Situation Report: Trump picks McMaster as National Security Advisor; Confusion at Guantanamo; Iran to test artillery; and a bit more.
By FP Staff and Adam Rawnsley
McMaster is Trump’s man. President Trump has selected Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security advisor, winning acclaim across the political spectrum for his pick. Foreign Policy’s Dan De Luce takes a deep dive into the background of McMaster, who gained a reputation as a warrior intellectual for his performance on the battlefield during the Persian Gulf War and against al-Qaeda in Tal Afar during the U.S. occupation. His book, Dereliction of Duty, about the failure of American generals to push back against civilian leaders during the Vietnam War, earned him a reputation as a both a talented academic and a general inclined to speak truth to power.
Control over staffing had become a sticking point for national security advisor candidates like retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. He reportedly asked for the ability to select his own national security council staff, including a replacement for current deputy national security advisor K.T. McFarland, before agreeing to take the job. However, Peter Mansoor, a close friend of McMaster’s, tells FP that the general likely took the job “without preconditions” in light of his status as an active duty Army officer.
Confusion at GITMO. The military officials charged with detention at Guantánamo said they have yet to receive new orders to reflect the policy reversal that will reshape the prison’s future.But the transition to Trump has thrown them and the detainees into a new limbo, still operating under Obama’s previous guidance despite being all too aware it has an expiration date and is in direct contradiction with Trump’s imminent new directive, FP‘s Molly O’Toole reports from Guantánamo.
Test Fire. Iran is kicking off a series of rocket artillery exercises this week, according to the AP. Iran’s Tasnim News Agency called the weapons used “smart and advanced.” The exercises involve a variety of different types of Fajr rockets, with the farthest-reaching of them stretching to a 62 mile range. Despite the martial bravado, the exercises are a step down from the kinds of ballistic missile tests that have earned Iran sanctions from the Trump administration and a formal declaration of being “on notice” from former national security advisor Mike Flynn.
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Two associates of President Trump have helped a Ukrainian lawmaker deliver a backchannel peace plan for the Ukraine conflict to the White House, according to the New York Times. Andrii Artemenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, has quietly passed along his peace plan for Ukraine along with allegations of corruption by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, saying that aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin have offered encouragement for the plan. Artemenko reached out to Felix Sater, a former business associate of Trump’s, and Michael Cohen, the Trump’s former personal lawyer, who handed the plan to the White House.
An alleged plot to assassinate Montenegro’s former Prime Minister had help from the Russian government, according to a Montenegrin special prosecutor. The AP reports that prosecutor Milivoje Katnic accused Eduard Shishmakov, allegedly a spy working for the Russian military, of being the ringleader of a plan to kill Montenegro’s then pro-NATO Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in order to head off any plans to bring the country closer to the Atlantic alliance. Katnic said Katnic had previously served as a deputy military attaché at the Russian embassy in Poland, later being expelled from the country in an escalating series of diplomatic reprisals between Russia and Poland.
Defense Secretary James Mattis was in Iraq on Monday where he tried to walk back President’s Trump’s statements about seizing the country’s oil. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mattis said, noting that “all of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along.” President Trump has frequently argued that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil following the 2003 invasion, a suggestion which has angered many Iraqis.
The attack on a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen this in late January was carried out by a remotely-operated, explosive-laden boat and not a human suicide bomber. Fifth Fleet commander Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan told Defense News that the vessel’s “production in some way was supported by Iran.” As evidence, Donegan pointed to several accounts of shipments of Iranian weapons systems intercepted en route to Yemen over the past year, saying that Iran has been providing the Houthi movement with more sophisticated arms than the rudimentary gear known to be in Yemen’s arsenals before the war.