‘LOCKED AND LOADED’ Saudi Arabia attack – Donald Trump draws up plans for military strike on Iran as Tehran vows to shoot down US planes as war fears grow

thesun.co.uk

thesun.co.uk

By Patrick Knox

DONALD Trump is drawing up a hit-list as he hatches plans to clobber Iran following the attacks on the world’s largest oil plant in Saudi Arabia. 

The US President is said to have been given a “menu” of options by Pentagon chiefs that includes air raids and crippling cyber attacks.

Trump has said his military was “locked and loaded” as the Middle East moves to the brink of a vicious new war, which threatens most of the world's oil supplies and shipping. 

He also announced he has ordered treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially increase sanctions" in a bid to further squeeze Iran's faltering economy.

But Iran denies involvement and defiantly vowed to shoot down US warplanes. 

In a letter to the United States via the Swiss Embassy, Iran said any move by America against Iran "will get immediate reaction".

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Trump suggests Iran responsible for Saudi oil attack

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

By Caitlin Oprysko

President Donald Trump on Monday hinted at potential new evidence that could prove Iran was behind a series of drone attacks in Saudia Arabia that struck the heart of its oil production, pointing to prior controversies that he said cast doubt on Iran's denials.

“Remember when Iran shot down a drone, saying knowingly that it was in their 'airspace' when, in fact, it was nowhere close,” he asked in a tweet, referring to Iran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. aircraft three months ago.

“They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie. Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia,” he continued, adding: “We’ll see?”

Continue Reading at Politico.com

ABC: Trump ‘At the Center’ of All the Political Violence Right Now

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By Nicholas Fondacaro

ABC’s This Week wasted little on Sunday painting the violence and death of the last few days as the product of the President they couldn’t stand. Host and Clinton lackey George Stephanopoulos stated as much at the top of the program. After giving a rundown of the violence of the week, he declared it all occurred “against the backdrop of the ugliest political climate in modern times. At the center, an unapologetically incendiary President untrammeled by traditional norms of civility.

Blaming President Trump’s heated words for the physical violence of others was the undercurrent of the entire program. As Stephanopoulos brought on the “powerhouse roundtable”, the network’s favorite faux Republican Matthew Dowd unloaded on Trump. “I think much of it has been predictable in this,” he claimed as he quoted Jedi Master Yoda on the path to the dark side. “And I think what he has done over the course of the last few years is help foment this.”

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Trump slams 'phony' poll showing him trailing several 2020 Democrats

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

By Quint Forgey

President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed a new survey showing him trailing several of his top 2020 Democratic rivals in head-to-head match-ups, and blamed “never ending Fake News” for his dismal performance in public polling ahead of next year’s election.

The broadsides appeared on the president's Twitter feed roughly a half hour before he and first lady Melania Trump walked out of the White House to participate in a moment of silence on the South Lawn commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is scheduled to attend an observance ceremony at the Pentagon later in the morning.

“In a hypothetical poll, done by one of the worst pollsters of them all, the Amazon Washington Post/ABC, which predicted I would lose to Crooked Hillary by 15 points (how did that work out?), Sleepy Joe, Pocahontas and virtually all others would beat me in the General Election,” Trump wrote online.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey released Wednesday showed Trump lagging behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in potential general election contests.

Biden enjoyed the most significant advantage over Trump among all adults polled, 16 percentage points ahead of the president, while Sanders led by 12 points, Warren by 11 points, Harris by 10 points and Buttigieg by 6 points. 

Among registered voters, Biden is out in front of Trump by 15 points, Sanders by 9 points, Warren and Harris by 7 points, and Buttigieg by 4 points — though Buttigieg’s advantage is within the survey’s range of sampling error. 

“This is a phony suppression poll, meant to build up their Democrat partners. I haven’t even started campaigning yet, and am constantly fighting Fake News like Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump tweeted.

Although the president claimed he has not begun campaigning for re-election, he has held regular campaign-style rallies across the country dating back to the transition period before his inauguration, and his 2020 campaign manager has been in place since February 2018. 

“Look at North Carolina last night. Dan Bishop, down big in the Polls, WINS. Easier than 2016!” Trump continued, pointing toward the Republican state senator’s victory Tuesday in the closely watched special election for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.

“If it weren’t for the never ending Fake News about me, and with all that I have done (more than any other President in the first 2 1/2 years!), I would be leading the ‘Partners’ of the LameStream Media by 20 points,” he concluded. “Sorry, but true!”

Trump most recently railed against polls by news outlets on Tuesday, after an ABC News/Washington Post survey reported his job approval rating dropping to 38 percent — a decrease of 6 percentage points from a peak of 44 percent approval in July.

Continue Reading at politico.com

Bolton Out: Now What?

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By Robert Spencer

As of today, John Bolton is no longer President Trump’s national security adviser, but whether he jumped or was pushed is a matter of some controversy. Trump tweeted: “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House.” Bolton, however, disputed the idea that he was fired, himself tweeting: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.” He later elaborated: “I offered to resign last night. There was no request for a resignation.” The more important question, however, is what this means for the Trump administration going forward.

“I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration,” said Trump, “and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”

According to Fox News, “Bolton’s removal comes after the hawkish adviser was reportedly sidelined from high-level discussions about military involvement in Afghanistan, after opposing diplomatic efforts in the region.” Fox quoted an unnamed “White House official,” who said: “Simply put, many of Bolton’s policy priorities did not align with POTUS.”

Bolton apparently opposed Trump’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan; he also, according to the Fox report, “led a quiet effort inside the administration and with allies abroad to convince the president to keep U.S. forces in Syria to counter ISIS and Iranian influence in the region”

The Washington Post stated several days ago that Bolton also opposed the Trump administration’s peace talks with the Taliban:

Competing versions of what led to the cancellation of the meeting and, at least temporarily, any further U.S.-Taliban negotiations, exposed internal administration tensions that have flared as a deal seemed near in recent weeks.

Those tensions have pitted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said a week ago that agreement “in principle” had been reached after 10 months of talks with the militants, and Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who opposed the talks.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an old Bush administration retread who is to a tremendous degree responsible for our being bogged down in the endless quagmire and fruitless “nation-building” mission in Afghanistan. The Taliban are the last group with whom the United States should even be considering concluding a peace treaty, and it is curious that Trump would differ with Bolton over this after declaring the talks “dead” several days ago, after the Taliban killed an American soldier.

The Taliban are indefatigably committed to their jihad to regain control of all of Afghanistan and impose Sharia fully in that country. This stance will not allow for the possibility of their coexisting peacefully with the Afghan government and remaining within its own sphere of influence while allowing that government to operate within its own domains. The jihad imperative is maximalist; the Qur’an calls upon Muslims to fight until “religion is all for Allah” (8:39). If a jihad group enters into peace talks, it is not for the purpose of concluding a peace agreement in the Western sense, that is, with a view toward establishing the basis for an indefinite cessation of hostilities. On the contrary, it only views such talks as a means to attain its goals, and if the talks do not turn out to serve that purpose, they are to be ended.

What’s more, Muhammad’s breaking of a treaty he made with the pagan Quraysh, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah when his forces had grown stronger and he no longer needed it became the paradigm for all treaty-making under Islamic law. If the Taliban do enter into an agreement with the United States, they will break it as soon as it has served the purpose they envision for it.

Continue Reading at pjmedia.com

Senate tangles with Russia after Trump's overtures to Putin

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By Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett

Tensions between Russia and the Senate are rising despite President Donald Trump's latest outreach to Moscow, with the Kremlin barring senators in both parties from visiting and Democrats urging Trump to keep Russia out of the G-7.

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Russia denied their visas as part of a congressional delegation. A third senator, Republican Mike Lee of Utah, is planning to travel to Russia next week but hasn't had his visa granted or denied yet, a spokesman said Tuesday afternoon.

Those revelations were quickly followed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats arguing to Trump that “under no circumstances” should Putin be allowed to take part in the meeting of the leaders of major industrial nations. In 2014, Russia was expelled from the organization, then known as the Group of Eight, after illegally annexing Crimea. 

Murphy warned in a statement Tuesday morning that denying visas to members of Congress could further stymie dialogue between the United States and Russia. He emphasized that it’s in the world’s best interest to prevent conflict between the two countries.

“Unfortunately, the Russian government is further isolating their country by blocking our visit and several others in recent months,” Murphy said. “ With the collapse of recent arms control agreements and significant domestic opposition to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, this is potentially a perilous moment for our two nations’ fragile relationship.” 

Lee is scheduled to meet with outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Jr., in Moscow next week, Lee's spokesman said. Huntsman is a former governor of Utah.

Russia's barring senators and Schumer's letter, taken together, heighten the already fraught relationship between Congress and Putin even as Trump pushed for Putin's inclusion into the G-7. 

"The state of affairs is very poor," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who said he'd never applied for a visa. 

The Russia hawk didn't rule out the possibility of Russia joining the G8 given the country's nuclear arsenal and place on the United Nations Security Council, but questioned whether Putin had done anything to change his country's behavior.

"We can’t ignore Russia or stop dealing with them but we should do so with clear eyes. But it’s something we need to talk to other members states as well," he told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. "I don’t know about what the rationale is about now, none of the behavior that got them kicked out of the G8 has changed."

Johnson also said Monday evening that he too was denied entry to the country; the Wisconsin senator was part of a Republican delegation that visited last summer. 

On Monday night, Johnson criticized Putin, including for failing to hold free and fair elections, supporting Syria and annexing Crimea.

Johnson said that while he hoped that he could work with Huntsman to improve the United States’ relationship with Russia, “Russian officials continue to play diplomatic games with this sincere effort and have denied [him] entrance to Russia.” 

The Wisconsin Republican, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, has pushed and co-sponsored legislation to get tough on Russia for its actions in Ukraine but votedagainst keeping some sanctions on Russia earlier this year. 

In 2015, Russia banned several members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was then chairman of the Armed Services Committee, from entering the country. McCain had supported sanctions against the country for invading Crimea.

The denial of visas to the senators highlights an ongoing conflict between members of the Senate and the White House when it comes the United States’ relationship with Russia. 

Trump said on Monday his “inclination is to say yes, [Russia] should be in” the G-7, again rattling U.S. beliefs that the country should remain on the sidelines of the international group. Trump said there were discussions in France about the matter and that he found agreement that “having them inside the room is better than having them outside the room.”

In the letter to the president, Schumer and other Democratic leaders argued that is misguided because “Russia does not currently possess the democratic institutions nor the economic capacity to rejoin the group.” 

The Democrats argued that since its expulsion, Russia has done little to prove itss worth by meddling in U.S. elections, supporting the states of Syria and Venezuela, and stifling political debate in Russia.

“For these reasons, under no circumstances should President Putin be invited to participate in the G-7 until the Russian government undertakes demonstrable actions to show its willingness to behave responsibly both domestically and abroad,” they wrote. “Readmitting Putin’s Russia to the G-7 would be contrary to our values and a clear abdication of the United States’ responsibilities as the world’s leading democracy.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who lead Democrats on key national security committees.

Via politico.com