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Posts tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Pompeo Smacks Acosta for Having Facts Wrong Then Asking ‘Ludicrous’ Question


Reported By Ben Marquis | September 25, 2018 at

1:46pm

The liberal media was all abuzz recently over an anonymous report published by The New York Times which alleged that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had once suggested to other administration officials — perhaps jokingly — that he wear a wire when meeting with President Donald Trump in order to gather evidence of his alleged mental instability to support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from power.

The Daily Caller reported that this rather ridiculous story was brought up in the form of a question about the alleged 25th Amendment discussions posed to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a news conference at the U.N. on Monday, where Trump was scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday.

The reporter who brought up the story was none other than CNN’s Jim Acosta, and both Haley and Pompeo let him know how “absurd” and “ludicrous” both his question and the allegation in general were, while also calling him out for getting the basic facts and premise of his question wrong.

First addressing Haley, Acosta said, “You are the one person here who has been with this administration from the beginning,” and then mentioned the story about Rosenstein and invoking the 25th Amendment. “Were you ever involved in any of those discussions? Were you aware of any of those discussions?”

“I said yesterday on the Sunday shows that, literally, I have never once been in the White House where that conversation has happened,” Haley replied.

“I’m not aware of any cabinet members that are even talking about that. It is completely and totally absurd. No one is questioning the president at all. If anything, we’re trying to keep up the pace with him, in the fact that he has a lot he wants to accomplish very quickly and we’re going to continue to support him in the way that he does that,” she added.

Acosta then attempted to ask Pompeo a follow-up question regarding North Korea — particularly about not having details of a deal ironed out prior to high-level summit meetings — but the secretary felt the need to first address Acosta’s initial line of questioning, snarkily fact-checking him in the process.

“Two things: Fact check, I’ve been with the administration since the beginning, too. That’s relevant,” said Pompeo, who first served in the administration as CIA director prior to transferring to the State Department.

“I’ll add, no discussion with me about the 25th Amendment in any way either, so you can now report that there are two senior leaders who’ve said that your question was ludicrous,” Pompeo added.

Pompeo attempted to move on to the North Korea part of Acosta’s questions, but the reporter interrupted to apologize for forgetting Pompeo’s role as the former CIA director and to wonder why Rosenstein would be talking behind the scenes about the 25th Amendment, if it were so “ludicrous.”

“I find the question ludicrous,” Pompeo replied. “I’ve been involved, I’ve been at the center of this administration, along with lots of other folks, from virtually Day One — I think it was actually day three or four — I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, whisper about it, joke about it in any way.”

“I’ve been in a lot of meetings with a lot of senior officials from this government,” he added, prior to transitioning to Acosta’s question about North Korea.

In that regard, Pompeo noted that “we went at this the other way for decades,” to no avail, and said “we’re coming at this from a different direction” by bringing together the two most senior leaders from North Korea and the U.S. in an effort to make actual progress toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Acosta, like many other “journalists” in the liberal media, accepted the report from The Times about Rosenstein’s wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment against Trump as if it were the gospel truth, largely because it fit into their preconceived notions and narratives about the mental state of the president.

But Acosta’s “ludicrous” focus on a story that may not even be true, at the expense of more focus on far more pressing international matters, serves to fit snugly with the growing perception that the “fake news” media care only about hurting, smearing and ultimately getting rid of Trump. That’s why it was so it was nice to see Haley and Pompeo verbally smack him back into place.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Writer and researcher. Constitutional conservatarian with a strong focus on protecting the Second and First Amendments.

Opinion | Trump Shuts Down Assad, Shows Obama How a Real Leader Handles Chemical Warfare


Reported By Jared Harris | September 10, 2018 at

6:57pm

Chemical weapons are some of the nastiest things to come out of war. They can’t tell the difference between a soldier and a child. Depending on the level of exposure, death can come after a few agonizing minutes. Those that do survive often live with neurological, physiological, and mental wounds for the rest of their life.

It’s no wonder this was a “red line” for former President Barack Obama in the Syrian Civil War. When chemical weapons were used, however, the United States of America was nowhere to be found.

Obama’s excuse? Chlorine gas, used in the attack, isn’t a chemical weapon.

“Chlorine itself has not been listed as a chemical weapon,” the former president stated.

Chemical weapon or not, chlorine gas isn’t pretty. I won’t list the effects here, but accounts from the First World War paint a grisly picture of chlorine’s gruesome interaction with human skin, eyes, and organs.

Let’s give Obama a pass and let him play around with semantics. President Donald Trump operates by a different standard.

Syria attempted to test Trump’s red line with chemical weapons, possibly expecting the same response as Obama. Within a week, Trump had U.S. warships parked on the coast. A few missile salvos made his position on the matter painfully clear.

Now, apparently not done with poking the sleeping giant, Syria has doubled down on chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad has given the green light for use of chlorine in what is expected to be the last true battle of the Syrian Civil War.

Idlib province is the last remaining rebel holdout, and the target of Assad’s chemical ambitions.

The remaining rebels are a motley crew — the survivors include al-Qaeda allies and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Islamic terrorist group that was founded in China. Unfortunately, the area is also crawling with civilians.

The province of Idlib had a population of 1.5 million in 2011, giving it roughly the same population as modern-day Hawaii. Although international treaties forbid use of force against civilian targets, the Syrian Civil War is already rife with humanitarian crimes.

Trump leveled a stark warning against Assad, telling him to play fair — or else.

“If it’s a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry, and the United States is going to get very angry too,” President Trump said.

A new initiative approved by the Commander-in-Chief would see 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria indefinitely. The purpose is to ensure the total eradication of ISIS as well as the return of Iranian forces to their home country.

The Middle East has ultimately been a quagmire for the United States military. Every insurgent force we fight is an expert in asymmetrical warfare, draining our economy while giving us no real gains. We have nothing to show in the almost 17 years we have spent engaged in Afghanistan. Our time in Iraq did unseat a dictator, but our exit gave ISIS a playground full of abandoned U.S. equipment.

This doesn’t mean we should ignore evil in the world. Trump was right to act once his red line had been violated. Assad knows to tread carefully now — the second lesson from the United States is sure to be more painful than the first.

As for the best Syria policy? Donald Trump himself hinted at it in 2013.

If they want a war, we’re always ready to give them one. But let’s hope they don’t.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jared is a husband, dad, and aspiring farmer. He was an infantryman in the Arkansas and Georgia National Guard. If he’s not with his wife and son, then he’s either shooting guns or working on his motorcycle.

COMMENTARY: President Trump Fires Back with His Own Incredible Response After McCain Funeral Turns Political


Commentary By Benjamin Arie | September 3, 2018 at

6:10am

John McCain’s actual election rivals may have been George W. Bush back in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008, but you’d be forgiven for wondering if they were all on the same team after the late senator’s funeral on Saturday.

“The same team” is even how former President Obama described himself and McCain as he addressed the gathered crowd at the senator’s funeral.

The Arizona lawmaker may have been gone, but the figures he approved to speak at the service definitely seemed to be on the same page when it came to using the memorial service as a platform to join forces against the sitting president of the United States.

Nobody mentioned Donald Trump by name, but as Joseph Curl pointed out at The Daily Wire, it was clear that three of the main speakers — Meghan McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush — were of one mind when it came to backhanding the current president.

“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness — the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served,” McCain’s adult daughter Meghan chastised from the podium.

It was a cheap shot directed, without a doubt, at the billionaire Trump.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” Meghan McCain continued, obviously hammering at Trump’s famous slogan of “Make America Great Again.”

Remember, this was supposed to be a funeral.

Obama joined in when his time came.

“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” he declared pompously.

“It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born in fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that,” stated the former president who beat the deceased in 2008 aided in large part by a media that slandered McCain constantly.

Then George W. Bush, a man who reportedly refused to vote for Trump against Hillary Clinton, took the stage.

“John was above all a man with a code,” Bush stated.

“He led by a set of public virtues that brought strength and purpose to his life and to his country. He was courageous, with a courage that frightened his captors and inspired his countrymen,” Bush said.

“He was honorable, always recognizing that his opponents were still patriots and human beings,” Bush continued, without clarifying what the definition of a patriot was or if every opponent met the criteria.

“He loved freedom with the passion of a man who knew its absence. He respected the dignity inherent in every life, a dignity that does not stop at borders,” Bush continued, likely taking a swipe at Trump’s push for border security.

One Republican president jabbing at another for daring to enforce the nation’s borders, at a funeral. Welcome to 2018.

In response, Trump could have gone on a rant. He could have pushed back against the almost certain efforts to chide him by establishment politicians who have had power for decades — basically, the very people he was elected to counter.

Instead, Trump posted just four words on Twitter on the evening of McCain’s funeral.

It wasn’t a lot. It didn’t have to be.

For Trump opponents, nothing the president said would have mattered.

For Trump supporters, those four words said it all.

ABOUT THE COMMENTATOR:

Benjamin Arie has been a political junkie since the hotly contested 2000 election. Ben settled on journalism after realizing he could get paid to rant. He cut his teeth on car accidents and house fires as a small-town reporter in Michigan before becoming a full-time political writer.

4 Key Points Nobody’s Addressing About Trump’s Federal Pay Decision


Reported By Fred Lucas | September 1, 2018 at

12:52pm

URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournal.com/4-key-points-nobodys-addressing-trumps-federal-pay-decision/

President Donald Trump makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday.

President Donald Trump makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday. (Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images)

President Donald Trump announced he’s not granting the usual 2.1 percent pay hike for federal employees, prompting staunch opposition from many Democratic lawmakers. It’s the latest move by the Trump administration to try to rein in excessive compensation packages for federal employees, after the president signed three executive orders in May.

“Specifically, I have determined that for 2019, both across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases will be set at zero,” Trump’s letter notifying Congress said Thursday. “These alternative pay plan decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce.”

Here’s a look at what the pay freeze could mean.

1. Fiscal Impact

In his letter to Congress Thursday, Trump asserted the pay hikes would not be responsible at this time:

“I view the increases that would otherwise take effect as inappropriate.

“Under current law, locality pay increases averaging 25.70 percent, costing $25 billion, would go into effect in January 2019, in addition to a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase for the base general schedule. We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases.”

However, the impact may be negligible, said Rachel Greszler, a research fellow in economics, budget and entitlements with the Heritage Foundation.

“Basically, it’s not the most efficient reduction in spending or excessive pay, but it’s all the administration can do on their own,” Greszler told The Daily Signal. “And pay increases shouldn’t be automatic.”

2. Current Federal Compensation

In recent years, the Congressional Budget Office and conservative think tanks the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute all produced reports finding federal compensation packages far outpace the private sector.

Further, the government watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com found that one in five of employees at the 78 largest federal agencies has a salary that is six figures. Another 30,000 rank-and-file career government employees earn more than any governor.

A 2017 CBO report estimated taxpayers compensate federal workers with 17 percent more than what similar employees – with comparable education, skills and experience – earn in the private sector.

The Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration estimated the federal government would spend $337 billion in 2017 on the civilian federal workforce.

Also, with seniority comes at least two pay hikes for some years under the current system. All federal employees generally get a cost-of-living adjustment that is not based on performance. Second, federal employees are paid for each “step increase” they move up in the system based on seniority, which provides a 3 percent hike.

Federal employees get a retirement contribution of between 15 and 18 percent of their pay, while private sector employees average 3 to 5 percent, according to a 2016 Heritage Foundation study. Federal employees also contribute significantly less to their retirement, as taxpayers fund the bulk of the pensions.

3. Performance Pay

Greszler co-authored a 2016 Heritage Foundation study that estimated a performance-based system would reduce federal personnel costs by $26.7 billion.

In his letter to Congress on Thursday, Trump made what seemed to be a long-term point.

“In light of our nation’s fiscal situation, federal employee pay must be performance-based, and aligned strategically toward recruiting, retaining, and rewarding high-performing federal employees and those with critical skill sets,” Trump said. “Across-the-board pay increases and locality pay increases, in particular, have long-term fixed costs, yet fail to address existing pay disparities or target mission critical recruitment and retention goals.”

Simply holding off on raises won’t accomplish anything without broader civil service reform, said Robert Moffit, senior fellow in domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.

“The federal pay system does not effectively reward the most talented and productive because the system is highly standardized,” Moffit told The Daily Signal. “Federal employees in many cases should be paid more and many should be paid less. We need more employees in some areas and less in others.”

4. What Trump Has Done So Far

In keeping with the president’s “drain the swamp” reform efforts, the Trump administration has pushed for civil service reforms in budget proposals to Congress with little action.

However, Congress did pass and the president signed a law to make it easier to fire bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs following the VA waiting list scandal in which employees had doctored lists, leaving some veterans to wait excessively long times for care.

Congress has left most of the rest of the federal bureaucracy untouched. However, on May 25, Trump issued an executive order to move the ball on civil service reform.

One order holds nonproductive workers more accountable by speeding up the disciplinary and appeals process. In many cases, it takes more than a year to remove an employee. The order also limits the grace period to shore up their performance from 120 days to 30 days. The order also limits the ability of federal managers from simply moving employees that engaged in poor performance or illegal activity from one agency to another.

Federal agencies would share performance reviews, and also consider performance in making layoff decisions. Previously, layoffs were based on the amount of time employed by an agency.

A separate executive order limits the amount of time a federal employees can spend on union activity during work hours to no more than one-quarter of their workday. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found more than 12,500 federal workers took “official time” to work on union activities in 2017. Of them, 470 worked in the VA.

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast.

A version of this article previously appeared on The Daily Signal website under the headline “4 Key Points to Consider About Trump’s Federal Pay Decision.”

Root: Trump Just Got Mexico To Pay for the Wall and They Didn’t Even Notice


Reported By Kara Pendleton | August 30, 2018 at

5:26pm

Are you tired of winning yet? Its a common refrain seen on social media every time President Donald Trump keeps a campaign promise. But critics have plagued him with skepticism about being able to keep one of his biggest promises: building the southern border wall, and at Mexico’s expense.

But now it seems said critics may have to eat crow. According to conservative radio talk show host Wayne Allyn Root, Trump just kept that very promise and America is winning, yet again.

“That was all before President Trump announced a United States-Mexico trade agreement. Because Trump talked tough and never gave in, US workers will benefit,” he wrote. “US carmakers will benefit. US manufacturers will benefit. US taxpayers will benefit. Trump did it. He won. We all won.”

“Trump announced he will terminate NAFTA,” he continued. “While we don’t know all the details yet, I guarantee this new trade deal will save us tens of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.”

“Since the wall with Mexico costs about $25 billion, Trump just forced Mexico (whether they know it, or not) to pay for the wall. Once again, Trump accomplished what establishment politicians of both parties said could never be done.”

According to The Hill, during a “meeting with FIFA and U.S. Soccer officials about the 2026 men’s World Cup,” Trump was asked about the border wall. Trump’s response was that “the wall will be paid for very easily by Mexico. It will ultimately be paid for by Mexico.”

Following this statement, the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray Caso took to Twitter to express, again, that Mexico will not pay for the wall.

This, however, does not take into consideration the explanation Root outlined for how they actually will, knowingly or not, pay for the wall, via the trade deal.

The establishment media has been rife headlines proclaiming that, “No, Mexico won’t pay for the wall, no matter what Trump says” rhetoric.

Even on social media, his critics are disputing his claim. But, as with Caso, none have looked at the simple math of the deal the way Root did. Interestingly, on Twitter, Trump has not yet been taking a victory lap regarding the wall. He’s been hit hard for months about the wall promise but his tweets focused on other benefits of the trade deal with Mexico.

He began with high praise for all involved in making the deal happen:

He has also discussed how the deal will benefit our economy. Farmers and jobs have been big topics for Trump, even before this deal:

Root pointed out that Trump is taking a page from Rush Limbaugh’s book with a “Don’t doubt me” standard.

He wrote: “(W)ith Donald J. Trump there are no such words as ‘never’ or ‘impossible.’ Trump has chutzpah. Trump has cajones. Trump aims for the moon. Trump is combative and aggressive. Trump is driven to do what others say cannot be done. Trump is an eternal optimist. He accepts nothing less #WINNING.”

It is this, perhaps, that plays a big role in Trump’s popularity with his supporters and one-time doubters, alike. Not only has he been keeping his promises, but he tirelessly fights the good fight for America, regardless of what his critics say.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Specializing in news, politics and human interest stories, Kara Pendleton has been a professional writer and author since 2002. One of her proudest professional moments was landing an interview that even mainstream media couldn’t get.

Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies


PARIS/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

FILE PHOTO: A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official told Reuters. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”

Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km, putting Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh or the Israeli city of Tel Aviv within striking distance if the weapons were deployed in southern or western Iraq.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas. Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani is overseeing the program, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iran’s Sunni Muslim Gulf neighbors and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security. Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the missile transfers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that anybody that threatened to wipe Israel out “would put themselves in a similar danger”.

MISSILE PRODUCTION LINE

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base, the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Kerbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shi’ite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators. The Iraqi intelligence source said the al-Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former President Saddam Hussein. It was reactivated by local Shi’ite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said. A team of Shi’ite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf al-Sakhar.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One U.S official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far balked at U.S. pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile program. France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the (regional) hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

MESSAGE TO FOES

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shi’ite control and had the capacity to launch them. The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shi’ite militias to help fight Islamic State militants, but that shipments had continued after the hardline Sunni militant group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (Islamic State) militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shi’ite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shi’ite under the country’s unofficial governance system. However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Soleimani.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay in Washington; editing by David Clarke

Iran moves ballistic missiles to Iraq

Tehran’s move likely to exacerbate tensions with Washington

Published: 16:37 August 31, 2018 Gulf News

Reuters

Paris/Baghdad

Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shiite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East and to give it the means to hit regional foes, Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources said.

Any sign that Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

It would also embarrass France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new US sanctions against Tehran.

According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.

“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” one senior Iranian official said. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.” Iran has previously said its ballistic missile activities are purely defensive in nature. Iranian officials declined to comment when asked about the latest moves.

The Iraqi government and military both declined to comment.

The Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles in question have ranges of about 200 km to 700 km,.

The Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has bases in both those areas.

Quds Force commander Qassem Sulaimani is overseeing the programme, three of the sources said.

Western countries have already accused Iran of transferring missiles and technology to Syria and other allies of Tehran, such as Al Houthis in Yemen and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Gulf neighbours and its arch-enemy Israel have expressed concerns about Tehran’s regional activities, seeing it as a threat to their security.

The Western source said the number of missiles was in the 10s and that the transfers were designed to send a warning to the United States and Israel, especially after air raids on Iranian troops in Syria. The United States has a significant military presence in Iraq.

“It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base,” the Western source said.

The Iranian sources and one Iraqi intelligence source said a decision was made some 18 months ago to use militias to produce missiles in Iraq, but activity had ramped up in the last few months, including with the arrival of missile launchers.

“We have bases like that in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack America’s interests and its allies in the region,” said a senior IRGC commander who served during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Western source and the Iraqi source said the factories being used to develop missiles in Iraq were in Al Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, and Jurf Al Sakhar, north of Karbala. One Iranian source said there was also a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The areas are controlled by Shiite militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the closest to Iran. Three sources said Iraqis had been trained in Iran as missile operators.

The Iraqi intelligence source said the Al Zafaraniya factory produced warheads and the ceramic of missile moulds under former president Saddam Hussain. It was reactivated by local Shiite groups in 2016 with Iranian assistance, the source said.

A team of Shiite engineers who used to work at the facility under Saddam were brought in, after being screened, to make it operational, the source said. He also said missiles had been tested near Jurf Al Sakhar.

The US Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Tehran over the last few months has transferred missiles to groups in Iraq but could not confirm that those missiles had any launch capability from their current positions.

Washington has been pushing its allies to adopt a tough anti-Iran policy since it reimposed sanctions this month.

While the European signatories to the nuclear deal have so far baulked at US pressure, they have grown increasingly impatient over Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

France in particular has bemoaned Iranian “frenzy” in developing and propagating missiles and wants Tehran to open negotiations over its ballistic weapons.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that Iran was arming regional allies with rockets and allowing ballistic proliferation. “Iran needs to avoid the temptation to be the [regional] hegemon,” he said.

In March, the three nations proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its missile activity, although they failed to push them through after opposition from some member states.

“Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,” a document from the three European countries said at the time.

A regional intelligence source also said Iran was storing a number of ballistic missiles in areas of Iraq that were under effective Shiite control and had the capacity to launch them.

The source could not confirm that Iran has a missile production capacity in Iraq.

A second Iraqi intelligence official said Baghdad had been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles to Shiite militias to help fight Daesh militants, but that shipments had continued after the group was defeated.

“It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh militants but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in regional conflict,” the official said.

The Iraqi source said it was difficult for the Iraqi government to stop or persuade the groups to go against Tehran.

“We can’t restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because simply the firing button is not in our hands, it’s with Iranians who control the push button,” he said.

“Iran will definitely use the missiles it handed over to Iraqi militia it supports to send a strong message to its foes in the region and the United States that it has the ability to use Iraqi territories as a launch pad for its missiles to strike anywhere and anytime it decides, the Iraqi official said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a law in 2016 to bring an assortment of Shiite militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) into the state apparatus. The militias report to Iraq’s prime minister, who is a Shiite under the country’s unofficial governance system.

However, Iran still has a clear hand in coordinating the PMF leadership, which frequently meets and consults with Sulaimani.

North Korea Sends Hostile Letter, Then Mattis Announces New War Games


Reported By Steven Beyer | August 28, 2018 at 1:17pm

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has announced that the United States will ramp up military exercises with South Korea just days after North Korea sent a hostile letter to President Donald Trump. The United States had previously suspended military exercises with South Korea as a good faith measure when North Korea decided to start the denuclearization process.

However, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, “We took the step to suspend several of the largest military exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans to suspend anymore.”

He followed up his comment by saying, “We’ll make decisions on that in consultation with State.”

Mattis also told reporters that he’s working with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and that the diplomatic efforts are all “riding on [Pompeo’s] shoulders.”

In June, Trump announced he was suspending “war games” with South Korea and that when it comes to North Korea and denuclearization, Kim Jong Un “wants to get it done.”

The president also said of Kim, “I do trust him.”

On Twitter, the president said at the time of the decision, “We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are.”

Mattis’ announcement comes days after Trump announced that he was canceling Pompeo’s trip to the Korean peninsula.

“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the president said via Twitter.

It was later reported by the Washington Post that North Korea had secretly sent what many believe to be a hostile letter to Trump. In addition, North Korea’s state-run newspaper accused Washington on Sunday of plotting to “unleash a war”  with “a smile on it’s face” while denuclearization talks were ongoing.

Moreover, North Korean media accused the United States of sending special forces and a nuclear submarine to the Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea.

However, the New York Times reports that American negotiators have “confronted” the North Koreans over facilities that they believe to be nuclear. North Korea has since called the accusations “fiction” and led to the “derailing dialogue” between the U.S. and North Korea.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steven is a husband, father, and follower of Jesus. You can find him enjoying listening to or playing jazz piano, enjoying the Disney parks, or hiking the Arizona landscape.

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