Trump Stumbling into Another Middle East Conflict
On the radar: Trump runs headfirst into a Middle East War; U.S., Syria, Iran on collision course; Jim Walsh talks U.S.-South Korea Summit; Student’s death propels U.S. pressure on China; There is no military option for North Korea; and North Korean officials suggest denuclearization is still on the table
Spiraling into a Middle East War - “The Washington elite is waking up to the increasingly real possibility that the Trump administration may be moving the country into yet another Middle East war. And much more quickly than anyone had anticipated. And through sheer incompetence and incoherence rather than by design,” write Jim Lobe and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio for Lobelog Foreign Policy. “At a moment of crisis a half a world away, Trump may actually welcome some serious fireworks as a useful diversion from his deepening political and legal problems at home. After all, those missiles strikes in Syria back in April gave him something of a reprieve, at least for a few days.”
--“Syria is indeed the focus of the moment, particularly after the events of just the past few days. On Sunday, a U.S. fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane in Syrian territory, and Iran launched a mid-range missile attack on an Islamic State... target in eastern Syria. Moreover… the possibilities for catastrophic miscalculation are skyrocketing. It’s not just the proximity of rival armed forces in both eastern Syria and the Gulf. It’s also the lack of direct communication among key parties and the lack of clarity as to their actual policies. That applies in spades to what passes for the Trump ‘administration.’” For the full article, click here.
See also - “Trump Could Get Us Into a War by Accident” by Ilan Goldenberg for Slate here.
U.S. on collision course with Syria and Iran - “Trump administration officials, anticipating the defeat of the Islamic State in its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, are planning for what they see as the next stage of the war, a complex fight that will bring them into direct conflict with Syrian government and Iranian forces contesting control of a vast desert stretch in the eastern part of the country,” write Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe for The Washington Post.
--“At the White House, senior officials involved in Syria policy see what’s happening through a lens focused as much on Iran as on the Islamic State. The Iranian goal, said one, ‘seems to be focused on making that link-up with Iran-friendly forces on the other side of the border, to control lines of communication and try to block us from doing what our commanders and planners have judged all along is necessary to complete the ISIS campaign.’... ‘If it impacts your political outcome, if it further enables Iran to solidify its position as the dominant force in Syria for the long haul,’ the official said, ‘that threatens other things,’ including ‘the defeat-ISIS strategy’ and ‘the ability to get to political reconciliation efforts.’” For the full article, click here.
See also - Stumbling into war in the Middle East is nothing new, just read Joe Cirincione and Geoff Wilson’s take - “The Cavalier Crusade for a War With Iran” for War Is Boring here.
Cooperation key in U.S.-ROK Summit - “President Trump and President Moon will not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but they may find a way to divide up the labor, where each country pursues what it does best. The key to success will be strong consultation, coordination, and mutual commitment,” writes Jim Walsh for Fox News. “Absent that, we may again get policies that contradict and undercut one another rather than strengthen and reinforce. It will be hard to do, but these two longtime allies really don’t have a choice. Neither can accomplish its objective without the other, and failure today may lead to military conflict tomorrow.” Full article here.
See also - “South Korea president calls on China’s Xi to do more on North Korea nuclear program” by Jean Yoon and Soyoung Kim for Reuters here.
Warmbier death builds pressure on China - “The US is seeking to ramp up pressure on Beijing to help rein in its wayward neighbour at the meeting in Washington where Pyongyang’s missile programme is likely [topped] the agenda,” writes Neil Connor for The Telegraph. “Chinese media said on Wednesday that the death of The University of Virginia student, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for stealing a propaganda poster, may ‘propel Washington to impose greater pressure on Beijing.’ ‘The US side may leverage the incident and force China to make more commitments on the North Korea nuclear issue,’ the Global Times newspaper said.” Full article here.
New Ploughshares Fund Report - Ploughshares Fund released a new report recommending that the United States rethink its strategy to buy new missile interceptors for Europe. Rather than field a new anti-missile system in Poland to counter Iranian intermediate-range missiles that do not exist, the report finds that the United States should put these plans on hold. “The expansion of U.S. anti-missile systems is Europe should be paused,” said report author Dr. Tytti Erästö, the Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund. “This would pose no risk to NATO security, as there is no nuclear missile threat from Iran to justify the new defenses,” she said.
War with DPRK not the answer - Beginning on page six of the ICAS Bulletin for the Institute for China-American Studies, Geoff Wilson concludes that “any attempt to curtail North Korea’s nuclear weapons program through military force would be an unmitigated disaster.” He continues, “The scope of proposed military options range from limited offshore missile strikes (like those made against Syria earlier this year) to a full-on decapitating blow to the Kim regime. The problem is that any sort of military action, regardless of its scope or intent, could rapidly escalate into a full-blown regional war with no off ramp or way to step back from the brink.”
--“It is unlikely that any sort of military action could actually eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program.” Then there’s a risk of a North Korean response: “Within minutes of a U.S. strike, the North could unleash a devastating retaliatory strike, all without moving a single man. While the United States must maintain its security commitments to its allies and partners in the region, we must also disabuse ourselves of the fantasy that there is a low-stakes military solution to North Korea’s nuclear program. The risks are far too great, and the outcomes too unknowable. Living with a nuclear North Korea is a tough pill to swallow, but engaging in a cavalier military misadventure in an attempt to solve the problem would be a catastrophe for the United States and the world.” For the full article, click here.
DPRK officials express interest in denuclearization - “North Korean diplomats who attended an informal meeting with former U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials and academics may have expressed interest in denuclearization,” writes Elizabeth Shim for UPI. “Hajime Izumi, an international relations professor at Tokyo International University, told Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that officials from Pyongyang had not abandoned the aim of denuclearizing the peninsula espoused by former leader Kim Jong Il.”
--“North Korea stressed the development of nuclear weapons was for the sake of ‘self-defense’ during the dialogue, while demanding the United States not to deploy nuclear weapons to the peninsula, the analyst said… Ahead of the meeting, South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported the officials were from the North Korean foreign ministry's disarmament and peace institute.” For the full article, click here.
See also - “North Korean diplomat raises possibility of talks with US, nuclear test moratorium” by Jeff Daniels for CNBC here.
--“North Korea Would Not Hesitate to Kill You” by Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy here.
--“The ban treaty: A big nuclear-weapon-free zone?” by Sebastian Brixey-Williams for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here.
--“Scientists Support a Nuclear Ban” featuring US Secretary of Defense William Perry for Future of Life Institute here.
--“Banning the Bomb -- A Blog of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks” by Alicia Sanders-Zakre for Arms Control Now here.
--“Europeans press terror-finance watchdog to extend Iran sanctions reprieve” by Barbara Slavin for Al Monitor here.
--“In The Event Of Attack, Here’s How The Government Plans ‘To Save Itself,’” an interview with Terry Gross and Garrett Graff for NPR here.
--“Rocky Flats Made Nukes. Then It Made A Mess. Now It’s About To Become A Public Park” by Ryan Grenoble for Huffpost here.
--“All Signs from Trump Point to a Coming Conflict with Iran” by John Feffer for Foreign Policy In Focus here.
--“Dealing with the Realities of Nuclear Violence” by Ray Acheson for Global Research here.
--An Analysis of U.S. Missile Defense. Hosted by the Center for National Interest. Featuring Joe Cirincione, Tom Cotton and others. Monday, June 26, 2017, 12:00p.m. Center for National Interest, 1025 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details to come.
--”Crafting a Successful Iran Strategy.” CNAS 2017 Annual Conference. Featuring Sen. Chris Murphy, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Ilan Goldenberg and others. Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 11:00a.m.-11:50a.m. The Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.
--“Mission Accomplished? Challenges to Safety Culture in the Nuclear Weapons Complex” Hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Featuring Joyce Connery, Patrick Malone, Don Nichols, Toby Dalton and R. Jeffrey Smith. Thursday, June 29, 2017, 1:00p.m.-2:30p.m. Carnegie Endowment Headquarters, 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.
--“Debate: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Modernization.” Co-hosted by Ploughshares Fund and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Featuring Adam Mount, Hon. Ellen Tauscher and others. Thursday, June 29, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.