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Who’s in charge? Pompeo or Trump



Whos in charge Pompeo or Trump

The secretary of state’s repudiation of Obama’s policies and promises to resist Iran was on target, but the president’s decision-making undermines faith in some of his pledges.

 There were a great many differences between President Barack Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech and the address delivered on Jan. 10 in the same city by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As Pompeo repeatedly stated, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected both the spirit and the substance of Obama’s attempt at outreach to the Muslim world. And in almost all respects, the repudiation of Obama’s stands on Iran, and on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, has been to the benefit of American interests.

But one other difference should trouble even those who cheered Pompeo’s rhetoric about America being a “force for good,” his tough line about Iran and his full-throated endorsement of Israel’s right to defend itself, in addition to the importance of Arab and Muslim nations recognizing its legitimacy. It’s that we know that although Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton have been the ones running U.S. foreign policy since they both took on their current jobs last April, they aren’t the ones making all the decisions.

Unlike Obama, who was not only commander-in-chief but also liked to micromanage all aspects of U.S. policy, Pompeo answers to Trump. As we were reminded last month—when Trump contradicted promises made by both Pompeo and Bolton about the necessity of U.S. forces staying in Syria until both ISIS was finally defeated and Iran ejected from that war-torn country—the president is the one who has the final say. That’s why both Bolton and Pompeo have been to the Middle East in recent weeks attempting to reassure U.S. allies that Trump’s impulsive decision to pull out of Syria—a move that came right after a troubling phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—won’t leave them in the lurch.

Even veterans of his administration have admitted that Obama’s Cairo apologia for America’s response to 9/11, coupled with his attempt to downplay the importance of radical Islamist ideology and terrorism, was a colossal blunder that accomplished nothing. His analogy between the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinians (accompanied by Obama’s refusal to visit Israel on the same trip) also made it clear that his quest for more “daylight” between the United States and the Jewish state was not merely a figure of speech. That, too, failed to advance the peace process.

Obama’s Cairo speech can also be seen as the open salvo in his campaign to appease the Islamist regime in Iran that emboldened and enriched its theocratic leaders and encouraged them in their quest for regional hegemony.

The symbolism involved in the secretary’s repudiation of Obama’s speech in the same city where he spoke nearly 10 years ago was clearly irresistible to Trump’s team. As Pompeo pointed out, the administration comprehends the malevolent influence of Iran, and its withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions has the potential to reverse the gains Tehran was handed by Obama. It is also willing to stand with Israel rather than foolishly try to “save it from itself.” And, unlike Obama, it understands that the choices in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia isn’t between autocrats and democrats, but between unsavory but useful allies and Islamists who would also be even worse human-rights offenders.

But two years after January 2017, it’s time to acknowledge that Obama is gone, and that as much as they inherited a disaster, Trump and his team now own the situation in the Middle East.

That’s why Pompeo’s pledge that the United States will not cease to work to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria has to leave America’s allies scratching their heads, wondering how Washington can achieve that goal after it has pulled every last American boot out of the same country. Merely encouraging Israel to defend itself doesn’t alleviate the threat on its northern border. America’s Kurdish allies, who rightly worry about being abandoned by Trump to the tender mercies of Erdoğan’s genocidal intentions, are similarly perplexed. Frankly, so is Erdoğan, who can’t be blamed for wondering what’s going on after Bolton’s much-needed rebuke of the Turks’ stand towards the Kurds seemed to have contradicted the Ankara autocrat’s impression that Trump was willing to let him do as he likes.

The tension between Pompeo’s hardheaded realism and Trump’s neo-isolationist instincts remains unresolved. Trump deserves some credit for the victories won over ISIS after the stalemate that Obama presided over. But Pompeo is right the about the need for America to be steadfast in its efforts to resist Iranian influence and to stay the course in the fight against ISIS, which is far from over even if it involves the kind of “nation-building” Trump despises.

Yet the precedent of the Syrian withdrawal undermines Pompeo’s ability to pursue his agenda of American strength. Trump’s susceptibility to the influence of Russia, which he remains committed to appeasing in Syria, and Turkey—a bad actor that is a potential threat to the Kurds, hostile to Israel and an unreliable ally against Iran—has put at risk the accomplishments of the president’s first two years in office, and everyone in the region knows it. If Trump really wants to withdraw from the Mideast, then it will be possible to argue that there little difference between his moves and Obama’s failures.

As long as Pompeo and Bolton will there to clean up Trump’s messes, it is still possible to claim that this administration is vastly better than that of Obama with respect to defending U.S. interests, as well as solidifying the alliance with Israel. Those who argue that Trump’s Syria move completely invalidates all of the positives of the last two years, such as the withdrawal from the Iran deal and the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, are exaggerating. Still, it’s no good pretending that Trump’s unpredictability doesn’t cast a broad shadow over U.S. foreign policy that no speech by Pompeo—no matter how good—can erase.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.




Netanyahu’s last-minute endorsement: Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM



Netanyahus last-minute endorsement Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM

It will be incumbent on the people of Israel to decide Tuesday who will lead their government. Outsiders are discouraged from trying to influence foreign elections, but there’s nothing wrong with people expressing their preference, especially as it pertains to such as strong ally like Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is against the ropes, but he should get at least a symbolic boost from his latest outspoken detractor: Representative Ilhan Omar. The anti-Semitic Congresswoman has made her perspectives on Israel very clear, siding very heavily with “Palestine” and even declaring in her attempted visit there last month that she was traveling to Palestine, not Israel, in her itinerary.

She has insinuated at times she believes Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. She also often sides with Islamic terrorists, running cover for them while saying 9/11 was a matter of “some people did something.”

Now, she’s clear about her opposition to Netanyahu:

Omar: Netanyahu’s ‘existence’ contradictory to peace

“I certainly hope that the people of Israel make a different decision and my hope is that they recognize that [Netanyahu’s] existence, his policies, his rhetoric really is contradictory to the peace that we are all hoping that region receives and receives soon,” the Minnesota Democrat told Face the Nation on Sunday.

The problem with her statement is that Netanyahu’s policies have been the only thing keeping Israel at relative peace the last decade. Her remarks were meant as a rebuke against the Prime Minister, but it’s not going to be received well by those who understand her politics. Of course she wants Netanyahu out. She wants Israel to be as weak and defenseless as possible.

Considering Iran is rearing its ugly head, demonstrating a willingness to attack its enemies, it’s difficult to see Israel remaining strong and safe without Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. Now is not the time for cultural experimentation. Stick with Bibi.

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Israel’s election has immense implications for the United States



Israels election has immense implications for the United States

Is Israel a Jewish state powered by its conservative, religious base or is it a secular state that pushes aside tradition? Is it the unabashed ally of the United States or are they hoping to move forward without input from Washington DC? Those two answers are really what will be decided in Tuesday’s election, and things will change between the United States and its best ally in the Middle East if there’s a major shakeup in the Israel government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life as his Likud Party seeks to not only get the most seats in the Knesset but also help their allies on the right win enough seats to allow the conservatives to form a coalition government. Both obstacles must be overcome in order for his pro-Israel and pro-America agenda to stay intact.

If Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party are victorious (they tied with Likud in April), then Gantz will likely be tasked with forming a government that is center-left. He’ll need some help from the center-right to form his government, but it will almost certainly be made with an understanding that the policies protecting the ultra-orthodox Jews, which represent around 10% of the population, will be removed. It would also change the direction of any Middle East peace plan the White House may present.

Even if Likud wins but does no have enough seats won by conservative parties, Netanyahu will still have to look to Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party to form a coalition. Lieberman refused to side with Netanyahu in April without the ultra-orthodox Jewish protections removed, which forced Israel to have this second round of 2019 elections. Yisrael Beitenu is expected to win even more seats this time, and unless there’s a surge for conservative parties, the new government will be center-right at best as Netanyahu will be forced to form a unity coalition with Lieberman and Gantz.

America needs Netanyahu to stay in power, but we also need his government to be built on a conservative platform. Neither Gantz nor Lieberman are anti-American, but they will not work as diligently on behalf of Israeli and American interests against Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. This will compel the United States to take a more active role in the region; currently, a strong Israel allows the United States to be much less aggressive when it comes to preventing catastrophes like a nuclear Iran or the expansion of threats to our interests in the Middle East.

Israelis will decide Tuesday if they like the direction the nation is going or if they want to explore other options. Unfortunately, those “other options” will likely include less engagement with their greatest ally, the United States.

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The U.N. must respond harshly to Iran, or we’ll have to



If the UN does not respond severely to Irans attack on the world economy they have no purpose at all

The opportunity to unite the world behind complete and unambiguous condemnation of Iran is upon us. Whether it was Houthi drones, Iraqi militia, or Iranian cruise missiles that hit huge Saudi crude oil processing plant through which 6% of the world’s oil passes, all fingers point back to Tehran for orchestrating or directly carrying out the attack. Seeking confirmation is a formality. Everyone with common sense and a snippet of knowledge of the attack must come to the same conclusion.

This is a prime opportunity for the United Nations to demonstrate why they exist. This wasn’t an attack on Saudi Arabia. This was an attack on the world economy, one that will do harm to billions of people who rely on oil for their day-to-day activities. If the United Nations doesn’t take decisive and immediate action against Iran, they are as worthless as many of us have thought they’ve been all along.

This is a Saudi problem first and foremost. We sell them enough weapons and other technology that they should be able to strike back appropriately. But they’re an ally, so our involvement should be considered VERY carefully. However, the fact that this attack and other recent actions are directed towards the world economy should not only bolster the necessity for our response but should draw an international response through the United Nations.

President Trump said we’re ready.

This is not our responsibility, but it affects us so we need to be involved in a response. Does that mean regime change? No. Not from us. We should be done with that after continuous failure. A response by the international community, urged on the United Nations by the Trump administration this week, is the better solution.

Yes, Iran Was Behind the Saudi Oil Attack. Now What?

Following the Houthi attack on Saturday on Saudi Aramco’s crude-oil processing facility, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an obvious and necessary point: Blame Iran.

It is obvious because the Houthi rebels in Yemen lack the drones, missiles or expertise to attack infrastructure inside Saudi Arabia. In 2018, a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen examined the debris of missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen into Saudi Arabia and concluded there was high probability the weapons were shipped in components from Iran. As one Hezbollah commander told two George Washington University analysts in 2016: “Who do you think fires Tochka missiles into Saudi Arabia? It’s not the Houthis in their sandals, it’s us.” Hezbollah, of course, is a subsidiary of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Pompeo’s response is necessary because, historically, Iran pretends to seek peace as it makes war. This is why it sent Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to France last month to plead with the world’s great economic powers as it escalated its proxy war against Saudi Arabia. Iranian diplomacy depends on its adversaries treating the aggression of its proxies as distinct from its statecraft.

Unfortunately, if the United Nations doesn’t respond appropriately, we may have to. We are not the police, but this attack wasn’t just against an ally. It has an impact on American lives. We’re already prepared to tap into our own oil reserves as a result of the attack. Oil prices are going up. The world economy, including Wall Street, will be impacted. We aren’t able to sit back on this one and say, “Not our problem.”

We must first try to force the U.N. to do its job and come down hard on Iran. If they won’t do it, we may be forced to respond. As much as I’m not a warmonger, the Iranian regime is committing acts that affect Americans. They must be dealt with one way or the other.

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