Apr 30, 2007

"The Alberto Gonzales of the Intelligence Community"

In a letter written Saturday to former CIA Director George Tenet, six former CIA officers described their former boss as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership."

The writers said Tenet has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush.

They also called on him to give more than half the royalties he gets from book, "At the Center of the Storm," to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead.

The letter, signed by Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, Vince Cannistraro and David MacMichael, said Tenet should have resigned in protest rather than take part in the administration's buildup to the war. ...

The writers said they agree that Bush administration officials took the nation to war "for flimsy reasons," and that it has proved "ill-advised and wrong-headed."

But, they added, "your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership.

"You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."

Full text of letter.

Apr 28, 2007

Iranian Activists Tarred By Allegations of U.S. Funding

The administration wants so badly to convince themselves and others that they are "doing something about Iran", that they are (presumably) unwittingly endangering the very people who might be expected to be the most sympathetic to the United States.

The Bush administration's $75 million program to promote democracy in Iran has undermined the kind of organizations and activists it was designed to help, with U.S. aid becoming a top issue in a broader crackdown on leading democracy advocates over the past year, according to a wide range of Iranian activists and human rights groups.

Since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled the program more than a year ago, a wide array of activists -- teachers, women's rights campaigners, labor organizers, students, journalists and intellectuals -- have faced interrogations, detentions, imprisonment and passport confiscation over suspected links to the new U.S. funding, activists and human rights groups say. Iranian officials have charged that Washington is supporting the kind of soft revolution that transformed Eastern Europe.

"Dozens of Iranian activists are paying a price since the announcement of the $75 million, and practically everyone who has been detained over the past year has been interrogated about receiving this money," said Hadi Ghaemi, Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch. "They are obsessed with the perception that the U.S. is fueling a velvet revolution through this money." ...

The money is a persistent focus during interrogations, say Iranians who have been questioned or detained. "If you look at the crackdown on non-government organizations and human rights defenders over the past six months, one common facet is that they were all suspected of receiving foreign funds," said Zahir Janmohamed, Amnesty International USA's advocacy director for the Middle East. "It's not just the funding but the rhetoric around the funding about 'regime change' and the 'axis of evil.' " ...

The majority of the U.S. money pays for Persian-language Radio Farda and Voice of America broadcasts into Iran, an interactive Web site, cultural exchanges and conferences, and support for international organizations advocating human rights in Iran, said R. Nicholas Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. The program, which is expected to increase to more than $100 million in fiscal 2008, marked a major increase in funding from earlier years.

Apr 27, 2007

A Failure in Generalship

For an active-duty Army officer to publicly blast the brass requires some serious integrity. And a good grasp of his subject matter.

In an article published today in Armed Forces Journal entitled A Failure in Generalship, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling takes issue with how the generals have conducted the war on the ground in Iraq:

In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.


After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." Population security is the most important measure of effectiveness in counterinsurgency. For more than three years, America's generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America's generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation's deployable land power to a single theater of operations.
(emphasis added)

Apr 26, 2007

"Making Martial Law Easier"

How many pipe bombs might it take to end American democracy? Far fewer than it would have taken a year ago.

The Defense Authorization Act of 2006, passed on Sept. 30, empowers President George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist "incident," if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of "public order," or even in response to antiwar protests that get unruly as a result of government provocations.

The media and most of Capitol Hill ignored or cheered on this grant of nearly boundless power. But now that the president's arsenal of authority is swollen and consecrated, a few voices of complaint are being heard. Even the New York Times recently condemned the new law for "making martial law easier."

It only took a few paragraphs in a $500 billion, 591-page bill to raze one of the most important limits on federal power. Congress passed the Insurrection Act in 1807 to severely restrict the president's ability to deploy the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 tightened these restrictions, imposing a two-year prison sentence on anyone who used the military within the U.S. without the express permission of Congress. But there is a loophole: Posse Comitatus is waived if the president invokes the Insurrection Act.

Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from "Insurrection Act" to "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act." The Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only "to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy." The new law expands the list to include "natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition" -- and such "condition" is not defined or limited.

These new pretexts are even more expansive than they appear. FEMA proclaims the equivalent of a natural disaster when bad snowstorms occur, and Congress routinely proclaims a natural disaster (and awards more farm subsidies) when there is a shortfall of rain in states with upcoming elections. A terrorist "incident" could be something as stupid as the flashing toys scattered around Boston last fall.

The new law also empowers the president to commandeer the National Guard of one state to send to another state for up to 365 days. Bush could send the Alabama National Guard to suppress antiwar protests in Boston. Or the next president could send the New York National Guard to disarm the residents of Mississippi if they resisted a federal law that prohibited private ownership of semiautomatic weapons. Governors' control of the National Guard can be trumped with a simple presidential declaration.

The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington. Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the administration clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.

Apr 25, 2007

Baathist Power Struggle

Just now -- when trying to persuade the Shiite leadership of Iraq to reverse Bremer's lunatic 2003 De-Baathification scheme has become an important part of nearly everyone's plan to improve things over there -- the Baathists seem to be having a bit of internecine contretemps.

Iraq's Baath Party, once the machine of Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule and now a key player in the country's civil war, has been divided by an internal power struggle pitting one of Hussein's top aides against a former general, U.S. and Iraqi government officials say.

U.S. military and intelligence officials are still debating whether to welcome the power struggle or fear it. But they agree the outcome could strongly influence the course of the Sunni-led insurgency against Iraq's U.S.-backed government.

On one side of the power struggle is Izzat Ibrahim, the highest-ranking member of Hussein's inner circle to evade capture. The king of clubs in the Bush administration's "deck of cards" that depicted the most wanted members of Hussein's regime, Ibrahim was Hussein's chief deputy and has been viewed as a ringleader in the insurgency.

The forces apparently seeking to oust Ibrahim from his leadership of the Baath movement are led by a former general in Hussein's army, Mohammed Yunis Ahmad.

U.S. officials learned of the infighting after a meeting in the northwestern Syrian town of Halab that military and intelligence officials believe involved Baath Party leaders.

The meeting in January, shortly after Hussein's hanging, led to an apparent split in the movement. Some U.S. commanders in Iraq believe that was a welcome development. They see Ibrahim and his followers as intransigent elements of the Hussein regime who are trying to regain control of Iraq. The American commanders hope that Yunis' faction is more willing to seek peace with the country's U.S.-backed government.

Others, including U.S. intelligence officials and some Iraqi officials, are more wary, viewing the internal battle as an attempt to put a new face on a Baath movement that remains a threat.

Apr 24, 2007

Boondoggle Maybe?

President Bush, with his little war in Iraq, has outspent President Lyndon Johnson with his big war in Vietnam during comparative five-year periods, according to the Pentagon's own recently released figures.

The Pentagon's chief bean counter, the comptroller, sets forth figures documenting this in his "National Defense Estimates for FY 2008." The impartial numbers show that Johnson spent $2.1 trillion in fiscal 2008 dollars on the American military from fiscal 1964 through fiscal 1968 when both the Vietnam and Cold wars were raging. He put more than 500,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam from an active duty force of 3.5 million men and women, many of them low-cost draftees.

Bush spent $2.5 trillion in the same fiscal 2008 dollars on military activities from fiscal 2003 through fiscal 2007, even though his expeditionary force in Iraq was only about one-fourth as big as Johnson's -- some 140,000 troopers -- and the Cold War was long gone.

Also, Bush was paying a much smaller active duty force, numbering about 1.4 million in fiscal 2007, during that five-year period.

The stories behind those figures, which the comptroller did not go into in his 217-page report, are that the price of paying, equipping and caring for soldiers has gone way up since the days of Johnson's draftee military; that neither Congress nor Bush has had the will to cancel super weapons, including several designed for a Cold War that no longer exists, and that American taxpayers who just sent in their income tax checks are paying more and getting less for their money because of the Pentagon's failure to hold down the costs of new weapons.

Apr 23, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterbacking Over China Anti-Satellite Test

China has been the one pushing for a ban on space weapons. Maybe they needed to prove that they have a good bargaining chip.

After a Chinese interceptor smashed into a target satellite in January, Bush administration officials criticized the test as a destabilizing development.

It was the first successful demonstration of an antisatellite missile by any country in more than 20 years. Pentagon officials warned that the test had increased the threat to American satellites. Space experts fretted that it had spawned a cloud of orbiting debris. American diplomats complained to their counterparts in Beijing.

What administration officials did not say is that as the Chinese were preparing to launch their antisatellite weapon, American intelligence agencies had issued reports about the preparations being made at the Songlin test facility. In high-level discussions, senior Bush administration officials debated how to respond and even began to draft a protest, but ultimately decided to say nothing to Beijing until after the test.

Three months after the Chinese launching, a new debate has developed as to whether the administration properly handled the episode or missed an opportunity to discourage the Chinese from crossing a new military threshold.

The events show that the administration felt constrained in its dealings with China because of its view that it had little leverage to stop an important Chinese military program, and because it did not want to let Beijing know how much the United States knew about its space launching activities.

Apr 21, 2007

"Information-Lockdown Mode"

Within hours of Pat Tillman's death, the Army went into information - lockdown mode, cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman's uniform.

New Army investigative documents reviewed by The Associated Press describe how the military sealed off information about Tillman's death from all but a small ring of soldiers. Officers quietly passed their suspicion of friendly fire up the chain to the highest ranks of the military, but the truth did not reach Tillman's family for five weeks.

The clampdown, and the misinformation issued by the military, lie at the heart of a burgeoning congressional investigation.

"We want to find out how this happened," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House oversight committee, which has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday. "Was it the result of incompetence, miscommunication or a deliberate strategy?" ...

Inside Forward Operating Base Salerno, near Khowst, Afghanistan, a soldier heard the dreaded call come across the radio: "KIAs." There were two killed in action, one allied Afghan fighter and one Army Ranger, identified only by his code name.

The soldier checked a roster and discovered the fallen American was Tillman. He rounded up four others and broke the news but withheld Tillman's name.

Had this soldier wanted to share the news outside the tactical operations center, it would have been difficult. "The phones and Internet had been cut off, to prevent anyone from talking about the incident," he told investigators.

Apr 20, 2007

AIPAC Case Hinges On Access To Classified Info

We have been looking at this case here since early last year. See inter alia Are You An Anti-Lobbyite? and Rogue's Regiment.

As expected, now that the case has made it to court, the greymail card is being played, with access to classified information for use in the defense of the accused being of paramount importance.

The Justice Department yesterday was given until May 2 to determine how it wants to proceed in the controversial prosecution of two former pro-Israel lobbyists charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act after the federal judge in the case turned down prosecutors' attempt to close from public scrutiny a substantial portion of the trial in order to protect classified information. ...

The government has charged Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), with conspiring to obtain national defense information from U.S. officials and pass it on to the media and Israeli officials. They are the first U.S. citizens not employed by the government to be charged under the 89-year-old law for allegedly receiving and transmitting such information orally, rather than through classified documents.

(U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III) ruled unconstitutional the government's proposed plan that during the trial, scheduled to begin June 4, the jury would be permitted to see classified information central to the case but lawyers and witnesses could use only coded references in open court.

Ellis said the proposed procedure would be confusing to the jury and harmful to the defense. ...

The government's proposed procedures for handling classified information at trial "would make it virtually impossible to cross-examine on why the putative national defense information, if disclosed, would be damaging to the national security," Ellis said Monday. He also said the government's plan to show the information to jurors, who were not cleared for it, and ask them to keep it secret indicated that the information "is not so deserving of rigorous protection."

Under methods established by the Classified Information Procedures Act, the government and the defense normally agree on summary language when classified information is key to a case. If they do not and a judge rules that the information is necessary to the defense, specific charges can be dropped or the government can drop the prosecution rather than expose the information.

The former lobbyists have said they were receiving and passing on the information under their First Amendment rights -- no differently than journalists or researchers specializing in national security.

Apr 19, 2007

"Al Jazeera Memo" Trial Begins

This claim made news when it was revealed in November 2005. But probably surprised few people.

Bush's locker room caliber repartee with selected foreign leaders has been long rumored, and was displayed for the world during an incident last year in St. Petersburg, Russia when -- with a mouthful of buttered dinner roll -- Bush addressed Blair thus: "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

The open microphone SNAFU in Russia lends credence to the idea that Bush, in mentioning to Blair how hilarious it would be if Al Jazeera's HQ in Oatar were to be struck by U.S. warplanes, was merely putting on his swaggering tough-guy impersonation.

But maybe not.

A British government official and a former political researcher went on trial Wednesday for allegedly leaking a classified memo in which President Bush reportedly referred to bombing the Arab television station Al-Jazeera.

David Keogh, 50, a cipher expert, and Leo O'Connor, 44, a lawmaker's aide, are accused of violating secrecy laws by disclosing a document relating to 2004 talks between Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both defendants deny violating the Official Secrets Act.

Prosecutors allege Keogh passed the memo to O'Connor in May 2004, who in turn placed it in a file he handed to his boss, Tony Clarke, then a legislator who had voted against Britain's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Daily Mirror newspaper previously reported that the memo noted Blair had argued against Bush's suggestion of bombing Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Of course, the British security establishment is taking the leak seriously. Perhaps too seriously, as indicated by this rhetoric:

The unauthorised disclosure by a trusted civil servant of a secret document detailing a meeting in 2004 between Tony Blair and President Bush about Iraq may have damaged the Armed Forces seriously and even led to loss of life, an Old Bailey trial was told yesterday.

The document, marked "secret, personal" and circulated to top officials in Whitehall and to MI6, was copied by David Keogh, 50, a vetted telecommunications and cipher officer at a Cabinet Office centre that received classified documents from British embassies.

David Perry, QC, for the prosecution at the trial of Mr Keogh and Leo O'Connor, a political researcher for a Labour MP who was allegedly handed a copy of the document, said that the two men were charged under the Official Secrets Act not because disclosure of the meeting was politically embarrassing but because it could have damaged Britain’s defence interests and harmed relations with the US.

"Diplomacy is a delicate and sensitive art and it can’t properly be carried out in our interests if what one government says to another cannot be kept secret or confidential," Mr Perry said. "We live in a democratic society, not the Wild West. It is not for people to decide they are going to be the sheriff in town."

He added that in this case the unauthorised disclosure of information was "likely to prejudice the capability of the Armed Forces either to carry out any tasks it has or lead to loss of life or injury."

The contents of the secret document were revealed to the jury only after members of the press and public were cleared from the court. Both defendants are charged under the Official Secrets Act 1989.

When a government has to bullshit up an allegation -- especially a security-related allegation -- it is usually a clear signal that there is a flimsy underlying case.

Apr 18, 2007

Iran Now Arming Taliban, U.S. Says

Iran is known to have provided assistance to the effort to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11. The Taliban had previously executed Iranian diplomats and were enemies of Iran.

Now we are saying that Iran is arming the resurgent Taliban.


A shipment of Iranian-made weapons bound for the Taliban was recently captured by allied forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top officer said Tuesday.

It was the first time that a senior American official had asserted that Iranian-made weapons were being supplied to the Taliban. But Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was not clear if the Iranian government had authorized the shipment.

"We have intercepted weapons in Afghanistan headed for the Taliban that were made in Iran," General Pace told reporters. "It's not as clear in Afghanistan which Iranian entity is responsible."

The shipment involved mortars and plastic explosives and was seized within the past month near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Markings on the plastic explosive material indicated that it was produced in Iran, General Pace said.

Apr 17, 2007

Everybody Likes Arabs

Al-Jazeera's English language television has in its six-month existence gained strong viewership across Europe, in parts of Asia, Australia -- and even Israel, according to executives and local companies that carry it.

But no major cable or satellite provider in the U.S. is carrying the channel, a decision the network blames on political pressure. U.S. carriers, however, say there is simply no market.

Nearly 100 million households worldwide receive Al-Jazeera's English service, almost half as many as CNN, station executives say. Since January, it has been broadcasting news to 550,000 Israeli homes on Yes TV, the country's largest cable provider.

"It's extraordinary that while the rest of the world is happy to watch us ... the U.S. stands in splendid isolation," said Al-Jazeera English managing director Nigel Parsons at the station's headquarters in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

Station executives said they expected a dogged battle for American airwaves because Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel has been excoriated by the Bush administration as a mouthpiece for terrorists, including al Qaida's Osama bin Laden.

Still, No. 1 U.S. cable provider Comcast Corp. ,was ready to carry Al-Jazeera English's November debut in the Detroit area, Al-Jazeera executives said.

But Comcast suddenly pulled out just before launch, Parsons said. He and Wadah Khanfar, managing director of Al-Jazeera Arabic, believed the decision was spurred by U.S. political opposition.

"We suspect there was outside pressure, including of a political nature," Parsons said. But he noted he had no evidence of such pressure, and did not know whether pressure came from the U.S. government, elected officials or lobby groups.

Apr 16, 2007

Max To Boot

Found some rather recent blitherings and gabblings about info ops from the lips of Max Boot over at World Affairs Board. Voilà les excerpts:

I’ve been traveling around Iraq for more than a week, spending time with U.S. forces. One constant is complaints about the news media. “Why doesn’t the press show the good we’re doing?,” soldiers ask. They wonder why the coverage seems so slanted.

Part of the answer is that the soldiers’ tactical successes may not be adding up to strategic success.

General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, wants to engage more actively in what are known as “information operations,” and he’s off to a good start. He is, for instance, taking reporters with him on tours of the battlefield. On Saturday he had a correspondent from the San Antonio newspaper along when he traveled to Baqubah. (I also accompanied him, as did Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute.) But to be successful, Petraeus will have to get more officers to follow his example.

Some officers I met with earlier this week at Task Force Justice in the Khadimiya neighborhood of northwest Baghdad offered useful suggestions for what should be done: (1) require all battalions to set up a secure, comfortable room where reporters can stay and file stories; (2) contact media organizations to invite them to send embeds; (3) distribute lists of media contacts down to battalion and even company level and encourage officers to contact the press directly, bypassing the ponderous public-affairs bureaucracy; (4) grade battalion, brigade, and division commanders on how well they engage the press.

What the armed forces have to realize is that in today’s world engaging in information ops can no longer be a peripheral part of a military campaign. In a sense, the kinetic operations have come to be peripheral to the core struggle for hearts and minds in Iraq—and back home. If the armed forces don’t do a better job of waging this part of the struggle, they can lose the war, no matter what happens on the battlefield.

Apr 13, 2007

New CSIS Report: "Iraq's Troubled Future: The Uncertain Way Ahead"

Tony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has issued a new report on the outlook for the war in Iraq, Iraq's Troubled Future: The Uncertain Way Ahead (22 page PDF)

Some highlights:

The United States faces extremely uncertain prospects in Iraq. It is more than possible that a failed President and a failed administration will preside over a failed war for the second time since Vietnam. Security is only one part of the story and even security in Baghdad is uncertain. ...

As General Petraeus and other US commanders have repeatedly said, securing Baghdad and its surroundings is only meaningful if the Iraqi government and Iraq's factions can work out arrangements for political conciliation or some form of peaceful coexistence. Local security at best buys time and opportunity to find a viable set of political compromises, and Iraq's complex mix of conflicts are national, not local.

Whether one calls the approach "ink spots" or "oil stains," we already have four examples of military action without a viable political solution. We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel in Saigon, Beirut, and Mogadishu; and it turned out to be on oncoming train. A security first strategy is unworkable, particularly one that is local rather than national. The ideological, political, and economic battles do not have to all be won at the same time, but they must be fought simultaneously, and winning the political battle to the point where some form of stable conciliation and coexistence are possible is the strategic center of gravity. The battle for Baghdad is only a tactic.

Like it or not, the US not only has an enduring strategic interest in Iraq and the Gulf, it has a moral and ethnical obligation to some 27 million Iraqis. The US invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons, and then proceeded to "transform" it in ways that have done immense damage to the Iraqi people. As has been all too clear from the start, anger at Saddam Hussein's regime does not translate into support for a US-led invasion and the US has won little Arab Shi'ite or Arab Sunni admiration for its actions since the war. ...

In fact, if the US is to have any degree of success in Iraq and in any similar struggles in failed or broken states, it must take a hard look at how its efforts in civil-military affairs have interacted with Iraqi civil-military developments:

• The US invaded Iraq without a valid understanding of the Iraqi government, economy, and sectarian and ethnic differences. It did not have plans, staff, or aid money to deal with the situation; and did not have the force strength to provide security.

• When the US rushed to try to correct this situation, it did so with deep ideological prejudices and lacked the core competence to do so. It focused on US goals in political and economic reform. It focused on national elections and paper constitutions, rather than effective governance, and on rushed efforts to define a massive long-term aid program to "reconstruct" Iraq in American terms. It failed to recruit, deploy, and retain competent civilians, and plunged into a badly coordinated interagency nightmare.

• It took the US until early 2004 to realize that creating effective Iraqi security forces was a critical element of stability, until late 2004 for major resources to flow, until 2005 to realize that the army needed massive numbers of embeds and partner units and that the State Department could not staff the necessary kind of police training effort. It could not actually implement its "year of the police" in 2006, and had to rush half-formed Iraqi Army units into combat and local security missions they were often not ready to perform.

• The US military has had to transform its transformation to focus on counterinsurgency, stability operations, and nation building. Its military have been pushed into a wide range of new training and civil military roles. It still is badly short of experts and fully qualified translators (where it may still have less than 25% of its needs). At the same time, the military has been forced to use its personnel to make up for the grave shortfalls in US government civilian experts and the lack of cooperation from some civilian agencies.

• The US has just appointed an "aid coordinator" in Iraq that may have the strength to bring order to a chaotic mess. Its PRT effort is understaffed and underqualified, it still has poor security arrangements for its aid personnel, and only now is beginning to understand the full limits of Iraq’s oil "wealth," the depth of the structural problems in Iraq's economy, and the need to "reconstruct" in ways that take account of the need for money to flow to Iraqis, rather than foreign contractors; focus on Iraq's state industries, and examine the deep structural problems in Iraq's oil and agricultural sectors.

• As General Abizaid, General Casey, and General Petraeus have all pointed out at different times, tactical victories and military efforts are pointless without political success. The US supported a form of deBaathification almost designed to alienate the Sunnis, and removed much of the nation's secular core from power. The US insistence on national elections in a country without political parties, however, has left a legacy of government divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. The US pressure for a new constitution helped make "federalism" a key issue, and leave more than 50 fault lines in Iraq's government to still be clarified. Political conciliation has been far more cosmetic than real, adding Arab Sunni versus Arab Shi'ite, Shi'ite on Shi'ite, and Arab on Kurd tension and violence to the threat posed by hard core Sunni Neo-Salafi led insurgency.

• The "surge" strategy in Baghdad is the third version in 18 months of what is really a tactical effort to bring local security to the capital city. If it succeeds, it will probably be because the Shi'ite militias stand down, and the US effectively helps a Shi'ite dominated government "win." If it fails, it will probably be because US military friction with the Shi'ite militias becomes violent. It is not clear what the US strategy is if the US does win in Baghdad, or how this will deal with the broader Iraqi civil-military struggle involving Arab Sunni versus Arab Shi'ite, Shi'ite on Shi'ite, and Arab on Kurd. Capitalizing an US success almost certainly would require at least five more years of major US civil-military advisory and aid efforts in Iraq and it is far from clear that the US Congress will give either the current or next President the necessary time and resources.

• As was the case in Vietnam, the US has crippled its own efforts with poorly planned and executed programs that attempt to rush success and which lack adequate regard for local values. It has created reporting systems design to report success, not real progress or the lack of it, for its Iraqi force development and political and economic aid efforts. This reporting has slowly improved in some areas under the pressure of events, but much of the US reporting on Iraqi force development and economic aid efforts still lacks meaning and credibility. This includes basic data like Iraqi force manpower, unit readiness, aid efforts relative to requirements, and reporting on aid based on meaningful measures of effectiveness.


If the US is to influence the situation as effectively as possible, it must reinforce its existing policies with a new degree of realism and with the understanding that Iraqi civil conflicts, and anger against the US and its allies, must be dealt with far more honesty and integrity than the US government has shown to date. It also must prepare for years of continued effort, not a quick withdrawal. The civil-military elements of the long war are going to play out in 10-15 year periods, not according to the classic American plan: "simple, quick, and wrong."

Apr 12, 2007

Iran Now Arming Sunni Insurgents Says U.S.

The goal of this U.S. military information operation is to foster suspicion on the part of the Shiites towards their Iranian patrons.

The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq asserted Wednesday that Iranian-made arms, manufactured as recently as last year, have reached Sunni insurgents here, which if true would mark a new development in the four-year-old conflict.

Citing testimony from detainees in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Iranian intelligence operatives were backing the Sunni militants inside Iraq while at the same time training Shiite extremists in Iran. ...

It was unclear what motivation Iran, a Shiite theocracy, would have for backing Sunni insurgents, many of whom are staunchly anti-Iranian and fear the rise of Shiite power in the region. Critics have dismissed the U.S. assertions, saying that evidence provided so far gives no solid proof that Iran has supplied weapons to Iraqi militants. ...

Regarding the weapons attributed to Iran, Caldwell said an Iraqi man turned up two days ago at a security outpost in the predominantly Sunni al-Jihad neighborhood and tipped off soldiers to the munitions. He directed the soldiers to a house, where they spotted a black Mercedes sedan, Caldwell said. The arms, including mortars and rockets, were inside the car and its trunk, as well as buried on the property. The house was empty, he said.

A scenario more conducive to bullshittery would be hard to concoct.

A phantom tipster and especially a story in which nobody was captured at the location of the weapons cache leaves generous room for the evidence (if real) to be interpreted in the most sinister way.

Apr 10, 2007

Wonkette Wankesse - Not Knowing Her Ivan

The Wonkette is not eye-catchingly malfeasant, or even conspicuously incompetent beyond the regular fray of weeny-willied wonks, when she hysterically suggests that Putin's Kremlin is killing off Russian journalists critical of the Kremlin.

Silly articles like this are hardly a scarce commodity in western media and many seem to teem with the Wonkette's same retrograde metaphysical speculation that remains markedly divorced of any educated grip on reality de Rusky.

The Wonkette recently wrote, "There is definitely some bad luck going around the anti-Putin movement. [R]ussian journalist Ivan Safronov mysteriously fell to his death from a fifth-floor apartment window; Safronov was working on a story about Russia selling arms to Iran and Syria.It has become a very dangerous business to question, criticize or investigate Putin’s regime."

This particular innuendo is somehow assumed to be substantiated by an assumption that since Safronov was employed by Kommersant, one of a handful of independent newspapers in Russia, he must therefor have been something of a staunch critic of Putin & Co. In fact, this is quite untrue. Even Kommersants chief editor Ilja Bulavinov has repeatedly sought to make an effort to refute western claims that Safronov was some or any kind of critic of the regime.

According to Bulavinov, Safronov had worked on a story about the occurence of corruption surrounding the planned delivery of some of Russia's newest weapons systems to Iran and Syria. In 2005 the delivery of the missile system Iskander to Syria was stopped after Safronov's article. During a visit in Israel, Putin said that his military had wanted to sell the system but that Putin himself had put a stop to it.

One can understand Kommersant's irritation over claims, insinuations, and analysis by lazy brained wonks in the west that paint the relationship between Russian media outlets and the Kremlin as a war in which journalists are mowed down by the Kremlin in the line of duty.

The fact however is that the Russian state has either direct or indirect ownership of Kommersant - as it does of most of all other influential Russian media outlets. An article not quite to the liking of the Kremlin can quite easily be squashed with one phone call to an editor. Nobody needs be killed for such simple tasks.

The only Russian journalist murdered of late that can be accurately characterized as a critic of the regime was Anna Politkovskaja from Novaja Gazeta. She wrote extensively about taboo subjects such as torture and abductions in Chechnya.

The management of contemporary Russian media outlets knows all too well, as do most of their employees, what is permissible journalism and what is "off limits". Most have diligently internalized an encyclopedic guidebook on self-censorship.

So the question begs asking, for what reason are representatives of Kremlin-controlled media outlets constantly being threatened, bullied, and murdered? Why is journalism still one of the most dangerous jobs in Russia?

The answer is simple: State power pulled off reining in the free press but couldn't effectively combat corruption and create a credible judicial system. In almost all cases, Russian journalists are murdered when they get in the way of someone making a buck.

To recruit thugskis to do one's dirty work can cost anything from a bottle of vodka to a hundred thousand dollars paid through middlemen liaising with any given private security firm. The price really only depends on the depth of the pockets of the customer and the esoterica of the death wish. Few of these crimes are ever resolved.

The murder of journalists in Russia can only be termed political in one particular regard; corruption is the most significant threat against the stability of Russia and one always runs the risk of stumbling upon a new vein of corruption no matter the course of investigation one embarks upon. Through their deaths, even the most Kremlin-loyal journalists inadvertently end up being the Kremlins most dogged critics.

Ex-Captives' Play For Pay Now Prohibited

The British government has reversed the decision to permit the released sailors and marines to sell the stories of their abuse at the hands of the Iranians.

Few, however, missed the main point of the original exercise:

Reg Keys, the father of a British soldier killed in Iraq in 2003, accused the government of using the sailors for "spin." He told the BBC that when his son was killed, his military colleagues were not allowed to speak publicly about his death. "It seems to me that it is selective," he said. "If the story aids the government in their propaganda against the Iranians, they will allow people to speak, but if it is embarrassing to the government or the Ministry of Defense, you are not allowed to."

As it turns out, the official story -- with appropriately harrowing details -- is having little trouble being spread by the media.

Overt payment to the ex-captives turned out not to be necessary after all.

Apr 9, 2007

No Mystery Here

There is but one reason to allow these former captives to sell their stories to the media.

To generate opportunities for the dissemination of anti-Iran propaganda. The money offers an easy way to get the British service members to participate in an info-op.

The Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy were accused of undermining the reputation of Britain's armed forces last night over the decision to allow the 15 sailors and marines held by Iran to sell their stories to the media.

The navy's move to suspend its usual rules - taken "as a result of exceptional media interest" and with the agreement of the defence secretary, Des Browne - was condemned by opposition politicians, former officers and the families of dead service personnel.

Faye Turney, the only woman in the crew, has agreed a joint deal with the Sun newspaper and ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald for close to £100,000.

But amid the complaints about the decision, fears were voiced that it has devalued the work of other serving forces and handed Iran a propaganda victory.

Critics said it was a politically inspired move, but the MoD argued that the families of the service personnel had already been offered large sums of money to tell their stories and by allowing the former captives to speak it was able to retain some control over the story. The announcement also risked diminishing sympathy for the 15, who had been nervous of the reaction in Britain after they were seen on television in Tehran confessing to entering Iranian waters - a claim they retracted on their return.

Colonel Tim Collins, who commanded the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment in Iraq, said: "This episode has brought disgrace on the British armed forces and it comes from complete ineptitude at the top." He contrasted this case with the capture of 11 members of the Royal Irish Regiment in Sierra Leone. "They were held hostage and there was a real chance that they would be killed before they were eventually rescued by the SAS. There was not so much as a peep out of any of them afterwards, no talk and certainly no mention of money."

That's because nobody (save perhaps a few fans of Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter) gives a damn about the geopolitically insignificant nation of Sierra Leone.

No motive to gin up their stories.

Iran is a different ball of wax.

Apr 7, 2007

Business Is Business

Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country's nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa. ...

It is also not the first time that the Bush administration has made an exception for allies in their dealings with North Korea. In 2002, Spain intercepted a ship carrying Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen. At the time, Yemen was working with the United States to hunt members of Al Qaeda operating within its borders, and after its government protested, the United States asked that the freighter be released. Yemen said at the time that it was the last shipment from an earlier missile purchase and would not be repeated.

American officials from a number of agencies described details of the Ethiopian episode on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal Bush administration deliberations. ...

Several officials said they first learned that Ethiopia planned to receive a delivery of military cargo from North Korea when the country’s government alerted the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, after the adoption on Oct. 14 of the United Nations Security Council measure imposing sanctions.

"The Ethiopians came back to us and said, 'Look, we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can’t do that overnight,' " said one American official, who added that the issue had been handled properly. "They pledged to work with us at the most senior levels."

American intelligence agencies in late January reported that an Ethiopian cargo ship that was probably carrying tank parts and other military equipment had left a North Korean port.

The value of the shipment is unclear, but Ethiopia purchased $20 million worth of arms from North Korea in 2001, according to American estimates, a pattern that officials said had continued. The United States gives Ethiopia millions of dollars of foreign aid and some nonlethal military equipment.

After a brief debate in Washington, the decision was made not to block the arms deal and to press Ethiopia not to make future purchases.

Apr 6, 2007

Captain Says Brits Were Gathering Intel

The captain in charge of the 15 marines detained in Iran has said they were gathering intelligence on the Iranians.

Sky News went on patrol with Captain Chris Air and his team in Iraqi waters close to the area where they were arrested - just five days before the crisis began.

We withheld the interview until now so it would not jeopardise their safety.

And today, former Iranian diplomat Dr Mehrdad Khonsari said if the Iranians had known about it, they would have used it to "justify taking the marines captive and put them on trial".

Captain Air and his team were on an 'Interaction Patrol' where their patrol boats came alongside fishing dhows.

The operation was mainly to investigate arms smuggling and terrorism but Captain Air said it was also to gain intelligence on Iranian activity.

He told Sky Correspondent Jonathan Samuels: "Basically we speak to the crew, find out if they have any problems, let them know we're here to protect them, protect their fishing and stop any terrorism and piracy in the area," he said.

"Secondly, it's to gather int (intelligence). If they do have any information, because they're here for days at a time, they can share it with us.

"Whether it's about piracy or any sort of Iranian activity in the area. Obviously we're right by the buffer zone with Iran."

The UK Defence Secretary Des Browne told Sky News it was important to gather intelligence to "keep our people safe".

He said: "Modern military operations all have an element of gathering intelligence.

Apr 5, 2007

Additional Evidence For The Mearsheimer/Walt Thesis

A major arms-sale package that the Bush administration is planning to offer Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies to deter Iran has been delayed because of objections from Israel, which says that the advanced weaponry would erode its military advantage over its regional rivals, according to senior United States officials.

Israeli officials, including the former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, have come to Washington in recent months to argue against elements of the planned sales. In particular, the Israelis are concerned about the possible transfer of precision-guided weapons that would give Saudi warplanes much more accurate ability to strike targets, officials said.

The United States has made few, if any, sales of satellite-guided ordnance to gulf countries, several officials said. Israel has been supplied with such weapons since the 1990s and used them extensively in its war against Hezbollah last summer. ...

The Israeli complaints have introduced a new uncertainty into the administration's plan to beef up Persian Gulf militaries as a bulwark against Iran and as a demonstration that, no matter what happens in Iraq, Washington remains committed to the Sunni Arab governments around the region.

Apr 4, 2007

GWOT No More

The goopers are gonna hate this, as it diminishes the main thing -- their much-beloved slogan -- that distinguishes them from every other group of bedlamites in the post-modern world.

The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee's Democratic leadership doesn't like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and "avoid using colloquialisms."

The "global war on terror," a phrase first used by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., should not be used, according to the memo. Also banned is the phrase the "long war," which military officials began using last year as a way of acknowledging that military operations against terrorist states and organizations would not be wrapped up in a few years.

Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration's catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as "the war in Iraq," the "war in Afghanistan", "operations in the Horn of Africa" or "ongoing military operations throughout the world."

How about "war in Iran"?

Apr 3, 2007

Effwit's Backstory de Bondaged Brits

Effwit's posted a diddy à la backstory pertaining to the nabbed Brits.

That Was Now, This Is Then

According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies.

Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.

During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships, a statement that, in hindsight, is completely hypocritical considering the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

“Let me make a generalized statement about a trend I see in the U.S. Congress that I find disturbing, that applies not only with respect to the Iranian situation but a number of others as well,” Cheney said. “I think we Americans sometimes make mistakes . . . There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like.”

Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time he uttered those words. It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium.It was Halliburton’s secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year investigation that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former Halliburton employees.

“I think we’d be better off if we, in fact, backed off those sanctions (on Iran), didn’t try to impose secondary boycotts on companies . . . trying to do business over there . . . and instead started to rebuild those relationships,” Cheney said during a 1998 business trip to Sydney, Australia, according to Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper.
More At CD

Interesting Timing, Ivan

Hitler had just been defeated, Stalin was victorious and Viktor Bogomolets was down on his luck. After more than three decades spying for British intelligence, Bogomolets, who began working for MI6 shortly after the Russian revolution, was curtly informed that he had been stripped of his British citizenship.

It was at this point that Bogomolets decided to betray his British masters. According to papers declassified yesterday by Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, he became one of Moscow's most accomplished double agents.

In 1945 he began spying for the Soviet Union, passing crucial information back to Moscow about British intelligence at the height of the Cold war. Codenamed "Britt" by his Soviet handlers, Bogomolets' reports were circulated among the top echelons of the Soviet Union's leadership - and were even read by Stalin himself.

The double agent also betrayed the man who had recruited him to MI6 in the first place, Colonel Harold Gibson. Gibson was responsible for a network of undercover British agents working deep inside the Soviet Union. Soviet intelligence tracked Gibson closely until his death in 1960, the documents show.

Major General Lev Sotskov, a former intelligence officer who has written a book based on the new archive material, yesterday described Bogomolets as a "very big fish". The only reason the Russian emigre had not been identified before was that neither the British nor the Soviets had any incentive to unmask him, he said.

"Bogomolets was extremely important. He wrote a 100-page memo detailing all his contacts in British intelligence soon after defecting. He was involved in at least two major secret intelligence operations. What we know about him is the tip of the iceberg," Gen Sotskov said.

The revelation suggests that in an era already famous for its treachery and double dealing, MI6 was even more compromised than previously thought.

Apr 2, 2007

The "Mother's Milk of Terrorism"

It is the kind of political movement that fits handily on a bumper sticker: Divest Iran.

Over the past year, one state, Missouri, has opted to do just that, while several others, including New Jersey, have also begun to write or to consider legislation to divest.

But the nascent movement took on decidedly more weight last week with the preliminary success of a bill in the California Legislature. The measure would force two of the nation's largest pension funds — devoted to the state's public employees and its teachers, with combined holdings of nearly $400 billion — to remove their money from any foreign company doing business in Iran. American companies are already barred from such dealings. ...

"They've got a president that is talking one day about having nuclear bombs and saying he's not the next day, and taking hostages," he said on Friday, referring to the Iranian capture of 15 British sailors and marines. "I'm not saying that we should take a foreign policy stance; I'm saying it's not a good place to invest our money."

Mr. Anderson's language was notably more heated when he introduced the bill in January, raising the specter of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and calling money "the mother's milk of terrorism." ...

Officials at the funds agree that determining which companies might have financial dealings with Iran is a big and often complicated job.

"That's always been the struggle," said Brad Pacheco, a spokesman for the California Public Employees Retirement System, who said the fund had asked the federal government for help in determining which companies were "terror free." "We don't necessarily have the resources or the expertise."

Mr. Pacheco said the public employees' fund, known as Calpers, had no position on the bill yet. But officials with the California State Teachers Retirement System, with holdings of $159 billion, have already suggested they will oppose it.