U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.

.. “It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,”

.. During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.

.. Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.

.. On Wednesday, Russian prosecutors escalated the stakes. The prosecutor-general’s office said it wanted to interview Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, another Putin bete noire. McFaul—the Obama-era ambassador to Moscow—replied on Twitter that the Russians know well that he wasn’t even in Russia during the relevant time frame for any case against Browder.

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out permitting the Russians to question McFaul. Sanders said that there had been “some conversation” in Helsinki about the issue, though Trump made no “commitment.”
.. Heather Nauert called the Russian request for McFaul “absolutely absurd”—which was closer in line with how former U.S. diplomats viewed Putin’s gambit.If the U.S. would make a former diplomat avail for questioning by a foreign government without evidence of wrongdoing, then that would be quite horrifying,” said Ron Neumann,

.. Susan Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Barack Obama’s national security adviser, tweeted that the lack of commitment to protecting McFaul was “beyond outrageous.
.. If the White House cannot defend and protect our diplomats, like our service members, they are serving a hostile foreign power not the American people.”
.. “To even hint that there’s some element of credibility to Russian disruptions and distractions puts a bullseye on the back of any diplomat and invites authoritarian regimes to bully and threaten American public servants for the crime of doing their job
.. Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, said Sanders’ comments made Trump look “even weaker” than during Trump’s Monday press conference with Putin. “Trump has always been all too eager to cave to Putin, but, as far as we know, it’d been largely in the abstract. He sells out our intelligence community, attacks NATO, shelves our commitment to human rights. But Putin now has specific demands in the form of human beings—one of them formerly our designated representative to Russia,” Price said.
.. “By failing to reject the idea out of hand – immediately and forcefully – Trump signaled that absolutely nothing is off limits when it comes to Putin. And just as shocking, he’s willing to play Putin’s brand of ball, in which the world is purely transactional and lives are expendable.”
.. The current U.S. diplomat said the openness to turning over McFaul capped off a shocking week for U.S. geopolitics.
.. The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass,” the diplomat said. “He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it.”The diplomat continued: “Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.”

Don’t Count Bibi Out — Yet

Bibi has been, for Israelis, a pretty good prime minister

.. Economy: Since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the economy has grown by nearly 30 percent in constant dollars — nearly twice the growth rate of Germany or the United States. Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a record for the Jewish state. On Monday, Israel announced a $15 billion dollar deal to export natural gas to Egypt from its huge offshore fields.

.. Diplomacy: Netanyahu’s personal ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are exceptionally close, as they are with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. Israel’s relations with African countries and the Arab world are the best they’ve been in decades

.. Security: In 2002, at the height of the second intifada, Israelis suffered more than 400 terrorism fatalities. In 2017 there were fewer than two dozen.

.. For the most part, Israel has been able to strike Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah targets at will.

.. Diaspora Jews were infuriated last year by the government’s backtracking on a plan to let men and women pray together at the Western Wall.

.. The central complaint of Netanyahu’s critics is that he has failed to make good on the promise of his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, where he claimed to accept the principle of a Palestinian state.

.. Subsidiary charges include his refusal to halt settlement construction

..  Israel’s political left was not destroyed by Netanyahu. It was obliterated one Palestinian suicide bombing, rocket salvo, tunnel attack and rejected statehood offer at a time. Bibi’s long tenure of office is the consequence, not the cause, of this.

.. the two great lessons of the past 30 years.

  1. First, that separation from the Palestinians is essential — in the long term.
  2. Second, that peace with the Palestinians is impossible — in the short term.

.. it’s hard to imagine any other sort of approach, which is why any successor to Netanyahu will have to pursue essentially identical policies

.. For all of his flaws, few have done it as well as Bibi, which is why he has endured

Jonas Gahr Støre: As A Rule, Should Diplomats Talk To Everyone?

As Foreign Minister of Norway, engaging in difficult and intense diplomatic negotiations was part of Jonas Gahr Støre’s job. He learned that dialogue is a strategy of strength, not one of weakness.

About Jonas Gahr Støre

Jonas Gahr Støre is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway. In that role, his job was to represent Norway in the international community. He is currently a member of the Norwegian Parliament and the leader of the Labour Party. Støre is also the former Minister of Health and Care for Norway, former Executive Director of the World Health Organization, and former Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross.

Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

And beginning next month with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang, the Pentagon plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, an initial step toward what some officials said ultimately could be the formation of a Korea-based task force similar to the types that are fighting in Iraq and Syria.

.. President Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning.

.. In perhaps the most incendiary exchange, in a September speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if it threatened the United States, and derided the rogue nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man.” In response, Mr. Kim said he would deploy the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States, and described Mr. Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

.. on Jan. 2, Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., warned the 200 civilians and service members in the audience that more Special Forces personnel might have to shift to the Korea theater from the Middle East in May or June, if tensions escalate on the peninsula.

.. Military officials said General Milley has cited the ill-fated

  • Battle of the Kasserine Pass during World War II, when unprepared American troops were outfoxed and then pummeled by the forces of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of Germany. General Milley has also recently mentioned
  • Task Force Smith, the poorly equipped, understrength unit that was mauled by North Korean troops in 1950 during the Korean War.

.. fretted about a loss of what he has called muscle memory: how to fight a large land war, including one in which an established adversary is able to bring sophisticated air defenses, tanks, infantry, naval power and even cyberweapons into battle.

.. There have been no travel warnings advising Americans to stay away from South Korea or Japan, and no advisories warning American businesses to be cautious.

.. It is unlikely that the Pentagon would launch military action on the Korean Peninsula without first warning Americans and others there, military officials said — unless the Trump administration believes that the United States could conduct a one-time airstrike on North Korea that would not bring any retaliation from Pyongyang to nearby Seoul.

.. Some officials in the White House have argued that such a targeted, limited strike could be launched with minimal, if any, blowback against South Korea — a premise that Mr. Mattis views with skepticism,

.. But for Mr. Mattis, the planning serves to placate Mr. Trump.

.. protects Mr. Mattis from suggestions that he is out of step with Mr. Trump.

.. The maneuvers were aimed at forcing an enemy to fight on different fronts early in combat.

.. Officials said maneuvers practiced in the exercise, called Panther Blade, could be used anywhere, not just on the Korean Peninsula.

.. Another exercise, called Bronze Ram

.. Air Force B-1 bombers flying from Guam have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula

..  B-52 bombers based in Louisiana are expected to join the B-1s stationed on Guam later this month

.. three B-2 bombers and their crews had arrived in Guam from their base in Missouri.

.. unlike the very public buildup of forces in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war .. the Pentagon is seeking to avoid making public all its preparations for fear of inadvertently provoking a response by Mr. Kim

.. “I’ll also add that right now, the Defense Department is in support of Secretary of State Tillerson, who’s got a campaign to be the lead with North Korea in a diplomatic endeavor,” General Jamieson said.

A West Coast Plea to an Unstable President

I’ll let Leon Panetta, the wisest of West Coasters and former secretary of defense, speak for us:

“You’ve got two bullies chiding each other with outrageous comments,” he told Politico this week. He worried that the bully in Bedminster may feel that the bully in Pyongyang is “attacking his manhood,” an age-old trigger for war. The similarities between the two of you are unavoidable: the preening, the insecurity, the pathological narcissism, the chronic lying, the bad haircuts.

.. But we sometimes can’t tell the statements between the two of you apart. Was it Kim or your magnificence who said you would turn the other’s capital city into a “sea of fire”? Or force the other’s country to suffer “fire and fury like the world has never seen?”

.. one of your top advisers, Sebastian Gorka, has been trying to sound like you, ratcheting up the my-nukes-are-bigger-than-yours brinkmanship. “We are not just the superpower,” he said. “We are now a hyperpower.” If only he were talking about a Marvel Comics character.

And it’s equally unsettling that your evangelical adviser, the Texas pastor Robert Jeffress, is now giving you cover from the Bible. “God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” he said, speaking for God.

.. It will take more than “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake,” more than calling President Xi Jinping of China a good guy one day, a bad guy the next. Diplomacy is hard. But it beats the alternative.

Turkey Summons U.S. Ambassador Over Security During Erdogan Visit

Competing accounts from U.S. and Turkish officials about violent confrontation

 Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by U.S. security toward Turkish bodyguards during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington last week.
.. Local police, U.S. lawmakers and demonstrators said members of Mr. Erdogan’s security detail took part in an unprovoked attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.The U.S. State Department said it summoned the Turkish ambassador last week to express its concern over the incident, which D.C. police, the Secret Service and the State Department are investigating.

The summoning of U.S. Ambassador John Bass on Monday added to Turkey’s challenges of the prevailing narrative in Washington by casting blame on U.S. security personnel for unprofessionalism outside the Turkish Embassy, as well as unspecified “lapses of security” throughout Mr. Erdogan’s visit.

..The ministry also condemned “the inability of U.S. authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program.” A spokesman for the ministry declined to further specify Turkey’s complaints, pending the investigation it requested.

.. A narrative of the incident published by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the fight started after protesters threw water bottles at Turkish citizens.
.. The Turkish government cast the anti-Erdogan demonstrators as sympathizers with the PKK, the Kurdish separatist group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Turkey.
.. “There is a big difference between freedom of expression and expression of solidarity with terrorism and terrorists,” Amb. Serdar Kilic said at a speech at the Trump Hotel to people gathered for a conference on U.S.-Turkey business relations. “We do not take it as freedom of expression, it’s expression of solidarity with terrorism.”
.. said Americans were “concerned and disturbed” by the violence.
..“It is important to note that, in the United States, such protests are legal, protected and customary,” Mr. Shannon told the same business conference, where he sat next to the Turkish ambassador during the lunch. “In this regard, we found the attack to be deplorable and lacking in the respect for our laws that we expect from visitors.”

In Video, Erdogan Watches as His Guards Clash With Protesters

Nine people were hospitalized after the skirmish, and the State Department issued a stern statement condemning the attack.