John Bolton arrived at the White House on Monday for his first day as National Security Advisor after Saturday’s Syria’s poison gas attack, China’s belligerent response to Trumps proposed tariffs, and Israel’s raid on Iranian military facilities in Syria not to mention upcoming talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Welcome aboard, Mr. Ambassador.
Bolton’s First Test: Helping Trump Take a Longer View on Syria
National security experts warn against bombing-and-running, telegraphing withdrawal
From The Washington Free Beacon: BY Susan Crabtree , April 10, 2018
New National Security Adviser John Bolton will be crucial in guiding President Donald Trump toward a long-term solution in Syria, but it will be a tougher job now that Iranian and Russian forces are entrenched in the conflict, national security experts said Monday.
As Washington focuses on Trump’s immediate response to the chemical attack in Syria over the weekend, top national experts are urging Trump to take a longer view and stop repeating the Obama administration’s mistakes, including broadcasting a withdrawal timeline.
Trump vowed to respond to Saturday’s gas attack in 24 to 48 hours, and both the Pentagon and the National Security Council, with Bolton as its newly installed leader, were busy yesterday drawing up potential responses.
Trump launched a cruise-missile attack on a Syrian air base last April after Assad’s forces dropped sarin gas against rebel groups in Idlib province.
Israel has acted more swiftly, sending two fighters jets into southern Lebanon and launching missiles at Syria’s T4 airbase in Homs province. The missiles hit a section of the base used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, killing 14 people.
Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the strike as “a very dangerous development,” suggesting Israel did not warn Russia of its strike plans.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Monday issued a rebuke to Russia, telling an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that Russia’s hands “are covered in the blood of Syrian children.”
“We must not overlook Russia and Iran’s roles in enabling the Assad regime’s murderous destruction,” Haley said. “Russia could stop this senseless slaughter if it wanted, but it stands with the Assad regime and supports without any hesitation.”
After Saturday’s gas attack, with its horrifying images of suffocating children and families, a broad coalition of western allies called for a response to the atrocities using “all available means.”
With such widespread international support for a swift U.S. military response, Bolton’s short-term job of helping Trump devise the right U.S. military response is simple, according said James Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading national security expert.
“This is kind of an easy first day on the job really,” he said. “If the president doesn’t do this, it creates a lot of issues. It recalls Obama’s red-line mistakes and you would send a message of weakness. … I can’t see Bolton’s first day on the job tolerating anything that makes the U.S. look weak.”
Carafano brushed aside warnings from doves on the left and within the GOP who argue Bolton’s hawkish reputation would lead the United States into a full-blown war in Syria.
“People conflate John Bolton, the guy spouting off on Fox News, with John Bolton who is in government,” he said. “When John served in government for many years he wasn’t freelancing. He was executing the strategy the president gave him in a forceful way.”
A new U.S. missile launch wouldn’t just be another one-off response or a provocation leading to a more extensive U.S. entanglement but part of a strategy of demonstrating that the United States will enforce its threats and protect its interests, Carafano argued.
“We’re not walking away from Syria, although eventually we may wind down our force presence,” Carafano said. “But, at this stage, we’re not going to let you gas people and walk over our interests here.”
Carafano and others say Trump’s cruise missile attack last April had the effect of almost totally halting chemical attacks in Syria for nearly six months.
The true test of Trump’s Syria policy will take more time to define, develop and execute, according to other national security experts. With Trump broadcasting his intent for the United States to leave Syria, they said Bolton needs to remind Trump of the continued ISIS menace and about the need to control the threat Iran’s presence in Syria poses to Israel.
Obama’s unwillingness to take a strong stand in Syria left a vacuum that Iran was happy to fill.
The IRGC now commands tens of thousands of militiamen and operates at least 10 shared or dedicated military bases throughout Syria. The BBC reported in November that Iran was building a permanent military base in Syria, just 30 miles from Israel’s northern border.
“He can’t simply say, ‘we’re taking care of this with a bomb,’ and move on,” Jonathan Schanzer, a vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The policy under Obama was disastrous. The problem is that the disaster has continued.”
The weekend’s chemical attack brings into focus the need for a policy that extends beyond shutting down ISIS operations there, Schanzer said.