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Who’s in charge? Pompeo or Trump

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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.

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Culture and Religion

No, Rashida Tlaib, boycotting Israel is not the same as boycotting Nazis

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No Rashida Tlaib boycotting Israel is not the same as boycotting Nazis

There are many things the nation of Israel, as well as every other nation in the world, does that deserves to be called out by the international community. But Israel gets the lion’s share of criticism despite being the freest nation in the Middle East and one of the freest in the world. Israel has nothing in common with Nazi Germany, but that’s the comparison Representative Rashida Tlaib made in her attempts to justify support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Movement.

On one hand, she has a point. Singling out the BDS Movement, as vile and misguided as their precepts are, is not necessarily the proper way to handle them. On the other hand, one has to wonder if she’d be making the same argument if a pro-Israel group was the target instead.

The BDS Movement was powerful enough before picking up friends in Congress. Now, they’re systematically infesting the Democratic Party with supporters through Justice Democrats and others.

But even if one were to agree with Tlaib’s desire to protect BDS, making the comparison between their activities and the activities of those who boycotted the Nazis before World War II is over the top. She strategically included them among other boycotts to appeal to those in the American Jewish community who are Democrats and who are not friendly to Israel. She’s giving them talking points as well as support in an effort to get more people to compare Israel to Nazi Germany.

It seems a day doesn’t go by that a member of “The Squad” doesn’t make headlines by saying something stupid. Today was no different. This time, it was Tlaib and her love for BDS that got the better of her and the worst for us.

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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Democrats

Even Tulsi Gabbard thinks Kamala Harris is unqualified to be president

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Even Tulsi Gabbard thinks Kamala Harris is unqualified to be president

Representative Tulsi Gabbard has a lot of poor policies in her playbook that she would unleash if elected president. Moreover, she is missing important experiences both in life and politics that one might expect from a Commander-in-Chief. But one thing she has experience in that she can hang her hat on is foreign relations. A few of her ideas on the subject are quite Libertarian, if not somewhat conservative.

One candidate who has no foreign policy experience is Senator Kamala Harris, and Gabbard let everyone know just how little the top tier candidate actually knows about the geopolitical atmosphere today. It’s one of the few attacks being leveled on or by someone other that Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think one of the things I’m most concerned with is Kamala Harris is not qualified to serve as commander in chief, and I can say this from a personal perspective as a soldier,” Gabbard said. “She’s got no background or experience in foreign policy and she lacks the temperament that is necessary for a commander in chief.”

Gabbard: ‘Kamala Harris is Not Qualified to Serve as Commander in Chief’

Gabbard frequently criticizes America’s foreign policy.

In a May fundraising email, Gabbard blasted a Daily Beast article for stirring “up hysteria that makes it easier to push our country into war.” A February email warned that “our freedoms and democracy are being threatened by media giants ruled by corporate interests who are in the pocket of the establishment war machine.”

Left-wing publications such as the Nation and Jacobin have criticized Gabbard. The Daily Kos hit Gabbard for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and developing ties with Hindu nationalists in a piece which endorsed her Democratic primary opponent in her congressional race.

Having a strong foreign policy has been a hallmark of President Trump’s. He reversed many of the poor decisions made by his predecessor. Now, he’s fighting for another term to keep proper foreign policy in the Oval Office.

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Culture and Religion

Two weeks after Benghazi attack, Ilhan Omar Tweeted ‘Allahu Akbar’

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Two weeks after Benghazi attack Ilhan Omar Tweeted Allahu Akbar

This is old news, of course, but bears repeating at this time. Representative Ilhan Omar has been doing everything she can over the last couple of weeks to paint herself as the victim of bigotry and someone who loves our country. And while there’s definitely some substance to the notion that crowds of Republicans shouldn’t be chanting “send her back,” it’s also understandable why so many Americans are opposed to her presence on Capitol Hill.

Even if we dismiss reports that she married her brother, called for CBP to be eliminated, said this is “not going to be the country of white people,” referred to 9/11 as “some people did something,” and is regularly praised by former KKK leader David Duke, it’s difficult to dismiss her reaction to the Benghazi attacks that took the lives of four American heroes in 2012.

I’m not going to dignify her Tweet with an opinion. She’s the one who needs to explain it. But despite her celebration, life isn’t good for the four men who lost there’s in Benghazi. Remember this, folks, as Democrats embrace her wholeheartedly.

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