Category Archives: International news

Where’s the ‘intelligence’ at the briefing?

When a leading Republican supporter of Donald J. Trump comes out of an intelligence briefing and calls it the “worst” one he’s heard in his time as a U.S. senator, then it looks as though the president has some trouble on his hands.

Mike Lee of Utah came out of the briefing today to blast the briefers. He called the event “sophomoric,” and was highly critical of the national security team’s instruction to avoid any debate about what they learned behind closed doors.

Lee didn’t like what he heard. What’s more, he said so out loud.

The briefing came from some Trump administration heavyweights, including CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper; a third briefer was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who I should add has emerged as a high-profile disappointment as the nation’s top diplomat.

At issue was the justification for killing Iranian Revolutionary Guard chieftain Qassem Solemaini. The president said Iran was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests and that the air strike in Baghdad was meant as a “defensive” measure. He didn’t provide any evidence of such an “imminent” attack. Senators came out of today’s briefing saying the national security team didn’t provide anything new, either.

Iran responded with the missile attack against two U.S. bases in Iraq. The missiles didn’t inflict any casualties. Iran backed down. Trump said the United States would not pursue any further military action. “All is well,” the president said via Twitter. Well, it isn’t all well.

What is stunning to me was the anger expressed by Sen. Lee, who until now has stood foursquare behind the president. He said the briefers’ admonition was “insulting.”

This is the troubling aspect of the hit against Solemaini. The strike itself needed to happen. What also needed to occur was the development of a cogent after-action strategy by the Trump administration.

It appears that there is nothing of the sort available for public review.

Trump had reason to bask in glory of the moment, but then …

Donald J. Trump had every reason on Earth to soak up the good vibes from the events of the past few hours.

Iran had vowed a deadly response to the killing of Revolutionary Guard chieftain Qassem Solemaini. It then launched a couple dozen ballistic missiles at two air bases in Iraq; they inflicted zero U.S. casualties and minimal damage.

The president had threatened Iran with destruction if it chose to go to war with the United States. It appears to me that Iran heeded the president’s threat, peeling back its response that well might have been meant only for show.

Right there is reason for Donald Trump to declare that his threats worked well for the national interest.

But then came the following.

The president just had to declare, with zero evidence to buttress his contention, that Iran paid for the missiles it launched with cash delivered by the United States as part of the international deal struck to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

There he went, blaming President Barack Obama for consummating a deal that Trump has called one of the worst in human history.

I should note here that international observers have said Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement. Iran has now decided to abandon all the principles laid out in that deal and it now will resume seeking a nuclear weapon.

It’s the president’s incessant, ongoing pre-disposition to attack a policy enacted by his immediate predecessor that I find annoying, distracting and so totally gratuitous.

My goodness! Donald Trump had all the reason in the world to declare a significant diplomatic victory over Iran, a potentially deadly hostile state. Then he stepped all over himself by declaring something that has no evidentiary basis in fact.

I am cautiously hopeful at this moment that we might have averted a serious and deadly conflict against Iran. Let us just count our blessings for the moment.

Trump scores direct hit on a military target, then bungles the aftermath

It is worthwhile to compartmentalize Donald Trump’s two-pronged approach to dealing with Iran.

On the one hand, the president’s decision to kill Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanding general Qassem Solemaini took courage. I applaud the death of this killer, the man responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of U.S. service personnel.

On the other hand, Iran has responded with two strikes against U.S. military targets in Iraq. No one seems to know the extent — if any –of American casualties. The Iranians took immediate responsibility for the missile launches.

The president has said he struck at Solemaini because of “imminent” attacks on U.S. targets. He said he intended to prevent a war. The effect might be the start of one.

We now up to our collective necks in an international crisis that well might evolve into all-out war with Iran. Just think that the president campaigned for the office on a pledge to pull us out of “endless, needless” war in the Middle East.

What now? What is the consequence of this attack on the Iranian military leader? Are we headed toward another war from which we cannot extricate ourselves? Are we engaged in any serious diplomatic initiatives to try to fend off the bloodshed that might be the inevitable result?

I have to ask, too, about Donald Trump’s credibility. I happen to disbelieve practically anything he says about … anything! 

Imminent attack? What in the world is the president talking about?

We are witnessing a fearsome set of events. Iran has done what it said it would do after the killing of Qassem Solemaini. Are we now going to do what Donald Trump has threatened to do, which is hit Iran harder than they’ve ever been hit?

Does the president of the United States have a plan? I am glad the Iranian general is dead. I am worried now — along with the rest of the world — about the consequence that might result.

Now it’s the ‘Obama-Biden administration’

Did anyone other than me notice something a bit different coming from the Donald Trump administration’s criticism of policies put forward by the Obama administration?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the Sunday morning news/talk show circuit to explain Trump’s decision to kill Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Solemaini with an air strike in Baghdad, Iraq.

He kept referring — get ready for it! — the mistakes made by the “Obama-Biden administration.” Do you get it? Pompeo is now trying to link former Vice President Joe Biden to former President Barack Obama. Why is that? Well, it appears to me that the Trump team believes the former VP is going to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee later this year.

It’s a subtle tactic to demonize a political foe. Do I think the demonization is valid? No. I do not. I do not believe Iran’s standing as a terrorist state is the result of mistakes made during the Obama administration.

That won’t preclude Donald Trump’s key administration and campaign aides from employing this little game of rhetorical mumbo-jumbo. It has begun already.

Recall Einstein’s projection about ‘WW IV’

An excellent analysis on Politico.com suggests that Iran isn’t likely to trigger an overarching armed conflict in the Middle East in reaction to the death of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Sulemaini on orders from Donald Trump.

The Iranians are blustering about a severe response to Sulemaini’s death in a U.S. air strike. Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes Iran will back off and will not provoke a conflict that would fester into a third world war.

Read his essay here.

It goes without saying that I hope he’s right. I’ll say it anyway: I hope he’s right.

I want to look back at a statement attributed to the physicist Albert Einstein, who after contributing to the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II, offered his view of how future world wars would unfold.

He supposedly said he didn’t know how World War III would be fought, but said he was certain “World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.”

If ol’ Albert Einstein didn’t say precisely that, the message remains vital if the Iranian mullahs have any ideas about how they intend to react to the death of a killer.

As Takeyh said, the “last thing (the mullahs) need is a costly confrontation with a president willing to do things they once considered unimaginable.”

Some way to change the subject

I don’t know for certain why Donald Trump chose this particular moment to kill an Iranian terrorist leader, but it certainly has yanked the nation’s attention away from the other big story on a lot of Americans’ minds.

That would be the pending impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. Yeah, we still have that matter to settle, too, but back to the crisis of the moment.

The president ordered the air strike that killed Qassem Sulemaini, head of the Revolutionary Guard. The Iranian government is angry. As in fiercely angry, you know? Who can blame ’em? Imagine some hostile power launching an air strike that killed, say, our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sulemaini was, I suppose, the equivalent in Iran. Except that he was a hostile enemy combatant. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service personnel and thousands of others. Therefore, his death is nothing approaching an “assassination.”

However, it has steered our attention away from impeachment. I suppose that’s — politically speaking — good for Trump. He is now dealing with the potential after effects of this surprise hit.

I’ll be candid on this point: Given the stakes involved with a potential Iranian response to Sulemaini’s killing, public discussion about impeachment juxtaposed with the dire peril that might be lurking will seem even more like a partisan exercise than it is already.

I guess my sincere hope at this moment is that the Donald Trump administration is pulling out all the diplomatic stops in an effort to prevent war with Iran. Trump says such an event would be over quickly, and that Iran wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of firepower from the world’s pre-eminent military power. Remember, though, the Bush administration said as much about going to war with Iraq; it didn’t work out that way.

The president did say the other evening that he prefers peace over war. Uh, so do the rest of us, Mr. President. The sooner we can resolve this Iran crisis the sooner we turn our attention to pondering that impeachment trial.

Killing of murderer underscores nature of this fight

The killing this week of Qassem Sulemaini underscores a fundamental question about the crisis that was thrust on this country on 9/11: How we do declare victory in a war against international terrorism?

Sulemaini led the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He had buckets of American blood on his hands. He needed to be hunted down and killed. And so it happened in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and his forces have been fighting against Iraqis and U.S. troops.

More than 18 years ago this country was dragged into a war of someone else’s choosing. Al-Qaeda terrorists pulled off a stunning and cunning surprise attack on this country from which we likely never will recover emotionally, at least not as long as there are Americans still living who remember that terrible day in 2001.

We went to war. President Bush said at the time that our fight was not with Muslims, but with those who perverted their faith into a demented justification for the act of evil.

And so the fight has gone on and on.

Our special operations forces killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in May 2011. They went into action again in October of this past year and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. They, too, needed to die. Did their deaths or the death of Sulemaini spell the end of their terror networks? No. They all found someone to replace them; Sulemaini’s deputy commander has stepped into the commander’s role in Iran.

I don’t intend to suggest this country should give up fighting the terrorist monsters. I merely intend to seek to put this fight into what I hope is a proper perspective.

We should acknowledge that terrorists have existed since the beginning of civilization. The 9/11 attack at the beginning of this century emboldened them. They have become more brazen than before. Moreover, the rest of us are paying more careful attention to their hideous rhetoric and, yes, their actions.

We can take some comfort in the tactical victories our side is able to score: the deaths of terror leaders and the battlefield successes we can secure as we seek to defeat the terrorist monsters.

I cannot stop wondering, however, whether a declaration of victory against terror is even possible. The terrorists, I fear, possess a deep bench full of lunatics who are willing to die for some perverted cause.

Therefore, the fight must continue.

Support the strike; question the strategy

I want to be crystal clear, with no ambiguity about the events that resulted in the death of a bloodthirsty terrorist.

I support fully the air strike that killed Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. No American I can think of is mourning the death of this individual. Indeed, politicians of all stripes are hailing the killer’s death.

What troubles me are the questions that are emerging about whether Donald Trump ordered the strike with a clear post-strike strategy in mind. I am developing growing doubt that the president had thought it out thoroughly.

Yes, the critics have emerged on the Democratic side of the congressional aisle. They were left out of the loop. Congressional leaders say they weren’t informed of the plan to hit Suleimani prior to the attack occurring. They want Congress to authorize any military action that might occur in the event Iran retaliates.

I, too, am concerned about all of that.

We also need to get real about one more important aspect of this raid. The death of Suleimani does not mean the end of the Revolutionary Guard. The Guard also already has elevated his deputy to top of the its chain of command.

Remember, too, that the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden did not extinguish al-Qaeda. Nor did the mission this past year that took out Abu Bakr al Baghdadi eliminate the Islamic State. The terror organizations are continuing their bloody campaigns against Muslims and against U.S. forces that are still fighting them on the battlefield.

It all arcs back to the most riveting question of the “global war on terror.” How will we be able to declare victory? My hunch is that we are engaging in a war with no end.

As for the death of this latest murderer, I am glad he is dead.

However, we now must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

This was no ‘assassination’

Some on the left are suggesting that U.S. forces “assassinated” Qassem Sulemaini, the Iranian leader of the Revolutionary Guard.

Hmm. Let’s look briefly at this.

Sulemaini was not a political leader. He was a military man, the head of a ruthless military organization with blood on its hands, and he had blood on his hands. Thus, I resist the use of the term “assassinate” to describe the attack that killed Sulemaini.

It was an operation that took out a military target.

There might be room to criticize Donald Trump’s strategy, if he has one, in connection with this attack. I happen, though, to support the president’s decision to kill this murderer. Sulemaini was a despotic killer who needed killin’. I am concerned about whether the president has considered the impact this action will have on the Middle East region and the extent to the threat that might be posed to Americans in the event of an Iranian retaliation.

However, assassinations are intended to describe the violent deaths of political leaders … heads of state and government, leading political figures. We’ve had our share of them in this country; thus, Americans understand what an assassination looks like.

This action against Qassem Sulemaini was a military strike against a military target.

Can we believe a POTUS who cannot tell the truth?

This must be said, so I will say it.

Donald Trump’s penchant for prevarication, his unwillingness to tell the truth puts everything he says about the killing of a bloodthirsty terrorist into serious doubt.

Do not misconstrue me, please. Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader Qassem Sulemaini needed to die. Donald Trump ordered an airstrike this week that killed a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service personnel. The call took guts to make and I salute the president for ordering the strike.

However, he now says it was done to prevent a planned attack on U.S. forces, that it was done as a defensive move.

I am only wondering now whether Donald Trump is telling the truth on that matter. Was there actually a strike in the offing from the Iranian forces? Can we trust this nation’s current president to tell us the truth, without equivocation, of the context surrounding the air strike?

I long ago stopped attaching credibility to virtually anything that the president tells me, but yet, I want this statement from Trump to ring true. I just need to be convinced.