American Elephants


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Remarks on Iran by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal, and the administration will continue to provide the relief from sanctions as called for by the agreement. He added that “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods.”

Today he explained more thoroughly and more specifically Iran’s role as a leading sponsor of terrorism. He made it abundantly clear that the nuclear deal is not satisfactory, and that the United States government is engaged in a very thorough review of our policies dealing with Iran.

Secretary Tillerson characterized the Iran deal as “another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions,” comparing it to North Korea. He said “we buy them off for a short period of time, and then someone has to deal with it later.” The current administration does not plan to follow that example.

Our policy is still being discussed, there is clearly sharp disagreement within the administration as to how to proceed. The Obama administration’s illusions have left it successors in a difficult position. There are no clear or good options, but we have in this new administration deep experience in dealing with such problems. Today’s tough speech is a good start, to let that part of the world know that there has been a significant change in the American posture. The grown-ups are now in charge.



An Inherited Catastrophe, A Quick Response by The Elephant's Child

Bashar Assad’s Sarin attack on the Ghowa agricultural region just outside Damascus, which has been held by rebels, was also an attack on International Law. The attacks came in early morning hours when many were still asleep. Initial estimates of the numbers of dead range upwards of 1,400, including way too many children.

Headlines in the media ranged from an irresponsible “TRUMP DECLARES WAR,” to less bellicose statements, but few recognized the very limited nature of the act. It would have been more accurately described as a direct response on the specific Syrian airfield from which the Sarin gas attacks were launched, to put that airfield out of business— and prevent further attacks. It was a correct and immediate response.

President Trump has received wide support from world leaders.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande in a joint statement said “President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development. His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned.” British Prime Minister Theresa May said the action was an “appropriate response.” Israel, Australia, Japan, Italy all expressed their support for American action and condemned the use of chemical weapons. Even Erdogan’s Turkey expressed support. The use of chemical weapons is an international war crime.

Russia predictably denounced the strike as an “act of aggression against a UN member,” and said they would demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting. Iran also condemned the US strike.

Hollywood celebrities chimed in with commentary on Twitter in about the manner you would expect. Perhaps someday they will learn that their commentary is not valued for its international expertise, but for the humor.

Barack Obama drew a Red Line in Syria, then failed to follow through and  essentially told the world that they could act with impunity, and America would do nothing. Always a mistake. Russia moved in as a military patron and Iran has become Assad’s protector on the ground with arms supplies and Hezbollah.

The next step should be to establish safe zones in Syria, with protection from possible attacks. The Wall Street Journal said:

Every military operation carries risks but this one could also have major political and strategic benefits if Mr. Trump follows the air strike with some forceful diplomacy. The demonstration of renewed U.S. purpose in the region could have an electrifying impact across the Middle East. The Saudis, the Gulf Sunni states and Turkey would begin to rethink their accommodation to the Russia-Assad-Iran axis of dominance that none of them wants.

Mr. Trump also needs to make Russia and Iran begin to pay a price for their support for Mr. Assad’s depredations. They have had no incentive to negotiate an end to the civil war because they see themselves on the road to a relatively cost-free victory. That calculus may change if it looks like the costs of intervening are rising and Mr. Assad is no longer a sure winner.

The Journal added:

The larger point for Mr. Trump to recognize is that he is being tested. The world—friend and foe—is watching to see how he responds to Mr. Assad’s war crime. His quick air strike on the evening he was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping makes clear that the Obama era is over. If he now follows with action to protect Syrian civilians and construct an anti-Assad coalition, he may find that new strategic possibilities open up to enhance U.S. interests and make the Middle East more stable.

ADDENDUM: The missile strikes were delivered while President Trump was having dinner at Mar -a-Lago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Presumably the Chinese President took notice, as did the rest of the world. A bit of a wake-up call. New administration in town.



U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley by The Elephant's Child

Dan Senor, interviews the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference. The former governor of South Carolina has only been in her new job for two months, but she is making a real difference. This is a very impressive lady. Do watch. Another remarkable appointment by President Donald Trump.



We Apparently Paid A Really Big Ransom To Iran For Our Hostages. by The Elephant's Child

The truth will out, as Shakespeare said. It doesn’t always become clear when it should, but sooner or later it does. Back in September, AEI’s Michael Rubin “testified before the House Financial Services Committee on the allegation that the Obama administration had paid Iran a ransom—at the time it was believed to be $400 million but it was later revealed that the figure was more than three times that amount—in cash for the release of American hostages held by Iran.”

At the hearing, it is now clear that State Department officials lied outright to the committee. But, lest there be any question about how the Iranian government perceived the payment received from the United States, Hossein Nejat, deputy Intelligence Director of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps yesterday bragged that Iran forced the United States to pay $1.4 billion ransom to win the release of imprisoned Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.

What does this mean for the United States? Unfortunately, the damage is already done. The cash the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps received (for they were the entity which took possession of the ransom) will fuel greater terror as well as Iran’s campaigns in Syria, Yemen, and perhaps Bahrain as well. In 2010, the United States busted the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington because the US intelligence community was monitoring bank accounts known to be operated by the Qods Force. Cash makes it far easier for Iran to move money without risk of detection.

There is a reason why the United States customarily does not pay ransom for Americans taken as hostages. Giving in puts the life of anyone else in reach of terrorist forces at risk, leaves the impression that the United States is weak, and puts our allies at risk as well. Michael Rubin says the hostage agreement should be published. Obama promised he would preside over the most transparent administration in history. Well, yes. Promises, promises. “It is now clear that State Department officials lied outright to the committee,” Rubin added. And you wonder why President Trump speaks of draining the swamp.



The “Mainstream Media” Are Lying Again. There Is No Ban On Muslims. by The Elephant's Child

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Progressives seem to have slipped their moorings once again. Donald Trump announced executive orders to fulfill his campaign promises about restricting immigration from dangerous countries until the immigrants could be effectively vetted.

In war-torn Syria, there is no effective government that can reliably say who people applying for immigration are. Reliable sources say that forged Syrian papers are widely available to anyone who has the cash. We have already lost too many of our own citizens to terrorist attack. We need to be sure that we are not admitting ISIS fighters or al Qaeda who mean to attack Americans. This is about trying to save American lives.

The ensuing uproar and protests at the airports are sponsored by George Soros who wants open borders. Other than the paid protesters, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth — “but they’re refugeeeees” — even Hillary chimed in to say  (echoing Obama) “that’s not who we are.” It is becoming really irritating to be told “who we are,” when Washington elites clearly have no idea.

The problem is precisely that we don’t know if they are refugees. The executive order also included an order to favor Christian sanctuary seekers. How dare he favor Christians over Muslims!! Religious prejudice! Constitution! Christians are far more apt to be killed by jihadists than other Muslims are, in the case if ISIS, rather spectacularly, and their wives and female children turned into sex slaves.

I ran across a quotation I saved from a piece in Forbes magazine in 2013 that seems appropriate:

None of this should surprise anyone. Contrary to what they tell you (and tell you and tell you) progressives don’t have principles. Rather they have faddish opinions that are highly unstable and often contradictory.                           Kathryn Shaidle

That makes more sense than anything else I have read lately.

The airport protesters (The Soros bunch) want open borders. In other words, we are to leave the door of our house open to anyone who might choose to wander in. We don’t have to be concerned because all people, and all refugees, are good people, just needy? Even vetted, some will slip through. Some of our terrorists were citizens, born in this country but radicalized in American Mosques or by trips abroad.

The Democrat media’s narrative is that President Trump is banning entry to possible terrorist populations Muslims because he is prejudiced against Muslims, and facts are not allowed to intrude. As Tom Lifson pointed out “Why is the United States supposed to admit Syrian refugees when oil-rich and piously Islamic Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. have not admitted a single Syrian? Their stated reason is the risk of terrorism.” So much for that faddish and unstable opinion.

From Sohrab Ahmari, writing from London, in the Wall Street Journal:

The irony is that freedom of movement is unraveling because liberals won central debates—about Islamism, social cohesion and nationalism. Rather than give any ground, they accused opponents of being phobic and reactionary. Now liberals are reaping the rewards of those underhanded victories.

Liberals refused to acknowledge the link between Islamist ideology and terrorism. For eight years under President Obama, the U.S. government refused even to say “Islamism,” claiming ludicrously that U.S. service members were going to war against “violent extremism.” Voters could read and hear about jihadists offering up their actions to Allah before opening automatic fire on shoppers and blasphemous cartoonists.

It’s strange to remember now how Europeans were welcoming “Migrants” from Syria with open arms, flowers, food, clothing and songs. It has been a long slow learning process and illusions of empathy and generosity have gone a glimmering. They refuse to admit what they have done, and what is happening on a daily basis, and their governments try to hush the minor things up, but they have “no-go” areas where it is unsafe for even police to intrude.

Democrats depend on people who don’t pay much attention to the news, cannot distinguish between “fake news” and real events. They come up with “talking points” to give their version of whatever it is that Republicans have done. President Trump has placed an immigration ban on immigrants from 7 nations that have been singled out as exceptional security risks in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension. There is no ban on Muslims.

Do you remember the media howling when President Obama banned any processing of visas for Iraqi refugees in 2011? The 2009 discovery of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green Kentucky prompted a six month ban on immigrants from Iraq. Or when President Carter suspended any issuance of visas to Iranians in 1980.

Hollywood celebrities can always be counted on to rush to the nearest  reporter to express their deep understanding of current events. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dramatically proclaimed himself a Muslim,   then included a Jew, a Gay, Black, Christian, transgendered  or a woman to make it clear that he was really inclusive. California wants to secede. Our own Gov. Inslee is filing a lawsuit—anything to distract attention from his budget request for another $11 billion in taxes because he can find no way to cut any expenditure. The Leftist media are improperly remaining in the fake news area, calling President Trump’s executive order religious bigotry, a “Muslim Ban.”

The Wall Street Journal had bet that it would take only 30 days for former president Barack Obama to start criticizing his presidential successor. But then he has never had George W. Bush’s grace. It only took 10 days. He couldn’t even wait until he finished his post-inaugural vacation. He had a spokesman issue a statement Monday afternoon reporting that the former president “is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country” against President Trump’s refugee order.

“Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” added spokesman Kevin Lewis. “With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

No one doubts that, but then Syrian refugees became a global crisis in large part because Mr. Obama did almost nothing for five years as President to stop the civil war, much less help refugees. Here are the number of Syrians his Administration admitted: fiscal year 2011, 29; 2012, 31; 2013: 36; 2014, 105; 2015, 1,682. Only in 2016 did he increase the target to 13,000, though actual admissions haven’t been disclosed. Mr. Obama also barely lifted a hand to help resettle translators who worked with GIs in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This executive order is not illegal, not unconstitutional, and not unusual. They’re just still protesting losing the election, because they can’t get over it. Pathetic.



Uncommon Knowledge with Charles Hill and James Mattis by The Elephant's Child

Charles Hill and General James Mattis on Uncommon Knowledge, July 28, 2015, discussing the Iran Deal and the state of the world with Uncommon Knowledge host Peter Robinson.They believe that the United States has handed its leading role to Iran, and essentially provided a dowry along with it. As the U.S. pulls back and the sanctions are lifted—Iran will start making oil money again. At this point the sanctions are gone.

They suggest that if we want better deals and and a stronger international presence we need to listen to other points of view, especially from the three branches of government. If we engage more with the world and use solid strategies to protect and encourage democracy and freedom at home and abroad, then we will have fewer military interventions abroad. That will put us in a better position to handle problems like ISIS. This conversation took place a year and a half ago, but remains illuminating.



Donald Trump’s Generals: The Most Renowned Wartime Commanders of Their Generation by The Elephant's Child

A blog called “Breaking Defense” has written well on Trump’s Generals. The Left, constantly looking for something horrible in Trump’s plans, finds the naming of so many retired military men to top positions will possibly undermine the principal of civilian control—as if Constitutional niceties are of enormous concern to the  Left—who have been ignoring that ancient document at their convenience for the last eight years. I’m getting really tired of the Left and their antics.

Donald Trump’s decision to lean heavily on generals in building his national security team has been received with sighs of relief by many foreign policy and national security experts. By the nature of their profession, senior military leaders tend to be pragmatic internationalists who know how to run large organizations. They understand from experience how the world works. They are generally disciplined and well-read. Having come of age on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, these generals are also intimately familiar with the horrors of war, and the second- and third-order consequences of firing the first shot. …

Indeed, the generals likely to form the top ranks of a Trump administration are among the most renowned wartime commanders of their generation. As the presumptive Secretary of Defense, retired Marine Corps General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis will have as his chief military adviser Marine Corps General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, appointed by Obama as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both flag officers earned their nicknames the old fashioned way during multiple combat tours. They are also close to retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, another combat veteran and the former commander of US Southern Command, who will reportedly serve as Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security. According to a knowledgeable source, it was Mattis who took upon himself the heartbreaking task of telling John Kelly that his son, 1st Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Trump’s Generals, Part 2: Jim Mattis vs. Iran

Trump’s Generals, Part 3: Mike Flynn vs. Al Qaeda

Trump’s Generals, Part4: John Kelly vs. The Narco-Terrorists

Like many Republicans, when President Elect Trump announced his first nominees for cabinet positions, I was reassured that Mr. Trump knew what he was doing and was getting excellent advice. After 8 years of an administration that assured us that they were completely in control of foreign policy, but could not manage to call the enemy by name or even admit that it was an enemy (junior varsity?) I was delighted. It’s a pretty impressive national security lineup. Get acquainted.




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