committees, and even walked off with congressional computers. The FBI, in fact, seized a number of CPU’s and hard drives found at a house owned by Imran that he was renting to a military couple after the tenants had found the equipment partially destroyed in the garage and called the authorities. We don’t know what was on those hard drives.

There are even allegations the Awans were blackmailing their clients with information they’d found in their e-mails. Your imagination can likely conjure up all kinds of entertaining scenarios around that theme.

But the piece de resistance with the Awan brothers scandal is the revelation that Imran Awan, with his foreign intelligence connections, his criminal appearance and his persistent financial problems despite apparently not lacking in the ability to make a buck, had the password to Wasserman Schultz’ iPad from which she answered her e-mail… as DNC chair.

Forget about the Russians and their supposed hacking of the DNC e-mails. If you’re really curious about who got to that information and would have been in a position to shop it to the highest bidder, Imran Awan is the most likely culprit in the room.

Things are moving very quickly on this case, and it’s somewhat telling that Awan was released on bond after being caught trying to flee the country. He has a tracking bracelet on his ankle, but what makes more sense is that he may have turned states’ evidence in exchange for being let out of jail. Awan’s attorney is former Bill Clinton go-fer Chris Gowen, and the lawyer’s statement after he’d been arrested reads like a press release from a campaign operative rather than a criminal attorney; bizarrely so, one might say. It might be that Awan is rolling on Wasserman Schultz and the Clintons have decided to hang her out to dry in order to insulate themselves from whatever blowback the DNC e-mails might generate for them.

Or maybe that isn’t possible anymore. Former Washington police detective Rod Wheeler, who you’ve probably seen on Fox News from time to time and who most recently was in the news as having done some private snooping in the Seth Rich case, has intimated there is a connection between that case and that of the Awan brothers. We’re not going to try to connect those dots without more information, but one’s imagination might run riot with those.

Meanwhile, Republicans in both the House and the Senate are exceptionally curious about Fusion GPS, and with good reason. In case you’re not familiar with this outfit, it’s the “opposition research and strategic communications” firm co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson which played a significant role in the 2016 election. It was Fusion GPS which commissioned the infamous and debunked “pee pee dossier,” written by former British spy Christopher Steele, sourced largely from Steele’s Russian contacts and containing a mountain of scurrilous and implausible allegations about Donald Trump’s misbehaviors. Fusion GPS was initially contracted by anti-Trump Republican donors, but after Trump got the GOP nomination it was Democrats paying the freight for their work product… and before it was over it looks like James Comey’s FBI, amazingly, was picking up the tab.

That last part is of special interest to Sen. Charles Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has made a priority out of Fusion GPS, and had called Simpson to testify. He did, but only in private, and only after threatening to take the Fifth. That’s his right, but what does an oppo researcher need the Fifth Amendment for?

But there’s more with Fusion GPS. On Wednesday Tucker Carlson had as a guest on his show one Thor Halvorssen, a Venezuelan native of Norwegian descent who runs a watchdog outfit called the Human Rights Foundation, and Halvorssen told a harrowing story of Fusion GPS attempting to destroy his life with a smear campaign because he’d blown the whistle on a crooked contract one of Fusion’s clients had with the Venezuelan government to build power plants. That story also got told in a letter Halvorssen sent to Grassley’s committee. And then there is Fusion’s other client, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the “Russian lawyer” whose meeting with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort has been bandied about as some sort of smoking gun proving collusion with the Russians. It turns out that Veselnitskaya had hired Fusion to help her push to overturn the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions bill targeting crooked Russian oligarchs and human rights abusers. In none of these cases did Fusion bother to register under FARA, the Foreign Agent Registry Act, which would put them on the wrong side of the law.

Grassley’s committee, and Goodlatte’s committee, would like to know if this entire Russian business was a setup cooked-up by Fusion’s dirty-tricks shop with the collusion of a few actors in the Obama administration. It’s hard to blame them.

There’s a lot of debate about Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra these days, but nobody is really denying the swamp exists. And nobody can — not with Fusion GPS and the Awan brothers skulking around in the muck.

Report: Trump Ending Obama’s Covert CIA Program to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Huang

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 19, 2017:

President Donald Trump is reportedly ending a covert CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebel forces that dates back to 2013.

According to a report by the Washington Postthe president made the decision almost a month ago in an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

The Post frames this as a huge victory for Russia, citing the decision as an aspect of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.” The Post notes that Russia targeted some of these Syrian fighters with airstrikes when it intervened in the Syrian civil war and quotes an unnamed “current official” who bluntly declared, “Putin won in Syria.”

However, the same report notes that even supporters of the CIA program have “questioned its efficacy,” admits U.S. leverage against the Assad regime has grown “limited,” concedes that ending the program was not a condition for the cease-fire agreement Trump reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and notes that Jordan supports Trump’s decision.

Even a former Obama administration official, Ilan Goldenberg, described Trump’s decision as “probably a nod to reality.” However, he added that ending all support for the Syrian rebels would be a “huge strategic mistake.” Pentagon programs to assist rebel forces are said to remain in effect, including a plan Trump approved in May to arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Washington Post piece quotes some American intelligence officials who say it was President Barack Obama’s failure to respond to Russian intervention against increasingly successful rebel forces in 2015 that set the stage for Assad’s eventual triumph.

The Obama administration also gave up on some high-profile efforts to train and equip a proxy force in Syria, most notably a $500 million effort that ended in absolute disaster and became a laughingstock across the Middle East.

The Washington Post also fails to mention that a distressing number of the weapons shipped by the CIA to Syrian rebels under Obama ended up in the hands of black marketeers and terrorists. Some of those weapons were used to kill Americans. The ability of the U.S. government to “vet” Syrian rebels and keep American equipment away from terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, has long been questioned.

Sometimes the rebels Obama provided with weapons openly threw in their lot with al-Qaeda and its Nusra Front franchise because they had the best chance of defeating the Syrian military and its allies.

Spicing up reports of this decision with dark insinuations about Trump’s ties with Russia does not conceal the cold truth that regime change in Syria is very unlikely, and it was President Barack Obama who made it that way – not that much enthusiasm for plunging the United States into Syria’s civil war, and possibly ending up in combat against Russian and Iranian forces, could be found in any corner of the political spectrum.

Even the cynical notion of arming unsavory Syrian insurgents against Assad and letting them bleed each other out proved to be a disaster because it led to a humanitarian horror show and a flood of refugees that may have changed Europe forever. Those who insinuate Trump is doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding by ending the CIA program to arm Syrian rebels should be prepared to explain their strategy for achieving something other than a bloody stalemate, civilian slaughter, and an endless flow of refugees. Clearly, no one associated with Barack Obama had any such strategy.

Trump floats possibility of second Syrian ceasefire

CNN

CNN, by Jeremy Diamond, July 13, 2017:

(CNN) – President Donald Trump signaled Thursday that he is working with Russia to establish a second regional ceasefire in Syria, nearly a week after the US, Russia and Jordan brokered a first ceasefire in southwestern Syria.

Trump said the next ceasefire agreement would cover a “very rough part of Syria,” but offered no additional details on the potential agreement or which countries were involved in the negotiations.

“By having some commutations and dialogue, we are able to have a ceasefire and it is going to go on for a while and frankly, we are working on a second ceasefire in a very rough part of Syria,” Trump said Thursday during a news conference in Paris after fielding a question on the US’ dialogue with Russia.

“And if we get that and a few more, all of the sudden you are going to have no bullets being fired in Syria. And that would be a wonderful thing,” Trump added.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment seeking more details on the potential ceasefire agreement.

Trump’s comments came as the US-Russia brokered ceasefire in southwestern Syria entered its fifth day, a hopeful development in a country where numerous ceasefires have been brokered and quickly fallen apart.

Trump expressed optimism that the ceasefire would continue to hold, noting that the days-old ceasefire had already last a “very long period of time” relative to past ceasefires.

The ceasefire was touted as the first tangible sign of agreement between the US and Russia in Syria, where the two countries support opposing factions. The US has backed moderate anti-government rebels in the country while Russia continues to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Trump’s comments came amid his meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, talks that were set to focus in large part on the conflict in Syria, with the longtime allies aiming to partner to develop a road map for the country’s future.

“We agreed to continue to work together, in particular in order to be able to launch together some diplomatic initiatives in order to put in place a road map for what will come after the war,” Macron said, adding the US and France hope to help establish a “political road map in particular for Syria after the war.”

Macron also touted the need to maintain an open dialogue with Russia to advance peace in Syria.

***

Confronting the current Middle East alignment

Illustration on a coming Middle East alignment by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

Washington Times by James A. Middle EastLyons, July 2, 2017:

With the imminent defeat of the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq and in Raqqa, its declared capital in Syria, one of the Trump administration’s key objectives is about to be achieved.

With the collapse of the Islamic State as a functioning entity, however, there are clearly new dynamics coming into play which will complicate the post-Islamic State period. What is actually taking place is a realignment of the regional balance of power between Shiite and Sunni power brokers. How it eventually evolves will have a major impact on U.S. security interests, and those of our allies, Israel in particular. The problem is that we have no clear strategy to deal with the evolving dynamic situation or its long term impact.

Clearly, an immediate problem is that Iran, backed by Russia, seeks to further expand its influence by solidifying a land bridge from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the eastern Mediterranean. Such a move would put a jihadi Shiite regime on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Iran’s domination of regimes in Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus along with its play for Yemen puts it in position to surround the Arabian Peninsula and threaten strategic waterways, including the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab. Backed by Iran and Russia, Bashar Assad’s control of Aleppo and the anticipated fall of Raqqa will likely embolden him to retake eastern Syria, too.

Preventing expansion of the Shiite Crescent must be a top U.S. objective, fundamental to restoring not only credibility with our key allies, but critical to restoring stability to the region as well. Key to achieving this objective without a massive influx of U.S. ground forces is maintaining the viability of pro-Western Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). It is also possible that elements of the Syrian Free Army (SFA) can be reconstituted.

The recent downing by a U.S. Navy F-18 fighter aircraft of a Syrian bomber that had been attacking a pro-Western Kurdish force and an SDF unit highlighted Mr. Assad’s recognition of the importance of these forces in preventing reassertion of his control in eastern Syria. Perhaps just as important was Russian President Vladimir Putin likely using Syrian resources to test the Trump administration to see if it would support our allies on the ground if attacked. Fortunately, we did, which sent a clear message to both Russia and Syria as well as our allies that there are lines that cannot be crossed. The “strong horse” is back.

The Russian threat to target with surface-to-air missiles any U.S. aircraft flying west of the Euphrates is a further test of the Trump administration. While both Russia and the U.S. want to avoid a direct confrontation, we need to make it very clear we will not be intimidated.

Developing a strategy to address the current regional realignment should be based on U.S. core vital strategic interests. Further, the strategy should be based on the underlying principle that it makes no sense for the United States to inject itself into a 1,300+-year old Shi’ite-Sunni sectarian war. It is actually what the current realignment is all about.

The al Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood militias rose up against Syria’s Bashar Assad, who was then defended by Iran, Hezbollah plus assorted Shiite militias and now Russia. Turkey is also an increasing problem: President Erdogan and his AK Party are jihadis trying to reestablish some form of the power and glory of the old Ottoman Empire. Dead set against any sort of autonomous Kurdish entity, they are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas — and now also with Iran and Qatar. At this point, Turkey must be viewed as a questionable Western ally.

Fundamental U.S. strategy must be based on preventing Iran from establishing a Shiite land bridge from Tehran to Lebanon. Therefore, a key element of our strategy should be to support the binding independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan to be held on Sept. 25, 2017. U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, officially opposes it because of a misguided objective to keep Iraq intact. But Iraq is already fractured as is Syria, and neither one will be reconstituted in its pre-WWI artificial geographic boundaries. Clearly, the 1916 Sykes-Picot nation-state arrangement has collapsed.

Our strategy should also support Syrian Kurds carving out their own sphere of influence (Rojava) which could eventually unite with Iraqi Kurdistan. Control of the vast Syrian Sunni interior that spans the border into the former Iraq remains unresolved. Damascus cannot control a federalized Syria even with Iranian and Russian support. Therefore, our strategic plan must back Sunni forces that have shown themselves to be both anti-Damascus and non-jihadist. The only group that falls into that category is the Free Syrian Army, which will need to be reinforced. U.S. policy should concede that Damascus will hold the Alawite heartland that includes the Russian bases at Latakia and Tartus.

With the 8 years the Obama administration squandered plus the transfer of over one hundred billion dollars to Iran (which it is now using to finance Shiite militias fighting to secure a land bridge across the IraqSyria border), we must shift from a reactive defensive strategy to a pro-active one.

Accordingly, the Trump team must first define a national security strategy for the region. Such a strategy must be predicated on reconstitution of U.S. military capability and demonstration of the will to project power and influence, specifically by supporting Kurdish-FSA-SDF forces and, together with our allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the GCC, block further Iranian expansionism. Elimination of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will also be an imperative at some point.

Bottom line: there is no substitute for American leadership.

• James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

***

Syrian Warplane Bombing: A Turning Point In The Conflict?

The US sends Assad and Russia a message.

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Klein, June 20, 2017:

n what may turn out to be a major inflection point in the Syrian conflict, an American fighter jet on Sunday shot down a Syrian warplane, which was said to be dropping bombs near U.S.-supported Kurdish and Arab ground forces fighting ISIS in the vicinity of ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa. It was the first time during the six year Syrian conflict that a U.S. jet had shot down a Syrian jet. In fact, it has been approximately 18 years since the U.S. had shot down a warplane belonging to any country since a Serbian plane was shot down over Kosovo in 1999.

The U.S. Central Command leading the anti-ISIS coalition effort said the Syrian jet was “immediately shot down… in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.” The statement added that the coalition’s mission was to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and was not to fight the Syrian regime or its allies. However, it added that the coalition would not hesitate to defend itself or its partner forces “from any threat,” and that “[T]he demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”

According to a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. had first warned the Syrian plane away from the area, but to no avail. An F/A-18 “Super Hornet” thereupon shot down the Syrian plane.

Syria claimed its plane was targeting ISIS militants at the time, a dubious claim in light of the Assad regime’s long record of bombing civilians and all rebel groups indiscriminately in the name of combating “terrorism.”

Syria’s principal ally Russia regarded the U.S. attack on the Syrian warplane as a hostile act. It said that it would treat U.S.-led coalition planes and drones operating west of the Euphrates River where Russia’s air forces operate as “targets.” Russia also said it would suspend indefinitely the use of the communications channel that had been set up between the two countries for the purpose of reducing the potential for direct military confrontation between U.S. and Russian warplanes. Russia had made a similar threat after the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the Syrian regime’s alleged chemical attack on civilians last April, which turned out to be a hollow threat.

“All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The Pentagon responded with a stern warning to the Russians that the U.S. would not be deterred in its support of coalition operations against ISIS. Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said coalition aircraft would continue conducting “operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground.”

General Jack Keane (Ret.), a Fox News military analyst, believes Russia is bluffing. “That’s rubbish,” Keane said on “Fox & Friends.”They’re not gonna shoot at U.S. airplanes. They’re not gonna take on the United States. They have very limited capability in Syria by comparison to U.S. capability.”

General Keane may be underestimating Russia’s defense capabilities in Syria, which include surface-to-air missiles. In particular, Russia’s S-400 air defense system is highly sophisticated, with a range of more than 200 miles. Nevertheless, the correct response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bullying is to push back in no uncertain terms. The United States cannot allow Russia to declare what amounts to a no-fly zone in Syria that would undermine the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS. The U.S. has not interfered with Russian aircraft operating in Syria. Nor should Russia interfere with ours. Not only would a surrender to Russian threats simply invite more Russian aggression. It would send a signal of weakness to ISIS and al Qaeda. And it would embolden Iran, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime along with Russia, to continue its quest for hegemony in the Middle East region.

In fact, Iran added to the seething Syrian cauldron on Sunday with its own launching of missiles into Syria. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed the missiles were aimed at “the headquarters and meeting place and suicide car assembly line” of “ISIS terrorists.” However, nothing the Iranian regime says can be taken completely at face value. Iran is no doubt also sending a message to the U.S.- led coalition members and Israel that the gains the Syrians and Hezbollah forces have been making with Iran’s support in southern Syria, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders, would be defended with Iranian missiles if necessary. “The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian state TV in an interview, as quoted by the Associated Press. Moreover, whatever territory Iran helps Syrian forces and Hezbollah militia take away from rebel control, including from ISIS, increases Iranian control over strategic positions bridging Iraq and Syria. This in turn would enhance Iran’s so-called “Shia crescent.”

Whether the U.S. downing of the Syrian plane turns out to be just another bump in the road of the long conflict in Syria or represents a true inflection point, accelerating a potential direct collision between the United States and Russia, remains to be seen. However, the Trump administration needs to be clear-eyed in the strategic objectives it seeks to achieve in Syria to avoid getting drawn into a prolonged ground war. Regime change in Syria must not become the objective for its own sake. The disastrous outcomes in Iraq and Libya prove what can lie over the cliff of regime change.

Defeating ISIS should remain the number one objective. Containing Iran is also a key strategic objective, given its hegemonic ambitions and its state sponsorship of terrorism. We should not be fooled into thinking that Iran’s assistance in fighting ISIS will come without a heavy price that may turn out to be even more dangerous in the long run than ISIS to the U.S. national security interest.

As for Russia, we have little choice at this point but to live with its presence in Syria in support of the Assad regime, lest we risk an all-out military confrontation that could spin out of control. Efforts are already underway behind the scenes to lower tensions from the latest incident. A Russian official has clarified that Russia would only threaten coalition jets that “take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft.” We can take reasonable steps to demonstrate that striking Russian aircraft is not our intention. However, the U.S. should not permit Russia to interfere in any way with the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS, which means not allowing Russia to put into effect its own version of a no-fly zone against coalition aircraft operating in support of coalition forces fighting ISIS anywhere in Syria. Russia should also not be permitted to shield the Syrian regime from a further military response if it once again uses lethal chemical weapons against its own people.

Most importantly, we need to stop being reactive and start thinking strategically. As Daniel Nidess, a guest columnist, wrote recently in Foreign Policy:

“We need to get back to playing chess — to deliberately planning several moves ahead and accepting that achieving some interests may mean temporarily sacrificing others. The alternative is to continue the trend of the last decade and a half of U.S. foreign policy, which has alternated between half-heartedly committing to our stated goals and sleepwalking through shortsighted escalations that lack clear objectives, both of which have left the U.S. worse off strategically.”

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Also see:

Democrats Finally Care About The Constitution, But Only If It Can Undermine Trump [VIDEO]

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) listens as Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin delivers remarks in the US Treasury Department building on April 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is making his first visit to the Treasury Department for a memorandum signing ceremony with Secretary Mnuchin. Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images.

Daily Caller, by Ginni Thomas, May 6, 2017: (go to Daily Caller for the video)

President Donald Trump’s ideological opponents have opened up a serious challenge to governance since election day, according to one prolific scholar and national security expert.

Dr. J. Michael Waller, who has taught on subversion, propaganda and information warfare, says no other president has had his 100-day honeymoon stolen from him. Additionally, no other president has had their predecessor organizing private funds to undermine him as former President Barack Obama has done in concert with the left’s resistance to Trump.

Waller discusses the weaponization of government by Obama where he used the IRS, Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI and the national intelligence community against his political opponents, in this exclusive video interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation interview.

Did Obama’s FBI, CIA, NSA and DOJ meddle more in our national election than Russia? Did the Obama team use pretexts to allege Russian collaboration in order to spy on their political opponents?

Waller describes the various forces against Trump that make the president appear illegitimate. He names the militant extreme left, the permanent bureaucracy and mainstream elected Democrats who, with varying interlocking narratives, create a climate of fear, suspicion and hatred.

Commenting on the flimsy accusations by Democrats of Russian interference as part of this delegitimization project of the left, Waller reminds us that Democrats were calling conservatives “Russophobes” for holding on to Cold War antagonisms toward Russia recently.

Waller says, “This is the first time you have ever had left-wingers protesting Kremlin subversion of American politics and actually caring about the Constitution.”

The Congress should expand the one-sided Russian subversion probe about 2016, he says, since Russia has worked to subvert American political efforts with propaganda and disinformation since the 1920s. Waller has 13 memory-jarring reasons why the Democrats would find such an expanded probe uncomfortable, if only Republicans would consider such a tact.

Part of Waller’s list includes the “Anna Chapman case” in New York in 2010, where Russians penetrated the Democratic political machine in the Empire State. He also discusses the Clinton “pay for play” uranium deal that seemed to result in zero political outrage from congressional Republicans.

According to Waller, “George Soros is the number one private sponsor of subversion against the United States,” with the Chinese, Saudis and the Russians as the predominant state sponsors of subversion. Soros funds a full range of groups that seek to bring down America, including Black Lives Matter, which promotes murderous violence against police officers, drug legalization, and open border policies that threaten self-government and national security.

Waller thinks he seeks to “cripple institutions of national identity, national security and individual liberty insofar as it protects the constitutional rights of Americans.”

For more on Waller see his writings here or on his blog, or follow him on Twitter @JMichaelWaller.