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Saudi Oil Attack Photos Implicate Iran, U.S. Says; Trump Hints at Military Action

The Trump administration intensified its focus on Iran Sunday as the likely culprit behind attacks on important Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, with officials citing intelligence assessments to support the accusation and President Trump warning that he was prepared to take military action.

The government released satellite photographs showing what officials said were at least 17 points of impact at several Saudi energy facilities from strikes they said came from the north or northwest. That would be consistent with an attack coming from the direction of the Persian Gulf, Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen, where the Iranian-backed Houthi militia that claimed responsibility for the strikes operates.

Administration officials, in a background briefing for reporters as well as in separate interviews on Sunday, also said a combination of drones and cruise missiles — “both and a lot of them,” as one senior United States official put it — might have been used. That would indicate a degree of scope, precision and sophistication beyond the ability of the Houthi rebels alone.

Mr. Trump, however, did not name Iran, saying he needed to consult with Saudi Arabia first.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” he said in a tweet on Sunday evening. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that Iran was behind what he called “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” and asserted that there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” He did not, however, say where they came from, and the Saudis refrained from directly blaming Iran.

Saudi Oil Facilities Attacked

By The New York Times

The administration’s determination that Iran played a direct role in the attack marked a significant escalation in months of back-and-forth tensions between the United States and Iran. It raised questions about how Washington might retaliate — and why Iran would have risked such a confrontation.

Mr. Trump’s threat echoed one he made in June after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone. He said then that the military had been “cocked and loaded” for a strike against Iran.

He said he called off the strike with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack, which he said would have been disproportionate.

Administration officials said on Sunday they would seek to declassify more intelligence to buttress their case against Iran in the coming days. The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of the facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.

American officials said that more than 17 weapons were directed at the Saudi facilities, but not all reached their targets. Forensic analyses of the recovered weapons could answer questions about what they were, who manufactured them and who launched them.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160299636_49e4ca0e-6e40-40f5-962d-cb82ffa0e332-articleLarge Saudi Oil Attack Photos Implicate Iran, U.S. Says; Trump Hints at Military Action Zarif, Mohammad Javad Yemen United States International Relations United States Saudi Arabia Rouhani, Hassan Pompeo, Mike Iran Houthis Drones (Pilotless Planes)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused Iran of being behind “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”CreditChristopher Smith for The New York Times

Iran forcefully rejected Mr. Pompeo’s accusation on Sunday, with the foreign minister dismissing it as “max deceit.” The office of the Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, also rejected any suggestion that Iranian operatives carried out the attack from Iraqi territory, saying Iraq would act firmly if its territory were used to attack other countries.

If Iran, or one of its proxies in Iraq or Yemen, carried out the attacks, it would fit into a strategy Iran has followed for months in its escalating confrontation with the Trump administration.

Squeezed by sweeping American sanctions on its oil sales, Iran has sought to inflict a similar pain on its adversaries — threatening the ability of Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the Persian Gulf to sell oil and holding out the possibility of driving up international oil prices in the months before President Trump seeks re-election.

“Iran wants to show that instead of a win-lose contest, Iran can turn this into a lose-lose dynamic for everyone,” said Ali Vaez, head of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group.

Yet Iran has stopped short of carrying out the kind of direct, open attack on United States allies that might trigger a military response, preferring to let regional allies do the work or at least share the blame.

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How the War in Yemen Became a Bloody Stalemate — and the Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World

Saudi Arabia thought a bombing campaign would quickly crush its enemies in Yemen. But three years later, the Houthis refuse to give up, even as 14 million people face starvation.

“Plausible deniability is a trademark of Iran’s pushback strategy,” Mr. Vaez said.

The combination of military pressure and deniability also fits with a strategy of increasing Iran’s bargaining power before possible talks at the United Nations this month.

President Emanuel Macron of France has said he hopes the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, which opens Tuesday, will be an opportunity for de-escalation between the United States and Iran. The recent hostilities began when the Trump administration withdrew last year from an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and then this year imposed sweeping sanctions to try to force Iran into a more restrictive covenant.

Several other world powers, including France, also signed the original agreement and still support it, and Mr. Macron has said he hopes to hold talks at the General Assembly about saving the agreement. Mr. Trump said this month that he was open to a possible meeting there with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

Even as Iranian diplomats denied any role in the attack, others close to Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. were reveling in the damage at the Saudi oil facilities, which process the vast majority of the country’s crude output.

The Trump administration, said Naser Imani, a former member of the guard’s political bureau, should take it as a warning to the United States and its Persian Gulf partners.

A satellite image released by the American government of an oil-processing facility in Abqaiq. Officials said it shows that the attack came from the north or northwest, consistent with an attack from Iran or Iraq, however this photo appears to show damage on the western side of the tanks.CreditU.S. Government/DigitalGlobe, via Associated Press

“If a few Houthis can cause this extensive damage, imagine what Iran could do if it was forced into a military conflict,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Iran has proved in the past few months that it has the will to pull the trigger as well as the military power to do so.”

A military strategist with the Revolutionary Guards, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, also questioned whether the Houthis alone could have carried out such a complex and effective attack without Iranian help.

But whoever carried out the attack, the Iranian strategist said, the message to the West and its regional allies was the same. If the United States strikes Iran, “the flames of war in the Persian Gulf will burn you all,” he said.

A senior commander for the Revolutionary Guards insisted that the country was ready for “full-fledged” war, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles,” said Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ air force.

How the Trump administration responds remains to be seen. Breaking with a pattern under both Democratic and Republican presidents, the Trump administration has said that it intends to hold Iran fully responsible for any attacks carried out by the Houthis or other regional allies that the administration deems Iranian proxies.

Previous administrations have said that Iran was arming and training allied groups such as the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and Shiite militias in Syria or Iraq to extend its regional influence. Yet in the past, the United States has generally declined to retaliate against Iran militarily even when those groups have attacked the American military, as Iranian-backed Shiite militias did during American occupation of Iraq.

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Obama Bro Ben Rhodes Bursts In Like the Kool-Aid Man to Shill for Iran After Deadly Attacks

Westlake Legal Group vietor-rhodes-620x404 Obama Bro Ben Rhodes Bursts In Like the Kool-Aid Man to Shill for Iran After Deadly Attacks Shilling Saudi Arabia Politics Nuclear Deal. Syria mullahs Islamic Dictators Iran Front Page Stories Front Page Flack Featured Story democrats Cruise Missiles ben rhodes attacks

Tommy Vietor, left, former National Security Council spokesman, and Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Adviser. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Yesterday, massive explosions rocked a Saudi Arabian oil field, shutting down 5% of the world’s production. As my colleague streiff shared earlier today, we didn’t have to wait long to find out who did it. If you had Iran as the aggressor, congrats, although that’s not a difficult guess these days. It appears cruise missiles, possibly fired by Iranian backed militias in Iraq, were used in the attack.

Mike Pompeo confirmed that Iran was the backing for the operation, as the cruise missiles are theirs and only their proxies use them.

Never fear though. Obama bro Ben Rhodes is on the case and he’s here to let us know that Iran wasn’t actually responsible.

Rhodes has never met a situation where he doesn’t run to side with the Mullahs. The relationship he has with them and the sheer amount of shilling he does in their favor leaves a lot of open questions. Just why is he so invested in propping up a brutal Islamic dictatorship? What’s in it for Rhodes?

Of course, what Rhodes says there is nonsensical garbage. The Houthis are being controlled by Iran and they are also financing and supplying their war effort.

Want a clear example of media bias? Notice how during the Obama administration, not once did a major outlet question the qualifications of Ben Rhodes. This despite the fact that he had zero foreign policy experience and was a failed writer until Obama inexplicably put him at his right hand. Meanwhile, they lost their minds over Nikki Haley going to the UN and Trump bringing on numerous generals.

Rhodes oversaw one of the most disastrous foreign policy regimes in modern history. His delusional Arab Spring push set the entire Middle East on fire and over half a million people died in Syria because of his pacifism of Iran and inaction on the battlefield. The only thing he managed to get done was a useless nuclear deal with Iran, which they never had intentions of following anyway.

While the current media complex won’t call this clown out, hopefully history won’t be as kind.


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The post Obama Bro Ben Rhodes Bursts In Like the Kool-Aid Man to Shill for Iran After Deadly Attacks appeared first on RedState.

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Mike Pompeo Blames Iran For Massive Attack On Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities

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Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Earlier today a major Saudi Arabian crude oil field was hit by an attack. The first reports said that the attack had been carried out by 10 drones (I don’t know how they convinced Jim Swift and the rest of the Bulwark gang to strap on explosive jet packs and yet… okay, that’s a joke, there is no known jetpack that could lift Swift) and the Iranian allied and supported Houthis in Yemen claimed responsibility.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this oil field produces about 5% of the world’s crude oil and is now off line. The Saudis claim they will have it back in operation by Monday. The operative word is “claim.”

Some things in the story, however, never made sense. For instance, the range was well over 500 miles from Houthi territory (here I’m just measuring from the Yemeni border) which is extreme for the drones they have, particularly if they are carrying enough ordnance to cause the damage we see in the video. The Houthi use the Iranian Qasef-1 drone which has a range of about less than 300 miles on a suicide mission and can carry a payload of about 60-lbs. Blame me for the bad graphic:

Westlake Legal Group saudi-strikes-620x710 Mike Pompeo Blames Iran For Massive Attack On Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities Yemen Saudi Arabia Politics Mike Pompeo Iran International Affairs Houthi Front Page Stories Foreign Policy Featured Story Allow Media Exception

It didn’t take long, however, for imagery to be produced that indicated something different:

What you’re looking at there appears to be a cruise missile that pancaked enroute. This makes much more sense than an drone because the we know the Houthi have deployed cruise missiles before and the range and payload make the attack and the damage from the attack plausible.

Operative word: plausible.

Just a couple of hours ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo killed off a perfectly good narrative.

What does he mean that there is no evidence the attack came from Yemen?

Saudi and American officials are investigating the possibility that attacks on Saudi oil facilities Saturday involved cruise missiles launched from Iraq, questioning Yemeni rebel claims of responsibility, people familiar with the matter said.

But officials around the globe investigating the attack questioned the Houthi claims and suggested the strike may have come from Iraq, to the north, rather than Yemen, to the south. Iran supports a host of Shiite militias in Iraq.

A direct attack of this scale on Saudi Arabia by Iranian proxy forces in Iraq definitely is a different situation than Yemeni rebels shooting cruise missiles. Rather than the low grade war that Saudi Arabia is involved in with the Houthi, this now threatens to be come a much more significant and broader conflict that could suck in the United States and Israel.

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The post Mike Pompeo Blames Iran For Massive Attack On Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities appeared first on RedState.

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Report: Trump considering allowing a $15 billion bailout of Iran

Westlake Legal Group t-7 Report: Trump considering allowing a $15 billion bailout of Iran Trump The Blog Sanctions pallets of cash nuclear loan Iran France Bolton

Another day, another suspiciously damaging leak involving Iran policy in the post-Bolton era.

Remember the Republican uproar about “pallets of cash” being shipped to Iran under the Obama nuclear deal? Trump himself frequently brings that up when criticizing the deal. He’s totally right that Iran got big bucks in return for agreeing to Obama’s terms, although the money in question was actually Iran’s to begin with. Most of it consisted of Iranian assets abroad that had been frozen while U.S. sanctions were in place; once the sanctions were lifted, the cash was finally transferred. But Trump’s point stands: What the hell was O doing greenlighting a massive economic windfall for the mullahs as part of a nuclear bargain that did nothing more in the end than temporarily suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment program?

So here we are a few years later and Trump is reportedly considering doing the same thing. Once again money owed to Iran (for oil) is frozen due to an America’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. And once again, in the interest of diplomacy, the president is weighing whether to let money be released to the mullahs. Not even as part of a deal in this case — as a goodwill gesture to simply get the two sides to the table so that they can discuss a deal. Said one critic last night on Twitter, “It’s like we’re running an experiment to see if grassroots Republicans would’ve supported the Obama presidency if only he were an old vulgar Manhattan elite.”

The $15 billion in this case would consist of a line of credit brokered by France. It’s not the same as O’s deal in all particulars, in other words — sanctions aren’t being lifted but rather an exception to them is being made. Iranian assets aren’t being unfrozen but cash is being made available. In both cases, though, Iran is being thrown an economic lifeline with America’s blessing in return for abiding by the terms of Obama’s nuclear deal.

The deal put forward by France would compensate Iran for oil sales disrupted by American sanctions. A large portion of Iran’s economy relies on cash from oil sales. Most of that money is frozen in bank accounts across the globe. The $15 billion credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil. In exchange for the cash, Iran would have to come back into compliance with the nuclear accord it signed with the world’s major powers in 2015. Tehran would also have to agree not to threaten the security of the Persian Gulf or to impede maritime navigation in the area. Lastly, Tehran would have to commit to regional Middle East talks in the future…

The French proposal would require the Trump administration to issue waivers on Iranian sanctions. That would be a major departure from the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign to exact financial punishments on the regime in Tehran. Ironically, during his time in office, President Barack Obama followed a not-dissimilar approach to bring the Iranians to the negotiating table, throttling Iran’s economy with sanctions before pledging relief for talks. The negotiations resulted in the Iran nuke deal that President Trump called “rotten”—and pulled the U.S. out of during his first term…

Several sources told The Daily Beast that foreign officials are expecting Trump to either agree to cooperate on the French deal or to offer to ease some sanctions on Tehran.

Bolton objected “vociferously” to the idea, the Daily Beast was told. (By whom, I wonder!) And who can blame him? As Josh Barro put it, “I don’t understand the point of withdrawing from the Iran deal and sanctioning Iran but then giving Iran financial aid to offset the effects of the sanctions in order to induce them to stay in the deal.” Does Trump want to cancel Obama’s deal and try to bring Iran to its knees with economic warfare or does he want to keep the deal in place and pull back on sanctions? His stick-and-carrot approach seems to be to beat the enemy with a stick and feed the enemy carrots at the same time.

Trump’s erratic Iran policy is swerving towards a reprise of Obama’s policy, notes Philip Klein, minus any overarching regional strategy:

At least in Obama’s case, it could be argued that the administration was consistent. They believed a policy of appeasing Iran would strengthen moderates, and reorient the Middle East, and they were hostile toward traditional U.S. allies in the region — the Arab states and Israel.

In Trump’s case, however, his Iran policy is all over the place. He decided to pull out of the Iran deal, but then short arm the “maximum pressure” campaign, and now wants to offer concessions in exchange for a meeting that would be a diplomatic coup for Iran without doing anything to advance U.S. interests. It’s unclear why Trump wanted to pull out of the deal in the first place if this is how he followed through.

If Trump thinks Obama’s nuclear deal is so terrible, Klein argues, the last thing he should want to do is keep its terms viable diplomatically. That’ll make it easy for a Democratic successor to recommit to it. Yet that’s exactly what he’s doing by dangling sanctions relief, whether in the form of France’s credit line or outright suspension of sanctions by the U.S., in exchange for Iran agreeing to reimplement O’s deal and sit down for talks with him and Mike Pompeo. He was asked yesterday by reporters whether he might ease sanctions on Iran, in fact, and didn’t rule it out. Meanwhile, Iran’s president has been adamant that he won’t talk to Trump unless and until sanctions are softened as a precondition. Iran’s driving a hard bargain and POTUS seems inclined to take it. The most you can say for Macron’s idea about a line of credit is that it would let Trump save face — a little — by putting some money in Iran’s hands ahead of talks without requiring the U.S. to make a major concession, like formally suspending sanctions. But again, the effect is the same. Pressure on Iran will be reduced. The Obama nuclear deal will be revived. Perhaps temporarily. Perhaps not.

I think this is what we’re in for on foreign policy generally over the next year. When Trump took office he was eager to show he was a tough guy. He bombed Assad; he threatened Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury;” he tore up Obama’s nuclear deal; he declared trade war on China. In each case he hoped the enemy would respond with capitulation. In each case it didn’t, so he’s in dealmaker mode now. He’s had two summits with his new friend Kim and is all but begging Iran to give him another. As economic forecasts turn darker ahead of the election, he’ll be frantic to make a deal with China that ends the tariff pain. If he can’t get a “win” playing hardball, he’s prepared to switch to softball — even if that means luring Iran back towards the term of the Obama accords that he supposedly despises.

But maybe it doesn’t matter. Aaron Kliegman is right that the recent standoff between Trump and Iran is really just the natural end of Obama’s agreement with the mullahs except on a sped-up timetable. The deal by its own terms was set to lapse in the next decade, freeing Iran to return to aggressive uranium enrichment and forcing western powers into a new conundrum about what to do about it. Well, that’s what’s happening now. Obama endorsed this crisis. He just didn’t expect his successor would be dealing with it.

The post Report: Trump considering allowing a $15 billion bailout of Iran appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump Wants Big Diplomatic Wins. Here Are the Odds.

WASHINGTON — John R. Bolton has left the Situation Room, and President Trump is left at the table with a giant set of chips set on hot spots around the world.

In Mr. Trump’s view, the clock is ticking: He needs some big victories between now and the election in November 2020. But he also wants to prove that his idiosyncratic approach to foreign policy — as a series of deals rather than a philosophy of how American hard and soft power is deployed — can produce results that have eluded Washington’s foreign policy establishment for a decade or more.

Here’s a look at six issues on the table.

Ask Mr. Trump about his negotiations with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and he will tell you he is already winning: He was the first American president to meet a North Korean leader — three times now — and the first to step, briefly, into North Korean territory. He has gotten back the remains of American soldiers and won a pause, which has lasted nearly two years, in nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. It all led Mr. Trump to declare on Twitter, after his first meeting with Mr. Kim in Singapore, that North Korea was “no longer a Nuclear Threat.”

The only problem is that the North’s nuclear ability has increased since that meeting, by some estimates significantly. Intelligence estimates indicate that the North’s stockpile of fuel has swelled, and so has its missile arsenal. Short-range missile tests have improved Mr. Kim’s ability to strike American bases in South Korea and Japan with a new generation of weapons intended to avoid missile defenses. And the North hasn’t turned over a list of its weapons, missiles and facilities, which was supposed to be the first step.

Mr. Trump remains convinced that Mr. Kim will be impressed by the prospect of new hotels on the (heavily mined) beaches of North Korea’s east coast. The whole country, he notes, is a great property, with easy access to China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. The only issue is whether he can persuade his new friend to give up the weapons that, in the North Korean leader’s view, have kept him in office. That may mean settling with partial steps — starting with a nuclear freeze — on the way to a bigger deal that may or may not happen.

Prospects for a win: Next to none, unless Mr. Trump changes the goals. It is more likely he will agree to incremental reductions and call it a victory.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160210131_b9fd2d00-0986-4f9a-b012-dc2a82d262e3-articleLarge Trump Wants Big Diplomatic Wins. Here Are the Odds. Xi Jinping United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons North Korea Middle East Kim Jong-un Iran General Assembly (UN) Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R Afghanistan

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear technology organization, in April.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Trump administration, there is no more existential threat than Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sees it as the source of virtually all trouble in the Middle East, and Mr. Trump kept insisting to a series of aides that the only way to get a good deal with Iran was to destroy the 2015 nuclear agreement, which he dismissed as “terrible” and a giveaway because it did not forever ban Iran from making nuclear fuel.

Mr. Bolton, who before joining the administration was an advocate of American-led regime change in Iran, was an enthusiast of the “maximum pressure” campaign. And indeed it has been more successful than most experts expected. Iran’s oil revenues have plunged, its economy is shrinking and some of its elites are beginning to wonder whether it’s time to acknowledge the inevitable, which is to negotiate with a president they can’t stand.

All eyes are on the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in 10 days. Mr. Trump and even Mr. Pompeo have said they are ready to negotiate without preconditions, and could meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

“I do believe they would like to make a deal,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. “If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great, too.”

He insisted the goal remained the same. “They never will have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If they are thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it.”

The wild card here is Mr. Rouhani because he is unwilling to meet until sanctions are lifted, or so he says.

Prospects for a win: Not bad. The Iranians have a long history of changing their minds and negotiating when there are no other options. And unlike North Korea, they have no nuclear weapons, so they have less to give up.

Every time Mr. Trump goes to Camp David, he sees pictures of Jimmy Carter, whose cabin-to-cabin diplomacy in 1978 brought peace between Israel and Egypt. Some aides think that inspired Mr. Trump to invite the Taliban — who gave haven to Al Qaeda to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — to the presidential retreat. Mr. Bolton’s argument that this was a crazy idea precipitated this week’s rupture.

But it’s hardly over. The “peace deal” Mr. Trump is touting isn’t the Camp David accords. It would call for a “reduction in violence” and the beginning of a dialogue about power sharing between the Taliban and the American-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. Few think it will lead to true peace. But it may be enough to give Mr. Trump the chance to significantly reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

Prospects for a win: Fairly high. The only people who want American troops out more than Mr. Trump are the Taliban.

President Xi Jinping of China at the Group of 20 summit this year in Osaka, Japan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Trump miscalculated when it came to challenging President Xi Jinping of China: He thought Mr. Xi would fold as tariffs took their toll. So far, Mr. Xi has not folded, and market jitters are a reflection of the fear that the world’s two largest economies could tank simultaneously.

The bigger problem facing the Trump administration is that after nearly 32 months in office, it has no integrated China strategy.

Mr. Pompeo and many in the military establishment view Mr. Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, as determined to spread the country’s influence through Africa, Latin America and, increasingly, Europe — and to use its technology, led by Huawei-produced networks, to exercise control. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other members of the economics team are convinced that Mr. Xi, in the end, will take the best economic deal he can.

And Mr. Trump, forever seeking flexibility, gyrates between these two posts, sometimes declaring China’s progress on 5G networks, artificial intelligence and quantum computing a national security threat, and at other times suggesting that supplying those efforts is up for negotiation.

Prospects for a win: Poor. Mr. Xi is playing a long game, and Mr. Trump is playing for November 2020.

The president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have taken two years to study Middle East peace — “the deal of the century,” Mr. Trump called it — and when they revealed the first part of the plan, it was all about getting wealthy Arab states, among others, to invest tens of billions of dollars in the Palestinian territories, as well as in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

But key decision makers avoided the conference, and with Israel in the midst of its own campaign season, the political side of the plan won’t be released until after the election — if then. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pre-empted the whole proposal this week with his pre-election promise to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank — reducing any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel.

Prospects for a win: On life support. No evidence supports the idea that Mr. Kushner will succeed where others have failed.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this month. Mr. Trump pushed for Russia to be allowed back into the Group of 7, despite the country’s annexation of Crimea.CreditMikhail Klimentyev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Alone among his foreign policy advisers, Mr. Trump believes the key to dealing with Russia is reintegration, letting the country back into the Group of 7, forgiving (or ignoring) its annexation of Crimea and never mentioning its effort to influence the 2016 election, a charge he has dismissed as a “hoax.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is gearing up for a fundamental shift in policy in which Russia and China are regarded as “revisionist” states that must be challenged. And the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency say they are constantly creating plans to counter Russian malign influence in the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump argues “there is no reason for this,” and says that with a little help to the Russian economy, President Vladimir V. Putin would be a lot easier to deal with. With Mr. Bolton gone, Mr. Trump may well try to negotiate an extension to the New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.

But when it comes to lifting sanctions, Mr. Trump has run into a brick wall with his own party, whose leaders say they have no intention of reversing decades of hawkish views on containment.

Prospects for a win: Mr. Trump is not playing poker here — he’s playing solitaire. The only possible victory is an arms control treaty extension.

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Trump Tells Reporters Bolton Was A ‘Disaster’ On North Korea And ‘Out Of Line’ On Venezuela

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President Donald Trump told reporters gathered at the White House Wednesday that now-ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton was a ‘disaster’ on policy related to North Korea, stepped out of line when it came to Venezuela, and had trouble getting along with other administration officials Trump considered invaluable.

Trump was particularly annoyed with Bolton for offending Kim Jong Un with a suggestion that the North Korean leader follow a “Libyan model” of negotiation by turning over his nukes.

“We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model … what a disaster,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“He’s using that to make a deal with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that, and he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough. That’s a question of being not smart to say something like that.”

Trump also expressed frustration with the fact that Nicolas Maduro continues to hold on in Venezuela and wasn’t responding to the sanctions and pressure strategy the U.S. was employing. Bolton was said to be a major purveyor of that strategy.

Bolton was also said to be a hard liner when it came to Iran and some reports are indicating Trump is “flirting” with lifting sanctions on Iran or backing a French plan to pay them to come back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal.

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Trump Leaves Open Possibility of Easing Iranian Sanctions to Spur Nuclear Talks

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WASHINGTON — President Trump left open the possibility on Wednesday of relaxing economic sanctions against Iran before starting new nuclear negotiations, seeming to undercut his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran in favor of striking a diplomatic deal.

Hours earlier, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said that the United States must lift its bruising sanctions before officials in Tehran would be ready to talk.

Mr. Trump stressed his view that Iran’s economy is suffering, and that the leadership in Tehran is eager for negotiations.

“I do believe they’d like to make a deal,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “If they do, that’s great; and if they don’t, that’s great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.”

He shrugged when asked if he would consider easing the sanctions to secure a meeting with Iran.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said.

Though Mr. Trump has previously offered to talk to Iran’s leaders, his comments on Wednesday appeared to be the first time he has publicly left open the door to softening his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. The shift would have been stridently opposed by John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser who was unceremoniously ousted on Tuesday.

For nearly a year, the Trump administration has threatened economic penalties against foreign governments and businesses seeking to invest in Iran, or to buy its oil and other goods. The isolation campaign has crippled Iran’s economy and frustrated countries, including China and India, that rely on its oil.

Other allies, particularly in Europe, were infuriated in May 2018 when Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear accord that Iran struck with world powers during the Obama administration. They have sought to create a barter system with Tehran that would keep financial channels open but not violate the American sanctions, and President Emmanuel Macron of France has dangled the possibility of a $15 billion bailout to bring Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal.

Under the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, the Treasury and State Departments have ramped up sanctions against Iran to force it back into negotiations. Brian H. Hook, the State Department envoy overseeing Iran issues, told reporters last week that sanctions were essential to financially starving the government in Tehran and, in turn, making it more difficult to fund Iranian-allied fighters in conflicts across the Middle East.

“We are maintaining the maximum-pressure campaign,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

In a telephone call with Mr. Macron, reported on Wednesday by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Mr. Rouhani said that “if the sanctions remain in place, negotiations with the U.S. administration have no meaning.”

As he faces re-election next year, Mr. Trump has been searching for a diplomatic victory — not just with Iran, but also with North Korea and Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly offered to open talks with Iranian officials, without setting any conditions for the negotiations, and has raised the possibility of a meeting at the annual global forum at the United Nations this month.

A similar effort in 2017 to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani at the United Nations collapsed.

President Barack Obama never managed to meet with Mr. Rouhani, even after the nuclear deal was signed.

The closest the two presidents came was a 2013 phone call that lasted 15 minutes and was arranged by Mr. Rouhani as he departed the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Obama took the call at the White House; it was the first direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that ousted the American-backed shah.

But Mr. Trump also made clear on Wednesday that he would not bend on his vow to block Iran’s efforts to escalate the country’s nuclear program, which had been largely shelved as a result of the 2015 agreement. “If they’re thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it,” Mr. Trump said. “Because it’s going to be very dangerous for them to enrich.”

Mr. Rouhani said over the weekend that Iran was preparing to restart its production of highly enriched uranium, the material needed to build a nuclear weapon. Doing so would most likely scuttle any hope of resurrecting the nuclear accord with world powers, as Mr. Macron has been trying to do.

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Report: Trump considered easing sanctions on Iran two days ago to encourage talks — over Bolton’s strong objection

Westlake Legal Group b-6 Report: Trump considered easing sanctions on Iran two days ago to encourage talks — over Bolton’s strong objection Trump The Blog Sanctions rouhani nuclear maximum pressure khamenei Iran deal Bolton

Golly, whoever leaked this to Bloomberg must have been pretty high up the food chain to know what the president was thinking on a matter as sensitive as Iran diplomacy.

And they must have a pretty sizable axe to grind with him if they’re willing to make him sound this weak, particularly in comparison to Bolton.

Any theories? Do any current or former disgruntled national security aides with a reputation for score-settling in the press present themselves as logical suspects?

The post-Bolton era will be a golden age of natsec leaking, my friends.

President Donald Trump discussed easing sanctions on Iran to help secure a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month, prompting then-National Security Advisor John Bolton to argue forcefully against such a step, according to three people familiar with the matter.

After an Oval Office meeting on Monday when the idea came up, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin voiced his support for the move as a way to restart negotiations with Iran, some of the people said. Later in the day, Trump decided to oust Bolton, whose departure was announced Tuesday.

The White House has started preparations for Trump to meet with Rouhani this month in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly the week of Sept. 23, according to the people. It’s far from clear if the Iranians would agree to talks while tough American sanctions remain in place…

Easing any sanctions without major concessions from Iran would undercut the pressure campaign that not only Bolton, but also Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Trump have said is the only effective way to make Iran change its behavior.

Macron has discussed brokering a meeting between Trump and a top Iranian diplomat. He might end up as the conduit at the UN.

Needless to say, backing off sanctions on Iran would mean abandoning the “maximum pressure” approach Trump has taken towards the country since exiting Obama’s nuclear deal. The two sides are playing a game of chicken right now: Trump has ramped up sanctions in hopes of bringing the Iranian economy to its knees (with some success, by the way), believing that they’ll cave and agree to nuclear terms more favorable to American in exchange for sanctions relief. Iran is ramping up its enrichment program again in hopes of making Trump panic about a new crisis in the Middle East, believing that he’ll cave and start lifting sanctions as a precondition to getting them back to the bargaining table. Iran’s president has explicitly said, in fact, that they won’t talk to the United States in a meaningful way unless Trump blinks first. Who’s the chicken?

If you believe this Bloomberg story, it sounds like Trump’s the chicken. Or will be soon.

A basic problem for him in trying to stare down Iran is that he keeps signaling how reluctant he is to let this cold war turn hot. Skepticism of war is his most laudable quality as president but he’s made such a show of it that it’s ended up undercutting the effectiveness of his “madman” image. Ideally Iran would be eager to talk with Trump without preconditions because they’ve concluded that he’s so wacky and bellicose that he just might order a bombing run on Tehran after all. And he is wacky in many things. But in matters of war he’s arguably more sober than his advisors, to the point of boasting that he canceled an attack on Iran because he cares about Iranian lives just that much. Iran is sizing him up; they knows there’s a presidential election coming; they know how eager Trump is to keep his campaign promise of avoiding new military entanglements; they know from his experience with North Korea (and more recently the Taliban) how enchanted he is by big peacemaker photo ops, even if they don’t produce anything meaningful for the United States. And so they’ve concluded that it’s safe to drive a hard bargain with the “madman” after all. His carrot-and-stick approach is really all carrot.

I mean, he sent Rand Paul to feel them out on talks, for fark’s sake. How much plainer can he be that he’s desperate for diplomacy?

They probably figure they can get him to recommit to the basic framework of the Obama nuclear deal so long as they add a few token bells and whistles and be sure to credit him lavishly with an unprecedented master stroke of diplomacy. But they’re going to test him first by refusing to agree to talks unless and until he blinks on sanctions. And now we find out that he’s thinking about blinking.

This Times piece from a few weeks ago about Iran coming around to the idea of talks with Trump caught my eye because it’s not what you’d expect in the current political climate. Trump’s polling has slipped lately. The trade war is deepening. He’s no better than a 50/50 shot at reelection. You might think that Iran would try to wait him out for 14 more months and see if they end up with a Democrat in 2021 who’s willing to reinstate the Obama nuclear deal. But no:

The new strategy, those who spoke about it said, was also predicated on dangling a foreign-policy victory to Mr. Trump that he could use to bolster his re-election prospects

If Mr. Trump wanted a “more comprehensive” deal than the existing accord, then Iran would consider his demand — and even discuss parts of its ballistic missile program and Iran’s role in the region — but in return Iran, too, would seek a more comprehensive guarantee from the United States for long-lasting economic relief, the people at the meeting said.

“This golden window of opportunity will likely not repeat in the next decade,” Sadegh Alhusseini, a senior foreign-policy and economic adviser to Mr. Jahangiri, said in a Twitter message. “This is the start of the game for Iran. Approaching U.S. elections give Iran a rare card to play with Trump.”

Iran might actually prefer a dovish Republican in office to a Democrat. Most of the hawkish impulse towards the country within the U.S. comes from the right, after all. With a Democrat in charge, those right-wing hawks are free to agitate for war, or at least “maximum pressure” in the form of sanctions. With Trump in office, they can’t. It’d be “disloyal” to the president to do so. It’s Trump’s party now, not John Bolton’s. So for Iran, friendly relations with Trump is basically a risk-free gamble. If they hand him a diplomatic win and he’s reelected, he’ll owe them in his second term and will be eager to build on the fledgling detente. If they hand him a diplomatic win and he loses, his Democratic successor will be reluctant to toss Iran’s olive branch to Trump aside and resume a hostile posture. It’s Democrats even more so than Republicans who want better relations with Iran, after all.

So what do they lose by talking to him and just maybe nailing down a grand bargain in which America formally recognizes the regime and renounces future efforts at regime change? For cripes sake, he was willing to legitimize the Taliban with a U.S. visit without even demanding they commit to a ceasefire. He’ll have Rouhani over for a state dinner before 2020 is out. No doubt they think they can roll him, especially with Bolton now out of the picture. But just to be sure, they’re going to test him to see if he’s willing to blink on sanctions first. He probably will.

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Iran: Thank Allah that Bolton character is gone, amirite?

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The departure of National Security Adviser John Bolton from the Trump administration left everyone with a number of questions. First and foremost, did he quit or was he fired? If you’re asked to resign, that’s a little bit of both, right? We’ll probably have to wait for the next series of tell-all books to come out to have a better idea.

But there’s one group of people who probably don’t care how it happened. They’re just glad to see him gone. No, I’m not talking about Tucker Carlson, who mysteriously claimed that Bolton was “fundamentally a man of the left” last night. Nor are we discussing the many Democrats who were setting off fireworks in celebration, simply grateful that Bolton hadn’t talked Trump into another war. No, I’m speaking of the leadership in Iran. No sooner had the news broken than they were out congratulating the President on this decision and calling for an end to the “warmongering” ways of the former UN Ambassador.

Iran’s president urged the U.S. on Wednesday to “put warmongers aside” as tensions roil the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Hassan Rouhani’s remarks signaled approval of President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of John Bolton as national security adviser. Bolton had been hawkish on Iran and other global challenges.

Rouhani’s website quoted him as further urging the U.S. to “abandon warmongering and its maximum pressure policy” on Iran. He spoke at a Cabinet meeting in Tehran.

I don’t know what Rouhani’s been smoking in his hookah lately, but I suspect they should be prepared for some serious disappointment. To think that all (or even most) of our policy toward Iran was coming from John Bolton whispering in the President’s ear is more than a bit of a stretch. Trump was planning to get tough on Iran before he was even elected and it was his plan to ditch the nuclear deal and apply sanctions if Iran didn’t show some progress on eliminating their secret nuclear program.

Granted, John Bolton certainly put a more militaristic spin on things than the President generally does. And I won’t deny that he probably wouldn’t have been terribly upset if we’d wound up in a shooting war over there, but that really hasn’t been Donald Trump’s style. Aside from some missile attacks in Syria, he’s generally been quite reluctant to expand our military adventures abroad.

I’m fairly sure that Donald Trump doesn’t want to go down in the history books as the President who started another war that couldn’t be finished before he left office. In fact, despite the criticism he had for Barack Obama over pulling out of Iraq, Trump has seemed more than determined to get us out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately for him, there just isn’t a clean way to do it.

Getting back to Iran, the rest of Rouhani’s complaints were centered on Trump’s policies of “maximum pressure” and sanctions designed to force that country into compliance and cooperation with the IAEA. And again, those were not policies that were cooked up solely by John Bolton. Expecting them to change drastically now that he’s gone simply seems unrealistic.

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Ben Roback: A lesson from Bolton’s departure. With this President, it’s personality, not policy, that counts – his own.

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As the yellow Sky News ticker flashed up yesterday announcing John Bolton’s departure from the White House, a colleague said something that seemed remarkable: “Donald Trump hasn’t made news in ages”.

t wasn’t a reflection of a period of relative calm in the United States – far from it – but more of a recognition that our own parliamentary shenanigans have overtaken the political theatre usually dominated by Trump. Not that we’re keeping scores, but at least the political chicanery in Westminster has been driven by politics and technical process. In Washington, President Trump caused controversy when he changed the forecast of a hurricane’s impact with a black sharpie (see above)

Bolton’s firing should not have come as a surprise. Trump was reportedly furious with him after he disapproved of the White House’s plans to host the Taliban for peace talks at Camp David. So Trump took to Twitter – naturally – to announce that he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration”.

It has not even been 24 hours since the Bolton departure was announced, but already plenty of ink has been spilled analysing ‘what this means for X’. In truth, it is difficult to assess the implications of Bolton’s departure on US foreign policy. The Times of Israel’s analysis of what the departure means for the country, whilst excellent, begins by saying: ‘while a major change in US policy doesn’t appear to be in the offing’ – reflecting the fact that a change in personnel in this White House does not always result in a significant swing in policy.

Instead, Bolton’s leaving is yet another chapter in the never-ending book of who’s up and who’s down in Trump’s inner circle. It further proves that, when faced with honest disagreement, the President relies on his own self-belief and opinions at the expense of any notion of loyalty or challenge.

From a policy perspective, Bolton was a hawkish foreign policy adviser whose appointment came as a surprise, given his divergence with Trump on the role of the USA on the global stage. It was never clear how Bolton’s gung-ho interventionist approach would play during this ‘America First’ presidency. Bolton pursued a deeply hard-line agenda on Venezuela, North Korea and – most notably – Iran.

In the past he had called for the bombing of the country, hence Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s President, responding to the news by saying the US should put “warmongers aside”. But having pulled out of the Iran deal last year and significantly ratcheted up pressure on Iran with Bolton by his side, there is no suggestion Trump will now preside over a cooling of tensions in the region, even without the advice of Bolton.

Instead, we are more likely to see the president double down on his deeply personal approach to foreign policy. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former adviser to Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, described how “the president has unlimited and totally misplaced confidence in summitry and in the power of his personality”.

On high stakes relations with the likes of North Korea, Iran, China and Afghanistan, there will be one less dissenting voice urging the President to put his faith in his negotiating teams as opposed to his own personal relationships with presidents, prime ministers and dictators.

Foreign and defence policy have been the areas with the most churn when it comes to personnel during Trump’s tenure. There is no sign of this stopping any time soon. Trump will announce a new National Security Adviser in the next week, becoming the first president to have four such advisers in his first term. With the presidential election not taking place until November 2020, your columnist bets he will become the first president to have a fifth and sixth too.

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