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March 10, 2020 – As the Trump administration scrambles to confront the Coronavirus, news of the belated and inept response has helped obscure Trump’s broader ongoing national security malpractice. This administration — one with dozens of critical vacancies and a deep distrust of the public servants and institutions that keep us safe — has not proved itself capable of confronting more than one challenge at once.
That is precisely what we’re seeing in hotspot after hotspot.
North Korea resumed missile testing. Earlier this month and again this weekend, North Korea launched projectiles, believed to be short-range missiles. While Britain, France, and Germany condemned the earlier at a UN Security Council meeting, the United States did not join their statement. In fact, the Trump administration has remained silent, even as North Korea has continued to build its nuclear and missile programs, which are now more advanced than ever.
Iran dramatically increased its stockpiles of enriched uranium. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors reported that Iran had nearly tripled its low-enriched uranium stockpiles since November, surpassing the limits that had been imposed by the Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration abandoned despite certifying that Iran was in compliance and without a viable Plan B. Despite Trump’s promises to secure a “better deal,” Iran’s nuclear program is now at its most advanced point under the Trump administration.
Trump’s Afghanistan “deal” is coming apart at the seams. Trump has hailed the “deal,” even as he and Secretary Pompeo hide key details from the American people in secret side deals to the agreement. The Taliban resumed attacks almost immediately after signing the deal, and the United States has restarted airstrikes. Meanwhile, the Afghan Government — our partner, which Trump left out of the negotiation entirely — immediately rejected a key pillar of the deal: the release of 5,000 Taliban fighters.
During his visit to India, Trump stayed silent as more than forty Indians were killed while protesting the government’s religious discrimination. While Trump attended a rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, protesters were viciously attacked by proponents of Modi’s discriminatory laws not far from Trump’s hotel in Delhi.
Trump nominated John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) – again. In the middle of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, the president announced he would again nominate Ratcliffe for the post. Trump first tapped Ratcliffe for the position last summer, but even senior Republicans in Congress rejected Trump’s choice because they saw Ratcliffe as too partisan, inexperienced, and untruthful about his background. While Congress once again weighs Ratcliffe’s qualifications, another unqualified Trump loyalist and political hack, Richard Grenell, continues serving as Acting DNI.
The administration has continued to thwart efforts to declassify the intelligence community’s assessment of the murder of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. This month, the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly called for the declassification of information regarding who was responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The intelligence community reportedly assessed in 2018 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the murder, but Trump instead sided with MbS – and Grenell seems happy to do his bidding.
The catastrophe in Syria has only deepened in recent days. The Russian-backed Assad regime launched an assault on Idlib, the last rebel stronghold and civilian refuge in Syria. Turkey then launched its own offensive in Idlib against Assad’s forces – significantly raising tensions in this confrontation between a NATO ally and Russia, as Washington remained disengaged. Nearly one million Syrian refugees have fled the area since December, exacerbating the already catastrophic humanitarian situation.
We are former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaderswho have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org