Breaking News -- Middle East
|General Hayden: Iraq is Gone
On Wednesday, the former Director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency Ret. Gen. Michael Hayden told NewsMax TV host Steve Malzberg, "Iraq as we know it is gone."
In pinning the blame squarely on President Barack Obama, Hayden said the president reminded him of Humphrey Bogart's Rick uttering the famous line in Casablanca "I was misinformed."
Hayden also emphasized the lack of a good option and joked it's time to "get in the way back machine, go back three years and undo some incredibly unwise decisions that we made then and I really do think thats the nub of the issue."
The general discussed current options saying we have to "limit our objectives," ignore the "artificial borders drawn by Europeans" and let Iraq devolve into three separate countries. Hayden said Iraq is gone and it "certainly is not going to be reconstituted" adding the result will be the three separate states of Shiastan, Sunnistan and Kurdistan.
Hayden pointed out this would create a powerful ally with the American-friendly Kurds, who essentially already have a functioning state. The three state solution would also allow the United States to isolate the ISIS-controlled Sunnistan as a terrorist safe heaven to target.
In 2006, then then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) argued for a similar partition solution with three Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab regions. However, Biden wanted to keep central government in charge of common interests.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN
A Doubly Dangerous Iran
by MICHAEL HAYDEN And EVAN BAYH
The temptation is obvious: Iraq is threatened by a radical Sunni insurgency. The United States and Shiite Iran thus have common interest in blunting the success of an al Qaeda offshoot. The enemy of my enemy is my situational ally.
What is missed is that Tehran and Washington have incompatible strategic objectives. The U.S. needs a stable and inclusive Iraq, while Iran's ambitions lie in preserving a Shiite-dominated state that relies on Tehran for its survival. If we are not careful, the clerical regime will seek to leverage the chaos in Mesopotamia to extract nuclear concessions from us before the Sunday deadline for a deal as talks continue in Vienna this week. We need to be careful not to create indebtedness, even perceived indebtedness.
The Middle East is a region that seems always to divide against itself. In the past, radical republics contested the legitimacy of conservative monarchies; today's divisions are defined by sectarian identities deeply rooted in Islam. Iran and its Shiite proxies are arduously trying to undermine the Sunni order led by Saudi Arabia. This struggle rages in Lebanon and the Gulf, and most bloodily in Syria and Iraq.
As the conflict grows, America has been reluctant to engage, insensitive to our regional allies' concerns, and unusually deferential to our adversaries' ambitions. Although Iran would welcome a stable Shiite-dominated Iraq, it has little interest in an Iraq where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds cooperate. Iranian ambitions are best served by Shiite authoritarians in Baghdad who dominate the country's Sunni citizens and are at odds with Sunni Arabs elsewhere.
Washington can ignore neither the Islamic Republic's nefariousness among the Middle East's Shiites nor Tehran's hegemonic designs. If Tehran continues to arm Shiite militias, deploy the lethal Quds Force and press Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to exclude moderate Sunni elements from his government, Washington should respond.
There are many tools available, including economic sanctions. However, America must not bluff: We must realize that U.S. interests in the Middle East are not tangential to our national security but are essential to counterterrorism, thwarting nuclear proliferation and promoting stable, representative governments.
It is equally imperative to prevent the turmoil in Iraq and Syria from easing America's red lines on Iran's nuclear program. Countering the nuclear challenge from Tehran is straightforward: The U.S. and its allies have to demand and devise an Iranian civilian nuclear program that cannot be exploited for military purposes. To achieve that goal, the White House must make clear that the hardened uranium-enrichment facility in Fordow must be closed and not transformed into an easily convertible research-and-development installation. The Arak plutonium plant has to be similarly neutered. And finally, the main enrichment facility at Natanz has to be dramatically scaled back and all enriched uranium shipped abroad for fuel reprocessing.
Washington must also insist on a credible verification regime. The Islamic Republic has to come clean about all of its past weaponization activities. If the purpose of an agreement is to put distance between current capacities and nuclear breakout, how can outsiders reliably calculate how quickly an Iranian decision to weaponize could be put into effect without a thorough accounting of past actions?
Iran must also submit to intrusive inspections, without challenge or delay, at any site identified by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency. This means snap examinations of any suspect facility by inspectors permanently stationed in Iran.
One of the problems with the Joint Plan of Action—signed in late 2013 by Iran and six other powers, including the U.S.—is that it stipulates that any final agreement on Tehran's nuclear program will have a sunset clause. Upon its expiration, whenever that may be, Iran would be free to build up an industrial-size program, giving it the ability to manufacture an arsenal of nuclear arms at short notice. It is unclear what legitimate purpose is served by this. The sunset clause must be removed.
There are also great dangers if the interim agreement under the Joint Plan of Action is succeeded by another interim agreement or even if the current negotiating window is extended by another six months. The administration will be sorely tempted to let negotiations continue to drag on, hoping that the Iranians will relent and drop their resistance to any meaningful rollback of their nuclear program.
But the current lull during the "freeze" on Iranian nuclear development limits only some nuclear activities; the Iranians continue to build other essential elements, such as improving the efficiency of centrifuges. As centrifuge-enrichment capacity increases, Tehran's ability to construct clandestine enrichment sites alarmingly grows. (The lull also has let the Iranian economy improve; inflation is down and their currency has strengthened, further reducing our leverage.) Time is not on our side.
The Islamic Republic is a rash, revolutionary regime at odds with America's core interests in the Middle East. It is a state ruled by men such as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei whose worldview is shaped by conspiracy theories and enduring enmity toward the West. Tehran seeks dominance over its Arab neighbors, sows discord through the region and actively supports terrorist organizations. It is only in this context that Tehran's quest for nuclear weapons can be understood.
All is not lost, and an energized America and its allies can still make a difference in Iraq and Syria. But abandoning the chimera of Iranian cooperation is a precondition. To paraphrase the tribal proverb, while the enemy of my enemy may appear to be America's friend, with the Iranian regime, that is an illusion. Their enmity trumps all.
Mr. Hayden, a retired Air Force general, is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Mr. Bayh is a former U.S. senator from Indiana.
Islamists planning imminent attack in Norway: police
by OLE PETTER SKONNORD AND BALAZS KORANYI
(Reuters) - Militant Islamists with fighting experience in Syria may be planning an attack in Norway in the coming days, police said on Thursday, as they deployed armed units at borders, airports and railway stations.
A small group of Norway-based militants who have gained combat experience in conflicts around the globe have become the biggest threat to the Nordic nation and up to 50 have traveled to Syria in recent years, police said.
"We have information indicating that a terrorist action against Norway is planned to be carried out shortly, probably within days," Benedicte Bjoernland, the director of the Police Security Service, the police's intelligence unit, said.
She said police had no information about the target or the nature of the planned attack so armed police, an unusual sight in Norway, would be deployed in places considered high risk.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was informed of the threat late on Wednesday, delayed her holiday plans and would stay in Oslo while police mobilized both uniformed and undercover units, summoning many off-duty officers to work.
"It's most likely that there are foreign fighters involved, in which case we are talking about a small group, considering our knowledge of groups in Syria," Atle Mesoey, a security researcher at Norwegian University of Life Sciences, said.
"If police come out into the public with such a threat, it is highly credible, clearly," he said.
Neighboring Sweden and Denmark said they were not raising their own threat assessment but highlighted the broader and growing risk from Islamist militants.
Denmark said it estimated more than 100 of its nationals have left for Syria. Sweden has said its biggest security threat comes from around 200 Islamists who could become involved in militant attacks, including young people radicalized after fighting in Syria. [ID:nL3N0OD1SM]
A botched suicide bomb attack four years ago in Stockholm and the conviction in 2012 of three Swedes for plotting to kill people at a Danish newspaper after it published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2005 have shown the Nordic countries are not immune to attacks.
Norway's biggest peacetime attack came three years ago when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, at a youth camp, in a bombing and gun attack. Breivik said the attack was a fight against Muslim immigration.
NATO-member Norway has been working to clamp down on militant activity. In May it arrested three people suspected of aiding the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al Qaeda offshoot fighting in Iraq and Syria that now styles itself Islamic State.
(Additional reporting by Alistair Scrutton in Stockholm and Sabina Zawadzki in Copenhagen; Editing by Alison Williams; Editing by Alistair Scrutton)
Intelligence Expert: "al-Qaeda Dangerously Close to Nuclear Warhead"
by Money Morning Staff Reports
Could al-Qaeda now be dangerously close to a nuclear weapon?
The answer should frighten every American.
In a shocking interview, Dr. Kent Moors, an advisor to 27 world governments and the U.S. Intelligence Community warns The United Jihad Council, a coalition of terrorist groups with direct ties to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, has successfully put 230 nuclear warheads in play.
A 3-time recipient of the President's Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Moors helped the Reagan Administration develop strategies for dealing with the threat of a Soviet nuclear strike during the Cold War.
However, he and his colleagues inside the intelligence community warn the threat of M.A.D. or mutually assured destruction, that kept the Cold War from escalating will not stop these terrorist groups.
“This is a holy war for them, this is jihad. So all bets are off.” Dr. Moors stated in the interview.
And he fears that a single flashpoint he calls “The Zero Line” could set everything in motion.
Egypt scrambles to stop missiles launched at Israel from Sinai
On July 8, Israel started a new offensive — Operation Protective Edge — against the Gaza Strip in response to the constant raids on southern Israel, according to the statement of the spokesman for the Israeli Army, Peter Lerner.
With the war raging for days on end and with the escalation of its intensity, news has been circulating that missiles were launched from the Egyptian territories, namely the Sinai Peninsula, toward the Israeli border cities. Those missiles did not constitute a response from the Gaza Strip alone against Israel; it seemed that other parties in Egypt were responding too.
Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah Harhour, the governor of North Sinai, denied that something of the sort had happened and said that no missiles were launched from Egypt on southern Israel.
Harhour, who spoke briefly to Al-Monitor, confirmed that the eastern border of Egypt is protected and that Egypt will not allow any party in the conflict to violate its sovereignty or use its territories in any offensive.
Although an Egyptian military source had previously declared that the soldiers of the Second Army managed to confiscate two missiles set to be fired from Rafah, North Sinai, on Israel, Harhour asserted that the missiles, which were confiscated, were in fact caught inside a tunnel before being smuggled to the Gaza Strip.
Ahmad Abu Draa, an activist in the Sinai Peninsula, told Al-Monitor that the source of the missiles launched on Israel was the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which confirmed the news on its official Twitter account and attached a video on July 10 showing the launching of five 107 missiles at the Israeli settlement of Bnei Netzareem. On July 16, the group posted a lengthy video titled "Grand Invasion of Eilat." The video showed for the first time, according to this post, details of an operation executed by several members of the group who infiltrated Israel and targeted several Israeli soldiers and officers.
Maj. Gen. Mokhtar Qandil, a military expert, told Al-Monitor that there is not one party that can be held accountable for launching the missiles from Egypt on Israel, even if Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis assumed responsibility for these operations. Moreover, he asserted that several terrorist and radical organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, affiliated with Hamas in Gaza, might be responsible for launching the missiles.
Qandil stated that these groups struck the Israeli settlements to implicate Egypt. The Egyptian army is not ready to enter the war, as Egypt is already preoccupied with its own development. It is not in its interest to get involved with the affairs of another state. Moreover, the launching of missiles from Egyptian territories is considered a breach of the Camp David provision that set forth, in its third article, that Israel and Egypt vow to refrain from issuing threats by force or using them against the other, directly or indirectly, and resolve all conflicts between the two states peacefully. This has been confirmed by Egypt’s inclination to launch a cease-fire initiative between Israel and Hamas, indicating that Egypt is seeking to calm things down between them.
According to Qandil, the solution would be to assassinate the members of these groups in the military operations that the Egyptian army is waging against them in the Sinai Peninsula. They should not be arrested, but rather killed instantly because they are a threat to the country.
He also said the parties that want to clash with Israel — in reference to Hamas and the groups supporting it in the Sinai Peninsula — must first prepare themselves with weapons and equipment and compare their strength to their enemy’s. Otherwise, all parties would be implicated.
Turkey’s Erdogan: ‘I no longer talk to Obama’
ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has stopped talking to US President Barack Obama on the phone, amid growing strains between Ankara and Washington over Syria and the Gaza conflict
Turkey, a fierce opponent of Syrian President Bashar Assad and an open supporter of armed rebel fighters, felt betrayed when the United States backed away from military action against Damascus in September.
“In the past, I was calling him (Obama) directly. Because I can’t get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other,” Erdogan said in a live interview on pro-government ATV channel late Monday.
“And I have talked to (US Vice President Joe) Biden. He calls me and I call him.
“I expect justice in this process. I couldn’t imagine something like this from those who are championing justice,” Erdogan added without elaborating, in an apparent jibe at Washington.
The last phone conversation between the two leaders took place on February 20 after which the White House released a statement accusing Erdogan of misrepresenting the content of the conversation.
A staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, Erdogan has recently been at loggerheads with Washington over Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 580 Palestinians in two weeks. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in an effort to halt the rocket fire from Gaza that threatened the country’s south and center, and find and destroy cross-border tunnels used by Hamas fighters to infiltrate and attack Israeli communities.
Erdogan accused the Jewish state of carrying out “state terrorism” and a “genocide” of Palestinians and criticized the United States for defending Israel’s “disproportionate” tactics.
The US State Department branded his comments on Israel “offensive and wrong” but the prime minister hit back by saying the United States needed to engage in “self-criticism.”
Erdogan is standing in August 10 presidential elections that he is expected to win, with analysts awaiting a more assertive foreign policy from Ankara if he becomes head of state.
Kerry Not Wanted In Middle East
by Ariel Cohen
As tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the region to continue pursuing a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas — but he may not be welcome this time around.
Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren believes that America’s presence isn’t welcome at all. During an interview with an Israel news network on Monday, Oren said that Kerry coming to the region is “to our chagrin.” Oren cited Kerry’s history of failed attempts at peace negotiations in the region, and strained U.S. relations with Egypt, as well as the Obama administration’s poor relationship with both Israel and Palestine.
Kerry left on Monday for Egypt, where he will continue to negotiate discussions of the continually failing cease-fire. The White House hopes to return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, and also emphasized the need to protect civilian lives, both in Gaza and in Israel.
Kerry spent nine months pursuing peace talks between Israel and Palestine from 2013 to 2014, but abandoned the effort recently after each attempt proved to be futile. Since violence has taken off between the Israelis and the Palestinians in recent weeks, Egypt has attempted to broker two separate cease-fires. While Israel complied with each request, Hamas has refused to agree and has repeatedly ignored Egypt’s requests.
During an interview broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Kerry said that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas militants. But Kerry was caught making an aside comment to an aide over the phone during a commercial break, sarcastically calling Israel’s Operation Protective Edge a “helluva pinpoint operation.”
Numerous networks and media outlets picked up on this comment and condemned America’s top diplomat for callously critiquing the Israeli operation.
According to Oren, Kerry’s behavior and remarks during his Sunday interview make it clear that Kerry was not invited to the region, and rather, just forced his way in. The State Department said that Kerry’s main concern in the region is minimizing “risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life.”
President Obama reiterated that sentiment during a briefing from the White Hose lawn on Monday. The president expressed continued concerned about the violence, stating that both sides must continue working to “stop the deaths of innocent civilians.” The White House continues to look toward Kerry, the United Nations and Egypt to help broker a working cease-fire.
|(Disclaimer) What to Look For in World Events: Audio & Text Video|