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February 22, 2016

Stumbling Toward War

America’s adversaries have taken the measure of our commander in chief.

A spate of stories published last week all point in one troubling direction: America’s adversaries have taken the measure of our commander in chief — and found him seriously wanting.

We begin with the news that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iran Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan regarding the purchase of the S-300 air defense system and offensive weapons that include Moscow’s most sophisticated T-90 tanks and Su-30 Flanker fighter jets. Thus one of the key provisions of the Iran nuclear deal, a.k.a. UN Resolution 2231 — requiring Tehran to get UN permission before acquiring “battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems” — is on the verge of being ignored. Adding insult to injury, Gen. Dehqan is believed to be the architect of the 1983 Beirut bombing that killed 241 American service members.

Iran is also expected to thumb its nose at the same resolution this month when they test a Simorgh space launch vehicle characterized by U.S. officials as the basis of their covert program to develop long-range nuclear missiles. An unnamed State Department official who spoke with The Washington Free Beacon epitomized the administration’s flaccid response to the prospect, declining to speculate as to whether such a launch would violate the agreement, but promising to address any Iranian actions “inconsistent with any relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions … through the appropriate channels.” Iran insists the space launch vehicle’s 220 pound payload is too small to carry a first-generation nuclear warhead. The Beacon’s Bill Gertz reveals otherwise: “Space launch technology is identical to long-range missile technology.”

And from whom is Iran getting the technological expertise for such an effort? An April exposé by Gertz reveals that while the nuclear negotiations with Iran were proceeding, North Korea supplied the mullahs with “several shipments of missile components” that also “appear to violate UN sanctions on both countries.” That would be the very same North Korea that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) asserts is planning a terrorist attack orchestrated by Kim Jong Un. The same North Korea that launched a long-range rocket of its own this month — following January’s test of hydrogen bomb components.

Americans must never forget why North Korea has nukes. The same bankrupt ideology that animates the Obama administration’s horrendous deal with Iran drove Bill Clinton and his North Korean emissary Jimmy Carter. They repeatedly assured the nation the Agreed Framework of 1994 would prevent a nuclear North Korea.

Even if one were to concede such a momentous failure were an honest mistake, the idea the Obama administration would so willingly repeat it exemplifies the arrogance of a president who believes clever rhetoric can overcome evil ambitions by Communist or Islamist totalitarians.

An equally ambitious China revealed the hollowness of Obama’s promise of an Asian “pivot,” locating surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island in the South China Sea. The island is part of the Paracel Island chain and ownership is claimed by both Taiwan and Vietnam. The rising level of aggression follows condemnation by China, which vowed there would be consequences following the passage of U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island, also part of the Paracel chain. A U.S. defense official called “on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarization of features in the South China Sea,” but one suspects this is another “red line” moment for the administration.

Speaking of red lines, the administration’s failures in Syria may also lead to tragic consequences. “The Syrian civil war, still spiraling out of control, may soon lead to something even worse: a Russian-Turkish conflict that would engulf the region, magnify the war’s death toll and destruction, and likely mark the end of NATO,” explains columnist Benny Avni. Thus Secretary of State John Kerry’s allegedly engendered “cessation of hostilities” has become little more than what the French ambassador in Washington, Gerard Araud, referred to as “a smokescreen for the intensification of the offensive” by Russian and Syrian forces that included the bombing of two hospitals near the former rebel stronghold of Aleppo. “If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated following the strikes.

If Russia and Turkey engage in all out war, NATO is supposed to help Turkey. Avni notes what will likely happen in that event. “We don’t do wars anymore, remember? We, and NATO, are the weakest link in the Syrian war, which by now is a mini-world war, with players from near and far deploying armies and backing proxy militias.” A senior NATO official was even blunter regarding cause and effect: “It’s clear that there has to be some actual ‘redline’ for Mr. Obama, something that the United States cannot tolerate Russia doing — but where is it? If I don’t know, I’m sure the Kremlin doesn’t either.”

Nor do they care. Perhaps that’s because NATO is also responsible for protecting Ukraine in exchange for a 1994 agreement whereby they relinquished their Soviet-inherited nuclear weapons in return for Western promises their territorial integrity would be preserved. It hasn’t been — and Putin knows it.

Last week, Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart brought the consequences of the Obama administration’s fecklessness home — literally. Stewart told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ISIL “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.” His assertion was buttressed by National Intelligence Director James Clapper who explained the world’s foremost terrorist organization is active in approximately 40 countries, and that the world has more terrorist safe havens “than at any time in history.”

The Islamic State might have something else as well. Last November, “highly dangerous” radioactive material was stolen from a storage facility near Basra. The storage facility is owned by U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N, and the radioactive material by SGS Turkey, an Istanbul-based testing and inspection company. An Iraqi official speaking on condition of anonymity stated the obvious, saying, “We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Daesh (ISIL).”

That would be the same Islamic State expanding in Libya, courtesy of Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose “leading from behind” strategy abandoned Libya to terrorists after deposing strongman Moammar Gadhafi. The administration finally carried out airstrikes against ISIL there last Friday, reportedly killing as many as 30 people. Nonetheless, European and U.S. officials believe the number of Islamic State fighters in Libya has increased from 2,000 to 5,000 — meaning once again the administration is half-heartedly attempting to clean up a mess of its own making.

“By degrees, the world is entering the path to war. Not since the 1980s have the conditions been riper for a major international military crisis,” warn authors Jakub Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell. “Not since the 1930s has the world witnessed the emergence of multiple large, predatory states determined to revise the global order to their advantage — if necessary by force.”

And maybe not since the establishment of the United States itself have we seen an administration more willing to abide such chaos. While Americans remain embroiled in presidential politics, the world moves closer to war and/or another devastating domestic attack, with the added worry that a dirty bomb might be part of the equation. Through it all only one constant endures: This commander in chief and his cadre of equally delusional administration officials are more than willing to compromise national security for ideological purity.

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