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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.
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.
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Police Forces stand guard outside ‘Rote Flora’ after clashing with left wing protesters after a march on May Day in Hamburg, Germany | Joern Pollex/Getty Images
Authorities expect as many as 10,000 far-left activists from across Europe and warn of clashes between Kurdish groups and nationalist Turks.
6/25/17, 12:23 PM CET
PARIS Police in the German city of Hamburg fear violence from far-left and Turkish groups during an upcoming G20 summit and will deploy thousands of additional officers to fend off rioting, local media reported Sunday. World leaders converge on the southern German city on July 7-8 for a summit whose agenda includes the global economy, U.S . trade protectionism and climate change. As many as 10,000 far-left activists from Italy, France, Greece, Scandinavia and Spain will be there to greet them, according to police officials cited by Welt Am Sonntag2 . Turkish and Kurdish activists are also expected, raising the potential for chaos.
To deal with the threat of rioting and brawls, Hamburg will deploy some 15,000 police officers for the summit with reinforcements due to arrive from other German regions . An additional 5,000 federal officers will also be on site to protect heads of state and government, the paper wrote. Security forces have trained for many scenarios including terrorist attacks.
They also expect clashes between Kurdish groups and nationalist Turks who will be there to support President Recep Tayyip Erdo an.
Kurds could attack nationalist Turks and vice versa, a source told the paper. After a brawl outside of Turkey s embassy3 in Washington, D.C . that involved pro-Erdogan security forces, Germany is taking precautions to avoid similar incidents .
The federal police has informed its Turkish counterpart that security forces from Turkey would not be allowed to operate during the summit, sources told Welt Am Sonntag.
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Armed police are being deployed amid heightened security at Scotland s mosques after a terror attack on worshippers in London. Darren Osborne, 47, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder1 after a van was driven into pedestrians near Finsbury Park Mosque in the early hours of Monday morning. Police Scotland said it would have an increased presence at the country s 84 mosques to provide reassurance to local communities. One man died in London following the attack on those leaving evening prayers after breaking the Ramadan fast. Witnesses described hearing the man, who was detained by members of the public at the scene, shout: I m going to kill Muslims. Police confirmed searches were being carried out at a residential address in the Welsh capital. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, of the Metropolitan Police, said: Our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident at Seven Sisters Road and their families, friends and communities.
This is being treated as a terrorist incident and is being investigated by the counter terrorism command. The investigation is ongoing and we are working fast to know the full details of how and why this took place. All the victims were from the Muslim community and we will be deploying extra police patrols to reassure the public, especially those observing Ramadan.
Earlier in the day, security minister Ben Wallace confirmed the attacker was not known to the intelligence services. He said: What I can say on this case is this individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us, but we are aware of a rise in the far right. The attacker, who is believed to have acted alone, struck as the area was busy with worshippers attending Ramadan night prayers at the mosque. Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the incident as every bit as sickening as the recent atrocities in London and Manchester. After meeting faith leaders at Finsbury Park Mosque, she said: The terrible terrorist attack which took place last night was an evil borne out of hatred and it has devastated a community. I am pleased to have been here today to see the strength of that community coming together, all faiths united in one desire to see extremism and hatred of all sorts driven out of our society.
There is no place for this hatred in our country today and we need to work together as one society, one community, to drive it out, this evil which is affecting so many families. Police and community leaders have praised those who restrained the van driver and stopped others from attacking him before police arrived. Imam Mohammed Mahmoud was hailed for his efforts to calm the chaotic situation in the aftermath of the attack and was said to have used his body to shield the suspected terrorist from the fury of onlookers. Witnesses said the suspect was smiling and waving as he brought carnage to Seven Sisters Road, with video posted online showing him give a nonchalant wave as police put him in the back of their vehicle. Other footage showed a scene of chaos as people could be heard shouting and screaming amid the chaos, with bloodstains visible on the pavement. One witness described being surrounded by bodies in the wake of the incident outside the nearby Muslim Welfare House.
Another witness, who wanted to be identified as Abdulrahman, which is not his real name, said: I managed to get the driver of the van. He wanted to run away and was saying I want to kill Muslims. So he came back to the main road and I managed to get him to the ground and me and some other guys managed to hold him until the police arrived. Abdulrahman claimed the driver said Kill me , as he was being held on the ground. He is also alleged to have told the injured: You deserve it. Officers were in the immediate vicinity as the attack unfolded and responded within one minute. Police declared it a terrorist incident within eight minutes. After chairing a meeting of the Government s Cobra emergencies committee earlier, Mrs May said the attack was every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life as the recent string of terror attacks apparently motivated by Islamist extremism. We will stop at nothing to defeat it, she added.
Eight people were taken to hospital, with one since discharged, while two others were treated at the scene. All of the casualties were Muslims. Police said it was too early to say if the man who died did so directly because of the attack, as he was already receiving first aid from the public at the scene when it happened. Images of the van used in the attack showed it was rented from Pontyclun Van Hire in Pontyclun, near Cardiff. South Wales Police are working with officers from London on the investigation. Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid also visited the scene and said he will seek advice from the local community as to what measures the authorities can take to give Muslims across the country maximum reassurance that they are being protected.
The perpetrator of this attack – and those terrible attacks that we saw recently in Manchester and London – their intention is to seek to divide society . My message to them is that they will always, always fail, he said. Flowers have been laid near the scene, with one card reading: This is an attack on all Londoners – and on my community. In a statement, the Muslim Council of Scotland condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms . It said: This attack was aimed directly at the vibrant Muslim community during the month of Ramadan at a time when many families would have been returning home after night time prayers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured and anyone affected by this tragedy .
Our heart goes out to the people of London who have been through so much in the last few months and are still waiting for news on many friends and family in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This attack goes to show how hate and terrorism has no religion or face . The motive of these people is to spread division .
Together, as a united community, we can defeat those who seek to divide us. Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer, of Police Scotland, said: There is no specific threat to Scotland, however, Police Scotland is increasing armed patrols in response to the attack in London. We continue to engage with all communities providing reassurance and appropriate support.
Communities absolutely do defeat terrorism: if you see or hear something that could be terrorist related, act on your instincts and call the police on 101 or, in emergency 999, or in confidence on 0800 789 321.
- ^ has been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder (www.scotsman.com)