The Cable

SitRep: Allies Warn Trump About Jerusalem Decision

Washington tells Moscow to show its roll in Syria; Huge new U.S./South Korean military exercise

A man takes a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, on December 4. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)
A man takes a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, on December 4. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Reax to Trump possibly declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Hint: It’s not great. Everyone from the State Department to Saudi Arabia to NATO ally Turkey are warning that the expected announcement that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will spawn violence. But does it matter?

The State Department has warned embassies to heighten security before the expected Wednesday announcement.

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” said Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday that the move would “trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts.”

Turkish President President Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday “I am saddened by the reports that the U.S. is getting ready to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr. Trump, Jerusalem is the red line of Muslims. It is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society’s wounds are still bleeding.”

Hope springs eternal. Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Monday, telling him that Pakistan needs to “redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country.” President Trump has taken a hard line on Pakistan — at least rhetorically — since announcing his Afghanistan strategy in August, admonishing the country for its role support for the taliban in Afghanistan.

Money train. The military buildup called for by President Donald Trump would cost $683 billion more than current spending plans over the next decade, according to a study released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office. The base budget would have to reach $688 billion by 2027 — more than 20 percent larger than peak defense spending during the 1980s — the CBO said. As of Tuesday, the budget approved by Congress remained on the president’s desk, as the administration and Capitol Hill struggle to avoid a shutdown of the federal government later this week.

Not so fast, Vlad. The White House says the Kremlin is declaring ‘mission accomplished’ in Syria entirely too soon, with three anonymous White House officials saying the insurgency against the Assad regime could flare back up. Officials also said that Syria is trying to use the Geneva peace talks to get Western countries to pick up the tab for reconstruction in regime held areas where the Syrian government’s grip on power remains weak.

Next chapter in Yemen war. The son of Yemen’s slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is vowing revenge after Houthi fighters killed his father for switching sides in the civil war. Yemen’s capital Sanaa was quiet on Tuesday after an intense five days of fighting and 25 Saudi-led airstrikes overnight, and U.N. and Red Cross aid flights had landed at the airport. The funeral of Saleh was expected later on Tuesday.

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Staying limber. For those of you keeping track at home, the latest East Asia exercise regimen involves a five day U.S.-South Korea air drills involving American stealth fighters and an apparent counter-exercise scheduled by China on a yet-to-be-mentioned date with Chinese military aircraft flying “routes and areas it has never flown before,” according to a People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesperson.

Japan wants JASSM-ER. Japan’s military is looking to arm its F-15 fighter jets with the U.S. military’s latest and greatest air-launched missiles, giving it the ability to hit North Korean ballistic missile sites. Japanese officials say they’ll likely seek extra funding on top of the existing defense budget in order to purchase the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles.

Mike who? The Kremlin says that the former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, played no role in influencing Russia’s decision not to retaliate for sanctions put in place by President Obama during the Trump transition.

Israeli strike in Syria. Israel attacked a military site in Syria for the second time in the past three days, according to Syrian state media. The Syrian government claims to have intercepted Israeli missiles but locals say they saw an explosion to the west of Damascus, near a military research facility in Jamraya which had already been the scene of a previous Israeli airstrike.

Swing and a miss. A U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile system missed in its attempt to intercept a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at Riyadh earlier this month according to open source data reviewed by experts. Missile nerds from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies used the debris pattern, the location of an explosion in the sky and the scene of the warhead’s impact to determine that the Patriot interceptor, contrary to claims from Saudi Arabia and President Trump, either missed or barely clipped the incoming missile.

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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