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Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria

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Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, two U.S. officials and a Turkish official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press.

The Dec. 14 call, described by officials who were not authorized to discuss the decision-making process publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, provides insight into a consequential Trump decision that prompted the resignation of widely respected Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It also set off a frantic, four-day scramble to convince the president either to reverse or delay the decision.

The White House rejected the description of the call from the officials but was not specific.

“In no uncertain terms, reporting throughout this story is not true,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “It is clear from the context that this false version of events is from sources who lack authority on the subject, possibly from unnamed sources in Turkey.”

The State Department and Pentagon declined to comment on the account of the decision to withdraw the troops, which have been in Syria to fight the Islamic State since 2015.

Despite losing the physical caliphate, thousands of IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, and the group continues to carry out insurgent attacks and could easily move back into territory it once held if American forces withdraw.

The Dec. 14 call came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu agreed to have the two presidents discuss Erdogan’s threats to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels in northeast Syria, where American forces are based. The NSC then set up the call.

Pompeo, Mattis and other members of the national security team prepared a list of talking points for Trump to tell Erdogan to back off, the officials said.

But the officials said Trump, who had previously accepted such advice and convinced the Turkish leader not to attack the Kurds and put U.S. troops at risk, ignored the script. Instead, the president sided with Erdogan.

In the following days, Trump remained unmoved by those scrambling to convince him to reverse or at least delay the decision to give the military and Kurdish forces time to prepare for an orderly withdrawal.

“The talking points were very firm,” said one of the officials, explaining that Trump was advised to clearly oppose a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and suggest the U.S. and Turkey work together to address security concerns. “Everybody said push back and try to offer (Turkey) something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

Erdogan, though, quickly put Trump on the defensive, reminding him that he had repeatedly said the only reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State and that the group had been 99 percent defeated. “Why are you still there?” the second official said Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that the Turks could deal with the remaining IS militants.

With Erdogan on the line, Trump asked national security adviser John Bolton, who was listening in, why American troops remained in Syria if what the Turkish president was saying was true, according to the officials. Erdogan’s point, Bolton was forced to admit, had been backed up by Mattis, Pompeo, U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey and special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, who have said that IS retains only 1 percent of its territory, the officials said.

Bolton stressed, however, that the entire national security team agreed that victory over IS had to be enduring, which means more than taking away its territory.

Trump was not dissuaded, according to the officials, who said the president quickly capitulated by pledging to withdraw, shocking both Bolton and Erdogan.

Caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. While Turkey has made incursions into Syria in the past, it does not have the necessary forces mobilized on the border to move in and hold the large swaths of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are positioned, the official said.

The call ended with Trump repeating to Erdogan that the U.S. would pull out, but offering no specifics on how it would be done, the officials said.

Over the weekend, the national security team raced to come up with a plan that would reverse, delay or somehow limit effects of the withdrawal, the officials said.

On Monday, Bolton, Mattis and Pompeo met at the White House to try to plot a middle course. But they were told by outgoing chief of staff John Kelly and his soon-to-be successor Mick Mulvaney that Trump was determined to pull out and was not to be delayed or denied, according to the officials. The trio met again on Tuesday morning to try to salvage things, but were again rebuffed, the officials said.

The White House had wanted to announce the decision on Tuesday — and press secretary Sarah Sanders scheduled a rare briefing specifically to announce it. But the Pentagon convinced Trump to hold off because the withdrawal plans weren’t complete and allies and Congress had not yet been notified, according to the officials. The first country aside from Turkey to be told of the impending pull-out was Israel, the officials said.

Word of the imminent withdrawal began to seep out early Wednesday after U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel started to inform his commanders on the ground and the Kurds of the decision.

Following the official announcement the White House emphasized that the U.S. will continue to support the fight against IS and remains ready to “re-engage” when needed. But in a tweet, the president said U.S. troops would no longer be fighting IS on behalf of others.

“Time to focus on our Country & bring our youth back home where they belong!”

____

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed from Ankara, Turkey.

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Democrats

The Democrats’ Israel test: Do they side with common sense or radical anti-Semitism?

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The Democrats Israel test Do they side with common sense or radical anti-Semitism

Every few weeks, there’s a new test for the Democratic Party that is forced to the forefront by someone in “The Squad” – Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. One or more of them does or says something unhinged, then all eyes turn to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as well as major Democratic candidates for president to see if they’re on the side of the radical progressives who have become the face of the party.

Invariably, these are manufactured choices. They’re not prompted by a pressing issue that was in the spotlight before, but the actions of the freshmen Congresswomen turns them into news. We saw this with AOC’s claims that the world is going to end in 10-12 years if her massive Green New Deal isn’t implemented yesterday. The popularity of the $50-$100 trillion proposal among the Democratic base prompted many in the party to embrace it. But prior to her claims, there had been common sense talks of how to change our energy policy over time in a pragmatic fashion that didn’t include banning air travel or mitigating damage from cow flatulence.

Next, we saw the Democrats blink following clearly anti-Semitic Twitter posts by Omar. At first, it seemed like Pelosi was going to do the right thing as she drafted a resolution condemning any anti-Semitism coming from Congress (though it didn’t name Omar directly) but ended up pushing forward a worthless resolution essentially saying all bigotry from any member of Congress was bad.

The group played their fiddles in unison to bring about the notion that migrant detention facilities are like “concentration camps” while simultaneously panning legislation to improve conditions at these facilities. It was a stark display of contradiction on their part until they made it clear they’re not trying to make conditions better. They’re trying to eliminate the facilities and incarceration of migrants altogether. Again, the Democrats were stuck looking torn over how to handle The Squad, agreeing with them in principle but legislating against them.

Today’s manufactured crisis within the party pertains to Israel. Last week, Tlaib and Omar were blocked from their trip to the Middle Eastern nation because their intentions were to incite anti-Israel groups with varying degrees of attachments to both the BDS movement and terrorist organizations themselves. To try to paint Israel as purely racist, Tlaib bluffed by cordially requesting to see her 90-year-old grandmother who lives in the West Bank. To her dismay, the request was quickly approved. She backtracked after her bluff was called.

Democrats in the House have a choice: Acknowledge that Israel is right to block this particular trip or follow The Squad in promoting the idea that Israel hates Muslims. These are two very distinct narratives that offer no middle ground. Keep in mind, they could have traveled with a huge Congressional delegation earlier in the month, but chose not to. Instead, they had an agenda and an itinerary presented to Israel that made it clear their intentions were to exacerbate problems and fuel anti-Israel tension. They even announced in their itinerary that they were traveling to “Palestine,” not Israel.

This is standard operating procedure for The Squad: Create an issue that drives a wedge between sensible Democrats and the radical progressives. They’re taking names, or to be more specific, their handlers at the Justice Democrats are taking names. Who is going to support the radical progressive agendas of extreme climate change “solutions,” full-blown open borders, and complete detachment from Israel as an ally?

It is crystal clear who is setting the Democrats’ agenda. As The Squad keeps pushing the party further to the left with each manufactured issue they present, will Democrats have the guts to stand up and tell their puppetmasters to back off?

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Democrats

Ilhan Omar compares Israel blocking entry to South African apartheid

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Ilhan Omar compares Israel blocking entry to South African apartheid

Anti-Semitic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar did what she normally does. She played the race card, or more specifically, the Islamophobia card against Israel. To do this, she compared Israel’s blocking of her and Representative Rashida Tlaib to the apartheid blocking of a black Congressman by South Africa 44-years ago.

There are several holes in this narrative. First, her claims that only she and Tlaib were blocked because they are Muslim and the rest of those traveling with them were not blocked is a bald-faced lie that takes advantage of how the block was reported. The news was that the two Congresswomen were blocked, but in reality the trip itself was denied by the Israeli government. That means everyone traveling with them, not just the two Congresswomen, were not allowed entry based on the itinerary they presented to the Israeli government.

Second, this trip, which they claimed was to “Palestine” and included an itinerary that had them exclusively visiting anti-Israel factions, was singled out. None of the potential travelers were blocked from entry, as Israel demonstrated this morning when they allowed Tlaib to enter to see her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank. But Tlaib, of course, declined her own request because it was a bluff, a political stunt.

Third, the Representatives’ continued attacks on Israel as well as their support for BDS and Hamas is demonstrably a threat to the nation of Israel. This is unambiguous and has not even been denied by the Congresswomen because they know it to be true. In fact, they’re proud of their opposition to Israel’s right to exist.

If you can find a time when Ilhan Omar isn’t being disingenuous or blatantly lying, it’s only because she isn’t speaking at that moment. Her hatred for Israel and America are clear. She must be voted out in 2020.

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Democrats

Rashida Tlaib tried, failed to use her grandmother to score political points against Israel

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Rashida Tlaib tried failed to use her grandmother to score political points against Israel

This story is getting way more attention than it deserves, but that’s the news cycle when “The Squad” makes moves. Whether it’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, or Rashida Tlaib causing a big fuss, legacy media jumps to their defense faster than they did with President Obama. This time, it’s Tlaib who tried to double-down on the news cycle, but Israel called her bluff.

After being blocked from coming to Israel to spread her hateful views against the Jewish state, Tlaib tried to keep the spotlight on Israel by switching tactics and asking for a humanitarian pass so she could visit her ailing 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank. Her letter was cordial and her request was quickly approved by the Israeli government. But her intention wasn’t to actually visit her grandmother. It was a bluff. She wanted to get rejected again so she could use it as further evidence of Israel’s “racism” and “oppression” against the Palestinian people.

So, she’s not going. She’s spinning it as a political statement against Israel, as she does so natural in nearly all of her actions. But intelligent people who don’t listen like sheep to the legacy media talking heads are realizing how disingenuous her actions have become (and, to be fair, have always been).

As Guy Benson noted:

Tlaib Bumbles Into Revealing Her Undeniable Priority: Bigoted Anti-Israel Propaganda

In response, Israel’s Interior Minister marveled, “I authorized this humanitarian trip, but it turns out that it was a provocation to embarrass Israel. Her hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”  That just about sums it up.  Her primary goal — always — was to embarrass and undermine the world’s lone Jewish state.  Her bigotry supersedes her professed love for her own flesh and blood.  I called Omar and Tlaib “clumsy, deeply unpopular stooges,” suggesting that any agitation in which they’d engage while in Israel would likely backfire and harm their own cause.  Right on cue, Tlaib managed to turn a partial PR victory into a revealing double defeat in less than 24 hours.  Israel is fortunate to have such moronic adversaries and enemies:

This won’t be treated as a loss for or a lie by Tlaib. One of the biggest reasons “The Squad” hasn’t crumbled under the weight of their own hypocrisy is because legacy media gives them cover. But conservatives know the truth. She’s a fraud.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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