Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

Story highlights

  • Sessions said they can get the money for the wall
  • Trump promised Mexico would pay for it

Washington (CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Sunday he does not expect the Mexican government to outright pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall, but there are a number of ways to extract the billions of dollars needed to build it.

Sessions made his comments in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” where he was attempting to square Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall with Mexico’s firm position to the contrary.
“We’re going to get it paid for one way or the other,” Sessions said.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to say the wall would stop drugs and the gang MS-13. He also said that Mexico would pay for the wall “in some form.”
Trump promised during the campaign that within his first 100 days as president he would get Congress to pass legislation fully funding the wall and establishing mandatory minimum prison sentences for people illegally entering the US after already being deported. That promise, one of many in his “Contract with the American Voter,” said Mexico would reimburse the US for the cost of the wall.
Trump has also threatened to target remittances, or cash transfers from people within the US to people in Mexico.
Sessions referenced a Treasury Department watchdog report during the Obama administration that said excess payments of about $4 billion a year were going to people that shouldn’t get them, and he said reining in the problem could lead to savings over time that could pay for the wall.
“These are mostly Mexicans,” Sessions said. “And those kind of things add up. Four billion a year for 10 years is 40 billion.”
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report in 2011 saying people who were not authorized to work in the US were paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits in one year.
The Justice Department did not respond Sunday to a question asking if the report is the one Sessions referenced. The Treasury inspector general also did not return a request for information on whether any actions were taken following the release of the report and if more up-to-date figures exist.
An internal estimate from Customs and Border Protection put the cost of the wall at $21.6 billion, while an estimate from Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the wall could cost as much as $66.9 billion.
Sessions implied other actions at the border and in trade could pay for the wall, although he said he did not expect the Mexican government itself to foot the bill.
“I don’t expect the Mexican government to appropriate money for it,” Sessions said. “But there are ways that we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue to pay for it. No doubt about it.”
The Trump administration has requested a $1 billion “down payment” from Congress to begin construction of the wall. Administration officials in televised interviews on Sunday said funding for the wall is a priority in budget negotiations ahead of a potential government shutdown Friday, but stopped short of saying Trump would not accept a bill that didn’t include the funding

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

By Dominique Patton and Sue-Lin Wong | BEIJING/PYONGYANG

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.

Concerns have grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. and unilateral sanctions.

The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the decentralization of the Korean peninsula.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Force cannot solve the problem, dialogue can be the only channel to resolve the problem.”

North Korea for its part denounced the United States for bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace issued a statement condemning the United States for its attack on the Syrian airfield.

“The U.S. introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s KCNA news agency said on Friday, citing the statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people cheering during an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.”

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

On Saturday, it marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

While Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate any more provocation, U.S. officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump said on Thursday North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of” and he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve it.

Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

He diverted the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force. (tmsnrt.rs/2p1yGTQ)

The dollar fell on Friday against a basket of currencies, on track for a losing week as tension over North Korea underpinned the perceived safe-haven Japanese yen.

Media in Japan said the government confirmed it would take all precautions in the face of possible North Korean provocations.

The Nikkei business daily said government discussions included how to rescue the estimated 57,000 Japanese citizens in South Korea as well as how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees coming to Japan, among whom might be North Korean spies and agents.

In Pyongyang, retired soldier Ho Song Chol told Reuters that North Korea would win should there be any conflict with the United States.

“We don’t think about other things, we just live in our belief that we will win as long as our Supreme Leader is with us,” Ho said, referring to Kim Jong Un.

Kang Gil-won, a 26-year-old graduate living in Seoul, said his biggest concern was not North Korea, but finding work in a tough job market.

“There’s no concern that war is going to break out tomorrow,” he told Reuters at a “study café” where many young job seekers prepare for interviews.

“Getting a job is a war that I feel in my bones.”

Many South Koreans, meanwhile, marked “Black Day” on Friday, but it had nothing to do with worry about North Korea.

Black Day is a day for singles, marked by eating “jajangmyeon”, a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black beans. It’s celebrated by singles as a response to “White Day”, an Asian Valentine’s Day which falls a month earlier, on March 14.

(Additional reporting by Nick Macfie, James Pearson and Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Natalie Thomas in Pyongyang, Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Is President Trump Getting Ready To Dump Alt-Right Strategist Steve Bannon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) It’s easy to forget, after a whirlwind 82 days in the White House, that chief strategist Steve Bannon only formally joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign fewer than three months before Election Day.

For Trump, however, the timeline is crystal clear. He is keenly aware of when Bannon joined the team and, more to the point, how far he’d gone without him.
“I like Steve,” the President told the New York Post on Tuesday, “but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late.”
Trump in the same breath went on to list his pre-Bannon accomplishments and remind the world, “I’m my own strategist,” making clear what many had suspected — that the former Breitbart executive is on the presidential chopping block. Bannon picked the wrong rival in Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, also a top adviser, and it’s become expressly clear that if the two can’t, as Trump said, “work this out,” Bannon will be the one who pays.
The prospect of Bannon’s dismissal will bring unalloyed joy to Democrats and the anti-Trump resistance, who view him as an right-wing extremist with a direct line to the Oval Office, and no small measure of relief to moderate Republicans turned off by his ideological aversion to most forms of American engagement overseas.
All of which begs the question: What becomes of Trump and his administration if the Bannon gets the boot?
The emerging wisdom is that Bannon’s departure would set off a centrist drift, with aides like daughter Ivanka Trump, Kushner and former Goldman Sachs No. 2 Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, leading the way. Firebrands like Stephen Miller, one author of the initial travel ban, would be sidelined or dismissed.
By this logic, Trump, too, would moderate. Tweets aside, he might be more inclined to engage the establishment, whether that means seeking some kind of bipartisan consensus on trade or getting in the trenches with House Speaker Paul Ryan and fighting for more familiar GOP policies.
It would be, in short, the “pivot” that so many conservatives in Washington have clamored for and hopefully anticipated since it became clear Trump would be the GOP nominee.

Source: No one is leaving the White House

 Source: No one is leaving the White House

There is a concern, however, among some Trump allies that firing Bannon — who helped amplify Trump’s outside-the-beltway base with his particular brand of economic populism and pledges to “deconstruct the administrative state” — could backfire.
One senior White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta some are worried Bannon will turn Breitbart against Trump if he leaves the White House.
But those worries seem to crumble when you consider the brief history lesson imparted by Trump during his chat with the Post.
“I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve,” Trump said, referencing a primary he successfully navigated while Bannon was at Breitbart. “I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Trump is correct here. The “psychic connection to the issue palette” that drove his base was firmly in place ahead of Bannon’s arrival. Breitbart played a part, of course, in boosting Trump, but it was not the author of his worldview. That, for anyone who hasn’t followed Trump since the New York City tabloids were fat and literally dripping with classifieds, predates this past political cycle by a decades.
While the Breitbart website could potentially turn on Trump, a scenario that supposes Bannon is unceremoniously dumped and doesn’t leave declaring victory, it would hardly unmoor the zealous core of support that has stood by Trump through countless political tsunamis.
The more likely outcome if Bannon goes is that he returns to Breitbart and continues to expand on its emerging media empire. And you don’t do that by going to war with the most popular politician in its pages.
Would the alt-right be unhappy? To the extent they are a coherent movement with shared interests beyond trolling women and minorities, sure. But they would get over it, and faster than one might expect. Trump is their meal ticket, too.
As for the actual voters, well, they might not even notice. Bannon is, after all, a staffer — one that Trump, CNN’s Sara Murray reports, believes was getting a little too much attention.
Despite his outsize outsider persona, Bannon’s profile is more prominent in Washington than in the blue-collar districts Trump feasted on during the election.
He does not represent the “silent majority” that turned the 2016 election — a cohort that, as much as anything else, was joined by its uniform disdain for the political and cultural establishment.
Trump does.

President Trump ‘quietly’ Signs Law To Prevent Federal Money Going To ‘Abortion’ Clinics

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump privately signed a bill on Thursday that allows states to withhold federal money from organizations that provide abortion services, including Planned Parenthood, a group frequently targeted by Republicans.

The bill, which the usually camera-friendly President signed without any media present, reverses an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding money from facilities that perform abortions, arguing that many of these facilities also provide other family planning and medical services.
The bulk of federal money Planned Parenthood receives, though, goes toward preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health services. Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions and Planned Parenthood says 3% of the services it provides are abortions.
The signing comes weeks after Vice President Mike Pence, a social conservative who regularly touts his anti-abortion stances, cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate after two Republicans opposed the measure.
“(Women’s) worst fears are now coming true. We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

Ivanka Trump’s influence

The law once again raises questions about the power Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and aide, actually wields inside the West Wing. The first daughter met with president of Planned Parenthood shortly after her father was inaugurated in an attempt to better understand the group that is regularly targeted by Republicans. She has also cultivated an image of a moderating force inside the White House.
The President has even said Ivanka Trump would be his guide on women’s health issues.
“Ivanka is so much into that whole issue of women’s health and women,” Trump said in a 2015 interview with Fox News. “And she’s my guide on that whole subject.”

fight to save obamacare marquez pkg ac_00000415

 What is being done to save Obamacare?

But the first daughter has been hesitant about publicly speaking about her views on abortion, despite saying she would be an advocate for women’s health inside the White House.
“I don’t talk about my politics,” she told Boston Public Radio in 2016. “I don’t feel like it’s my role … I’m the daughter. I don’t think my politics are relevant to the discussion.”
What is clear is that the meeting with Planned Parenthood — and whatever information Trump took away from it — did not sway her father’s administration, which has since targeted the organization. The Republican health care bill, which was fully backed by the White House, would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
Democratic organizations blasted the bill on Thursday.
“Stripping millions of Americans of the critical health care services that Planned Parenthood provides doesn’t just hurt women — it hurts entire families and their economic security,” said Stephanie Schriock, the head of EMILY’s List, a Democratic political action committee. “This is just one more example of Donald Trump’s White House and this Republican Congress taking every single opportunity to chip away at women’s rights, and we won’t stand for it.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the signing a “a major pro-life victory.”

Russia’s President Putin Cautions Iran and Syria’s Assad

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS PAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Putin Cautions Iran and Assad

When asked by a reporter if he expected more US missile strikes on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin replied: “We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared … in other parts of Syria, including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”

According to Reuters, Putin said Russia would be urgently asking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, to investigate the incident in Idlib.

Putin said that he realized that Russia will receive criticism for its role in Syria, but he hoped that eventually positions will be eased.

So, what do these statements mean with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson due to arrive at Moscow for direct talks?

Surely, no one in his right mind would believe that the US is “planning to plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”

As Putin said, if the US wanted to strike Damascus criminal Bashar al-Assad, there are simply several and logical justifications for it. This has been the case since the presidency of Obama and the US does not need to wait for Assad to use chemical weapons to launch strikes.

Therefore, the only reasonable analysis of Putin’s statement is that he is warning Assad and Iran against doing anything that could lead to more US strikes against the regime which would embarrass Russia, who will in turn not take any action that could lead to a military confrontation with the US.

No matter what Russia’s interest in Syria may be, Moscow will not go all the way to defend Assad because its real interests are in Europe. It has now become evident that President Trump is not the ally Russia was hoping for, but he is rather the president who launched a military strike against Assad.

The Russian president sought to assure the West that his country welcomes criticism of its role in Syria because he wants to convince the West that he is still in the political game. In addition, Russia’s position in Syria is not ideological or a matter of life and death, like it is with Iran and the terrorist “Hezbollah” organization, but it is negotiable.

As it stands, Putin will not allow any more embarrassments in Syria. We say “embarrassment” because Russia did not respond militarily to the Turkish downing of the Russian fighter jet, so how will it respond to US strikes against Assad after he used chemical weapons which Moscow pledged to remove in 2013?

Russia is in a tight spot and that is why Putin’s statement is more of a warning to Iran and Assad against doing anything reckless than being an accusation against the US. If Washington is colluding like that, it is better if Moscow halts the negotiations or not be so eager to welcome the Secretary of State.

It seems that Putin’s announcement is directed at Iran and Assad more than it is at the US.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin’s mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor’s degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Trump Discuss N. Korea’s Dictator By Phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China called for a “peaceful” resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as a United States aircraft carrier strike group churned towards the contested region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, in what one analyst described as a “new phase” of China-US relations on North Korea.
“I think at this point the common interest between the US and China outweigh (North Korea saber-rattling),” Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told CNN.

Trump & Xi's North Korea problem

Trump & Xi’s North Korea problem
“China may be prepared to do some sort of trade off… They want to rein in (leader) Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.
The US dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Trump and Xi had pledged to stay in close contact after their first meeting earlier this month and the phone call didn’t indicate any change in China’s position.

North Korea ‘looking for trouble’: Trump

The unexpected phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.
“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

South Korea’s President Warns That North Korea Is About To Test 6th Nuclear Weapon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Ju-min Park | SEOUL

South Korea’s acting president warned on Tuesday of “greater provocations” by North Korea as tension on the Korean peninsula rises over concern the North may conduct a test of its military hardware in coming days.

A U.S. Navy strike group led by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is en route to the western Pacific with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction following its strikes last week against Syria.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn ordered the military to intensify monitoring of the North’s activities and to ensure close communication with the ally the United States.

“It is possible the North may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since former President Park Geun-hye was removed over a graft scandal.

The North convenes a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved.

Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong Un.

A military parade is expected in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day. North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.

The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by its KCNA news agency earlier on Tuesday, said the U.S. navy strike group’s move near the Korean peninsula showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.

“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” an unidentified ministry spokesman said.

SANCTIONS WARNING

Delegates from around the North have been arriving in Pyongyang ahead of the assembly session. They visited statues of previous leaders Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il, state media reported.

North Korea is emerging as one of the most pressing foreign policy problems facing the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

The Trump administration is reviewing its policy toward North Korea and has said all options are on the table, including military strikes.

The U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson canceled a planned trip to Australia and was moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official told Reuters over the weekend.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Florida last week and Trump pressed Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.

China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.

As well as the anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, there are several other North Korean anniversaries in April that could be opportunities for weapon tests, South Korean officials have said.

The North is seen ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, with movements detected by satellites at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

(Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

Manhunt Intensifies For Man Who Stole 16 High Powered Weapons: Mailed Manifesto To Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

Manhunt Intensifies for Joseph Jakubowski, Man Who Allegedly Stole Guns and Mailed Manifesto to Trump

Police in Wisconsin ramped up security at local churches on Sunday as the manhunt continued for a 32-year-old fugitive who is accused of stealing more than a dozen weapons from a gun store and mailing an anti-government manifesto to President Donald Trump.

Over 150 officers from local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies were searching for Joseph Jakubowski, who they say allegedly broke into the Armageddon Gun Shop in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Tuesday and stole 16 high-caliber rifles and handguns.

Police said Jakubowski is considered “armed and dangerous” and was in possession of a bullet-proof vest and helmet.

Play
Manhunt Intensifies in Wisconsin to Find Wanted Gunman

Authorities said they were increasing security presence at local churches because of “anti-religion sentiment” contained within a 160-page manifesto they believe was written by Jakubowski and sent to Trump at the White House.

Police said at a press conference on Friday that Jakubowski had been “highly agitated” by national politics recently and an associate of his claimed the wanted man had spoken of a plan to steal guns and carry out an unspecified attack.

Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, canceled its services on Sunday after a suspicious man who looked like Jakubowski stopped by the church on Thursday asking questions, according to a statement from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

John McNary, the lead pastor at nearby Heartland Church, in Sun Prairie, told NBC News he saw local police doing extra patrols in the area and that his church had extra security in place on Sunday.

“We were taking extra precautions, just in case,” he said.

The Sun Prairie Police Department told NBC affiliate WMTV on Sunday afternoon that the man who visited the Bethlehem Church late last week was not Jakubowski and was not related to the police’s investigation.

McNary also said he had spoken with an officer who said they did not believe the man was Jakubowski.

Investigators have already followed up on around 400 tips and leads, according to the sheriff’s department statement. The FBI offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to Jakubowski’s capture.

Image:
This undated photo provided by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office in Janesville, Wis., shows Joseph Jakubowski. Rock County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Police released a video last week that the suspect allegedly posted on Facebook appearing to show a man mailing an envelope with his manifesto addressed to Trump.

“Basically he’s angry at all government officials,” Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said at the press conference on Friday. “Whether it’s the president or whether it’s local officials or whether it’s law enforcement, he has a dislike for anyone that has authority or governmental power.”

Authorities identified the person who filmed the video as an associate of Jakubowski and a person of interest in the investigation, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden told reporters Sunday.

“We’re going to constantly revisit that individual and see if they can think of something else that may have been forgotten and what was the motive and some of those type of things,” Spoden said.

On Tuesday night, police responded to a report of a car fire near the burglarized gun shop and discovered the burned vehicle belonged to Jakubowski.

He has one felony conviction for attempting to steal a gun from a police officer in 2008, and a history of misdemeanors.

Jakubowski is described as 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds with green eyes and brown hair.

Jabukowsi-Vehicle-Fire
Police discovered a burned vehicle registered to Joseph Jabukowski just a short distance away from the Armageddon Gun Shop in Janesville, WI., where Jabukowski allegedly stole 16 assault weapons and handguns. Rock County Sheriff / Rock County Sheriff

For the video, the person who took the video, what do we know about that person?

15;52;07;20 RS: That person has been interviewed and continues to be a person of interest uh with us and the Janesville police department and uh with the FBI and so um they’re going to be somebody that we’re going to continue to talk to to see if we can ascertain whatever information they had they have been cooperating with us, which is obviously something that we’re very happy about, um but we’re going to constantly revisit that individual and see if they can think of something else that may have been forgotten and what was the motive and some of those type of things.

15;52;36;17 BM: Is it a friend? Do you know the relationship?

15;52;38;12 RS: um we know it was an associate

15;52;41;24 BM: And not under arrest at this point. [RS: no]

U.S. Missile Attack On Syrian Shayrat Airfield Was Significant But Insufficient

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Shayrat Attack… Significant but Insufficient

Last week’s morning was a turning point in the US dealing with the Syrian crisis. When 59 missiles Tomahawk were launched towards Shayrat airport, this was the first direct attack by the |United States on Bashar Al-Assad regime since the beginning of the revolution six years ago.

The attack has stopped a US clinical sleep towards complications of a war that has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history. Surely, speaking about whether the US has started practically correcting its stance is early. This might be a sole step and reaction for a massacre that was one among many committed by Assad’s regime – but it is at least a sign that the world is facing a new US administration that has done in less than four months what has not been done by the former administration in eight years.

The attack on Shayrat airbase, although it was surprising and important, is a small step in changing the field condition and ending the Syrian tragedy. Maybe, if the attack happened when Barack Obama threatened with the “red line” in 2013 and before the Russian military intervention then its influence might have been bigger – it might have contributed to supporting the opposition and putting huge pressure on Assad’s regime.

One strike will not change the horrible way Assad treats civilians and will not affect his power, even if it prevents him from using chemical weapons soon. Nonetheless, Washington believes that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapon in Khan Sheikhoun massacre and, thus, it should be punished.

During the Iranian-Iraqi war, the US supported Iraq against Iran, but soon after that it turned against Saddam Hussein regime after it used chemical weapons in Kurdistan. Also, Shayrat attack might be viewed as a warning to Moscow that their might be consequences for the acts of its ally, Assad.

Russians deceived the international community in 2013 agreement that admitted Assad has submitted his ammunition of chemical weapons, although Moscow knew that Assad kept some storage that was used later on without facing any real consequences by the international community.

Throughout the past years, the regime has carried out airstrikes that killed hundred thousands of innocent Syrians – it used the tactics of starving and bombing hospitals as well as chemical attacks. Despite that, Assad did not face any real consequences, not even once, for his barbarism. However, this time, the Trump administration saw that it has to destroy one of Assad’s airbases to prevent warplanes from striking innocent people and dropping Sarin gas on them.

It is true that the US attack is a huge symbolic step but it will be considered a limited tactic if compared to the facts on ground. If Trump’s slogan was “America first” then this does not necessarily mean acting indifferently towards the world matters but means that America stays strong and leads the world.

The US is not Switzerland to act impartially towards international conflicts and 50 Tomahawk missiles alone will not trigger a huge change. If the US chooses the relatively low-cost option represented in limited military response such as Cruise missiles, then it can also take an international efficient step against Assad’s regime through exerting pressure to implement the international resolutions – establishing safe zones.

As much as striking Shayrat airbase has achieved several goals, its influence will be limited with time if it remained a sole step and not a new strategy. Six years of war have proven that only Russia, Iran and “Hezbollah” are messing in the Syrian territories to support a practically collapsed regime.

The military strike at Assad’s regime might be a first step towards regaining respect to the international resolutions and pushing the international community, US in the lead, to play its role in putting an end to the Syrian tragedy.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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With Strike Aimed at Halting More Gas Attacks, U.S. Tries to Send Syrians Message

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

A satellite image of the damage assessment of Al Shayrat airfield in Syria after an American missile attack. Credit U.S. Department of Defense

WASHINGTON — The American cruise-missile strike that destroyed at least 20 warplanes in Syria on Friday was devised by American war planners as a one-time operation to deter President Bashar al-Assad from using his secret stockpile of chemicals ever again.

Military officials said it was never intended to be the leading edge of a broader campaign to dislodge Mr. Assad from power, or force a political settlement in a country that has been ripped apart by six years of a bloody civil war.

The question for the Pentagon, however, is whether this 21st-century equivalent of a shot across the bow will ensure that poisonous gas will no longer be among the many scourges that plague Syria, or whether it will gradually draw the United States in a multisided military tug of war over the future of the Syrian state.

If there is one description that summed up the plan, which was developed at the headquarters of the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., it is “proportional.” Details of the plan were described to reporters at a briefing on Friday by senior military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accordance with Pentagon protocol.

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The Americans wanted to send a specific signal by striking only the airfield that a Syrian Su-22 warplane had used for its mission on Tuesday to drop a chemical bomb in the middle of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in southern Idlib Province.

Before the American attack could go forward, however, American intelligence officials had to satisfy senior commanders — and, presumably, President Trump — that it had the culprit. The evidence was abundant, and American intelligence analysts concluded they had “high confidence” in their assessments.

The Americans had tracked the Syrian jet as it took off from the Al Shayrat airfield and dropped a bomb in the middle of a street. The time of the chemical attack, just before 7 a.m., correlated with reports that residents were exhibiting signs of having been subjected to nerve agent. The crater from the bomb showed staining that experts associated with a shell filled with chemical agents.

American intelligence officials also suspect that an attempt might have been made to frustrate efforts to gather evidence of a chemical assault. After victims were rushed to a hospital, a small drone appeared overhead before disappearing. About five hours later, the drone returned and another airstrike hit the medical center; American officials do not know if the drone or the second strike was launched by Syria or Russia.

The shifting fortunes on the battlefield may explain why the Assad government mounted its largest chemical weapons attack since August 2013. In recent weeks, rebel forces have pushed to connect the areas they controlled in Hama and Idlib Provinces. The Syrian government’s control of the Hama airfield was at risk; it was being used by the Assad government as a helicopter base and, it is suspected, as a factory for some of the barrel bombs Syria’s forces had used to deadly effect.

American military officials say they do not believe the strike on Tuesday, which they said was carried out with a nerve agent, was necessarily unique. On March 30, panicky Syrian forces may have used a similar nerve agent in Hama Province, though American officials said they lacked forensic evidence to prove it. On March 25, the Syrians also mounted an attack using chlorine; its use in war is illegal under an international convention banning chemical weapons.

Having concluded that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces, the next challenge for the Trump administration was to settle on a response. The military options were developed on Wednesday, and when they were narrowed down, the Al Shayrat airfield was in the cross hairs.

Equipped with bunkers for storing chemical munitions, the airfield had been built as a potential launching pad for attacks with chemical weapons — weapons that Mr. Assad was supposed to have given up as part of an agreement that was worked out by the United States and Russia.

Surveying the airfield, American war planners developed a list of 59 targets: aircraft, hardened plane shelters, radars, an air defense system, ammunition bunkers and petroleum storage sites. One Tomahawk cruise missile was fired at each of the 59 targets, and the Pentagon asserted that each hit its mark. An additional missile aborted after launch and fell into the Mediterranean.

One American official who spoke separately from the briefing estimated that 20 to 25 Syrian warplanes were destroyed in the attack, at 3:40 a.m. local time, four hours after President Trump’s order to go ahead was relayed to the Central Command. The runway was not a target.

The strike was aimed at avoiding the 12 to 100 Russian pilots, maintenance and other military personnel who manned a helicopter unit at different parts of the base, and to avoid striking Russian aircraft. American officials said they had no independent information on possible casualties but were confident that Russians were not among them.

The presence of the Russians is just one factor that is leading American intelligence officials to investigate if Moscow was complicit, disinterested or ignorant of the Syrian government’s use of a covert chemical arsenal.

As long as Syrian forces do not use chemical weapons again, American officials have signaled that Mr. Trump’s first use of force against Mr. Assad’s military is likely to have been a shot heard around the world — but also a riposte that will not be repeated.

Limiting the effect of even a narrow operation, however, may be difficult. One potential danger is that Shiite militias backed by Iran, including Shiite fighters in Iraq, might try to retaliate against American troops.

Another is that Russian and American relations may deteriorate to the point that the procedures the two nations use to notify each other about air operations in Syria will be suspended, raising the risk of an inadvertent confrontation.

A more fundamental question is whether the Trump administration will now pursue a diplomatic strategy to quell the fighting in Syria, which has attracted thousands of militants, including many of the volunteers who have joined the Islamic State.

Cliff Kupchan and Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, predicted that Mr. Assad would avoid a direct confrontation with the United States in the near term, calculating that he has enough aircraft, barrel bombs, missiles and troops to continue his fight against the rebels without resorting to poison gas.

Mr. Assad and his aides, they wrote in an assessment, “will probably steer away from any escalation that would lead the international community to recommit itself to a regime change policy.”

Mr. Trump’s intervention against the Assad government may be over for now, but the Syrian war appears certain to go on.

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