10 Takeaways from President Trump's Action Against Iran

I was at the White House during President Trump’s address to the nation last week after the retaliatory attacks by Iran on bases in Iraq housing U.S. soldiers. President Trump explained the reason why the U.S. military killed Soleimani and also shared the details of the new sanctions against Iran.

Let’s look at the takeaways from the President’s action against Iran.

Iran’s Missile Attacks and No Casualties

President Trump said, “There were no Americans harmed by the Iranian regime missiles attack. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.” He also explained that no American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that has worked very well. President Trump saluted the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mahdi made a statement that Iran Administration has sent Iraq an official message that missile attacks “had begun or would begin shortly,” on unspecified U.S. military locations. It was believed that the Iraqi government officials gave a warning to the U.S. on “which bases would be targeted” after Iranian officials passed on the information.

U.S. Troops Staying In Iraq

Despite Iraq's Parliament voted U.S. troops out,United States has no plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. State Department Spokesperson, U.S. sees Iraq as a strategic partner not just on security but security, on financial, economic, and diplomatic partnerships. The U.S. wants to be a Friend to a sovereign, prosperous, and stable Iraq. U.S. troops are located at nine different bases and number 5200 soldiers. They, including contractors and subcontractors, remained in Iraq to help local forces contain ISIS and stop Iran’s influence in the region.

The Iraqi Parliament asked the U.S. for a pullout plan. After Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani, the future of the U.S. presence in the Middle East is not bright.

Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper made clear statements that U.S. military presence will continue in Iraq.

Is the U.S. ready to embrace peace with all who seek it?

President Trump called to the people and leaders of Iran: “We want you to have a future and a great future—one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The U.S. is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”

It was seen as a positive message to reduce tension. At the same time, U.S. Ambassador to United Nations Kelly Craft sent a letter to the UN Security Council, offering to prepare to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran to prevent further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime. 

Global Actors Urged to Pull Out of a Nuclear Agreement

President Trump made a new proposal and stated that the U.S. is “ready for a new and better” nuclear agreement with Iran. He also blamed President Obama for the 2015 Iran deal, which sought to limit Iran’s capability to establish a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of financial sanctions.

President Trump also said: “As long as I am President of the U.S., Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” He added: “Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.”

NATO’s Presence in the Middle East

President Trump asked NATO Secretary-General about giving more contributions in Iraq. He also suggested that NATO establish a NATO-ME (Middle East) Unit in the region. 

A small NATO training division in Iraq suspended its activities during Iran’s missile attack. Secretary-General has also condemned the Iranian missile attacks on the U.S. and the coalition forces in Iraq. NATO called on Iran to refrain from further violence.

The Secretary-General will be meeting with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, Mr. Abdul Karim Hashim Aboualgus, at the NATO Headquarters on January 14th.

The U.S. introduced new sanctions on Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced new sanctions on Iran's metal exports and eight senior Iranian officials at the exclusive White House Press Briefing.

Trump Administration is evident in the continuation of sanctions against Iran. "Today's sanctions are part of our commitment to stop the Iranian regime's global terrorist activities," said Secretary Pompeo.

Unexpected Demonstrations in Iran

Protests and teargas as public anger grow over Ukranian aircraft downing. Iran is facing a new crisis over the Iranian military's shooting down of a commercial airliner with 176 people on board.

Thousands of Iranians chanted during demonstrations against President Rouhani and Ali Khamenei in protest against unemployment, poverty, and the high cost of living in the past months.

Ukranian Plane Crash in Iran

Iranian ballistic missiles shot down the Ukranian plane after Iran launched strikes on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. First, Iranian officials have rejected allegations that they tried to orchestrate a cover-up; however, Iran has admitted it unintentionally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error and the U.S.

There are also questions as to why Iran let a commercial flight take off during the airstrikes.

Two official statements came from Canada and Ukraine. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We will not rest until there are justice and accountability,” and Ukraine President called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

War Powers Resolution-Democrats

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit Trump’s military action against Iran without Congressional approval and rebuked the president over his use of military power in the Middle East.

The vote was 224-194, and 8 Democrats voted against the resolution.Senator Tim Kaine proposed a similar resolution that is expected to be discussed this week.

Pompeo and Cavusoglu speak during the tensions.

Secretary Pompeo has spoken with his Turkish counterpart a few times during the about the tensions between the U.S. and Turkey. Turkish officials emphasized the need to work with other countries to solve the problem or de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

President Erdogan also shared his concerns about the crisis and highlighted, “Nobody has the right to throw the entire region, especially in Iraq, into a ring of fire for the sake of his or her interests.”

As a result, the United States and Iran crisis has calmed down; however, many things won't be the same as how they were before.

Trump administration will continue pressure on Iran with the military presence in Iraq and Syria as well as economic sanctions. The question is how and till when Iran will resist the significant demand from U.S. and NATO Allies. 

Iran's reputation is getting worse after shooting down the commercial plane, killing 176 innocent people.

There is one reality that Iranian General Soleimani was a terrorist and responsible for killing U.S. troops and innocent people in Syria. Soleimani was reportedly by Turkish and many ethnic media outlets that he was a point person for Iran's backing of Syrian President Assad and helped shape the Syrian military strategies in a terrible civil war that began with pro-democracy protests in 2011.

Although Democrats remain unconvinced, Soleimani threat was imminent, even many Syrian and Turkish people believe that he was a significant threat to the region.

2020 is a presidential election year; however, the foreign policy should be a significant focus for Trump administration this year.

Let's see how the future will look with NATO's further involvement in Iraq.

EUROPE HAS TO DO A BETTER JOB ON FIGHTING AGAINST TERRORISM

Terrorism remains an international problem that directly affects citizens everywhere, however Turkey has been unfairly bearing the brunt of responsibility and criticism and requires combined effort from other countries to help combat this issue.

London Bridge stabbing attack suspect Usman Khan was released last year after a terrorism conviction. He killed several people before being shot dead by officers responding to the attack in the center of the British capital.

European states estimate that as many as 6,000 of their citizens have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. About a third were killed, while another third remains detained in the region or traveled elsewhere.

There are some 1,200 foreign ISIS/Daesh members being held in Turkish prisons, and nearly 300 were captured during Turkey’s current anti-terror operation in northern Syria.

According to Turkish judicial sources, over 70,000 people have been banned entry to Turkey and over 7,000 linked to terrorist groups or fugitives have been deported.

Europe has not taken severe enough measures to prevent their citizens from joining ISIS and has failed to share useful intel information about these foreign fighters. If an ISIS terrorist comes from London to Turkey and holds a British passport, what do you expect Turkey to do to prevent crossing of the Syrian border other than to send the terrorist back? Europe would rather simply be rid of radicalized people than directly deal with the issue. On top of this, many European countries have accused Turkey of allowing terrorists to enter Syria.

For instance, in the aftermath of the Daesh terror attack in Brussels in 2016, Turkey had alerted Belgian authorities of the threat, but they ignored the intel information. Belgium failed to heed the warning about Ibrahim El Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers who was deported from Turkey not just once, but twice, in 2015.

European countries have failed to cooperate with Turkey regarding the foreign fighters. Now, many of them are preparing to revoke the citizenships of ISIS members who came from Europe and were later arrested, implying that Turkey should mind its own business.

Turkey began sending ISIS fighters back to Europe last week, however, some European countries are moving very slowly on this issue. Even President Donald Trump said that the European nations have been a “tremendous disappointment” for refusing to take back captured Islamic State fighters currently being held in Syria, and he added that U.S. taxpayers will not pay to look after other countries’ ISIS fighters.

As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “In the fight against ISIL [Daesh], Turkey has made crucial contributions for physically destroying the so-called caliphate. Furthermore: No other ally is hosting so many Syrian refugees, 3.6 million in total. And no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey.”

ISIS has attacked Turkey 14 times and killed over 300 people. So, the question is which country has suffered the most?

Turkish Armed Forces neutralized over 3,000 Daesh terrorists and enabled 320,000 Syrians to return to their homes with the Operation Euphrates Shield launched in August 2016. Turkey is an active member of the Global Coalition Against Daesh and co-chair of the Counter Daesh Coalition Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The most recent meeting was held in Ankara on May 7, 2019.

Some European countries are part of the Global Coalition, but only on paper. Many of them have not fought against ISIS in Syria. Furthermore, many European countries have failed to embrace refugees and now create new problems by refusing to take back terrorists who came from their own soil.

This is not a productive way to counter terrorism and foster a stable global community. Today, international cooperation with Turkey is more crucial than ever. EU countries must take responsibility for their own citizens who should be charged with terrorism in their homelands if we want to get any closer to collective peace.

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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