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Washington Wrap: No Confusion Here

Omri Nahmias

Kim dials down the rhetoric, but is he serious about peace?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow (Photo AFP/IMAGEBANK)

S peaking at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., in March, Nikki Haley shared an anecdote about the time when President Trump called to offer her the job of US ambassador to the United Nations. Haley said she told the president that she wasn’t the most diplomatic person in the world and that she always spoke her mind. Further, if she took the job, she intended to continue that straight-talking attitude at the world body. In response, Trump said her honest, straightforward style was exactly the reason he was offering her the position.

Haley’s first year on the job with her boss went smoothly, at least in public. Even when, here and there, reports surfaced that Haley was a candidate for secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson — rumors that Trump no doubt wasn’t happy about — he gave Haley his full backing. But last week, we saw the first sign of a rift between Haley and the White House.

When the ambassador told CBS News on April 15 that the United States would level new sanctions against Russia, Trump objected, claiming that he hadn’t yet decided to pursue that course. Trump had just launched a strike in Syria, putting US-Russia ties on the rocks, and he didn’t want to raise the flames any higher. Trump froze the initiative, canceling the sanctions.

In order to save face for all concerned, the White House sent economic advisor Larry Kudlow to clarify the matter for reporters. “She got ahead of the curve,” Kudlow said. “She’s done a great job, she’s a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

But Haley stood her ground. With her typical straight talk she retorted, “I don’t get confused.”

Haley’s pushback indicated she had no intention of being pushed around by the White House. Moreover, her hard line on Russia positioned her to the right of Trump. The big question is whether this tiff is a one-time matter, or if the bad blood will remain and Haley will be the next Trump official to be shown the door. If the latter, it seems that Trump has more to lose than Haley, a rising star in the Republican Party.

Kim Coming in from the Cold?

At the end of December, I wrote an article speculating on the chances of war between the United States and North Korea.

Four months later, we’re in a completely different place. Not only has North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered to close his nuclear testing facility, he has also suggested a meeting with President Trump to discuss denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Trump, for his part, has likewise softened his tone. There have been no “little rocket man” tweets of late.

But what are the chances of this new détente yielding any lasting results? I asked Dr. Howard Stoffer, associate professor at the University of New Haven, a former head of counterterrorism at the UN Security Council, and a former senior diplomat, for his take on the issue.

Dr. Stoffer says he’s skeptical of the North Korean leader’s intentions. An offer to stop testing doesn’t mean Kim can’t one day break his word. “Kim is appearing to be making concessions, without really giving anything. Saying that he’s not going to test-fire any more missiles is meaningless; he can always resume testing at any time, unless there’s some kind of agreement in place that allows inspectors on the ground.”

In the meantime, Jong-un is trying to occupy the moral high ground and force the United States and the South Koreans into carefully considering his offer. “I think it was smart of Kim to make such a statement without giving any commitment,” Stoffer says. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 707)

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