Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see President Trump making a detailed case for border wall funding in tonight’s televised address, a more effective strategy than tweets and sound bites. They also like National Security Adviser John Bolton’s clarification that the Trump administration does want to get our troops out of Syria but we also have no intention of letting ISIS grow again or letting Turkey slaughter the Kurds. They slam the door behind failed Virginia GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, who says he will not run for re-election to his local office and is getting out of politics. And Jim is in rare form as he and Greg discuss the fact that every year is an election year in Virginia.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America fume as President Trump says ISIS is defeated in Syria on Wednesday and Thursday he claims that Russia, Iran, and Syria can handle the fight. They’re also disgusted as Trump’s insistence on $5 billion for a border wall seems to be shifting and congressional Republicans appear to have no interest in this fight despite promising one just before the midterm elections. And they hold the door open for Sen. Jeff Flake to leave and never come back as the retiring Arizona lawmaker proposes a new carbon tax just days before leaving office.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud the Senate for approving the criminal justice reform bill known as the First Step Act. While still a bit uneasy about some details, they generally like the emphasis on teaching inmates how to live an honest life when they get out of prison and become an asset to their communities. They also wonder why President Trump is suddenly ordering the U.S. to withdraw from Syria when ISIS is badly degraded but not yet eradicated. And they shake their heads as Michael Flynn’s legal strategy backfires and the federal judge in the case embarrasses himself with false accusations and flippantly suggests Flynn is a traitor.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome another good jobs report and President Trump’s desire to avoid a government shutdown right before the midterm elections. They also wonder why very few people are discussing Russia threatening to use force near U.S. troops in Syria and accusing us of protecting militias hostile to the Assad regime. And as dozens of top Trump administration officials deny writing the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, they discuss the immense damage the Times will do to its own reputation if the author turns our to be a figure few people have heard of.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America sigh as Democrats repeatedly interrupt the start of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in a futile attempt to delay him from joining the court. They also give John Kerry credit for explaining how President Obama’s failure to enforce the red line over chemical weapons in Syria led to major diplomatic headaches. And they respond to calls for Meghan McCain to replace her father in the U.S. Senate by saying such seats are not family heirlooms and any family members who wants to serve should have to get elected.
Israeli Defense Forces responded to an Iranian missile attack in northern Israel with an immediate barrage against Iran’s command and control infrastructure inside Syria, and a retired Israeli general says he hopes Iran got the message that its meddling near the border will not be tolerated.
Iran fired 20 missiles into Israel. Reports suggest the Iron Dome missile defense system worked well and that no Israeli citizens were injured. On the contrary, reports also suggest Israeli airstrikes did considerable damage to Iranian assets.
“I hope after the lessons they have been taught last night…they will change their attitudes,” said retired Israeli Brigadier Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn. “Israel will never accept any Iranian bases on the border between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights. There is no way Israel will accept that from them.”
He says it’s bad enough that Iran already bankrolls and supplies terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas with threaten Israel on a daily basis from Lebanon and Gaza respectively.
Ben-Onn is also not surprised that Israel is being criticized more harshly for the extent of its response than Iran is for initiating the hostilities.
“Unfortunately, whenever we are winning, we are to apologize for that. I don’t know why.
“Those people are a little bit ignorant and don’t understand what it means to live in the Middle East, what kind of enemies we have, what kind of struggles we are facing every day for our security. We are talking about our lives. This is not a movie. This is not cinema. This is not Hollywood,” said Ben-Onn.
“We don’t like the idea that they don’t understand the situation, but we know that we are the good guys and they are the bad guys,” added Ben-Onn.
Ben-Onn is encouraged that Iranian leadership got the message from the Israeli counter-strike.
“Just a couple of minutes ago, I heard that the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said he didn’t want to open a new front in the Middle East. That was kind of soft language by the Iranians saying, ‘OK, maybe we tried but we learned our lesson and we’re going to stop this policy,'” said Ben-Onn.
Israel and Iran have never been directly at war. In fact, Ben-Onn says before the Islamic Revolution, the two countries had a productive relationship.
“Before 1979, when (Ayatollah) Khomeini came to power, Israel and Iran had a daily flight from Tel Aviv to Tehran. Many Israeli businesses worked in Iran and built the infrastructure in many fields: agriculture, construction, and they had many good times between the two countries.
“We never had a fight or any conflict. The only conflict is that the Iranians are supporting the enemies on the borders of Israel. The moment they are getting closer to the border and using missiles, this is something the Israeli government will never accept,” said Ben-Onn.
Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom McInerney is applauding the Trump administration for building a coalition to strike Syria and carrying out a successful attack, but he says solving the long-term challenges there requires collaboration with Russia and that cannot happen so long as Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe.
On Friday night (early Saturday in Syria), the U.S., along with Great Britain and France, fired dozens of missiles at three specific targets in Syria in response for the chemical weapons attack that took place several days earlier.
As McInerney suspected last week, President Trump took longer to order a response in order to build international support and participation. He’s thrilled our allies took part and says the cooperation extended beyond London and Paris.
“I think that was outstanding. Having those two partners is extremely important. In addition, we had other partners. We fired (some) missiles from the Red Sea that went over Saudi Arabia and other locations. So we had other, de facto partners as well, which is equally important,” said McInerney.
He’s also thrilled with the results of the mission.
“We got three important targets, one of them in Damascus, which was their research and development center for chemical weapons and a very important target. We took that out as well as two other targets, one a production and the other a storage facility,” said McInerney.
The U.S. fired 105 missiles, primarily cruise missiles, and none were shot down, contrary to assertions from the Syrian government.
Last week, McInerney recommended wiping out the Syrian air force if the U.S. was convinced the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack. He says coalition building made that impossible.
“When we went for the allies to be participating with us, that put time in the equation. That meant the Syrian air force moved a lot of their assets in with the Russians…because they knew we wouldn’t strike anything with the Russians in it,” said McInerney.
Trump telegraphed the attack in various tweets and public statements last week, but McInerney says it’s clear the administration was communicating with Moscow long before the missiles started flying.
“They were well aware of it. They elected to let us go in and do it. I think that was the right move.
“There’s a lot of talk going on about what they’re going to do to retaliate, etc. But I think the Russians got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so they didn’t want to see what President Trump was going to do and the other allies. Getting the UK and the French involved was a very important decision,” said McInerney.
Despite the strong Russian denunciation of any response, McInerney believes Russia is smart enough not to overreact.
“You can never tell but I really believe that President Putin does not want to have a direct confrontation down there. He doesn’t have nearly the size of the forces we have, and he certainly doesn’t want to open the door for others to go in.” he said.
McInerney says solving the problems involving Syria, the Kurds, the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, and other radical groups like the Al-Nusra Front is deeply complicated, but he says working constructively with Russia is a big part of the solution.
“We need to get an accommodation. The only way there’s going to be an accommodation over there in Syria – and it’s going to be divided up – is with the U.S. and Russia agreeing to work together,” said McInerney.
“That’s why the Mueller investigation that’s going on right now is impacting our national security. I believe the Republican Congress ought to close that operation down. The only collusion was between the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign with Russia. Yet, the Obama administration concocted the idea that the Trump [campaign] were the ones colluding,” said McInerney.
If the U.S. and Russia were to carve up Syria, what ought to be the greatest priorities? McInerney says President Obama’s inaction opened the door for Russian intervention and has made it next to impossible to remove Bashar al-Assad. He believes we have no choice but to allow Russia to keep its bases there.
He says the top goal should be limiting Iranian influence in the region.
“We need stability in the region. We do not want to have a Shia Crescent that sweeps from Iran, through Iraq, through Syria, and to the Mediterranean. That is not in the interest of the free world,” said McInerney.
Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. General Tom McInerney suspects any response to apparent chemical attacks in Syria may be on hold while the Trump administration tries to build a coalition for any action and he says solving the problem in Syria is much more difficult because partisan sniping over Russia is hampering our ability to find common diplomatic ground with Moscow.
Earlier in the week, reports suggested a military response could come by the end of the week. On Thursday, President Trump made it clear a more deliberate approach may be in the works.
“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” tweeted Trump.
McInerney says there is likely a very good reason for a delayed response.
“I think his national security advisers have advised him to get a coalition involved with this, to include the UK, French, perhaps the Jordanians, the Egyptians, Israelis, Saudis and Emirates – a coalition of the willing that can represent a very broad front,” said McInerney.
“When you have a coalition like this, it means they’re all in agreement and they’re willing to use their forces. And you have Arab forces. I believe it’s important to use Arab forces,” he said. “It makes us define the problem more.”
McInerney says another critical element is to confirm the chemical attack actually came from the Syrian government.
“We’ve got to confirm with the most precise accuracy that it was the Assad regime that did this. The reason I say that is because Al-Nusra was looking for chlorine stocks a number of months ago and it would be in their interest to want to keep the U.S. involved and for the U.S. to attack the Assad forces,” said McInerney.
He says there may be an easy way to determine blame in this case.
“Was it an airplane with barrel bombs or was it an IED? Because we know the Al-Nusra forces do not have aircraft,” said McInerney, who adds that U.S.-led surveillance ought to provide critical evidence on whether the attack came from the air, although it may take time to comb through the intelligence.
If Assad is responsible, McInerney favors a big response?
“I think we need to eliminate his air force. Is that difficult to do? Yes, it is, because he has moved his forces on Russian bases with Iranians. I’m not worried about killing Iranians. I think they need to be pushed back and of course the Israelis are very concerned about this Shia Crescent that is sweeping across,” said McInerney.
In addition to the Syrians, Russians, and Iranians, U.S. policy must also consider how any action impacts the Kurds, ISIS, the Free Syrian Army and other groups in the area.
McInerney says the complexity of the issue is immense, and he says it’s now far more complicated because of the ongoing Russia probes here in the U.S.
“Because the Democratic Party laid out this false narrative, this fake news about Russian collusion, it has soured the diplomatic relations with the U.S. and Russia. It’s difficult to communicate with them in a reasonable way.
“That’s why the Mueller investigation must be terminated as quickly as possible. Clearly Russia is a great power. Still, it’s got lots of nuclear weapons which concern us. They are modernizing their nuclear forces, and we do not want to let this get out of control,” said McInerney.
McInerney says the region is also more complex as a result of the Obama administration pulling the U.S. out of Iraq entirely and failing to honor the red line it set for chemical weapon use in Syria.
“Unfortunately, because of Obama’s ineptness, he helped create the vacuum that the Russians were able to move in on,” said McInerney.
David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud the “tough guy” stance that President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis are taking in deterring further chemical attacks in Syria. They dive into the complications surrounding the healthcare debate, as Mitch McConnell scraps the vote on the most recent GOP bill and many of the Republicans opposed believe the government should be doing more. Finally, they discuss the PC complaints that the new Dunkirk film — a historical World War II drama — is “too white,” even though the vast majority of soldiers involved were white.