Saturday, February 25, 2017

Elliott Abrams' Comments.Responses To Personal Thoughts. About Time!

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The night of the SIRC President Day Dinner, I was given the Eckburg Award for my contributions to the organization.  It was given to me by my dear friend and fellow memo reader - Russ Peterson.
This is a recap of Elliott Abram's address and was written up by Board member Michael Walters with some futher editing by myself and then approved by Elliott.(See below.)

The SIRC President's Day Dinner featured speaker was Elliott Abrams who was in the news recently. Though he was selected  by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (and supported by Jared Kushner) to be the Deputy Secretary of State, Abrams was vetoed by Trump due to criticism of Trump he had written during the campaign last year.

However the packed audience was treated to an insightful view of foreign policy especially in the Middle East (Abrams’ specialty). He started with his view of the chief threats facing us around the world.

Radical Islamic Terrorism

This is the worst threat; not only must ISIS be thoroughly defeated, but Al Qaida is now stronger than ever. Europe is obviously more threatened than we are, and is much more vulnerable. We have been fortunate not to have had more incidents in our homeland (thanks partly to luck and heightened vigilance by our security experts.)

The solution is partly a military one (to eradicate ISIS bases), but, longer term, an ideological response is also needed. ISIS participants are not easily deterred.  Their ultimate defeat may take a few generations.


Their quest is clearly a “Shia crescent” takeover of the Middle East. Their vast oil and gas reserves make it clear nuclear power is not necessary. Their goal is nuclear weapons capability and a rocket delivery system.

It did not help when the Obama administration gave them  $1.5 billion including $500 million in cash! (Editor’s note: plus a clear path to a weapon development after the 10 year slowdown is over. The Shia have waited 1000 years; what’s another decade or two?)

The Iranians respect power and sensed negotiating weakness on the part of Obama (especially after Syria violated Obama's red line threat.) Abrams relayed a story of how an unnamed local Sunni State warned Obama of a dangerous shipment of prohibited arms from Iran sailing in the Red Sea, and Obama did nothing. Israel was then informed and sent a message to Iran: turn the boat back or it will be sunk. The Iranians complied.

Should Iran launch an attack on Israel, which could cause horrific damage to Tel Aviv, Abrams believes Israel would destroy Iran's entire oil facilities at Kharg Island or 90% of their export capability which currently provides them cash to fund their economy and weapon's programs etc.


 Until Obama allowed Russia to cozy up to Iran, Russia had been a non- player in the Middle East for decades. Russia always wanted a naval base presence in the Mediterranean. Siding with Shia powers puts Russia on the wrong side of Sunni states (Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE), Abrams implied Russia might not be so committed to Iran and Syria and that could provide Trump with some negotiating opportunity.

Responses to Threats

Perhaps our biggest asset is our strong world relationships whereas our adversaries generally have none. Iran, Russia, and China each have no real allies while the US has a strong alliance system.

Because of the threat posed by Iran, Israel, one of our most loyal allies, has begun to develop  'below the radar' relationships with Sunni states in the Middle East.
Don’t underestimate the power of the U.S. to say:
You can do business with Iran or you can do business with the U.S. You can’t do both!
Key Decisions

Abrams highlighted some key areas in which America may need to take action in the near future, starting with the Obama/Iran Deal. Some re-imposition of sanctions might prove effective. European defectors may be harder to get back on board but one should not underestimate the power of the say you can’t do business with Iran and America simultaneously. You must choose. The question is, does Trump have the will?

America and Israel can also re-employ covert sabotage of Iranian nuclear facilities.
Syria’s War is equally difficult to solve. Abrams characterized it as Obama’s worst legacy. When he failed to act, after drawing a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons, not only did Syria notice but also the whole world concluded he was feckless. The results have been tragic as 500,000 Syrian citizens were killed and 10 million refugees were unleashed on the world, - mostly in Europe which is now dealing with the consequences.
In comparing Obama to Ronald Reagan, Abrams reminded the audience of the message Reagan sent when he warned then fired the air traffic controllers.
Meanwhile, Israeli/Palestinian peace talks have gone on for decades, with no results. Trump has called for an outside/in strategy: using Israel’s new contacts with the Arab states to help bring a deal with the Palestinians. Russia and Syria need to be dealt with, but Abrams  believes Russia’s alliance with Iran is not necessarily  permanent, as  Sunni states are vehemently opposed.

North Korea is another dangerous example of failed U.S. policy. (Editor’s note: Bill Clinton got snookered when N Korea built a nuclear weapon.) Ultimately Abrams believes some military response needs to be on the table if and when they develop a missile capable of reaching the U.S. Maybe even before, as South Korea is gravely threatened due to proximity. Perhaps an America prepared to use a military option, will challenge China to act more aggressively in curbing  N. Korea. China holds a major trump card as they import North Korean coal which is a major economic  prop along with sales of  N Korean arms to other rogue countries.

Q&A Session

1. What’s your reaction to Obama meddling in Trump’s presidency and remaining in D.C.?

Inappropriate versus longstanding traditions of ex-presidents remaining silent. Eight days in, Obama opined. George W. Bush said nothing publicly during the eight years of Obama’s missteps.

2. What’s likely to happen in France’s next election, with a strong nationalist running in the person of Marine Le Pen?

Despite pundits saying she has no chance, Abrams recalled another recent election in the U.S. where a strong America firsters had similar journalist skeptics. She absolutely could win, but it remains a longer shot. He recalled a lot of European journalists are fearful of this nationalist movement. He alluded to World Wars I and II as caused by overt nationalism gone bad, but don’t rule out security fears and nationalism as motivating many voters. (Brexit as an example.)

3. Is self-governing democracy an ultimate solution to the conflicts in the Middle East? Will the tenets of Islam allow it?

Abrams said the key concept might be legitimacy of the governments. Many of the monarchs have it, which is why in the “Arab Spring” no kings have been overthrown. But Arab culture does have strong concepts of law and justice, if not Western-style democracy.

4. Will Tax Reform ultimately succeed?

Not his area of expertise, but Abrams volunteered his opinion that repatriation of 'huge' profits overseas is a major goal and could become a powerful economic force as would removing restrictive red tape etc.

Final Perspective

Abrams thought it was ludicrous for the mass media to draw conclusions after only 30 days into the new administration. Cabinet secretaries and deputies, whose appointments have been unnecessarily delayed by Democrat strategy along with Trump's own intemperate tweets and outbursts, has allowed the mass media to increase criticism.

Abrams was impressed by Trump’s National Security appointments: Tillerson at State, Mattis at Defense, Kelly at Homeland Security, Pompeo at CIA, and now McMaster at NSC.

Abrams also opposed allowing a political adviser to participate in National Security deliberations. He revealed George W. Bush’s refused to allow Karl Rove to attend a single National Security meeting. 
It is about time. (See 1 below.)


Trump's new path to peace in The Middle East. 

It might fail but at least it is a logical move that takes advantage of the sea change in the region.(See 1a below.)
One of my great friends and fellow memo readers answers the questions I posed in my previous memo as follows: 

Yes to all except:

d. – nothing
g = not so sure
l – throw it all out
q – he has disturbed their “inevitable” march forward
r – no
s – hell no

t – screw ‘em we have the majority. Elections have consequences! (I believe Obama said that.)


From a former fraternity brother, long time friend,, his lovely wife  and fellow memo readers:Dick,

We find your email very cogent and insightful and certainly appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us.  This now gives us another perspective to think about and helps us to digest what is occurring and we are hopeful that with an appropriate amount of times good things will occur for our people and country.  Hopefully President Trump will be able to bring some if not all desires he has to fruition for the future of our country.  Thanks again for your email.

E--- and E------


From another friend and fellow memo reader:

Richard, since you used this to convey some personal thoughts permit me to respond personally as well.

I do agree and believe that much of what the President is trying to do is needed in America right now and for elucidating those thoughts and acting on them I give him full credit.

But the manner in which he operates, the personal attacks on others at a level not seen since the founding of the Republic and his disregard for the norms of public discourse take so much away from his stated objectives for the country.

If someone could help him understand (a) that he won the election and does not have to keep talking about it as if it is an event in the future and (b) that you accomplish a whole lot more with sugar than you do with pepper, he could be a great president. 

We expect our presidents to act presidential, and well we should.  He needs to learn that else the country might throw out the baby with the bathwater and that would be a shame.

With respect,



The administration regards the Council as being inherently anti-Israel which is the main reason for the consideration for pulling out of the international body, according to the report.

According to the report, the administration is not expected to withdraw ahead of the council’s next session that begins on Monday,  but discussion of the option has already begun and is expected to include input from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and President Donald Trump.

The news site also reported that in private conversations, Secretary Tillerson has expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the Council.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner did not confirm whether the issue was being considered and would only say that "our delegation will be fully involved in the work of the HRC session which starts Monday."

Former Israeli ambassador to the US and current deputy minister for the Kulanu party Michael Oren welcomed a potential US move to withdraw from the council.

"US decision to quit the insanely anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council would send a moral message to the world," Oren wrote on Twitter.

Since its creation in 2006, the UN Human Rights Council has been persistently criticized by the US for its biased treatment of Israel, which has been condemned more than any other country, including persistent human rights abusers such as Iran and Syria.

Under former US president George W. Bush, the US initially refused to seek a seat on the 47-member body and then withdrew from it altogether in 2008. Former US president Barack Obama reversed that position upon entering office, believing that the UNHRC could best be changed from within.

During the Obama administration the US held two consecutive terms on the council, from 2009 to 2015. It is now serving a three-year membership term that began in 2016. The US has often been the sole country to vote against resolutions condemning Israel.

1a) Israeli minister: Trump opening new peace path with Israel-Sunni efforts

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz says new US administration working to boost ties between Israel and moderate Sunni countries in the region.
The Trump administration is working to strengthen ties between Israel and moderate Sunni states in the region for the purpose of advancing the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, said Intelligence Minister Israel Katz (Likud).

In an interview with the Washington Post published Sunday, Katz acknowledged that Israel has relations with certain unnamed Sunni Arab countries that have no official peace deal or diplomatic ties with Jerusalem. 

The minister indicated that due to the relative weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and recent changes within the Hamas leadership, a direct approach has become increasingly difficult. 

Therefore, he said he has been pushing his vision for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians which involved a multilayered regional approach with coordination between moderate Arab states along with moderate Palestinians. 

Katz explained that one aspect of bolstering the Israeli-Sunni alliance consisted of uniting in the fight against extremist groups wreaking havoc in the region, such as Islamic State and al-Qaida along with the Shi'ite axis of Iran and Hezbollah. 

The new White House administration's shift on the Middle East conflict has provided Israel with mechanisms and backing in order to strengthen security cooperation with Sunni states, Katz told theWashington Post

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu went to America after many discussions here in which we spoke about the idea for regional peace, based on security and economic considerations in the region,” he said of the premier's recent visit to Washington to meet with US President Donald Trump. 

The minister mentioned that along with security coordination, regional economics can serve as a path for forging diplomatic and political ties with the Arab world. 

In the case that intelligence sharing and a level of strategic regional cooperation is attained, Katz said he envisions a plan to physically close the gap between Israel and the Arab world with a train line that runs from Beit Shean to Jordan, and from there can branch out to various destinations in the region. 

Katz stated that he has already garnered support from Netanyahu for the venture and efforts are in the works to gain backing from Gulf states, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. 

He further noted that despite recent questions surrounding the issues, the United States still supports a two-state solution and Netanyahu has not rejected it.

“It’s not that we are against two states, but, as one White House official pointed [out] – ‘if you ask five people what two states would look like, you'd get eight different answers,’” he said.

Katz asserted that, in fact, Trump has opened the playing field for peace.


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