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Noise: Will Israel Attack Iran

Obama has no interest in bombing Iran. And although he caved into Bibi’s settlement expansion, he won’t green-light Israel to attack Iran.  2012 is not a year Americans will rally to support a president in a time of war.  Americans believe they are overstretched with a dormant economy and believe Obama overstretched the federal budget through bail-out, stimulus and health care.  An attack on Iran would make Romney a shoe-in.  Even Obama wouldn’t let Netanyahu walk over him in this.

The majority of Americans don’t care about the Israel-Iran conflict. The Republicans are going wild on Iran to show that Obama is weak on national security, but Obama’s commander-in-chief narrative gets better with every Quaeda or Taliban leader offed, every drone that hits its target, those 2500 marines to be based in northwest Australia and on-going naval exercise near the South China Sea.

The Israeli leadership has been talking out of all sides of the mouth.  Barak says Israel isn’t near a decision to bomb Iran one day.  And the very next day, Israeli intelligence states that the aftermath of such an attack wouldn’t be as bad as many experts predict.  Israeli officials have even back-tracked on whether Iran will ultimately go ahead and construct a bomb.

All of this occurs against the possibility Netanyahu will call for early elections this year and party elections that took place this week.  Prepare for another round of hairsplitting debate tomorrow: this one on what the IEAE meant by its talks with Iran Monday and Tuesday were ‘good.’

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Guess Who Else is Fighting Terrorists in Pakistan?

American politicians running for office love to bash China and its ‘aggressive military build-up’.  There are a few problems with the charge.  China’s military budget is a fraction of the US, and  China has no military bases outside China.  The latter may change soon.

China wants to open its first base abroad in one of Pakistan’s frontier areas to counter Al-Queda-supported Chinese rebels who want to create a Muslim state in Xinjiang Province.  Terrorists have been operating in the province for a decade, and bomb attacks at the end of July killed eighteen people.  This upped the ante for the Chinese leading to several delegations of Pakistani officials meeting with counterparts in Beijing and vice versa.

Although Pakistan has asked China to build a Navy Port at Gwadar, China specifically denies any intention of doing so.  Such a base could be threatening to India.  According to China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, China is interested only in protecting its ‘core interests’ which he described:

The core interests include anything related to sovereignty, stability and form of government. China is now pursuing socialism. If there is any attempt to reject this path, it will touch upon China’s core interests. Or, if there is any attempt to encourage any part of China to secede, that also touches upon China’s core interests related to our land, sea or air. Then, anything that is related to China’s national economic and social development also touches upon China’s core interests.

China shares borders (some disputed) with Pakistan and Kashmir.  Any Chinese incursions into or presence in Pakistan greatly threatens India.

The Obama Administration recently publicly ‘pivoted’ from concentration on the Middle East to a new focus on East Asia.  On his recent trip to the region, Defense Secretary Panetta assured Japan, South Korea and other American allies in the region that the US has no intention of cutting back on its committment to the region, including its 85,000 troops in South Korea and Japan.  Panetta said the US position in East Asia will not erode because of budget cuts intended to decrease the US deficit.

Good luck with that.  If the deficit committee established by Congress fails to come up with over $1.4 trillion soon, automatic cuts will go into effect.  Again, the whole world is watchin.

Check out Asia Times

 

 

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If You Have the Facts, Why Can’t We See Them?

The more the Administration and President Obama say they have the facts about the Iran plot, the more uneasy I get:

In his first public remarks on the issue since it was revealed on Tuesday, Mr. Obama sought to counter skepticism about whether Iran’s Islamic government directed an Iranian-American car salesman to engage with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and carry out other attacks. Mr. Obama insisted that American officials “know that he had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.”

“Now those facts are there for all to see,” Mr. Obama said. “We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations that are contained in the indictment.”

At the same time, State Department officials said United States officials had been in direct contact with the government of Iran over the accusations.

The possibilities:

1.  The whole plot story, as told by the Justice Department, is true.  The highest levels of the Iranian government knew of and/or planned the assassination.

2.  It was a rogue operation by a member or members of Al Quds, unknown to the Iranian government.

3,  It was a rogue operation and, despite not knowing about it, Iran needs to take responsibility for the action of rogue operatives, meaning arresting and trying them as criminal elements.

4.  The informant made up the story.

5.  The used car salesman, Mansour J. Arbabsiar , made up the story and/or exaggerated his ties to Gholam Shakuri the alleged Al Quds member.

If the State Department has been in contact with the Iranian government, then I go with #3.  But the State Department being in contact with the Iranian government opens another dimension to the incident.  Because the US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, most issues of dispute are sent through the Swiss Embassy in Iran or discussed in asides at international conferences.  Direct contact would be unusual.

The Obama Administration is fighting back against a credibility problem when it comes to intelligence work.  The Bush Administration case against Iraq and MWD was initiated from the debriefing of an Iraqi émigré code-named ‘Curveball’.  Curveball once was  a CIA operative until the CIA became suspicious of Curveball’s veracity and dropped him.  The Defense Department stepped in, picked Curveball up and used his uncollaborated testimony about MWD to push for war.  The US lost as much credibility by finding no MWD in Iraq as a new car looses value the minute  you drive it off the lot.  You can never make it up.

Now the US government, this time the Obama Administration, again asks the American public and the international community to believe its narrative on the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador.  Even the Justice and State Departments admit the whole story sounds like a Hollywood movie.  The facts of the case are fuzzy, key questions about Gholam Shakuri aren’t addressed, no details about the $100,000 wire transfer said to be from Al Quds has been turned over to journalists and independent Iran and National Security experts for assessment.

The stakes are enormous.  If the plot is real and directed by the Iranian Government, it throws the rationality of Iranian leaders into question.  If it is something less the US government should be held accountable for charging the Iranian government for planning the plot.  If it’s somewhere in between, let the world judge it.

“Just the facts, Ma’am!” we ask of Secretary Clinton and President Obama. “Show us the beef!”

 

 

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Iranian Plot: Warmongering or Connect the Dots

War propaganda is repulsive.  It appeals to emotion, vilifying an enemy, often exaggerating its potential.  Nothing was as appalling in the Bush Administration as Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN ‘connecting the dots’ of isolated events and misidentified objects into a call for war.

The FBI, under both Bush and Obama, has announced several ‘heroic’ acts of disrupting potential terrorist attacks. Some involved real but incompetent ‘terrorists’ who couldn’t blow themselves up in a plane or detonate a bomb in Times Square if Osama Bin Laden was there giving them directions.   Too many of the ‘terrorist’ plots unearthed since 9/11 have been sting operations,l like the Liberty City down-and-outs lured by the FBI  into an FBI-fabricated plot.

This dilettante show by the FBI contrasts sharply with European and Interpol operations against active, professional Al Queda led cells rooted in Germany, Spain, France and other European cities.

Now we have the Obama Administration doing one better than George W. Bush’s team.  Reuters reports:

The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said their confidence that at least some Iranian leaders were aware of the alleged plot was based largely on analyses and  This means they have no hard evidence that the Iranian government either approved or directed this operation.  Many independent Iranian experts based their skepticism that the assassination plot was directed by Al Quds or the Iranian government based on the same, ‘their understanding of how the Quds Force operates.’  Who is right?

They said it was “more than likely” that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani had prior knowledge or approved of the suspected plot. They insisted it was “not a rogue operation in any way,” and was sanctioned and directed by Quds Force operatives in Iran. Yet they have produced no evidence of this.  We don’t even know if the Iranian cousin of the only arrested suspect is actually an Al Quds operative; we’ve been provided no documentation to support the accusation.  There is a huge difference between ‘more than likely’ and having concrete intelligence pointing to Khamenie’s knowledge of the plot.

But other parts of Iran’s factionalized government may not have known, they said. That included President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who “didn’t necessarily know about this,” one said.  So why did Holder insist that the plot was the work of the Iranian government?

They said it was “more than likely” that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Quds Force commander Qasem Suleimani had prior knowledge or approved of the suspected plot. They insisted it was “not a rogue operation in any way,” and was sanctioned and directed by Quds Force operatives in Iran.

But other parts of Iran’s factionalized government may not have known, they said. That included President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who “didn’t necessarily know about this,” one said.

Several senior U.S. government officials acknowledged the alleged plot was unusual in its poor tradecraft — spy jargon for espionage skills and finesse. So why the aura of certainty?

“We would expect to see the Quds Force cover their tracks more effectively,” said one official. Another said a plot to launch a violent attack inside the United States was “very outside the pattern” of recent Quds Force activities.

Kenneth Katzman, an Iran specialist at the Congressional Research Service, said there were elements of the alleged plot that did not make sense.

“The idea of using a Texas car salesman who is not really a Quds Force person himself, who has been in residence in the United States many years, that doesn’t add up,” Katzman said.

“There could have been some contact on this with the Quds Force, but the idea that this was some sort of directed, vetted, fully thought-through plot, approved at high levels in Tehran leadership I think defies credulity,” he said.

Amen.

Risk of False Accusations

This is huge.  What happens if US allies find the US allegations of an Iranian-sponsored plot premature or wrong?  Could the US be giving the ‘plot’ to the Saudis and Israelis for political purposes?  Or to justify regional war?

There is no reason why these loose ends weren’t tied up before the Justice Department made the announcement of arrest.  Making the announcement without more certainty is irresponsible.

Edited: spelling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Somalis Rally Against Shabab

After last Tuesday’s truck bomb killing of dozens of Somalians, many students who were getting exam results, citizens of Mogadishu  rallied against Shabab, the group affiliated with Al Queda that claimed responsibility.  The demonstration was organized by the weak, embattled central government but was a show of courage and contempt for the militants by the general population.

Several students I knew were killed in the blast,” said Anisa Abdulle, a 16-year-old student who visited the compound earlier but left before the blast. “This is horrible. I hate the Shabab, because they see the students going for learning as enemies.

The Shabab has been terrorizing Somalia since 1991.  In August, they fled the country but promised to carry on a violent guerrilla struggle.

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Scientists Challenge Antrax Investigation – Again!

The antrax drama continues.  Three leading antrax scientists, long critical of the FBI investigation into who made and mailed deadly antrax spores in 2001, have written a new paper that calls for reopening the case.

Both the chairwoman of a National Academy of Science panel that spent a year and a half reviewing the F.B.I.’s scientific work and the director of a new review by the Government Accountability Office said the paper raised important questions that should be addressed.

Other antrax scientists disputed the new claims.  Yet it remains unclear why the FBI dropped any reference to  tin after calling it ‘an element of interest’ early on in investigation.  The question is whether the tin was used as part of the antrax production, meaning the process was too sophisticated to be carried out by suspect Bruce Ivins alone or was an incidental contaminant from another source.

Scientists have criticized the FBI since day one of the antrax scare.  In its most high-profile misstep, the FBI hounded former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, for years seeking to bring a case against him as the murderer.  When Bruce Ivins was named the perpetrator shortly after committing suicide in anticipation of being accused, Dr. Hatfill was exonerated and paid $4.5. million in compensation.

This is the first bioterrorism case pursued by the FBI in the United States.  The continuing dispute over the science and methods used in the investigation reflects its importance as a prototype of bioterrorism forensic work.

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Al Queda Angry at Ahmadinejad?

At the UN General Assembly last week, Iranian President Ahmadinejad suggested that a US government conspiracy resulted in the 9/11 attacks against the WTC.   Now Al Queda is complaining!  The New York Times reports that an Al Queda has attacked Ahmadinejad for spreading such a rumor and taking credit away from them.  You can’t make this up…

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Taliban Kill Another Top Afghan

Burhanuddin Rabani, former Afghan president and leader of the High Peace Council, was shot and killed today.  The bomber may have been vetted by a close associate of Mr. Rabani.  The Council is charged with hammering out a political settlement between the Karsai government and Taliban.  He is the third high-ranking Afghan minister to be assassinated in a few months time.  According to the The New York Times,

He was killed a week after Taliban insurgents orchestrated a surprise attack on several Kabul neighborhoods that demonstrated the seeming ease with which they can strike, despite ambitious efforts by the American-led NATO forces here to improve security and persuade Taliban insurgents to engage in negotiations to end the war.

The Taliban attacks have called into question the basic readiness of President Karzai’s forces to assume security in the country as the foreign military forces gradually withdraw, as they have pledged to do by the end of 2014.

UPDATED: Title

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