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Mattis resigning as Pentagon chief after clashes with Trump



WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday after clashing with President Donald Trump over the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and after two years of deep disagreements over America’s role in the world.

Mattis, perhaps the most respected foreign policy official in Trump’s administration, will leave by the end of February after two tumultuous years struggling to soften and moderate the president’s hardline and sometimes sharply changing policies. He told Trump in a letter that he was leaving because “you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”

His departure was immediately lamented by foreign policy hands and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who viewed the retired Marine general as a sober voice of experience in the ear of a president who had never held political office or served in the military. Even Trump allies expressed fear over Mattis’ decision to quit, believing him to be an important moderating force on the president.

“Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter ,” tweeted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed toward a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”

Mattis in his letter noted his “core belief” that American strength is “inextricably linked” with its alliances and partnerships with other nations, a position seemingly at odds with the “America First” policy of the president.

The defense secretary also said China and Russia want to spread their “authoritarian model” and promote their interests at the expense of America and its allies. “That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense,” he wrote.

The announcement came a day after Trump surprised U.S. allies and members of Congress by announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria, and as he continues to consider cutting in half the American deployment in Afghanistan by this summer. It coincided with domestic turmoil as well, Trump’s fight with Congress over a border wall and a looming partial government shutdown.

Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria has been sharply criticized for abandoning America’s Kurdish allies, who may well face a Turkish assault once U.S. troops leave, and had been staunchly opposed by the Pentagon.

Mattis, in his resignation letter, emphasized the importance of standing up for U.S. allies — an implicit criticism of the president’s decision on this issue and others.

“While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” Mattis wrote.

Last year, Republican Sen. Bob Corker — a frequent Trump critic — said Mattis, along with White House chief of staff John Kelly and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were helping “separate our country from chaos.”

Tillerson was fired early this year. Kelly is to leave the White House in the coming days.

“This is scary,” reacted Senate Intelligence committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., on Twitter. “Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration.”

“Jim Mattis did a superb job as Secretary of Defense. But he cannot be expected to stand behind a President who disrespects our allies and ingratiates himself to our adversaries,” said William Cohen, who served as defense secretary under Bill Clinton and knows Mattis well.

Mattis’ departure has long been rumored, but officials close to him have insisted that the battle-hardened retired Marine would hang on, determined to bring military calm and reason to the administration’s often chaotic national security decisions and soften some of Trump’s sharper tones with allies.

Opponents of Mattis, however, have seen him as an unwanted check on Trump.

Mattis went to the White House Thursday afternoon to resign after failing to persuade the president to change his decision on withdrawing troops from Syria.

A U.S. official said that Mattis’ decision was his own, and not a “forced resignation.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Trump said a replacement would be chosen soon.

“The president’s national security team’s job is to give him advice and it’s the president’s job to make a decision,” said press secretary Sarah Sanders.

At the start of the Trump administration, the president had gushed about his respect for Mattis, repeatedly calling him “Mad Dog,” despite Mattis’ own public insistence that the moniker was never his. Instead, his nickname for years was CHAOS, which stood for “Colonel Has An Outstanding Suggestion,” and reflected Mattis’ more cerebral nature.

The two quickly clashed on major policy decisions.

During his first conversations with Trump about the Pentagon job, Mattis made it clear that he disagreed with his new boss in two areas: He said torture doesn’t work, despite Trump’s assertion during the campaign that it did, and he voiced staunch support for traditional U.S. international alliances, including NATO, which Trump repeatedly criticized.

Mattis was credited by some in the administration for blocking an executive order that would have reopened CIA interrogation “black sites.” Trump has said the Pentagon chief convinced him it wasn’t necessary to bring back banned torture techniques like waterboarding.

En route to his first visit to Iraq as defense secretary, Mattis bluntly rebuffed Trump’s assertion that America might take Iraqi oil as compensation for U.S. efforts in the war-torn country.

The two also were divided on the future of the Afghanistan war, with Trump complaining from the first about its cost and arguing for withdrawal. Mattis and others ultimately persuaded Trump to pour additional resources and troops into the conflict to press toward a resolution.

U.S. officials say there now is active planning in the Pentagon that would pull as many as half the 14,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by summer. They say no final decision has been made.

Trump also chafed at the Pentagon’s slow response to his order to ban transgender people from serving in the military. That effort has stalled due to multiple legal challenges.

More recently, Trump bypassed Mattis’ choice for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief, was Mattis’ top choice, but Trump chose Gen. Mark Milley, the chief of the Army

The Pentagon has appeared to be caught off guard by a number of Trump policy declarations, often made through Twitter. Those include plans that ultimately fizzled to have a big military parade this month and the more recent decision to send thousands of active duty troops to the Southwest border.

Mattis has determinedly kept a low public profile, striving to stay out of the news and out of Trump’s line of fire.

Those close to him have repeatedly insisted that he would not quit, and would have to either be fired or die in the job. But others have noted that a two-year stint as defense chief is a normal and respectable length of service.

Born in Pullman, Washington, Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969, later earning a history degree from Central Washington University. He was commissioned as an officer in 1972. As a lieutenant colonel, he led an assault battalion into Kuwait during the first U.S. war with Iraq in 1991.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mattis commanded the Marines who launched an early amphibious assault into Afghanistan and established a U.S. foothold in the Taliban heartland. As the first wave of Marines moved toward Kandahar, Mattis declared, “The Marines have landed, and now we own a piece of Afghanistan.”

Two years later, he helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003 as the two-star commander of the 1st Marine Division. As a four-star, he led Central Command from 2010 until his retirement in 2013.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Robert Burns contributed.



Foreign Affairs

Is war with Iran inevitable?



Is war with Iran inevitable

Aggressive actions have become commonplace between Iran and the United States over the last two months. The U.S. sent the powerful Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber squadron to the region following the defection and intelligence cache delivery by former Iranian Brigadier General Ali Nasiri. Since then, Iran has been bombing tankers, shooting down American drones, and attempting to seize a British Tanker.

Today, the escalation continued as Iran admitted to capturing at least one foreign oil tanker. Then, the United States sent the USS Boxer, loaded with 2000 Marines, into the Persian Gulf where it shot down an Iranian drone that came within 1000 yards of the ship.

Is war inevitable?

No. There is still a very good chance President Trump will not risk reelection by engaging in another unpopular Middle East war. There are those who think Iran will push it too far, and that may be the case, but their goal would be to provoke attack, not war. It behooves them to get hit by the United States so they can play the victim card in the international arena. This is why they’ll poke, prod, annoy, and continue to be aggressive without going so far as to make war warranted.

An attack by the west is the best thing Iran can hope to happen at this point. Their economy is crumbling. Their terror and military proxies are hurting because of the dried up funds no longer coming in from Tehran. They can’t seem to sneak an oil tanker around Africa to Syria, one of the few places willing to disregard U.S. sanctions against Iran. So they’re left with either giving up their nuclear weapons ambitions altogether or provoking a war without being clearly seen as the aggressors.

Even though I do not believe war is inevitable, I don’t see a way to completely avoid military action. Iran won’t stop until they’ve forced an attack against them.

The Middle East has always been a volatile place. With Iran doing everything they can to appear like the victims to the international community while still seeming strong internally, strikes may be inevitable but war is not.

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Foreign Affairs

Adelle Nazarian to Trump: Ask Emir of Qatar about Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera



Adelle Nazarian to Trump Ask Emir of Qatar about Muslim Brotherhood Al Jazeera

As the leader of Qatar visits President Trump in the White House, many are calling on the President to bring up sensitive topics about two organizations that work in opposition to Trump’s administration and America in general: the Islamic terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood and news agency Al Jazeera.

Qatar’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood are well documented as Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has utilized our military base there as leverage to make us turn a blind eye to the Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist activities. As Ryan Mauro, director of Clarion Intelligence Network, noted:

The byline literally says “sponsored by the government of Qatar.” Qatar is using our own military base as a bargaining chip to compel us to ignore their sponsoring of terrorism and the spreading of the Islamist ideology.

As for Al Jazeera, one need only look at the coverage of the Emir on their website to understand the dynamic in play there. Many have noted that Al Jazeera uses “doublespeak” in crossing over between their two primary reporting languages. They can take the same report and portray it completely differently in English as they do in Arabic.

Being a strategic ally makes it important for America to be engaged with them, but that doesn’t mean we should be ignoring their anti-American activities just because they’re inconvenient to the foreign relations narrative. That’s what President Obama did to disastrous results. President Trump should do better.

Adelle Nazarian, an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker, joined Jack Posobiec on One America News to call on the President to address these important issues with Qatar.

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Foreign Affairs

Iran will continue to be a pest until they become a real problem



Iran will continue to be a pest until they become a real problem

Today, Iran is an annoying little dog barking like crazy but unable to penetrate the pant leg of western powers operating in the Middle East. But even an annoying little dog can be very dangerous if they sink their jaws into someone’s jugular, and at this stage they may be seeking a jugular to go after.

Their desperation is clear. Nobody in the west can know for sure how crucial the supertanker full of crude oil captured by British forces earlier this month was to the Iranians, but they made the unprecedented move of admitting their subterfuge and demanding their tanker back. The pretended it was a Panama ship managed by a Singapore company with Iraqi oil in it that they took all the way around Africa instead of cutting through the Suez Canal, so we can assume by the great lengths they went to in order to try to deliver it to Syria that this was important to them. Was it crucial? Was this a last gasp attempt to jumpstart their economy after having it crushed by U.S. sanctions?

Their willingness to try to seize a British tanker may mean their losses were, indeed, backbreaking.

Five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday but backed off after a British warship approached, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.

The British warship was said to have been less than 5 miles behind the tanker but soon intercepted the Iranian boats and threatened to open fire. A manned U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was above as well, the official said, adding that Iranian forces left without opening fire.

But this embarrassment in front of the international audience will not be a lesson learned. If anything, Iran and their “Twelver” mentality will feel the need to escalate their actions and do real damage. At some point in the near future, they’re going to open fire and kill someone. That’s the only thing they haven’t done yet during their recent rise in aggressive activities. And when they do take a life, it will almost certainly be American.

Iran needs to be the victim

There are two conflicting narratives the Iranian government needs to perpetuate in order to be successful, at least in their own minds. First, they must put up a front of strength to their people and allies. Their military may be relatively small compared to western military forces, China, or Russia, but they’re significant enough to pose a threat to anyone in the region. The second narrative is one of victimhood in the eyes of the international community. They need the United Nations generally to view them as being bullied by the west, and while a case can be made that the United States is provoking them by slapping on sanctions and leaving the nuclear deal, it’s hard to make a case that the United Kingdom did anything wrong by enforcing EU sanctions on Syria.

Their victimhood narrative is hard to push when they’re sending gunboats to capture civilian ships.

The United States is positioned well by being out of this particular conflict. Other than supporting the British with intelligence and reconnaissance, we haven’t gotten involved in either tanker incident between the U.K. and Iran. Sure, Iran and even Spain can point to the U.K. acting as American proxies, but it’s a hard case to make when it was their waters off Gibraltar where the British seized the Iranian tanker, as well as it being a British tanker that was attacked by Iran.

With or without the U.S. proxy label, the U.K. was right to enforce EU sanctions and to defend their own boats.

Whatever move Iran wants to make next, it’s unlikely to be as muted as a few small gunboats running away from a British battleship.

Underestimating Iran would be a huge mistake, but treating them as equals would be an even bigger one. They are pests and should be handled as such. But when they become more than pests, we need to be ready to act.

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