Trump extends Iran nuclear deal again

President Donald Trump is once again extending the Iran nuclear deal, but “this is the last such waiver he will issue,” unless the deal is strengthened by Congress and European allies, a senior administration official said Friday.

Trump faced a Friday deadline to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that the U.S had suspended as part of a 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated with Tehran by the Obama administration and five other nations.

Trump is targeting 14 Iranian individuals and entities, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, with new sanctions unrelated to the nuclear deal, the official said. But he also expects Congress and European nations, with whom the White House has been negotiating new provisions to crack down on Tehran, to take action before he faces another deadline for extending the deal, officials said.

Trump shatters decades-old nuclear taboo

President Ronald Reagan was warming up for a national radio address on Aug. 11, 1984, when an open microphone caught him joking about nuclear war.

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever,” Reagan quipped. “We begin bombing in five minutes.”

The international outcry that followed — newspapers condemned Reagan, and some Soviet forces were reportedly placed on alert — underscored one of the first rules of the American presidency: Don’t speak lightly about nuclear war.

To President Donald Trump’s critics, that is one of many norms he has recklessly shattered, most recently with a tweet on Monday in which Trump declared that his “nuclear button” was “much bigger [and] more powerful” than the one North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, claimed in a recent speech to have on his desk.

Democrats and foreign policy experts fiercely denounced Continue reading “Trump shatters decades-old nuclear taboo”

How Trump could kill the Iran nuclear deal in January

President Donald Trump allowed the Iran nuclear deal to survive through 2017, but the new year will offer him another chance to blow up the agreement — and critics and supporters alike believe he may take it.

By mid-January, the president will face new legal deadlines to choose whether to slap U.S. sanctions back on Tehran. Senior lawmakers and some of Trump’s top national security officials are trying to preserve the agreement. But the deal’s backers fear Trump has grown more willing to reject the counsel of his foreign policy team, as he did with his recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The decision represents an opportunity for Trump to deliver on a campaign promise to rip up the Iran deal, one he has repeatedly deferred at the urging of senior officials.

When Trump last publicly addressed the status of the Iran agreement, in mid-October, he indicated Continue reading “How Trump could kill the Iran nuclear deal in January”

Trump foreign policy plan stresses home front

President Donald Trump is set to unveil a national security plan Monday that reflects the most inward-focused vision of American foreign policy in recent memory – with a heavy emphasis on economic strength and defending U.S. borders.

At the same time, the official document presents relatively conventional views at odds with Trump’s own positions—including praise for the role of diplomacy and warnings about Russia’s malign intentions.

The strategy “is wildly inconsistent with Trump administration behavior,” said Kori Schake, a former State Department official now at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution who is familiar with portions of the document.

A draft excerpt of the document, formally known as the National Security Strategy, sternly declares that Russia, along with China, “challenge[s] American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”
It also warns against the belief that “engagement with rivals” will turn them into “benign actors and Continue reading “Trump foreign policy plan stresses home front”

Trump cedes Syrian post-war planning to Putin

Six months after President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike against a Syrian government airbase, an act his aides said would give the U.S. renewed leverage across the Middle East, he is increasingly a bystander as Russian President Vladimir Putin takes the lead in shaping post-war Syria.

On Wednesday, Putin will host the presidents of Iran and Turkey in the resort city of Sochi — one of several Russian-brokered meetings the U.S. will not attend as the Syrian conflict winds down.

With rebel fighters largely routed and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, driven from most of Syria’s territory, experts and U.S. officials say the real fight now is about a regional power struggle playing out in the country.

The Sochi summit follows a surprise Tuesday meeting between Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has survived a six-and-a-half-year civil war thanks largely to Russian support. Putin Continue reading “Trump cedes Syrian post-war planning to Putin”

North Korea may upstage Trump’s Asia arrival, U.S. officials fear

White House officials and Asian leaders are worried that North Korea may provoke a crisis in an effort to throw President Donald Trump’s trip to the region off script.

Their concern is that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, might conduct a ballistic missile test — or even a far more shocking atmospheric nuclear test — during Trump’s visit to Japan or South Korea, and that Trump would respond by escalating rather than defusing tensions.

Trump has met Kim’s recent provocations with growing anger, including his August threat to unleash “fire and fury” against the North.

“The biggest challenge may be crisis management,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “We have to be ready for how we deal with the unexpected.”

South Korean intelligence has detected activity at a North Korean missile facility that would be consistent Continue reading “North Korea may upstage Trump’s Asia arrival, U.S. officials fear”

Trump swallows a bitter pill on Russia

President Donald Trump plans to sign a Congressional law restricting his ability to lift sanctions on Russia, the White House said Friday night, in a severe blow to his budding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Confronted by a united Congress and suspicions about his intentions towards the Russian leader, Trump had little choice but to sign the measure, whose passage the White House had opposed.

“It would have been foolhardy for the Trump administration to veto this bill,” said Edward Fishman, a former Obama State Department official who worked on Russia sanctions policy. “Congress would have overriden the veto, and all it will do is fuel the fire of the Russia scandal in Washington.”

The White House statement sought to save face from a resounding political setback, arguing that Trump had negotiated changes to early drafts of the bill and, "based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves Continue reading “Trump swallows a bitter pill on Russia”