Israelis were shocked this week to learn that Trump may have divulged some of their secret intelligence on ISIS to the Russians, an ally of Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy. After the Washington Post revealed that Trump had shared classified reports with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, the New York Times and ABC quoted sources asserting that the information came from an Israeli spy embedded with ISIS. Israeli media said the intelligence was related to a plot to carry a booby-trapped laptop onto a plane that triggered a sudden ban on computers on flights to the US and UK in March. There was no official confirmation from Israel, but the head of Israel’s military intelligence was reported to be in Washington trying to defuse the crisis.
Furious Israeli intelligence officials are talking about scaling back the quality of the information they share with their US counterparts
WARS & RUMORS THEREOF
Last Wednesday, US forces carried out more unauthorized air strikes on pro-government forces in Syria. Though the Constitution explicitly states that the legislative branch, not the executive, has the power to initiate new military actions, Trump has steered the United States deeper into the Syrian conflict.
, a former active-duty officer in the US Air Force now serving as a colonel in the Reserves, who is an expert in military law, had Congressman Ted Lieuthe right response on Twitter:
If true, this is FRICKIN ILLEGAL. Trump does not have Congressional authorization to attack Syria, a country that has not attacked US. https://t.co/5cf7gBVwC7
—Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 18, 2017
The congressman later issued a statement:
For the second time in as many months, the US military has conducted airstrikes against pro-Assad forces in Syria. The Trump Administration does not have congressional authorization to carry out military strikes against the Assad regime. Furthermore, the situation that led to today’s strike is precisely why I warned against getting further entangled in the Syrian civil war without a clear strategy. President Trump needs to explain his plan for Syria to Congress and the American people.
Not so fast!
…Presidents have “leeway to respond to attacks or other emergencies,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations
…And it is that leeway that presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump have used to their advantage. Following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, Congress gave Bush authority to attack any countries or groups involved in the attacks, which was generally accepted to mean al-Qaida. Obama used that same authority to fight the Islamic State militant group, which emerged in 2014 as an outgrowth of al-Qaida. Trump has used that same authority to continue military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Syria & allies push back at US-held border post
The King of the North Coalition is pushing back at the King of the South Coalition: The Syrian-pro-Iranian-Hizballah force in southern Syria renewed its advance on the Iraqi border on Saturday, May 20, two days after sustaining heavy casualties from a US air strike on its convoys and in spite of US Defense Secretary James’ Mattis warning, “We will defend our troops.”
Russian paratroops move to Syrian border triangle
Syrian military sources reported the capture Saturday of the Suweida region and another 60 square kilometers. This offensive brought the Syrian army and its allies closer to the strategic Al-Tanf crossing at the Syrian border intersection with Iraq and Jordan, which is held by US and other special operations units.
A Russian contingent of paratroops and special forces arrived at Suweida. It linked up with the Syrian army, Hizballah and other pro-Iranian allies already poised to take on the US, Jordanian, British and Norwegian elite units for control of the strategic 600km long Syrian-Iraqi border and its key crossings.
North Korea launched the solid-fuel Pukguksong-2 missile Sunday. It reached a height of 350 miles before splashing into the Pacific Ocean. The isolated country said it is an “answer” to President Trump’s policies. North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un ordered and watched the launch, according to state media. The report said the test verified technical aspects of the weapon system and examined its “adaptability under various battle conditions” before it is deployed to military units.
…Kim approves mass production and deployment of missiles
US & GLOBAL ECONOMY
Russian cyber criminals used malware planted on Android mobile devices to steal from domestic bank customers and were planning to target European lenders before their arrest, investigators and sources with knowledge of the case told Reuters. Their campaign raised a relatively small sum by cyber-crime standards – more than 50 million roubles ($892,000) – but they had also obtained more sophisticated malicious software for a modest monthly fee to go after the clients of banks in France and possibly a range of other western nations.
Ahead of President Trump’s much-anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia, delivered before a gathering of Muslim statesmen on Sunday, there was a great deal of speculation into what Trump would say about Islam — a faith, after all, that he once claimed “hates us” and whose devotees he once sought to bar from entering the United States. Trump shied away from declaiming “radical Islamic terrorism” before this audience, a set of words he had previously given an almost totemic importance in the war against extremism. Instead, in Riyadh, he offered a message of unity and common purpose, urging the assembled leaders to “drive out” the Islamist militants in their midst.
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump said. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion — people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.” Trump has symbolically shown Israel where it stands in this new administration: Israel is second on his list, not first, as his rhetoric implied during the 2016 election campaign.
Trump repeatedly attacked Iran, claiming it “funds arms, trains militias that spread destruction and chaos”
He flew in from Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, where he gave a speech to Arab and Muslim leaders at a summit. Mr Trump will hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the course of his two-day stop. The president has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “the ultimate deal”, but has been vague about what form it should take.
Trump’s actions toward Israel are insincere. His greatest desire is to make the biggest deal in history to make a name for himself. He does not truly care about the people in Israel or the Middle East.
Israel Education Minister Naftali Bennett asks U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He has backed away from that promise since taking office, saying the issue needs more study. Israel captured east Jerusalem 50 years ago and claims the area – home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites – as part of its capital. The Palestinians also claim east Jerusalem as their capital. It was not immediately clear how Trump responded to Bennett.
NEXT STOP FOR TRUMP IS ISRAEL, IN PURSUIT OF ‘ULTIMATE DEAL’
A new Reuters/IPSOS tracking poll, released Friday afternoon, showed the president with a job approval rating of 75 percent among Republicans. Political professionals generally view it as worrying for any commander-in-chief if his approval ratings with his own party dip below 85 percent — and downright alarming if they go below 80 percent. “Seventy-five [percent] is certainly a new number and I would want to see something that would either back that up or refute it,” said GOP pollster David Winston, whose resumé includes work for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). “Certainly, if it were true, that is not where you would want to be.” While the IPSOS result was especially bad for Trump, it was not so far outside of the norm as to be a true outlier.