‘You have to go after them big league’
By GARTH KANT, WND
WASHINGTON – Many of President Trump’s supporters are wary, some even critical, of the cruise-missile strikes against Syria because he had so severely criticized previous U.S. foreign interventions, particularly in the Mideast.
However, candidate Trump actually gave a warning half-a-year ago that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line for him.
In an interview with Sara Carter of Circa News in September, the candidate said an ISIS mustard-gas attack on U.S. troops at a training facility in northern Iraq that had just happened was intolerable.
“When you look at [the fact that] they’re starting to hit us with gas now on top of everything else, that’s a total lack of respect and you cannot let them get away with it,” candidate Trump told her. “You have to go after them big league.”
Carter wrote that Trump said anyone who uses chemical weapons should expect military action.
“You have to hit them so hard and the people that did it,” said Trump. “Don’t forget they’re out there looking to do it again.”
Still, some voters and pundits seem to feel double-crossed by the president after he ordered 59 cruise missiles to hit a Syrian airbase on Thursday in retaliation for the gruesome and deadly gassing of Syrians.
As WND reported, perhaps the president’s biggest supporter in the 2016 campaign, columnist Ann Coulter, tweeted, “Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates.”
Talk-show giant Michael Savage declared, “This beating of the war drums with Russia has to stop.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said, “Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Times’ Byron York cited a Washington Post poll showing only 35 percent of the public would support another round of airstrikes, and 54 percent opposed that.
York asserted, “[L]eaders don’t surprise the voters with an out-of-the-blue act of war. In the case of Syria, Trump moved so quickly, and with such little effort at public persuasion beforehand, that he maintained the element of surprise on his own voters. That’s not a good idea.”
York cited comments made by radio host Laura Ingraham on Fox News Tuesday morning that Trump’s campaign had “focused on America first. Jobs, the economy, wages going up – that’s it.”
She also quipped, “I’m not sure getting rid of Bashar al-Assad was at the top of the list of the people in Pennsylvania.”
But, also on Tuesday, the president’s top military man sought to reassure the public that America was not heading into another war.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident that “it will not spiral out of control,” and that the cruise-missile strikes were a one-off mission to deter any more chemical attacks by the Assad regime.
However, he did add that any more such attacks would cause Assad to “pay a very, very stiff price.”
WND spoke with one of the nation’s top Middle East experts, who, like the president, is opposed to expanding U.S. intervention in the region but considers the missile strikes the right thing to have done.
Clare Lopez is vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy and has an impressive array of credentials. In addition to spending two decades in the field as a CIA operations officer, Lopez was an instructor for military intelligence and special forces students; has been a consultant, intelligence analyst and researcher within the defense sector; and has published two books on Iran. She also served as a foreign-policy adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Lopez said: “I’ve long opposed U.S. intervention in the middle of an intra-Islamic sectarian fight between Sunnis and Shiites, now much muddled by all kinds of external actors and powers. I still do.”
But, she looks at President Trump’s strike on Syria “in a couple of ways,” detailed in comments emailed to WND:
- “Iran, Russia, Syria and the U.S. are all signatories to the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which obligate us to enforcement of its provisions. President Trump accepted and fulfilled that obligation, not so much in opposition to Assad or in support of any opposing force(s), but in defense of whatever international order still exists.
- “I believe in so doing, the president not only reasserted U.S. power and influence in the region and put other international leaders on notice, but, in a way, reshuffled the deck in the Middle East to set the stage for what will come next.
- “Al-Sham (a historic name for Syria) is splintering and will not be put back together again. The best we can salvage out of all that are some autonomous, and perhaps more stable, regions: a Kurdish one (but one that does not touch Turkey’s borders); an Alawite one under the control of a leader in Damascus, but not necessarily current President Assad; and a Sunni-controlled territory to replace the Islamic State – but one that is not, and must not be allowed to be, jihadi.
- “I think Russia could be a constructive partner in achieving something like this. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not personally wedded to al-Assad remaining in power, and he does not seek to empower Hezbollah to destroy Israel (like Iran does). Moscow wants an arms client in Damascus; its two military bases in Latakia and Tartus; a foothold in the southeastern Mediterranean and influence in the region. It will have those anyway, with or without the involvement of the U.S. government. It’s better, I say, that we are involved than not involved.
- “At the February 2017 talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, Russian officials already openly and explicitly expressed a willingness to see Assad go. They even suggested, as a temporary placeholder, retired Brigadier General of the Syrian Republican Guard Manaf Tlass (from the regime of Assad’s father) who defected and went into exile in 2011. Why aren’t we jumping all over that, especially as I know for a fact that a number of Free Syrian Army rebel commanders (officers who defected from the Syrian Armed Forces) would also accept such an arrangement? As an interim replacement, Tlass would only serve a while, but he’d keep the Damascus regime in Alawite hands, and not ones from an Assad clan. The Sunnis will fight from now until Armageddon unless the Assads go.
- “The Islamic State is not now and never has been an existential threat to the USA. Let the regional forces take care of them. But Iran is an existential threat to us and to Israel. It is a nation state, has nuclear programs plus ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles), chemical and biological weapons, and has been enabled to solidify a Shiite crescent around the region (including Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Tehran and maybe Yemen). And it projects power via terror militias like Hezbollah all over the world, including the Western Hemisphere and right here in America.
- “The Trump team needs to focus on a broad strategic vision for region that prioritizes core, compelling U.S. national security objectives. It must first establish a strategic policy, then react only within that when events demand and exigencies arise – not the other way around. No knee-jerk responses in response to everything that happens but without the framework of a national strategy to guide us.
- “We can only hope the National Security Council, Pentagon and White House will be able to develop such a plan with some good advice from knowledgeable experts. And at all costs, avoid any more U.S. troop deployments over there. As Caroline Glick wrote in the Jerusalem Post a few weeks ago, ISIS is a vanguard for Iran, which is why neither Damascus nor the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its foreign-specialist Qods Force, nor Hezbollah, nor the Russians ever really went after it in a serious way. ISIS served their purpose, which was to advance and expand Iranian power. Wherever ISIS is, or even recedes from, Iran and Shiites fill in. Is that what the American military is for?! To clear the decks for a Shiite crescent across the Middle East? I don’t think so.”