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Trump adviser outlines conditions for US pullout from Syria

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Trump adviser outlines conditions for US pullout from Syria

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday that the American military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group and on Turkey assuring the safety of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

John Bolton said there is no timetable for the pullout, but insisted the military presence is not an unlimited commitment.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem before heading to Turkey on Monday, where he will be joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Those conditions, he said, included defeating what’s left of IS in Syria and protecting Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group.

Bolton’s comments were the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed. Trump had faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, announced in mid-December, that he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.

“We’re pulling out of Syria,” Trump said Sunday at the White House. “But we’re doing it and we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”

Trump’s move, which led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurdish fighters. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

Bolton said the U.S. is insisting that its Kurdish allies in Syria are protected from any planned Turkish offensive — a warning he was expected to deliver to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this week.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton said. He said that in upcoming meetings with Turkish officials he will seek “to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain.”

Trump has made clear that he would not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds, Bolton said. “That’s what the president said, the ones that fought with us.”

Bolton said the U.S. has asked the Kurds to “stand fast now” and refrain from seeking protection from Russia or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. “I think they know who their friends are,” he added, speaking of the Kurds.

Jim Jeffrey, the special representative for Syrian engagement and the newly named American special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, is to travel to Syria this coming week in an effort to reassure the Kurdish fighters that they are not being abandoned, Bolton said.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman called allegations that his country planned to attack the U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria “irrational” and said Turkey was fighting terrorism for national security.

In comments carried by the official Anadolu news agency, Ibrahim Kalin said the Kurdish fighters oppressed Syrian Kurds and pursued a separatist agenda under the guise of fighting IS. “That a terror organization cannot be allied with the U.S. is self-evident,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” that the conditions raised by Bolton were “obvious,” and Smith criticized the conflicting messages from the Trump administration.

“We don’t want ISIS to rise again and be a transnational terrorist threat and we don’t want our allies, the Kurds, to be slaughtered by Erdogan in Turkey,” said Smith, D-Wash.

Bolton said U.S. troops would remain at the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it’s justified by the president’s constitutional authority.

The U.S. is also seeking a “satisfactory disposition” for roughly 800 IS prisoners held by the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition, Bolton said, adding talks were ongoing with European and regional partners about the issue.

Bolton was to have dinner with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday to discuss the pace of the U.S. drawdown, American troop levels in the region, and the U.S. commitment to push back on Iranian regional expansionism.

Bolton was expected to explain that some U.S. troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that the al-Tanf base would remain.

Bolton also was to convey the message that the United States is “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton’s plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bolton on Sunday also toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. He watched a virtual reality tour of the historic site and dined there with his Israeli equivalent, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

Visiting American officials typically avoid holding official meetings in parts of east Jerusalem, which is contested between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump, however, also toured the area in a previous visit.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 war, a move not recognized by most of the international community. Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

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Foreign Affairs

A Japanese F-35 is missing and that’s a very big deal!

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A Japanese F-35 is missing and thats a very big deal

While America’s elected officials of both political parties obsess over a nothingburger political scandal, meanwhile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean our warfighting capabilities and that of our allies are seriously threatened. A Japanese F-35A fighter aircraft has gone missing!

Media coverage has predominantly been from sources in the Asia-Pacific Theater. Following are excerpts regarding the disappearance and analyses of the significance.

The US and Japan still can’t find a missing F-35, and its ‘secrets’ may be in danger

One week has passed since a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter mysteriously disappeared.

Japanese authorities believe the fifth-generation stealth fighter crashed in the Pacific.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flown by 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi disappeared from radar last Tuesday, April 9.

No distress signal was sent out as the aircraft vanished roughly 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.

The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected.

Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted recently, “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35.”

US scrambles to keep F-35’s secrets safe from Russia and China

Japan’s F-35A that went missing is believed to be able to act like a high-performance radar in the air.

The U.S. has placed a never-before-seen level of priority on this crash. That is likely because the F-35A is expected to play a crucial role in the future of modern warfare.

U.S. has suspended delivery of F-35 equipment to NATO ally Turkey because of Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian-made missile systems with Washington citing an intelligence risk.

Any information on the technology in the F-35s is in high demand. China has reportedly already acquired parts of the F-35 blueprint through cybertheft. It has been advancing its own stealth fighter program, deploying its own J-20 jet to rival the F-35.

…[B]eing able to touch and analyze the actual material or radar-absorbing stealth paint used for the F-35 will boost its understanding to a new level….

It is not hard to imagine that the military and intelligence brass in Beijing and Moscow are salivating at the idea of an F-35A in the sea.

The fact that the U.S. military has taken the unusual step of sending a B-52 bomber to the crash area is a stern message that it will not allow anyone to touch the plane.

The F-35A that crashed into the Pacific this time is thought to be sunk on the seabed about 1,500 meters deep.

The crash site is roughly 150 km off Japan’s Aomori Prefecture and within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. China and Russia cannot conduct search or salvage operations without Tokyo’s permission. But it is not entirely impossible that the China’s People’s Liberation Army or the Russian military will deploy submarines or underwater drones to attempt to reach the F-35A.

The fate of the sunken F-35A has the potential of altering the air power balance between the major powers.

********

China has to be the prime concern that they be prevented from obtaining the technology of the F-35 and reverse engineering it for their own military advantage.

It is pertinent to look at the variants of the F-35 and the role they play in military actions.

********

F-35 VARIANTS

Three Variants, Common Capability

The F-35 family includes three variants – all single-seat jets: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier variant (CV).

The U.S. Air Force as well as the majority of our allied air forces and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) nations will operate the F-35A.

The F-35B model short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is designed to operate from austere, short-field bases and a range of air-capable ships operating near front-line combat zones. [Used by U.S. Marine Corps.]

The F-35C carrier variant (CV) is the Navy’s first stealth fighter and the world’s only 5th Generation, long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built explicitly for aircraft carrier operations.

********

Japan says its F-35A stealth fighters made seven precautionary landings before crash

Marine Corps F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and landings….

The downed aircraft, which was the first F-35A put together in Japan….

Commanders have not set a time limit on the search for Hosomi and the missing aircraft.

Unfortunately, one pilot on board is still missing as of now and the location of the aircraft has not been identified but we will do our best to find them as soon as possible.

All Japanese F-35As have been grounded since the incident.

Though U.S. search and rescue efforts have ended, we will continue to coordinate with our Japanese partners on efforts to locate and recover the missing aircraft.

Japanese crash investigators will seek U.S. support since the F-35A has a special fuselage and contains classified information.

Carl Baker, executive director of Pacific Forum in Hawaii, said searchers would use sonar to try to find the aircraft. It’s stealth capabilities, which make it virtually invisible to radar, won’t be a factor underwater.

However, the size of the search area and the lack of precise coordinates could mean a long search.

********

Let’s take a moment to look at the vital role that American F-35s play in the daily standoff in the Middle East between Israel and all its hostile neighbors.

********

Stealth on Steroids: Meet Israel’s F-35I Adir (An F-35 Like No Other)

F-35I Adir — or “Mighty Ones” — will be the only F-35 variant to enter service heavily tailored to a foreign country’s specifications.

F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on “different fronts”.

The first nineteen stealth jets received by Israel will actually be standard F-35A land-based fighters, while the following thirty-one will be true F-35Is modified to integrate Israeli-built hardware.

Israeli F-35Is uniquely will have an overriding Israeli-built C4 program that runs “on top” of Lockheed’s operating system.

An official told Aviation Week the IAF expects the advantages of the F-35’s low radar cross section will be “good for five to ten years” before adversaries develop countermeasures.

While Tel Aviv basically wants the United States to carry out such an attack, the F-35 makes an Israeli attack on Iran more practical.

The activities of Israel’s Adirs are likely to continue to remain conspicuously in the news, if less so on hostile radars.

********

As stated in the section above regarding Israel, each version of the F-35 is most effective until adversaries develop countermeasures. That’s why finding the missing Japanese F-35 is so urgent right now.

The F-35A, F-35B, F-35C and F-35I have each been developed to serve a specific type of warfighting need. For Japan, the near adversaries would be China and North Korea. For Israel, it would be Iran and potentially even Turkey.

If the wreckage of the missing plane is under many fathoms of water, then it is a scramble to locate it, protect it from adversaries and retrieve it. China and Russia are most in a position to try to beat us to it.

But the fact that there was no distress signal before the plane went down ~ and specious claims of having found small pieces but not the classified technology ~ indicate that at this point we must consider whether the pilot defected and potentially flew an F-35A straight to China. Hopefully not. But it behooves us to know for sure. Sooner rather than later.

The People’s Republic of China is a supplier and supporter of rogue countries all the way from North Korea to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Any American technology they can steal will certainly get into the hands of both the Madman of Pyongyang and the Ayatollah in Tehran. General Soleimani of IRGC Quds Force would exploit it to counteract Israeli air supremacy.

So don’t get too caught up in the political frenzy over the Mueller report. It’s just fodder for money-hungry pundits and power-mad politicians. But if China and/or Iran can reverse engineer an American F-35, the risk of a military confrontation increases greatly. NOQ Report will continue to monitor and cover this developing story.

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Foreign Affairs

Posobiec: Maduro negotiating with Spain on Venezuela exit strategy

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Posobiec Maduro negotiating with Spain on Venezuela exit strategy

Contested Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro may be exploring options to leave the country and move to the safety of Spain, according to an One America News report from Jack Posobiec. Speaking to Americans for Intelligence Reform president Brad Johnson, the two discussed a possible exit strategy that would put Maduro in Spain and leave the country in the hands of U.S.-backed leader Juan Guaidó.

The nation is in a state of complete economic and social collapse. Years of socialism has taken one of the richest countries in the western hemisphere and turned it into a nation of chaos and destitution. The writing for Venezuela has been on the wall or years, and perhaps now the failed leader is ready to take his personal riches and make a break for it.

Guaidó has a semblance of infrastructure ready to take over if Maduro should leave. He also has the backing of many nations who would be very willing to help him make the quick transition to power should Maduro cede it.

Opinion

We’ve talked many times about the failures of socialism in Venezuela and the oppression of a people who have no recourse to save themselves as a result of the sacrifices made to install socialism in the first place. For the first time, there seems to be a potential for the suffering to end in the near future as the hope predicated by a Maduro exit could translate into instant resources. The United States and other countries have attempted to send aid to the people, but the military under Maduro’s control has not let it through. Under Guaidó, the aid should start reaching the people immediately.

This is beyond the point of being a political struggle. Lives are being lost. A nation is losing its ability to sustain itself, and the longer Maduro is in power, the harder it will be for them to recover. He needs to go now, and anything short of military intervention should be explored.

Quote

“I think the recognition by the United States of Juan Guaidó is the beginning of the end for Nicolás Maduro, and I think that’s how Maduro views it himself.” – Brad Johnson

Final Thoughts

In this exclusive interview, Posobiec and Johnson discuss the possible outcomes of an exit by Maduro, one that will instantly shake the nation. But they can recover with assistance, and Guaidó will have it ready for him if he takes control.

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Foreign Affairs

The President is right to veto war powers bill. Now he needs to pull support for the war in Yemen.

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The President is right to veto war powers bill Now he needs to pull support for the war in Yemen

As seems to be the case with so many things associated with President Trump and foreign policy, he is both right and wrong about how to handle a particular military status. On one hand, he’s right to veto the bill passed by Congress that called for the U.S. to end support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. On the other other hand, it’s time for the President himself to end our support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

As I Tweeted earlier:

Congress normally gives away its power to the executive branch by relying on departments and agencies far too much. This is a case where Congress is actually wrong to step in and try to interfere with the Presidential power of Commander-in-Chief. That’s not their lane. It doesn’t matter if they think the war is bad or Saudi Arabia is unworthy of our help. Both might be true, but it’s not their call. The President was right to veto it.

Of course, the war itself is none of our concern. We can and should be working through NGOs and directly to help the people who have been affected by the war. Starvation is rampant. This is another Syria, only without “easy” access to Europe for the people to flee to while their homes are being destroyed. But claims that our interests are being served militarily by being involved in a proxy war with Iran is foolish. It may be true to some extent, but not enough to justify our support.

I’m biased. I was opposed to our coziness with Saudi Arabia long before Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. For decades we’ve acted like we’re beholden to the Saudis because, unfortunately, we likely are beholden to them behind the scenes. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less disgusting. I wish I could go on television and scream like Howard Beale in Network about the corruption of our system by the Saudis, but no network would be crazy enough to put me on the air.

Nevertheless, the President’s veto was righteous.

We need to pull our support for the war, but not because Congress steps out of their lane pretending they wield the power of Commander-in-Chief. The consequences of deflating the executive’s military control are too great.

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