Iran Prepares to Shut Down the Hormuz

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launches drill near Strait of Hormuz

Paramilitary force answerable to Supreme Leader Khamenei begins annual combat helicopter and drone exercise day after US Navy carrier enters Persian Gulf

By AgenciesToday, 10:30 am

Iranian state TV reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard ground force launched a drill Saturday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea.

The report said the guard’s forces will use combat helicopters and drones around Qeshm Island at the mouth of the waterway.

The annual war game, dubbed “The Great Prophet,” came a day after the USS John C. Stennis, a US aircraft carrier, sailed into the Persian Gulf on Friday.

Throughout the carrier’s trip Friday, some 30 Iranian Revolution Guard vessels trailed the Stennis and its strike group. One small vessel launched what appeared to be a commercial-grade drone to film the American ships.

Photographers and videographers on the Iranian boats could clearly be seen also filming the Stennis while journalists on board the aircraft carrier filmed them.

The USS Mitscher, part of a strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier, sails as an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel shadows it on December 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The strait at its narrowest point is 33 kilometers (21 miles) wide, in the waters between Iran and Oman.

Despite being so narrow and within the territorial waters of those two nations, the strait is viewed as an international transit route. American forces routinely travel through the area, despite sometimes tense encounters with the Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Tensions have been high since US President Donald Trump’s May withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, which saw sanctions lifted for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate within the country’s Shiite theocracy whose major achievement was the deal, has repeatedly warned any attempt to stop Iran’s export of crude oil could see it close off the strait.

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

America Prepares for War in the Persian Gulf

US aircraft carrier enters Persian Gulf after long absence

By JON GAMBRELL –

12/21/18 2:46 PM

ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS IN THE PERSIAN GULF — — A U.S. aircraft carrier sailed into the Persian Gulf on Friday, becoming the first since America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May and breaking the longest carrier absence in the volatile region since at least the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The arrival of the USS John C. Stennis comes as Iranian officials have returned to repeatedly threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes. Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels shadowed the Stennis and its strike group, at one point launching rockets away from it and flying a drone nearby.

The long absence of a carrier, however, could become a standard practice here as now-outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to shake up naval operations and American air bases spanning the region can scramble fighter jets and drones.

“We are trying to be more operationally unpredictable,” said Lt. Chloe Morgan, a spokeswoman for U.S.’ Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. “Now we’re switching it up because our adversaries are watching closely. We want to be operationally unpredictable to our enemies, but strategically predictable to our partners.”

The Navy invited journalists to ride on the nuclear-powered Stennis, whose homeport is Bremerton, Washington, as it transited the Strait of Hormuz. The strait at its narrowest point is 33 kilometers (21 miles) wide, in the waters between Iran and Oman.

Despite being so narrow and within the territorial waters of those two nations, the strait is viewed as an international transit route. American forces routinely travel through the area, despite sometimes tense encounters with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For Iran’s part, they compare the American presence to Tehran sending warships to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tensions have been high since President Donald Trump’s May withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal, which saw sanctions lifted for Tehran limiting its uranium enrichment. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate within the country’s Shiite theocracy whose major achievement was the deal, has repeatedly warned any attempt to stop Iran’s export of crude oil could see it close off the strait.

However, the 5th Fleet says it has not seen any “unsafe and unprofessional” actions by Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf since August 2017 before the Stennis’ transit through the strait.

Throughout its trip Friday, some 30 Iranian Revolution Guard vessels trailed the Stennis and its strike group. One small vessel launched what appeared to be a commercial-grade drone to film the American ships. Photographers and videographers on the Iranian boats could clearly be seen also filming the Stennis while journalists on board the aircraft carrier filmed them.

“The Iranian craft drove in front of our ship and stopped . and tried to capture their own sort of picture of what was going on,” said Capt. Randy Peck, the commanding officer of the Stennis.

There was no immediate mention of the Stennis’ arrival to the Persian Gulf in Iranian state media.

The long gap between carrier deployments in the Persian Gulf represents a change in U.S. military strategy dating back to the first Gulf War in 1991 and the overflights of Iraq that followed for years after. Mattis, as the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, himself demanded two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf as he led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since then, Mattis has said he wants a more unpredictable Navy to respond to Russia and China, which he sees as the “great power competition” America now faces.

“The way you do this is we ensure that preparation for great power competition drives not simply a rotation schedule that allows me to tell you, three years from now, which aircraft carrier will be where,” Mattis told a U.S. House committee in April. “That’s a great way to run a shipping line. It’s no way to run a Navy.”

It’s unclear, however, whether Mattis’ strategy will continue. The defense secretary resigned Thursday after clashing with Trump over the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

The U.S. military also operates air bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as a major Army base in Kuwait and its Navy base in Bahrain. That offers the American military a variety of locations both in the Persian Gulf, as well as other bases in the wider Mideast, to launch strikes.

“Carriers were needed to support many of the initial strikes in Afghanistan in 2001, some attacks in Iraq in 2003, and most tactical missions in Syria in 2011,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “After access to adequate ground bases was obtained for today’s operations in Syria and Iraq, carrier-based aircraft were not as essential for these missions.”

“The U.S. does not need carriers in the Persian Gulf,” he added.

As military operations wind down in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, that likely will mean less need for airstrikes as well. However, the 5th Fleet still maintains a fleet of 21 ships from Bahrain and other Navy ships will continue to transit the strait.

“The American Navy is showing they’re committed to regional stability all across the globe but particularly in the Gulf region,” Peck said. “It’s a very economically important area for the entire world, so we’re going to continue to go wherever we can internationally, in international waters.”

Associated Press writer Malak Harb contributed to this report.

The Evolving Saudi Nuclear Horn

Saudi Arabia is currently in the process of selecting a company for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the country.

Saudi Arabia ‘on its way to become a nuclear power’

2018-12-22 16:55:00

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s population has grown from 4 million in 1960 to over 31 million in 2016. It is the main electricity consumer and producer in the Gulf region, with 345 trillion watts of gross production in 2016, of which 41 percent was produced from oil and 59 percent from gas. The electricity consumption in the country continues to grow substantially — by 8 to 10 percent annually, compared with less than 1 percent in Europe.

Faced with surging energy demand for economic growth, Saudi Arabia is turning to nuclear power to diversify its electricity-generating mix and therefore reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The Kingdom plans to build two large nuclear power reactors as part of a program of delivering as many as 16 nuclear power plants over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. It has projected 17 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032 to provide 15 percent of the power then, along with more than 40 GW of solar capacity. Plans for small reactors for desalination are also well advanced.

Hamid Al-Saqqaf, director of independent production projects at Saudi Electricity Company, points out: “Introducing nuclear power into the national energy mix is a sovereign decision in every country, according to its needs. In Saudi Arabia, this decision was already made in advance. The Kingdom has a continuously elevating demand on electricity.

“In 2015, we had about 62,000 megawatts in demand, and even though there currently seems to be a decrease in the amount of load, yet the growing demand for energy requires the introduction of nuclear energy as a means to achieve the base-load. As you might know, the operating costs for nuclear power is much less than the one produced from fossil fuel. The console of nuclear fuel produces more energy and at a lower price.”

The move toward nuclear power falls in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, in which diversification of economy and energy from hydrocarbons is implied.

In 2010, a Saudi royal decree said that the development of atomic energy was essential to meet the Kingdom’s growing requirements for energy. Saudi Arabia is currently in the process of selecting a company for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the country. There are five finalists from five countries — the US, China, Russia, France and South Korea — that the Kingdom invited last year to bid on a project to build the two units. A preferred bidder in the competitive dialogue is expected to be chosen in 2019.

Rosatom plans to outfit the Saudi nuclear power plant (NPP) project with the world’s first operational Generation 3+ reactor technology, known as the VVER-1200. The reactor is known for the most advanced safety systems, which fully complies with international security standards and post-Fukusima safety requirements.

As a part of its integrated offer, Rosatom is ready to supply the Saudi nuclear power project with nuclear fuel throughout its operational lifetime and ensure decent level of Saudi industry involvement and complex human resource development, in addition to growing public acceptance of nuclear power. Nuclear power plant deployment is always very beneficial and, obviously, it will be so for Kingdom.

Nuclear power gives a boost for local economy enhancement by highly-qualified personnel development and gains new competences to local industry, previously focused mainly on the fossil fuel sector.

Russia is the pioneer in peaceful use of nuclear energy: the first commercial NPP went into operation in 1954. Strong with more than 70 years long expertise in this sphere, nowadays Russia is the world innovation leader in nuclear technologies and holds the first place for the largest portfolio of foreign construction projects (36 NPP Units in 12 countries as diverse as Finland and China, India and Hungary, Egypt and Bangladesh).

“In October 2017, Rosatom and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy signed the Program for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. Due to investments into nuclear and based on the international expertise and decades-long innovation experience, Saudi Arabia will profit from the stable, clean and environmentally secure energy source at affordable tariffs,” commented Saeed Al-Shahrani, a Saudi expert in renewable energy. — SG

Iranian Nukes Abound Despite Iran Deal

Image result for iran nuclear plantsWeapons experts: Iranian nuclear archive shows that Iran lied about uranium mine

Nuclear weapons experts, who have reviewed the Iranian nuclear archive that Israel recovered from a Tehran warehouse, concluded that Iran lied that a uranium mine was under control of its civilian atomic energy agency in a paper published jointly by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Institute for Science and International Security on Wednesday.

The paper — written by David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the institute; Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Frank Pabian, a former inspector for the IAEA; and Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at the institute — asserts that Iran falsely told the IAEA that its uranium mine at Gchine was under civilian control, when it, in fact, remained under the auspices of its military nuclear weapons program.

“The site was originally part of the AMAD plan to produce nuclear weapons. It was military-owned and created to produce uranium for Iran’s covert nuclear fuel cycle and five initially-planned nuclear weapons,” the paper charged in its conclusion. “Gchine is but another egregious example of Iran’s deceptions to the IAEA and the international community.”

In reviewing the files recovered from Iran’s nuclear archive, the team has previously learned not only that Iran’s nuclear weapons program had progressed further than previously thought, but that Iran possessed “advanced capabilities” to develop nuclear weapons. What the experts concluded, was that “that Washington and the IAEA were constantly underestimating how close Tehran was to a bomb” prior to negotiating the deal that was finalized in 2015.

In a previous paper published by the institute, Albright, Heinonen, and Pabian argued that the new information contained in the archive “necessitates calling for more action by the IAEA and the Joint Commission, which administers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

In an op-ed published in October in The Hill, Josh Block, the President and CEO of The Israel Project, noted that the IAEA had failed to follow through on the Israeli revelations and the implications of those failures on the agency’s overall knowledge of Iran’s nuclear weapons work.

“The gaps in the IAEA’s knowledge — of Iran’s past nuclear work, of its military sites, of items mentioned in Section T of the nuclear deal, and of the nuclear sites discovered by Israeli intelligence — raise questions about the full extent of Iran’s nuclear program,” Block argued.

The documents and files that Israel smuggled out of Tehran in January, and which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicized at the end of April, consists of some 100,000 pages and covers Iran’s nuclear weapons program during the years of 1999 to 2003.

Humanitarian Crisis Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

A Palestinian woman gives water to her son in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip (December 19, 2018). (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

Gaza heading toward a ‘large size’ humanitarian catastrophe: UN aid envoy

James Reinl

With depreciation of donors to support the UN’s response plan, essential services, including food supplies, and medical procedures like eye and heart surgeries, could be delayed.

NEW YORK —  Gaza residents can expect more cuts to food handouts, healthcare and schools in 2019, with funding shortfalls likely to worsen their already-difficult lives, the United Nations aid envoy to the Palestinian territory told TRT World.

In an interview, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, said less money from the United States and other donors would lead to cutbacks in the New Year.

“Some people will get less services than they deserve,” McGoldrick told TRT World in a telephone interview from Gaza.

“We cannot ignore the growing large size of the humanitarian catastrophe that’s here in Gaza and also in the West Bank.”

On Wednesday, the UN’s World Food Program said it would, as of January 1, suspend food to 20 percent of recipients in the Gaza Strip. According to McGoldrick, that could grow to half of all 300,000 Gazans receiving handouts in the subsequent months.

Medical procedures, including eye and heart surgeries, could be delayed, he added. Schools that currently have two teaching shifts will “operate more round-the-clock” by filling classrooms with extra batches of students each day.

The UN unveiled its 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Palestinians this week, lowering its funding request to $350m — down from $550m in 2018 — and cutting the number of people targeted from 1.9m to 1.4m. Three quarters of recipients are in Gaza.

Donations were down in many areas globally, said McGoldrick. But local aid work was hit particularly hard this year when Washington ended funding for the UN agency that helps 5 million Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA.

The Trump administration announced in August that it would halt all future donations to UNRWA, leaving it with a $300m funding gap, in a move that was widely seen as a way to pressure Ramallah to enter peace talks with Israel.

“There’s also been a depreciation of other donors to the response plan,” McGoldrick told TRTWorld.

“That’s got to do with global reality and significant competing interests in the region — places like Yemen, Libya and Syria are all taking attention away from Palestine, which has been a long-standing and politically paralysed crisis.”

Funding cuts added to the coastal strip’s woes, which include joblessness, water and electricity shortages, the Israeli-led blockade, Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and hostilities, added McGoldrick.

Peter Mulrean, the New York-based representative for UNRWA, which assists Palestinian refugees, said cuts threatened the employment schemes and school counselling services on which many Gazans depend.

“If we see humanitarian funding diminish, we can predict that 2019 will be a very bleak year,” Mulrean told TRT World.

Mulrean noted that UNRWA employees occupied the agency’s headquarters in Gaza to protest lay offs resulting from this year’s US funding cuts. McGoldrick warned of heightened “tension” in Gaza when aid cuts bite.

Some 175 Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli forces in Gaza this year after a series of often-violent protests erupted in March over Israel’s long-running blockade of the overcrowded coastal territory of some 1.8 million people.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, told TRT World that Palestinians had been “collectively able to withstand this onslaught by the current US administration” and were coping with cuts to UNRWA and to hospitals in East Jerusalem.

He praised the “massive political support form the international community” in filling some US funding shortfalls and said “we sincerely hope that this political support and financial support would continue” in 2019.

This week, UN peace coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said that while Gaza’s humanitarian situation was dire, Qatari funding for the Gaza Power Plant had helped increase daily electricity supplies to more than 11 hours.

“Private homes, hospitals, schools, water facilities, businesses are all benefitting,” Mladenov told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

“Seventy-five per cent of the sewage can now be treated again, significantly reducing the contamination levels caused by discharge into the sea. Piped water supply has increased by 40 percent, almost fully meeting water demand for domestic household purposes.”

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East conflict.

Israel says that its West Bank barrier and checkpoints, and restrictions on movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, are security measures needed to protect its citizens.

Trump to Hand Afghanistan to the Pakistani Horn (Daniel 8:8)


Days after President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria, the White House is now considering plans to pull 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, nearly half the total number currently deployed to the country in the 17-year-long conflict.

Trump has long been skeptical of military involvement abroad, Afghanistan included. He campaigned on removing US troops from the region but faced objections from his Cabinet and advisers once in office. In 2017, Trump deployed an additional 3,000 troops, bringing the total up to about 14,000. This signaled a continuation of, rather than a break from, US policy.

Now, Trump may dramatically draw down US involvement, though many in his administration are, once again, warning it could make the situation on the ground in Afghanistan even more precarious. This time around, though, Trump seems to have overruled their objections.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly opposed the move. And this decision, combined with Trump’s rash action on Syria, apparently pushed the retired four-star general to finally break with the president and submit his resignation late Thursday.

Afghanistan is the US’s longest-running conflict, with more than 2,400 Americans killed in nearly two decades, not to mention the roughly 31,000 Afghan civilians who have died in the war. The quagmire has deepened of late, with the Taliban continuing to wage attacks on Afghan and allied troops. The group has stubbornly resisted any attempts to beat it back, and instead has managed to increase control.

The timing of this is also odd: The US is currently attempting to broker talks between the Afghan government, which the US backs, and the Taliban. The Taliban has long wanted the US to leave Afghanistan before any peace talks, and the group may consider this a victory ahead of any potential discussions.

Trump has not tweeted about his Afghanistan decision, so, at least as of right now, it’s not final. NBC News reports that Trump asked the Pentagon to come up with plans for a partial withdrawal and is still weighing his options; however, other reports suggest that Trump’s mind is all but made up.

The strategic issues surrounding involvement in Afghanistan and Syria are vastly different, and fatigue with intervention in Afghanistan has grown stronger, with many now willing to admit the US has all but lost.

But the larger issue right now doesn’t seem to be whether Trump’s decisions are the right or wrong ones, but rather how he’s going about making them.

By all accounts, members of Trump’s own administration were blindsided by his decision to leave Syria, as were allies and coalition partners also fighting ISIS.

Afghan officials told the New York Times that “they had received no indication in recent days that the Americans would pull troops.” That lack of communication and coordination with US partners is what Mattis objected to in his resignation letter, as it turns America into an unreliable — and unpredictable — partner.