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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Festival goers are being asked to “be patient” as they contend with heightened security checks to get into Glastonbury. Extra car and bag searches mean getting on the site is likely to be a slow process for the thousands of ticket holders hoping to set up camp early. Avon and Somerset Police say there is “no intelligence” to suggest a specific threat to the festival. However, in the wake of the terror attacks in London and Manchester, increased security measures have been introduced. Assistant Chief Constable Caroline Peters says the policing style “may look and feel slightly different” but, like the rest of the UK, “festival-goers should be alert but not alarmed”.
Image: Rock am Ring in Germany was evacuated by police
High visibility officers are going to be present throughout the festival, mostly for reassurance. “Police officers, they’re going to be wearing black shirts, they’re going to be wearing protective vests and body cameras – but that’s no different to any day to day patrol,” she added. After the suicide attack on Manchester Arena, security at major music events has been a lot more visible. Armed police protected rockers at the Download Festival and the Isle of Wight. In Germany, thousands of people had to be evacuated from a rock festival when police received a credible terror threat. John Gearson, Professor of National Security Studies at King’s College, says police face a challenge; how best to deter copycats without making the public feel alarmed.
“The difficult question, I think, for the police and for the organisers is how far an armed police presence will be appropriate and needed to deter people who might want to carry out armed attacks. “We are going to control it and contain it, but in the current climate people have to accept that there is a greater risk, let’s say a residual danger, than there was in previous years.
Image: Manchester bomber Salman Abedi targeted people leaving an Ariana Grande concert
“People who think they’ve got nothing to do with politics will find they are the target of some of these terrible violent acts.” Festival goers have been asked to play their part in keeping Glastonbury safe and secure. Ticket-holders have been told to pack light, place luggage tags or ID on all bags and belongings including their name and mobile number. Queues getting into Glastonbury are nothing new . It is, after all, the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world.
This time last year, on the Wednesday before the festival, congestion on the roads caused traffic jams that some claimed lasted almost 11 hours. The reason then was simple: mud . Flash floods meant poor conditions for driving onto the site.