clueless

Military officials reportedly caught off guard by White House’s warning to Syria
David Choi, Business Insider, Jun 27 2017

Several military officials were caught off guard by a White House statement Monday night that said Syria was suspected of planning a new chemical attack, The NYT reported on Monday. The statement issued by Sean Spicer said Syria’s military would “pay a heavy price” if it launched a new chemical attack. The apparent lack of communication among military channels appeared to be corroborated by a BuzzFeed News report that cited five Pentagon boxtops who said they did not know of the details regarding a potential chemical attack and were not aware of the White House’s plans to release a statement. The White House disputed this characterization in a statement on Tuesday morning, saying:

In response to several inquiries regarding the Syria statement issued last night, we want to clarify that all relevant agencies were involved in the process from the beginning. Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false.

Blurred Lines
Peter Weber, The Week, Jun 27 2017

The White House appeared to draw a new red line on Syria Monday night with Sean Spicer’s warning. The rest of the government, including the military, appears to have been caught off guard by the announcement. BuzzFeed News reports:

Five Pentagon boxtops said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, and were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement.

The LA Times reports:

Several State Dept boxtops typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Dept, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

Various agencies and departments referred reporters to the White House for comment. The NYT noted:

Several military officials were caught off guard by the statement. It’s unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was. While the White House’s motivation in releasing the highly unusual statement is uncertain, it is possible that Mr Trump or his advisers decided a public warning to Mr Assad might deter another chemical strike, and the president has absolute power to declassify anything he chooses to release.

Pentagon, State Dept ‘Clueless’ on Trump’s Assad Allegation
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Jun 27 2017

Last night, the White House issued a surprise statement accusing the Syrian government of preparing a chemical weapons attack and threatening to make them pay “a heavy price” for doing so. This immediately suggested another attack on Syria was imminent. No one saw this coming, including the Pentagon and the State Dept. Pentagon officials say they were totally unaware if this putative evidence of a chemical attack until the moment the White House issued the statement, something they completely didn’t see coming. The State Dept, which would normally be involved in coordinating such an important press release, also wasn’t consulted. Indeed, such an announcement would normally involve myriad security agencies, including the Pentagon, State Dept and intelligence agencies, particularly whoever was the source of the allegation about Syria in the first place. All signs, however, are that this wasn’t the case with anyone, and they’re not even sure where Trump got the idea that a chemical attack might be imminent. The White House has since offered a secondary comment insisting that all of the officials who are quoted in the media saying they didn’t know about the announcement are lying, and that the White House did somehow consult with everybody without anybody knowing about it. The only person who may conceivably have been in the loop is Nikki Haley, who almost immediately after the White House statement tweeted that any future attacks in Syria would be blamed on Assad, Russia, and Iran. This gives the impression that last night’s brief, evidence-free statement was mostly a pretext for picking a fight in Syria, and the fact that it came mere hours after Tillerson spoke with Lavrov about a new ceasefire, gives the appearance this was a none-too-subtle way of turning that proposal down.

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