Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about Kurdish independence in Iraq, the Iran nuclear deal’s continued survival after decertification, and the rising strategic threat of China.
Marlow began by asking if the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s allegedly insensitive remarks to the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in a terrorist ambush in Nigeria last week, and President Trump’s assertion that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, was delinquent in making condolence calls to the families of fallen soldiers, was a manufactured media distraction.
“Any time you’re talking about the fallen and their loved ones, it’s serious, of course,” Gaffney replied. “It is also the case that I think what we’ve watched is now an information warfare operation run by the mainstream media against this presidency, along with an awful lot of other folks, of course – and to some extent, in fairness, run by the President of the United States against the mainstream media.”
“You’ve got distractions being introduced on both sides,” he continued, indicating that he would prefer to “stay with the things that really matter.”
Marlow turned to the conflict between independence-seeking Kurds and the Iraqi government, which launched military operations against Kurdish positions this week with the assistance of Iran-backed Shiite militia forces. Marlow expressed concern that the Trump administration is remaining neutral while the Kurds, a vital U.S. battlefield ally in the successful war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, are assaulted by Baghdad and Tehran.
Gaffney said it was “tragic” and a “strategic mistake of great proportions” for President Trump to withhold his support from the Kurds.
“Their enemies are our enemies, virtually without exception,” he noted. “The Kurds are surrounded by nations that are not just hostile to them, but hostile to us.”
“I would, by the way, include Turkey increasingly in that category,” he added. “It’s still nominally an ally of ours, a member of NATO, but they’re really under Recep Tayyip Erdogan another ‘Islamic republic,’ as they call themselves, and I think increasingly unreliable as well.”
“What I think has happened here, tragically, is a very clear byproduct of the bad advice the president has been getting from H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser,” Gaffney postulated. “He wanted him to stay in the Iran deal. The president made it clear that the ‘Obama bomb accord,’ as I call it, was neither being complied with by the other main party, Iran, nor in our national security interests, but, nonetheless, he was going to stay in it – the kind of Solomonic decision that McMaster and some of his other subordinates were promoting.”
“I think that the interpretation of that from the Iranian perspective was, ‘Hey, they’re still going to let us get away with murder.’ I believe that one of the fallouts of it, an early fallout, was that the Iranian-controlled government of Iraq, and specifically the so-called Shiite militia – which are wholly owned subsidiaries of Iran – are now crushing a country, incipient to be sure, but a country that it is in our vital interests to help birth and support, namely Kurdistan,” he said.
Gaffney looked back to 1956, “when the United States had given encouragement to Hungarians to stand up against their oppressors in the Soviet Union and then just walked away when the Soviets crushed their revolt.”
“It’s epic, and it will have long-lasting repercussions, not least because Iran is going to be further emboldened by what they’re getting away with now,” he predicted.
Marlow feared the efforts by Obama holdovers to protect the Iran nuclear deal and the investment notoriously made with “pallets of cash” to Tehran have gotten out of control.
“If it were just the pallets of cash and the corruption, that would be one thing,” Gaffney replied. “The truth of the matter is that Iran is both engaged in this kind of growing hegemonistic domination of what’s come to be called the Shiite Crescent, a lot of strategic real estate in the Middle East, and it is also aggressively pursuing its nuclear weapons ambitions.”
“It’s the worst of both worlds, and we’re getting the kind of defective – to say the least – leadership out of the Congress on this that is what I believe the American people repudiated at the polls,” he charged. “They didn’t want an Obama third term. They specifically were offered that by Hillary Clinton, and they repudiated it. How the Congress, these so-called geniuses of the foreign policy elite in Congress specifically, but the leadership more generally, can construe this as the kind of policy that is either in their political interest or the country’s interest completely eludes me, I have to say.”
Gaffney quoted his old boss Ronald Reagan’s observation that “personnel is policy” to advise President Trump to “get rid of the people who are poorly advising him.”
“I would start with H.R. McMaster, but the main thing is, if he does, in fact, get the kind of people in his National Security Council and elsewhere in his government who supported him in his campaign, who believe that making America great again involves, among other things, restoring the Reagan practice of peace through strength – not supporting enemies and supporting friends – those are sort of fundamental principles,” Gaffney said.
“He ran on them. He got a mandate to pursue them. He’s not being served well by people opposed to those principles,” he lamented. “I think until he gets rid of them and replaces them with people – I’d personally be very keen to see John Bolton there, for example – who oppose this Iran deal and had a good hand in helping the president towards the end, but he’s been kept out by the current palace guard. That has to change.”
Gaffney agreed with Marlow’s contention that President Trump’s decertification of the Iran nuclear deal last week is turning into the sort of “bait and switch” ploy skeptics were afraid of, leaving the deal largely intact while providing political cover for the White House to say Trump’s campaign pledge against the nuclear deal has been fulfilled.
“This is what Donald Trump ran against,” Gaffney insisted. “I was there. As I recall, it was in September of 2015 when he came forward and he denounced this Iran deal with Ted Cruz on a stage in Washington, DC, because he was watching the Republican establishment enable it, as much as what Obama had done and the Iranians and the echo chamber Ben Rhodes created and all the rest of it.”
“He watched Bob Corker – who has, thank God, decided to throw in the towel, but on his way out the door, he’s going to frag the president apparently every single day,” Gaffney continued. “That guy helped engineer an anti-Constitutional approach and approval of this agreement. The establishment, and the press that is enamored of him and his ilk, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others, I think has done a terrible disservice by enabling this deal to become binding on us.”
“I think the president has been very badly served by those who said, ‘Hey, Mr. President, you can get credit by decertifying, but you just have to stay in the agreement,’” he judged. “I think on this program, I was among the first to call it a bait-and-switch. It was a terrible outcome, I believe. I think we’re going to start seeing more of the kinds of repercussions that we’ve just been discussing with the Kurds as Iran continues to feel that it can get away with murder.“
Gaffney concluded with his observations on China, where he said that “we’re watching this spectacle in Beijing at the moment, the Chinese National Congress for the Communist Party.”
“It’s a spectacle of totalitarianism,” he said. “The reason that it’s so troubling is that it is fueling the ambitions of Xi Jinping, the Communist president of China, the party’s leader, to believe that he can effectively dominate not just his region of the world – militarily, by the way – but also begin inexorably supplanting the United States, including our currency, the institutions we’ve built since World War 2, the kind of world order, if you will, that has largely kept the peace, and I think been very much in America’s national interest.”
“These are tectonic shifts that are taking place. We tend, if we’re thinking about this at all, to look narrowly at North Korea. North Korea – like Iran, like Pakistan, like so many of the other problematic nations in the world – are doing the Chinese bidding. We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball. I think Steve Bannon is exactly right about this. China is at war with us, and it will become more kinetic over time. We’re watching the groundwork laid for that, I believe, at this Chinese party congress,” Gaffney warned.
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