It’s easy to be a friend in good times; a test of true friendship is whether the concern comes through in tough times. Team Trump is under fire from Congress and media, for how the president handled the attack in Niger of 5 U.S. soldiers — Green Berets. (Niger is in western Africa, southeast of Algeria. It is about twice the size of Texas.)
The assault occurred 120 miles north of Niamey, capital of Niger, near the border with Mali, where the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of Al Qaeda, conducted cross-border raids. Niger attracted the attention of Congress and media, because of the death of U.S. soldiers.
On Oct. 30 co-author Tanter attended a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing featuring Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis. The primary focus: Whether there was a need to revise the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Act, of Sept. 18, 2001, following the 9/11 attacks and the AUMF Resolution of Oct. 16, 2002, as justification for forthcoming U.S. invasions of Afghanistan against the Taliban and Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.
Chairman Sen. Corker, (R-TN), lamented how since 2013, when he was in the Minority and now in the Majority, presidents seemed disinterested in revision of the two AUMFs. Also, there was resistance by Tillerson and Mattis. They presented a coordinated position, expressing reservations about a new AUFM. Presidents Obama and Trump claimed they had Constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chiefs, under Art. II, Section I and AUMF authority to use force against Islamic State, Taliban, and AQIM buildup in Niger.
Senators queried witnesses about the Niger attacks. Each stressed national interest considerations of U.S. training and security assistance to Nigerien armed forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Neither Tillerson nor Mattis used terms like ideals; they adhered to national interests. A poll of Oct. 27, 66 percent, finds, keep U.S. troops out of places not vital to American national interest, per Rasmussen. But, there’s pushback from right and left, per a Heritage Foundation Report.
Also, think President Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” And consider President Reagan, in whose White House Tanter served: “We shall be a city upon a hill,” stated in his Election Eve Address, “A Vision for America,” Nov. 3, 1980.
Of course, the presence of 800 U.S. troops in Niger is justified as being in the national interest! But to ignore idealism is to forget about giants, including Kennedy and Reagan, which brings us to the Kurds. Unlike Niger, which has U.S. forces, Kurdistan has none deployed.
Tanter visited Kurdistan, on a dangerous trip to interview Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf, the Peoples Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), in Nov. 2008. Because Col. Martin was busy in other hot spots, he did not have time to make the trek. He remains a steadfast supporter of Kurds and PMOI.
Now, the Kurds face tough times, as the ISF launches assaults against Kurdistan. Such attacks are one reason a scholar who researches Iranian dissidents and their U.S. military supporter penned this post.
Once Washington determines its national interests are either satisfied or concluded, it often withdraws and leaves former allies to their own dire fates. This was the situation with countless other regional “friends,” over the years, and is now happening to Kurds in Iraq. Also, Tanter was in Tehran in 1975, when Washington sold-out the Kurds again.
It has been about a hundred years since the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 19, 1916, divided the Middle East in support of French and British interests. The straight-line borders creating countries out of the collapsed Ottoman Empire hardly took any consideration of regional unities or cultural differences; instead, the once-secret accord brought generations of confusion and conflict.
The week of Nov. 2, 2017, is the Centennial for Britain issuing the Balfour Declaration on Nov. 2, 1917, a year after Sykes-Picot; the Declaration is often reported as a statement of ideals and interests; it did recognize one historical bond of the Jewish People to the Holy Land and provided a foundation for establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. But Jewish action, not a hand-out from colonial powers, is responsible for creation of Israel, 31 years after the Declaration.
Unlike Israel, which became a State, the Kurdish people did not, yet were able to maintain some unity — a strength and weakness, because the Kurds are divided, which might lead to fall of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
In Summer 2014, “The KRG survived a perfect storm of military onslaught by the Islamic State and economic hardship due to crashing oil prices and mass refugee flows. It survived thanks to internal unity and U.S. military and economic support,” per Bilal Wahab of The Washington Institute. Alas, it appears as if American support is waning.
On Oct. 28, Jonathan Speyer states, “The immediate goal of Baghdad and Tehran [and Ankara] is destruction of Kurdistan,” per The Jerusalem Post. As President Trump might tweet, if he were apprised of the forthcoming tragedy: “Sad…”
The Way Forward
First, our analysis suggests: President Trump, walk in footsteps of Kennedy and Reagan. Mr. President, show us your vision for the future where ideals and interests are pursued together.
Second, task your National Security Council to testify, accordingly, to Congress, and give a prime-time address to us outlining your vision of ideals and interests to justify U.S. troop deployments in Niger.
And third, make clear your vision applies to Kurdistan. An expression of presidential interest should give caution to Iraq, Iran, and Turkey: America is great because it stands by our friends in harsh times. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said as such on Nov. 2: The president intends to express this kind of vision to our Asian allies as he departs today for the region.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
Col. Wes Martin (Ret.) was Senior Antiterrorism Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq, 2003-2004. He was Force Protection Assessment Team Chief, 2003; Chief of Information Operations, Headquarters Department of Army, 2006-2008; Chief Information Operations, U.S. Forces Korea, 2008-2010; and Commander of five other military units. Upon retirement, Martin received the Legion of Merit for “Exceptionally Meritorious Service Spanning Four Decades.”
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