Are US Intelligence Agencies Withholding Intelligence From President Trump?

Trump leaving the CIA headquarters with Michael Flynn after delivering remarks during a visit in Langley, Virginia, on January 21. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Trump leaving the CIA headquarters with Michael Flynn after delivering remarks during a visit in Langley, Virginia, on January 21. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, February 16, 2017:

According to a front page Wall Street Journal article today, U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.  The Journal story cited former and current intelligence officials.  If true, this would be a dangerous and unprecedented act of defiance by unelected intelligence officers.  The acting Director of National Intelligence denied this report.

I suspect this story is only partly true for several reasons.  While I believe there are a handful of Obama appointees who are making such claims, most intelligence officers would  never do this because they know they work for the president and such behavior would cost them their jobs.  I also question whether any intelligence officials who have had actual contact with the White House did this.  I believe this story is being driven by a blogger and former intelligence officer who, although he has a wide following, has a history of making far-fetched and conspiratorial claims.

What this story does represent is the urgency that the Trump administration get its appointees in place in intelligence agencies to ensure they perform their mission to provide the president with the intelligence he needs to keep our nation safe.  Trump officials also are urgently needed at State and the Pentagon.

Once Trump officials are in place and assert control over the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIA, DIA, State and DOD, there should be a sharp reduction in leaks and anti-Trump press stories like today’s Wall Street Journal article.

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LISTEN TO TODAY’S SECURE FREEDOM PODCAST ON THE DEEP STATE

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Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?

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Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, January  9, 2016:

Friday night, during her last show on Fox News, Megyn Kelly asked former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra whether he accepted the conclusion by 17 intelligence agencies in a recently released declassified report that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and that this interference came at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hoekstra gave an answer Kelly did not anticipate.  He noted that the declassified report represents the views of only three intelligence agencies, not seventeen. Hoekstra also questioned why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) did not co-author or clear the report and why it lacked dissenting views.

The declassified report issued on January 6 is an abridged version of a longer report ordered by President Obama that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to undermine the 2016 president election, hurt Hillary’s candidacy and promote Donald Trump through cyber warfare, social media and the state-owned Russia cable channel RT. Although the report’s authors said they have high confidence in most of these conclusions, they were unable to include any evidence for classification reasons.

As someone who worked in the intelligence field for 25 years, I share Congressman Hoekstra’s concerns about Friday’s declassified Russia report and a similar Joint DHS and ODNI Election Security Statement released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and DHS on October 7, 2016.

I also suspect the entire purpose of this report and its timing was to provide President Obama with a supposedly objective intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that the president could release before he left office to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election.

I am concerned both intelligence assessments were rigged for political purposes.

You may remember when Hillary Clinton claimed during the final presidential debate on October 19 that based on the October 7 ODNI/DHS statement, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had determined the WikiLeaks disclosures of Democratic emails were an effort by Russia to interfere with the election.

Clinton’s remark was not accurate. Although the October memo said “the U.S. Intelligence Community” was confident that the Russian government was behind the alleged hacking, the October memo was drafted by only two intelligence organizations – ODNI and DHS.

Since it came out only a month before the presidential election and was co-authored by only two intelligence agencies, the October memo looked like a clumsy attempt by the Obama White House to produce a document to boost Clinton’s reelection chances.  Its argumentation was very weak since it said the alleged hacking of Democratic emails was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts” but did not say there was any evidence of Russian involvement.

Friday’s declassified intelligence report on Russia hacking is even more suspicious.  As Congressman Hoekstra noted, this report was drafted and cleared by only three intelligence agencies, not 17.  DHS, which co-authored the October statement, added a brief tick to the new report, but did not clear it.  The Office of Director of National Intelligence, which co-authored the October memo, did not draft or clear Friday’s report, nor did other members of the U.S Intelligence Community with important equities in this issue such as DIA and the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR).

The declassified Russian report also lacks standard boilerplate language that it was coordinated within the U.S. Intelligence Community. This language usually reads: “This memorandum was prepared by the National Intelligence Council and was coordinated with the US Intelligence Community” or “this is an IC-coordinated assessment.”

Given how politically radioactive the issue of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election has become, why wasn’t the January 6 Russia report an intelligence community-coordinated assessment?  Why were several important intelligence agencies and their experts excluded?

It also is important, as Hoekstra indicated in his Fox interview, that intelligence community assessments on extremely controversial issues include dissenting views, such as those added by INR to the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD program.  A declassified version of this estimate was released in 2002 that included INR’s dissent.

The content of the declassified report was underwhelming. Although the report made serious accusations of Russian interference in the election, it did not back them up with evidence.  And, as Hoekstra also noted in his Fox News interview, the report made some dubious arguments that Russia succeeded in influencing the election using its RT cable channel, a Russian propaganda tool that is only taken seriously in the United States by the far left.

It’s also troubling that the unclassified report does not mention the extremely weak internet security of Clinton’s private email server, the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta.  This makes it impossible to determine whether the alleged hacking and leaking of Democratic emails was more Russia and other hostile actors exploiting this carelessness rather than a deliberate and robust Russian operation to interfere with the election.

This is not to say the new CIA/NSA/FBI report is without value.  I believe the classified report probably includes solid evidence on the intensive and broad-based cyber warfare efforts that Russia, China and other states have been conducting against the United States for the last eight years that President Obama has ignored.

I am encouraged that President-elect Trump responded to this report by stating that will take aggressive action against cyber warfare against the United States in the early days of his administration.

At the same time, I believe President-elect Trump and his team are justified in questioning the January 6 report as politically motivated.

I am concerned that the exclusion of key intelligence players and the lack of dissenting views give the appearance that the conclusions of this report were pre-cooked.

I also suspect the entire purpose of this report and its timing was to provide President Obama with a supposedly objective intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that the president could release before he left office to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election.

Adding to the Trump team’s concerns that intelligence agencies were playing political games over possible Russian interference in the election, is the fact that at the same time these agencies were refusing to brief Congress about their findings on this issue, they were constantly being leaked to the news media. The most recent press leaks, some by intelligence officials, occurred this week on the classified contents of the new Russia report before they were briefed to Mr. Trump.

The new intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election broke so radically with the way objective and authoritative intelligence community assessments are supposed to be produced that it appears to have been rigged to support a pre-ordained set of conclusions to undermine President-elect Trump.   I believe the October 2016 memo and related developments support this unfortunate conclusion.

It is vital that the Trump administration and U.S. intelligence agencies move beyond this situation by working together to forge new policies to protect our nation against the many serious threats it faces, including radical Islam, cyber warfare, nuclear proliferation, Russia, China and other threats.

Intelligence agencies were led astray by the Obama administration’s partisanship and national security incompetence.

I am confident that over time, the outstanding men and women Trump has named to top national security posts will ensure that America’s intelligence agencies have Trump’s confidence and produce the hard hitting and objective intelligence he will need to defend our nation.

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Islamic State Adapting & Improving Its Escape/Evasion Tactics/Tradecraft

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Image source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-tricks-make-isis-once-easily-tracked-a-sophisticated-opponent-1473613106

Fortuna’s Corner, by R. C. Porter, Sept. 12, 2016:

Sam Schechner and Benoit Faucon had a September 11, 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal with an all too familiar theme — that the adversary is evading our attempts to surveil them — by adapting and enhancing their escape and evasion tradecraft.  Our lack of critical human intelligence (HUMINT) can be blamed on a clever adversary who has learned from their past mistakes, our inability to deeply penetrate their inner sanctum, and self-inflicted/unforced errors like closing Guantanamo Bay Prison without identifying a viable alternative.

     Getting a reliable, and highly successful human spy ensconced deep within the adversary’s lair has always been one of the most difficult intelligence collection challenges since time immemorial.  Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “one well placed spy was worth two battalions.”  Now, one well-placed spy could be worth an entire city.

     Our success in the targeted killing of the ISIS leadership no doubt sowed a heavy dose of mistrust and paranoia within the group’s ranks; and, ultimately forced those remaining to change and adapt their techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) with respect to  how they communicate, plan operations, and travel — both locally and abroad.  The adversary gets a vote; and, it is to be expected that ISIS would adapt, change, and enhance its operational security (OPSEC) — especially as the targeted killing campaign eliminated their top leadership.  But, leaks by Edward Snowden, which revealed sensitive and highly lucrative NSA sources and methods, seemed to instill ISIS with a renewed sense of OPSEC, resulting in their use of enhanced encryption software, and other techniques to avoid our attempts to surveil them.

      As Mr. Schechner and Mr. Faucon note, “the extremists group’s communications, once commonly conducted on phones and social media accounts easily tracked by authorities [and intelligence agencies], have evolved into a mix of encrypted chat-app messages over What‘sApp and Telegram, face-to-face meetings, written notes, stretches of silence, and misdirection.”  The use of couriers, and disposable cell phones also remain a staple of their tradecraft.  The group’s move to enhanced encryption occurred within three months after the Edward Snowden leasks.  Additionally, as expressed on the group’s social media websites, ISIS members and followers were warned about Western surveillance techniques — as revealed by the Snowden leaks, and what to do to avoid them.

     The POTUS’s insistence on closing Guantanamo Bay Prison, means the United States lacks a dedicated interrogation facility where high-value targets can be taken and interrogated over a prolonged period of time.  As a result, the U.S. is forced to conduct tactical/limited interrogations overseas; and/or, depend on an ally or foreign partner to conduct these investigations — and never really being sure that such interrogations were adequate.  The next POTUS needs to reinstate Guantanamo as a dedicated interrogation facility, or settle on a useful alternative that does not unduly deprive our, and our intelligence agency partners of the opportunity to thoroughly question those who wish to kill as many Americans and Westerners as they can.

     As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi wrote in the July 23, 2014 edition of The American Conservative, “terrorists now know that using a cell phone is dangerous, that transferring money using commercial accounts can be detected [thus the increased use of Bitcoins], that moving around when a drone is overhead can be fatal [thus the increased use/employment of human shields — women/children, etc.]; and, that communicating by computer is likely to be intercepted or exposed unless it is encrypted.

     And, as Mr. Giraldi correctly observes, “technical intelligence has its limitations:  while it is excellent on picking up bits and pieces, and using sophisticated computers to work through the bulk collection of chatter, it is largely unable to learn the intentions of terrorist groups and leaders.  To do that,” he argues, “you need spies, ideally someone who is placed in the inner circle of an organization; and who is therefore — privy to decision-making.”

     But, the Intelligence Community has a very poor record when it comes to deeply penetrating a terrorist group with a well-placed human spy.  To be fair, these groups are typically close-knit, very suspicious of new-comers, and vet new members through family and tribal connections — thus making a successful HUMINT penetration challenging to say the least.

     At the end of the day, intelligence collection against a low-tech adversary, who learns our sources and methods from leaks such as Edward Snowden’s, and adapts their TTPas in clever and unexpected ways, makes them a ‘hard target’ for a reason.  All the more important that we avoid self-inflicted wounds like shuttering Guantanamo  Bay Prison — without a viable alternative — and, consider establishing a leading-edge, deep penetration center of excellence, designed to try new means and methods to collect against low-tech, hard to penetrate adversarial entities.  V/R, RCP

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What Should We Make Of The Islamic State’s Ramadan Wave Of Violence?

smoke-1024x683FPRI, Author:  Clint Watts

The Islamic State has taken the final week of Ramadan to make a big statement: “We will not go quietly.” In the last seven days the terror group has shown that a “wounded Islamic State is a dangerous Islamic State” lashing out in an unprecedented wave of suicide bombings and other attacks around the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.

The Islamic State’s gradual decline in Syria and Iraq has finally brought a long expected shift in the group’s tactics from conventional military operations back towards insurgencies paired with regional and international terror attacks. The Islamic State overtook al Qaeda by declaring a caliphate and has since surpassed their forefathers as a terror group by executing a daily string of directed and networked attacks in six countries while narrowly missing in a seventh.

Here’s a quick recap of the Islamic State’s Ramadan Campaign. (For an explanation of the directed versus networked taxonomy see “Directed, Networked and Inspired: The Muddled Jihad of ISIS and al Qaeda Post Hebdo.” I’m estimating whether these attacks are directed or networked based upon available open source information. These classifications may change as further information arises.)

June 27 to July 5: The Islamic State’s Cascading Terrorism

Success breeds success for the Islamic State and their directed suicide assaults seek to amplify their image, rally their base during a down time, and inspire their supporters to undertake further violence in their name. Here’s what the Islamic State has perpetrated in short order.

Interestingly, only two of the above attacks do not involve a suicide operation – Bangladesh and Malaysia. Jama’at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a group connected with the Islamic State, but not a formal wilayat, had until recently only perpetrated targeted sectarian assassinations and this attack appears to not only be a major, violent step forward for the group but also seems more reminiscent of the Paris attacks and other international hostage seizures. Association of the Malaysian grenade attack with the Islamic State would also be a new trend regionally. In both cases, these peripheral attacks in South and Southeast Asia show the lesser capability of these distant Islamic State associates. It’s difficult to tell at this point whether they don’t have the capability to perpetrate suicide bombings or the personnel willing to execute such attacks.

Ultimately, the Islamic State has cascaded its terror attacks striking one target in a different country each day. Will it inspire attacks globally? Only time will tell, but possibly not. Western media has paid short attention to these attacks with the exception of the Istanbul airport. As al Murabitoon and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb learned with its Western African terror campaign post Paris, Western media coverage endures when Westerners are killed in the West, all other attacks have less value.

Here are some other items of note from this past week’s terror campaign.

The Islamic State against all enemies – Muslim, Christian, Shi’a, Sunni, Arab, Western

Some have incorrectly suggested that the Islamic State nimbly focuses its attacks predominately against Westerners or certain audiences. This week’s Islamic State attacks and resulting deaths point to the opposite conclusion: all enemies of the Islamic State are targets and Muslims have suffered the worst. In Saudi Arabia alone, the Islamic State hit near a Western consulate, a Shi’a mosque and a Sunni holy site. Lebanon saw targeting of Christians. Bangladesh brought a focus on Westerners. The Istanbul attack killed mostly Muslims. Yemen and Saudi Arabia saw the Islamic State concentrating on security forces. Each Islamic State affiliate may pick and choose certain targets for local reasons but as an aggregate, no one faith or ethnicity is spared from the Islamic State’s wanton violence.

Islamic State’s Remaining Fighters: Die In Place Or Go Out With A Bang?

The Islamic State lost Fallujah last week and some of its members that tried to escape were pulverized in massive airstrikes. Many Islamic State foreign fighters can’t return home or have no Islamic State affiliate to drift back to. For those homeless foreign fighters, the choice is simple: they can either die in place fighting for a crumbling caliphate or they can go out as martyrs striking their homelands or a regional or international targets. The Islamic State owns the largest number of homeless foreign fighters in history. As the group loses turf, they’ll likely become part of the largest human missile arsenal in history and be directed against any and all soft targets they can reach. This campaign is likely not the end of the Islamic State’s suicide campaign, but only the beginning.

Foreign Fighters Go As Far As Their Passports Will Take Them

Last winter, the West suffered from the Islamic State’s decision to allegedly dispatch hundreds of European foreign fighters back to their homelands. Paris and Brussels burned and operatives across a host of European countries were arrested. Western passport holders and those hidden in refugee flows pushed as far as they could to hit high profile soft targets. Turkey struggled for years with foreign fighters passing easily through their borders into Syria and fighters from the Caucasus and Central Asia found the country quite permissible, likely facilitating this past week’s Russian-speaking suicide bombers. Richard Engel reported that as many as 35 operatives were recently dispatched into Turkey alone. The Yemeni and Saudi attacks focused more heavily on security forces and were likely perpetrated by Islamic State pledges from their respective countries and possibly a Pakistani. The bottom line: the Islamic State is sending its bombers to the locations where they can achieve the biggest results. They are not in short supply of Western, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, or Russian operatives – expect more suicide attacks in places that al Qaeda only dreamed of reaching.

Strong Counterterrorism Matters: The Islamic State Preys On The Weak

Those countries with stronger counterterrorism and security apparatuses have fared the best this past week. The Saudis, long known for squelching terrorists in their midst, sustained far fewer deaths than other countries hit this week. Iraq, despite years of investment, seems unable to protect itself from suicide attacks with yet another massive suicide bombing. Lebanon and Bangladesh, two locations of rising promise for the Islamic State (see Figure 1), have weaker security environments and local conditions ripe for extremism. The Islamic State will likely learn from this past week and exploit those places where they got the greatest return on their investment.

Is The Islamic State Looking For An Exit Strategy?

In conclusion, the Islamic State’s rapid pace of violence may come at a time when they need to find a new home for the brand. Their caliphate revenues and oil production continue to dry up. They will need to shift to illicit schemes and donations to survive. Successful attacks attract investors: will this latest string of violence bring money? Probably not, but what this rampant violence can do is signal to Islamic State’s central leadership which affiliates are still committed to the Islamic State brand. Affiliates, existing or emerging, may want to carry on the Islamic State’s vision outside of Syria and Iraq. Much like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was for the al Qaeda Central during their downturn, Islamic State Central will need an affiliate to carry the black banner forward or their caliphate experiment will crumble as fast as it was created.

ISIS-affiliates-Figure-1

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C.I.A. Arms for Syrian Rebels Supplied Black Market, Officials Say

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

 

NYT, by MARK MAZZETTI and ALI YOUNES, JUNE 26, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Weapons shipped into Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to American and Jordanian officials.

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, F.B.I. officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons theft, which ended only months ago after complaints by the American and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time after a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera. The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades — even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms — including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades — have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market. Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Amman shooting, run by the bureau’s Washington field office, is continuing. But American and Jordanian officials said the investigators believed that the weapons a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, used to gun down two American contractors, two Jordanians and one South African had originally arrived in Jordan intended for the Syrian rebel-training program.

The officials said this finding had come from tracing the serial numbers of the weapons.

Mohammad H. al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, said allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers had been involved in any weapons thefts were “absolutely incorrect.”

“Weapons of our security institutions are concretely tracked, with the highest discipline,” he said. He called the powerful Jordanian intelligence service, known as the General Intelligence Directorate, or G.I.D., “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.” In Jordan, the head of the G.I.D. is considered the second most important man after the king.

Representatives of the C.I.A. and F.B.I. declined to comment.

The State Department did not address the allegations directly, but a spokesman said America’s relationship with Jordan remained solid.

“The United States deeply values the long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan,” said John Kirby, the spokesman. “We are committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with Jordan to meet common security challenges.”

The training program, which in 2013 began directly arming the rebels under the code name Timber Sycamore, is run by the C.I.A. and several Arab intelligence services and aimed at building up forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The United States and Saudi Arabia are the biggest contributors, with the Saudis contributing both weapons and large sums of money, and with C.I.A. paramilitary operatives taking the lead in training the rebels to use Kalashnikovs, mortars, antitank guided missiles and other weapons.

The existence of the program is classified, as are all details about its budget. American officials say that the C.I.A. has trained thousands of rebels in the past three years, and that the fighters made substantial advances on the battlefield against Syrian government forces until Russian military forces — launched last year in support of Mr. Assad — compelled them to retreat.

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CIA Director Brennan’s 60-Minutes Interview Encapsulates The Dangerous & Naive Approach This Administration Has Adopted In Combating The lslamic State

CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS will try to attack the U.S. in the future, but said their chances of success are definitely not 100 percent. (Photo : Twitter Photo Section)

CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS will try to attack the U.S. in the future, but said their chances of success are definitely not 100 percent. (Photo : Twitter Photo Section)

Fortuna’s Corner, by R. C. Porter, Feb. 15, 2015:

CIA Director John Brennan’s Sunday night (Feb. 14, 2016) interview aired on the CBS show ’60 Minutes,’ was profound for what he said; and, what he didn’t say.   During last night’s interview,
     Scott Pelley of CBS News asked Director Brennan:  “Is ISIS coming here [the U.S.]?”
     Director Brennan said:  “I think ISIL does want to eventually find it’s mark here.”
     Scott Pelley:  “You’re expecting an attack in the United States?”
     Director Brennan:  “I’m expecting them to try to put in place the operatives, the material, or whatever else they need to incite people to carry out these attacks clearly.  So, I believe their attempts are inevitable.  I don’t think their successes necessarily are.”
     Later in the interview, Mr. Pelley asked Director Brennan:  “Does ISIS have chemical weapons?”
     Director Brennan:  “We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield.”
     Mr. Pelley later remarked;  “The CIA believes ISIS has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine, and mustard gas.  And the capability of [ISIS] exporting those capabilities to the West [are]?”
     Director Brennan:  “I think there is always the potential for that.  This is why it’s so important to cut off the various transportation routes, and smuggling routes that they have used.”
     But, here is the real ringer: 
 
     Scott Pelley:  “What do you think our policy would be after an ISIS-directed attack in the United States?” 
 
     Director Brennan:  “If there is a major attack here, and we had ISIS fingerprints on it — certainly, this would encourage us to be even more forceful in terms of what we need to do [to combat this looming threat].”
 
     Scott Pelley:  “If our policy after an attack in the United States would be more forceful, WHY ISN’T THAT OUR POLICY — BEFORE AN ATTACK?”
 
         Director Brennan:  “Well, I think we’re being as forceful as we can, in making sure that we’re being surgical as well.  What we don’t want to do is alienate others within that region; and, have any type of indiscriminate actions that are going to lead to deaths of additional civilians.”
 
       There it is in a nutshell.  We (the United States) aren’t going to do anything that might upset anyone in the region — apparently until we have dead Americans littering the streets of the continental United States.  Then, we’ll alienate the hell out of them.  But, we apparently have to have innocent American blood spilled here first.  This interview isn’t getting the attention and seriousness it deserves.  This administration is being derelict with respect to taking all deliberate measures to protect us here at home.  God help us if ISIS does launch a successful attack here and this POTUS and Director Brennan have to stand in front of the victim’s families and the American people and explain why they did not act more aggressively beforehand.
 
      The Intelligence Community was heavily criticized and ripped apart in the aftermath of 9/11 for a ‘failure of imagination,’ and for failing to ‘connect the dots.’  We now have a CIA Director publicly warning that ISIS intends to attack the U.S. homeland; but, we — the U.S. Government is attempting to wage an antiseptic war against an avowed and determined enemy — because we do not want to offend people in the region.  
 
    If you think the 9/11 Commission was critical and rough on the Intelligence Community — you ain’t seen nothing yet — if ISIS is successful.
 
     This kind of naive thinking is also behind the short-sighted intent to close Guantanamo; and, the imposition of overly restrictive rules-of-engagement our warfighters are operating under, as they try and kill these malcontents over there — before they come here.
 
     And, as far as ISIS’s message potentially finding fertile ground here — well, that’s why in addition to killing ISIS physically, we also have to kill the message and the idea.  I know I sound like a broken record, but there is no better way to do that than to have a 21st century Crimes Against Humanity Trials (a 21st century version of the WWII Nuremberg War Crimes Trials 70 years ago) — and indict and prosecute Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his key henchmen — in absentia if necessary — so their philosophy and message can be condemned in a similar fashion that Nazism was.  But, that might offend some people over there — so, this would appear a non-starter under this POTUS, and CIA Director.
 
     God help us if Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Winston Churchill had taken this kind of stance against Nazi Germany.  No, I do not want to go there.
 
         We have all the dots we need — to understand that we face a clear and present danger from the Islamic State.  But, we apparently believe that if we fight with soft gloves, close Guantanamo, and say the ‘right things,’ — we’ll be safe.  If it were only so.  

Intelligence Director: Al-Qaeda ‘Positioned to Make Gains in 2016’

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper looks at his notes during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about worldwide threats on Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper looks at his notes during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about worldwide threats on Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, FEBRUARY 9, 2016

The director of national intelligence warned Congress this morning that “unpredictable instabilities have become the new normal, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.”

In a briefing of worldwide threats referred to as his “litany of doom,” James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “violent extremists” are “operationally active in about 40 countries.”

“Seven countries are experiencing a collapse of central government authority, 14 others face regime-threatening or violent instability or both. Another 59 countries face a significant risk of instability through 2016,” he said.

Russia and China “continue to have the most sophisticated cyber programs” and China continues cyber espionage against the United States.

“Whether China’s commitment of last September moderates its economic espionage” — a vow touted by President Obama — “remains to be seen,” Clapper noted. “Iran and North Korea continue to conduct cyber espionage as they enhance their attack capabilities.”

ISIS, he said, “displays unprecedented online proficiency”and “at least 38,200 foreign fighters, including at least 6,900 from western countries, have traveled to Syria from at least 120 countries since the beginning of the conflict in 2012.”

From 2014 to 2015, the number of ISIS supporters arrested by the FBI increased fivefold.

And despite repeated administration insistence that the “core” of al-Qaeda has been decimated, Clapper said they’ve bounced back just fine, with a network of affiliates “proven resilient despite counterterrorism pressure.”

“Al-Qaeda’s affiliates are positioned to make gains in 2016,” the director said, citing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the al-Nusra front in Syria as “the two most capable al-Qaeda branches.”

Iran, Clapper noted, “continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism and exert its influence and regional crisis in the Mid East.”

“Through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, its terrorist partner, Lebanese, Hezbollah and proxy groups,” he said. “Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interest and partners worldwide.”

On the nuclear deal, “Iran probably views the JCPOA as a means to remove sanctions, while preserving nuclear capabilities. Iran’s perception of how the JCPOA helps it to achieve its overall strategic goals will dictate the level of adherence to the agreement over time.”

North Korea “continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine launched ballistic missile” and is “also committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight tested,” Clapper continued.

Russia, meanwhile, “continues to have the largest and most capable foreign nuclear-armed ballistic missile force” and China “continues to modernize its nuclear missile force and is striving for a secure, second-strike capability.” Russia and China are also the greatest threats to the U.S. in terms of foreign intelligence, he said.

And despite the Obama administration lauding its deal with the Assad regime after it crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons as a triumph of democracy that depleted the dictator’s stockpile, “chemical weapons continue to pose a threat to Syria and Iraq.”

“Damascus has used chemicals against the opposition on multiple occasions since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Clapper said. “ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard, the first time an extremist group has produced and used a chemical warfare agent in an attack since Aum Shinrikyo used sarin in Japan in 1995.”

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart warned that ISIS “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”

In Russia, Stewart noted, “military activity has continued at a historical high.”

“Moscow continues to pursue aggressive foreign and defense policies, including conducting operations in Syria, sustaining involvement in Ukraine and expanding military capabilities in the Arctic. Last year, the Russian military continued its robust exercise schedule and aggressively and occasionally provocative out of area deployments,” he said. “We anticipate similar high levels of military activity in 2016.”

Russian and Chinese cyberattacks “target DOD personnel, networks, supply chain, research and development, and critical structural information in cyber domain.”

Stewart said during questioning from the committee that he does not see Mosul being recaptured from ISIS this year.

“I’m less optimistic in the near-term about Mosul. I think there’s lots of work to be done yet out in the western part. I don’t believe that Ramadi is completely secure, so they have to secure Ramadi. They have to secure the Hit-Haditha corridor in order to have some opportunity to fully encircle and bring all the forces against Mosul,” the DIA director said.

“Mosul will be a complex operation, and so I’m not as optimistic. As you say, it’s a large city. I’m not as optimistic that we’ll be able to turn that in the near-term, in my view, certainly not this year. We may be able to begin the campaign, do some isolation operations around Mosul. But securing or taking Mosul is an extensive operation and not something I see in the next year or so.”

Also see:

Obama surrenders the Middle East to Russia, and it matters

20150928_obamaputinmiddleeast_Family Security Matters, by Dr. Robin McFee, Sep. 29, 2015:

Putin asserts it is difficult to defeat ISIS without the current Syrian government. Whether that government is a puppet of Iran and Russia, is currently irrelevant. Putin is correct. Syria could act as a magnet to draw in ISIS fighters, and a kill box within which to defeat them, or at least eliminate a not insignificant number of their fighters.

Putin has doubled down on Syria in recent days. No news there. He has had bases in that beleaguered nation for years. He is in a good position to weaken ISIS in the process – to a far greater degree than the US has been willing to do.

Speaking of which, Obama, not having learned anything from his many foreign policy misadventures in the region, has decided to invest in Syrian “rebels” who somehow have become virtuous patriots – instead of merely another assemblage of Jihadists, former mujahideen, current members of the various Al Qaeda franchises, and to be clear, NOT friends of democracy or freedom fighters. Obama just doesn’t get it. There are no freedom fighters or prodemocracy plays in that region. It is a war of the roses based upon religion, anti-West sensibilities, adherence to Sharia, tribal power skirmishes, and territorial control. The old saw ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is both tired, misrepresentative of the landscape, and a dangerous game for amateurs to play.

Syria is an important place – geographically and geopolitically. Putin knows this. More importantly, Assad is his ally. Putin – spy master, politician, businessman, diplomat, quasi-dictator, martial artist, energy expert, possible assassin, and global force to be reckoned with – recognizes the importance of supporting your allies. We could learn something from him, as we continue to abandon our friends, and give benefits to our enemies. Reputations matter. Consider this….If you had to select a second for a street fight, would you pick Putin or Obama? A sad reality, but who does the world trust more? Not who does the world use more, or misuse more, or abuse more, but trust or fear more.

Like Assad or not, he has created a vortex within which ISIS is being drawn in. Al Qaeda is in play there as well. We ought to think of it as an opportunity to let savages kill each other, and their teams become severely degraded. Instead we are arming, at ridiculous expense, a handful (think meaningless) of jokers to represent our interests over there.

Yes Assad is an unsavory fellow, using chemical weapons. He isn’t alone. And to his credit – even bad guys have their good points – he has protected Christians far more than any other dictator in the region.  Putin is supporting Assad. And?

As an aside, think Christians have had any political patronage in Iraq lately? Or Iran? How are Christians faring in other Moslem nations with few exceptions, like Morocco? A bit closer to home, how are Christians treated in the US? While Obama is yammering about human rights, and taking in refugees from the Middle East (let us not forget much of this mess is his fault), he is about to deport Christian refugees, and has been hesitant to allow Christians under siege in Iraq to enter the US. Double standard anyone?

Like it or not, the world is one big Stratego ® or Risk ® game board. It is winner take all. The good guys can choose to be benevolent victors, and good trade partners, even good neighbors, but at the end of the day it is all about which team controls the natural resources, the transit routes, influences decisions, trade deals, and leads globally with manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that wins the game.

We are losing the game, and badly. This is not to be gloom and doom, but to remind that our future, and that of our children depends upon the economic and security future we create and pass along. The two are inextricably intertwined. One cannot separate the economy, energy, immigration, and security issues. Within that construct, the Middle East matters to our economy and security – unfortunately.

We blew Iraq – which has been and remains an extremely important nation in the history of the Arab and Middle Eastern world. Located in a strategic crossroads, and a former ally we misread (thank you Barack Obama), and abandoned a vital piece of real estate. Not to mention our feckless behavior has emboldened the behaviors of radical Islamists, including ISIS.

As for ISIS or Assad or Libya or…There are no consequences that our enemies face when doing barbaric acts against Americans or our interests. Obama’s laughable lines in the sand, and threats aimed at ISIS, ISIL, Russia, Assad or fill in the blanks, they are as fragile as a sand castle near the ocean during a tropical storm.  And as meaningless!

Could you, would you trust Obama if your life depended on it? Ask Pastor Saeed, who languishes in Iran, when he and 3 other Americans could easily have been ransomed for, say $150 billion dollars?! That is what BHO is giving Iran. Ask the Iraqis who risked their lives to provide intelligence to our military, and are now isolated, hunted, alone. Ask the Christians who are being butchered by ISIS and other Islamists in the region. Where is Obama? Where is the United States? Russia has provided more moral clarity on the issue than we have. Wow, the world is upside down, when that can be said!

The vacuum created when Obama placed politics over patriotism and popularity over leadership by removing our military from Iraq, and then added stupidity to idiocy, by reaching out to Iran to help us fight ISIS (tacitly giving Tehran the political cover to enter, and likely capture much of Iraq), and capped it off with a moronic two year diplomacy play that has been a major financial and political coup for Tehran, and completed the process of colossal foreign policy failures by mishandling Syria, betraying Israel, ignoring Egypt as well as Morocco, the Kurds, and screwing up North Africa, has set the stage for a new sheriff to emerge…Putin.

All small entities need a big brother. Whether it is Israel, or Bahrain, or the Kurds (Putin supports), Libya or Syria or the Falklands, most countries recognize it is a dangerous world with unsavory neighbors. Even the vaunted Israeli military recognizes it cannot control the region alone. It needs an ally. It used to be the United States without question. Now Israel has to play Oliver asking for more soup every time it needs something from Obama’s United States. Putin recognizes this, and has reached out to most of the countries in the Middle East, and starting with North Africa, establishing or reestablishing affiliations and alliances. Consider for a moment how Putin treats Netanyahu and Israel with more concern, and respect than POTUS; a deft, radical departure from prior Russian/Soviet strategy. And Vladimir has, in at least small ways, used his powerful influence to stem some of the attacks from Iran’s proxies.

Make no mistake about it – Iran, Syria, Turkey are all critical to Russia’s energy, security, and geopolitical strategy. Poking the US in the eye in the process is just a bonus for Putin. Israel offers potential for Russia, too. Keep a watch on that.

Obama has surrendered leadership of the Middle East to Russia. Pure and simple!  And we should not blame Putin for that. He is doing what the leader of Russia is supposed to do – look out for the interests of his nation.

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Petraeus: Use Al Qaeda Fighters to Beat ISIS

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The Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and Jason Reed,  Sep. 1, 2015:
To take down the so-called Islamic State in Syria, the influential former head of the CIA wants to co-opt jihadists from America’s arch foe.
Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power: retired Army general and former CIA Director David Petraeus.The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

The tactic worked, at least temporarily. But al Qaeda in Iraq was later reborn as ISIS, and has become the sworn enemy of its parent organization. Now, Petraeus is returning to his old play, advocating a strategy of co-opting rank-and-file members of al Nusra, particularly those who don’t necessarily share all of core al Qaeda’s Islamist philosophy.

However, Petraeus’s play, if executed, could be enormously controversial. The American war on terror began with an al Qaeda attack on 9/11, of course. The idea that the U.S. would, 14 years later, work with elements of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was an irony too tough to stomach for most U.S. officials interviewed by The Daily Beast. They found Petraeus’s notion politically toxic, near-impossible to execute, and strategically risky.

It would also face enormous legal and security obstacles. In 2012, the Obama administration designated al Nusra a foreign terrorist organization. And last year, the president ordered airstrikes on al Nusra positions housing members of the Khorasan Group, an al Qaeda cadre that was trying to recruit jihadists with Western passports to smuggle bombs onto civilian airliners.

Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders. The fact that he feels comfortable recruiting defectors from an organization that has declared war on the United States underscores the tenuous nature of the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS, which numerous observers have said is floundering in search of a viable ground force.

According to those familiar with Petraeus’s thinking, he advocates trying to cleave off less extreme al Nusra fighters, who are battling ISIS in Syria, but who joined with al Nusra because of their shared goal of overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Petraeus was the CIA director in early 2011 when the Syrian civil war erupted. At the time, he along with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly urged the Obama administration to work with moderate opposition forces. The U.S. didn’t, and many of those groups have since steered toward jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, which are better equipped and have had more success on the battlefield.

How precisely the U.S. would separate moderate fighters from core members and leaders of al Nusra is unclear, and Petraeus has yet to fully detail any recommendations he might have.

Petraeus declined a request to comment on his views from The Daily Beast.

“This is an acknowledgment that U.S. stated goal to degrade and destroy ISIS is not working. If it were, we would not be talking to these not quite foreign terrorist groups,” Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Daily Beast. “Strategically, it is desperate.”

Privately, U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that any direct links with al Nusra are off the table. But working with other factions, while difficult, might not be impossible.

Still, the very forces that Petraeus envisions enlisting, and who may have once been deemed potential allies when they were fighting Assad, now may be too far gone. Moreover, there is no sign, thus far, of a group on the ground capable of countering ISIS, at least without U.S. assistance.

“As prospects for Assad dim, opposition groups not already aligned with the U.S. or our partners will face a choice,” one U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “Groups that try to cater to both hardliners and the West could find themselves without any friends, having distanced themselves from groups like al Qaeda but still viewed as extremists by the moderate opposition and their supporters.”

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Also see:

POTUS OBAMA SENT SECRET LETTER TO IRAN’S LEADERSHIP; SEEKING TEHRAN’S HELP AGAINST THE ISLAMIC STATE; PLEDGED NOT TO TAKE OUT ASSAD

ayattollah, November 7, 2014 · by R.C. Porter:

Disastrous and ill-conceived. From the very beginning of POTUS Obama’s first term in office, he and his ‘team’ have sought to offend our friends and appease our adversaries. One of POTUS Obama’s first foreign policy affronts against a long-time ally, was to send the bust of Winston Churchill back to England. Great start on how not to win friends and influence people. POTUS Obama’s view of the world and his perceived belief that America was in large part to blame for many of the world’s ills was naïve and perplexing. From his — can’t we all just get along speech in Cairo, to his failure to support the Iran uprising after a corrupt Presidential vote, his re-set with Russia, withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq too quickly and without a tether, failure to check China’s aggressive posture in the western Pacific, backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and now appeasing the Mullahs of Iran and the butcher of Syria — Obama’s foreign policy is breathtaking in its fecklessness and vacuity. The best way to defeat the Islamic State — is also take out Assad. The U.S. should have taken out Syrian military airfields — the minute we began bombing ISIS positions in northern Syria. And, we surely do not want to encourage the Mullahs in Tehran/Qum that they can still produce a nuclear weapon, or achieve a near-constant breakout capability with a deal more to their liking — because of a U.S. President’s desperation for a deal — at almost any price. Very, very disturbing. No wonder this letter was sent in secret, and without Congressional input, or knowledge. RCP.

 

Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei About Fighting Islamic State

Presidential Correspondence With Ayatollah Stresses Shared U.S.-Iranian Interests in Combating Insurgents, Urges Progress on Nuclear Talks

By JAY SOLOMON And CAROL E. LEE, Nov. 6, 2014

WASHINGTON-President Barack Obama secretly wrote to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the middle of last month and described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, according to people briefed on the correspondence.

The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.

Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, the same people say.

The October letter marked at least the fourth time Mr. Obama has written Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since taking office in 2009 and pledging to engage with Tehran’s Islamist government.

The correspondence underscores that Mr. Obama views Iran as important-whether in a potentially constructive or negative role-to his emerging military and diplomatic campaign to push Islamic State from the territories it has gained over the past six months.

Mr. Obama’s letter also sought to assuage Iran’s concerns about the future of its close ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, according to another person briefed on the letter. It states that the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.

Mr. Obama and senior administration officials in recent days have placed the chances for a deal with Iran at only 50-50. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to begin intensive direct negotiations on the nuclear issue with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, on Sunday in the Persian Gulf country of Oman.

“There’s a sizable portion of the political elite that cut their teeth on anti-Americanism,” Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference on Wednesday about Iran’s leadership, without commenting on his personal overture. “Whether they can manage to say ‘Yes’…is an open question.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, foreground left, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, background right, in Vienna in July. ENLARGE
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, foreground left, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, background right, in Vienna in July. JIM BOURG

For the first time this week, a senior administration official said negotiations could be extended beyond the Nov. 24 deadline, adding that the White House will know after Mr. Kerry’s trip to Oman whether a deal with Iran is possible by late November.

“We’ll know a lot more after that meeting as to whether or not we have a shot at an agreement by the deadline,” the senior official said. “If there’s an extension, there’re questions like: What are the terms?”

Mr. Obama’s push for a deal faces renewed resistance after Tuesday’s elections gave Republicans control of the Senate and added power to thwart an agreement and to impose new sanctions on Iran. Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) have introduced legislation to intensify sanctions.

‘There’s a sizable portion of the [Iranian] political elite that cut their teeth on anti-Americanism. Whether they can manage to say ‘Yes’…is an open question.’

-Barack Obama

“The best way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is to quickly pass the bipartisan Menendez-Kirk legislation-not to give the Iranians more time to build a bomb,” Mr. Kirk said Wednesday.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) expressed concern when asked about the letter sent by Mr. Obama.

“I don’t trust the Iranians, I don’t think we need to bring them into this,” Mr. Boehner said. Referring to the continuing nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, Mr. Boehner said he “would hope that the negotiations that are under way are serious negotiations, but I have my doubts.”

In a sign of the sensitivity of the Iran diplomacy, the White House didn’t tell its Middle East allies-including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates-about Mr. Obama’s October letter to Mr. Khamenei, according to people briefed on the correspondence and representatives of allied countries.

Leaders from these countries have voiced growing concern in recent weeks that the U.S. is preparing to significantly soften its demands in the nuclear talks with Tehran. They said they worry the deal could allow Iran to gain the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in the future.

Arab leaders also fear Washington’s emerging rapprochement with Tehran could come at the expense of their security and economic interests across the Middle East. These leaders have accused the U.S. of keeping them in the dark about its diplomatic engagements with Tehran.

The Obama administration launched secret talks with Iran in the Omani capital of Muscat in mid-2012, but didn’t notify Washington’s Mideast allies of the covert diplomatic channel until late 2013.

Senior U.S. officials declined to discuss Mr. Obama’s letter to Mr. Khamenei after questions from The Wall Street Journal.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday declined to comment on what he called “private correspondence” between the president and world leaders, but acknowledged U.S. officials in the past have discussed the Islamic State campaign with Iranian officials on the sidelines of international nuclear talks. He added the negotiations remain centered on Iran’s nuclear program and reiterated that the U.S. isn’t cooperating militarily with Iran on the Islamic State fight.

Administration officials didn’t deny the letter’s existence when questioned by foreign diplomats in recent days.

Mr. Khamenei has proved a fickle diplomatic interlocutor for Mr. Obama in the past six years.

Mr. Obama sent two letters to Iran’s 75-year-old supreme leader during the first half of 2009, calling for improvements in U.S.-Iran ties, which had been frozen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran.

Mr. Khamenei never directly responded to the overtures, according to U.S. officials. And Iran’s security forces cracked down hard that year on nationwide protests that challenged the re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

Mr. Khamenei is believed to be the decision maker on the nuclear program. ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S.-Iran relations have thawed considerably since the election of President Hasan Rouhani in June 2013. He and Mr. Obama shared a 15-minute phone call in September 2013, and Messrs. Kerry and Zarif have regularly held direct talks on the nuclear diplomacy and regional issues.

Still, Mr. Khamenei has often cast doubt on the prospects for better relations with Washington. He has criticized the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, claiming it is another attempt by Washington and the West to weaken the Islamic world.

“America, Zionism, and especially the veteran expert of spreading divisions-the wicked government of Britain-have sharply increased their efforts of creating divisions between the Sunnis and Shiites,” Mr. Khamenei said in a speech last month, according to a copy of it on his website. “They created al Qaeda and [Islamic State] in order to create divisions and to fight against the Islamic Republic, but today, they have turned on them.”

Current and former U.S. officials have said Mr. Obama has focused on communicating with Mr. Khamenei specifically because they believe the cleric will make all the final decisions on Iran’s nuclear program and the fight against Islamic State.

Mr. Rouhani is seen as navigating a difficult balance of gaining Mr. Khamenei’s approval for his foreign policy decisions while trying to satisfy Iranian voters who elected him in the hope of seeing Iran re-engage with the Western world.

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency checks the enrichment process inside the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in January. ENLARGE
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency checks the enrichment process inside the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in January. EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The emergence of Islamic State has drastically changed both Washington’s and Tehran’s policies in the Middle East.

Mr. Obama was elected on the pledge of ending Washington’s war in Iraq. But over the past three months, he has resumed a U.S. air war in the Arab country, focused on weakening Islamic State’s hold of territory in western and northern Iraq.

Iran has had to mobilize its own military resources to fight against Islamic State, according to senior Iranian and U.S. officials.

Tehran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has sent military advisers into Iraq to help the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a close Iranian ally. The IRGC has also worked with Syrian President Assad’s government, and Shiite militias from across the Mideast, to conduct military operations inside Syria.

U.S. officials have stressed that they are not coordinating with Tehran on the fight against Islamic State.

But the State Department has confirmed that senior U.S. officials have discussed Iraq with Mr. Zarif on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations in Vienna. U.S. diplomats have also passed on messages to Tehran via Mr. Abadi’s government in Baghdad and through the offices of Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, among the most powerful religious leaders in the Shiite world.

Among the messages conveyed to Tehran, according to U.S. officials, is that U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria aren’t aimed at weakening Tehran or its allies.

“We’ve passed on messages to the Iranians through the Iraqi government and Sistani saying our objective is against ISIL,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on these communications. “We’re not using this as a platform to reoccupy Iraq or to undermine Iran.”

-Michael R. Crittenden contributed to this article.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee atcarol.lee@wsj.com

DIA Chief: Al Qaeda Ideology Rapidly Expanding

Pro-ISIL demonstrators in Iraq / AP

Pro-ISIL demonstrators in Iraq / AP

By Bill Gertz:

The terrorist ideology behind al Qaeda is expanding significantly—contrary to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign theme that declared the Islamist terror threat in decline, according to the outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“It’s not on the run, and that ideology is actually, it’s sadly, it feels like it’s exponentially growing,” DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said during a security conference Saturday.

Flynn was asked about the controversy over Obama’s statements during his 2012 reelection bid that al Qaeda had been “decimated” by the U.S. war on terrorism, and that the group was “on the run” as a result.

Flynn challenged use of the term “core al Qaeda” to identify the group once led by Osama bin Laden and now headed by his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

“My belief—so this is Mike Flynn—core al Qaeda is the ideology,” he said. “Al Qaeda command and control is where the senior leadership resides. So al Qaeda command and control resides today, Zawahiri, over in the [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], Pakistan.”

Flynn said al Qaeda’s leadership is being challenged by the offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, whose leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who was once in U.S. custody, is declaring himself “caliph,” or leader of all Muslims.

Other Islamist terror leaders also are gaining influence.

“We use the term ‘core al Qaeda,’ and I have been going against these guys for a long time,” Flynn said. “The core is the core belief that these individuals have.”

A large number of young people in Africa and the Middle East are being sucked into Islamist terror groups.

“These organizations that are out there that are well-organized, they are well-funded, they reach into these young people and they pull them in,” Flynn said. “And there seems to be more and more of them today than there were when I first started this thing in, post 9/11.”

The comments by the DIA chief, an Iraq war veteran who announced in April he will retire in the fall, highlight what critics say is failure of the Obama administration to target the Islamist ideology. Instead, counterterrorism during the Obama administration has focused on “kinetic” operations, such as drone strikes and special operations raids aimed at killing terrorist leaders.

Many al Qaeda leaders were killed. But the newer generation of leaders, such as ISIL’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and leaders of groups like Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, appear more committed to imposing Sharia law and annihilating non-Muslims.

New video of ISIL-perpetrated beheadings appeared on the Internet over the weekend. Dozens of headless bodies were shown in a video from Syria with heads mounted on poles.

Obama has made ending the “war” on terrorism in place since 2001 a priority. The administration has asked Congress to end the authorization of the use of military force that was approved in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Critics of the administration’s counterterrorism policies say political sensitivities aimed at avoiding offending Muslims are preventing military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies from identifying the nature of the Islamist terror threat, a needed first step in developing an ideological counter.

For example, intelligence analysts at several U.S. agencies currently are constrained from using the term “Islamic” to describe terrorism over concerns it will upset Muslim activist groups.

Read more at Free Beacon