Hans Binnendijk: Trump’s war?


“Trump’s negotiating style has dug a deep hole for him that he will have trouble climbing out of. Trump tears up agreements he does not like and seeks new ones. He threatens and bullies to strengthen his negotiating position. He then tries to reconcile and diffuse the crisis he has created by engaging in high-wire negotiations. Finally, he hypes whatever modest deal emerges as his own stellar victory. This may work on occasion in real estate deals, and it might even have succeeded with Mexico. It is not working well with China or North Korea. And it certainly is not working so far with Iran.”

House votes to repeal AUMF


Possibly throwing Donald Trump’s Iran plans into disarray, House Democrats voted to pass a $1 trillion appropriations bill, which includes a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against AUMF in 2001, added the repeal last month. However, no Republicans voted for the bill and it appears unlikely it will get past the Senate.

A D Miller & R Sokolsky: War with Iran? Bad idea


“At best, should the U.S. go to war against Iran, it will be able to muster the diplomatic and perhaps military support of four countries: the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Otherwise, the rest of the world has been completely put off by the Trump administration’s unilateralism, belligerent nationalism, its decision to leave the nuclear agreement without a compelling cause, and actions that are clearly aimed at provoking a military confrontation with Iran. A war with Iran without significant international support, and perceived to be America’s fault, would leave the U.S. isolated and bearing full responsibility. More than likely, this kind of unilateralism would hand Russia and China—and Iran—an enormous propaganda advantage and weaken U.S. leverage in the days after.”

Trump approves Iran strike, then pulls back


As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations. President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

Max Boot: Another yes-man bites the dust


“But while Trump appreciates Cabinet members who do not check his erratic impulses, America’s national security is not served by having yes-men or yes-women in senior positions of responsibility. Note that the crisis, which is drawing the United States and Iran to the brink of hostilities, did not start in earnest until after [Gen. James] Mattis had left the Pentagon. Mattis had been a brake on Trump; [Patrick] Shanahan was an enabler.”

Shanahan out at Pentagon


Acting Defense Sec. Patrick Shanahan has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced with a new nominee. The FBI has been probing a violent domestic incident that occurred in 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife as part of a background investigation ahead of his confirmation hearing. President Trump said today he would replace Shanahan as acting secretary.

US sending 1,000 additional troops to Mideast


The U.S. will send 1,000 additional U.S. forces and more military resources to the Middle East amid tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Monday. Shortly before the announcement the Pentagon released a detailed set of photos that it said showed Iranian boats removing a mine from one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman on June 13. The U.S. attributes the attack to Iran. Tehran has vigorously denied the charge.

Turkish pilots barred from training on F-35


As Turkey moves full steam ahead on purchasing Russia’s S-400 missile systems, the U.S. continues to wind down Turkish involvement in the F-35 jet program. Besides moving production of some of the jet’s components outside of Turkey, the U.S. Air Force is suspending training for 26 Turkish pilots on the F-35 jet.

Top US commander warns of imminent Iranian threat


Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander over the Middle East, believes that the threat from Iran is “imminent”. Just last month, the Trump administration ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and several B-52 bombers to be deployed to the region to combat any threat from Iran.

Trump claims he’s ‘making up for’ lack of military service


President Trump in an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan said he’s “making up for” not serving in the U.S. military by providing billions of dollars of funding for the Pentagon. Explaining his lack of service in Vietnam, he said, “I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. Today they’re doing very well. Nobody heard of Vietnam — so many people dying, [people asked] what is happening over there? So I was never a fan.”

Trump admin shared nuke info after Khashoggi murder


The Trump administration authorized the sharing of nuclear power information with Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. Sen. Tim Kaine said the first approval—called an 810 authorization, which allows for the transfer of technology or information related to nuclear activity overseas—was granted by the Department of Energy on October 18, 16 days after Khashoggi was killed, and another was given on February 18.

Nicholas Burns: D-Day reminds us to embrace our allies


“At a time when democracy has been under assault in Europe, Trump has sided with anti-democratic leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over our genuine democratic friends such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At the same time, Trump has been largely uncritical of authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, China’s Xi Jingping, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. In effect, Trump has taken a carefully calibrated, bipartisan, and effective policy pursued by all our presidents (to embrace our allies and thwart our adversaries) and turned it on its head.”

US Navy plane intercepted by Russian fighter


While flying over the Mediterranean Sea, above international waters, a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane was intercepted three times by a Russian fighter. The U.S. Navy claims that on the second pass, the Russian fighter acted dangerously, making a high speed pass in front of the U.S. Navy plane.

Laurie Roberts: We know who’s to blame for McCain insult


“McCain has continued to best Trump in the nine months since his death as one man, with the passing of time, seems more and more a giant and the other…not. So, yeah, I agree with Trump’s chief of staff. There’s no way that young staffer should be fired or even disciplined. ‘We think it’s much ado about nothing,’ Mulvaney said on Fox News on Sunday. Oh, it’s much ado about something. But it’s not about a low-level staffer simply carrying out what he believes are the wishes of a president who has signaled what he wants with every postmortem dig at a dead man, every sign of disrespect, every egotistical outburst.”

Pompeo: US willing to talk with Iran


While in Switzerland speaking on Iran, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said “We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions.” Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif responded saying that such talks are “not very likely.”

Turkey backed itself into a tight corner


Turkey made a deal with Russia to buy its S-400 missile system and insists that it will not back out of the deal. As the date to finalize the deal approaches, concerns over the consequences of the decision leave many high-level officials worried, and these worries have even reached as high as President Erdogan himself. Turkey has a lot to lose with this purchase, but through its words and the humiliation of going back on what one said, Turkey has backed itself into a tight corner.

China continues to militarize islands


Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan noted at a press conference in Singapore that China’s militarization efforts in the South China Sea are “excessive” for protecting Chinese interests. To demonstrate that international law and boundaries will be upheld, the U.S. regularly sails warships in international waters off the Chinese coast.

Bringing new meaning to the term ‘petty officer’


Naval officers were so concerned about hurting the commander-in-chief’s delicate fee-fees during his visit to Japan last weekend that they took steps to ensure that a warship named for a key Trump rival, the late Sen. John McCain, was kept out of his view. A U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official’s emailed instructions ahead of the visit included this directive: “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.” Worse, officers with USS John McCain insignia on their uniforms were turned away from Trump’s address.

Why all the distrust over Iran?


There are a number of reasons Americans don’t quite know what to believe about Iran—some purely political, others historical. But in any case, it doesn’t help matters that the American public rarely hears from the Pentagon anymore. Spokespeople haven’t given on-camera briefings in a year, and concerns are growing that the U.S. could end up in a military confrontation without the Trump administration ever having to publicly defend it.

Joint Chiefs weigh in on Iran


National Security Adviser John Bolton has said “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” were to blame for the attack on Saudi Arabian oil tankers off the eastern coast of the UAE on May 12 that has caused heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Iran has fiercely denied the attack, countering that Bolton has always had anti-Iran leanings. Now the Joint Chiefs of Staff have jumped in to bolster Bolton’s claims.

Pentagon accuses Iran of preparing ‘campaign’ of attacks


The decision to deploy an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Middle East was decided on by U.S. military leaders after intelligence was relayed of Iran preparing a campaign of attacks. Defense Secretary Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, both agree in the assessment of the intelligence and on the decision to send more military resources to the region.

Trump approves additional military deployment to Mideast


What a week. First, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that Jared Kushner, whom Donald Trump has tasked with solving the Middle East’s problems, is clueless. Then we found out Trump may declare an emergency to clear arms sales to Saudi Arabia over congressional opposition. Now, 1,500 additional U.S. troops will be deployed amid rising tensions with Iran. What could go wrong?

Senate aims to protect US membership in NATO


A provision in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new defense policy bill would make it tougher for President Trump to pull the U.S. out of NATO, sending a strong sign of bipartisan support for the alliance. The $750 billion bill, which passed the committee on Wednesday, includes language to bar funding for a year for a withdrawal from Europe, if the U.S. initiates an exit from NATO. The provision seems designed to hem in Trump, whose commitment to NATO is questionable.

Fox News host lobbied Trump to pardon accused war criminals


Fox News isn’t just Donald Trump’s favorite news network, it’s apparently an unofficial policy adviser as well. Over the weekend, reports indicated that the president is preparing to pardon several U.S. servicemen involved in high-profile cases of gunning down civilians or killing detainees. Turns out, the decision comes as a result of a months-long lobbying campaign by “Fox & Friends” co-host Pete Hegseth.

Mark Hertling: On pardoning soldiers accused of war crimes


“While these pardons reportedly being considered by the president would be ‘legal,’ they are also immoral and anathema to military discipline, unit cohesion, and our forces’ professionalism. If applied as reported, the pardons would damage the way the U.S. military is perceived by our allies and partners around the world and give credence and reinforcement to our enemies. They would cause even more damage to civil-military relations in our republic and send a very bad message to all those who serve.”

Aaron David Miller & Richard Sokolsky: There’s no compelling reason to go to war against Iran


“The U.S. and Iran are locked into a long-term competition for influence and control in a volatile and dangerous region. Military strikes and war are not the answer—they will only make a bad situation worse. A mix of deterrence, transactional negotiations, renewed dialogue and, yes, military force if Iran acts against America’s vital interests, is the most effective way to manage that competition.”

Standoff with Iran takes an ugly turn


After some hopeful rhetoric suggesting that a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Iran was possible, the president couldn’t leave well enough alone. On Sunday he threatened via tweet, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” The Iranian foreign minister responded, also via tweet, that “genocidal taunts won’t ‘end Iran.'” Perhaps Twitter isn’t the best forum for conducting foreign relations business.