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A Strategy of Retreat in Syria, With Echoes of Obama
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A Strategy of Retreat in Syria, With Echoes of Obama

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As it turns out, Mr. Assad will have to wait only about a month for the American withdrawal to be complete.
In his speech this week, Mr. Jeffrey made an impassioned case that the civil war in Syria was not just about the half-million people dead, nor the 11 million others who have been driven from their homes.
It has “become a great-power conflict,” he said, with Americans, Russians, Iranians, Turks and Israelis all involved. Any American policy, he said, “cannot focus only on the internal conflict.” He added later than “Iran has to get out of there,” meaning Iranian ground troops.

Trump is Obama 2. Both were installed by the New Abwehr. Open your eyes, America!


“On this issue — maybe on this issue alone — there is more continuity between Trump and Obama than would make either administration comfortable,” said Richard N. Haass...


A Strategy of Retreat in Syria, With Echoes of Obama

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As it turns out, Mr. Assad will have to wait only about a month for the American withdrawal to be complete.
In his speech this week, Mr. Jeffrey made an impassioned case that the civil war in Syria was not just about the half-million people dead, nor the 11 million others who have been driven from their homes.
It has “become a great-power conflict,” he said, with Americans, Russians, Iranians, Turks and Israelis all involved. Any American policy, he said, “cannot focus only on the internal conflict.” He added later than “Iran has to get out of there,” meaning Iranian ground troops.
Mr. Jeffrey’s ultimate boss, however, seems largely uninterested in the geopolitics of remaining in Syria, or using whatever leverage the United States has left to shape events there. American troops, in Mr. Trump’s view, should return to American shores, where they can bristle with new weapons — but only engage those who would enter the United States and seek to harm its citizens.
It is a very 20th-century view of global power. And it largely overlooks how terrorist groups are making bombs outside Damascus that can be slipped aboard aircraft, or how the newly revived Syrian Electronic Army, Mr. Assad’s team for hacking the United States from afar, can wreak havoc without ever stepping into American territory.
But as Mr. Jeffrey himself said, the Trump administration’s national security strategy, published early this year, stated outright that countering terrorism was no longer the primary goal of American policy — and that dealing with a renewed era of great-power competition was, once again, the motivating rationale.
Some of Mr. Trump’s former aides have said the president never actually read through his strategy, although he was briefed on it. With his brief, little-explained announcement on Wednesday, he leaves his allies wondering whether it is truly his strategy at all.

Trump Withdraws U.S. Forces From Syria, Declaring ‘We Have Won Against ISIS’

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WASHINGTON — President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria, bringing a sudden end to a military campaign that largely vanquished the Islamic State but ceding a strategically vital country to Russia and Iran.
In overruling his generals and civilian advisers, Mr. Trump fulfilled his frequently expressed desire to bring home American forces from a messy foreign entanglement. But his decision, conveyed via Twitteron Wednesday, plunges the administration’s Middle East strategy into disarray, rattling allies like Britain and Israel and forsaking Syria’s ethnic Kurds, who have been faithful partners in fighting the Islamic State.
The abrupt, chaotic nature of the move — and the opposition it immediately provoked on Capitol Hill and beyond — raised questions about how Mr. Trump will follow through with the full withdrawal. Even after the president’s announcement, officials said, the Pentagon and State Department continued to try to talk him out of it.
“We have won against ISIS,” Mr. Trump declared in a video posted Wednesday evening on Twitter, adding, “Our boys, our young women, our men — they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.”
“We won, and that’s the way we want it, and that’s the way they want it,” he said, pointing a finger skyward, referring to American troops who had been killed in battle.
The White House did not provide a timetable or other specifics for the military departure. “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. Defense Department officials said that Mr. Trump had ordered that the withdrawal be completed in 30 days.
The decision brought a storm of protest in Congress, even from Republican allies of Mr. Trump’s like Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said he had been “blindsided.” The House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, suggested that the president had acted out of “personal or political objectives” rather than national security interests.
Like many of Mr. Trump’s most disruptive moves, the decision was jolting and yet predictable. For more than a year, and particularly since the Islamic State has been driven from most of its territory in Syria’s north, he has told advisers that he wanted to withdraw troops from the country.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other top national security officials argued that a withdrawal would, essentially, surrender Western influence in Syria to Russia and Iran. The Trump administration’s national security policy calls for challenging both countries, which are the chief benefactors of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and have provided him with years of financial and military support.
Abandoning the Kurdish allies, the officials argued, also would cripple future American efforts to gain the trust of local fighters for counterterrorism operations, including in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the move, according to the TASS news agency, saying that a withdrawal created prospects for a political settlement in Syria’s civil war. It also said an initiative to form a Syrian constitutional committee would have a bright future once American troops were gone.
While Mr. Trump has long cast American military involvement in Syria as narrowly focused on defeating the Islamic State, his generals and diplomats argue that the United States has broader, more complex interests there.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command, and Brett H. McGurk, the American envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, fiercely protested the military withdrawal, administration officials said. Both argued that the Islamic State would never have been defeated without the Kurdish fighters, whom General Votel said suffered many casualties and always lived up to their word.
Officials said General Votel argued that withdrawing American troops would leave the Kurds vulnerable to attack from Turkey, which has warned it will soon launch an offensive against them. It would also cement the survival of Mr. Assad, whose ouster had long been an article of faith in Washington.
The Pentagon said in a statement that it would “continue working with our partners and allies to defeat” the Islamic State wherever it operated.
Mr. Trump’s decision contradicted what other top national security officials have said in recent weeks.
Two months ago, the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States would not pull out of Syria as long as Iran was exerting influence there, either through its own troops or Iranian-backed militias.
Last week, Mr. McGurk characterized the mission in Syria as one that sought the “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State. “We know that once the physical space is defeated, we can’t just pick up and leave,” he told reporters. “We want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas.”
Military commanders fear that a hasty withdrawal will jeopardize the territorial gains against the Islamic State made by the United States and its coalition partners — essentially repeating what happened after Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, pulled troops from Iraq in 2011.
Mr. Graham, emerging from a lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and other Republican senators, called it “Iraq all over again.” He demanded to know why Congress was not notified of Mr. Trump’s decision.
“If Obama had done this,” Mr. Graham said, “we’d be going nuts right now: how weak, how dangerous.”
During the meeting, officials said Mr. Pence barely talked about the looming government shutdown, which he was ostensibly on Capitol Hill to discuss, because there was such strong pushback from lawmakers on Syria.
In a letter to Mr. Trump, Mr. Graham and five other senators, from both parties, implored him to reconsider his decision, warning that a withdrawal would embolden the remnants of the Islamic State, as well as the Assad government, Iran and Russia.
American allies were notably muted in their reactions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called it “of course, an American decision,” and said his government would study its implications. But analysts said the withdrawal would deal a blow to Israel’s efforts to curb Iranian influence in Syria.
“It’s a bad day for Israel,” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
A statement released by the British government said that while the global coalition against the Islamic State had made progress, “we must not lose sight of the threat they pose.”
“Even without territory,” the statement said, the group “will remain a threat.”
For much of the day, the White House seemed paralyzed by Mr. Trump’s sudden move. By late Wednesday, it had yet to defend the consequences of the troop withdrawal, or explain what the American strategy in Syria will be once the American forces have left.
In a conference call with reporters, a senior White House official said that previous statements by Mr. Bolton and other senior officials that the United States would stay in Syria did not matter because, as president, Mr. Trump could do as he pleases.
“He gets to do that,” said the official, whom the White House said could speak only on grounds of anonymity. “That’s his prerogative.”
The official referred all questions about how the withdrawal would proceed to the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, reporters asked officials for clarification, only to be told that there was none that could be given.
It was very much the image of a story spinning out of control, and a military taken by surprise by its commander in chief.
One Defense Department official suggested that Mr. Trump wanted to divert attention from his mounting legal troubles: the Russia investigation; the sentencing of his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, in a hush money scandal to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with him; and his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who was harshly criticized by a federal judge for lying to investigators.
In a statement, Ms. Pelosi derided what she described as a “hasty announcement” and noted it was timed to the day after Mr. Flynn was in court for sentencing after admitting “he was a registered foreign agent for a country with clear interests in the Syrian conflict.”
She was referring to Mr. Flynn’s lobbying efforts to expel a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has accused of plotting a failed 2016 coup.
“All Americans should be concerned,” Ms. Pelosi said.
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after a visit to the White House, where his farewell meeting with Mr. Trump was canceled, that he did not believe there was a way to persuade the president to reverse the withdrawal order.
“It’s obviously a political decision,” Mr. Corker said.
Not everybody faulted the president’s move.
Robert S. Ford, the last American ambassador to Syria, said the United States could continue to strike terrorist targets from the air. The limited nature of the American ground presence, he said, would not force Iran out of the country, nor would it alter the battle between Mr. Assad and the remnants of the rebellion.
“The whole Syrian conflict is about Syrians’ relations with other Syrians,” said Mr. Ford, who now teaches at Yale and is a fellow at the Middle East Institute. “Two thousand special operators and a dozen or two American diplomats can’t fix that.”
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Opinion | Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From Syria Is Alarming. Just Ask His Advisers.

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As late as Monday, James Jeffrey, the State Department’s Syria envoy, told the Atlantic Council that the United States would stay in Syria until ISIS was defeated, Iranian influence was curbed and there was a political solution to the Syrian civil war.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Trump undercut his advisers, and American interests, by reversing course and declaring in a tweet, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”
There was no attempt to use the leverage of an American withdrawal to achieve any specific political or military goal.
Mr. Trump’s assertion that the Islamic State is defeated is absurd. The ability of the terrorists to strike has been significantly degraded and much of the territory they claimed for their so-called caliphate has been liberated. But the group still retains a pocket of land on the Syria-Iraq border and has roughly 20,000 to 30,000 fighters, according to military researchers. As Mr. Jeffrey said Monday, “The job is not yet done.”
No one wants American troops deployed in a war zone longer than necessary. But there is no indication that Mr. Trump has thought through the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, including allowing ISIS forces to regroup and create another crisis that would draw the United States back into the region.
An American withdrawal would also be a gift to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, who has been working hard to supplant American influence in the region, as well as to Iran, which has also expanded its regional footprint. It would certainly make it harder for the Trump administration to implement its policy of ratcheting up what it calls “maximum pressure” on Iran.
Among the biggest losers are likely to be the Kurdish troops that the United States has equipped and relied on to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers many of the Kurds to be terrorists bent on destroying his country. In recent days he has vowed to launch a new offensive against them in the Syrian border region. Mr. Trump discussed his withdrawal decision in a telephone call with Mr. Erdogan on Friday.

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Trump's Decision to Withdraw From Syria Is Alarming. Just Ask His ...

New York Times-12 hours ago
It was less than three months ago that John Bolton, the national security adviser, declared an expanded objective for American troops in Syria.
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Trump’s Syria withdrawal flies in the face of statements from top military and national security leaders

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President Donald Trump’s reported call for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria comes in stark contrast to statements by his own national security adviser, military leaders, members of Congress and the larger strategic aims laid out to aid Kurdish forces, and counter both Iranian and Russian influence.
Trump’s statement about victory over ISIS and subsequent media reports about a withdrawal of the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria surfaced Wednesday, seeming to catch Pentagon officials flat footed.
The move counters public statements by national security adviser John Bolton to the United Nations in September that seemed to remove withdrawal from the options, even after ISIS was defeated.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders, and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton said at the time.
The Department of Defense released a short statement Wednesday morning that echoes their work in the region since operations to counter Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria began nearly three years ago.
“At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region,” the Pentagon statement read, reiterating a standard line that is often included with routine news from the operation.
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Officials for Operation Inherent Resolve, the counter-ISIS mission based in Baghdad, did not respond immediately to requests for comments and clarifications on Trump’s withdrawal plans.
But on Dec. 15, OIR released a statement reassuring the public that they were continuing with their goals to defeat ISIS.
“The Coalition mission in northeast Syria remains unchanged. We continue our normal operations, including observation posts in the border region to address the security concerns of our NATO ally Turkey. We remain committed to working with our partners on the ground to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS. Any reports indicating a change in the U.S. position with respect to these efforts is false and designed to sow confusion and chaos,” according to OIR.
Significant U.S. military operations targeting ISIS in Syria have continued into this week. Only hours before the withdrawal plans went public Wednesday, OIR released their most recent reports of strikes against ISIS through “Operation Roundup.”
From Dec. 9 to Dec. 15 alone, the joint task force conducted 208 strikes consisting of 378 engagements in Syria, mainly near Hajin, Syria, one of the last strongholds where ISIS militants have been cornered.
Those strikes took out a reported 140 fighting positions in that area.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, had his own tweet responding to the withdrawal news:
Graham added that after his own recent visit to Syria, ISIS is still not yet defeated and U.S. presence helps counter Iran. A withdrawal “mightily undercuts” both efforts.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said a full and rapid removal of troops would be a "grave error with broader implications” beyond the fight against ISIS.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a U.S. official confirmed that the Pentagon has an order to move troops out of Syria, “as quickly as possible.”
A force of as many as 2,000 U.S. troops are wedged between Turkish and Kurdish interests in Syria with the mission of ensuring an “enduring defeat” of ISIS.
The U.S. backs the Syrian Democratic Forces in that counter-ISIS mission. The SDF is a mix of ethnically Arab and Kurdish Syrian locals, primarily dominated by Kurds in the SDF’s chain of command.
Backed primarily by U.S. air and artillery strikes, the SDF has retaken nearly all territory previously in the hands of ISIS in eastern Syria. This resulted in heavy SDF influence over areas where they have regained ground, especially near Turkey’s border.
That has stoked Turkish opposition to the U.S.-Kurdish partnership. For Turkey, the Kurdish fighters, who they see as terrorists, represent another threat to their homeland.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has noted the importance of U.S. troops on the ground to counter potential friction between the two U.S. allies.
“By having our officers and NCOs on the ground, we monitor that they are using what we are giving them for support to go against ISIS,” Mattis said.
But shortly after those comments from Bolton, there was pushback to what some experts viewed as an effort to expand the traditional counter-ISIS mission to also include a focus on countering Iran.
“I would disaggregate overall U.S. policy objectives from our military activities,” Robert Karem, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Congress in September. “We are not seeking war with Iran. … We are not conducting operations against Iran.”
Marine Brig. Gen. Scott Benedict, deputy director for the Joint Staff, reiterated that the U.S. role in Syria was to “defeat ISIS” but there are also side benefits.
“Certainly, being on the ground and creating a stabilized situation there limits the freedom of maneuver of anybody who has malign intentions,” Benedict said at the same Sept. 24 hearing on Capitol Hill. “That includes Iranian proxies as well as violent extremists.”
Some members of the House Armed Services Committee countered that if the mission were to expand or change radically, the president would need new approvals from Congress.
Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps infantry officer, called the statements by Mattis and Bolton inconsistent.
“If we’re going to counter Iran, and we have an authorization to do so, we might have operations against Iran or we might simply have troops in the region. But either actually requires an authorization,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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Trump's withdrawal from Syria is victory for Iran and Russia, experts say

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By Dan De Luce, Josh Lederman and Courtney Kube
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria will be hailed as a victory in Russia and Iran and a betrayal among Kurdish and Arab opposition forces that have waged a seven-year war against the Damascus regime, experts and former officials say.
Although Russian and Iranian forces had already turned the tide of the civil war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the presence of U.S. troops has served as an obstacle to their ambitionsand a source of leverage for Washington in any potential political settlement of the conflict.
Just within the last week, senior U.S. officials had argued that the American military mission was needed to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS militants and to serve as a bulwark against Iran.
But with Trump's move to pull out the U.S. troops, Russia and particularly Iran — which sent thousands of proxies and its own elite forces into Syria — stand to emerge as the dominant players in a country that shares a border with Israel.
The withdrawal, if carried out, will "provide Iran with solid control over the entire arc of the Levant from Baghdad to Beirut," said Nicholas Heras, Middle East security fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank.
Iran already wields significant influence next door in Iraq, where it has heavily backed Shiite militias and cultivated close ties to the Shiite-ruled government.
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said the presence of Iranian forces in Syria posed a threat to his country.
"We have our concerns about Syria, about the presence of Iranian troops in Syria. And we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people regardless if you have American troops, Russian troops, or any other nations," Danon told reporters.
The roughly 2,000 U.S.troops in Syria, first deployed in 2015 on President Barack Obama's watch, helped Kurdish-led forces deliver a resounding defeat against Islamic State extremists that at one point held large swaths of territory. Now the Islamic State is severely damaged and is holed up in the Euphrates River valley.
But senior U.S. officials and commanders have warned that the fight against ISIS is not over and that without more help and training from American troops, the extremists could regroup and return to the fray.
The U.S. military's top officer, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said this month that training for local forces in Syria was still at an early stage, while stabilization efforts still had "a long way to go."
Kurdish forces in Syria, which proved a reliable partner for the U.S. military's fight against ISIS, will almost certainly feel betrayed by Trump's move, experts said, and will now face a potential onslaught by Turkish forces that could jeopardize their hold on territory in the northeast.
"The U.S. withdrawal means handing over our necks to Turkey's knives," said a Syrian Kurd, speaking to NBC News from the town of Rmelan in northeastern Syria, near the Abu Hajar air base used for years by U.S. forces.
"My mother is crying on the phone. I feel that my heart will stop," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.
Arab opposition forces fighting the Syrian regime also have relied heavily on U.S. special operations forces to help pinpoint air raids and to guide them on the battlefield. Once the American commandos leave, the Arab fighters could be vulnerable to Assad regime forces, Russian warplanes, and Iran-backed fighters as well as ISIS militants, experts and officials said.
A contingent of the Arab fighters is stationed at a key base set up by U.S. troops in the southeast. The Al-Tanf base straddles a strategic route that links Baghdad with Damascus and Beirut. U.S. officers privately refer to it as a "speed bump" for both terrorists and Iran's proxy forces.
Even by the standards of the impulsive Trump presidency, the decision came as a shock to American allies and to his Cabinet, raising fresh questions abroad about America's reliability.
Trump opted to withdraw U.S. troops despite opposition from nearly every member of his national security team. In an indication of the chaotic, last-minute nature of the move, top lawmakers, administration officials and foreign allies were blindsided by the announcement. Even the U.S. special envoy for Syria, Joel Rayburn, was caught off guard, and had to cancel his attendance at a private event Wednesday morning in Syria just a few minutes in advance, said a source familiar with the matter.
The withdrawal puts members of the Trump team in the uncomfortable position of breaking the promise of a continued U.S. presence in Syria that reassured U.S. allies such as Israel, the Kurds and Gulf Arab states. The president's recently named special representative for Syria engagement, Amb. James Jeffrey, had said repeatedly and publicly as recently as this week that the U.S. was not walking away from Syria and that the military would stay.
Ironically for Trump, who has sought to portray his foreign policy as the opposite of Obama's, the decision prompted comparisons to his predecessor. As a candidate, Trump hammered Obama for being the "creator of ISIS" because Obama had withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq, a decision blamed for creating a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to take hold and then spread to Syria.
"This is Obama 2.0," said Mark Dubowitz, head of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has urged the administration to remain in Syria as a counterweight against both the Islamic State and Iran. "It's amazing how Trump just doesn't understand how the guy he doesn't want to be like, he's being exactly like."
Less clear is why Trump decided now to withdraw, and for what reasons.
Although Trump had expressed impatience with the U.S. presence in Syria dating back to his time as a candidate, his aides and foreign leaders had convinced him to stay. After Trump earlier this year mused about pulling out during midterm campaign rallies, senior military leaders joined foreign countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a full-court press to him to hold off, officials and others briefed on the conversations said.
But Trump had long been pushed to pull out by Turkey, a NATO ally at odds with the U.S. in Syria over American backing for Kurdish forces that the Turks consider terrorists. Turkey's influence with the U.S. has increased in recent weeks following the release by Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson and by the murder in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate by a hit team sent by Saudi Arabia's government.
Trump's hopes of maintaining close U.S. ties to Saudi Arabia and its young leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave additional leverage to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government adeptly demonstrated that it had damning intelligence about the killing that could be either leaked or kept quiet.
A turning point for Trump appears to be his phone call Friday with Erdogan, which a U.S. official said had made clear that Trump was never truly committed to staying in Syria. Another senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday said that Trump had merely informed Erdogan in the call of a decision he'd already made.
Although it's unclear what else Trump and Erdogan may have agreed to during the call, a number of thorny issues between Turkey and the U.S. appear to be heading toward resolution at the same time.
Erdogan had been threatening an imminent new military operation into Syria, where Turkish attacks against Kurds could have risked a potentially deadly confrontation with U.S. troops who are working in close quarters with the Kurdish fighters. Trump's decision to withdraw averts that risk.
Washington has also been at odds with Turkey over its planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, which would trigger U.S. sanctions on Turkey and pose major problems for NATO. Late Friday, the State Department announced plans to approve a sale of U.S.-made Patriot missiles — an alternative to the S-400 — to Turkey's government.
It's unclear whether Turkey will agree to drop its S-400 sale and purchase only the American-made Patriot missiles instead. Nor is it clear whether the timing of the approval, just before Trump's Syria decision, was coincidental.
Two congressional aides said that the proposal to sell the missiles to the Turks had been awaiting informal sign-off from top lawmakers overseeing foreign affairs for some time. They said that the last remaining holdout, Sen. Bob Menendez, D.-N.J., had finally given his permission for the sale on Tuesday following efforts to persuade him by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others.
Dan De Luce
Dan De Luce is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit. 
Josh Lederman
Josh Lederman is a national political reporter for NBC News.
Courtney Kube
Courtney Kube is a national security and military reporter for NBC News, covering the Pentagon, U.S. military operations all over the world, and intelligence and national security issues.
Abigail Williams contributed.
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If it is indeed so, then thank you, Mr. Comey! - M.N. - In My Opinion: We as a nation have to be grateful and eternally indebted to him.

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If it is indeed so, then thank you, Mr. Comey! - M.N. - In My Opinion

M.N.: If Comey indeed did that: ensnared Flynn, Papa-whom-dopa-los, and others; then we as a nation have to be grateful and eternally indebted to him: he not only exposed the lying and the deceptive tendencies in the "high circles", but also helped the incoming Trump Administration to maintain the adequate collective IQ and Cleanliness Index, so to speak. Gen. Flynn was prepared "to consider" the politically tinged extradition of Gulen in exchange for about $500,000 to his newly minted firm, "Flynn Intel Group", through the recently arrested, "hard to know whose agent" Kian
If it is indeed so, then thank you, Mr. Comey for all your tactics, and all your Jesuit cunning, they are completely appropriate, justified, and well used in this particular case, and in the other similar cases. 
My humble concern was of the opposite nature: that Comey was too busy riding his high horse and too un-involved as a leader to notice all that dirt on the low road. Apparently, the picture is much more complex, and it needs the accurate and objective study. 

P.S. And the price doesn't seem to be quite right, General. It looks more like a line from the old, broken, outdated, and somewhat mysterious military calculator, with all the numbers and value systems and symbols mixed up. Not an easy case to unravel. 

Next Customers Bitte!

Michael Novakhov

12.19.18 

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Story image for comey from Fortune

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House GOP releases transcript of explosive closed-door Comey questioning

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House Republicans on Tuesday released a transcript of their explosive closed-door session a day earlier with fired FBI Director James Comey, who revealed during the questioning that FBI agents knew "exactly" what ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had told Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak prior to interviewing Flynn at the White House.
The 173-page transcript, which documented congressional Republicans' second hearing with Comey this month, additionally included Comey's explanation of why he broke normal protocol by sending two FBI agents into the White House to interview Flynn in January 2017, without involving or notifying White House lawyers.
Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during that fateful interview about whether he had talked with Kislyak about Russia modulating its response to sweeping sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration, as well as whether he had discussed whether Russia could veto a United Nations vote condemning Israel. His sentencing was delayed on Monday until March, after a fiery hearing in which the presiding judge openly voiced his "disgust" at Flynn's conduct.
Flynn was fired in February 2017 for misleading Vice President Mike Pence on the same topic, but was not charged with any wrongdoing related to the substance of his communications with Kislyak. And, a Washington Post article published one day before his White House interview with the agents, citing FBI sources, publicly revealed that the FBI had wiretapped Flynn's calls and cleared him of any criminal conduct.
"The agents went to interview Flynn to try and understand why the national security adviser was making false statements to the vice president of the United States about his interactions with the Russians during the transition," Comey said, responding to a question from House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Comey added: "I knew certain classified facts about the nature of [Flynn's] interactions with the Russians" prior to sending the agents into the White House.
The former FBI director confirmed that one of the agents he sent was a "career counterintelligence agent," and the other was Peter Strzok -- who has since been fired from both Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team and from the FBI over his apparent bias against President Trump. Comey denied specifically sending Strzok, or hand-picking the agents who questioned Flynn.
"I knew that the vice president was making statements that he attributed to conversations he'd had with Mr. Flynn that were starkly at odds with those classified facts," he said.
Gowdy then said: "You knew exactly what General Flynn had said to the Russian Ambassador before you interviewed him." Comey replied, "Yes."
Comey quickly added: "I'm only hesitating because I don't know what I don't know, but we understood clearly the nature and extent of a variety of communications, telephonic, between Mr. Flynn and the Russian Ambassador. ... I'm only hesitating because, if there were other communications, other phones, other means of communication, we wouldn't know that. But we had clear transcripts of the conversations that we had."
Comey also said he had not discussed the Flynn interview with Trump: "We had an open investigation, criminal investigation, counterintelligence investigation," Comey said. "There was no way I would discuss that with the president."
An FBI witness report released Monday that documented the January 2017 Flynn interview -- finalized in February 2017 -- showed that Flynn apparently was aware his calls had been wiretapped. On two occasions, agents wrote, Flynn thanked them for reminding him of some of his talks with Kislyak concerning the United Nations.
"Yes, good reminder," Flynn said at one point, according to the witness report.
Pressed on his public remarks earlier this month that the FBI broke its normal protocol by interviewing Flynn without involving the White House Counsel, Comey acknowledged that "in a more established environment, there would've been an expectation that the FBI would coordinate the interview through White House Counsel."
He continued, "I'd never worked in a transition time before, but my understanding was that, in a more established administrative environment, you wouldn't get away with just calling the witness and saying, 'Can we come and talk to you?'"
Comey also pushed back on Republicans' questions as to why the FBI didn't warn Flynn that he could be prosecuted for lying to them. Investigators had issued those warnings to several other targets in the Russia probe. In a court filing last year, Mueller's team took pains to note that FBI agents who interviewed former Trump aide George Papadopoulos on January 27, 2017 -- just days after the Flynn interview -- had advised Papadopoulos that "lying to them 'is a federal offense'" and that he could get "in trouble" if he did not tell the truth.
"He was an extraordinarily experienced person and so reasonably should be assumed to understand you can't lie to the FBI," Comey told House Republicans.
"Second, it's not protocol. The FBI does not do that in noncustodial interviews," he added. "And, third, you want to find out what the witness will say to you before you heat up an interview by raising the prospect that the witness might be lying to you."
Comey said he did not recall whether Flynn had asked about an attorney, but said then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had "volunteered to him that you are welcome to have somebody present from the White House Counsel's Office. And I think he said, in substance, there'd be no need for that."
According to a memorandum he wrote at the time, McCabe had advised Flynn that should he choose to seek counsel, the Justice Department would have to become involved.
Comey also disclosed that then-Acting Attorney General Dana Boente made a remark along the lines of, "Oh, God, I was hoping that would go away," when reminded of Trump's request that the Justice Department make clear he was not under criminal investigation. Comey, who said he had relayed Trump's request to Boente, added he did not personally inform the public that Trump was not under investigation because he felt that was the DOJ's decision to make.
Later during the hearing, under questioning from Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Comey admitted he had eliminated any mention of President Obama's secret email alias -- which he used to communicate to Hillary Clinton on her private email server -- from his public remarks at a July 5th, 2016 news conference announcing that Clinton had been "extremely careless" in her handling of classified information.
Comey explained: "Let's imagine the Russians had captured that communication. ... We didn't want to do anything to confirm to the bad guys that they might have Barack Obama's private cover email unclassified." Comey emphasized that Obama and Clinton did not discuss classified information using that email arrangement.
But the fired FBI Director said he was worried that Clinton had exposed Obama's secret email alias by communicating with him while she was overseas.
"The concern we had was about the exposure of his unclassified email account, which was not in his name," Comey said.
Separately, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Comey how he informed Trump about the FBI's knowledge of the infamous, unverified opposition research dossier compiled by a firm funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC).
"I was very concerned that he might interpret it as an effort to pull a J. Edgar Hoover on him," Comey said, adding that he explained "that it was unverified, that it wasn't something that we were investigating, and then, once the conversation, in my judgment, started to go off the rails, by then telling him we were not investigating him personally."
The former FBI director excoriated Republicans on Monday after exiting the hearing -- his second Capitol Hill appearance this month where he was called to answer questions on the Russia and Hillary Clinton email probes.
“Someday, they'll have to explain to their grandchildren what they did today," a defiant Comey said of the Republicans on the two House committees that conducted the interview, accusing them of not defending the FBI from President Trump’s attacks.
Former FBI Director James Comey, with his attorney, David Kelley, right, speaks to reporters after a day of testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Associated Press)
Republicans, for their part, have accused Comey of not being forthcoming. He was called back to Capitol Hill after an appearance in early December in which he repeatedly claimed not to know or remember the answers to numerous questions. Jordan told reporters he was not satisfied with Comey's answers on Monday, either.
Comey, though, cast the questioning from lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees as political and defended his own leadership, under which agents investigated Clinton and began probing relationships between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We had to make very hard decisions in 2016,” Comey said. “I knew we were going to get hurt by it. The question was how do we reduce the damage.”
Asked by Fox News' Catherine Herridge whether he bore any responsibility for the FBI's reputation taking a hit, he responded, "No."
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Comey called it “frustrating to be here.”
“The questions about Hillary Clinton and Steele dossier strike me as more of the same,” Comey said. “I didn’t learn anything new in there. Maybe they did.”
Lashing out at Republicans, Comey also called for them to stand up to the “fear of Fox News, fear of their base, fear of mean tweets” and “stand up for the values of this country.”
Earlier, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters Republicans planned to focus their Comey questioning on a new FBI document that was released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act and published by Politico.
He told reporters he wanted Comey to clarify when he first became aware of the involvement of the Democratic National Committee, law firm Perkins Coie and the opposition research group Fusion GPS in the production of the dossier.
“I want to give him a chance to clarify all that,” Meadows said.
That heavily redacted document details the information regarding the bureau’s Russia investigation that Comey, serving as FBI director at the time, briefed Trump about shortly after the Republican was elected president. The document, once again, suggests the FBI was vague in the sourcing of the dossier’s origin as being funded by anti-Trump Democrats.
But Meadows also says he believes it could conflict with previous statements from Comey about what he knew of the dossier’s origins at the time.
“I can’t imagine how the director of the FBI did not know the connection between Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, and the DNC, as it related to the infamous dossier,” Meadows told reporters.
During an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier in April, Comey said he first learned about the existence of the dossier in the fall of 2016 but still didn’t “know…for a fact” that the DNC and Hilary Clinton campaign had funded the work. The dossier was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign. The FBI document vaguely refers to it as being paid for by “private clients.”
“An FBI source … volunteered highly politically sensitive information … on Russian influence efforts aimed at the US presidential election,” the memo said.
Referring to Steele, who authored the dossier, the memo said, “The source is an executive of a private business intelligence firm and a former employee of a friendly intelligence service who has been compensated for previous reporting over the past three years." It also said, "The source collected this information on behalf of private clients and was not compensated for it by the FBI.”
Trump has railed against the FBI for relying in part on a dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents as it began investigating the relationships between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign.
Earlier this year, Comey said during his book tour that he didn’t tell the president about the origins of the dossier during the briefing, saying it “wasn’t necessary.”
Comey returned for more Capitol Hill testimony after the prior Dec. 7 session left lame-duck Republican lawmakers fuming as Comey repeatedly said "I don't remember," "I don't know" and "I don't recall" when grilled about investigations Republicans believed were aimed at hurting Trump.
The questioning covered the FBI's probe of Clinton's email server and how a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election morphed into an all-encompassing probe of Trump's inner circle, including the obtaining of FISA warrants used to spy on American citizens.
transcript of the marathon interview was released on Dec. 8, demonstrating the fired FBI boss' lack of responsiveness and the tension between him and GOP lawmakers.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Caroline McKee contributed to this report.
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Russia's disinformation campaign wasn't just on Facebook and Twitter. Here are all the social media platforms Russian trolls weaponized during the 2016 US elections - Business Insider

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Russia's disinformation campaign wasn't just on Facebook and Twitter. Here are all the social media platforms Russian trolls weaponized during the 2016 US elections  Business Insider
Researchers found that virtually no social media platform was untouched by the Russian-linked disinformation campaign.

"US elections and russia" - Google News: Texas secession a key theme in Russian campaign during 2016 elections, report says - Standard-Times

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Texas secession a key theme in Russian campaign during 2016 elections, report says  Standard-Times
A Russian campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 elections found success on social media promoting Texas secession, U.S. Senate report states.


 "US elections and russia" - Google News

CNN's Chris Cuomo Spots 'Uncanny' Similarity Of Trump And Russian Bot Messages

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OPINION: From Martha Stewart To Scooter Libby, Comey’s FBI Has History Of Unscrupulous Tactics

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John D. O'Connor | The attorney who revealed Mark Felt as Watergate's Deep Throat
Conscious of how sneaky he sounded in his pompous, self-serving book, “A Higher Loyalty,” James Comey felt the need to declare, “I don’t do sneaky things.” In fact, he is a master of sneakiness.  Comey has now trapped yet another victim — a 30-year veteran of our armed services, a true hero —  Gen. Michael Flynn.
Comey is a weaving spider with years of fly-catching experience. His first notable victim was Martha Stewart, followed famously by Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. presidential advisor Karl Rove narrowly escaped the trap.
In each of these cases, Comey employed the same web-spinning he later used to trap Flynn. Comey would have his target questioned, not to gain information that he already knew, but to trap him into a lie. To push the target to lie, Comey would trick him into incorrectly believing that a true answer would be admission to a crime.
As a young federal prosecutor, Comey’s agents questioned Martha Stewart after she unloaded stock right before it tanked on the advice of a broker with inside information. Comey knew Stewart had not committed a crime but also knew she would likely not know the law and would deny learning the information.
But rather than cause Stewart to be assured that she had done nothing wrong and could tell the truth with impunity, Comey trapped her into a lie. He had snared his prey.
When, in 2003, Valerie Plame complained that her status as a CIA agent had been wrongly published, Deputy Attorney General Comey persuaded his boss, John Ashcroft, to recuse himself from that investigation, even though Comey himself was more recusal-worthy because of his contempt for Cheney.
Comey knew that, like Stewart, Libby would think outing Plame was criminal, even though it was not. Comey correctly assumed that Libby would falsely deny talking to reporters about Plame. In fact, Comey already knew who had disclosed Plame’s name to Robert Novak, who published it.
Fast forward to January 2016. The hated Donald Trump won the election. President Obama, grandstanding, had sanctioned the Russians, and everyone knew Trump would soon undo the silliness. Flynn, incoming national security advisor, assured the Russians of this during the transition; Comey knew this from a tape of the conversation.
Comey’s ally in the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, began making noisesthat any negotiations with a foreign power during the transition was a violation of the Logan Act, forbidding private citizens from conducting diplomacy. No one had ever been successfully prosecuted in the 200 years of the Act, and every incoming president discussed issues with foreign governments during transition, including President Obama, quite openly.
Sneaky Comey, however, knew that Flynn — cognizant of the resurrected Logan Act — would lie about talking with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions. Comey also knew, as he recently proudly admitted, that the Trump White House was so disorganized that Comey could simply send agents to the White House to drop in on Flynn, without forewarning.
Comey’s agents, following his script, acted casually, encountering Flynn in a friendly way, and specifically advising him that he did not need a lawyer. The spider got his fly: Flynn denied what Comey already knew about the Kislyak conversations. So, Comey was not looking for information that he already had but was looking to ruin a hero’s career for partisan purposes.
Comey also knew when lowly Trump aide George Papadopoulos had spoken to a Comey informant, Josef Mifsud, who touted his Russian connections to Papadopoulos, even though he was a British intelligence asset. Comey sent his agents to get a false denial from the hapless Papadopoulos, who denied he spoke with Mifsud after he joined the campaign team. Papadopoulos was certainly worried about the “Russian collusion” touted by Comey, which was not a crime. But Comey successfully ruined another life for ego gratification.
His setup of Trump is even more disgraceful to the just-the-facts FBI. He made a point of briefing the incoming Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, on the “peeing prostitute” allegations, knowing they were as false as their source, Sergei Millian, the known Russian asset making that claim in the Steele Dossier.  This allowed Comey to hang these allegations over Trump’s head while allowing NSI James Clapper to leak the meeting to CNN, which in turn gave BuzzFeed the hook to publish the entire scurrilous dossier.
Comey made book on the hated Trump, writing after each meeting memos designed to be used to trap his boss, something he never did to his beloved Obama. Eventually, as we all know, Comey’s memos ensnared Trump in the special counsel investigation.
As Comey’s own misdeeds come to light, we trust that prosecutors will be as merciless as Comey in reviewing them, even if not as deviously unethical.
John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the co-author of “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington” and is a producer of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (2017), written and directed by Peter Landesman

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.
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gulen - Google Search

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Story image for gulen from Hurriyet Daily News

Trump to 'take a look at' extraditing Fethullah Gülen, but noncommittal ...

Hurriyet Daily News-2 hours ago
16, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Trump had told Erdoğan that Washington was working on extraditing Fethullah Gülen, ...
Story image for gulen from Philly.com

Who is Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric exiled in the Poconos at the ...

<a href="http://Philly.com" rel="nofollow">Philly.com</a>-20 hours ago
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of directing a failed coup in 2016 and other efforts to destabilize his regime.
Gulen followers encourage education, awareness
International-Pocono Record-13 hours ago
Story image for gulen from Washington Examiner

Fethullah Gulen's extradition would signal a human sacrifice-based ...

Washington Examiner-Dec 17, 2018
On Sunday, Turkey's foreign minister indicated that President Trump had not dropped the controversial idea of extraditing Fethullah Gulen, ...
US Is 'Working On' Extraditing Gulen, Top Turkish Official Says
International-New York Times-Dec 16, 2018
Story image for gulen from Aljazeera.com

Turkey jails nephew of cleric accused of orchestrating coup bid

<a href="http://Aljazeera.com" rel="nofollow">Aljazeera.com</a>-12 hours ago
A Turkish court has sentenced a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, ...
Story image for gulen from ABC News

Michael Flynn's former associate charged with secret lobbying for ...

ABC News-Dec 17, 2018
White House denies US President Donald Trump was working to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey; Man linked to US national ...
Story image for gulen from Hurriyet Daily News

Trump did not tell Erdoğan he would extradite Gülen: White House ...

Hurriyet Daily News-Dec 17, 2018
Turkey has long been pressing on its NATO ally for the extradition of Gülen, the leader of FETÖ that is widely believed to have led the deadly ...

Document: Michael Flynn Associates Charged in Gulen Extradition Effort

Lawfare (blog)-Dec 17, 2018
A grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia has indicted Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, both associates of former National Security ...
Story image for gulen from Haaretz

Trump Working on Extraditing Gulen, Turkish Foreign Minister Says

Haaretz-Dec 16, 2018
"In Argentina, Trump told Erdogan they were working on extraditing Gulen and other people," Cavusoglu said at conference in Doha, referring ...
Story image for gulen from Ahval

US started investigations against Gülen movement - Turkish foreign ...

Ahval-Dec 17, 2018
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Monday said the U.S. authorities started investigations against the supporters of Gülen ...
Story image for gulen from The Independent

Trump 'working on' extraditing Islamic cleric Gulen from US to Turkey

The Independent-Dec 16, 2018
Turkish foreign minister's comments come as US seeks to reduce Turkish pressure on Saudi Arabia over Jamal Khashoggi murder.
Story image for gulen from Washington Post

Sanders: Trump to 'look at' Gulen extradition

Washington Post-18 hours ago
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Dec. 18 said President Trump would "look at" extraditing dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen but ...
Story image for gulen from The Boston Globe

Fethullah Gulen, a US resident wanted by Turkey, must be protected

The Boston Globe-Nov 20, 2018
Following the revelation last week by NBC News that the administration was weighing whether to extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen to ...
Story image for gulen from Aljazeera.com

Turkey hands list of Gulen suspects to US, requests extradition

<a href="http://Aljazeera.com" rel="nofollow">Aljazeera.com</a>-Nov 21, 2018
Turkey has renewed its call for the United States to extradite Turkish religious leader Fethullah Gulen, and 83 alleged members of his ...
Story image for gulen from Grand Haven Tribune

Trump administration pushes back on Gulen extradition reports

Grand Haven Tribune-Nov 25, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long sought to have Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who now lives in Pennsylvania, sent back to ...
Story image for gulen from Daily Sabah

Trump told Erdoğan he's working to extradite Gülen, FM Çavuşoğlu says

Daily Sabah-Dec 16, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Washington was working on extraditing Fethullah Gülen, ...
Story image for gulen from WFMZ Allentown

Fethullah Gulen indicted for 2016 killing of Russian ambassador

WFMZ Allentown-Nov 23, 2018
Turkey's state-run news agency says a prosecutor has concluded that a network led Gulen is behind the 2016 killing of Russia's ambassador to ...
Turkey Charges Arch-Foe Gulen Over Murder of Russian Envoy
International-Globe Post Turkey-Nov 23, 2018
Story image for gulen from The National Interest Online (blog)

America Shouldn't Give up Fethullah Gülen to Turkey

The National Interest Online (blog)-Nov 20, 2018
The epicenter of the controversy is Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Pennsylvania resident and green card holder went into exile in ...