I am on vacation this week! I’m not quite sure how that differs from my other weeks these days, but I’m calling it vacation.
Well anyway, I’m enjoying some time with a group of good friends, mostly old Navy guys. We spend a few days fishing, shooting at pumpkins filled with Tannerite, brushing up on our much unpracticed Texas Hold’em skills and sharing some great meals at The High Country Inn – Home. I’m sad to report no fish were harmed on our first day of fishing, but we’re picking up some today!
Friends should help you move. I can call on these friends to help move the bodies.
President Trump Moves To Decertify Iran Deal
As predicted in the previous edition of FOD (and some of those other media institutions) President Donald Trump is expected to put the 2015 Iran nuclear deal squarely in the hands of Congress, refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal but letting lawmakers decide whether to tear it up. Congress will now have to decide if they will reimpose sanctions on Iran with regard to the country’s nuclear program, or attach new conditions to the agreement. Those sanctions were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement, and reimposing them would effectively destroy the deal, known as the JCPOA. I watched his short speech announcing his actions. He focused on many actions Iran has taken over the years to destabilize nations in the region as well as their strident and continual support of terrorism around the globe. That terrorism includes state and non-state militant Moslem actions, cyber attacks, threats to freedom of navigation on the high seas coupled with their development of ballistic missiles in conjunction with their own nuclear development program. One of the big issues of concern to Tehran is how the president would treat the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the hardline military wing that had already been sanctioned for weapons proliferation under prior administrations. This is also of concern to European countries that do business with shell companies actually owned by the IRGC. According to a senior administration official, Trump intends to designate the corps as a supporter of terrorism, but will stop short of calling it a foreign terror organization. The administration is required to make the designation under legislation Trump signed in August covering sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. Although officials had until Oct. 31 to decide, they are including the designation in today’s speech of the larger Iran strategy. Those in the administration who are worried about Iran misinterpreting or overreacting are eager to emphasize the distinction between being a supporter of terrorism and an actual terrorist organization. They also emphasize that it has no practical effect because of other existing IRGC designations, but that it could enrage the Iranians.
Former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, the committee announced Thursday. He will testify first in an open session on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 8, and a closed session will follow. Selective leaks will follow the closed session. During his testimony, Comey is expected to say President Trump pressured him to end the FBI‘s investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign associates and Russia, it was reported by the Washington Examiner and others last Wednesday. Comey’s testimony is highly-anticipated, as he led the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election before Trump fired him last month. Comey (left) was dismissed by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017, days after Comey reportedly requested increased resources from the DOJ for the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, a report which was later denied by the DOJ. Following Comey’s firing, several news reports revealed details of various interactions the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had with the president. During one such interaction occurring days after his inauguration, Trump reportedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him. Gee, I thought that loyalty oath thing died with Medieval kings. Comey declined, but promised to always be honest with the president. In another conversation, Trump reportedly asked Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February. Comey recorded his interactions with Trump in memos while working at the FBI, and the details of those memos — including his conversations with Trump — are expected to be discussed during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The details of Comey’s memos have caused concern among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, particularly Democrats, who are questioning whether Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia probe. After Comey was fired, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel and oversee the probe. Though some lawmakers were initially concerned that Mueller’s appointment would prevent Comey from testifying privately, Comey and Mueller met privately to discuss how Comey could testify and avoid “legal entanglements.”
Happy Mothers’ Day to all those mothers out there, and all Friends of FOD are reminded to call, send a card, send flowers, or whatever and let your mother know how much she has meant to your life.
Multi-National Amphibious Assault Exercises in Southern Pacific
The U.S., the U.K. and Japan are joining a French-led amphibious exercise at remote U.S. islands in the Pacific over the next week. Participants say they are showing support for the free passage of vessels in international waters, an issue that has come to the fore amid fears China could restrict movement in the South China Sea. As mentioned in several recent editions of FOD, China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems.
And as I mentioned in the last edition of FOD we have failed to exercise Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations in the South and East China Seas. I don’t think I have any Senate Foreign Relations Committee members on the FOD distribution list, but I see where this week the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote President Donald Trump to express concern that the U.S. hasn’t conducted freedom of navigation operations since October. The letter from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin and five other senators supported a recent assessment by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific that China is militarizing the South China Sea and is continuing a “methodical strategy” to control it. The letter, dated Wednesday 10 May, urged the administration to “routinely exercise” freedom of navigation and over-flight. The senators described the South China Sea as critical to U.S. national security interests and to peace in the Asia-Pacific.
I had dinner with some old friends and new Friends of FOD Jennifer and Charlie when I was down in CA last week. They put me in contact with a new Friend of FOD Judy Ann, who has agreed to lend her professional help to make the comments and the subscription pieces work.