Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America salute UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for her clear language and strong defense of American priorities on the world stage. After briefly condemning The Atlantic’s firing of Kevin Williamson, hey also groan as President Trump and China exchange threats of even more aggressive trade action against one another. And they scratch their heads as former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty runs for the job again.
Human rights advocates are vigorously applauding the Trump administration’s decision to stop sending aid to Iraqi Christians and Yazidis decimated by ISIS through the United Nations and to provide the help directly from now on.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced the shift in policy.
“Christians in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly. Tonight, it is my privilege to announce that President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations.
“From this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID,” said Pence, referring to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, was a leading human rights advocate in Congress for more than three decades. He is now a distinguished senior fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. He is very happy to see the Trump administration make this move.
“It’s a very good decision that the administration and President Trump and Vice President Pence have made,” said Wolf. “This may very well save Christianity in the cradle of Christendom. more biblical activity took place in Iraq than any other country of the world other than Israel.”
Wolf says relief efforts organized by the United Nations failed for a number of reasons.
“Many in the Christian communities say they were afraid to go in some of the UN-run camps,” he said. “Secondly, the aid was not getting to the Christian communities. Many of the Christian communities and Yazidi communities wanted to return to where they were from. Their towns were liberated but they were not getting any assistance through the UN.”
Wolf says Christians were fearful of entering UN camps because of the Sunni Muslim refugees there. Not knowing which families had relatives fighting alongside ISIS, the Christians were afraid the Sunnis in those camps would report them and put their lives in danger.
Now that ISIS has largely been rooted out of Iraq, Wolf says the displaced people are eager to return home. However, with the UN failing to provide aid, going home if almost impossible.
“They were concerned about security. They were also concerned that they were seeing the money funded to different groups but not to them. They couldn’t rebuild their water treatment plant, couldn’t rebuild their electrical grid, couldn’t restore some of their communal property,” said Wolf.
But while the removal of ISIS is a good thing, Wolf is very concerned about the Shia militias, called Hastashabi, that seem to be filling the vacuum.
“The Hastashabi are Iranian-backed, sometimes paid for by the Iranian government, Shia militias who are now filling in the gaps. We went to checkpoints where there were Shia militias who had taken over for the others,” said Wolf, who was in northern Iraq just two weeks ago.
He says the rise of Shia militias is greatly concerning given Iranian ambitions in the region.
“The Iranians want to create what they call a land crescent or a land bridge, so you’ll be able to drive from Tehran, through Iraq, through Syria, to a port on the Mediterranean, whereby they will be able to aid terrorist groups with guns and missiles and weapons,” said Wolf.
“So there are problems as you see ISIS defeated. There are some potential problems out there, particularly with regard to the militias,” said Wolf.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is cheering President Trump for a strong address to the United Nations this week and for perhaps already reaping critical results in his effort to isolate North Korea.
On Thursday, Trump announced a new round of U.S. sanctions aimed at North Korea and also reported that China is vowing to deal a major financial blow to the communist regime in Pyongyang.
“Today I’m announcing a new executive order I just signed that significantly expands our authorities to target individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea,” said Trump.
Bolton says this could be a very significant move.
“It’s potentially significant because if we were to sanction companies or banks doing business with North Korea, that could have a knock-on effect to other countries doing the same and could effect their ability to do transactions in the United States,” said Bolton.
He says it leaves those banks and corporations with a stark choice.
“Do you want to do business with us or do you want to do business with North Korea? Your choice entirely, but it’s going to be one or the other,” said Bolton.
Bolton likes the aggressive nature of the sanctions.
“Why didn’t we do this about eight or ten years ago? Why is it that we’ve waited this long? I think we have the answer. I think President Trump is determined to do something about North Korea and Iran and their nuclear programs,” said Bolton.
Bolton served as ambassador to the United Nations for President George W. Bush. So why didn’t these sanctions come then?
“There was a lot of discussion in the Bush administration about sanctions but (there was) a lot of opposition to really squeezing North Korea. Ultimately, I don’t think we did really anywhere near what we could have,” said Bolton.
He says there was virtually no chance for stiff penalties in the Obama years.
“There was no appetite for sanctions against North Korea. They were exercising what they called ‘strategic patience’ in the Obama administration. That’s a synonym for doing nothing and the North Koreans took advantage of it,” said Bolton.
Just as importantly, Bolton says the new sanctions turn the screws on China as well.
“The vast bulk of the institutions doing business with North Korea – financial, commodities, machinery, you name it – are Chinese. China, for 25 years, frankly, has two-timed us on their concern about the North Korean nuclear program. So this gives the president some bite,” said Bolton.
That may have already paid off Thursday, as, Trump announced news that seemed to surprise even him, as China appears ready to play hardball with Kim Jong-Un as well.
“China, their central bank has told other banks – and it’s a massive banking system – to immediately stop doing business with North Korea,” said Trump.
Bolton says if China is serious about taking this step it could have a huge impact on North Korea. However, he says it is very tough to determine if China is making good on such a policy.
“I think that’s difficult from the outside. God knows how many banks there are and how many new banks can be created that might be able to facilitate North Korean trade, for example with Iran,” said Bolton.
Trump made major headlines with his blunt talk about North Korea in his speech on Tuesday.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary,” said Trump.
Bolton says Trump struck exactly the right tone.
“I thought it was entirely appropriate. Some of these people who talk about what’s becoming or unbecoming to say at the UN. Honestly, the United Nations is not a church. You’re not supposed to be reverential towards threats to international peace and security and innocent American civilians,” said Bolton, who thought the Trump approach was refreshing after the past eight years.
“After eight years of global governance kind of rhetoric from Obama and the weakness that he projected, maybe some people are shocked when they hear what a real American president has to say. All in all, I think it’s the right thing for the president to do. In America, plain speaking is a virtue and it’s important that these other countries hear it,” said Bolton.
Bolton also lauded Trump for labeling the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” He says that puts the onus on Trump to get out of the deal soon.
“If you don’t certify but stay in the deal that you’ve described already as embarrassing, I think that’s unpresidential. It’s sort of a one shoe on, one shoe off foreign policy. He needs to lead with moral and political clarity. I think the way you do that is to say this deal is a disaster for the United States and its friends and allies and we’re getting out of it,” said Bolton.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley for leading another round of sanctions aimed at North Korea in response to another nuclear test. They also groan as the Democrat running for governor in Virginia implies that voting her him will give kids there a better chance for success and Jim slams any politician who promises that electing them will solve everyone’s problems. And they discuss Jim Carrey’s on-air castigation of New York Fashion Week as meaningless, leading Jim to reveal tales of how the recent National Review cruise shared the ship with a lot of people connected to this superficial event.
North Korea murdered Otto Warmbier and a fierce response is needed, says a prominent expert on China and North Korea, but he warns the increasingly belligerent actions of the communist regime are a result of the U.S. failing to hold it accountable for more than two decades.
Earlier this month, North Korea released Warmbier after imprisoning him for 16 months. He spent the vast majority of that time in a coma and died just days after returning to Ohio. North Korea claimed Warmbier’s coma stemmed from a bout of botulism and that he was released on humanitarian grounds. U.S. doctors found no evidence of botulism.
“At this point, we have to go with the overwhelming evidence and that is indeed an issue of murder,” said Gordon Chang, a leading scholar on China and North Korea and the author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World.”
“There is just no other explanation for a healthy 22-year-old – then a 21-year-old – would end up in a permanent coma and then death. We have to just follow the evidence and just realize that the North Korean explanation is not accurate,” said Chang.
“It may have been guards who got overzealous, but it probably was an order from the top of the regime to send a message to the United States,” said Chang. “It was as horrific as we can think. This is a good reminder when we start to talk about negotiating with the North Koreans of who we are actually dealing with.”
On Friday, the North Korean regime vigorously denied torturing Warmbier, insisting it provided him medical care and then released him on humanitarian grounds.
“Although we had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state, we provided him with medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis until his return to the U.S.,” the foreign ministry said, according to state-run Korean Central News Agency.
The North Korean government also claimed it was the biggest victim in this story due to an alleged smear campaign by the U.S. and South Korea to accuse it of torture.
“It’s a typical North Korean response that it’s all the Americans’ response. Any problem in the world can be traced to Washington. This is just the way that they operate. They’re certainly not going to accept any responsibility for the treatment of Otto Warmbier, although they had total custody of him since January 2, 2016,” said Chang.
While the actions of Kim Jong-Un’s regime infuriate the Trump administration, Chang says increased North Korean aggression is simply a result of the U.S. doing virtually nothing in response to provocations for decades.
“We have not imposed costs on North Korea for their brutalized treatment of Americans: the seizure of the (USS) Pueblo in 1968, the shoot down of the Air Force EC-121 with the loss of 31 lives. Again, no penalty was imposed. We never do so, so of course the North Koreans think they can kill us,” said Chang.
“Yes, the North Koreans are villains, but this has become an issue not of North Korea. It’s become an issue of the American response to North Korea, he views of the American policy establishment, the views of American administrations – Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives,” said Chang.
“The north Koreans will continue to act in this way until the United States imposes some costs. So this has become a question of us, not them,” he added.
And what is an effective response?
“Regardless of what they think about North Korea, the Trump administration needs to impose costs on Pyongyang. We need to do that because we cannot allow anyone to kill anyone with impunity,” said Chang.
He believes going after North Korean money would send a crystal clear message.
“I think the most important thing would be to cut North Korea off from the global financial system by cutting North Korea off from Chinese banks, which are participating in illicit North Korean commerce and North Korean crimes,” said Chang.
In addition to providing an appropriate wake-up call to North Korea, Chang believes China would also receive the message loud and clear.
“If were to start to do that, I think that we would start to see a new Chinese attitude, much more positive and much more cooperative. But until we are willing to take political risk and show political will, they’re going to continue with their support of North Korea. They’ve weaponized North Korea against us. We have not responded,” said Chang.
He says demonstrating diplomatic backbone is vital for U.S. national security.
“It’s becoming essential for the United States to show the rest of the world that, first of all, we’re going to enforce our own laws regardless of what we think about China or North Korea policy,” said Chang.
“Second, we need to send a message to the Chinese that for the first time since 1994 that we are serious about protecting the American homeland. We haven’t done that, and because of that Beijing and Pyongyang haven’t taken us seriously,” he said.
President Trump has said the approach of previous administrations toward North Korea does not work, but he has yet to lay out a new policy. In the meantime, Chang says we’re still getting pushed around.
“So far they’ve adopted the policy of their predecessors and they’re, again, getting no results from the Chinese. I don’t know if the president has genuinely been taken in by Beijing or whether he’s just giving them enough rope and he’s decided he’s eventually going to do something on his own,” said Chang.