On Thursday, the United States used its second-largest non-nuclear weapon for the first time ever in combat, in a strike aimed at a tunnel complex used by forces aligned with the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The 21,000-pound, GPS-guided bomb, also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, has been nicknamed the “mother of all bombs.” It was last tested on March 11, 2003, when it caused a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away. Americans were unusually obsessed with the strike because of the nickname of the bomb, shortened to the acronym MOAB by most news outlets. (Politico)
Tensions are mounting over North Korea. North Korean monitoring service 38 North said Wednesday the country’s Punggye-ri nuclear site is “primed and ready” for a sixth nuclear test. “The activity during the past six weeks is suggestive of the final preparations for a test,” said 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez… “North Korea believes the only way to deter the US from attacking them and maintaining the power of the Kim regime is by the possession of nuclear weapons,” Bermudez said. (CNN) North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific – a force U.S. President Donald Trump described as an “armada”. Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbor, said in a tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help… (Reuters)
And Then China Said…
China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said… On Tuesday, a fleet of North Korean cargo ships headed home, mostly fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal, sources with direct knowledge of the trade said. China banned all imports of North Korean coal, the country’s most important export, on Feb. 26, but Washington has questioned how well the sanction was being implemented. (Reuters)
Meanwhile, In Russia…
Russia’s Foreign Ministry, ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said it was concerned about many aspects of U.S. foreign policy, particularly North Korea. “We are really worried about what Washington has in mind for North Korea after it hinted at the possibility of a unilateral military scenario,” the ministry said in a statement. (Reuters) And though on Tuesday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reign in Syria was “coming to an end,” and that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant in the Middle East by continuing to support him, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, showed no signs of backing away from Mr. Assad. He likened the accusations against the Assad government — made by Britain, France and other allies, along with the Trump administration — to the flawed intelligence that President George W. Bush’s administration cited in 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Putin insisted that the chemical attack had stemmed from anti-Assad rebel units. (NY Times)
So, Of Course, Assad Said…
In his first interview since an April 4 attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed over 80 people, sickened hundreds and outraged the world, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria not only repeated the government’s denials of responsibility but contended without evidence that the episode had been fabricated as a pretext for an American retaliatory missile strike. “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Mr. Assad told Agence France-Presse in the television interview from Damascus, which was recorded on Wednesday. “Were they dead at all?” (NY Times)
And Then Sean Spicer Said What?!?!
Sean Spicer brought up Hitler unprompted during Tuesday’s White House briefing while emphasizing how seriously the United States takes Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Spicer said:
We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.
Later in the briefing, a reporter read Spicer’s comments back to him and gave him the opportunity to clarify. Spicer’s answer only added more confusion.
I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent. (The Washington Post)
Steve Bannon seems to have worked his way onto Trump’s sh#! list. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that their has been infighting among the president’s advisors, particularly between Steve Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And last week, Bannon was removed from the National Security Council. On Tuesday, Trump was asked if he still had confidence in Bannon, who is his chief strategist, and he his answer was not exactly enthusiastic (or truthful), “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.” (CNN)
As Always In Trumpland
There was more news than I could possibly cover in one column. Other important and interesting tidbits from the week are:
- Dozens killed in terrorist attacks against Coptic churches in Egypt
- Four people were killed in a terror attack in Sweden
- Trump privately signed an anti-Planned Parenthood law
- Betsy Devos undid Obama era student loan protections
- Paul Manafort will belatedly register as a foreign agent
- After resigning from Trump campaign, Manafort received $13 million from businesses with ties to Trump
- British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia
- Trump is being sued for not releasing White House visitor logs
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office is reviewing Donald Trump’s presidential transition
I hope you all have a good week! Stay safe, stay sane, and stay strong!