Trump Defends Abandoning Syria’s Kurds: “They’re not angels”

President Trump addressed Turkey’s invasion of Syria in the Oval Office on Wednesday, telling reporters that the Syrian Kurds — who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS — are “not angels,” and that the Syrian government and Russia will protect them.

“[O]ur soldiers are not in harm’s way, as they shouldn’t be, as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now. But the Kurds know how to fight, and as I said, they’re not angels. They’re not angels. … Syria probably will have a partner of Russia, whoever they may have. I wish them all a lot of luck.”

Driving the news: Trump has sent a delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said on Wednesday that he would “never declare a ceasefire,” which Trump disputed. On Monday, Trump authorized sanctions punishing Turkey for its military operation.

  • Erdogan views the primarily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a militant group designated as a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Turkey.
  • The SDF, which is also guarding detention camps with thousands of captured ISIS fighters and families, has struck a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to protect the border from Turkey’s military assault. This has allowed Russian forces who back Assad to move into areas that had been under Kurdish control for 7 years.

The big picture: During the fight against ISIS, the SDF — trained and armed by the U.S. — lost more than 10,000 troops. Republicans and Democrats have condemned Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called it a “very dark moment in American history,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Trump will have “blood on his hands” if ISIS returns.

“If the President did say that Turkey’s invasion is no concern to us I find that to be an outstanding—an astonishing statement which I completely and totally reject. … If you’re not concerned about Turkey going into Syria why did you sanction Turkey?”

Sen. Graham

[Axios]

Trump Claims ISIS Fighters in Syria Were Released From Prison ‘Just For Effect’

President Donald Trump has claimed that ISIS fighters who escaped from jail in northern Syrian were released “for effect” to compel U.S. re-entry into the region.

During his Oval Office press spray with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Trump called the withdrawal of troops from Syria “strategically brilliant,” even as America’s Kurdish allies have come under attack by the Turkish military’s invasion.

After insulting the Kurds, Trump handed the fight against ISIS off to Syria and Russia, saying “you have a lot of countries over there that hate ISIS as much as we do…So they can take care of ISIS.”

“We have them captured. The United States captured them,” Trump continued. “Some were released just for effect to make us look a little bit like ‘oh gee, we have to get right back in there.’ You have a lot of countries over there that have power and that hate ISIS very much, as much as we do.”

Trump concluded by saying “we’re in a very strategically good position,” before blaming the criticism for his decision on the “fake news” media once again.

“I know the fake news doesn’t make it look that way but we’ve removed all of our 50 soldiers but much less than 50 soldiers.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Tweetstorms Amid Mounting Syria Criticism: Anyone Helping Protect Kurds Good With Me, Whether It’s ‘Russia, China, or Napoleon’

President Donald Trump went on a tweetstorm this afternoon standing by his Syria withdrawal decision amid mounting criticism from Republicans and the atrocities witnessed in northern Syria in the past few days.

Many Republicans have been critical of the decision (some blaming Trump, others going a slightly different route), and just yesterday a harrowing report from Fox News said there’s evidence of war crimes, as well as “civilians being targeted, and ISIS prisoners escaping.”

This morning the president hit back over comments from Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, and this afternoon he went on a tweetstorm defending his decision, asking, “why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?”, and invoking Napoleon for some reason.

[Mediaite]

Trump administration owes the United Nations $1 billion

President Donald Trump brushed aside warnings from the United Nations on Wednesday that the 74-year-old organization risks being unable to pay its staff and bills if member nations don’t cough up their annual dues soon

The biggest delinquent payer in the world? The United States. 

Washington owes the U.N. $381 million in back payments and $674 million this year, according to the U.S. mission to the U.N. As the largest contributor to the 193-member organization, the U.S. has long sought to pressure the U.N. to rein in spending. 

Trump, who has openly questioned the value of the U.N., has made skepticism of multinational organizations a central component of his foreign policy. Trump has demanded European countries contribute more to NATO and has pressed allies in Asia and the Middle East to rely less on U.S. military might and spend more on their own security. 

Responding to reports of deep U.N. budget deficits, Trump returned to the theme. 

“So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!” he wrote Wednesday

U.N. officials say 129 countries have paid their 2019 dues, two-thirds of all members. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that nearly $2 billion has been paid to the organization this year and that the outstanding balance for other countries amounts to another $1.3 billion. 

Dujarric described the financial situation as “the worst cash crisis facing the United Nations in nearly a decade” and said it “runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors.”  

Created in 1945 on the heels of World War II, the United Nations charter tasked the organization with ending conflict and human rights abuses. Its real power lies in the 15-member Security Council, which can authorize sanctions and military action.

The U.S. has quarreled with the U.N. for decades over funding. A U.S. mission official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions, said the U.S. paid $600 million to peacekeeping efforts this year and will pay “the vast majority of what we owe to the regular budget this fall, as we have in past years.”

But the longstanding tension has received renewed attention because of Trump, who once described the U.N. as “not a friend of democracy” and has consistently questioned multinational efforts such as NATO and the annual G-7 and G-20 summits.   

Trump spent three days in New York last month for the annual U.N. General Assembly, pressing his case for sovereignty while also seeking support from allies to address a suspected Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia. Despite the international audience, Trump has used his U.N. addresses to speak more to domestic audiences. 

[USA Today]

Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn’t help the US in WWII

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to abandon the Kurds to a Turkish military incursion in Syria by saying they didn’t help the US during World War II. 

This came amid reports that Turkish ground troops were crossing the border into Syria after air strikes that began earlier in the day.

“They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy,” Trump said of the Kurds. He added, “With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a statement released by the White House that he did not endorse the Turkish military operation and thought it was a “bad idea.” But he did not refer directly to the Kurds or signal any immediate response from the US to thwart Turkey’s actions. 

The Trump administration on Sunday abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops stationed in northeastern Syria ahead of a Turkish operation.

The move has been broadly condemned in Washington, including by top congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials, as many feel Trump paved the way for Turkey to go after key US allies. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, losing about 11,000 fighters in the process.

Ahead of the Trump administration’s announcement, Kurdish forces had recently dismantled defensive positions along the Turkey-Syria border under assurances from the US it would not allow a Turkish assault. The SDF described Trump’s decision to withdraw troops as a “stab in the back” and made clear it felt betrayed by the US. 

[Business Insider]

Trump pulls troops from northern Syria as Turkey readies offensive

The United States began withdrawing American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey early Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the Trump administration was washing its hands of an explosive situation between the Turkish military and U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

President Trump, in a series of Twitter messages Monday, suggested that the United States was shouldering too much of the burden — and the cost — of fighting the Islamic State. He rebuked European nations for not repatriating citizens who had joined the extremist group, claiming that the United States was being played for a “sucker.” And he chided his own Kurdish allies, who he said were “paid massive amounts of money and equipment” to fight the militants. 

“It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” he tweeted.

Trump later added a warning to Turkey. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” he tweeted.

“They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families,” Trump continued. “The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

The withdrawal followed a late Sunday statement by the White House that the United States would not intervene in a long-threatened Turkish offensive into northern Syria. The announcement, which signaled an abrupt end to a months-long American effort to broker peace between two important allies, came after a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Erdogan said in a speech Monday that the withdrawal began soon after their phone call.

A U.S. official confirmed to The Washington Post that American troops left observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn at 6:30 a.m. local time.

In an initial reaction to the pullout, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong Trump supporter, indicated on Twitter that he was seeking more information on the president’s decision. But he added, “If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.”

The fast-moving developments threatened a fresh military conflagration in a large swath of northern Syria, stretching from east of the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq. Syrian Kurds had established an autonomous zone in the area during more than eight years of Syria’s civil war.

Ankara, however, has been increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence, and by the close ties between U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant group that has fought a long insurgency against the Turkish state.

For months, Erdogan has been threatening an imminent invasion, as Trump administration officials attempted to work out an accommodation that would satisfy Turkish demands for border security while providing a measure of protection for the U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish force.

But on Sunday, the United States appeared to throw up its hands. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the Turkish leader would “soon be moving forward” with dispatching troops to battle the Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Ankara views the group as a terrorist-linked entity, but the SDF has fought closely alongside the U.S. military as a primary partner against the Islamic State. 

“The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” Grisham said in a statement. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State, the militant group whose rise drew the U.S. military into Syria. 

The SDF, in a statement critical of the United States, said the American troops have begun pulling out.

“The United States forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border area with Turkey,” the statement said. “This Turkish military operation in north and east Syria will have a big negative impact on our war against Daesh and will destroy all stability that was reached in the last few years.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

It added that the group reserves the right to defend itself against Turkish aggression.

Erdogan, who has portrayed a Turkish incursion as necessary to protect his country’s borders, has spoken in recent weeks of resettling millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey in a “safe zone” in northern Syria, a plan that has been criticized by refugee advocates as well as local Syrian Kurds who could be displaced by such a proposal.

On Saturday, Erdogan said the invasion, dubbed Operation Peace Fountain, could begin “as soon as today or maybe tomorrow.”

U.S. officials depicted the impending offensive, and the U.S. troop withdrawal, as a dramatic turn after their prolonged attempt to hammer out an arrangement that would allay the Turks’ concerns about Syrian Kurdish forces close to their border, while also averting a battle they fear will be bloody for Kurdish fighters whom the Pentagon sees as stalwart allies. 

Military officials point out that Kurdish assistance is still required to avoid a return of the Islamic State in Syria and to guard facilities where Islamic State militants and their families are being held. 

A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation, said the U.S. government “has no idea” what the Turkish operation would look like, whether it would be a small, symbolic incursion or a major offensive intended to push as far as 25 miles into Syria. 

 U.S. officials said an operation deep into Syria could further jeopardize the security of prisons holding Islamic State fighters. “There are many potential disastrous outcomes to this,” the official said.

The White House announcement comes only two days after the Pentagon completed its most recent joint patrol with Turkish forces, a central element of the U.S. effort to build trust in northern Syria. But similar patrols and other measures overseen from a joint U.S.-Turkish military hub in southern Turkey have not reduced Ankara’s impatience to establish the buffer zone it has envisioned. 

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described ongoing U.S.-Turkish cooperation in northern Syria, saying that his Turkish counterpart had agreed in a call last week “that we need to make the security mechanism work.”

In negotiations, the United States had said it would agree to a strip along the border to be cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters and jointly patrolled by the United States and Turkey on the ground and in the air. That strip is about five miles wide, only about a quarter of what the Turks have demanded.

The joint patrols are taking place in only about a third of the border length, with the idea of gradually expanding them. In addition to not liking U.S. terms for the agreement, Erdogan believes the United States is dragging its feet in implementing it.

“Mr. Trump gave the order; he ordered to pull out. But this came late,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Monday. “We cannot accept the threats of terrorist organizations.”

Erdogan’s plan to send up to 3 million Syrian refugees into the 140-mile-long strip also runs counter to what the United States says was part of the agreement they had reached to allow only the 700,000 to 800,000 refugees who originally fled the area to resettle there. Turkey currently hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, but the government has recently begun deporting hundreds back to Syria as public sentiment turns against the migrants.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, wrote on Twitter that Turkey has no interest in occupying or changing the demographics in northeastern Syria and that the “safe zone” would serve two purposes: secure Turkey’s borders and allow refugees to return home.

After months of warning about the turmoil such a move could create, U.S. officials said they are now watching Turkey’s actions closely to inform their own decisions about how quickly they must move the hundreds of troops expected to be affected. 

“We’re going to get out of the way,” another U.S. official said. 

There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria. 

The SDF also predicted that Islamic State fighters would break out of prison camps the SDF manages in different areas of Syria.

The potential for greater risk to Islamic State prisons and camps comes after months of unsuccessful efforts by the Trump administration to persuade countries in Europe and elsewhere to repatriate their citizens.

The White House statement said that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters” in that area. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” Grisham said. 

Erdogan said Monday that Turkey has “an approach to this issue” of ISIS, without specifying what it was.

The United Nations is also concerned about the impact that any Turkish operation would have on the protection of civilians in northeastern Syria, Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a telephone interview.

“We want our message to all governments and actors on the ground to be to make sure that this latest development does not have an impact first of all on a new displacement of people,” he said.

The United Nations already provides services to approximately 700,000 people every month in the northeast. Moumtzis emphasized the importance of freedom of movement of civilians and ensuring the continuation of access to humanitarian groups. He stressed that any movement of Syrians must be done voluntarily and with safety and dignity.

“We have not had any specific instructions on” the safe zone, he said, adding that the United Nations has a contingency plan depending on how wide and deep the safe zone would be.

Turkey’s latest possible incursion comes nearly two years after Ankara launched a military offensive on Afrin, in northern Syria, in an operation that was also criticized as a distraction from the fight against the Islamic State.  

The contested legacy of Turkey’s Afrin offensive has hovered over Erdogan’s latest military plans. Ankara has argued that its past foray into Syria brought stability to parts of the north and provided a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. But over the last year, human rights groups have documented abuses by Turkish-backed militias in Afrin — mistreatment that they say has included kidnappings and arbitrary detentions.

And many of the refugees who returned to Afrin — which has suffered from mysterious militant attacks, including car bombs — ended up fleeing back across the border into Turkey, according to advocates for the refugees.

Kurdish leaders have accused Turkey of trying to settle Arabs in historically Kurdish lands. Arab residents, in turn, have accused the Kurds of carrying out ethnic cleansing in areas they control.

“We thank the Americans for their decision to withdraw from northern Syria, not because we hate the U.S. but because we are fed up with the SDF,” said Abu Musafir, a member of the Manbij Tribal Council, a confederation of Arab tribes in the region.

“We are fed up with the SDF’s racism, detentions, kidnappings and compulsory conscription of underaged boys and girls,” he said. “The situation was bad, and the area was on the verge of imploding.” 

[Washington Post]

Trump goes to the United Nations to argue against everything it stands for

 In his third annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump delivered a clear message in favor of nationalism and national sovereignty and against globalism.

But three years into Trump’s presidency, that kind of rhetoric is no longer as shocking as it once was. Most of the world has heard it from him before.

Trump, in an oddly subdued speech in New York on Tuesday, reprised his case that all nations should exert their sovereignty, protect their borders, and reject any mutual and international cooperation that doesn’t put their country’s own interests first. For Trump, it’s “America First;” for everyone else it’s “[Insert Country Here] First.”

“If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty,” Trump said. “And if you want peace, love your nation.”

Trump touted the “great” new trade deals he’s working on and lambasted China’s trade practices. He criticized the Iranian regime for its “bloodlust.” He tried to elevate his stalled diplomacy with North Korea. He condemned the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. He denounced illegal immigration and even made time to complain about perceived censorship of conservative viewpoints by social media companies and to attack social justice advocates.

It was classic Trump — only without the enthusiasm he usually displays when discussing these pet topics. If anything, Trump seemed bored by his own speech.

There were two rare but notable exceptions: Trump’s stern notice to China that the US is closely watching how it handles the unrest in Hong Kong, and his call to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world.

The rest, though, was standard Trump fare, and few of the world leaders gathered to hear him speak seemed surprised or rattled by his words. He couldn’t even manage to garner any of last year’s surprised laughs.

The world knows by now who Trump is.

Trump’s schtick isn’t shocking anymore. But it shows just how much of an outlier the US is.

“The future does not belong to globalists; it belongs to patriots,” Trump said at the start of his speech.

It seemed like a throwaway line but it was actually a clear articulation of what Trump and leaders of his ilk have been arguing for the past few years: Populist nationalism is the future andmultinational cooperation and mutual trust is the past — even if that’s the very vision the United Nations is trying to promote and protect.

And that message has permeated. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who spoke shortly before Trump, cited the US president’s defense of the sanctity of national sovereignty to push back against worldwide criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the Amazon fires. “They even called into question that which we hold as a most sacred value, our sovereignty,” Bolsonaro said at one point.

Trump was sandwiched between a slew of authoritarians and wanna-be authoritarians (Bolsonaro before and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and then Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan afterward), and while the US president paid lip service to democracy, his defense of it didn’t fit with his nationalistic rhetoric.

Trump and some of these other speeches stood in stark contrast to that of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who addressed the crowd before the world leaders began to take the stage and warned of the “disquiet” currently plaguing the world.

He was mostly referring to the world’s problems — armed conflicts, increasing inequality, the threat of climate change. But Guterres’s argument is that nations need to band together to address these challenges and to promote the rights of all citizens, no matter their homeland. Guterres believes the forum to do so is the United Nations.

Trump’s argument is, as it always has been, that every country needs to look after itself.

[Vox]

Trump threatens to dump thousands of ISIS fighters into Europe

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to dump thousands of Islamic State prisoners in Europe if the countries they originated from refused to take them back in.

Speaking with reporters at the White House, Trump specifically mentioned France and Germany as two countries where its citizens who pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS, could be dropped off.

“We’re holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them,” Trump said. “If Europe doesn’t take them, I’ll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places.”

Trump’s suggestion for the US to release the prisoners comes amid plans to reduce its 2,000 troops in Syria, stoking fears of a rekindling of the jihadist movement throughout the country and beyond and ultimately hurting the global fight against ISIS.

This leaves a precarious situation for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish group that relies on the presence of US personnel – and has the responsibility of holding thousands of prisoners in makeshift facilities.

The SDF is detaining the lion’s share of ISIS fighters. The SDF had detained 9,000 militants in Syria by April, according to US military officials. The military also estimated that 1,000 of them hailed from 50 countries.

A recent inspector general’s report from the international task force battling ISIS noted that the reduction in US forces reduced the task force’s ability to maintain “visibility” at a refugee camp, which “created conditions that allow ISIS ideology to spread ‘uncontested.'”

The US State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said the US was urging other nations to repatriate the ISIS fighters and prosecute them.

“Across the coalition, we need to prosecute ISIS leaders, fighters, financiers, and facilitators for the crimes they’ve committed,” Sales said earlier in August. “That includes building the law-enforcement capacity of partner states that have the will to act but might lack the resources or expertise to do so. It also means repatriating and prosecuting foreign terrorist fighters.”

About 1,050 Germans joined the Islamic State in the Middle East after 2013, and about 1,190 French citizens joined the group, according to Soufan Center, the global security nonprofit group. Following the collapse of ISIS’ bastions in Iraq and Syria, scores of these foreign nationals were either killed or captured by coalition forces – leaving many of the prisoners’ fates in limbo as their governments debate on their status.

In June, France passed legislation to repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis – 12 French and two Dutch orphans whose parents were militants were transported to France. Germany also considered children as “victims” and has allowed them to be repatriated.

[Business Insider]

Donald Trump Keeps Telling World Leaders The Same Bizarre Story About Kim Jong Un

It has become Donald Trump’s anecdote of choice for world leaders. At the last two G7 summit meetings — which bring together the heads of government of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the US — the president has launched into the same lengthy monologue about what a “great guy” Kim Jong Un is.

The story got its latest outing at last month’s summit in Biarritz, France, as the world leaders were gathered around the table for the formal meeting. When the discussion turned to North Korea — which had spent much of the month firing short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in a serious threat to stability in the region — Trump went off on a tangent, spending some 10 minutes rambling about his great relationship with Kim, leaving the other G7 leaders mostly speechless, three sources with direct knowledge of the discussions told BuzzFeed News.

All the leaders — apart from new British prime minister Boris Johnson, who was making his G7 debut — had heard Trump tell the exact same story the same way the last time they all gathered round the summit table, in Canada last year.

Central to Trump’s bizarre riff is the series of “Little Rocket Man” tweets the president directed at Kim two years ago.

The story goes like this:

When Trump first met Kim, in Singapore in June last year, the two men talked about the tweets that Trump had posted in 2017, nicknaming the North Korean leader “Little Rocket Man.”

In Trump’s retelling, during a back-and-forth exchange about the name-calling the two men had engaged in over many months before the meeting in Singapore — “You called me fat… and then you called me this,” — Kim asks Trump why he’d called him that.

“Don’t you know Elton John? It’s a great song,” the president, who is a big fan of the British musician, says.

To which Kim responds, “But you called me ‘little.’”

Then comes Trump’s punchline: “That’s what he didn’t like!”

Trump repeating the same anecdote about Elton John and a brutal dictator to a bemused set of world leaders sounds like the latest Twitter joke about America’s president — just another Gorilla Channel moment on the blurry edge of panic and dark humor.

But Trump’s G7 soliloquy is not a parody. And it captures a more serious truth of the Trump administration: the president, viewed from afar as a dangerous buffoon by his liberal critics, often elicits a similar response from other world leaders who deal with him up close.

The real-life outbursts behind the closed doors of a high-level summit are not very different to what people see on his Twitter feed. While one source dryly described the ramblings on Kim as “very entertaining,” they’re laughing at him, not with him, and it is behavior like this that has dramatically undermined the president’s global political power at a time when the US is trying to build support for action against China and Iran.

Trump’s words and views about Kim in private are not too dissimilar to those he has expressed many times before in public, another G7 source noted.

The president has consistently praised the North Korean dictator and has often adopted warm words to paint their relationship. He even justified North Korea’s recent missile tests.

After firing John Bolton, his national security adviser, last week, Trump told White House reporters that Kim “wanted nothing to do with” Bolton. “I don’t blame Kim Jong Un,” the president said.

But a source emphasized the absurdity of Trump departing on a strange tangent in the middle of serious G7 discussions to wax lyrical about Kim.

Trump described Kim as “brutal” but at the same time explained “what a great guy he was,” the source recalled. Trump then went on to tell the other leaders how Kim had risen to power aged only 25 in a difficult environment.

“He is so fascinated with him,” a source said. “He has a childish fascination with brutality,” they added, before speculating that in part this was possibly a convoluted way for Trump to express how tough he was in dealing with Kim.

His remarks had no coherent thread or real purpose, according to the source.

Johnson, the UK prime minister, briefly tried to engage, the source said. “The other leaders just sat back, and didn’t know what to say.”

The White House has been approached for comment.

[Buzzfeed]

Trump says US ‘locked and loaded’ after attack on Saudi oil supply

President Donald Trump said the United States is “locked and loaded” after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil supply, but his administration is waiting on Riyadh to determine who launched the strikes before proceeding on a course of action.

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Trump said he authorized the release of oil from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve to keep the market well supplied.

Attacks crippled the heart of Saudi oil production over the weekend, hitting the world’s largest crude processing facility and the kingdom’s second-largest oilfield. Aramco, Saudi’s national oil company, was forced to cut production by 5.7 million barrels per day or about 50%. That is equivalent to about 5% of the global oil supply.

Oil futures spiked after the weekend attack. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures popped $6.4, or 11.67%, to $61.23 per barrel. Brent crude futures jumped $7.89, or 13.3% to $68.07.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, but the U.S. has pointed the finger at Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Tehran of launching an “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

Iran has dismissed those allegations as “meaningless,” “not comprehensible” and “pointless.”

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called on the Trump administration to hold talks. But Trump tweeted on Sunday saying: “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, ‘No Conditions.’ That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).”

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated significantly since Trump pulled out of an international agreement that aimed to keep Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. Trump thought the deal wasn’t tough enough and has slapped sanctions back on the Islamic Republic.

Trump came close to launching military strikes against Iran in June after the Islamic Republic shot down a U.S. drone. The president said he called off those strikes over concern about the loss of life they would cause. Four weeks later, Trump said the U.S. navy destroyed an Iranian drone, though Tehran denied that was the case.

Washington has also accused Iran of attacking and seizing oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, allegations Tehran rejects.

[NBC News]

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