McMaster solidifies power at NSC — and supports Iran deal, sees Israel as occupier

US Politics
on 30 Comments

Updated. Last night President Trump issued a statement affirming his support for National Security adviser H.R. McMaster in the face of a storm of criticism from rightwing outlets. The statement is a sign that Trump and his new chief of staff are taking the realist side of the debate inside his administration over foreign policy.

So while Trump claims to be doing everything he can to trash the Iran deal, the good news is that his foreign policy team is for it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clearly advocated for the deal at a press briefing earlier this week, while suggesting that he could differ with the president on how effective it’s been.

I think there are a lot of alternative means with which we use the agreement to advance our policies and the relationship with Iran.

Tillerson is one of the “adults” who are thought to be able to rein in Trump’s worst tendencies on Iran, as Paul Pillar wrote:

Reportedly the adults, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, last month urged a resistant Trump to recognize reality and certify that Iran was complying with the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].

Further comfort comes from the fact that three days ago, General McMaster fired Ezra Cohen-Watnick, an enigmatic thirtyish intelligence aide who was vehemently opposed to the Iran deal, leading to calls to get rid of McMaster. Like Tillerson, McMaster is plainly a realist. And he is thought to have job security because his predecessor, General Mike Flynn, lasted barely three weeks and went out with a splash. The Atlantic says McMaster is cleaning house at the NSC; two weeks ago he got rid of an ideologue who spread anti-Muslim conspiracies.

Supporters of Israel are upset by the personnel changes. The Israeli-American hothead Caroline Glick writes at her Facebook page that McMaster is “deeply hostile” to Israel as an occupying power.

The Israel angle on McMaster’s purge of Trump loyalists from the National Security Council is that all of these people are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.

McMaster in contrast is deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump. According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

McMaster “has chosen to eliminate the pro-Israel voices at the National Security Council,” according to Jordan Schachtel at the Conservative Review, who cited interviews with White House officials who are trying to undermine the general:

McMaster not only shuns Israel, he is also historically challenged on Arab-Israeli affairs, according to the sources.

“McMaster constantly refers to the existence of a Palestinian state before 1947,” a senior West Wing official tells CR (there was never an independent Palestinian state), adding that McMaster describes Israel as an “illegitimate,” “occupying power.”

The NSC chief expressed great reluctance to work with Israel on counterterror efforts, as he shut down a joint U.S.-Israel project to counter the terrorist group Hezbollah’s efforts to expand Iran’s worldwide influence.

One of the main indictments of McMaster by neoconservatives (right-wing Israel supporters who favor regime change) is that he restrained the president on his tour of occupied territories in May (as Allison Deger reported at the time). In this White House briefing, McMaster refused to say that the western wall in occupied East Jerusalem is part of Israel.

Caroline Glick goes further about McMaster’s orchestrations, in her screed calling on Trump to fire McMaster:

Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall.

What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. At the time, I and other reporters were led to believe that this was the decision of rogue anti-Israel officers at the US consulate in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. It was McMaster…

McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump’s agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda. He fires all of Trump’s loyalists and replaces them with Trump’s opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think.

Glick says that McMaster has left in place analysts loyal to Obamaites Ben Rhodes and Valerie Jarrett. She worries that Trump has gone wobbly on Israel.

If McMaster isn’t fired after all that he has done and all that he will do, we’re all going to have to reconsider Trump’s foreign policy. Because if after everything he has done, and everything that he will certainly do to undermine Trump’s stated foreign policy agenda, it will no longer be possible to believe that exiting the nuclear deal or supporting the US alliance with Israel and standing with US allies against US foes — not to mention draining Washington’s cesspool – are Trump’s policies. How can they be when Trump stands with a man who opposes all of them and proves his opposition by among other things, firing Trump’s advisers who share Trump’s agenda?

Rosie Gray reported in June that Cohen-Watnick was the man McMaster could not fire. So it turns out that is not the case. And what a good sign that people with this sort of thinking are being purged from policy-making positions: Cohen-Watnick “is viewed as an Iran hawk and has been characterized, for instance, as a main proponent of expanding U.S. efforts against Iran-backed militias in Syria.” He was a pro-Iraq-war hawk as an undergraduate, with ties to the Islamophobe David Horowitz.

Cohen-Watnick was involved in an on-campus Terrorism Awareness Week connected to the controversial conservative writer David Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” events.

“We need people to be passionate about the problem of terrorism,” he’s quoted as saying in a Daily Pennsylvanian article about the event, advocating more courses devoted to the subject.

Thanks to the indefatigable Terry Weber, teacher & cyclist in Palestine.

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30 Responses

  1. amigo
    August 5, 2017, 1:49 pm

    “He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think.”Glick.

    Can,t have anyone who does not show complete fealty to Israel ,(even at the expense of the welfare of the US )roaming the halls of US power and leaking secrets about the real Israel.

    Why can,t people understand that The US exists to protect Israel.

    For jacko—it says so in the Torah.

  2. LHunter
    August 5, 2017, 2:30 pm

    Great reporting. I had no idea of McMaster’s stance on the Israel Palestine issues. And I’m amazed that someone holding those opinions managed to sneak through to hold the position of National Security Advisor.

    Clearly the Zionists have quite a task at hand in trying to remove him. As the article noted, Trump would look like a fool, correction, even more of a fool if he brought the axe down on yet another General in that post.

    This wouldn’t matter to the Zionists. They care for no one but themselves let alone Trump. If there is one thing I have come to learn, never discount the shamelessness and tenacity of the Zionist nutters – nothing phases them and their zeal for supremacy over all of Palestine will not be thwarted by McMaster.

    It’s up to all of us to support McMaster’s opinions and see to it he has a long and prosperous career as National Security Advisor.

    • wfleitz
      August 6, 2017, 2:54 pm

      I’m not surprised at all. A few years ago I heard an interview with Dr. Alan Sabrosky, formerly Director of Studies at the U.S. Army War College. He pointed out that the U.S. military, unlike Congress, does not pledge allegiance to Israel.

      • wfleitz
        August 6, 2017, 3:07 pm

        It’s a very good interview and I think worthwhile to get a perspective on how some in the U.S. military view Israel. Many still remember the USS Liberty.

      • Misterioso
        August 7, 2017, 11:19 am


        For the record:

        In its 2004 analysis of terrorism, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board of the U.S. Defense Department concluded that “Muslims do not hate our freedom,…they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority object to what they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against Palestinian rights….”

        Nor should we forget the shocking briefing given to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen by senior military officers in 2010. The team was dispatched by Commander General David Petraeus to brief the Pentagon on intelligence that Israeli intransigence in the peace process was jeopardizing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and that America was perceived as weak, ineffectual, and unable to stand up to Israel.

        Ha’aretz, January 13, 2012:
        “‘Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us,’ ” Foreign Policy quoted an [American] intelligence officer as saying. ‘If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they’re supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don’t think that’s true.’”

        Ha’aretz, July 28, 2012
        “Former U.S. officials say CIA considers Israel to be Mideast’s biggest spy threat”

        “…despite statements from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat.

        “In addition to what the former U.S. officials described to AP as intrusions in homes in the past decade, Israel has been implicated in U.S. criminal espionage cases and disciplinary proceedings against CIA officers and blamed in the presumed death of an important spy in Syria for the CIA during the administration of President George W. Bush.

        “The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency’s Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials.”

        “Opinion: Increasingly, Supporting Israel No Longer Serves America’s Interests”

        “Obama’s UN abstention was only the most recent manifestation of ongoing strategic changes that Trump too won’t want or be able to reverse.”
        Professor Brent Sasley, Jan 07, 2017, Haaretz.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 7, 2017, 11:55 am

        The team was dispatched by Commander General David Petraeus to brief the Pentagon on intelligence that Israeli intransigence in the peace process was jeopardizing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and that America was perceived as weak, ineffectual, and unable to stand up to Israel.

        misterioso, i recall this briefing. i think (although i am not positive) there was some interest by mullen to place israel in centcom instead of EUCOM and israel freaked out. that first haaretz quote was in response to israel mossad agents posing as cia to recruit Jundallah to assassinate iranians (was it the nuclear scientists?) leaving a US fingerprint which massively pissed off the US intel community, but — there were no repercussions as i recall.

        there were some back channel skirmishes/communications (via swiss embassy) after one of the iranian scientists was assassinated — with the US denying being part of it (that is from memory — i remember writing about it at the time and sourcing it but for the most part it was covered up in the US media).

      • Misterioso
        August 7, 2017, 3:13 pm


        To be brief: Bottom line – Israel is an increasing major geopolitical liability for and a leading cause of international animosity directed at America. The current struggle between Zionists and American BDS proponents, the related sanctity of the Constitution’s First Amendment, together with plunging approval ratings for Israel among Americans, especially youth and the military, convince me that we are approaching its day of reckoning. It’s only a matter of time. Sooner or later, all nations act in their own best interests. In the not so long run, America will not be an exception.

      • JWalters
        August 7, 2017, 10:20 pm


        Thanks for the excellent link to Dr. Sabrosky’s extensive analysis in written form. For those who would prefer to listen (e.g. while fixing dinner), a 23 minute video interview that covers the highlights of his analysis is here:

        Dr. Sabrosky is a Jewish-American. His Ph.D is from the University of Michigan, a highly respected research university. He is also a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran, a graduate of the US Army War College, and a former director of research studies there. Half-baked hasbara attacks on him dot the web.

  3. Keith
    August 5, 2017, 2:45 pm

    “Reportedly the adults, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster….” (Paul Pillar)

    Has it come to this? When hope for any indication of sanity lies in the hands of a former oil company CEO and two retired Generals, our future is precarious indeed. And notice how “realists” are labeled as “Israel haters.” And if someone “hates” the Jewish state, well I guess we know what that implies.

    • genesto
      August 7, 2017, 12:26 pm

      Just as it took anti-communist Richard Nixon to open ties with Red China, it just might take an oil exec and a couple of hardline generals to recognize the danger Israel poses to our nation’s interests and change course accordingly.

  4. Donald Johnson
    August 5, 2017, 2:55 pm

    Greenwald seems to disagree with you on McMasters. I don’t know who is right.

    On his larger point I agree with Glenn. Much of the opposition to Trump comes from people who don’t trust him to invade or intervene as much as they want him to. They are afraid that the noninterventionist version of Trump will prevail or that he will too incompetent or inconsistent to blow things up the way they want them blown up.

    • MHughes976
      August 6, 2017, 8:27 am

      Greenwald does seem to agree that McM is getting the islamophobia toned down. Whether this means anything good for the Palestinians I don’t know. Phil quotes some fuming Zionist rhetoric that suggests that McM sees things somewhat our way, but maybe we should treat this with some scepticism. Greenwald raises the question of a soft coup, and it does seem as if Trump has a kind of dependence on the support of these military men that he doesn’t experience with others – he couldn’t lightly get rid of them. Does this bear comparison with the Weimar kind of situation when a regime that has great difficulty in commanding confidence or even in being taken seriously is bolstered by generals in high office who quietly keep everyone informed of what the senior officer corps will and will not accept?

      • Citizen
        August 6, 2017, 12:23 pm

        Weimar generals were German, concerned with Germany, not the welfare of a foreign state like Israel.

      • genesto
        August 7, 2017, 12:30 pm

        Reports are that , for better or worse, Trump is more and more retreating from his duties as commander in chief and deferring to the military. If that’s the case, I agree that it’s unlikely that the Zionists will be able to convince Trump to remove McMaster.

  5. AddictionMyth
    August 5, 2017, 5:38 pm

    I must admit that the developments are vertiginous and I’m not sure what to make of them. Trump’s agenda was deeply islamophobic, and the goal was to provoke terror attacks to use as a pretext to install a police state, and purge the ‘incompetents’ and the leakers. This is why the ‘deep state’ revolted, and rightly so. (And I thank them!) So I think this bodes well for stability and mideast peace, but at the same time I wonder what’s up their sleeves. Because military guys are always strategerizing about something. Why did he go along with Trump on Syria, ceding it to Putin? This seems out of character for neocons. Anyway I like the giddy tone of this article. That Glick is quite a nasty piece of work and it’s preposterous to suggest that Trump ever supported Israel or wanted to go to the wall with Bibi.

    • Citizen
      August 6, 2017, 12:25 pm

      Lets see how Kelly handles the Kushners

      • Bandolero
        August 6, 2017, 8:48 pm


        I don’t expect anything special in the handling of Kushner. He follows orders and fights for the team or he’s out. I cannot see any middle ground on these requirements in a battle.

        Regarding the battle I’ld see it globally as the multipolar forces against the unipolar hegemony. The multipolar forces are led by the governments of China, Russia and Iran, their opponents include the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia, and behind them there line up various forces of state actors, non state actors and political forces inside states, with the political line of conflict inside states often transcendenting traditional political organisations like parties. The most violent theaters of this global struggle can be seen in Syria and Iraq, Yemen, Ukraine, Afghanistan and soon – I fear – in Venezuela, too.

        Inside the US, I see the surprising lines of the global struggle ran mainly between the military – commanded by the president – helped by Big Oil on the one side and money and media, or more specific, Wall Street and the Israel lobby including their stooges in Congress, on the other side. The US military seems to me – I follow especially Syria closely – since a couple of years quite helpful to the forces of the multipolar world. But also Afghanistan seems to be on a good way, since key to ending this war is getting Pakistan in line with the forces of the multipolar world.

        The begin of this specific struggle inside the US I would date to Democrat Obama’s unusual decision to make the Republican Chuck ‘I’m not an Israeli senator’ Hagel his SecDef. Since then there is quite continuity in this struggle in the US, with the main hollow difference being that the US Presidency is now colored red instead of blue as it was before. But the struggle of Presidency and military against Wall Street, Israel lobby and their Congress continues similar to what was before, and the helpful role of the US military at the side of the multipolar forces in the hot wars continue, just as it was under Obama. And even key figures didn’t change. Obama’s pick Brett McGurk continues to lead US forces in the war in Syria and Iraq and Obama’s pick General John Nicholson does it in Afghanistan, while these wars continue to go in the direction the multipolar forces prefer it.

      • punterweger
        August 7, 2017, 11:31 am

        For what it’s worth, main-stream-media report that the Kushners will no longer have direct access to the president. They will have to go through chief-of-staff Kelly. If true, that would reduce their status and influence.

  6. Elliot
    August 6, 2017, 8:14 pm

    I read Ezra Cohen-Watnick’s political affilliations and official positions. Is it fair to speculate on the emotional ties to Israel and formative experiences of someone whose Jewish parents gave him the name “Ezra”? The MSM would certainly be doing that to any official with an unequivocal Arab name – in the fantastical case of, say, a Mohammed Abu Youssef-Nashashibi ever rising to such prominence.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    August 7, 2017, 6:24 am

    RE: “Updated. Last night President Trump issued a statement affirming his support for National Security adviser H.R. McMaster in the face of a storm of criticism from rightwing outlets. The statement is a sign that Trump and his new chief of staff are taking the realist side of the debate inside his administration over foreign policy.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Let’s hope “Realism Springs Eternal”!

  8. Rashers2
    August 7, 2017, 9:37 am

    I hadn’t been aware of Gen. McMaster’s part-cleansing of the National Security stables of its more blatantly and disruptively Zionist tools-in-residence, so thanks to PW. On reading the e-mail “teaser” to the article penned pre- its update, “Supporters of Israel are upset by the personnel changes. The Israeli-American hothead Caroline Glick writes at her Facebook page that McMaster is “deeply hostile” to Israel as an occupying power.” my gut reaction was, “McMaster must be doing something right…”
    When steam shrieks from the ears and lower mouths of intemperate, irrational yet vocal Ziopaths-in-the MSM-eye such as Glick, it’s a fail-safe signal that the object of their venom has either spoken the truth or done something right.
    Btw, “…David Horowitz’s ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week’” – the chutzpah’s breathtaking! Imagine the dissonant, ear-splitting cacophony if anyone organised a ‘Zio-Fascism Awareness Week’…

  9. hophmi
    August 7, 2017, 10:13 am

    I enjoyed McMaster’s speech at AJC Global Forum this year. It was excellent. Whatever qualms he has about occupation, he’s certainly got warm feelings toward Israel and the Jewish people.

    • Mooser
      August 7, 2017, 1:55 pm

      ” Whatever qualms he has about occupation, he’s certainly got warm feelings toward Israel and the Jewish people.”

      Gee, silly me. I thought the whole deal with being Jewish in America was not being afraid of how American Generals feel toward “the Jewish people”. Or having to court their favor.

    • Misterioso
      August 7, 2017, 3:25 pm


      You live in a fantasy world. The U.S. military views Israel as a useless “ally.”

  10. James Canning
    August 7, 2017, 7:11 pm

    Caroline Glick claims not to be aware that Israel was carved out of Palestine, or out of the British Mandate for Palestine? Her assertion is rubbish.

  11. Elizabeth Block
    August 8, 2017, 12:06 pm

    Sometimes we forget that people who do bad things can also do good things.
    I’ve been rereading notes I made on Chalmers Johnson’s books. He recounts how, in the 1960s, people at the Pentagon formulated a plan for terrorist attacks in the United States, which they would then blame on the Cubans, providing an excuse to invade Cuba again. All the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on it. Robert McNamara quietly ignored it, and then forced the resignation of the head of the Joint Chiefs.

    BTW, this may account, in part, for the readiness of a lot of people to believe conspiracy theories – because Americans actually do things like that.

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