Trump and Saudi complications

USA President Donald Trump has just signed a $100 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia – he says it will be good for jobs in the US – and has painted Iran as the enemy of peace in the Middle East.

New York Times details some of the complications and contradictions: In Saudi Arabia, Trump Reaches Out to Sunni Nations, at Iran’s Expense

As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

That nation was Iran.

In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.

At the same time, he rejected the path taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama engaged with Iran to reach a breakthrough nuclear accord, which Mr. Trump’s administration has acknowledged Iran is following.

Will Trump put that accord at risk?

In his remarks, Mr. Trump signalled his intention to end engagement with Iran, suggesting that it does not encourage change from inside the country.

And he is engaging more with Saudi Arabia which shows no sign of changing.

But in Iran, many were pushing for change. Emboldened by the election results, crowds of Iranians in the capital, Tehran, demanded what they hope President Hassan Rouhani’s second term will bring: the release of opposition figures, more freedom of thought and fewer restrictions on daily life.

For those who voted for Mr. Rouhani, there was a feeling of tremendous relief that his challenger, the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who criticized the nuclear deal with the United States and other Western powers, had lost.

But Trump says that Iran is bad – which happens to align with Saudi (and Israeli) thinking.

In his speech on Sunday, Mr. Trump, a guest of the Saudi monarch, spoke of a stronger alliance with mostly Sunni Muslim nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideology and to push back against Iran.

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of spreading an intolerant creed that fuels terrorism and threatens minorities. Saudi Arabia says Iran works through nonstate actors to weaken Arab nations.

This is one of the power struggles in the Middle East. Trump is clearly taking one side.

“Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote on Twitter, speaking of Saudi Arabia.

Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst, said of Mr. Trump, “This man just wants to sell American weapons and use Iran as an excuse.”

In deepening the United States’ alliance with gulf countries, Mr. Trump is bringing it closer to nations that share few cultural values with the United States and have sometimes acted against its interests.

Saudi Arabia, for one, is a monarchy where citizens have few rights and the public practice of any religion other than Islam is banned. It has used its military and its oil wealth to protect the Sunni monarchy that rules over a Shiite majority in neighboring Bahrain and to prop up President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Pile more arms in to the Middle East, drive a divide between competing factions, and peace shall reign.

Trump with Netanyahu

Having delivered an address in Saudi Arabia promoting peace and condemning extremist Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, but attacking and ostracising Iran and driving a wedge Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, US President Donald Trump is now meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Again the talks are of pro-peace and anti-Iran.

Netanyahu:

“We’re committed to the freedom of all faiths and to the rights of all. We protect the Christian sites as no one else does anywhere in this region.”

To Trump: “I want you how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran. I want you to know how much we appreciate your bold decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.”

“I believe that together we can roll back Iran’s march of aggression and terror in this region.”

Trump:

“Today we reaffirm the unbreakable bond of friendship between Israel and the United States.”

“We want Israel to have peace.”

“That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism & facing…an Iranian regime that is threatening the region.”

“There are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before.”

“These leaders voice concerns we all share about ISIS…and about the menace of extremism that have caused so much needless bloodshed and killing here and all over the world.”

On peace between Palestinians & Israelis: “I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest of all but I have a feeling we’re going to get there.”

“There’s a lot of love out there.”

‘But we hate Iran’?

Earlier:

Trump is on his first foreign trip since taking office. Over the weekend, he visited Saudi Arabia. Earlier today, he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem for a bilateral meeting where they discussed Iran.

“There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran,” Trump said during his joint remarks with Rivlin.

Trump is obviously siding with Israel, and has also sided with Saudi Arabia, an autocratic country with a poor record on human rights, and with links to terrorism, against Iran, a country that has just re-elected a moderate leader.

The world’s great peace broker?

Or peace after they have smashed the enemy?

Trump challenges Arab leaders on Muslim terrorism

On his visit to the Middle East Donald Trump has called for Arab leaders – he was speaking to the leaders of 55 Muslim majority countries in his visit to Saudi Arabia –  to deal with their “Islamist extremism” terrorism problem.

But Saudi (Sunni) King Salman introduced Trump’s speech by condemning Shi’ite Iran.

Reuters: Trump tells Middle East to ‘drive out’ Islamist extremists

U.S. President Donald Trump called on Arab leaders to do their fair share to “drive out” terrorism from their countries on Sunday in a speech that put the burden on the region to combat militant groups.

“America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them”.

“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and frankly for their families and for their children.”

“It’s a choice between two futures and its a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.

“Drive them out! Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth”.

“Terrorism has spread across the world. But the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in this sacred land”.

Trump should get a lot of support in the Western world, and deserves praise for openly confronting extremist terrorism. But he may have dismayed some of the more radical anti-Muslim activists who campaign against the whole Islamic religion and all it’s followers.

Trump’s signature phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was not included in the speech, according to excerpts released in advance by the White House.

Instead, he used the term “Islamist extremism”, which refers to Islamism as political movement rather than Islam as a religion, a distinction that he had frequently criticized the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama for making.

Trump was speaking to a very different audience to when he was campaigning in the United States. Whether his Muslim audience takes on board and accepts his change of rhetoric is yet to be seen.

Introducing Trump, Saudi King Salman described their mutual foe Iran as the source of terrorism they must confront together.

“Our responsibility before God and our people and the whole world is to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism wherever they are … The Iranian regime represents the tip of the spear of global terrorism.”

Iran is a Shi’ite Muslim country. The groups that the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York are mostly Sunni Muslims, and enemies of Iran.

That may not be such a good sign. Iran is not the only source or supporter or financier of terrorism. It’s highly ironic that the 911 terrorists were mostly from Saudi Arabia.

In general terms I think Trump has spoken some good words, but in the context of promoting peace and anti-extremism and anti-terrorism in Saudi Arabia associated with an attack on Iran and Shi’ite Muslims may divide and ignite rather than draw Muslim leaders together in a push for peace.


Gezza: “Donald Trump’s 30 minute speech to the Sunni Muslim World at the Gulf Cooperation Council. Imo, he has actually pulled off his first big act as a statesman.”
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-9DgFRuiFuI

Perhaps, but “to the Sunni Muslim World” may point to a potential problem.

Syrian mass killings accusation

There have been many killed in the Syrian civil war including many atrocities and alleged atrocities.

The US has now accused the Syrian government of burning bodies to hide mass killings, with the support of Russia and Iran, but this has been denied.

Fox News: Syrian regime using crematorium to ‘cover up’ mass murders, State Department says

The Syrian regime is using a site outside Damascus to cremate the bodies of thousands of prisoners it has abducted, jailed and murdered during the country’s long-running civil war, the U.S. State Department alleged Monday.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones showed surveillance photos that — combined with intelligence assessments and other reports — officials believe show Bashar Assad’s government is complicit in covering up evidence of mass killings at the Sednaya Prison. Located near Damascus, the prison previously has been called a “human slaughterhouse” by Amnesty International.

“Although the regime’s many atrocities are well-documented, we believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Sednaya prison,” Jones said Monday.

Jones also charged that the “atrocities” were carried out “with unconditional support” from Russia and Iran.

Amnesty International has previously called Sednaya a “human slaughterhouse,” estimating 13,000 people were killed there from 2011-2015. It is believed Assad’s regime kidnapped more than 100,000 people during that time.

In presenting the photographs, Jones said Syrian President Assad’s government “has sunk to a new level of depravity” with the support of Russia and Iran and called on both countries to use its influence with Syria to establish a credible ceasefire and begin political talks.

I wonder if Trump talked about this in his meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week.

However Syria has denied the accusations.

Aljazeera: Assad government denies US allegations of mass killings

An earlier report accused Syria of hanging up to 13,000 prisoners at Saydnaya [Reuters]

The Syrian government has “categorically” denied US accusations of mass killings at a prison near Damascus, including executing political opponents and burning the victims in a crematorium at the site.

The allegations are “a new Hollywood plot” to justify US intervention in Syria, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

It described the accusations made a day earlier by the US state department as “lies” and “fabrications”, noting what it called a US track record of making up false claims as a pretext for military aggression.

 

Big dicks from North Korea to Iran

While North Korean ‘pre-emptive strike’ rhetoric has ramped up the US has added Iran to it’s nuclear targets.

Reuters: North Korea warns of ‘super-mighty preemptive strike’ as U.S. plans next move

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.

“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

This follows multi-pronged verbal attacks from the US.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.

Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States was “reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.”

And Tillerson has also aimed similar threats at Iran.

NBC News: Tillerson: Iran Left ‘Unchecked’ Could Follow North Korea’s Path

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, including the 2016 nuclear deal, which he said had merely delayed Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the U.S., the region and the world.”

Tillerson notified Congress on Tuesday that despite finding that Iran was meeting the terms of the deal, the Trump administration was reviewing whether to break from the agreement, saying in part that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran is closely involved in supporting the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. The US launched a military strike against a Syrian airfield recently.

The US also tried out their biggest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan last week. This didn’t go down well with ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Time: The Former President of Afghanistan Called the Recent U.S. Bombing ‘an Immense Atrocity’

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the U.S. is using Afghanistan as a weapons testing ground, calling the recent use of the largest-ever non-nuclear bomb “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

Last week, U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb in eastern Nangarhar province, reportedly killing 95 militants. Karzai, in an interview with The Associated Press, objected to the decision, saying that his country “was used very disrespectfully by the U.S. to test its weapons of mass destruction.”

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said following the bomb’s usage that there was “close coordination” between the U.S. military and the Afghan government over the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.

But Karzai harshly criticized the Afghan government for allowing the use of the bomb.

“How could a government of a country allow the use of a weapon of mass destruction on its own territory? Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, how could they allow that? It just unimaginable,” he said.

Since the missile strike and the massive bomb drop the US has launched a war of words on multiple fronts, from Iran to North Korea.

This is a very risky strategy by the Trump regime. The threats and shows of military force may pay off. They could also end very badly if someone’s provocation (from any side) goes too far.

There’s also risks of perception of provocation and unintended consequences, especially if Korea or Iran or Syria or ISIS or Al Qaeda get reported on Fox News insulting the size of Donald Trump’s ego.

The well being of parts of the world, and possibly the whole world, is dependant on the temperaments and self control of a small bunch of bozos, some of whom (on the US side) have no experience with international diplomacy or military strategy.

Big dicks with big weapons are a worry.

Lining up for World War 3?

Suggesting the escalation in Syria is a move closer to World War 3 might be over-dramatic but if the civil war explodes into a wider conflict it will be too late to quibble.

There are already a number of countries who have been directly involved in the Syrian conflict,  including Russia, USA, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, UK, France, Germany and Australia.

The Herald asks Are these the battle lines for World War Three?

The US airstrikes on a Syrian regime airbase have hardened the dividing lines across the world in regards to the Assad regime.

They link to MailOnline Are these the battle lines for World War Three? Graphic shows which countries are siding with Russia or the US in their support – or condemnation – of Assad

  • President Donald Trump, 70, launched airstrikes on a Bashar al-Assad controlled airbase in Syria on Thursday
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today praised the American airstrike following the chemical attack
  • He said that the strikes sent a ‘strong and clear’ message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated in 2017 
  • Both Britain and Australia praised the US action as an ‘appropriate response’ to what happened in the week
  • Syria and Russia have denounced it as an ‘act of aggression’ with Putin saying it damages relationship with US

The US airstrikes on a Syrian regime airbase have hardened the dividing lines across the world in regards to the Assad regime.

MailOnline has set out world leaders’ positions on the conflict, which clearly shows the split between pro and anti-Assad countries.

It suggests which side of the battle line countries would position themselves on should the escalating crisis turn into an all out global conflict.

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The MailOnline has extensive coverage of the position of countries around the world on Syria.

The also have a time line of the conflict that began six years ago.


The U.S. attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war.

Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict, with the U.N. blaming three attacks on the Syrian government and a fourth on the Islamic State group. One of the worst yet came Tuesday in rebel-held northern Idlib and killed dozens, including women and children.

That attack prompted President Donald Trump, on day 77 of his presidency, to dramatically shift U.S. policy, with the first direct U.S. attack on the Syrian government.

Trump blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack and called on the international community to join him in trying to end the bloodshed.

A timeline of events in Syria leading up to Tuesday’s attack:

March 2011: Protests erupt in the city of Daraa over security forces’ detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 15, a protest is held in Damascus’ Old City. On March 18, security forces open fire on a protest in Daraa, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

April 2011: Security forces raid a sit-in in Syria’s third-largest city, Homs, where thousands of people tried to create the mood of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests against Egypt’s autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Aug. 18, 2011: President Barack Obama calls on Assad to resign and orders Syrian government assets frozen.

Summer 2012: Fighting spreads to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its former commercial capital.

August 20, 2012: Obama says the use of chemical weapons would be a ‘red line’ that would change his calculus on intervening in the civil war and have ‘enormous consequences.’

March 19, 2013: The Syrian government and opposition trade accusations over a gas attack that killed some 26 people, including more than a dozen government soldiers, in the town of Khan al-Assal in northern Syria. A U.N. investigation later finds that sarin nerve gas was used, but does not identify a culprit.

August 21, 2013: Hundreds of people suffocate in rebel-held suburbs of the Syrian capital, with many suffering from convulsions, pinpoint pupils, and foaming at the mouth. U.N. investigators visit the sites and determine that ground-to-ground missiles loaded with sarin were fired on civilian areas while residents slept. The U.S. and others blame the Syrian government, the only party to the conflict known to have sarin gas.

Aug. 31, 2013: Obama says he will go to Congress for authorization to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian government, but appears to lack the necessary support in the legislature.

Sept. 27, 2013: The U.N. Security Council orders Syria to account for and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, following a surprise agreement between Washington and Moscow, averting U.S. strikes. The Security Council threatens to authorize the use of force in the event of non-compliance.

Oct. 14, 2013: Syria becomes a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, prohibiting it from producing, stockpiling or using chemical weapons.

June 23, 2014: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it has removed the last of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons. Syrian opposition officials maintain that the government’s stocks were not fully accounted for, and that it retained supplies.

Sept. 23, 2014: The U.S. launches airstrikes on Islamic State group targets in Syria.

Aug. 7, 2015: The U.N. Security Council authorizes the OPCW and U.N. investigators to probe reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, as reports circulate of repeated chlorine gas attacks by government forces against civilians in opposition-held areas. Chlorine gas, though not as toxic as nerve agents, can be classified as a chemical weapon depending on its use.

Aug. 24, 2016: The joint OPCW-U.N. panel determines the Syrian government twice used helicopters to deploy chlorine gas against its opponents, in civilian areas in the northern Idlib province. A later report holds the government responsible for a third attack. The attacks occurred in 2014 and 2015. The panel also finds that the Islamic State group used mustard gas.

Feb. 28, 2017: Russia, a stalwart ally of the Syrian government, and China veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing sanctions against the Syrian government for chemical weapons use.

April 4, 2017: At least 58 people are killed in what doctors say could be a nerve gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth and pupil constriction. Witnesses say the attack was carried out by either Russian or Syrian Sukhoi jets. Moscow and Damascus deny responsibility.

April 4, 2017: President Donald Trump issues a statement saying that the ‘heinous’ actions of Assad’s government are the direct result of Obama administration’s ‘weakness and irresolution.’

April 5, 2017: Trump says Assad’s government has ‘crossed a lot of lines’ with the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

April 6, 2017: The U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria Thursday night in retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians, U.S. officials said. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president. Trump said strike on Syria in the ‘vital national security interest’ of the United States.


Wikipedia: Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War

Syrian Missile Strike – reactions

CNN: Live updates and Key things to know about the airstrikes

  • THE STRIKE: US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield. The map below shows the location.
  • THE MESSAGE: Ambassador Nikki Haley told the United Nations moments ago that the strike was a “measured response” and the US is “prepared to do more.”
  • RUSSIA: Putin said the strike was a “significant blow” to Russian-US relations.
  • US RESPONSE: Many US lawmakers voiced support for Trump’s decision. They want him to talk to Congress about next steps.

After dinner was over, Trump told China’s President about the airstrikes

Summary of reactions (from Geeza ex Aljazeera):


World and regional leaders and countries were quick to react to the news.

*Russia

…which has been bombing rebel-held areas in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad since September 2015, condemned the strikes, saying Washington’s action would “inflict major damage on US-Russia ties”, according to Russian news agencies.

In its first public response to the attack, the Kremlin labelled the US move as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.
“Washington’s step will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson of Russian president Vladimir Putin, was quoted as saying.

*Saudi Arabia

…said it “fully supports” the strikes, adding that it was a “courageous decision” by President Donald Trump in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in northwestern Syria

“A responsible source at the foreign ministry expressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s full support for the American military operations on military targets in Syria, which came as a response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians,” a statement carried by state news agency SPA said.

The statement said it holds the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the deaths of dozens of civilians in in Khan Sheikhoun.

*Iran…

…also an Assad ally, said it strongly condemned the missile strikes against the Syrian army’s Shayrat air base.

“Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes … such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and it will complicate the situation in Syria and the region,” ISNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman  Bahram Qasemi as saying.

*Turkey…

…which hosts three million Syrian refugees, said it views the US missile strikes positively and called for the establishment of a no-fly zone, as well as safe zones, in Syria.

“What happened in Idlib on Tuesday proved again that the bloody Assad regime show complete disregard for the prospect of a political transition and efforts to enforce the ceasefire,” read a statement by presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.

“The destruction of Sharyat airbase marks an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished.”

*Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…

…said he supports the “strong and clear message” 😎 sent by the US strikes.

The Israeli military said it had been informed in advance of the attack. 🤔

“In both word and action, President (Donald) Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

“Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”

*Britain…

…said the US action was an appropriate response to the “barbaric chemical weapons attack” launched by the Syrian government, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May.

*Italy also gave its support, saying it was a suitable response to Syrian aggression.
The strike was “a commensurate response … and a signal of deterrence against the risks of further use of chemical weapons by Assad”, Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in a statement.

*Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

… also weighed in, saying that he supported the strike, calling it a “proportionate and calibrated response”.

In a televised statement, he also called on Russia to play its part in bringing peace to Syria.

*Bolivia…

…  has requested the UN Security Council hold closed-door consultations on Friday about the missile strikes, a senior Security Council diplomat said.

Source: Aljazeera.

Also Russia apparently says only 23 of the 59 cruise missiles actually hit their targets?

And that they are boosting their air defences in Syria.


Missy reports:

The Security Council are currently holding an emergency meeting on Syria.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has just spoken as says that the US will do it again if necessary.

Key quotes from her speech:

“The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary.”

“Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it, because he knew Russia had its back.”

“The moral stain could no longer be unanswered. His crimes against humanity could no longer be ignored.”

“The US will no longer wait for Assad to use weapons with no consequences. Those days are over.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/07/us-strikes-syria-tensions-rise-russia-warns-damage-ties-washington/


Apparently the Pentagon are looking into whether Russia was involved in the Syrian Chemical Weapons attack.

Senior officials are reported as saying a drone from either Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the CW attack.

They also allege that a hospital bombed shortly after was to cover up the attack.

From the Telegraph:

“Pentagon probes Russian involvement in chemical attack
A potentially game-changing development, just in from Associated Press:

Senior military officials say the US is looking into whether Russia participated in Syria’s chemical weapons attack.

The officials say Russia has failed to control the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

They say a drone belonging either to Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the chemical weapons attack Tuesday after it happened. The drone returned late in the day as citizens were going to a nearby hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, officials say the hospital was bombed.

The officials say they believe the hospital attack may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the attack.

The officials weren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They say they’re still reviewing evidence.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/07/us-strikes-syria-tensions-rise-russia-warns-damage-ties-washington/

US versus Iran

Is Iran taking advantage of a chaotic transition to a Trump led White House? Is Trump diving into a snake pit that they are nowhere near prepared to assess properly? Both?

With Trump being so gung ho and super sensitive to being challenged, and without coming close to a fully staffed and well advised administration, the US is very vulnerable to being sucked into something that could be very difficult to extricate itself.

Diplomacy by Twitter continues (if you can call it diplomacy):

This is potentially very scary stuff.

As is this:Press Secretary Sean Spicer Falsely Accuses Iran of Attacking U.S. Navy Vessel, an Act of War

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday said he was  “officially putting Iran on notice” following the country’s ballistic missile test and an attack on a Saudi naval vessel by Houthi rebels in Yemen (the Houthis are tenuously aligned with Iran’s government but are distinct from it).

The White House press corps wanted to know what being put “on notice” entailed, and Spicer responded by claiming that Iran’s government took actions against a U.S. naval vessel, which would be an act of war. “I think General Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the Joint Resolution, that Iran’s additional hostile actions that it took against our Navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take,” he said. “I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions.”

Major Garrett of CBS News quietly corrected him, saying “a Saudi vessel,” and Spicer then responded almost inaudibly: “Sorry, thank you, yes a Saudi vessel. Yes, that’s right.” He did not in any way address his false claim that it was an Iranian attack, however.

Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood confirmed to The Intercept that the attack was in fact conducted against a Saudi warship, and that the Pentagon suspects Houthi rebels. “It was a Saudi ship – it was actually a frigate” said Sherwood. “It was [conducted by] suspected Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen.”

Fox News initially misreported that a U.S. ship was somehow the target — which is perhaps where some of the confusion in the White House originated.

Spicer is being informed by Fox News? Next thing he will start believing Breitbart – actually it could be Stephen Bannon pulling his strings anyway.

Inaccurate news, false news, false claims, tweeting from the hip, a very inexperienced and disorganised White House, countries in the Middle East with histories of escalating provocations.

What could go wrong?

Trade with Iran

Iran’s foreign minister is visiting New Zealand for trade talks as part of a six country visit to Asia Pacific. This follows the lifting of sanctions last year after a nuclear deal was made with Iran.

NZ Herald: Iran’s foreign minister arrives in style

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks with Foreign Minister Murray McCully kicked off with some small talk about Zarif’s plane and an offer for Mr McCully to visit Tehran in May.

Mr McCully met with Mr Zarif in the Beehive today after Mr Zarif arrived in New Zealand as part of a tour of six countries in the Asia Pacific. It is part of Iran’s efforts to attract more investment following the removal of sanctions after last year’s nuclear deal.

He will meet with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow and speak at an event for the Institute of International Affairs.

Not everyone is happy.

On the eve of Mr Zarif’s arrival Yosef Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand, issued a ‘personal reflection’ criticising the willingness of the international community to embrace Iran.

Also from NZ Herald: Trade leads talks with Iran visitor

Trade was top of the agenda for a meeting between Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described as a “refresh” of the relationship between New Zealand and Iran.

Mr McCully said Dr Zarif’s visit was the first by an Iranian Foreign Minister in 10 years and let the countries “refresh” their relationship.

He said he had raised human rights issues after thanking Dr Zarif for the role he played in the nuclear deal.

“[I] encouraged Iran to use this opportunity to reset its relationship with the international community. It was in this spirit I raised New Zealand’s concerns about the human rights situation in Iran.”

The two ministers signed off on an arrangement between the Export Credit Office and Export Guarantee Fund of Iran which Mr McCully said would help give exporters more confidence in the trading arrangements. Iran was New Zealand’s fifth largest trading partner in the 1980s before sanctions on Iran bit. The removal of most of those sanctions opens the way for trade again.

Israel is not happy, and neither will be a few fringe anti-Islamists, but better trade relations can contribute to better international relations generally.

Iran nuclear program closed down

The US State department says that Iran has closed down it’s nuclear weapon program.

.@JohnKerry: We can confidently say pathways Iran had toward enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon has been verifiably closed down.

The BBC reports: Iran nuclear deal: International sanctions lifted

International sanctions on Iran have been lifted after its compliance with obligations under its nuclear agreement with world powers was certified.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the sanctions were lifted in accordance with the deal “as Iran has fulfilled its commitment”.

The international nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said its inspectors had verified that Iran had taken the required steps.

As part of the deal, Iran had to drastically reduce its number of centrifuges and dismantle a heavy-water reactor near the town of Arak, both of which could be used in creating nuclear weapons.

The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, congratulated the nation following the IAEA announcement. The deal had “borne fruit,” he tweeted (in Farsi), adding that he took “a bow before a patient nation like ours”.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry has ordered that US nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran be lifted.

Speaking in Vienna where he had been holding talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mr Kerry said Iran had “undertaken significant steps” which many people “doubted would ever come to pass”.

“In return for the steps Iran has taken, the United States and the EU will immediately lift nuclear related sanctions, expanding the horizon of opportunity to the Iranian people,” he said.

“Today, as a result of the actions taken since last July, the United States, our friends and allies in the Middle East, in the entire world are safer because the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced,” he added.

Sounds good.

Amazing fact: Iran surrenders the bulk of its nuclear program, and it is considered a partisan issue in America whether that is good or bad.

 Sounds normal.