Trump’s new NSA McMaster: A pragmatist, wary of Russia and Iran

President Donald Trump, right, listens to Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. (AP)
Updated 21 February 2017

Trump’s new NSA McMaster: A pragmatist, wary of Russia and Iran

WASHINGTON: If ousted former national security adviser (NSA) Gen. Michael Flynn was Russia’s point of contact in the Donald Trump White House — receiving, a week before he resigned, an outside proposal to lift sanctions on Moscow — then he will likely be missed by the Kremlin as his replacement Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who has fundamentally different views on the issue, takes office.
Unlike Flynn, McMaster, 54, is cautious in reading Russian behavior across Europe and the Middle East. He is also wary of the Iranian role in the region, but does not view it in ideological terms like his predecessor. McMaster is known in military circles for his strategic and critical thinking. He is a believer in smart US counterinsurgency tactics which could be visible in a more aggressive strategy against Daesh.

Respected US army intellectual
In announcing the appointment of McMaster, US President Donald Trump touted that “he is highly respected by everyone in the military and we’re very honored to have him.”
Within the military, McMaster “is one of the few Generals alive who is as highly regarded as (Defense Secretary Gen. James) Mattis,” said Tobias Schneider, a defense analyst based in Washington, DC.
McMaster fought in the first Gulf War, and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Across his career, he is known for his critical thinking, questioning the performance of the US military leadership during the Vietnam War, and later scrutinizing the post-war planning by former President George W. Bush in Iraq.
His book “Dereliction of Duty” is “an impressive study about the failure of civil-military relations during the Vietnam War and an absolute mainstay for everybody involved in security policy,” Schneider told Arab News. His questioning of the military in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars gives the impression that he would challenge Trump as well. Schneider described the core argument in his book as “how military experts and national security advisers failed to adequately advise and challenge the president and his team.”
Politically, McMaster is the anti-Flynn in his approach and strategic thinking. He is known to get along and work as a team player, unlike Flynn who was known for being confrontational and was fired from both the Defense Intelligence Agency (2014) and the White House (2017). The team player attributes could help McMaster immensely in a White House reportedly marred by divisions between Trump aides Steven Bannon and Reince Priebus.
In contrast to Flynn, who advocated closer relations with Russia, Schneider sees McMaster as someone who is “conscious of Russia’s threat”. “He is very much aware of Russian machinations in Ukraine (where he spent some time) when he was tasked to develop a counter strategy to Russian ground forces in Eastern Europe,” the expert said. 
Writing in the Wall Street Journal last March, McMaster pointed to “isolated Russian, Chinese and Iranian actions” becoming “part of a geopolitical realignment that cuts against US interests.” He cautioned that “US rivals from Europe through the greater Middle East to East Asia are on the move, annexing territory, intimidating allies, and using proxy armies and unconventional forces to challenge the post-World War II political order.”
McMaster saw in Russia’s, China’s and Iran’s actions a test to “America’s willingness to defend its interests and its allies.” He cited “Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, and Iran’s support for terrorist groups and militias across the Middle East” as key examples.
These views set him apart from Flynn’s outlook on Russia as a potential ally against Daesh, and from Trump’s opinions calling the invasion of Ukraine “so smart”. It puts him, however, closer to Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence in countering Russia’s behavior and supporting NATO. On Iran, McMaster is expected to be more strategic in how he addresses its threat, bringing focus back on Iraq, Syria and Yemen in attempting to push back its proxies.
While McMaster was not Trump’s favorite to take the job — which was offered after both Admiral Robert Harward and Gen. David Petraeus declined or “showed no interest” in taking the position — he is seen as less controversial than former ambassador John Bolton, also a former candidate for the role.
McMaster’s appointment marks a departure from Flynn’s short-lived, controversial and rocky tenure at the National Security Council. It is too early to tell, however, if the new General will enjoy enough influence and leverage within the White House to turn the page on the internal divides, the operational dysfunctions and Flynn’s ideological outlook.


China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

Updated 58 min 50 sec ago

China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

  • Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic

BEJING: Chinese health officials Monday urged patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill.
Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic, which has which killed 1,770 people and infected over 70,500 people across China.
Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from China’s National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.
“I would like to make a call to all cured patients to donate their plasma so that they can bring hope to critically ill patients,” said Guo Yanhong, who heads the NHC’s medical administration department.
Eleven patients at a hospital in Wuhan — the epicenter of the disease — received plasma infusions last week, said Sun Yanrong, of the Biological Center at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
“One patient (among them) has already been discharged, one is able to get off the bed and walk and the others are all recovering,” she said.
The call comes days after China’s state-owned medical products maker reported successful results from its trial at Wuhan First People’s Hospital.
China National Biotec Group Co. said in a post on its official WeChat account that severely ill patients receiving plasma infusions “improved within 24 hours.”
“Clinical studies have shown that infusing plasma (from recovered patients) is safe and effective,” Sun said.
Blood doners will undergo a test to ensure that they are not carrying the virus, said Wang Guiqiang, chief physician at Peking University First Hospital.
“Only plasma is taken, not all the blood,” he said.
“Other components of the blood including red blood cells and platelets will be infused back into the donors.”