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Friday, October 26, 2012

Saudis Bankrolling Israel's Mossad?

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A friend, with good sources in the Israeli government, claims that the head of Israel’s Mossad has made several trips to deal with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia—one of the results: an agreement that the Saudis would bankroll the series of assassinations of several of Iran’s top nuclear experts that have occurred over the past couple of years.  The amount involved, my friend claims, was $1 billion dollars. A sum, he says, the Saudis considered cheap for the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program.
At first blush, the tale sounds preposterous. On the other hand. it makes eminent sense. The murky swamp of Middle East politics has nothing to do with the easy slogans and 30 second sound bites of presidential debates.
After all, nowhere more than in the Middle East does the maxim hold true: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And both Israel and the Saudis have always detested Iran’s Shiite fundamentalist leaders. The feeling is mutual. Tehran has long been accused of stirring up trouble among Saudi’s restless Shiites.
Israeli and Saudi leaders particularly fear Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Thus, it would only be natural that (along with the U.S.) they would back a coordinated program to at least slow up, if not permanently cripple, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  
It also makes perfect sense, that, in retaliation for the cyber attacks on their  centrifuges, the Iranians reportedly launched their own cyber attack on a Saudi state-owned target: Saudi Aramco, the world’s most valuable company.  Last August 15th, someone with privileged access to Aramco’s computers was able to unleash a virus that wreaked havoc with the company’s systems. U.S. intelligence experts point their finger at Tehran.
Indeed, a report earlier this year by Tel Aviv University cites Saudi Arabia as the
last hope and defense line for Israel. With most of Israel’s traditional allies in the region sent packing or undermined by the Arab Spring, the Saudis are the Jewish State’s last chance to protect its political interests in the Arab world.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

U.S. to Defend Israel?Key question never answered.



Several questions asked in the third presidential debate were never clearly answered. One of the most vital concerns Israel: What exactly is the U.S. commitment to that country?  It's a question that an American president may suddenly be confronted with, some chaotic night at three A.M.

The reporter moderating the debate attempted to get an answer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: “Red lines, Israel and Iran. Would either of you —Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which of course is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan?
And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? It’s certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that — when we made that promise to our allies.

[[Good question…a request to clarify what has been a very intimate but imprecise relationship--challenging an American president --or future president--to make a stark commitment to Israel on his own accord, without seeking the consent of the Senate or Congress. Which, who knows, one chaotic night at three in the morning, he might be called upon to do.]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.
I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency. And —

[Just a minute, he didn’t really answer…but the moderator was there:]

MR. SCHIEFFER: So you’re saying we’ve already made that declaration?

[Good question, but dodged again:]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.

[Unasked question: What does  “stand by” mean, Mr. President? Cheer from the sidelines? Send emergency arms, dispatch rockets to shoot down incoming missiles, as was done in past crises by the U.S? 
But Obama went on.]

OBAMA: And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history. In fact, this week we’ll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week.

[Unasked Question: Does that mean, Mr. President, that American armed forces would become directly involved if Israel were attacked?…if say, its perimeter defenses were overwhelmed?  If the Arabs or Iranians were marching on Tel Aviv?
If not, what is the point of carrying out the “largest military exercises in history” with Israel? Exercising for what?”]

[Next to a question about economic sanctions against Iran…]

OBAMA: …the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it’s threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

[Unasked question: Nuclear arms race? Hasn’t Israel had nuclear weapons for decades now, Mr. President? ]
[And now to Romney on Israel:]

MR. ROMNEY: Well, first of all, I — I want to underscore the — the same point the president made, which is that if I’m president of the United States, when I’m president of the United States, we will stand with Israel. And — and if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily.  

[Unanswered Question: Uh, again, what does that mean, Governor? Would you commit boots on the ground? Cruise missiles? Destroyers? Under what circumstances?]

[Then, when the subject of Egypt’s shaky new government came up]

OBAMA: They [the Egyptians] have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us, because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels.

[Mr. President, could you explain why America’s security is dependent on a treaty between Egypt and Israel?]

[If these question weren’t asked during the debate, did any one hear them raised afterwards-- by any of the army of pundits?]



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Un Pain au Chocolat-France, increasingly divided.


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France is in deep trouble. As I blogged yesterday, this country has spent several billions of Euros over the past 11 years sending its troops, planes and ships, to join the War against Terrorism in Central Asia. Now, however, the French are finally discovering the threat of radical Islam is at home, under their own noses. 

According to a poll in today’s centre-right Figaro, 82% of the 44,000 French questioned fear an increase in Islamic terrorism in France. Provoking this fear, sensational headlines about a network of 12 jihadis—converted in overcrowded French prisons—and rounded up by police over the past few days.  
But, more serious, than the threat of radical Islam is the fact that France is menaced by mounting racial tensions stoked by extremists on both sides.

I discussed the rise of radical Islam among France’s five million Muslims in previous blogs. An equally alarming development is that, on the other side, Islamophobes are  also on the rise.

This past weekend, one of the most prominent of Nicolas Sarkozy’s former ministers, Jean-Francois Cope, who is campaigning to become leader of his party, the UMP, , made headlines with the story of a good “French” working class family, whose son, as he was leaving school, had his pain au chocolat ripped from his hands by “a young punk”  (obviously Muslim) who told the distraught little boy he had no right to be eating during the Muslim fast of Ramadan.

Overnight, the little French boy losing his pain au chocolat to a brutish Muslim kid has, in the eyes of many French, become a symbol of what’s really wrong with this country.
 It’s also become endlessly discussed on French television.

On the Grand Journal last night, one of the commentators, Jean Michel Aphatie, pointed out that, if you check the dates of Ramadan –which was in the summer for the past couple of years--there’s no way this incident could have recently happened, if it did happen at all.

In any case, as Aphatie pointed out, Cope’s views are far from original. He presented a video of former French President Jacques Chirac, delivering a stunningly crude anti Arab/Mulsim diabtribe at a banquet in Orleans in 1991: 

Imagine, said Chirac, a working man, who together with his wife makes 15,000 francs a year, and is sitting on the landing of his little flat and sees across from him, on the same landing another “head of a family with three or four wives and twenty kids, who, naturally without working, is making 50,000 francs a year--from welfare.

“You add to that,” said the President of France, “the noise--and the smell--and the French worker goes crazy.”

The only difference between Cope and Chirac, suggested, Jean-Michel Apathie, was that Chirac was probably a little drunk at the time.

Indeed, here in Paris, my wife is constantly being forwarded some astonishingly blunt  racist videos--from well meaning friends. Like one received today, that apparently originated with a Catholic professional, we know, an educated, upper class man; who sent it to another Jewish friend of ours, also charming and highly educated; who forwarded it to us:

It’s called “Les Envahisseurs” and is a dubbed takeoff of the science fiction series, The Invaders, from the Sixties. While the original series dealt with evil creatures from another star system trying to take over the earth, this modified version substitutes the intergalactic villains with, of course, the Muslims in France.

They’re fomenting jihad, taking over the streets with their prayers, demanding that schools serve only hallal meat. When the hero turns for help to the authorities, he finds that it’s too late—they too are Muslims!

The furor over Cope’s pain au chocolat tale was still on the mid-day TV news today in Paris.
-We watched as France’s Prime Minister proclaimed his determination to go after all forms of “extremism.”

On the same show there was also video of hundreds of outraged French workers, whose jobs are at risk because of factory shutdowns, being blocked by riot police from entering the lustrous automobile show currently going on in Paris. One of the factories being shut down is Peugeot.

-The TV news also had live coverage of French President Holland presenting his plan to totally overhaul France’s creaking education system. Unemployment among French under 25 is 23%.

After the President had finished, one expert interviewed on the news show asked, with the government having to drastically cut back its budget, where the money for reform would come.

As he was talking, a crawl ran across the bottom of the screen, a bulletin about the round up members of the internal investigation unit of the Marseilles police. Turns out 19 of them have been hauled in, targets themselves of corruption charges.

-One bright spot:  A sponsor of the TV News today was the French Justice Ministry, with a major job offer: they’re looking for more prison guards.

 Meanwhile, some 1200 French troops remain in Central Asia, continuing to support the “War on Terrorism.”


Monday, October 8, 2012

France misses the target: Jihad is homegrown.


Have to admit there’s a certain bitter irony in today’ s headlines in France about an Islamic terrorist network being rounded up in Strasbourg, Paris, Nice and Cannes, at the same time as the TV news shows French forces beginning their withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Why the irony? Because while France has spent billions of Euros over the past ten years to battle the threat of radical Islam in Central Asia, they find once again the threat is homegrown, fostered in their own schools, decaying neighborhoods and prisons.  

As I’ve written in previous blogs, It’s got much more to do with economic stagnation, bleak job outlooks, mounting food prices—in short, increasingly bitter frustration, particularly in the poorer suburbs of cities like Paris and Marseille.

Anger is particularly high among second and third generation Muslim youth. France’s population of 5 million Muslims is Europe’s largest, and, partially because of the woeful economic situation in this country, France has had a difficult time absorbing them.

Some of those outraged young people have turned to criminal activities—from petty to violent. And one of the major areas where their conversion to violent jihad takes place is not so much in Central Asia’s barren hinterlands, but in overcrowded French prisons.

Further, a number of those for who have espoused jihad, were not born Muslims at all, but are recent converts—also proselytized in French prisons. That’s exactly the background of Jérémie Louis-Sidney, the 33 year old member of the terrorist gang who was gunned down after shooting at police attempting 
to arrest him last Saturday in Strasbourg.

It’s the background of many—perhaps all- of the 12 supposed members of the “terrorist” ring currently being questioned by French police.

Bottom line, forget humanitarian interests. From the coldly pragmatic view of defeating radical Islam, the French would have been—and still would be--much better off deploying the billions of Euros they’ve squandered sending troops, planes and ships to Central Asia, deploying those funds back home where they really might make a difference.  

It goes without saying, that so would the United States.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What You Won't Hear Debated:the Trillion Dollar Misunderstanding


It’s estimated that, for defense and national security, the U.S. spends about one trillion dollars a year—which amounts to more than 80% of this year’s expected deficit.

Mitt Romney is promising to spend even more—an additional 2.1 trillion dollars over the next ten years. President Obama has called for some cuts, but is loath to challenge the premises that underlie those enormous expenses.

Why the caution? There are too many powerful interests at play--what President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961  portrayed as the Military-Industrial complex—interests sustained by that massive hemorrhage of American treasure. And those interests- corporations, labor unions, the pentagon, think tanks, politicians--use their massive clout to keep the torrent flowing.

To get a sense of that endless outflow, check out a site called Danger Zone Jobs. It’s aimed at those—mainly ex-military--looking for work in America’s sprawling “defense” establishment. To that end, the folks running DZJ, regularly troll hundreds of major “defense” corporations to produce a list of potential job opportunities.

Barack Obama may talk about ending the surge in Afghanistan, pulling out of Iraq, and so on. But the list of new military contracts being let tells a very different story.  210 major U.S. companies are currently offering jobs in “Afghanistan, Kuwait, and other high risk areas.”
On Tuesday, September 25th, 2012, for instance,

L-3 Services Inc., Alexandria, Va., was awarded an $84,420,000 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to supply services in support of the Law Enforcement Professionals Program. Work will be performed in Afghanistan. 

Comment: But aren’t all U.S. troops supposed to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014?  And what about, the New York Times report that the U.S. has also quietly given up on one of its major goals in Afghanistan—“battering a Taliban into a peace deal “
Instead, after having spent 1.2 trillion dollars over the past 12 years, lost 2,000 men and 17,000 wounded, surged in and surged out,

“The once ambitious American plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart, and to ensure Pakistan is on board with any eventual settlement.

Despite the bleak views of  U.S. military and civilians in Afghanistan, the list of new contracts for that country spews on.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eiden Systems Corp., Charlottesville, Va., was awarded an $8,494,620 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. 
The award will provide for the necessary services in support of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. Work will be performed in Charlottesville and Afghanistan.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
--ECC International L.L.C., Burlington, Calif., was awarded a $13,734,629 firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the construction of three buildings for the Afghanistan National Army.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
-Serco Inc., Reston, Va., was awarded an $11,396,739 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract. The award will provide for the services in support of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. Work will be performed in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

Then there’s Iraq:
-American Science and Engineering Inc., Billerica, Mass., was awarded a $20,799,851 firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the contractor logistic support services to the Government of Iraq.

In fact, the U.S. may be winding down in Iraq, but they’ve sure been winding up in neighboring Kuwait. September 27th must have seemed like Christmas for defense contractors involved with that oil-rich.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012
--Exelis Systems Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded a $434,442,522 cost-plus-award-fee contract. The award will provide for the operations and security support services in Kuwait. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012
--ManTech Telecommunications and Information Systems Corp. was awarded a $61,077,332 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to procure contractor logistics sustainment support services for Route Clearance Vehicles, Special Operations Command and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Family of Vehicles.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
--September Science Applications International Corp., McLean, Va., was awarded an $82,142,479 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the necessary logistics support across all configurations of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Family of Vehicles.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

--VSE Corp., Alexandria, Va., was awarded a $13,210,858 firm-fixed-price and level-of-effort contract. The award will provide for the maintenance and repair services in support of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Family of Vehicles in Kuwait.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

--Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc is being awarded a not-to-exceed $6,900,718 cost-plus-fixed-fee task order to provide contingency equipment support on various military vehicles. Work will be performed within Kuwait.

But, with more than 1,000 American bases spanning the globe, according to Nick Turse who follows the phenomenon, job opportunities are by no means limited to old standbys like Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Check out the action in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
KBR’s wholly-owned subsidiary KBR Federal Services was awarded the U.S. Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) Engineering Command construction contract for the aircraft logistics apron, taxiway enhancement and parking pads upgrade at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, 
Question: How many millions? Doesn’t say.

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Tetra Tech EC Inc., Lakewood, Colo., is being awarded a $59,030,099 firm-fixed-price construction contract for the design and construction of Bachelor Enlisted Quarters and containerized living units for expeditionary lodging at Camp Lemoniier, Djibouti, Africa.

Hold it! Airfields and bachelor enlisted quarters. Sounds like they’re settling in for a long stay. But you’re not really sure where Djibouti is? And you’ve never heard of Camp Lemoniier? You don’t know what CJTF-HOA stands for? [ Would Romney or Obama?]   

It’s the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (HOA). It was set up in 2002 to help rout out possible terrorists in the area—think Somalia, Yemen, the Sudan--and, obviously, it’s flourishing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Rome Research has been awarded $14.2m for IT Telecommunication Services in support of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and other tenants at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
Question: Other tenants??

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Washington Consulting Group was awarded $7m to augment the staff at Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti, Africa and train personnel in order for them to become certified in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).

For those of you who thought the U.S. had plunged into a massive undertaking when it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, just listen to the audacious goals of CJTF_HOA as proclaimed on their web site. 

“CJTF-HOA builds and strengthens partnerships to contribute to security and stability in East Africa. The task force’s efforts, as part of a comprehensive whole-of-government approach, are aimed at increasing our African partner nations’ capacity to maintain a stable environment, with an effective government that provides a degree of economic and social advancement to its citizens. An Africa that is stable, participates in free and fair markets, and contributes to global economic development is good for the United States as well as the rest of the world. Long Term stability is a vital interest of all nations.

The government may be cutting back on vital services in the U.S. but when you read their press releases, it’s clear that CJTF-HOA is spending America’s money on all kinds of stuff. Ever heard of VETCAP?  

Sep 22, 2012, Fifteen Tanzanian animal healthcare professionals, Soldiers from the U.S. Army 448 th Civil Affairs Battalion, and the Joint Civil Affairs Team in Tanzania assigned to Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa came together to participate in a two week Veterinary Civic Action Program, or VETCAP, training session in Mkinga District, Tanzania Sept. 3-14.

Question: Whatever ever happened to the U.S. Agency for International Development?  And then there’s AFRICOM:

From September 19th to 21st, the folks from CJTF-HOA also took part in a conference attended by 20 military chaplains from the US Africa Comnand (AFRICOM) and nine East African countries, for the third annual AFRICOM-sponsored African Military Chaplain Conference in Djibouti City.
Question? Did everyone get a souvenir coffee mug and T-shirt.

Meanwhile in the Central African Republic…also on September 27, 2012
Evergreen Helicopter Inc was awarded a $10,122,153 firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the transportation services for personnel and equipment. Work will be performed in Central African Republic.

Checking out what the U.S. might be up to in the Central Africa Republic, I found a fascinating New York Times article written last April that could have been penned by Kurt Vonnegut:
“One hundred of America’s elite Special Operations troops, aided by night vision scopes and satellite imagery, are helping African forces find a wig-wearing, gibberish-speaking fugitive rebel commander named Joseph Konywho has been hiding out in the jungle for years with a band of child soldiers and a harem of dozens of child brides.

“No one knows exactly where Mr. Kony is, but here in Obo, at a remote forward operating post in the Central African Republic, Green Berets pore over maps and interview villagers, hopeful for a clue…Picture towering trees that blot out the sun, endless miles of elephant grass, and swirling brown rivers that coil like intestines and are infested with crocodiles; one of them recently ate a Ugandan member of the force.

“This is not going to be an easy slog,” said Ken Wright, a Navy SEAL captain and the commander of the joint American detachment assisting in the Kony hunt.”

Indeed, American forces and their African allies are apparently still trying to run  Kony down.

Those troops are among some 5,000 American troops and DOD personnel [remember those job offers] currently defending U.S. interests across the African continent.

Question: Under Barack Obama?!

[For more on the U.S. in Afghanistan, please check out my latest blogs].




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Benghazi 2012-Tehran 1979: Another big screwup


A U.S. administration is accused of not increasing security at a sensitive diplomatic outpost in the Middle East, despite warnings from its own intelligence agencies. The results are catastrophic.
We’re talking not just about Libya today---but Iran 30 years ago—when 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
According to several top secret U.S. government documents, which we revealed on 60 Minutes on  March 2,1980, the administration of Jimmy Carter failed to heed warnings from top Iranian officials and its own diplomats about the dangers if the U.S. were to admit the deposed Shah of Iran to the United States.
On November 4, 1979, several hundred radical Iranians, outraged at the U.S. decision to admit the Shah they detested to New York for medical treatment, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, overwhelmed the security guards, and took the American diplomats hostage.
It looked as if the Carter administration was innocent, overwhelmed by events:  they had simply extended a humanitarian hand to a former ally who suddenly and desperately needed medical treatment.
It later turned out that the taking of the embassy was far from spontaneous. On the other hand, as we discovered, U.S. government planning for the Shah to come to the U.S. had begun months before, and had continued despite ample warning of looming disaster.
Ironically, chapter and verse of those warnings were provided by files seized during the embassy takeover. As the mobs surged through the gates, officials inside frantically shredded thousands of documents. The hostage-takers, however, turned over that supposedly illegible mountain of debris to an army of local Iranians—many of them supposedly skilled weavers. After months of effort, they painstakingly pieced hundreds of documents back together. They were then published and put on sale –outside the American Embassy itself, for instance, where we picked up a copy.   
Among that trove was a State Department document classified “secret sensitive.” written in August 1979 and titled “Planning for the Shah to come to the U.S.” That was three months before the Shah’s arrival in New York. It said that once Khomeini is firmly established “it seems appropriate to admit the Shah to the United States.”
The discussion between officials in Washington and Tehran continued. In September, 1979, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, warned that the Shah’s coming to the U.S. could spell trouble to the embassy.  “I doubt that the Shah being ill, would have much ameliorating effect on the degree of reaction here.”
About that reaction, a State Department report specifically warned of “the danger of hostages being taken” and advised “When the decision is made to admit the Shah, we should quietly assign additional American security guards to the embassy, to provide protection to key personnel until the danger period is considered over.”
Despite that warning, Henry Precht then head of the Iranian Desk at the State Department, admitted to us that, “those guards were never provided.”
The Carter administration attempted to defend itself by claiming that Iranian officials had assured them that, if the Shah were to come to the United States, the Iranians would still protect the embassy.  
But Ibrahim Yazdi, Iran’s former Foreign Minister, gave us a different story. He told us that he was officially informed by the U.S. only 24 hours before the arrival of the Shah in New York.
Yazdi said that he then warned the State Department, “You are playing with fire. There will be a very drastic reaction.”
When President Carter asked then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance if the embassy could be protected, Vance later told Mike Wallace, “We said that we could. But we didn’t.”