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Tight circle of security officials crafted Trump’s Syria warning

U.S . Secretary of State Rex Tillerson | Alex Wong/Getty Images

US national security officials worked on the language in between meetings in a fast-moving effort to send Syria a message.

By 1 and 2

6/28/17, 5:03 AM CET

President Donald Trump s blunt, public warning to the Syrian regime late Monday night was cobbled together in a series of hurried discussions, squeezed in between meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and kept among a small, tight circle of top officials. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both arrived at the White House late Monday afternoon, ahead of the Rose Garden ceremony at which Trump and Modi each read a prepared statement . Upon the Cabinet members arrival, according to a senior defense official, they were informed of Trump s plan to issue a public warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad, based on new intelligence the Syrian regime3 was preparing another chemical weapons attack on its own people. National security adviser H.R .

McMaster, who also was at the White House for meetings, had already been briefed and had weighed in on the plan, administration sources said. But no stand-alone principals meeting followed to discuss the intelligence, which Trump received Monday morning, according to two senior administration officials. Rather, over the course of the day, officials said, McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and a few other top officials had the opportunity to work the language of the statement, in between meetings with Modi . None of them expressed any hesitation or disagreement about the decision to issue a public warning, according to one of the senior administration officials.

But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the events were fast-moving and that there were minimal deliberations about the bold move and that only a limited number of top military officials were aware of the new intelligence and planned response. The episode marked another example of ongoing frustration between administration rank-and-file and leadership, which this time could carry serious consequences if the backbiting appears to weaken the U.S . government s resolve in turning up the pressure on Assad.

It hurts American credibility, said Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official who served under Secretary of State John Kerry . When the Syrian regime sees a report that government officials have no idea, the message to them is that these guys don t have their act together . And if nobody at State knows, it hurts your ability to follow up and have a diplomatic game plan.

But one former Obama administration official shrugged off the issues of communication between the White House and lower-level agency officials.

There s a broader issue here of effective coordination and communication sometimes the president contradicts his own people, Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama s former national security adviser, said in an interview . But I don t think that s the most important issue here . If, in fact, the United States has evidence that they re preparing a chemical attack, laying down a warning that you intend to follow through on is an appropriate thing to do. The careful language of the 87-word statement which was drafted by the afternoon but not released until close to 10 p.m . was cleared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and the Defense Department before it was blasted out from the press secretary s office.

On Tuesday, the White House insisted that military and State Department officials were not blindsided by the statement, which warned Assad that if he launches another chemical weapons attack, he and his military will pay a heavy price.

In response to several inquiries regarding the Syria statement issued last night, we want to clarify that all relevant agencies including State, DoD, CIA and ODNI were involved in the process from the beginning, the White House said in a statement released Tuesday morning . Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false. Multiple administration officials said people surprised by the statement were simply not senior enough to be clued in and some said they were frustrated that a bold move by Trump, which they believed could save lives, was overshadowed by a side story about leaks and internal disagreements.

The story seems to be about whether or not a public affairs officer on a regional desk at the State Department was notified in what they would consider to be a timely manner, vented a third White House official . If Tillerson knew and some desk officer in the Middle East section didn t know, they need to take that up with Tillerson . It s not their right to know . It s his prerogative if he wants to share the information.

The move, and the frustration were reflective of the Trump administration s approach of making key decisions within a close, inner circle unlike the deliberative, and sometimes paralyzingly inclusive, decision making that defined Obama s process. Despite the confusion and complaints over who was looped in and when, foreign policy experts lauded Trump s choice to make a public statement rather than to try to pressure the Syrian regime through diplomatic back channels. The Trump administration realizes they re being dragged into a very dangerous situation, said Jim Jeffrey, a former U.S .

ambassador to Turkey and Iraq and deputy national security adviser for President George W . Bush . He said the U.S . approach to Assad so far had been a bunch of tit for tats that seemed to have no long-term impact.

The benefit of a public statement is they re now on record as saying, this shall not happen, Jeffrey added . There was a conscious decision made by the people who realize whatever we want to do in the Middle East, we re going to look like fools if they do this again, and we blow up a few more airplanes . We have to react very strongly to them. Trump s own seeming lack of interest in the issue, though, could also diminish the message s effect on Assad.

Instead of using the megaphone of his Twitter feed to amplify the White House statement, marked by his press office as urgent, Trump took to Twitter minutes after its release to harp on one of his personal obsessions . From @FoxNews Bombshell: In 2016, Obama dismissed idea that anyone could rig an American election . Check out his statement Witch Hunt ! the president tweeted.

He s very undisciplined, said Jeffrey . He does this all the time .

That s a separate problem .

But what s clear is that in the end, he goes along with what his top advisers tell him.

Bryan Bender contributed to this report.

Related stories on these topics:

References

  1. ^ (www.politico.eu)
  2. ^ (www.politico.eu)
  3. ^ intelligence the Syrian regime (www.politico.eu)

Potential Linfield v Celtic tiemoved to July 14 over security concerns

  • Potential Linfield v Celtic tie moved to July 14 over security concerns

    BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

    A Belfast clash between Linfield and Celtic has been pencilled in for July 14 – avoiding the security nightmare of a powderkeg eve-of-Twelfth tie. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/potential-linfield-v-celtic-tie-moved-to-july-14-over-security-concerns-35856883.html

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/article35856882.ece/77abe/AUTOCROP/h342/2017-06-23_new_32286864_I3.JPG

  • Email1

A Belfast clash between Linfield and Celtic has been pencilled in for July 14 – avoiding the security nightmare of a powderkeg eve-of-Twelfth tie. The Friday evening fixture, which would have a 5pm kick-off, was provisionally agreed after a high-level meeting yesterday.

It came after the Belfast Telegraph reported how the PSNI had stepped in to veto a proposed July 11 match. The sides are on course to meet for the first time in a Champions League qualifier – provided Linfield overcome La Fiorita from San Marino. But the prospect of Celtic coming to Windsor Park, and all the emotion that goes with it, has been front and back page news since Monday’s draw.

Even Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill got caught up in the excitement yesterday. Speaking on a visit to Belfast, he said: “We should note it’s a game that is only a possible game at this moment in time, but the Celtic tie is a huge carrot for Linfield to get beyond the San Marino side.

“I go back to when I was manager of (League of Ireland club) Shamrock Rovers in Europe and we had a game against an Israeli team, and the carrot for us was to play Juventus if we beat them and we got through the tie.

“That was brilliant and it would be the same for Linfield to play a massive club like Celtic in the Champions League.

“I think the Linfield players would enjoy the media attention that would come with it and I think it will be a great game if it comes to fruition.”

As long as Linfield overcome La Fiorita in their first-round clash, they will face the Scottish champions in a two-legged qualifier. They had been scheduled to play the home leg in Belfast on either July 11 or 12, but the prospect of a high-risk football match at the height of the marching season alarmed the PSNI.

Senior officers quickly ruled out staging it on either date. A meeting between officials from both clubs and police was held yesterday, with the July 14 date being fixed. Discussions were ongoing last night on whether Celtic would take up their allocation of tickets for a match in Belfast . It is understood Linfield are happy to have away fans at the game, and would accept tickets for the return tie in Glasgow, if it happens.

Celtic were represented at the meeting yesterday by their head of security Ronnie Hawthorn. Also present were Linfield chairman Roy McGivern and representatives from the PSNI and Police Scotland. Sources said July 12 had been ruled out from the start . July 11 was also deemed impossible .

Alternative dates of July 10 and July 13 were discussed, but both were also considered problematic. Eventually July 14 was settled on, with the 5pm kick-off a police decision. Mr McGivern said: “I’m pleased that both clubs and all parties have worked together to reach an amicable solution and we would host the first leg in Belfast as drawn.”

If the tie goes ahead, Linfield stand to make around 1 million.

They have already been assured of live TV coverage, with BT Sport one of three broadcasters interested in securing the rights . Adding intrigue is the fact that Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is from Co Antrim . Also, Linfield boss David Healy played for the Bhoys’ bitter rivals Rangers during his career.

See Sport back page

Belfast Telegraph

References

  1. ^ Email (www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk)

Potential Linfield v Celtic tie moved to July 14 over security concerns

  • Potential Linfield v Celtic tie moved to July 14 over security concerns

    BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

    A Belfast clash between Linfield and Celtic has been pencilled in for July 14 – avoiding the security nightmare of a powderkeg eve-of-Twelfth tie. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/potential-linfield-v-celtic-tie-moved-to-july-14-over-security-concerns-35856883.html

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/article35856882.ece/77abe/AUTOCROP/h342/2017-06-23_new_32286864_I3.JPG

  • Email1

A Belfast clash between Linfield and Celtic has been pencilled in for July 14 – avoiding the security nightmare of a powderkeg eve-of-Twelfth tie. The Friday evening fixture, which would have a 5pm kick-off, was provisionally agreed after a high-level meeting yesterday.

It came after the Belfast Telegraph reported how the PSNI had stepped in to veto a proposed July 11 match. The sides are on course to meet for the first time in a Champions League qualifier – provided Linfield overcome La Fiorita from San Marino. But the prospect of Celtic coming to Windsor Park, and all the emotion that goes with it, has been front and back page news since Monday’s draw.

Even Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill got caught up in the excitement yesterday. Speaking on a visit to Belfast, he said: “We should note it’s a game that is only a possible game at this moment in time, but the Celtic tie is a huge carrot for Linfield to get beyond the San Marino side.

“I go back to when I was manager of (League of Ireland club) Shamrock Rovers in Europe and we had a game against an Israeli team, and the carrot for us was to play Juventus if we beat them and we got through the tie.

“That was brilliant and it would be the same for Linfield to play a massive club like Celtic in the Champions League.

“I think the Linfield players would enjoy the media attention that would come with it and I think it will be a great game if it comes to fruition.”

As long as Linfield overcome La Fiorita in their first-round clash, they will face the Scottish champions in a two-legged qualifier. They had been scheduled to play the home leg in Belfast on either July 11 or 12, but the prospect of a high-risk football match at the height of the marching season alarmed the PSNI.

Senior officers quickly ruled out staging it on either date. A meeting between officials from both clubs and police was held yesterday, with the July 14 date being fixed. Discussions were ongoing last night on whether Celtic would take up their allocation of tickets for a match in Belfast . It is understood Linfield are happy to have away fans at the game, and would accept tickets for the return tie in Glasgow, if it happens.

Celtic were represented at the meeting yesterday by their head of security Ronnie Hawthorn. Also present were Linfield chairman Roy McGivern and representatives from the PSNI and Police Scotland. Sources said July 12 had been ruled out from the start . July 11 was also deemed impossible .

Alternative dates of July 10 and July 13 were discussed, but both were also considered problematic. Eventually July 14 was settled on, with the 5pm kick-off a police decision. Mr McGivern said: “I’m pleased that both clubs and all parties have worked together to reach an amicable solution and we would host the first leg in Belfast as drawn.”

If the tie goes ahead, Linfield stand to make around 1 million.

They have already been assured of live TV coverage, with BT Sport one of three broadcasters interested in securing the rights . Adding intrigue is the fact that Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is from Co Antrim . Also, Linfield boss David Healy played for the Bhoys’ bitter rivals Rangers during his career.

See Sport back page

Belfast Telegraph

References

  1. ^ Email (www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk)