Pentagon: No major strategy review underway to defeat ISIS

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Pentagon Producer

Despite the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State, the Pentagon has not been asked by the White House to conduct a wholesale review of the strategy to defeat ISIS, multiple defense officials told Fox News. 

"Why would there be? It was one battle," one official said. A separate official said the Pentagon "continuously" reviews its strategy and said a major review was "not necessary." 

A senior military official confirmed that the Obama administration is looking into arming Sunni tribes to help retake Ramadi, taking a page from the "Anbar Awakening" when 30 tribes united in 2006 to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq with support from the U.S. military. 

But multiple defense officials said these arms would not go to the Sunni tribes directly. 

"I don't see that happening, everything goes through Baghdad," a defense official told Fox News.   

A White House statement released after President Obama met with his national security team Tuesday afternoon said support for "local tribal fighters" in Anbar was discussed. 

"The President reaffirmed the strong U.S. support for Prime Minister Al-Abadi's efforts," the statement said. 

A defense official in the Pentagon with knowledge of the talks at the White House Tuesday characterized the meeting as "tactical, not strategic."  

"The real question is what are the Iraqis going to do differently?" a senior military official told Fox News. 

Pentagon officials confirmed that one immediate result of ISIS' victory in Ramadi is a delay in the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. "That is going to take place in the fall, at the least," according to one official. 

In February, the U.S. Central Command announced that an operation involving some 25,000 Iraqi troops would take place in the April-May timeframe. 

At the White House daily press briefing Tuesday, spokesman Josh Earnest mentioned Tikrit six times as an example of the U.S.-led coalition's successes against ISIS. On Wednesday, a Pentagon official said that Tikrit, despite being rid of ISIS fighters, remains largely deserted with many unexploded booby-traps remaining. 

Meanwhile, many uniformed members of the U.S. military are furious about the loss of Ramadi to the Islamic State. 

"It turns out the JV team is the Iraqi Army, not ISIS," said a U.S. military officer, in reference to Obama's remark in January 2014 about ISIS being a "JV team." 

"I was there for the Anbar awakening, and to lose this city is heartbreaking, knowing all those soldiers, sailors and Marines who fought there and died in vain," said a veteran special operations soldier currently deployed at an undisclosed location. 

"If our country wants to be led by sheep instead of lions, then so be it," he said.

IRAN: A few key points

From Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen

First, this is not a deal; it is the outline of a deal, and the technical experts for the seven countries (P5+1 and Iran) now have until June 30 to try to hammer out the fine print. As President Obama said in the Rose Garden: “our work is not yet done.  The deal has not been signed.”

Second, the reduction in the number of installed centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, is significant – a reduction of roughly two-thirds – but we should remember that that was roughly the number of centrifuges Iran had installed when Barack Obama became president in 2009. As we have shown, roughly 75 percent of the centrifuges Iran has installed were installed on the Obama-Biden watch.

Also, earlier this week, Dr. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the IAEA – one of the most respected arms control officials of his generation – told reporters that an agreement that enables roughly 6,500 centrifuges to remain in place would not have the effect of lengthening Iran’s “breakout time” (the length of time it would take Tehran to build a bomb if the regime abruptly nullified an agreement and made a mad dash for a weapons capability) from the current estimate of 60-90 days to one year, as the Obama administration claims the agreement does. Heinonen said on March 31: “[I]f there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation, it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below [that]. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image: Are there some unknown nuclear materials? Are there some unknown centrifuges?”

Next: The fact sheet released by the State Department in Lausanne provides details of how IAEA inspections would work, including the ability of U.N. nuclear inspectors to have “regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities”; “continuous surveillance” of centrifuge rotors; and access to any sites deemed “suspicious” for whatever reason. But the provisions outlined do not appear to include snap inspections.

As part of the transparency provisions, Iran will “implement an agreed upon set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possible military dimension (PMD) of its program.” The problem there is that the JPOA, the framework under which these negotiations have unfolded for the last sixteen months, provided that Iran was already supposed to do that – come clean to the IAEA about Tehran’s research a decade ago, into warhead design and re-entry vehicles. And that never happened. The IAEA certified that while Iran complied over the course of the negotiations, and still is, with its obligations to enrich only to certain levels, to dilute higher-enriched stockpiles down, etc., the IAEA has also certified that Iran has stonewalled on the PMD. President Obama in the Rose Garden papered over that: “Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed” was all he said.

Finally, we refer to the president’s comments before the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in December 2013, when these negotiations were just getting underway. He said then: “[W]e know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.” The abandonment of those positions shows how far the U.S. dialed back its negotiation posture over the course of the talks.

Loophole Provides Tax Refunds for Illegal Immigrants

By Katy Ricalde

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen confirmed Tuesday that illegal immigrants granted deportation amnesty are entitled to collect additional tax refunds under President Obama’s plan for executive action on immigration.

President Obama announced the plan on November 20, 2014 where he addressed the fact that illegals passing background checks and paying taxes could remain in the United States:

“If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.”

The refunds will come from an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)  and will be retroactive, based on money earned while working illegally from as far back as 2011. This only applies to individuals who previously  registered for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and hold a valid Social Security number, but could still add up to billions of dollars in payments they were ineligible for prior to amnesty.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a government grant intended to help working families earning a low to moderate income. It reduces the amount of tax owed and may also provide a refund. There is a long list of qualifications, but all individuals must file a tax return with the IRS, regardless of whether or not they owe taxes or are not required to file.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) demanded a solution to the loophole: “The IRS’s interpretation of the EITC eligibility requirements undermines congressional policy for not rewarding those working illegally in the United States.”

Because the IRS wants to be paid taxes based on earnings of illegal immigrants who do work in the United States they have issued millions of ITIN numbers—those that qualify through the loophole have paid taxes, but there is a long standing debate over whether illegal immigrants should be eligible for benefits at all.

According to the Obama administration, as many as 4 million illegal immigrants could earn “deferred action.” It is unclear how many of those could be eligible for the EITC.

Illegal immigrants are also entitled to additional refunds under the Child Tax Credit—according to the IRS, the law is vague over who is eligible, so for now illegal immigrants also qualify.

What do you think? Is this fair?

Baier Tracks: A view from the ground in Iraq

Largely overlooked in the back and forth about what is being said and done (and not done) on the strategy for dealing with ISIS are the thoughts of the U.S. troops being deployed to Iraq.  Rarely do we get a glimpse into their thoughts, but I received an email from a friend – a special operator who is in contact with his fellow soldiers who have been deployed to Iraq – that provides some insight. My friend said it would okay to pass along what he’s hearing anonymously:  ‘I'm getting notes from the guys over in these operations centers in Iraq. Frustration and confusion reign.  Their commander in chief has deployed them back into harm’s way with a defensive mission to only defend US facilities against ISIS, that it's not a US problem to solve, and the Iraqis must get their act together politically.   Now today he says we are going to destroy and degrade ISIS, and in the same sentence that we are going to only manage them.  Then we have our Vice President in a Howard Dean moment.   My favorite quote of the day from an operator downrange ‘Chase them to the Gates of Hell?   How the F$&k are we going to do that when we can't even leave the front gate of our base!?’”

Interesting perspective from someone redeployed to Iraq.

Lynn University Debate Photos!



American Crossroads: New Ad Featuring Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is back in the 2012 spotlight-- and this time he left the chair at home and brought a script with him for a new commercial from super PAC American Crossroads.


The actor might be remembered best this political season for his odd monologue at the Republican National Convention in August-- it left many puzzled.


According to the New York Times, the ad will start running Wednesday in seven states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.


What do you think?

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