U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times

Funny how Obama now sees that Iran is a threat and is persuing nuclear weapons… I wonder what would have happened had he been privy to this level of intel when the decision to take out Saddam was made… I bet he would have sang a different tune, but then again he was just a state senator in IL and did not have access to intel this level of intel when he spoke out against going into Iraq.

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.” 

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington. 

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

via U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times.

Newly Published: Threats in the Age of Obama by Michael Tanji

A must read… Check the link at the bottom of the post to check out the book

If you are on a mission to change the way government works, particularly in the national security arena, this is one a place where some independent and intellectually diverse thinking is to be found. In these essays, we offer our view of some of the more pressing threats the Obama administration will have to deal with in these early days of the 21st century.

via Amazon.com: Threats in the Age of Obama: Michael Tanji: Books.

Chavez Possibly Supporting Hamas And Hezbollah

Not really that much of a surprise… I wonder how much support and the types he is providing… 

Now let’s not forget Chavez is looking to start up a nuke program, allegedly for power, but I would suspect with a little Iranian help this could very easily be a weapons program…

Wonder if Obama will watch his own backyard or if they will be given the Socialists pass…

A new book published in the United States alleges that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an active and open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, providing the Lebanese Shi’ite militia with training for its fighters.

In “The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America,” authors Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan write that through his support of terror organizations and by providing safe refuge for terrorists, Chavez constitutes a real, concrete threat to the United States.

Venezeula earlier this month cut ties with Israel to protest its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The move came shortly days after Chavez called the attacks on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory a “holocaust.”

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Last August the Los Angeles Times reported that Western governments fear that Hezbollah is establishing a growing number of operational cells in the South American country.

Iran is long believed to have undertaken covert activity in South America in concert with Hezbollah. The LA Times reported that the U.S. State Department believes Iranian operatives were behind two terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires – the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center building. Both attacks killed dozens of civilians and wounded scores more

via Chavez providing aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, says new book – Haaretz – Israel News .

BLACKFIVE: 5 Years after Saddam’s capture (video from Iraq)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Liberal Left’s Wrath Unleased On Obama

The “progressive” liberals are getting really pissed off at Obama… His promises of change have become a memory of the past as far as his appointments go… He has transformed himself what his campaign slammed John McCain for being… More of the same… Bowers is correct though, Democrats can’t run the military… However I would expand that to national security as well.

Obama does not know how to handle the job of President and is setting himself up with insiders to mask his inexperience. The majority of his picks so far are nothing more than the Clinton Administration, which is very grave considering they were a major contributing factor to today’s economic crisis…

Change You Can Believe In!

More than a month before he takes the oath of office, President-elect Barack Obama already is testing the loyalty of his liberal base.

On Monday, he is expected to announce his national security team, which will include Robert Gates as his defense secretary, a carry-over from the Bush administration, and retired Gen. Jim Jones, who supported John McCain for president, as his national security adviser.

Liberal blogger Chris Bowers of The Open Left says the message sent by the selection of Gates undermines Democrats.

“The message would be clear,” he writes in his blog. “Even Democrats agree that Democrats can’t run the military.”

Obama’s outspoken opposition to the Iraq war before he became a U.S. senator was one of the reasons he was embraced early in the presidential race by the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party’s base, so his apparent decision to keep a Bush adviser as defense secretary for at least a year has raised some eyebrows within that faction.

Bowers, a member of the Pennsylvania state Democratic committee, argues that Gates provided support and cover for practices from waterboarding to the use of psychotropic drugs on terror detainees. The blogger isn’t as negative toward Jones but still called it “very disappointing.”

“It is just so very frustrating,” Bowers writes. “It seems like the only place progressives are making any gains is in the House. We are being entirely left out of Obama’s major appointments so far. I guess everyone gets to play in Obama’s administration, except progressives.”

Democratic blogger Brent Budowsky, who served as a congressional assistant in the 1970s and 1980s, said he would have preferred to see Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska or former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia get the nod for defense secretary.

Budowsky said he fears that Obama’s national security team will steer him toward a longer military commitment than the one he made on the campaign trail.

“It is unfortunate that on an issue so momentous as who runs the Pentagon at time of war, the views that were stated in the campaign, and supported so deeply by the base of the Democratic Party and the new voters and small donors who were the heart of the Obama campaign, are sacrificed so quickly, for Bob Gates,” he writes in his blog.

GOP strategist Dave Winston told FOX News that some pushback was to be expected.

“The base is clearly going to say, where are you headed in terms of this policy?” Winston said. “And I think it will cause him some headaches with the base, although for the overall country, I think they will see it quite favorably.”

Democratic consultant Bob Beckel told FOX News that objections from liberals over Obama’s Cabinet selections isn’t all bad.

“Not so sure, from Obama’s standpoint, it’s bad politically,” he said. “It helps him in his negotiation with Congress.”

Obama’s national security team also will include several former members of Bill Clinton’s administration, eliciting some complaints about recycling people from the Clinton White House. And Obama is expected to pick Hillary Clinton to be his pick for secretary of state.

But Beckel says Obama needs experience from the last Democratic White House.

“If he went to a Democratic administration before that, he’d have to go to the nursing home,” he said.

FOX News’ Wendell Goler contributed to this report.

US Military Operating Under Secret Orders

Well the news itself is no surprise, but what the fact that the mass media is reporting it is. As usual, journalistic ethics are out the door. The media loves to report anything classified, top secret etc… As long as they can get it out to the people who should know… Bullshit.

Operations are on going, as in the recent Syrian raid, which is mentioned in the article, and the publication of news like this only puts our troops in danger. It also escalates tensions between countries because now things are public knowledge, instead of being handled by the respective powers and counter parts in the countries involved.

I guess that is why the UK is looking to censor media outlets from reporting on items that compromise national security. Maybe we should consider doing the same thing, and make it a criminal act… And when items involve national security and put soldiers lives in danger, I think the anonymous sources excuse used by the media must be abolished. If there is no national security issue or potential to put soldiers lives in danger, then fine, let them use all the anonymous sources they want.

The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President George W. Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.

Some of the military missions have been conducted in close coordination with the CIA, according to senior American officials, who said that in others, like the Special Operations raid in Syria on Oct. 26 of this year, the military commandos acted in support of CIA-directed operations.

But as many as a dozen additional operations have been canceled in the past four years, often to the dismay of military commanders, senior military officials said. They said senior administration officials had decided in these cases that the missions were too risky, were too diplomatically explosive or relied on insufficient evidence.

More than a half-dozen officials, including current and former military and intelligence officials as well as senior Bush administration policy makers, described details of the 2004 military order on the condition of anonymity because of its politically delicate nature. Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the military declined to comment.

Apart from the 2006 raid into Pakistan, the American officials refused to describe in detail what they said had been nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks, except to say they had been carried out in Syria, Pakistan and other countries. They made clear that there had been no raids into Iran using that authority, but they suggested that American forces had carried out reconnaissance missions in Iran using other classified directives.

According to a senior administration official, the new authority was spelled out in a classified document called “Al Qaeda Network Exord,” or execute order, that streamlined the approval process for the military to act outside officially declared war zones. Where in the past the Pentagon needed to get approval for missions on a case-by-case basis, which could take days when there were only hours to act, the new order specified a way for Pentagon planners to get the green light for a mission far more quickly, the official said.

It also allowed senior officials to think through how the United States would respond if a mission went badly. “If that helicopter goes down in Syria en route to a target,” the official said, “the American response would not have to be worked out on the fly.”

The 2004 order was a step marking the evolution of how the American government sought to kill or capture Qaeda terrorists around the world. It was issued after the Bush administration had already granted America’s intelligence agencies sweeping power to secretly detain and interrogate terrorism suspects in overseas prisons and to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on telephone and electronic communications.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush issued a classified order authorizing the CIA to kill or capture Qaeda militants around the globe. By 2003, American intelligence agencies and the military had developed a much deeper understanding of Al Qaeda’s extensive global network, and Rumsfeld pressed hard to unleash the military’s vast firepower against militants outside the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2004 order identifies 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, a senior administration official said.

Even with the order, each specific mission requires high-level government approval. Targets in Somalia, for instance, need at least the approval of the defense secretary, the administration official said, while targets in a handful of countries, including Pakistan and Syria, require presidential approval.

The Pentagon has exercised its authority frequently, dispatching commandos to countries including Pakistan and Somalia. Details of a few of these strikes have previously been reported.

For example, shortly after Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia in late 2006 to dislodge an Islamist regime in Mogadishu, the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command quietly sent operatives and AC-130 gunships to an airstrip near the Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. From there, members of a classified unit called Task Force 88 crossed repeatedly into Somalia to hunt senior members of a Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

At the time, American officials said Special Operations troops were operating under a classified directive authorizing the military to kill or capture Qaeda operatives if failure to act quickly would mean the United States had lost a “fleeting opportunity” to neutralize the enemy.

Occasionally, the officials said, Special Operations troops would land in Somalia to assess the strikes’ results. On Jan. 7, 2007, an AC-130 struck an isolated fishing village near the Kenyan border, and within hours, American commandos and Ethiopian troops were examining the rubble to determine whether any Qaeda operatives had been killed.

But even with the new authority, proposed Pentagon missions were sometimes scrubbed because of bad intelligence or bureaucratic entanglements, senior administration officials said.

The details of one of those aborted operations, in early 2005, were reported by The New York Times last June. In that case, an operation to send a team of Navy Seals and Army Rangers into Pakistan to capture Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, was aborted at the last minute.

Zawahri was believed by intelligence officials to be attending a meeting in Bajaur, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command hastily put together a plan to capture him. There were strong disagreements inside the Pentagon and the CIA about the quality of the intelligence, however, and some in the military expressed concern that the mission was unnecessarily risky.

Porter Goss, the CIA director at the time, urged the military to carry out the mission, and some in the CIA even wanted to execute it without informing Ryan Crocker, then the American ambassador to Pakistan. Rumsfeld ultimately refused to authorize the mission.

Former military and intelligence officials said that Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, who recently completed his tour as head of the Joint Special Operations Command, had pressed for years to win approval for commando missions into Pakistan. But the missions were frequently rejected because officials in Washington determined that the risks to American troops and the alliance with Pakistan were too great.

Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for General McChrystal, who is now director of the military’s Joint Staff, declined to comment.

The recent raid into Syria was not the first time that Special Operations forces had operated in that country, according to a senior military official and an outside adviser to the Pentagon.

Since the Iraq war began, the official and the outside adviser said, Special Operations forces have several times made cross-border raids aimed at militants and infrastructure aiding the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The raid in late October, however, was much more noticeable than the previous raids, military officials said, which helps explain why it drew a sharp protest from the Syrian government.

Negotiations to hammer out the 2004 order took place over nearly a year and involved wrangling between the Pentagon and the CIA and the State Department about the military’s proper role around the world, several administration officials said.

American officials said there had been debate over whether to include Iran in the 2004 order, but ultimately Iran was set aside, possibly to be dealt with under a separate authorization.

Senior officials of the State Department and the CIA voiced fears that military commandos would encroach on their turf, conducting operations that historically the CIA had carried out, and running missions without an ambassador’s knowledge or approval.

Rumsfeld had pushed in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks to expand the mission of Special Operations troops to include intelligence gathering and counterterrorism operations in countries where American commandos had not operated before.

Bush administration officials have shown a determination to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a legal rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent.

Several officials said the negotiations over the 2004 order resulted in closer coordination among the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA, and set a very high standard for the quality of intelligence necessary to gain approval for an attack.

The 2004 order also provided a foundation for the orders that Bush approved in July allowing the military to conduct raids into the Pakistani tribal areas, including the Sept. 3 operation by Special Operations forces that killed about 20 militants, American officials said.

Administration officials said that Bush’s approval had paved the way for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to sign an order — separate from the 2004 order — that specifically directed the military to plan a series of operations, in cooperation with the CIA, on the Qaeda network and other militant groups linked to it in Pakistan.

Unlike the 2004 order, in which Special Operations commanders nominated targets for approval by senior government officials, the order in July was more of a top-down approach, directing the military to work with the CIA to find targets in the tribal areas, administration officials said. They said each target still needed to be approved by the group of Bush’s top national security and foreign policy advisers, called the Principals Committee.

Bin Laden – Bringing Change To America

Jawa reports that an ex Al Qaeda operative has warned of an imminent attack on the US.  Funny how Bin Laden believes in Change too…

The Age Osama bin Laden is planning an attack against the United States that will “outdo by far” September 11, an Arab newspaper in London has reported.And according to a former senior Yemeni al-Qaeda operative, the terrorist organisation has entered a “positive phase”, reinforcing specific training camps around the world that will lead the next “wave of action” against the West.

The warning, on the front page of an Arabic newspaper published in London, Al-Quds Al-Arabi — and widely reported in the major Italian papers — quotes a person described as being “very close to al-Qaeda” in Yemen.

The paper is edited by Abdel al-Bari Atwan, who is said to be the last journalist to interview Osama bin Laden in 1996. According to the report, bin Laden is himself closely following preparations for an attack against the US and aims to “change the face of world politics and economics”. The operative is quoted as saying that “this will be shown by the fact that we now control a major part of the south of Somalia”.

The ex-operative says he remains in contact with current chiefs of the organisation in Yemen and that only six months ago bin Laden had sent a message to all jihad cells in the Arab world which asked them not to interact with their governments or local political parties and to deny any request for mediation or formal talks.

The source also said that during the next few days the terrorist organisation may send a sign of its violent intentions.

 

A few things in the statement that make sense 1) the importance of Somalia and ergo, Yemen (money, fighters, weapons) 2) the end of negotiations between the Yemeni government and the terrorists (“the period of calmness”) came as a result of an order from bin Laden, not because of agitation from returnees from Iraq, 3) the continuing importance of the original trusted network of Yemenis to the Al-Qaeda eadership..

A “senior” leader would refer to one with connections dating back to the Afghan days. My first guess would be Abu al-Fida, he’s just a very chatty guy, loves to give interviews and was most definitely top echelon. There’s photos of him sitting with UBL. Al-Fida was a prime negotiator between the regime and al-Qaeda and described the truce period that started in 2003 as centrally ordered by bin Laden.

Al-Fida was also the one who reported the line of sucession in al-Qaeda would pass to bin Laden’s son, so he has previously made officially sanctioned statements on behalf of the terror leadership. For prior reporting on al-Fida, click here.