US Politics in Trump era
President Trump was getting ready to declare the coronavirus a “national emergency,” but inside the White House last Thursday, a tense debate erupted among the president and his top advisers on a far different subject: whether the United States should escalate military action against Iran, a longtime American rival that has been devastated by the epidemic.
David Wurmser was a longtime advocate of war with Iraq in the Bush administration. Eventually, he got what he wanted, and it was a total disaster. Now, Wurmser again has the ear of a president — this time, Donald Trump — and his sights are set firmly on Iran.
President Trump backed away from further military action against Iran on Wednesday and called for a new diplomatic effort as the bristling confrontation of the last six days appeared to ease after Iranian missile strikes that proved more symbolic than deadly.
Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are based, the Pentagon said Tuesday. “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Asad and Erbil,” Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said in a statement.
The skepticism expressed by some leading Democrats and the mainstream media regarding the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani has been refreshing, after decades of bipartisan support for disastrous U.S. policies in the region. However, the claim that Soleimani and the Iranian government are somehow responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Americans” in Iraq—which has been repeated by leading Democrats and the mainstream media—appears to be groundless.
President Trump ordered the killing of the powerful commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, in a drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport early Friday, American officials said. General Suleimani’s death was confirmed by official Iranian media.
The United States is sending about 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia in the latest military response by the Trump administration after it accused Iran of attacks last month on Saudi oil facilities, the Pentagon said on Friday. The move came only five days after President Trump said that his desire to terminate America’s “endless wars” led to his decision to pull back from the border area between Syria and Turkey about 50 troops who were working to create a “safe zone” between Turkish and Kurdish troops.
The relationship between Iran and the Houthis is not simple and has long been clouded by accusations and denials and amplified by rumors and propaganda from all sides. Iranian backing of the Houthis appears to have increased over time. But experts on Iran’s network of proxies say the Houthis are among the least dependent on Tehran for financial and military support and decision-making.
President Trump said Sunday the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that cut the state oil company’s production output by half, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible. Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, nor specify whether he was contemplating a military response.
Iran seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, state television reported on Sunday, the third time Tehran has reported detaining a tanker in the last month as the United States applies its campaign of “maximum pressure,” sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the country.
The United States formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty and had no plans to come into compliance with it. U.S. President Donald Trump made the determination that the United States would terminate adherence to the 1987 arms control accord, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), senior administration officials told reporters.
Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf.
The American military shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, President Trump said during a ceremony at the White House.Mr. Trump said the unmanned aircraft threatened the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship that can launch attack jets and helicopters from its landing deck.
Iran's parliamentary speaker has warned the United States against violating the country's borders, cautioning such a move would draw a "stronger" reaction than the downing of a US drone a week ago. In comments carried by Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency on Thursday, Speaker Ali Larijani said the shootdown of the unmanned aerial vehicle was "a good experience for them to avoid any aggression".
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Tuesday called the White House “mentally retarded” and vowed that Tehran would not be intimidated by American sanctions — drawing a blistering threat of “obliteration” from President Trump.“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, calling Mr. Rouhani’s comments “ignorant and insulting.”
President Trump said Friday morning that the United States military had been “cocked and loaded” for a strike against Iran on Thursday night, but that he called it off with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack.
Iran shot down a United States surveillance drone early Thursday, both nations said, but they differed on the crucial issue of whether the aircraft had violated Iranian airspace, in the latest escalation in tensions that have raised fears of war between the two countries.Iranian officials said that the drone was over Iran, which the American military denied — an important distinction in determining who was at fault — and each side accused the other of being the aggressor.
Administration officials are briefing Congress on what they say are ties between Iran and Al Qaeda, prompting skeptical reactions and concern on Capitol Hill that the White House could invoke the war authorization passed in 2001 as legal cover for military action against Tehran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that intelligence reviewed by American officials showed that Iran was responsible for attacks earlier in the day on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a critical waterway for the transit of much of the world’s oil.Mr. Pompeo did not present any evidence to back up the assessment of Iran’s involvement.
Prince Mohammed bin Zayed grew the U.A.E.’s power by following America’s lead. He now has an increasingly bellicose agenda of his own. At times, the prince has contradicted American policy and destabilized neighbors. Rights groups have criticized him for jailing dissidents at home, for his role in creating a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and for backing the Saudi prince whose agents killed the dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.
President Trump publicly undercut John R. Bolton, his national security adviser, on Iran and North Korea in recent days, raising questions about the administration’s policy and personnel in the middle of confrontations with both long-term American adversaries.
The United States on Friday announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.
A US move to send more troops to the Middle East after accusing Tehran of being behind attacks on tankers in the region is "extremely dangerous ... [for] international peace", Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying. "Increased US presence in our region is extremely dangerous and it threatens international peace and security, and this should be addressed," state news agency IRNA quoted Zarif as saying on Saturday.
The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.
Iran has made a dramatic shift in how it confronts the United States, abandoning a policy of restraint in recent weeks for a series of offensive actions aimed at pushing the White House to rethink its efforts at isolating Tehran, say diplomats and analysts. With the Trump administration tightening economic sanctions and intensifying military pressure, Iran is now seeking to highlight the costs it could also impose on the United States — for instance, by disrupting the world’s oil supply — without taking actions likely to trigger an all-out war.
That the Trump administration’s approach to Iran could lead the United States into an inadvertent conflict should come as a surprise to no one. Indeed, from the day Trump took office, many feared that his impulsive behavior, blustering rhetoric, inability to think ahead, disrespect for policy process, and determination to “win” could lead to war. In a spring 2017 essay for this magazine, I raised concerns about his potential to stumble into conflict with Iran, China, or North Korea.
The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has hit back at Donald Trump’s “genocidal taunts” after a strongly worded warning from Trump that Tehran should not think of attacking the US. “Goaded by #B_Team,” Zarif wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to Trump advisers such as John Bolton, “@realdonaldTrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do. Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran’.” He added: “#NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect – it works!”
With strong memories of the last catastrophic war in Iraq, Europeans are united in opposing what many consider the United States’ effort to provoke Iran into a shooting war. Yet, despite the strains in trans-Atlantic relations in the Trump years, flat-out opposition to Washington remains an uncomfortable place for European nations.
The State Department on Wednesday ordered all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave Iraq amid soaring tensions with Iran, which backs proxy forces there. It said in a statement that the announcement affects both the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Baghdad, and a consulate in the northern city of Irbil.
The photographs fueled fears that Iran would fire missiles at U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon has not released the photograph. On its own, two American officials said, the photograph was not compelling enough to convince the American public and lawmakers, or foreign allies, of the new Iranian threat. But releasing other supporting images could compromise secret sources and methods of collecting intelligence, the officials said.
The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region. Hours later however, his assessment was disowned by US Central Command in an extraordinary rebuke of an allied senior officer.
US investigators believe Iran or groups it supports used explosives to damage four ships off the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, media reports say. Military experts were reportedly sent to investigate the incident and found a large hole in each of the tankers. No evidence has emerged to show that Iran was involved. The affected countries are yet to assign blame.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Brussels on Monday for an unplanned visit with European foreign ministers who fear that the United States and Iran are inching toward war. The last-minute decision, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between Pompeo and European diplomats who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Two Saudi oil tankers, Norwegian ship apparently attacked near the Persian Gulf amid rising Iran tensions
Two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and a Norwegian ship were damaged over the weekend near the Persian Gulf in what Saudi Arabia claimed Monday was an “act of sabotage,” further heightening regional tensions with Iran.
At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.
When Erik Prince arrived at the Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles in January 2017 for his now-famous meetings with a Russian banker and UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed, he was in the middle of an unexpected comeback. The election of Donald Trump had given the disgraced Blackwater founder a new opportunity to prove himself. After years of trying and failing to peddle a sweeping vision of mercenary warfare around the world, Erik Prince was back in the game.
With the Trump administration moving ahead Monday with punishing new sanctions against Iran with the goal of completely halting the country's oil exports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly joked about a secret White House plot to overthrow the Iranian government during a private meeting with Iranian-American "community leaders."
President Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday that would have forced an end to American military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s civil war in Yemen, rejecting an appeal by lawmakers to his own deeply rooted instincts to withdraw the United States from bloody foreign conflicts.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a hotly contested bid for a fourth term, tweeted on the eve of the election that the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization at his request.
Donald Trump has announced that the US will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, in a dramatic move likely to bolster Benjamin Netanyahu’s hopes to win re-election, but which will also provoke international opposition. Previous US administrations have treated Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, in line with UN security council resolutions. Trump declared his break with that policy in a tweet.
The RAND Corporation with Pentagon support has carried out a war game simulation in which the United States loses to both Russia and China. The US and NATO are unable to stop an attack in the Balkans by the Russians, and the United States and its allies are unable to prevent the takeover of Taiwan by China. These are the claims made by RAND. But is RAND right?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his desire to go to war with Iran, and said he was meeting with dozens of foreign envoys, including those from the Arab world, in order to push the initiative forward.
Unhinged Mike Pence Warns of ‘New Holocaust’ as Team Trump Tries to Rally EU Leaders for War With Iran
Speaking at a U.S.-led conference about the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday, Vice President piled on the potent anti-Iran sentiment surrounding the conference by demanding that European Union (EU) allies withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump ditched last year, and accused Iran of plotting a "new Holocaust."
McClatchy is reporting Venezuelan authorities have uncovered 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges and 90 military-grade radio antennas on board a U.S.-owned plane that had flown from Miami into Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city.
Iraqi President Barham Salih has said US President Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for US troops stationed there to "watch Iran". Salih was responding on Monday to Trump's comments to US media in which he said American forces would remain at a US base in Iraq to keep a close eye on neighbouring Iran.
‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran
Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, "a reckless advocate of military force," the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton "asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department."
The United States and Israel have officially quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago. The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the US after World War II to foster peace.
Turkey may launch a new military operation in northern Syria at any moment, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding US President Donald Trump had given a positive response to Turkey's plans. Erdogan's remarks on Monday came days after he announced Turkish forces would launch a new cross-border operation against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to the east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
State Department Team Led by Former Raytheon Lobbyist Pushed Mike Pompeo to Support Yemen War Because of Arms Sales
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced internal opposition to U.S. support for the war in Yemen from State Department staff, according to a recent report. The staffers had become concerned by the rising civilian death toll in the war being carried out by Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — not only owing to bombings of densely populated areas, but also a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the fighting, with up to 8.4 million people at risk of starvation.
According to ABC, the US is going to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. An operation may start as early as next month. The UK and Australia will participate in intelligence efforts, such as identifying targets. The US-Iran relationship took a nosedive after Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in early July. President Trump told the Iranian leadership in a tweet that he would respond with force if Tehran’s hostile anti-US rhetoric did not stop.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned his US counterpart, Donald Trump, not to escalate tensions with his country, saying a confrontation with the Islamic republic would be the "mother of all wars".
Mr. Trump, in an all-caps message on Twitter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, wrote that the country would face “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED” if he continued to threaten the United States.
As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country?
The United States has everything to do with the creation of the monsters that are driving the refugees up to our border. They’re fleeing the cartels. Who are the heads of the cartels? People who were trained in the United States, worked very closely with the United States intelligence throughout the genocide. And we were, of course, severely criticized for that by the United Nations Truth Commission, and President Clinton apologized.
The Trump administration is guilty of many acts of deliberate cruelty, such as taking away the children of immigrant parents at the US border. But just as the world was watching the lead up to the Trump-Kim Jong-un meeting in Singapore last Monday, the US may have done something even worse by quietly announcing a decision that threatens to kill millions by starvation or disease.
Mike Pompeo’s claim that the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is carrying out “assassination operations in the heart of Europe” has bewildered security experts and Iranian exiles, who say they are not aware of any evidence for the allegation.
One of China’s most internationally successful technology suppliers, with about $17 billion in annual revenue, ZTE is facing a death sentence. The Commerce Department has blocked its access to American-made components until 2025, saying the company failed to punish employees who violated trade controls against Iran and North Korea.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jordan at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour through the Middle East, expressed support on Monday for Israel and its response to weekly protests in Gaza that have left dozens of people dead.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. Instead of discussing the Palestinian issue, Mr. Pompeo’s focused message on his sweep through the region has been a denunciation of Iran. He met with Saudi leaders on Saturday and Sunday morning, and they all agreed that Iran is a destabilizing force. He met on Sunday afternoon with Mr. Netanyahu, who blistered Iran alongside Mr. Pompeo.
US President Donald Trump is "milking Gulf countries" and exploiting tensions in the Middle East to bolster its arms sales. That's according to Al Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara, who was commenting shortly after the US leader told Saudi Arabia it needed to pay up if it wanted the US to continue its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Syria.
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.
President Trump again raised the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea, boasting in strikingly playground terms on Tuesday night that he commands a “much bigger” and “more powerful” arsenal of devastating weapons than the outlier government in Asia.
Like jeans and pickup trucks before, social media misinformation has become the latest and greatest American export. A new report by Privacy International says that Harris Media, a Texas-based political communications firm that helped boost the Trump campaign, Benghazi paranoia, and German far-right politicians, found its most recent client in Kenya, where an October presidential election flared into deadly violence.
President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
An initial assessment by the US Department of Defense said North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This type of missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and could reach the mainland of the United States. If the Pentagon's first assessment turns out to be correct, it would be the third test of an ICBM by North Korea this year.
As the Trump/Russia reality show continues to consume endless hours of media coverage, the U.S. is backing the genocidal, scorched-earth bombing of Yemen. Trump has granted the CIA and military sweeping authorities to conduct lethal operations, all while laughing it up with the murderous despot, Rodrigo Duterte.
Hezbollah, which was founded in the 1980s during a civil war and an Israeli invasion, is now the country’s dominant political and military force. It is unrealistic of Saudi leaders and the Trump administration to expect that it can be supplanted by a popular Lebanese groundswell against it or removed by a foreign military force without causing catastrophic damage to Lebanon.
Mr. Hariri, until he announced his resignation on Saturday, had shown no signs of planning to do so. Hours later, on Saturday evening, a missile fired from Yemen came close to Riyadh before being shot down by Saudi Arabia. It then emerged that the week before, Jared Kushner, had visited Riyadh on a previously undisclosed trip and met until the early morning hours with the crown prince.
Bombing the shit out of ISIS has become Trump’s signature move. But here’s the problem: Trump may want to sound tough and strong yet his strategy — if you can even call a response based on bombs, bombs, and more bombs a “strategy” — only makes the United States a much bigger ISIS target and puts many more innocent American lives at risk.
The Iran nuclear deal is working well and continues to prevent the country from developing atomic weapons, the European Union's foreign policy chief has said.Federica Mogherini made the comments after Donald Trump announced he had chosen not to re-certify the agreement. Ms Mogherini said no one country could terminate the deal, which was signed onto by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union. Instead, she called for a "collective process" to preserve the historic accord.
More than any other issue that has threatened transatlantic cohesion this year, President Trump’s decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal could start a chain of events that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world.
President Trump said late Thursday that a meeting with his military leaders was “the calm before the storm,” but what he meant by his ominous comment remained unclear. When pressed for more details, the president said, “you’ll find out,” a declaration that comes amid more turmoil in his own cabinet and several foreign policy challenges around the world.
President Trump signaled Sunday that he does not believe that attempts at direct communications with North Korea are worth the effort despite escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. A day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the United States maintains “lines of communications” with Kim Jong Un's regime, Trump wrote on Twitter that Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man” — his nickname for Kim.
The disturbing analysis, written by Rusi director general Malcolm Chalmers, says a war could be triggered by either Washington or Pyongyang, but it warns there is a growing risk action could be taken by Donald Trump to “resolve” the issue “sooner rather than later”. “War is now a real possibility,” the report states. “With North Korea making rapid progress in its missile and nuclear programmes, time is not on diplomacy's side.”
The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, reported on Thursday that Trump's top national security advisers have proposed relaxing two rules from administration of Barack Obama, the former US president. The officials said the targets of kill missions by the military and the CIA would be expanded to include foot-soldier fighters with no special skills or leadership roles.
The United States has never cared much about international law. But most U.S. presidents had at least made an effort to pretend that they did. Based on President Donald Trump’s speech Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly, this is yet another American tradition that he’s discarding. Trump’s overturning of this American norm came during his blusterous threats against North Korea:
“I will always put America first just like you, the leaders of your countries, should put your countries first,” Trump said, returning to a campaign theme and the “America First” phrase that has been criticized as isolationist and nationalistic. The president warned of growing threats from North Korea and Iran, and he said, “The scourge of our planet is a group of rogue regimes.” The North Korean delegation was seated, by chance, in the front row, mere feet from the U.N. podium.
The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials. If approved by President Trump, it would mark the first time the C.I.A. has had such powers in Afghanistan, expanding beyond its existing authority to carry out covert strikes against Al Qaeda and other terrorist targets across the border in Pakistan.
North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, a bold test that defied the new sanctions resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council earlier this week, as well as repeated warnings from around the world that the country should stop raising tensions
The whole thing begins with the division of Korea in 1945. People think it began with the Korean War, but the Korean War only happened because of the 1945 division [of Korea by the U.S. and Soviet Union at the end of World War II]. What we’re seeing is Korea stuck in between. Essentially no Americans know what happened between 1945 and the start of the Korean War. And few Americans know what happened during the war. [Syngman Rhee, the U.S.-installed ultra right-wing South Korean dictator, massacred tens of thousands of South Koreans before North Korea invaded in 1950. Rhee’s government executed another 100,000 South Koreans in the war’s early months. Then the barbaric U.S. air war against North Korea killed perhaps one-fifth of its population.]
China’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Donald Trump in a phone call that all sides should avoid rhetoric or action that would worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula, according to Chinese state media. Reports quoted Xi as saying: “At present, the relevant parties must maintain restraint and avoid words and deeds that would exacerbate the tension on the Korean peninsula.”
As if the steeply rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula weren’t enough, President Trump seems determined to kill the Iran nuclear deal, against the near unanimous opinion of his closest foreign policy advisers. According to a recent article in Foreign Policy, after he grudgingly agreed to recertify the deal a few weeks ago, Mr. Trump assigned a team of White House staff members to develop a case within the next three months for declaring that Iran had violated the agreement.
Much of South Korea has been within range of Pyongyang’s artillery, unguided rockets, and short-range missiles, for some time. Indeed, such threats against Seoul and its huge metropolitan surroundings have existed for many years. As for Japan, North Korea has long had the ability to deliver some type of warhead to much of the island nation. However, without a reliable re-entry vehicle to protect a nuclear device during re-entry into the atmosphere, a missile of any longer range adds little to the threat level for Seoul or Tokyo.
Even as President Donald Trump faces ever-intensifying investigations into the alleged connections between his top aides and family members and powerful Russian figures, he serves as commander in chief over a U.S. military that is killing an astonishing and growing number of civilians. Under Trump, the U.S. is re-escalating its war in Afghanistan, expanding its operations in Iraq and Syria, conducting covert raids in Somalia and Yemen, and openly facilitating the Saudi’s genocidal military destruction of Yemen.
President Trump, frustrated by China’s unwillingness to lean on North Korea, has told the Chinese leader that the United States is prepared to act on its own in pressuring the nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang, according to senior administration officials. Mr. Trump’s warning, delivered in a cordial but blunt phone call on Sunday night to President Xi Jinping, came after a flurry of actions by the United States — selling weapons to Taiwan, threatening trade sanctions and branding China for human trafficking — that rankled the Chinese and left little doubt that the honeymoon between the two leaders was over.
Tillerson secretly warned the Russians, and Kushner and Bannon were consulted before the White House rattled its saber. All this occurred this week as President Donald Trump displayed what two White House officials characterized as relative indifference and passivity towards the subject, instead opting to focus his public and private energies towards fuming at his domestic enemies in the Democratic Party and the “fake news.”“The president cares more about CNN and the Russia story than [Syria] at the moment,” one official observed.
The head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, one of the architects of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, has warned the US to stop upsetting the regional balance of power by siding with Saudi Arabia. Writing in the Guardian, Ali Akbar Salehi said “lavish arms purchases” by regional actors – a reference to the Saudi purchase of $100bn of US arms during Donald Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh – would be seen as provocative in Tehran and that it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to remain “indifferent”.
An American F-15E fighter jet shot down an Iranian-made armed drone on Tuesday over southeast Syria that was flying toward American-backed Syrian fighters and their advisers, Pentagon officials said. The episode was a fresh indication that the air war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and the American military is likely to continue, and perhaps even escalate, even as the United States has sought to keep its focus on defeating the Islamic State militants operating in Syria and Iraq.
The extraordinary destruction of a Syrian fighter jet by a US aircraft on Sunday has precious little to do with the Syrian plane’s target in the desert near Rasafa – but much to do with the advance of the Syrian army close to the American-backed Kurdish forces along the Euphrates. The Syrians have grown increasingly suspicious in recent months that most Kurdish forces in the north of Syria – many of them in alliance with the Assad government until recently – have thrown in their lot with the Americans.
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