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Foreign Affairs

Trump’s trade war faces resistance from GOP, but it probably won’t matter



While the government-contrived immigration “crisis” at the border involving forced family separations has captured the headlines—effectively giving Trump and the GOP the cover they need to save DACA and create a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens—Trump’s trade war was the topic of the day during hearings with the Senate Finance Committee yesterday.

Following recent announcements of retaliatory tariffs being leveled against the US by Canada, China, Mexico, and the EU, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared before the committee to defend what the committee referred to as Trump’s “knee-jerk impulses” with his trade policies.

Senators from both parties blasted Ross over Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs—which Ross once defended as “no big deal” because any impact they might have on consumer prices would be “trivial”—following recent economic data indicating that tariffs were indeed having a negative impact on the US economy.

After pointing out that tariffs were responsible for raising prices by 20 percent or more for certain US manufacturers, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch questioned the administration’s claim that Trump’s trade war was a matter of national security.

“These tariffs do not support US national security; instead, they harm American manufacturers, damage our economy, hurt American consumers, and disrupt our relationship with our long-term allies, while giving China a free pass.”

As regular readers of the Strident Conservative already know, Trump has been particularly soft on China after receiving favorable treatment for his and Ivanka’s business interests in China from the Chinese government.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who attempted to get a law passed that would return the power to levy tariffs back to Congress as the Constitution requires—it was shot down by Mitch McConnell—also pointed out that Trump’s trade war has nothing to do with national security.

“I wish we would stop invoking national security because that’s not what this is about. This is about economic nationalism.”

“We’re picking winners and losers.”

Hmm… picking winners and losers. Isn’t that something Obama did?

Despite Trump’s misguided optimism, it’s important to remember that there are always casualties in war—even in a trade war—and he is personally responsible for them because he will have caused them.

While news that there are Republicans willing to take a stand against Trump’s disastrous trade policies should be something to cheer, the GOP has become the party of Trump where loyalty and undying devotion to the NY liberal has replaced conservative values. It was just yesterday that I wrote about Sen. Dean Heller’s conversion to Trump conservatism and how as a Trump loyalist, he would be giving Trump “a wide berth” concerning tariffs.

With the GOP adopting a Trump loyalty test when it comes to enacting policy and running elections, it’s likely that we’ll see more Republicans giving Trump a wide berth on tariffs and pretty much everything else Trump wants.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

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Foreign Affairs

Did North Korea pull a con job on President Trump?



Did North Korea pull a con job on President Trump

For most of 2018, President Trump has been tooting his horn as the great negotiator who forced Kim Jong un and North Korea to the table. He has showered praise on the dictator, a sharp contrast to the Twitter wars they had in the past. Now, it seems that negotiations may be falling apart.

On top of that, it now appears North Korea has continued to work on their nuclear and missile programs the whole time.

Undeclared North Korea: The Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base within the Tactical Belt in North Hwanghae province, 85 km north of the DMZ and 135 km northwest of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is the Sakkanmol missile operating base (38.584698° 126.107945°).1 Although occasionally and incorrectly referred to as an “underground missile storage” facility, it is a forward Hwasong-5/-6 missile operating base subordinate to the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), which is responsible for all ballistic missile units.2 The base is located near the point where the three counties of Pongsan, Sohung, and Yontan in North Hwanghae province meet. Disambiguation of references to reported missile bases in these counties indicates that they are actually referring to the Sakkanmol missile operating base. This is likely true for references to a missile base at Togol, 9.5 km to the northeast, and may also be true for a reported ballistic missile unit in the Sariwon area, 31 km to the west.3

According to former CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman, North Korea is just trying to wait us out. They are trying to wiggle out of sanctions while simultaneously breaking them through secret deals with countries like Russia and China.

Was this all just a big con job? Did the North Koreans take advantage of President Trump’s desire for a foreign relations win? Are these latest revelations signs that they will not negotiate in good faith? It seems so.

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Foreign Affairs

Gaza conflict spun as a precursor to a two-state solution



Gaza conflict spun as a precursor to a two-state solution

And so the spin begins…

A massive barrage of rocket and mortar attacks launched against Israel by Hamas in the Gaza Strip is being justified by leftist mainstream media in the United States and throughout the Middle East as a response to a “botched special ops” mission carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The mission left seven Palestinians and one Israeli army officer dead. One of the Palestinians killed was a Hamas military commander.

Since the Sunday incident, over 350 rockets have been fired into Israel. The IDF retaliated by striking Hamas-controlled targets, including a state-run news station that was offline for several hours.

Now, nearly every report from mainstream media is tilting blame for this escalation of aggression towards Israel. What’s being ignored is the fact that the botched raid is just an excuse for escalation by Hamas. They’ve been waiting eagerly for Israel to do anything that could act as justification to ramp up attacks and force Israel to respond.

This is how a new anti-Israel narrative is built.

As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, the IDF didn’t help its cause by releasing information slowly.

IDF spokesman lost the narrative on botched Gaza mission about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Palestinian sources reported major explosions from Khan Yunis. And from that point on, Palestinian sources continued to be the ones reporting most of what happened.

Yes, the IDF almost immediately tweeted: “During IDF operational activity in the #Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire broke out. Details to follow.” But those details were slow to come.

Did the fact that a senior Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades terrorist was killed indicate a return to targeted assassinations? Was this an intelligence-gathering mission gone awry? Rumors flew on social media and on WhatsApp.

Why this is important

It isn’t the botched raid nor the responses by both sides that should concern Americans and Israelis the most. It’s how this will be used by anti-Israel groups around the world, including the United Nations, to ramp up calls for a two-state solution. They’ve been waiting for a series of events that were initiated by an Israel action. That narrative is now being built before our eyes.

The first three steps have already played out. Israel kills Palestinians during a military operation in Gaza. Hamas responds ferociously. Israel hits back. From here, the narrative of war versus peace will be built. It’s a false narrative because neither Hamas nor Israel want war, but Hamas will use this incident and the escalation that follows to pressure world leaders into taking further actions against Israel. We’ll hear of members of the United Nations denouncing Israel for their aggressions and calling on the United States to force Israel to the negotiating table.

While publicly supporting Israel, chances are very high the United States will, indeed, pressure them into hammering out a deal. That deal will be a two-state solution, and despite protestations by most of Israel’s leaders, they may be forced to finally accept it. Any other time this would likely be impossible, but things are different now. Israel’s government is sharply divided. It’s the perfect time for proponents of a two-state solution to step up and sell it to the nation.

The perfect storm

Fighting around Gaza is a piece of the puzzle. There are other pieces that have been moved or will soon be moved into place. When the image on the puzzle is finally seen, it will be a two-state solution.

Here are the five factors currently in play:

  1. Israeli-Palestinian tension driven by Hamas: This has been present for over a decade, but it appears this latest escalation is perfectly timed to coincide with the other four factors. Hamas was ready for any excuse to launch hundreds of rockets into Israel. The IDF mission gave them the excuse they needed.
  2. Mohammad bin Salman falling from grace: The United States and parts of Europe were looking to Saudi Arabia to be the initiator of peace talks. Even Israel preferred the Saudis over Egypt or Turkey. The Jamal Khashoggi murder changed everything.
  3. Multiple factors pushing President Trump to seek international wins: Losing the House in the midterm elections puts President Trump in delicate position. He needs wins in the next year to help him win reelection in 2020, but losing Congress means those wins won’t come on the domestic front. He needs a foreign affairs win and nothing would fit that bill better than his version of the Oslo Accords. He said back in September he’d be unveiling his Middle East peace proposal in “three or four months,” which is sometime between now and the middle of January. He also indicated he believed the final deal will include a two-state solution.
  4. Incessant drumbeat of the two-state solution: This has been present for years and has been steadily increasing recently. Nearly every nation is against the current situation in Israel. Most are calling for a two-state solution. This fact combined with increasing support for the BDS movement puts Israel on a geopolitical island.
  5. Uncertainty in the Israel elections: We cannot ignore the troubles Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having at home. While it’s unlikely he’ll see charges before the November 5, 2019 election, it’s still possible he’ll call for early elections before his coalition falls apart. If a two-state solution that includes Israel’s safety demands is put on the table, it’s conceivable that those who have been adamantly opposed to it in the past, including Netanyahu, may soften for the sake of governmental unity.

Media across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States are using the Israeli raid and Hamas rocket attacks to push a two-state solution to the masses. It seems almost inevitable at this point that Israel will either accept it or be demonized into complete isolation.

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Foreign Affairs

Netanyahu praises new U.S. sanctions on Iran



Netanyahu praises new US sanctions on Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for reimposing sanctions on Iran following his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. These actions against the shared foe have been called for by the Israeli government since the agreement was first signed by President Obama.

“Thank you, President Trump, for this historic move. The sanctions are indeed coming,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

His statement was a direct response to a Tweet the President sent out that mimicked a popular Game of Thrones line.

Many associated with the HBO show as well as a ton of the show’s left-leaning fans took great offense. HBO itself even Tweeted out a threat.

The sanctions, confirmed Friday, will take effect Monday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “These sanctions will target the core of Iran’s economy and they are far tougher than any sanctions that have previously been imposed on Iran.”

These sanctions are layered. The first layer prohibits any company that trades with Iran from doing business in the United States. The second layer targets domestic companies who do business with companies that do business with Iran.

It’s this second layer of sanctions that will be most effective, as the United States’ business sector will have much further reach when they tell their partners, suppliers, and distributors abroad that they won’t be working with them any longer.

Most in the EU, which wishes to maintain the status quo within the parameters of the nuclear deal despite America dropping out, are working towards finding workarounds that will allow them to continue to trade with Iran while not jeopardizing their relationships with American companies.

According to the BBC, the EU workarounds won’t work for long.

Can Iran survive sanctions? with the EU plan in place, the costs of doing any Iran-related business could still be too high for many companies.

For example, even if the shipping operator were to purchase oil through the SPV mechanism, the company insuring the cargo may still face the threat of secondary sanctions and the potential loss of all its business in the United States.

Iran’s economy isn’t directly reliant on the US financial system, says Richard Nephew, a sanctions expert and senior researcher at Columbia University.

“But the issue is that most of Iran’s biggest trading partners do and that affects their readiness to put at risk their access to the United States to do business with Iran.”

My Take

Iran will not be able to last long under these conditions. It’s imperative that the United States uses this to make clear what we expect from Iran going forward.

This isn’t just about nuclear weapons. Iran’s non-nuclear arsenal is regularly used against American interests, including Israel. They do this normally through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, but they’ve been more directly involved in regional conflicts, including the wars in Yemen and Syria as well as domestic disputes in Iraq.

For these sanctions to be effective, the United States will need others in the international community to help set clear expectations of Iran’s future. That includes helping their own people, towards which Tehran has been remiss for decades.

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