I Find Myself Believing the Iranians

Iran’s chief negotiator on the nuclear agreement, Abbas Araqchi, says that there is an informal side deal to the formal agreement between Iran and the six other powers (the U. S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China), which he called a nonpaper.

The State Department says that there is no such secret agreement.  I’m going with Araqchi on this one.

Araqchi seems very happy with the results of the negotiation:  “No facility will be closed; enrichment will continue, and qualitative and nuclear research will be expanded.  All research into a new generation of centrifuges will continue.”

I predict that this whole thing is going to blow up and be a disaster for the Obama administration in the latter half of 2014.

Embassy in Yemen Not Just Closed, But Evacuated

American diplomatic personnel from our embassy in Sana, Yemen were hastily airlifted out of the country on a cargo plane.  Private American citizens in Yemen were told to leave immediately.  The British have done the same.

The action was taken after a drone strike believed to have killed four Al Qaeda terrorists.

How Many Sources in North Korea Do You Think We Have?

From “What was James Rosen thinking?”,  Jack Shafer, Reuters:

“Although [Fox News reporter James] Rosen’s story asserts that it is ‘withholding some details about the sources and methods…to avoid compromising sensitive overseas operations,’ the basic detail that the CIA has ‘sources inside North Korea’ privy to its future plans is very compromising stuff all by itself.

“Once the North Koreans read the story, they must have asked if the source of the intel was human or if their communications had been breached.  In any event, you can assume that the North Koreans commenced a leak probe that made the U. S. investigation look like the prosecution of a parking ticket.”

I can’t get all wee wee’d up about bumbling James Rosen, who makes Inspector Clouseau look like James Angleton.  If the Obama Administration had prosecuted him along with State Department moron Stephen Jin Woo Kim, I’d see the First Amendment threat here, but they didn’t.  I do mourn the loss of a source inside North Korea, because God knows they are few and far between, and probably now fewer and farther.

I’m with Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo on this one:

“They [DOJ] took a step I think they should not have taken.  But they did so putting together a case against a government employee who more or less in plain sight (thanks to Rosen, in part) leaked what looks to have been highly classified information about US spy networks overseas.  It’s difficult for me not to be more shocked by the self-interested preening of fellow journalists over a comically inept reporter and source than the arguable dangers this episode holds for press freedoms.  Indeed, I’ve failed.  I can’t.

I can’t either.

Quote of the Day

“I think the dam is about to break on Benghazi. We’re going to find a system failure before, during, and after the attacks.  We’re going to find political manipulation seven weeks before an election. We’re going to find people asleep at the switch when it comes to the State Department, including Hillary Clinton.  The bond that has been broken between those who serve us in harm’s way and the government they serve is huge — and to me every bit as damaging as Watergate.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC)

Petraeus Brought Down in Palace Coup

According to a new book coming out Tuesday, senior CIA officials went after David Petraeus to make sure that the FBI found out about his affair with Paula Broadwell so that Petraeus would have to resign.  These officials were unhappy with how Petraeus was running the agency, specifically that he was too focused on paramilitary operations (like drone strikes) at the expense of intelligence gathering and analysis.  His military management style at a political agency also brought him many enemies who wanted him gone.

The authors of the book, Brandon Webb and Jack Murphy, discovered the Petraeus information while researching their book on the Benghazi terrorist attack, BenghaziThe Definitive Report.

As for Benghazi, they say the attacks on the Benghazi mission and CIA annex that left four Americans dead were retaliation for U. S. raids against Islamic terrorist extremists in Libya.  They claim that neither Petraeus nor Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who died in the attacks, was aware of our ongoing military operations using special ops forces.  They say John Brennan, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser and now his nominee to head the CIA, was running these operations from the White House outside the traditional command structure, and that the State Department and the CIA didn’t know about them.

It will be interesting to see if this book has any impact on Brennan’s nomination and what Petraeus’ response is.

What Do You Get When You Cross a Hawk and a Dove? Maybe Some Sane Policy.

From “Why Chuck Hagel Is Obama’s Pentagon Pick,” Bob Woodward, WaPo:

“The two [Obama and Hagel] share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.

“This worldview is part hawk and part dove.  It amounts, in part, to a challenge to the wars of President George W. Bush.  It holds that the Afghanistan war has been mismanaged and the Iraq was unnecessary.  War is an option, but very much a last resort.

“So, this thinking goes, the U. S. role in the world must be carefully scaled back — this is not a matter of choice but of facing reality; the military needs to be treated with deep skepticism; lots of strategic military and foreign policy thinking is out of date; and quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided.

“The bottom line:  The United States must get out of these massive land wards — Iraq and Afghanistan — and, if possible, avoid future large-scale war.

“Although much discussion of the Hagel nomination has centered on his attitudes about Iran, Israel and the defense budget, Hagel’s broader agreement with Obama on overall philosophy is probably more consequential.”

I am hopeful that Obama/Kerry/Hagel will spend the next four years devising foreign and military policy that protects our power by getting the best bang for the buck and then uses that power wisely.  Applying our power conservatively — that would make them the neo-neo-cons.

After 9/11, we knew the world had changed, but it’s taken us over a decade to figure out how to change with it.

I would say the Iraq war wasn’t just unnecessary, but was very harmful to our interests because it took Iraq away as a counter-weight to Iran and upset the balance of power in the region.  Saddam Hussein was a bastard, but he was a useful bastard.  Bush 41 recognized this when he freed Kuwait, but didn’t march to Baghdad.

And the idea that we were going to change Afghanistan was always absurd.  No one changes Afghanistan — they just bang their heads against a wall and eventually leave.

 

For GOP and Hillary, 2016 Is Now

I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony really told us anything new.

I see it as the GOP taking her deposition.  Just as in litigation, you hope to use something from a deposition transcript to embarrass or discredit a witness at trial, the GOP hoped, as Hillary exits the public stage for now, to get some sound bites they can use against her in 2016.

So much will happen between now and then in our War on Terror that Benghazi won’t matter at all in terms of who gets the Democratic nomination and who wins the next presidential election.  But nice try, GOP.

Algerian Terror Incident

The State Department confirms that the Algerian military launched an assault on Islamic extremists who are holding foreigners hostage at a BP natural gas plant.

Algeria claims it freed 600 hostages, while Islamic terrorists claim that the raid killed 35 hostages and 15 kidnappers.

Americans are among those held, but their fate is unknown.

This Algerian act of terror was in retaliation for France’s fight against terrorists in Mali because Algeria is allowing France to use its air space.

The Scapegoats at State

“It’s not the military’s job to protect diplomats; it’s the host government’s.  But in the absence of a real government, we never asked the question, ‘So how do we do this?’”

A “senior Pentagon official” quoted in the NYT, “4 Are Out at State Dept. After Scathing Report on Benghazi Attack,” Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt

I am tired of these insulting and infuriating whitewashes like the Pickering-Mullen Benghazi report that merely create scapegoats without addressing the real issues and speaking the honest truth.  I’ve seen too many of these in my lifetime, going back to the Warren Commission.

The truth is that why they call a “diplomatic compound” in Benghazi was just cover for the extensive CIA operation there.  To explain why there were so many Americans running around, we had to pretend to have a diplomatic presence.  When you join the CIA, you know that if you get into trouble overseas, you’re probably on our own because you’re not supposed to be there.

The four State Department officials who have now lost their jobs had no control over the CIA’s activities in Benghazi.  They couldn’t adequately protect diplomats in countries like Libya that don’t have a real government.  It was up to officials above their pay grade to decide what our diplomatic and intelligence presence would be in both Tripoli and Benghazi, and how we would protect those people.

Ambassador Stevens probably shouldn’t have been in Benghazi at all, but he sure as hell shouldn’t have been there on 9/11.  He had many friends there, but he also knew it is one of the major terrorist centers in the world right now.

Why isn’t anyone complaining that the Pentagon’s Africa Command, which is responsible for Libya, is the only one of our commands without a Commanders’ In-Extremis Force (CIF), which is designed to send special forces quickly in an emergency?