The White House was fully briefed on the potential security fallout from officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing plans to move the U.S. embassy there.
The outgoing director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, said while intelligence officials offered no advice as to whether the move would help achieve U.S. policy goals, President Donald Trump was informed of the national security ramifications.
“Our role is limited to spelling out with as much precision and care as possible our assessments of what particular courses of action will lead to in terms of threats,” Rasmussen said Friday during an appearance at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“I can certainly say in the case of this particular policy decision [on Jerusalem], that was done,” he added.
Protests across Arab, Muslim world
Protests have broken out across parts of the Arab and Muslim world, from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, in response to Trump’s announcement Wednesday.
Violence also erupted in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinians declared a day of rage Friday.
Militants in Gaza fired a series of rockets at Israeli towns. Israeli military officials responded with a series of airstrikes that reportedly wounded 25 people.
A Palestinian man was also killed by Israeli forces during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border.
Response from terror groups
Terrorist groups have also been quick to respond to Washington’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Al-Qaida’s Al-Sahab Media Foundation on Thursday called the move an act of “blatant aggression … against the sanctities of Muslims — a high-voltage shock,” and called on Muslims to target U.S. vital interests.
“Just as you kill us, you shall be killed; just as you bomb us, you, too, shall be bombed,” the statement said according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
The Islamic State also called for supporters to help “liberate” Jerusalem by waging jihad, against Israel and the West, in it’s weekly, digital Al Naba newspaper, SITE said.
State Department issues caution
Following Wednesday’s announcement on Jerusalem, the State Department issued a “worldwide caution,” saying, “U.S. government facilities worldwide remain in a heightened state of alert.”
“There’s no doubt but that in the short term, the near term there will be an increase in violence and we are at greater risk in certain places around the world,” Rasmussen, of the counterterrorism center, said Friday.
“Certainly, from a diplomatic security perspective, our men and women serving in difficult spots overseas, this will add to the security problem and add to the security complexity,” he said. “I can’t tell you how long that will extend.”
Still, at least some former U.S. officials said the Trump administration can help ease raw emotions gripping parts of the Middle East by reaching out to Palestinian and Arab officials.
“Say, publicly, we’re not prejudging the negotiations and we respect and understand that the Palestinians and the Arabs have claims and needs and rights in Jerusalem that have to be addressed,” former U.S. Ambassador and Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said.
“The more that can be emphasized the better it will be for trying to create a different atmosphere,” Ross said.