From 9/11 to Spygate: The National Security Deep State

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, June 14, 2018:

On September 4, 2001, Robert Mueller took over the FBI. At his confirmation hearings, fraud had overshadowed discussions of terrorism. And as FBI Director, Mueller quickly diverged from the common understanding that the attacks that killed 3,000 people had been an act of war rather than a crime.

In 2008, Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi, who had been unleashed from Guantanamo Bay, carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq. Al-Ajmi had been represented by Thomas Wilner who was being paid by the Kuwaiti government.

Wilner was a pal of Robert Mueller. And when the families were having dinner together, Mueller got up and said, “I want to toast Tom Wilner. He’s doing just what an American lawyer should do.”

“I don’t know what he was doing from inside the government. I’d like to find out,” Wilner mused.

We know some of what Mueller was doing. The same official who paved the way for raiding the president’s lawyer, who illegally seized material from the Trump transition team and whose case is based in no small part on illegal eavesdropping, fought alongside Comey against surveilling terrorists. Materials involving the Muslim Brotherhood were purged. Toward the dawn of the second Obama term, Mueller met with CAIR and other Islamist groups and a green curtain fell over national security.

But the surveillance wasn’t going anywhere. Instead it was being redirected to new targets.

Those targets were not, despite the wave of hysterical conspiracy theories convulsing the media, the Russians. Mueller’s boss was still quite fond of them. Barack Obama did have foreign enemies that he wanted to spy on. And there were plenty of domestic enemies who could be caught up in that trap.

By his second term, the amateur was coming to understand the incredible surveillance powers at his disposal and how they could be used to spy on Americans under the pretext of fighting foreign threats.

Two birds. One stone.

While the Mueller purge was going on, Obama was pushing talks with Iran. There was one obstacle and it wasn’t Russia. The Russians were eager to play Obama with a fake nuke deal. It was the Israelis who were the problem. And it was the Israelis who were being spied on by Obama’s surveillance regime.

But it wasn’t just the Israelis.

Iran was Obama’s big shot at a foreign policy legacy. As the year dragged on, it was becoming clear that the Arab Spring wouldn’t be anything he would want to be remembered for. By the time Benghazi went from a humanitarian rescue operation to one of the worst disasters of the term, it was clearly over.

Obama was worried that the Israelis would launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear program. And the surveillance and media leaks were meant to dissuade the Israelis from scuttling his legacy. But he was also worried about Netanyahu’s ability to persuade American Jews and members of Congress to oppose his nuclear sellout. And that was where the surveillance leapfrogged from foreign to domestic.

The NSA intercepted communications between Israelis and Americans, including members of Congress, and then passed the material along to the White House. Despite worries by some officials that “that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress”, the White House “believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign.”

The precedent was even more troubling than it seemed.

Obama Inc. had defined its position in an unresolved political debate between the White House and Congress as the national interest. And had winkingly authorized surveillance on Congress to protect this policy in a domestic political debate. That precedent would then be used to spy on members of the Trump transition team and to force out Trump’s national security adviser.

National security had become indistinguishable from the agenda of the administration. And that agenda, like the rest of Obama’s unilateral policies, was enshrined as permanent. Instead of President Trump gaining the same powers, his opposition to that agenda was treated as a national security threat.

And once Obama was out of office, Comey and other Obama appointees would protect that agenda.

We still don’t know the full scope of Spygate. But media reports have suggested that Obama officials targeted countries opposed to the Iran sellout, most prominently Israel and the UAE, and then eavesdropped on meetings between them and between figures on the Trump team.

Obama had begun his initial spying as a way of gaining inside information on Netanyahu’s campaign against the Iran deal. But the close election and its aftermath significantly escalated what had been a mere Watergate into an active effort to not only spy, but pursue criminal charges against the political opposition. The surveillance state had inevitably moved on to the next stage, the police state with its informants, dossiers, pre-dawn raids, state’s witnesses, entrapments and still more surveillance.

And the police state requires cops. Someone had to do the dirty work for Susan Rice.

Comey, Mueller and the other cops had likely been complicit in the administration’s abuses. Somewhere along the way, they had become the guys watching over the Watergate burglars. Spying on the political opposition is, short of spying for the enemy, the most serious crime that such men can commit.

Why then was it committed?

To understand that, we have to go back to 9/11. Those days may seem distant now, but the attacks offered a crossroads. One road led to a war against our enemies. The other to minimizing the conflict.

President George W. Bush tried to fight that war, but he was undermined by men like Mueller and Comey. Their view of the war was the same as that of their future boss, not their current one, certainly not the view as the man currently sitting in the White House whom they have tried to destroy.

Every lie has some truth in it. Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, his frequent claims of allegiance to American ideals, are true, as he sees it, if not as he tells it. Men like Comey and Mueller believed that the real threat came not from Islamic terrorists, but from our overreaction to them. They believed that Bush was a threat. And Trump was the worst threat imaginable who had to be stopped by any means.

What Comey and Mueller are loyal to is the established way of doing things. And they conflate that with our national ideals, as establishment thugs usually do. Neither of them are unique. Washington D.C. is filled with men and women who are registered Republicans, who believe in lowering taxes, who frown at the extremities of identity politics, but whose true faith is in the natural order of government.

Mueller and Comey represent a class. And Obama and Clinton were easily able to corrupt and seduce that class into abandoning its duties and oaths, into serving as its deep state against domestic foes.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? It’s the old question of who watches the watchmen that no society has found a good answer to. And the answer is inevitably that the watchers, watch themselves and everyone else. What began as national security measures against Islamic terrorism was twisted by Obama and his deep state allies into the surveillance of the very people fighting Islamic terrorism.

Spygate was the warped afterbirth of our failure to meaningfully confront Islamic terrorism. Instead, the political allies of the terrorists and the failed watchmen who allowed them to strike so many times, got together to shoot the messengers warning about the terror threat. The problem had never been the lack of power, but the lack of will and the lack of integrity in an establishment unwilling to do its job.

After 9/11, extraordinary national security powers were brought into being to fight Islamic terror. Instead those powers were used to suppress those who told the truth about Islamic terrorism.

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Trump Excludes Brotherhood-Tied Groups from Iftar Dinner

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Breitbart, by Neil Munro, June 7,  2018:

President Donald Trump excluded a variety of domestic Islamic groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood from his first White House annual Islamic ‘Iftar’ dinner.

The exclusion is a sharp change from former President Barack Obama, who put the Brotherhood-linked groups front-and-center in his Iftar dinners and his Middle East strategy. His regional strategy crashed once the Brotherhood groups in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and other countries were unable to restrain their Islamic radicalism during the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Reports show that most of the invitees at the dinner were the ambassadors of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco. The dinner marks the end of the Islamic Ramadan season of fasting.

Among the excluded political groups were the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Also excluded were the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which cater to Muslim immigrants from Arab countries and from the Indian sub-continent.

CAIR has been declared a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates and was named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-funding operation. MPAC was “established in 1988 by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood and admirers of Hezbollah… [and]  is yet another Islamist wolf in the ‘social justice’ clothing of the hard Left,” said Andrew McCarthy, a prosecutor who convicted several Muslims for the New York jihad attacks.

Exclusion is a financial hit for various groups, some of which rely on domestic — or even foreign — donors who support them because of the groups’ claimed ability to advance Islamic goals in U.S. politics.

The exclusion also shows that the White House rejects the groups’ unproven claim to be legitimate and popular political representatives of Muslims in America. Polls show these groups have little sway among the Muslims who live in America. Also, Muslims in America are already represented in Washington by their local congressional representatives.

The White House did not say if it invited representatives of Islam reform groups which who reject Islam’s demand that government should follow Islamic dictates. For example, Trump did not publicly announce an invite to the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which is led by Zuhdi Jasser.

Also, Trump has not announced any replacement for Obama’s anti-terrorism policy, which gave these Muslim groups taxpayer funding and political legitimacy in exchange for their promise to quietly suppress political violence by Muslims. Trump’s deputies have abandoned that policy but have not announced a replacement policy.

While the White House did not publish an official invite list before the dinner, the excluded groups protested in remarks to the media.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that any credible mainstream American Muslim organizations or leaders would be invited or agree to attend, given the administration’s Islamophobic and white supremacist positions and policies,” Ibrahim Hooper, the CAIR spokesman, told the Guardian newspaper.

The “Islamophobic” claim suggests that opponents of CAIR’s political agenda have a mental disease, akin to a phobia.

“There has been no real engagement, no real effort to even invite members of our faith communities, to have conversations with the White House or administration,” said Hoda Hawa, MPAC policy director, told the Guardian newspaper.

The MPAC group maintains a strong anti-Israel policy and has close ties to Islamic radicals in Libya and Egypt. In June 2012, for example, MPAC applauded the Brotherhood-backed President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi:

Less than one week ago, Dr. Mohamed Morsi became the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s thousands of years of history … Indeed, the transition to a sustainable democracy does not come after one election — it will be a continuous effort and will need the support and hard work of the Egyptian people and the international community.

Morsi and other Egyptian Islamic radicals won an initial election in 2012 but were removed by the military in a 2013 coup, despite quiet support from Obama. MPAC opposed the coup.

MPAC also complained that Trump has left them with little or no influence in the White House. “With the Trump administration, we have seen no effort by them, by the president himself, his senior officials, who are noted anti-Muslim extremists, Cabinet officials, towards engaging in a productive dialogue with the American Muslim community,” Omar Noureldin, MPAC’s vice president, told an NPR interviewer. Trump, not Islamic political activists, must change, he said:

I believe it’s incumbent on the president and his Cabinet and senior White House officials to extend those olive branches genuinely. And until they do so, we don’t believe that there’s going to be a meaningful dialogue or ability to move the needle on the issues that affect our communities.

Linda Sarsour, a jihad advocate who was welcome in Obama’s White House, also was excluded from the dinner.

Obama’s support for the Brotherhood-linked groups proved futile because they were unable to moderate their peers’ Islamic revolutionary zeal in Egypt, Libya, or Syria.

In September 2012, for example, four Americans were killed by Islamic gunmen in Benghazi while other Islamic radicals surrounded the U.S. embassy in Cairo. In Syria, the Brotherhood-linked Islamic groups were unable to build any political alliances with any moderate or non-Muslim communities, ensuring a bloody civil war that continues in 2018.

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Fleitz Appointment a Savvy Move by Trump, Bolton

CSP, BY Tom Anderson, June 4, 2018:

Originally posted on Newsmax

I was elated to hear Fred Fleitz just accepted the position of National Security Council chief-of-staff and executive secretary under White House National Security Advisor John Bolton. Americans should be grateful. The appointment is a huge score for enhancing our national security.

We’re all benefactors from President Trump’s and Mr. Bolton’s wisdom. Hosting a news radio show in Alaska can be intriguing, and also challenging at times, securing thoughtful guests that actually understand our northern issues and the nexus with the country as a whole.

Our state’s Arctic policy, military, and resource development issues affect the entire nation, not just the Last Frontier. It was through this venue I connected with Fred Fleitz, who became a regular and appreciated guest.

I’ve interviewed national leaders and pundits from across the spectrum. They can be engaging whether an Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, or former Gov. Sarah Palin. Of all my guests, Fleitz has been one of the most effective in educating and explaining to listeners his rational on foreign relations and security policy.

I’ve interviewed him over 20 times. As a result, many listeners have come to appreciate government, policy development, and the evolution of sound national-security policy that may have otherwise seemed esoteric.

Fleitz hasn’t forgotten Alaska, or its defensive and resource-rich value to the United States. His analysis and ability to tether military operations, or communications and transportation, to operational logistics involving North Korea and the Middle East has helped shed light on President Obama’s obfuscated policies.

Fleitz has taken a balanced approach on U.S. State Department issues, drawing from his experience with the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior analyst, at the State Department as Bolton’s former chief-of-staff, and with the House Intelligence Committee. The Fleitz appointment feels like a commercial plane ride with a seasoned pilot, or surgery with a reliable veteran surgeon, where you’re relieved from anxiety because of the expertise at the helm. America is in good hands.

When it comes to federal bureaucracy, I can attest to the perception from the public. For many of my listeners in Alaska, there is a deep, growing lack of trust. There is also disappointment.

Morale and inspiration have waned under past presidential administrations that elevated ego and power above service to Americans. From Obamacare to Middle East and European obligations, my listeners consistently convey a feeling of abandonment by national leaders.

Enter selfless advocates like Fred Fleitz and John Bolton, and suddenly a smidgen of hope is sprinkled on disillusionment. These guys have a backbone. Fleitz has taken a principled position on the Iran Nuclear program, siding with Bolton against the majority of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, arguing that the U.S. had to pull out of the fraudulent deal.

Fleitz took this stance even when other conservative advocacies knee-buckled and said stay in the horrific deal. He has been consistent on pulling out of the deal because it literally affords advancement of Iran’s nuclear program.

North Korea is no different. When our president, vice president, and foreign relations envoys are continuously disrespected by a communist regime in dire straits, it’s time to end negotiations until respect is shown. Fleitz is on board with a thoughtful, yet hardline approach to national security. It’s about time.

Here’s another reason why the Fleitz appointment is important: He was made for the job. The chief-of-staff and executive secretary position to the National Security Council is critically important because that appointee helps Mr. Bolton present the President with a full scope of well-argued policy options, which is something President Trump was not receiving under H.R. McMaster.

Cogent, researched national-security policy options are what the president expects from his management team — without success until now, under John Bolton’s leadership.

A president must know the risks, rewards, and resources to make the right decisions. A former CIA senior analyst of Fleitz’s pedigree is appropriate and sensible to promote our best interests.

Based on President Trump’s recent exemplary appointments like Secretary of State Pompeo and Mr. Bolton — and assuming the president and Bolton want the same for the National Security Council management — Fred Fleitz is the best choice.

His expertise, coupled with a history of bucking conventional wisdom when it is antithetical to American interests, falls in line with candidate Trump’s promise and commitment to his constituency.

What I’ve seen and heard in Fleitz is a professional who isn’t afraid of countering the swamp and the foreign policy establishment. If ever that matters, considering our interests being threatened abroad from Europe to Asia to the Middle East, it’s now.

Tom Anderson is a radio talk show host in Alaska and a former state representative.

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Also see:

Dave Bailey comments in his newsletter today:

The appointment of another anti-jihadist to a top White House post is even bigger news than it sounds at first…

Fleitz’s position prior to the White House was as a VP in Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy…

This is the very organization that blew the lid off of Gulftainer’s terrorist and Russian connections…

…when Gulftainer got a 35-year lease for Port Canaveral during the Obama maladministration…

Fleitz is sure to know all about Gulftainer…

…which significantly improves the likelihood that its Port of Wilmington deal will be rejected by the feds…

Keep your fingers crossed…   Dave

Trump’s America-First National Security Strategy Embraces 30 years of the Center’s Ideas

Center for Security Policy, by Michael Waller, May 31, 2018:

Thirty years of hard work paid off in January when President Donald Trump issued his America First National Security Strategy.

In cooperation with others and often alone, Center for Security Policy had promoted most of the elements that President Trump has embraced as his strategy to secure our country’s national interests.

This is a huge payoff for those who invested their contributions and their time in the Center, even during the dark years when it seemed like our ideas didn’t stand a chance. It’s time to celebrate.

Thirty years of work pays off

For most of its life, the Center was the only active national security policy group in Washington that unceasingly promoted Peace Through Strength. The Center’s founders – led by senior Reagan Pentagon policy official Frank Gaffney, and key members of President Reagan’s National Security Council staff – made Peace Through Strength a cornerstone of our mission when we formed in 1988.

While the Center did not play a direct role in formulating President Trump’s strategy, it can claim credit for keeping many key themes alive during the lean years. It cultivated and mentored a generation of new leaders, including Members of Congress. It kept the flame against the Swamp and showcased political and military leaders who kept that flame. And it remained a source of arguments and facts to be ready for the right president to embrace as off-the-shelf principles and plans.

Some of the Center’s enduring strategies include War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World(2006),[1]our Team B II strategy (2010),[2]and our Secure Freedom Strategy(2015).[3]Our hundreds of Decision Briefs, white papers, monographs, formal briefings, and audiovisual programming provide an unbroken track record of policy recommendations that stand up to the closest scrutiny for consistency with much of Trump’s new National Security Strategy.

President Trump embraced nearly all the Center’s key positions as the cornerstone of the first genuine post-Cold War national security strategy of the United States.

Trump’s four pillars

Trump’s strategy is based on four “pillars”:

protect the homeland and the American way of life,

  • promote American prosperity,
  • preserve Peace Through Strength, and
  • advance American influence worldwide.

Let’s look at each of those pillars in the America First national security strategy, and see how they correlate with the Center for Security Policy’s consistent themes developed over the past three decades.

Read more

VIDEO: Green Beret Subjects Himself to Waterboarding to Support Trump CIA Nominee Gina Haspel

Breitbart, by Katherine Rodriguez, May 14, 2018:

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy posted a live-streamed video of himself being waterboarded on Saturday in support of President Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, claiming that the controversial interrogation tactic is not torture.

Kennedy said in the 41-minute video posted to Facebook that he pulled this stunt to show that CIA nominee Gina Haspel has been unfairly criticized for overseeing a CIA black site where “enhanced interrogation techniques” were used on terrorist detainees shortly after 9/11.

The video showed the former UFC fighter’s towel-covered face being doused with water from a hose.

After the experience, the Green Beret wrote a caption explaining his “waterboarding” experience.

“We did this yesterday for almost 45 minutes. The average pour was anywhere from 10 to 60. They wouldn’t tell me when they were going to put the towel on. They would just smash it on my face and start pouring. You can’t hold your breath while they do it because the water runs down your sinuses,” Kennedy wrote. “The water runs through your eyes, down your nose and pools at the back of your throat. It was a baptism in freedom. It’s not torture! Hell we had elk tacos and wine afterwards. Wake up people.”

Kennedy claimed waterboarding is uncomfortable but not torture.

“If I can change one person’s mind about what torture is and what I would do to protect American freedom, I will do this for years,” he said.

Not everybody agreed with Kennedy. Counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance wrote on Twitter that Kennedy’s technique is “wrong” and there is more to waterboarding than pouring water on someone’s towel-covered face:

During her Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearings on Wednesday, Haspel pledged not to restart the CIA’s controversial interrogations program if selected as CIA director.

“Having served in that tumultuous time, I can offer you my personal commitment, clearly and without reservation, that under my leadership, on my watch, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program,” Haspel said at the hearing.

Trump has backed his decision to nominate Haspel despite concerns from Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate. The president tweeted last week that his “highly respected nominee” has been criticized for “being too tough on terrorists.”

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This analysis is very interesting. (h/t Vlad Tepes)

Also see:

Mr. Mitchell, a retired Air Force officer and former CIA contractor, is the author of “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America”

The Waiting Period

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty

By Jonathan Spyer, The Australian,  

It is spring in Israel. On the face of it, all appears normal. Yet underlying the everyday is the hint of tension. The low buzz that presages violent events. We know it well in Israel and it has been all around for weeks.

Two nights ago, there was an eruption. The special forces unit (Quds) of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps launched 20 missiles at northern Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome shot down four of them. The others landed in Syria. Israel’s Air Force launched a counter attack. Iranian storage facilities and logistics sites in Syria were targeted along with five Syrian air defence systems.

As the smoke cleared, an uneasy calm returned. Probably not for long.

A series of milestones is approaching in coming weeks, any of which could precipitate further strife. The extended period in which Israel managed to keep itself largely one step removed from the chaos of the Middle East seems to be drawing to a close.

Donald Trump announced this week he will withdraw the US from the nuclear deal with Iran. The stage is set for a return to open confrontation between the US and Iran.

The US has commitments in the region (in Iraq and eastern Syria, in particular) which would be vulnerable to violent pushback by Iran through its proxies.

Israel’s ongoing efforts to roll back Iranian gains in Syria will constitute an element of this larger contest. This, in turn, will increase the chance of confrontation between Israel and Iran.

As Israeli Housing Minister (and former general) Yoav Gallant told Bloomberg News this week, “It’s clear that friction between Iran and the U.S. can lead to a situation in which Iran decides to deploy Hezbollah against Israel … That’s their tool.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week expressed Israel’s readiness for such a confrontation, if it comes. ‘“We don’t want an escalation, but we are prepared for every scenario. We don’t want confrontation, but if there needs to be one, it is better now than later,” the Prime Minister told reports following a meeting of Israel’s Cabinet.

With the situation regarding Iran at such a point of tension, other events which would normally command centre stage are being relegated to a secondary role. Nevertheless, the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14 is set to cause an uptick in tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. The opening will be followed on May 15 by the culmination of Hamas’s six-week “March of Return” campaign in the Gaza Strip. This series of marches to the border fence is intended to revive the fortunes of Hamas, whose Gaza domain is isolated and cash strapped. May 15 is also the anniversary of the State of Israel’s declaration of independence (though strictly speaking the declaration took place on the 14) and is remembered by Palestinians as the date of their Nakba (catastrophe).

It is possible there will be attempts to break through the border fence. Israeli communities are located as little as one kilometre from the fence, so the situation will be tense.

It is worth remembering that Gaza is not hermetically sealed off from the stand-off with Iran in the north. Teheran possesses its clients among the Palestinians, who may be directed to escalate the situation. The small Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation is a wholly owned franchise of Iran. Hamas’s relations with Teheran are more complex and the movement sought in recent years to distance itself from the Iranian regime. Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar has worked to patch up relations over the last year abd in August Sinwar declared that Iran was once again the largest backer of Hamas.

But it the northern tier of Syria and Lebanon that remains by far the gravest concern for Israel. It is here the ambitions and agendas of Iran appear most directly set on a course of potential collision with the Jewish state.

Iranian assistance has been vital to the cause of Bashar al Assad since the the uprising against him in early 2011. The Syrian president, whose regime rests on a narrow platform of sectarian support, was beset from the beginning by a problem of insufficient loyal manpower. It is the Iranians, not the Russians, who addressed this vital issue throughout the war.

However, Iran, in its usual fashion, did not elect to strengthen the existing, regime-controlled Syrian Arab Army. Rather, in accordance with similar methods pursued in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran has preferred to create its own, Revolutionary Guards-controlled structures in Syria. These defend the Assad regime, to be sure, but they are not under its sole control. Thus, Iran organised and created the National Defence Forces, consisting of Syrian volunteers, mainly from non-Sunni communities and now numbering 50,000 to 60,000 fighters.

Iran also mobilised its proxies throughout the region and brought them to Syria to plug the manpower gap. Thus, there are today about 6000 Lebanese Hizballah fighters on Syrian soil, along with perhaps 3000 Revolutionary Guards personnel and an additional 10,000 to 15,000 members of other Iran-supported Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As the rebellion against Assad has continued to lose ground, so the construction of Iranian infrastructure in Syria has continued. The examples of Hizballah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilisation Units in Iraq indicate that Iran’s version of assistance is not dismantled when the threat has subsided.

Israel is concerned that this infrastructure, with its contiguous land link to Iraq and thence to Iran itself, is intended primarily for use as a tool of pressure and violence against the Jewish state. Iran is openly and noisily in favour of the destruction of Israel. It wishes to achieve this goal through a long-war strategy of attrition and harassment. Entrenchment in Syria would significantly increase the Iranian ability to pursue this strategy.

While the local and regional militias pose a challenge, the main worry in Jerusalem is the hardware that Iran is seeking to import and base in Syria. Consolidation of this infrastructure – UAV bases, surface-to-surface missiles and anti-aircraft batteries – appears to be what Israel is most determined to prevent.

On April 9, Israeli aircraft struck at a drone facility maintained by the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace force at the T4 base near Palmyra. Fourteen people were killed, among them seven Iranians, including a Revolutionary Guards colonel, Mehdi Deghdan Yazdeli.

On April 30, Israeli aircraft carried out a larger scale raid on two points – the 47 Brigade base south west of Hama, and the Nayrab military airbase close to Aleppo. The New York Times reported that the strikes killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, and destroyed 200 missiles.

On May 9, following reports of “irregular Iranian movements” in southern Syria, explosions were heard south of Damascus. Israel opened public bomb shelters in the Golan Heights. Regional media reported that Israel attacked an army base south of Damascus, where Iranian personnel were based. Nine militiamen were killed, according to the usually reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Then, in the early hours of May 10, the Iranians launched their 20 missiles, and Israel responded. The Iranian strike was not successful, and it is not clear whether Teheran will consider it to have constituted sufficient retaliation for the Israeli action on April 30. Given the scale of the Israeli response to the attack, this seems unlikely.

What form is further Iranian action likely to take?

Iran has a number of options. It possesses a global terror infrastructure and might seek to attack an Israeli facility or an Israeli or Jewish target abroad. In the past, Teheran and Hizballah have sought retribution in this way. The attack in 1994 on the Amia Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, and the murder of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012 are examples of this.

Alternatively, Iran could instruct its Lebanese Hizballah proxies to carry out an attack on Israeli forces across the border from Lebanon. This is how Teheran sought to retaliate for the killing by Israel of a number of Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah personnel close to the Golan Heights in January 2015.

Israeli planners were expecting Iran’s retaliation for the nine dead militiamen was likely to be carried out in Syria, probably with the help of Shia militia personnel on the ground. It was not the first time Iranian personnel have been killed by Israel on Syrian soil. But it was the first time Iranian facilities, not those of proxy groups, were targeted. The Iranian action on May 10 was the first time Israel was directly targeted in a real-time conventional military operation led by the Revolutionary Guards. This is likely to set the pattern for further events to come.

So where is all this heading? Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that allowing Iran to consolidate its infrastructure in Syria would be “agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks”. This, the defence minister said, would be prevented “at all costs”.

It is not entirely clear, of course, what “consolidation”, “entrenchment” and their prevention actually mean, or could entail. Does Israel require that all presence of the Iranians be removed from Syria, down to the last proxy fighter? If so, then conflict between Teheran and Jerusalem is a near inevitability, since there is no chance of Iran acquiescing to this except by coercion. On the other hand, if the Israeli intention is to prevent the Iranians from transferring certain weapons systems into Syria – advanced anti-aircraft systems, ballistic missiles, UAVs – then conflagration may not be so imminent.

Iran has an interest in keeping to what it is good at. What it is good at is developing paramilitary proxy political-military organisations. This is the key to its success in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. What it is much less good at is conventional warfare, particularly in the air. The country has a poorly equipped, Cold War-era air force. It possesses ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, to be sure. But Israel has in recent years developed in cooperation with the US some of the most advanced missile defence systems in the world. Iran’s own defences against Israeli retaliation, meanwhile, are far less developed.

This means that Iran may well prefer to absorb Israeli strikes, carrying out a token retaliation for form’s sake. Such an approach would derive not from pacific intentions. Rather, the Iranians would calculate that it is in their interests to continue to quietly build their strength in Syria, while absorbing periodic Israeli disruptions of their arrangements. Since the Iranians may well be engaged, as in Lebanon and Iraq, in a project concerned with the long-term transformation of these countries into clients/puppets of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the immediate settling of scores may not be deemed of paramount urgency.

Of course, this begs the question as to whether Israel will wish to acquiesce to the pursuit of such an Iranian strategy, with all it implies for the future security of Israel. In the meantime, following the fire and smoke of the night of May 10, and until the next move, we are back to the waiting period.

Also see:

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Zumwalt: A Pyongyang Defector May Give Trump an Upper Hand in Negotiations with Kim

AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS

Breitbart, by James Zumwalt, May 9, 2018:

In a totally unexpected development, the defection of a high-level North Korean official has caught both North Korea and the U.S. by surprise days before the yet-to-be-scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un.

Its impact on negotiations to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program remains to be seen.

If Pyongyang delays, it may well be due to an advantage Trump will have gained beforehand. If so, the advantage will be eerily similar to one President John F. Kennedy attained over the Soviets during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations.

Tipped off earlier by a spy working for the U.S. in Moscow that the Soviets were deploying nuclear missiles to Cuba, U.S. Navy ships began patrolling the waters off the island, preparing to intercept additional Soviet vessels en route to bring missiles to the island nation. As Kennedy and his Soviet counterpart, Premier Nikita Khrushchev, stared eyeball-to-eyeball in a game of nuclear poker, the world appeared to be on the brink of war.

But if Kennedy were to force Khrushchev to blink first, he needed to know what cards the Soviet leader was holding. Kennedy needed to know if the missiles photographed on launchers were operational and guidance systems functioning.

For this critical intelligence, Kennedy turned to his spy in Moscow, who was not an American but a colonel in the Soviet military intelligence (GRU): Oleg Penkovsky. Getting the intelligence back to Washington in a timely manner, however, risked Penkovsky’s identity being uncovered.

Knowing the risk, Penkovsky sent Kennedy the answers he needed. Now knowing the missiles were not operational, the President could demand Khrushchev remove them. Kennedy negotiated a quid-pro-quo with the Soviets (removing missiles in Turkey) so they would not lose total face. Later, however, the Soviets were able to determine Penkovsky’s identity, for which he was brutally executed. The means of execution, if true, only underscores the inhumanity of which humanity is capable. Tied down on a slab, he was allegedly slowly inserted into a raging furnace fire, feet first to draw out the pain. The execution was witnessed by others to get the message out as to the fate awaiting traitors. While an unsung hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Penkovsky ultimately paid a heavy personal price helping to avoid nuclear war.

This brings us to what recently happened in North Korea. Kim Jong-un received the unpleasant news in February that a high-ranking official had defected, not only taking with him a large amount of cash but, more importantly, a treasure trove of nuclear secrets. He apparently fled to England but could be anywhere in Europe or, even possibly, the U.S. Undoubtedly, the documents he had with him are eagerly being translated and shared with U.S. intelligence agencies. Kim Jong-un knows whatever the documents contain will give Trump an advantage as far as what demands to make of Kim at the talks.

The defector, only identified as “Mr. Kang,” is believed to be a colonel and senior counter-espionage official. He defected while in China, disappearing on February 25th from a facility operated by both the North Korean and Chinese governments, reportedly serving as an office for the former’s hackers working in China. It is said Kang was responsible for getting information for the North’s nuclear program to scientists.

Kang must not have had much concern about getting caught as he also is said to have taken with him a counterfeit machine used to print U.S. currency.

Based on Kang’s knowledge alone and, thus, the intelligence he could provide the U.S. and its allies, Kim, reportedly, has dispatched a ten-man hit squad to locate and execute Kang. It is an act Kim has no reluctance to do as evidenced by the execution he is believed to have ordered last year of his half-brother while he was in an airport terminal in Malaysia.

The hit squad, undoubtedly, has motivation to be successful as their failure would probably result in their own execution upon returning to North Korea.

While there are some espionage similarities between the Cuban Missile Crisis and this incident, there is one major difference concerning the motivation of the two colonels involved. Colonel Penkovsky’s motivation was ideological in nature; Colonel Kang’s is believed to be financially-driven. Apparently, evidence was discovered in North Korea that Kang had been taking money while out of the country. Rather than return home to plea for his life, he opted to go rogue, leaving his family behind. Unfortunately, it is they from whom a heavy price will undoubtedly be extracted.

Defections are somewhat common in North Korea, a sufficient number over the past few decades probably to populate a small country. It is estimated there have been about 30,000 defections. But those by high-level officials, who enjoy living the high life of the elites, are rare.

Kang’s defection offers us a great opportunity to learn much more about North Korea’s nuclear program. Coming on the heels of Israel’s release of over 100,000 pages on Iran’s secret nuclear arms program it surreptitiously smuggled out of that country, both caches of documents should prove most illuminating – not only about their own individual programs but about their contributory efforts to arm two members of the Axis of Evil with nuclear weapons.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.