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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 4)

How Commandos Could Quickly Confirm They Got Their Target

WASHINGTON — When President Trump announced on Sunday morning that a special forces raid had resulted in the death of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he said two things that might have sounded contradictory.

One was that Mr. al-Baghdadi, cornered in a tunnel by American forces, had detonated a suicide vest and that “his body was mutilated by the blast.” The other was that, as Mr. Trump put it, “test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification. It was him.”

Mr. Trump did not provide any details of how that identification was made. But the quick turnaround after Mr. al-Baghdadi’s violent demise suggests that American Special Operations forces came equipped with the appropriate biometric and especially DNA technology.

The latest DNA-testing machines, which are now used by some state and local authorities, can provide a positive identification in about 90 minutes, according to David H. Kaye, a Penn State Law School professor who specializes in the field.

The known timeline of events suggests that an initial identification of Mr. al-Baghdadi came almost immediately, but that firm confirmation may have taken a few more hours.

Video

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-videoSixteenByNine3000 How Commandos Could Quickly Confirm They Got Their Target United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria pennsylvania state university Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Identification Devices Federal Bureau of Investigation DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Defense Department Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

President Trump said that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, was killed in a raid in northwestern Syria this weekend.CreditCredit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump said on Sunday that officials had gathered at the White House to monitor the raid, by Army Delta Force commandos, around 5 p.m. in Washington on Saturday. He added that American forces remained in the compound occupied by Mr. al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria for about two hours.

By 9:23 p.m., Mr. Trump was confident enough about the outcome to hint at Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death with a tweet saying, “Something very big has just happened!” But United States officials did not confirm the ISIS leader’s killing for reporters for several more hours. Mr. Trump announced it to the world from the White House on Sunday at 9 a.m.

Delta Force missions targeting so-called high value targets such as Mr. al-Baghdadi often include personnel with specialized expertise in areas ranging from intelligence collection to bomb disposal. Some are also trained in biometrics and have responsibility for helping to identify targets who are captured and killed, according to American officials familiar with the process.

When Mr. al-Baghdadi killed himself with a suicide vest, it most likely fell on members of that team to determine whether it was indeed the man they had been hunting. That can be challenging, and grisly, work, particularly when the person in question has detonated an explosive vest.

It might be possible to get fingerprint identification from a person who had died so violently, or try to scan their eyes if they remain intact. But the devices that special operators rely on in the field to use such data require that the target be a living person with a pulse to provide accurate results.

Team members would also collect DNA samples, in the form of body parts or blood. Over the past two to three years, advances in DNA technology have led to the production of portable Rapid DNA devices, which can provide accurate automated results in as little as 90 minutes. Both the Pentagon and the F.B.I. have invested in the technology.

Rapid DNA machines can be as small as a microwave, and easily stored in a military helicopter. It is not known whether the forces who conducted Saturday’s raid had one on hand. One official said that had not been the practice of special operators to date. The samples could have been flown to a military facility elsewhere for the DNA testing.

If DNA provided the positive identification, as is likely, a key question is what sample the military used to confirm a match.

Identifying someone by DNA often involves matching one sample to another that is known to come from the same person. It is possible that the United States sampled and stored Mr. al-Baghdadi’s DNA when he was imprisoned at American-run detention center in Iraq in the mid-2000s. But officials said that, given the earlier state of technology at that time, it was likely that the military retained little more than biometric data such as fingerprints and facial photos.

But DNA matches can also be conducted by comparing a person’s sample to that of a close relative.

Mr. Kaye said there was nothing particularly surprising about how quickly Mr. al-Baghdadi was identified. Even if American forces in the region lack the latest portable kits, older laboratory DNA tests now take only about eight hours to produce a reliable sample.

“It’s probably right, is the bottom line,” he said.

Heather Murphy contributed reporting.

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C.I.A. Got Tip on al-Baghdadi’s Location From Arrest of a Wife and a Courier

WASHINGTON — The surprising information about the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s general location — in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups — came following the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier this past summer, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify Mr. al-Baghdadi’s more precise whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements, allowing American commandos to stage an assault Saturday in which President Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi died.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria disrupted the meticulous planning and forced Pentagon officials to press ahead with a risky, night raid before their ability to control troops and spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared, according to military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials. Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death, they said, occurred largely in spite of Mr. Trump’s actions.

The officials praised the Kurds, who continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone. The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

The initial planning for the raid began this past summer. The Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct a secret mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, and faced huge hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia. The military called off missions at the last minute at least twice.

“It wasn’t until Thursday and then Friday the president chose his option and gave us the green light to proceed as we did yesterday,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163402746_f6ed84f3-18a9-4125-991c-d61a3ff2d1b2-articleLarge C.I.A. Got Tip on al-Baghdadi’s Location From Arrest of a Wife and a Courier United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

The site of a raid near Barisha, Syria, that was said to have resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Esper said he did not know if the United States would have been able to carry out the helicopter raid against Mr. Baghdadi’s compound had American troops been completely withdrawn from Syria, as Mr. Trump had originally planned.

“I’d have to consult with our commanders about that,” Mr. Esper said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In addition to Mr. Trump’s account, more than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials provided this chronology of the raid after the president approved the operation.

Around midnight Sunday morning — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump seemed eager to provide details of the raid during a White House news conference on Sunday.

The president said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched full-motion video of the raid that was piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. Mr. Trump said they also removed 11 children from harm’s way,

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing, apparently correctly, that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, wounding the dog and killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” The president said that Mr. Baghdadi “had dragged three of his young children with him,” and that the Islamic State leader “ignited himself, killing himself and the three children.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters took off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Transcript of Trump’s Remarks on the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Westlake Legal Group 27DC-prexy9-facebookJumbo-v2 Transcript of Trump’s Remarks on the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Terrorism Murders, Attempted Murders and Homicides Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

This is a transcript of the statement by President Trump about the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. Special Operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style.

The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it. No personnel were lost in the operation, while a large number of Baghdadi’s fighters and companions were killed with him. He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.

Eleven young children were moved out of the house uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification it was him.

The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread — terrified of the American forces bearing down on him. We were in the compound for approximately two hours, and after the mission was accomplished, we took highly sensitive material and information from the raid, much having to do with ISIS, origins, future plans, things that we very much want.

Baghdadi’s demise demonstrates America’s relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders, and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Our reach is very long. As you know, last month we announced that we recently killed Hamza bin Laden, the very violent son of Osama bin Laden, who was saying very bad things about people, about our country, about the world.

He was the heir apparent to Al Qaeda. Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them. These savage monsters will not escape their fate — and they will not escape the final judgment of God.

Baghdadi has been on the run for many years, long before I took office. But at my direction, as commander-in-chief of the United States, we obliterated his caliphate, 100 percent, in March of this year. Today’s events are another reminder that we will continue to pursue the remaining ISIS terrorists to their brutal end. That also goes for other terrorist organizations. They are likewise in our sights.

Baghdadi and the losers who worked with him — and losers they are — they had no idea what they were getting into. In some cases they were very frightened puppies, in other cases they were hard-core killers. But they killed many, many people. Their murder of innocent Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller were especially heinous. The shocking publicized murder of Jordanian pilot — a wonderful young man, spoke to the king of Jordan, they all knew him, they all loved him — who was burned alive in a cage for all to see, and the execution of Christians in Libya and Egypt, as well as the genocidal mass murder of Yazidis, rank ISIS among the most depraved organizations in the history of our world.

The forced religious conversions, the orange suits prior to so many beheadings, all of which were openly displayed for the world to see — this was all that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — this is what he wanted, this is what he was proud of. He was a sick and depraved man. And now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying. This raid was impeccable, and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people.

I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us. This was a very, very dangerous mission. Thank you as well to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible.

I want to thank the soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines involved in last night’s operation. You are the very best there is anywhere in the world, no matter where you go there is nobody even close. I want to thank Gen. Mark Milley and our Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I also want to thank our professionals who work in other agencies of the United States government and were critical to the mission’s unbelievable success.

Last night was a great night for the United States and for the world. A brutal killer, one who has caused so much hardship and death, has violently been eliminated — he will never again harm another innocent man, woman or child. He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place.

God bless America, thank you.

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ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi Is Dead, Trump Says

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Sunday that a commando raid in Syria this weekend had targeted and resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State, claiming a significant victory even as American forces are pulling out of the area.

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Mr. Trump said in an unusual nationally televised address from the White House. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a tunnel, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was pursued by American military dogs. Accompanied by three children, Mr. al-Baghdadi then detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and the children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s body was mutilated by the blast, but Mr. Trump said tests had confirmed his identity. The president made a point of repeatedly portraying Mr. al-Baghdadi as “sick and depraved” and him and his followers as “losers” and “frightened puppies,” using inflammatory, boastful language unlike the more solemn approaches by other presidents in such moments. “He died like a dog,” Mr. Trump said. “He died like a coward.”

By The New York Times

Mr. Trump said American forces, ferried by eight helicopters through airspace controlled by Russia with Moscow’s permission, were met by hostile fire when they landed and entered the target building by blowing holes through the walls rather than take chance on a booby-trapped main entrance. No Americans were killed in the operation, although Mr. Trump said one of the military dogs was injured.

For Mr. Trump, a successful operation could prove both a strategic victory in the battle against the Islamic State and a politically useful counterpoint to critics in both parties who have assailed him in recent weeks for withdrawing American troops from northern Syria, which allowed Turkey to attack and push out America’s Kurdish allies. A senior American official confirmed that Kurdish intelligence officials in both Syria and Iraq helped locate the target of the raid despite the tensions over the Turkish operation.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163395519_d6ce1336-fa3d-4cf8-8e89-f4ec2d2e5719-articleLarge ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi Is Dead, Trump Says United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

The site of a raid near Barisha, Syria, that was said to have resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But experts have long warned that even eliminating the leader of shadowy organizations like the Islamic State does not eliminate the threat. Mr. al-Baghdadi has been incorrectly reported killed before, and American military officials were concerned that Mr. Trump, who posted a cryptic message on Twitter on Saturday night teasing his Sunday announcement, was so eager to announce the development that he was getting ahead of the forensics.

A Defense Department official said before the president’s announcement that there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that Mr. al-Baghdadi was dead, but that DNA analysis was not complete. The official said that with any other president, the Pentagon would wait for absolute certainty before announcing victory. But Mr. Trump was impatient to get the news out, the official said, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper agreed to go on the Sunday morning shows as a last-minute addition to the programs to promote the apparent success.

Critics of the president’s decision to withdraw American forces quickly argued that the operation took place in spite of, not because of, Mr. Trump and that if the military had not slow-rolled his plan to withdraw, the raid would not have been possible. Rather than justifying a pullout, they said, the raid underscored the importance of maintaining an American military presence in Syria and Iraq to keep pressure on the Islamic State.

“We must keep in mind that we were able to strike Baghdadi because we had forces in the region,” said Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida and a former Army Green Beret. “We must keep ISIS from returning by staying on offense.”

Mr. al-Baghdadi has been the focus of an intense international manhunt since 2014 when the terrorist network he led stormed onto the scene in the Middle East, seizing huge swaths of Iraq and Syria with the intention of creating a caliphate for Islamic extremists. He was believed to hew to extreme security measures, even when meeting with his most-trusted associates.

American forces working with allies on the ground like the Kurdish troops abandoned by Mr. Trump in recent days have swept Islamic State forces from the field in the last couple of years, recapturing the territory it had seized.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death would be another important victory in the campaign against the Islamic State, but counterterrorism experts warned that the organization could still be a potent threat. Moreover, Mr. al-Baghdadi was no Osama bin Laden in the American psyche and hardly a household name in the United States, which may limit the psychological and political impact at home.

“The danger here is that President Trump decides once again to shift focus away from ISIS now that its leader is dead,” said Jennifer Cafarella, research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “Unfortunately, killing leaders does not defeat terrorist organizations. We should have learned that lesson after killing Osama bin Laden, after which Al Qaeda continued to expand globally.”

The raid took place on Saturday in Idlib Province, hundreds of miles from the area along the Syrian-Iraqi border where Mr. al-Baghdadi had been believed to be hiding, according to senior officials. Counterterrorism experts expressed surprise that Mr. al-Baghdadi was hiding in an area dominated by Al Qaeda groups so far from his strongholds.

However, the Islamic State has extensively penetrated Idlib Province since the fall of Raqqa, its stronghold in northeastern Syria, in late 2017. The American operation on Saturday took place in a smuggling area near the Turkish border where numerous ISIS foreign fighters have likely traversed, Ms. Cafarella said.

“It could be that he believed the chaos of Idlib would provide him with the cover he needed to blend in among hordes of jihadists and other rebels,” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center, a research organization for global security issues.

But there is also a more ominous possibility of why Mr. al-Baghdadi was in Idlib. “Baghdadi’s presence in Al Qaeda-dominated areas could signal many things,” Ms. Cafarella said. “Most dangerous among them is resumed negotiations between him and Al Qaeda leaders for reunification and/or a collaboration with Al Qaeda elements on attacks against the West.”

American counterterrorism officials have voiced increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in northwestern Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow.

This latest Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, emerged in early 2018 after several factions broke away from a larger affiliate in Syria. It is the successor to the Khorasan Group, a small but dangerous organization of hardened senior Qaeda operatives that Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s leader, sent to Syria to plot attacks against the West.

If Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, it would set off a succession struggle among top Islamic State leaders. Many other top leaders have been killed in American drone strikes and raids in the past few years. Anticipating his own death, Mr. al-Baghdadi has delegated authorities to regional and functional lieutenants to ensure that the Islamic State operations would continue.

“There are few publicly well-recognized candidates to potentially replace al-Baghdadi,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant websites at the New York security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners.

Mr. Kohlmann said the next most prominent public figure from within the Islamic State is its current official spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, an enigma himself whose exact pedigree is still unclear.

In announcing the raid, Mr. Trump put himself in the center of the action, describing himself as personally hunting Mr. al-Baghdadi since the early days of his administration. He said he watched the action on Saturday with Vice President Mike Pence; Mr. Esper; Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and others in the Situation Room “as though you were watching a movie.”

Unlike previous presidents announcing such operations, Mr. Trump ended his national address by taking questions from reporters. He made a point of thanking Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for their cooperation and said Kurdish forces provided “information that turned out to be helpful.”

By contrast, he described America’s traditional European allies as “a tremendous disappointment,” repeating his complaint that they have not agreed to take captured Islamic State fighters who originated from their countries.

He said that American troops did “an on-site test” of DNA to confirm Mr. al-Baghdadi’s identity and that they brought back “body parts” when leaving the scene. Mr. Trump said two women were found there wearing suicide vests that did not detonate but were killed on the scene.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi Killed in Raid, Trump Announces

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced on Sunday that a commando raid in Syria this weekend had targeted and resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State, claiming a significant victory even as American forces are pulling out of the area.

“Last night, the United States brought the world’s No. 1 terrorist leader to justice,” Mr. Trump said in an unusual nationally televised address from the White House. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead.”

Mr. Trump said Mr. al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a tunnel, “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” as he was pursued by American military dogs. Accompanied by three children, Mr. al-Baghdadi then detonated a suicide vest, blowing up himself and the children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s body was mutilated by the blast, but Mr. Trump said tests had confirmed his identity. The president made a point of repeatedly portraying Mr. al-Baghdadi as “sick and depraved” and him and his followers as “losers” and “frightened puppies,” using inflammatory, boastful language unlike the more solemn approaches by other presidents in such moments. “He died like a dog,” Mr. Trump said. “He died like a coward.”

By The New York Times

Mr. Trump said American forces, ferried by eight helicopters through airspace controlled by Russia with Moscow’s permission, were met by hostile fire when they landed and entered the target building by blowing holes through the walls rather than take chance on a booby-trapped main entrance. No Americans were killed in the operation, although Mr. Trump said one of the military dogs was injured.

For Mr. Trump, a successful operation could prove both a strategic victory in the battle against the Islamic State and a politically useful counterpoint to critics in both parties who have assailed him in recent weeks for withdrawing American troops from northern Syria, which allowed Turkey to attack and push out America’s Kurdish allies. A senior American official confirmed that Kurdish intelligence officials in both Syria and Iraq helped locate the target of the raid despite the tensions over the Turkish operation.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163395519_d6ce1336-fa3d-4cf8-8e89-f4ec2d2e5719-articleLarge ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi Killed in Raid, Trump Announces United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

A site of a raid near Barisha, Syria, that was said to have resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But experts have long warned that even eliminating the leader of shadowy organizations like the Islamic State does not eliminate the threat. Mr. al-Baghdadi has been incorrectly reported killed before, and American military officials were concerned that Mr. Trump, who posted a cryptic message on Twitter on Saturday night teasing his Sunday announcement, was so eager to announce the development that he was getting ahead of the forensics.

A Defense Department official said before the president’s announcement that there was a strong belief — “near certainty” — that Mr. al-Baghdadi was dead, but that DNA analysis was not complete. The official said that with any other president, the Pentagon would wait for absolute certainty before announcing victory. But Mr. Trump was impatient to get the news out, the official said, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper agreed to go on the Sunday morning shows as a last-minute addition to the programs to promote the apparent success.

Critics of the president’s decision to withdraw American forces quickly argued that the operation took place in spite of, not because of, Mr. Trump and that if the military had not slow-rolled his plan to withdraw, the raid would not have been possible. Rather than justifying a pullout, they said, the raid underscored the importance of maintaining an American military presence in Syria and Iraq to keep pressure on the Islamic State.

“We must keep in mind that we were able to strike Baghdadi because we had forces in the region,” said Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida and a former Army Green Beret. “We must keep ISIS from returning by staying on offense.”

Mr. al-Baghdadi has been the focus of an intense international manhunt since 2014 when the terrorist network he led stormed onto the scene in the Middle East, seizing huge swaths of Iraq and Syria with the intention of creating a caliphate for Islamic extremists. He was believed to hew to extreme security measures, even when meeting with his most-trusted associates.

American forces working with allies on the ground like the Kurdish troops abandoned by Mr. Trump in recent days have swept Islamic State forces from the field in the last couple of years, recapturing the territory it had seized.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death would be another important victory in the campaign against the Islamic State, but counterterrorism experts warned that the organization could still be a potent threat. Moreover, Mr. al-Baghdadi was no Osama bin Laden in the American psyche and hardly a household name in the United States, which may limit the psychological and political impact at home.

“The danger here is that President Trump decides once again to shift focus away from ISIS now that its leader is dead,” said Jennifer Cafarella, research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “Unfortunately, killing leaders does not defeat terrorist organizations. We should have learned that lesson after killing Osama bin Laden, after which Al Qaeda continued to expand globally.”

The raid took place on Saturday in Idlib Province, hundreds of miles from the area along the Syrian-Iraqi border where Mr. al-Baghdadi had been believed to be hiding, according to senior officials. Counterterrorism experts expressed surprise that Mr. al-Baghdadi was hiding in an area dominated by Al Qaeda groups so far from his strongholds.

However, the Islamic State has extensively penetrated Idlib Province since the fall of Raqqa, its stronghold in northeastern Syria, in late 2017. The American operation on Saturday took place in a smuggling area near the Turkish border where numerous ISIS foreign fighters have likely traversed, Ms. Cafarella said.

“It could be that he believed the chaos of Idlib would provide him with the cover he needed to blend in among hordes of jihadists and other rebels,” said Colin P. Clarke, a senior fellow at the Soufan Center, a research organization for global security issues.

But there is also a more ominous possibility of why Mr. al-Baghdadi was in Idlib. “Baghdadi’s presence in Al Qaeda-dominated areas could signal many things,” Ms. Cafarella said. “Most dangerous among them is resumed negotiations between him and Al Qaeda leaders for reunification and/or a collaboration with Al Qaeda elements on attacks against the West.”

American counterterrorism officials have voiced increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in northwestern Syria that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow.

This latest Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, emerged in early 2018 after several factions broke away from a larger affiliate in Syria. It is the successor to the Khorasan Group, a small but dangerous organization of hardened senior Qaeda operatives that Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s leader, sent to Syria to plot attacks against the West.

If Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death is confirmed, it would set off a succession struggle among top Islamic State leaders. Many other top leaders have been killed in American drone strikes and raids in the past few years. Anticipating his own death, Mr. al-Baghdadi has delegated authorities to regional and functional lieutenants to ensure that the Islamic State operations would continue.

“There are few publicly well-recognized candidates to potentially replace al-Baghdadi,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant websites at the New York security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners.

Mr. Kohlmann said the next most prominent public figure from within the Islamic State is its current official spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, an enigma himself whose exact pedigree is still unclear.

In announcing the raid, Mr. Trump put himself in the center of the action, describing himself as personally hunting Mr. al-Baghdadi since the early days of his administration. He said he watched the action on Saturday with Vice President Mike Pence; Mr. Esper; Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and others in the Situation Room “as though you were watching a movie.”

Unlike previous presidents announcing such operations, Mr. Trump ended his national address by taking questions from reporters. He made a point of thanking Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq for their cooperation and said Kurdish forces provided “information that turned out to be helpful.”

By contrast, he described America’s traditional European allies as “a tremendous disappointment,” repeating his complaint that they have not agreed to take captured Islamic State fighters who originated from their countries.

He said that American troops did “an on-site test” of DNA to confirm Mr. al-Baghdadi’s identity and that they brought back “body parts” when leaving the scene. Mr. Trump said two women were found there wearing suicide vests that did not detonate but were killed on the scene.

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Special Operations Raid Said to Kill Senior Terrorist Leader in Syria

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-raid2-facebookJumbo Special Operations Raid Said to Kill Senior Terrorist Leader in Syria Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

WASHINGTON — United States Special Operations commandos carried out a risky raid in northwestern Syria on Saturday against a senior terrorist leader there, two senior administration officials said late Saturday.

A senior American official said commandos and analysts were still seeking to confirm the identity of the terrorist, who the officials said was killed in the operation when he exploded his suicide vest.

But a person close to President Trump said that the target of the raid was believed to be the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A senior administration official said that the president had approved the mission.

Officials said the raid was in Idlib Province, hundreds of miles from the area along the Syrian-Iraqi border where Mr. Baghdadi was long believed to be hiding. Idlib is dominated by jihadist rebel groups hostile to him.

Mr. Trump teased that a major event had occurred with a tweet devoid of context shortly before 9:30 p.m. “Something very big has just happened!” the president wrote.

Roughly 90 minutes later, a White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said that Mr. Trump would deliver a statement at 9 a.m. on Sunday, an unusual time for formal presidential remarks, and one that coincides with the morning news shows. Mr. Gidley declined to elaborate on what Mr. Trump planned to say.

An American official said that commandos from the Army’s elite Delta Force carried out the mission with the C.I.A. providing intelligence and reconnaissance information on the ground.

Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment but said that in addition to Mr. Trump’s statement on Sunday morning, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper would appear on the morning shows to discuss developments in Syria. Mr. Esper had not been previously scheduled as a guest.

The raid came as the United States continued to withdraw hundreds of troops from northern Syria who had been conducting counterterrorism missions, while sending in several hundred other forces to guard eastern oil fields in Syria against the Islamic State.

Some analysts expressed skepticism that Mr. Baghdadi would be hiding in Idlib, in northwest Syria. He was always thought to be hiding in the borderlands between Iraq and Syria in the heart of the Islamic State’s former caliphate, or religious state.

The dominant group in Idlib is a jihadist organization called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, which was linked to Al Qaeda. They and ISIS are rivals so it would be surprising if Mr. Baghdadi were hiding in Idlib. But hundreds of ISIS fighters fleeing Iraq and northeastern Syria are believed to be hiding in the northwest, some even joining their former Qaeda rivals, so analysts said it is possible Mr. Baghdadi found refuge with them.

The Islamic State has not had a significant presence in Idlib for many years since they were chased out of northwest Syria by angry rebels.

An American official said on Saturday night that senior military officials had decided that, with American forces largely withdrawing from Syria, commandos should take action quickly to try to kill or capture senior terrorists in northwest Syria before the United States lost that ability.

Mr. Baghdadi, the cunning and enigmatic black-clad leader of the Islamic State, transformed a flagging insurgency into a global terrorist network that drew tens of thousands of recruits from 100 countries.

He has been the target of a yearslong, international manhunt that consumed the intelligence services of at least four different countries, and is believed to hew to extreme security measures, even when meeting with his most-trusted associates. He has been incorrectly reported killed or wounded multiple times.

Much of the world first learned of Mr. Baghdadi in 2014, when his men overran one-third of Iraq and half of neighboring Syria and declared the territory a caliphate, claiming to revive the Muslim theocracy that ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

At its peak, the group’s black flag flew over major population centers, including the Iraqi city of Mosul, with a population of 1.4 million.

In these territories, the group known variously as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh imposed its violent interpretation of Islam.

Security officials say that Mr. Baghdadi was arrested near the Iraqi city of Falluja at the home of his in-laws in January 2004.

The target of the raid was his brother-in-law, who had taken up arms against the American occupation. Mr. Baghdadi was swept up in the raid, considered little more than a hanger-on at that point, officials said. He spent 11 months in a detention center at Camp Bucca.

Some analysts have argued that it was Mr. Baghdadi’s time in American custody that radicalized him. But those who were imprisoned alongside him say he was already committed to violence when he entered the sprawling prison camp.

Pentagon records indicate that Mr. Baghdadi was released in late 2004, a failure of intelligence that would come to haunt American officials.

For years, he disappeared from view. Then in 2009, security forces recovered a cache of documents in a safe house used by the militants and found the name “Abu Dua” on the group’s personnel list, the nom de guerre Mr. Baghdadi was using at the time.

In May 2010, the insurgents announced their new leader: It was Abu Dua, who now introduced himself to the world as “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

There were numerous near-misses in attempts to arrest him. But with each close call, Mr. Baghdadi became more circumspect, more obsessed with security and more untrusting. He is believed to have stopped using cellphones over a decade ago, relying exclusively on hand-delivered messages.

In 2014, when he ascended the marbled pulpit of a mosque in Mosul to declare the caliphate, it was the first time a video appeared that showed his face uncovered.

Mr. Baghdadi’s reclusiveness fed rumors of his demise, with many news media outlets carrying speculative reports of his death, all of which proved to be untrue. Each time, he resurfaced in audio recordings, thumbing his nose at the world.

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman and Rukmini Callimachi from New York.

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Kelly Says He Told Trump a ‘Yes Man’ as His Successor Would Lead to Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group merlin_148108983_62198fa6-f1f3-401e-bfef-5fe1613548a9-facebookJumbo Kelly Says He Told Trump a ‘Yes Man’ as His Successor Would Lead to Impeachment Washington Examiner, The Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Mulvaney, Mick Kelly, John F (1950- ) impeachment

WASHINGTON — John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff who during his tenure made it clear he detested the job, expressed regret on Saturday about leaving and implied that he could have helped stave off the impeachment inquiry now threatening Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Kelly, who left barely on speaking terms with the president, said he warned his boss to pick a successor in his mold, meaning someone who would push back against him.

“I said, whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Mr. Kelly said, according to The Washington Examiner, which covered his remarks at a political summit it hosted in Sea Island, Ga. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”

Mr. Kelly left the administration last December, and has since joined the board of Caliburn International, the umbrella organization of a company that runs the largest housing facility for migrant children. Mr. Kelly has spoken out about his time in the administration on only a handful of occasions since his departure.

On Saturday, he did not mention his successor, Mick Mulvaney, by name. But his comments appeared to pin the blame for the fast-moving impeachment inquiry on Mr. Trump’s embattled acting chief of staff, who said at a news conference last week that aid to Ukraine had been withheld because the president wanted to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals, only to later backpedal. And Mr. Kelly framed Mr. Trump himself as a careening leader who needed to be controlled by his aides.

“I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving,” Mr. Kelly said. “It pains me to see what’s going on, because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.”

During his early days as chief of staff, Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star general, was credited for bringing order to a chaotic West Wing. But by the end, he found the task of managing Mr. Trump to be impossible, and often complained to colleagues that the role was thankless.

In his comments on Saturday, however, Mr. Kelly cast his management style as a better model than what has followed.

“Don’t hire someone that will just nod and say, ‘That’s a great idea, Mr. President,’” Mr. Kelly said, adding that any successor needed to tell Mr. Trump that “you either have the authority or you don’t, or Mr. President, don’t do it.”

Mr. Kelly added that “the system that should be in place, clearly — the system of advising, bringing in experts in, having these discussions with the president so he can make an informed decision — that clearly is not in place. And I feel bad that I left.”

Mr. Trump and the White House, however, made it clear that the feeling was not mutual.

“I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president,” the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

The White House also issued a statement under Mr. Trump’s name, disputing that Mr. Kelly ever gave him advice about his successor.

“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that,” the president said. “If he would have said that, I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”

Other speakers at the three-day conference included Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary, as well as Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes, two of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

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Kelly Says He Told Trump a ‘Yes Man’ as His Successor Would Lead to Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group merlin_148108983_62198fa6-f1f3-401e-bfef-5fe1613548a9-facebookJumbo Kelly Says He Told Trump a ‘Yes Man’ as His Successor Would Lead to Impeachment Washington Examiner, The Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Mulvaney, Mick Kelly, John F (1950- ) impeachment

WASHINGTON — John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff who during his tenure made it clear he detested the job, expressed regret on Saturday about leaving and implied that he could have helped stave off the impeachment inquiry now threatening Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Kelly, who left barely on speaking terms with the president, said he warned his boss to pick a successor in his mold, meaning someone who would push back against him.

“I said, whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Mr. Kelly said, according to The Washington Examiner, which covered his remarks at a political summit it hosted in Sea Island, Ga. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”

Mr. Kelly left the administration last December, and has since joined the board of Caliburn International, the umbrella organization of a company that runs the largest housing facility for migrant children. Mr. Kelly has spoken out about his time in the administration on only a handful of occasions since his departure.

On Saturday, he did not mention his successor, Mick Mulvaney, by name. But his comments appeared to pin the blame for the fast-moving impeachment inquiry on Mr. Trump’s embattled acting chief of staff, who said at a news conference last week that aid to Ukraine had been withheld because the president wanted to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals, only to later backpedal. And Mr. Kelly framed Mr. Trump himself as a careening leader who needed to be controlled by his aides.

“I have an awful lot of, to say the least, second thoughts about leaving,” Mr. Kelly said. “It pains me to see what’s going on, because I believe if I was still there or someone like me was there, he would not be kind of, all over the place.”

During his early days as chief of staff, Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star general, was credited for bringing order to a chaotic West Wing. But by the end, he found the task of managing Mr. Trump to be impossible, and often complained to colleagues that the role was thankless.

In his comments on Saturday, however, Mr. Kelly cast his management style as a better model than what has followed.

“Don’t hire someone that will just nod and say, ‘That’s a great idea, Mr. President,’” Mr. Kelly said, adding that any successor needed to tell Mr. Trump that “you either have the authority or you don’t, or Mr. President, don’t do it.”

Mr. Kelly added that “the system that should be in place, clearly — the system of advising, bringing in experts in, having these discussions with the president so he can make an informed decision — that clearly is not in place. And I feel bad that I left.”

Mr. Trump and the White House, however, made it clear that the feeling was not mutual.

“I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president,” the press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

The White House also issued a statement under Mr. Trump’s name, disputing that Mr. Kelly ever gave him advice about his successor.

“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that,” the president said. “If he would have said that, I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.”

Other speakers at the three-day conference included Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary, as well as Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes, two of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

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‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163346592_153467c1-5a59-4274-9418-d7f0b90c2b82-facebookJumbo ‘Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syria Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline International Relations Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — President Trump has offered several justifications for an American withdrawal from Syria. He has dismissed the country as nothing but “sand and death,” discounted its American-backed Kurdish fighters as “no angels,” and argued that he is winding down “endless wars.”

But in recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has “secured” oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there.

“We’ve secured the oil,” Mr. Trump told reporters last week at the White House, before reminding them of how, during the Iraq war, he called for selling off Iraq’s oil to defray the conflict’s enormous cost.

“I always said, if you’re going in — keep the oil,” he said. “Same thing here: Keep the oil.”

Speaking again at the White House on Friday, Mr. Trump said he had done precisely that in Syria. “We’ve secured the oil,” the president told reporters. “We have a lot of oil.”

Mr. Trump’s message is puzzling to former government officials and Middle East analysts who say that controlling Syria’s oil fields — which are the legal property of the Syrian government — poses numerous practical, legal and political obstacles.

They also warn that Mr. Trump’s discourse, which revives language he often used during the 2016 campaign to widespread condemnation, could confirm the world’s worst suspicions about American motives in the region. A Russian Defense Ministry official on Saturday denounced Mr. Trump’s action as “state banditry.”

“He has a short notebook of old pledges, and this was one of the most frequently repeated pledges during the campaign: that we were going to take the oil,” said Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. official who served as a Middle East adviser to several presidents. “And now he actually is in a position where he can quote, take some oil.”

Pentagon officials said on Friday that the United States would deploy several hundred troops to guard oil fields in eastern Syria, despite Mr. Trump’s repeated boasts that he is bringing American soldiers home from Syria. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that the United States would “maintain a reduced presence in Syria to deny ISIS access to oil revenue,” leaving what military officials said would be about 500 troops in the country, down from about 2,000 a year ago.

Mr. Trump first spoke approvingly about the United States seizing foreign oil in April 2011, when he complained about President Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal from Iraq. “I would take the oil,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “I would not leave Iraq and let Iran take the oil.”

He elaborated in an interview with ABC News a few days later. “In the old days, you know, when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils.” he said. “You go in. You win the war and you take it.”

That year, Mr. Trump endorsed the United States seizing oil reserves not only in Iraq, but also in Libya, where Mr. Obama had recently intervened in the country’s civil war. “I would just go in and take the oil,” he told Fox News. “We’re a bunch of babies. We have wars and we leave. We go in, we have wars, we lose lives, we lose money, and we leave.”

Once he took office, Mr. Trump largely dropped the idea until recently, when it re-emerged after his widely criticized decision to remove American troops from northeastern Syria who had been helping Kurdish militias battle the remnants of the Islamic State in the region. The move effectively gave Turkey a greenlight to invade the area and push back those Kurds, whom the Turks viewed as a threat to their security.

His change in thinking follows multiple conversations with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who talks frequently with the president and has long pushed for a greater American presence in Syria, for reasons like fighting the Islamic State in the region and checking the influence of Russia and Iran.

Mr. Trump has also consulted on the subject with the former Army vice chief of staff, Jack Keane, who visited the White House in mid-October and showed the president a map of Syria illustrating that 70 percent of the country’s oil fields are in areas in the northeast that have been under American control. Mr. Keane, who declined to comment, has also warned that the oil fields risk falling into the hands of Iranian proxies in the region.

Mr. Graham, too, contends that American control of the oil fields would “deny Iran and Assad a monetary windfall,” as he put it in a statement last week.

But Mr. Graham has taken the argument a step further, to suggest that Syrian oil could go into American coffers, as Mr. Trump once implied for Iraq. “We can also use some of the revenue from oil sales to pay for our military commitment in Syria,” Mr. Graham added.

Last week, Mr. Trump offered a variation on that idea, saying that “we’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, they have some cash flow.” He added that he might “get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”

But energy and security experts say it is unlikely that any American companies would be interested in the enormous risks and limited profits such an arrangement would entail. Even at its peak, Syrian oil production was modest. And any short-term revenue potential is severely limited by logistical challenges posed by infrastructure damaged by war, pipelines that run into unfriendly areas and the unusually low grade of the oil itself.

Talk of monetizing the Syrian oil also diverges from the message of top Trump administration officials, including Mr. Esper, who said last week that the American mission in Syria was unchanged from its original purpose of defeating the Islamic State.

But the president has repeatedly boasted that the militant group has already been defeated. And although ISIS currently controls no territory, and is little threat to the oil reserves, experts warn that it could regenerate.

Framing control of oil as part of the fight against ISIS, however, may provide cover for an action motivated, at least in part, for reasons that analysts say have no basis in domestic or international law.

“Esper is being very careful to say this is about ISIS. And that’s because the legality is being framed around ISIS,” said Aaron Stein, an expert on Syria and Turkey with the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

When the Obama administration sent troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State several years ago, it relied on the authorization of military force passed by Congress days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which gave the government broad authority to battle Al Qaeda and affiliated groups. The Trump administration has invoked the same authorization for its own activities in Syria, despite many critics arguing that even the previous administration overreached in citing it to cover the battle against the Islamic State in Syria.

Then there is the basic question of the oil’s ownership.

“Oil, like it or not, is owned by the Syrian state,” Brett H. McGurk, Mr. Trump’s former envoy to the 70-nation coalition to defeat ISIS, said at a panel discussion on Syria hosted Monday by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Mr. McGurk said that Mr. Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, had studied the issue and concluded there was no practical way for the United States to monetize its control over oil-rich areas.

“Maybe there are new lawyers now, but it was just illegal for an American company to go and seize and exploit these assets,” Mr. McGurk said.

Mr. McGurk said the only legal way to make money from the Syrian oil fields would be to work with Russia and the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to place the revenue into an escrow account to help fund Syria’s postwar reconstruction. But he said Russia had little interest in the idea, even before America assumed a diminished role in the country this month. Nor has Mr. Trump expressed any public interest in using the oil to fund Syria’s reconstruction.

Mr. Stein said he believed the true goal of some Trump administration officials and advisers was to keep the oil fields not from ISIS but from Mr. Assad’s forces, to deny him funds to rebuild his country and thus ensure that Syria remained a financial burden on its ally, Iran.

In recent days, hostile foreign governments have seized on Mr. Trump’s commentary as evidence of America’s sinister motives.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that “what Washington is doing now, the seizure and control of oil fields in eastern Syria under its armed control, is, quite simply, international state banditry.”

And Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency wrote that while Washington “claims that the move is in the line with its alleged antiterror campaign in Syria, analysts see it no more than an excuse to impose control over Syria’s oil revenues.”

Mr. Riedel doubted that the president would wind up insisting on control of the oil fields. Beyond the many military, technical and legal challenges, there are the optics to consider.

“Let’s say he does do it,” Mr. Riedel said. “Let’s say we establish the precedent that we are in the Middle East to take the oil. The symbolism is really bad.”

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Waiting for Bolton: A Capital Speculates on What He Will Say

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-bolton-1-facebookJumbo Waiting for Bolton: A Capital Speculates on What He Will Say Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The message that John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, sent supporters of his newly reopened political action committee last week raised as many questions as it answered in a capital consumed by impeachment.

Mr. Bolton implicitly criticized Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, declaring that “despite all the friendly notes and photo ops, North Korea isn’t our friend and never will be.” But he also wrote that the nation’s security “is under attack from within,” citing “radicalized Democrats.”

The conflicting signals were maddening. After either resigning or being fired last month depending on whose version is to be believed, is Mr. Bolton so estranged from Mr. Trump that he might provide damaging testimony to House investigators? Or does he share the president’s view of out-of-control Democrats pursuing an illegitimate impeachment out of partisan excess?

The question is more than academic. As the House inquiry enters its second month, there may be no one in Washington that investigators want to question more than Mr. Bolton. His name has come up repeatedly in testimony that has depicted him resisting Mr. Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign and warning that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

But even as he has been at the center of the discussion during the impeachment inquiry, the outspoken former Fox News commentator has remained uncharacteristically silent. To Democrats who vilified him for years as an ultraconservative warmonger, suddenly Mr. Bolton has emerged as a much-sought witness who in the narrative they are assembling may have made a principled stand against Mr. Trump’s abuse of power to advance domestic political goals.

“What it says is this is not about competing Republican versus Democratic visions of American foreign policy,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “This is about whether our foreign policy should be made in the national interest or in the personal political interests of the president.”

It may take longer for investigators to find out. Mr. Bolton shares a lawyer with his former deputy and longtime ally, Charles M. Kupperman, who went to court on Friday to ask a judge to decide whether he should obey a House subpoena or a White House order to not testify. Mr. Bolton presumably might follow the same course.

If and when he does testify, Mr. Bolton appears positioned to answer fundamental questions surrounding the events that have led the president to the edge of impeachment. As the national security adviser, Mr. Bolton was charged with managing the government’s foreign policy apparatus. Yet Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani worked around Mr. Bolton to try to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats. At the same time, the president froze $391 million in American assistance to the former Soviet republic.

“According to the testimony given to Congress so far, Bolton was a central figure in trying to prevent any delay in releasing foreign aid to Ukraine,” said John Yoo, a University of Berkeley law school professor and senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. “I cannot see how any responsible investigation would not seek Bolton’s appearance.”

But he added that the White House would presumably “go to the mat” to fight any effort to interview Mr. Bolton. “If the White House were to fight the House impeachment on executive privilege grounds, Bolton would be the hill on which to die,” Mr. Yoo said. “The Trump White House could claim not just that the impeachment investigation is illegitimate, which is its current line of defense, but that it is defending the right of future presidents to have an effective White House and to conduct a successful foreign policy.”

A Yale-trained lawyer, Mr. Bolton brought years of experience when Mr. Trump made him his third national security adviser in March 2018. Mr. Bolton served in both the Justice Department, where he headed the civil division under President Ronald Reagan, and the State Department, where he was an assistant secretary of state under the first President George Bush and an under secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations under the second Mr. Bush.

While Mr. Trump appreciated his firebrand style of politics on Fox News, Mr. Bolton saw his job as keeping Mr. Trump from making unwise deals with outlier states like North Korea or Iran, leading to friction. Mr. Bolton struggled with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for control of foreign policy and left just a day before Mr. Trump agreed to restore the frozen aid to Ukraine under pressure from Congress.

With his trademark bushy mustache and unapologetic conservative views, Mr. Bolton, 70, has built a following on the right, even flirting in the past with running for president himself. His political action committee has donated more than $1.5 million to candidates since 2014 and spent another $6 million to promote his policy views related to national security.

Since leaving Mr. Trump’s team last month, Mr. Bolton has already identified five Republican senators and congressmen for whom he plans to raise $50,000 each and, as reported by Bloomberg, sent out the solicitation email on Thursday that seemed to provide conflicting clues. He has also rejoined the Rhone Group, a private equity firm where he worked before the White House, and was spotted in South Korea in recent days talking with investors. And he is reportedly thinking about writing a book.

The combination of his pedigree and the possibility that he really does have incriminating information about Mr. Trump makes him a particularly appealing witness to Democrats. The prospect of one of the nation’s most visible foreign policy conservatives testifying against his former boss would, in their view, underscore the significance of Mr. Trump’s transgressions.

But some Democrats warn that they cannot be sure what he will say once he sits for an interview. “You just can’t work from assumptions,” said Representative Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “I don’t know what he had. I don’t know if he has value. I don’t know if he is willing to talk about it.”

The president’s defenders dismiss the idea that Mr. Bolton could hurt Mr. Trump. “I don’t care what Bolton says,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close ally of the president’s, said on Fox News on Thursday. If the Ukrainians did not know the president had held up their aid when he was pressing them to investigate Democrats, Mr. Graham said, there is no impeachable offense. “You can’t have a crime unless you have a victim. There is no victim here.”

Democrats disagree with that logic, saying it can still be an impeachable offense to pressure a foreign power to provide dirt on a political opponent regardless of when the Ukrainians knew about the suspension of the assistance. Moreover, The New York Times, citing interviews and documents, reported that in fact word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, earlier than previously known.

Mr. Bolton has hired Charles J. Cooper, one of Washington’s best-known lawyers and a colleague and friend since the Reagan administration, when Mr. Cooper was an assistant attorney general. Mr. Cooper, whose firm’s motto is “victory or death,” also represented former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, another Trump adviser who fell out with the president.

According to testimony presented so far, Mr. Bolton bristled at efforts by Mr. Giuliani to bypass the national security process as he pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and a conspiracy theory that Ukrainians, not Russians, intervened in the 2016 election, and did so to boost Democrats, not Republicans. Mr. Trump’s former homeland security adviser repeatedly told the president that the theory had been “completely debunked.”

Mr. Bolton met on July 10 with Ukrainian officials and Gordon D. Sondland, a political appointee serving as ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on the issue. When the investigations came up, Mr. Bolton grew so irritated that he abruptly ended the meeting, according to Fiona Hill, his former top Europe and Russia adviser.

Ms. Hill testified that Mr. Bolton told her to report what was going on to a White House lawyer. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” he told her to tell the lawyer. She also testified that, on an earlier occasion, Mr. Bolton said, “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Bolton unsuccessfully sought to block Mr. Mulvaney’s effort to arrange an Oval Office visit in May by Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, an authoritarian leader whose criticism of Ukraine reinforced Mr. Trump’s already hostile views toward the country. Mr. Bolton likewise opposed the July 25 telephone call in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” by investigating the 2016 conspiracy theory and Mr. Biden.

Mr. Bolton went to Ukraine on Aug. 27 to try to prepare for a meeting between the president and Mr. Zelensky that ultimately did not happen. While there, William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, said he raised his concerns about the frozen aid and Mr. Bolton recommended he send a cable to Mr. Pompeo.

But Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Sondland have said that Mr. Bolton never brought any concerns about the Ukraine pressure campaign to them.

“I read that and I was surprised, because John Bolton never complained to me about it,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday” last weekend. “No one at N.S.C. ever complained to me about anything that was going on.”

Mr. Sondland testified that Mr. Bolton embraced their efforts during a conference call in June. “We went over the entire Ukraine strategy with Ambassador Bolton, who agreed with the strategy and signed off on it,” Mr. Sondland said. “Indeed, over the spring and summer of 2019, I received nothing but cordial responses from Ambassador Bolton and Dr. Hill.”

So now Mr. Bolton has been left in the middle, a key witness in the unfolding impeachment drama. His friend, Thomas M. Boyd, an assistant attorney general in the Reagan and Bush administrations, said Mr. Bolton understands his obligations to guard the confidentiality of communications with the president but will also be prepared to give his unvarnished views if it comes to it.

“I just don’t think that he’s in an awkward position at all,” said Mr. Boyd. “He’s very comfortable in his own skin and whatever decisions he’s made or plans to make, I’m sure he’s comfortable with them as well.”

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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