President Trump Vows Sanctions on Iraq

The hundreds of Iraqis attacking the U.S. embassy in Baghdad were not innocent "protesters," They were mainly members of the Iran-backed militias that, not least at the behest of the IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by U.S. strike.

U.S.-Iran tensions have manifested themselves on Iraqi land for at least three years, and the United States and Iran are on heightened alert after a weekend of military action and fiery rhetoric. President Trump finished his Florida visit last night. During a flight from Florida to Washington, DC on Air Force One, President Trump talked about the increasing tensions with Iran. "They're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to torture and maim our people, they're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we're not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn't work that way," President Trump stated.  

President Trump threatened Iraq with the sanctions and a bill for billions of dollars if the U.S. is forced to withdraw its troops from the nation after the Iraqi Parliament. "If they do ask us to leave if we don't do it on an amicable basis. We will charge them sanctions as they've never seen before ever," President Trump said. Last night, there were strikes in the capital of Iraq, in which three rockets landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, US Embassy in Baghdad. Pentagon has announced that additional 3,500 troops are in progress to be sent to the region/U.S. have almost 60,000 troops in the Middle East. United States has 9 Military bases with 5200 US Troops. 

Recent Tweets from President Trump on Iran:

"Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serves as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!"

"They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!"

"The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way...and without hesitation!"

Secretary Pompeo's Media Appearances and Diplomatic Efforts:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has appeared on many major TV outlets since Saturday. "We have developed a strategy to attempt to convince the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation. We expect to achieve that goal. We will defend America." Secretary Pompeo said on CNN. 

He was asked about the Iraqi Parliament's vote; Secretary Pompeo said on the CBS program "Face the Nation,": "It is the United States that is prepared to help the Iraqi people get what it is they deserve and continue our mission there to take down terrorism from ISIS and others in the region,

Iranian Cultural Site Conflict

President Trump raised the prospect of targeting Iranian heritage/cultural sites Saturday in a tweet; however, many foreign policy experts objected to his tweet regarding targeting Iranian culture. As an example, Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, said President Trump's threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites would be a war crime under U.N. Security Council resolution 2347.

Regarding President Trump's statement attacking Iranian Cultural sites, Secretary Pompeo said that the United States would "behave lawfully" and "behave inside the system." Also, Presidential Adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested that Iran may be hiding strategic military targets at cultural sites

Secretary Pompeo Speaks Turkish Foreign Minister 

Secretary Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu has discussed the decisive defensive action by President Donald Trump employed in Baghdad to protect American lives. Secretary reiterated the importance of countering the Iranian regime's destabilizing activities.

Secretary Pompeo has called his counterparts of Israel. Germany, Russia, China, Italy, France, UAE, and many other senior leaders globally regarding the U.S. recent operation in Baghdad.

Written Statement from Turkish Foreign Ministry:

 "We strongly reiterate that turning Iraq into a conflict zone will harm peace and stability not only in Iraq but also in the entire region. Turkey has always been against foreign interventions, assassinations, and sectarian conflicts in the region."

European Leaders urge Iran to abide by nuclear pact.

French President, German Chancellor, and U.K. Prime Minister release a joint statement "We specifically call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation, and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPA. Also, NATO and US-led coalition Suspend Training Missions in Iraq After Soleimani's Killing

What to expect this week?

President Trump continues tweeting and speaking on Iran and Iraq. Additionally, Iran officials continue to criticize and threaten the U.S. regarding Soleimani's death. It is unknown what would be Iran's next step on U.S. however U.S. is ready to hit back harder if necessary. Gasoline is already up by about six cents a gallon in response to the escalation. We might see a negative economic impact shortly, globally. Iran could disrupt shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, which is the world's biggest oil chokepoint. There are about 21 million barrels of oil a day flowed through Strait of Hormuz per year. 

The U.S. administration continues to pursue a robust program of sanctions against Iran and has issued 9 Executive Orders to implement Congressional legislation since 2011. Trump has an option to have more sanctions on Iran.

Cybersecurity is important since one of the Iranian groups hacked the website of the Federal Depository Library Program.

The relationship between the U.S. and Iraqi government is getting worse, so if the Iraq Government approves the resolution of U.S. troops leaving would be a disaster. This would be more an opportunity for Iran and many terrorist groups. Iran also announced its complete departure from the 2015 nuclear deal that would be bad news for the West. 

With the nuclear agreement, the West was controlling Iran at some point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many Democrats have been critical of Trump's decision to conduct an airstrike in Iraq that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President's military actions regarding Iran. Senator Tim Kaine introduced a similar resolution. Diplomatic channels are essential to reduce the tension, so many countries have a responsibility to talk to both sides.

NATO Leaders Meeting in London and the Future of NATO

NATO Heads of State and Government meeting in London witnessed some groundbreaking declarations. During the meeting, it was announced that North Macedonia would join the organization as its 30th member and for the first time, China's rising power became the subject of a joint declaration which stated that "China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance”. 

"We have been able to change when the world is changing," said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, underlining that NATO is the most successful alliance in history. Stoltenberg further stated that the defense expenditures have increased and there is only one platform for North America and Europe to discuss and make decisions.

In the joint declaration, countries have agreed on solidarity and Moscow's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was also touched upon, underlining that Russia's worrying activities pose a threat to the Euro-Atlantic security.

It was underlined that NATO members have increased the number of initiatives to protect their sovereignty in both the aerial and naval domains and that NATO's defensive and dissuasive powers are continuing to being strengthened with nuclear, conventional and missile defensive capabilities. In addition, the commitment to the 5th article of the Washington Treaty which promises that "an armed attack against one member state is an armed attack against all members" was reiterated 

The Trump-Erdogan Meeting

The latest developments between Turkey and the USA were addressed in this unexpected meeting which took place over the course of NATO Heads of State and Government meeting. While the USA was represented by Pompeo - the Secretary of State- and O'Brien - the National Security Advisor -, Yildirim - former prime minister -, Cavusoglu - Minister of Foreign Affairs -, Albayrak - Minister of Finance -, Akar - Minister of National Defence -, Dr. Altun - Communication Director of the Presidency - and Kalin - Presidential Spokesman - were present to represent Turkey.

During the Trump-Erdogan meeting, which was the second face-to-face meeting of the leaders in a month, NATO's co-operation was discussed once again.

The Merkel-Johnson-Erdogan-Macron Meeting

Following the suggestion of President Erdogan, Boris Johnson - Prime Minister of the UK - hosted a quadruple summit where the before mentioned leaders came together with Emmanuel Macron - President of France - and Angela Merkel - Chancellor of Germany - to discuss Syria. In the joint declaration that was presented at the end of the meeting which lasted over an hour, it was stated that the countries agreed on ceasing the attacks that target the civilians all over Syria, including Idlib. While the second quadruple summit is planned to be held in Turkey in February 2020, and Turkey watches Europe's lack of action with concern, in regards to events that are taking place in Syria. 

Turkey's YPG-PKK Sensitivity

An issue was raised about Turkey's initial refusal to back Baltic defense plan over YPG-PKK matter, and the country's later approval for the before mentioned plan. Yet the Turkish side declared that the previous statements made in regards to the correlation between YPG and PKK by the NATO members are still valid, and that the countries have agreed upon certain issues.

However, the disagreements over YPG-PKK matter between the USA and Turkey continue to exist. While some American military authorities and diplomats acknowledge the correlation between YPK and PKK, YPG is being segregated when it comes to Syria.

The sincere support of NATO members to Turkey's fight against terror is important. Otherwise, the presence of the trust issue between certain members will continue to exist.

Trump's Sensitivity to the NATO Budget

After President Trump had taken office and criticized that the NATO member countries are not fair when it comes to NATO's budget, the budget issue had come to the forefront.

This year, NATO members, who have increased their defense expenditures continuously for the last 5 years, increased their defense expenditures by 4.6% in real terms. The number of countries allocated 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defense expenditures has increased to 9. These countries are Bulgaria (3.25 %), Greece (2.28%), England (2.14%), Estonia (2.14%) , Romania (2.04%), Lithuania (2.03%) , Latvia (2.01%) and Poland (2%).

Additionally, Trump got together with leaders of these 9 countries for a dinner as a mean to thank them.

This year the defense expenditures of NATO members surpass $984 billion. While Turkey's budget is $18 billion, the USA single-handedly contributes 70% of NATO's defense expenditure by spending $685 billion 99 million.

 

The 30th Member North Macedonia 

NATO took its final step to accept its 30th member after having signed the accession protocol with Northern Macedonia in February. Zoran Zaev, the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia took part in the leaders' summit in London and the flag of N. Macedonia was represented at the NATO meetings.

Northern Macedonia, which took part in the NATO meetings, will become the 30th member of NATO once the accession protocol has been approved in the parliaments of all member countries and all official procedures have been completed.

While the area of influence of Russia becomes more restricted with Northern Macedonia, it is expected that NATO will also continue its policy of expansion in 2020.

NATO, S400 and Turkey-Spain Relations

Spanish Prime Minister announced that Spain would maintain its presence in the NATO missile defense mission in Turkey and made a reference to other members. Because Turkey expresses that they are not receiving an adequate amount of patriots from the NATO members against internal and external security threats.

In addition to this, Jens Stoltenberg - Secretary-General of NATO - stated that the "S-400s used by Turkey will never be integrated into the NATO".

 

Dispute over Macron and Trump-Erdogan Solidarity

As was the case before the London summit, both US President Trump and President Erdogan responded to French President Macron's statements that the brain death of NATO had occurred, giving out the message that we would endeavor to make NATO even stronger. Trump referred to the words of Macron as very humiliating and said, "NATO has a great purpose. Nobody needs NATO more than France. These kinds of statements are very dangerous".

2019 NATO Activities

 

Established in 1949, NATO is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Apart from the London Summit, the organization hosted two conferences at foreign ministerial level (with one of these in Washington DC) and three conferences at defense ministerial level.

Established in 1949, NATO is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Apart from the London Summit which was participated by the Heads of State and Government of the member countries, the organization hosted two conferences at foreign ministerial level (with one of these in Washington DC) and three conferences at defense ministerial level.

NATO, along with performing over 100 military operations this year, has declared space as the new theater of operations. It has also been announced that NATO was on new actions regarding cybersecurity.

Following North Macedonia, the work is being done to include Georgia to NATO as a member country. Even though there are difficulties due to Russian annexation over 20% of Georgian land, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg will be in Tbilisi in March and NATO has a coordination office in Tbilisi since 2010.

NATO had also reached a $ 1 billion agreement with Boeing, allowing AWACS fleet to serve until 2035.

As a summary, the future of NATO is not in despair. With each member is making positive statements on the organization, investments of NATO in new fields, attempts to reach the desired budget and with new members, I presume that this 70-year-old alliance will last many many years.

 

 

 

 

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