via Lobe Log

News and views relevant to US foreign policy for Sept. 11

New intelligence on Iran nuke work”: The Associated Press reports that the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) has received intelligence from the United States, Israel and at least two other Western countries showing that Iran has “moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon”.

Nuclear Mullahs, Continued: Bill Keller responds to reader questions about his column that argues against a preemptive war on Iran’s nuclear program:

Q: You say that after an attack, Iran would have strong motivation to rebuild its nuclear facilities, this time faster and deeper underground. But the Israeli attacks on nuclear reactors at Osirak, Iraq, in 1981 and Al-Kibar, Syria, in 2007 were quite successful in keeping those countries non-nuclear.

A: First, Iran’s multiple facilities, well fortified (especially the centrifuges buried deep in the rock at Fordow, near Qom) present a much tougher target than the reactors in Iraq and Syria. Second, and more important, the Osirak attack, far from stopping Iraq’s nuclear ambitions, hastened them. After Israel bombed the reactor, Saddam Hussein launched an accelerated, covert program to manufacture nuclear weapons. When the First Gulf War ended his ambitions in 1991, that program was well underway. Experts disagree how far Saddam was from having a weapon (estimates ranged from six months to three years) but the Israeli strike in Iraq accomplished what many fear a strike in Iran would accomplish: it gave the nuclear weapons program new life. Third, Israel’s attack on the (suspected) nuclear reactor in Syria was kept secret for a long time, so that Syria did not feel obliged to undertake reprisals against the superior Israeli military. It’s inconceivable that Iran and the world would not know whom to hold responsible for an attack on its facilities, and Iranian leaders would have to lash back, if only to save face. Fourth, what ended Iraq’s nuclear ambitions was a full-scale military invasion in 1991 – followed by an (unnecessary and botched) occupation in 2003. No doubt, occupying Iran would solve the problem of its nuclear program. Anybody up for that?

Former CIA Chief: Obama’s War on Terror Same as Bush’s, But With More Killing: Wired reports that Michael Hayden has offered words of praise for President Obama’s counterterrorism agenda after initially criticizing the POTUS’s early comments against programs Hayden helped formulate under George W. Bush, such as the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques and domestic wiretapping:

“But let me repeat my hypothesis: Despite the frequent drama at the political level, America and Americans have found a comfortable center line in what it is they want their government to do and what it is they accept their government doing. It is that practical consensus that has fostered such powerful continuity between two vastly different presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, when it comes, when it comes to this conflict,” Hayden said Friday while speaking at the University of Michigan.

….

But Hayden, in a nearly 80-minute lecture posted on C-Span, said Obama came to embrace Bush’s positions. Both Bush and Obama said the country was at war. The enemy was al-Qaida. The war was global in nature. And the United States would have to take the fight to the enemy, wherever it may be, he said.

The Deafness Before the Storm”: Vanity Fair’s Kurt Eichenwald delivers a bombshell report in the New York Times on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks arguing that the Bush Administration had received multiple warnings prior to August 2001 from the CIA about Osama bin Laden’s intent and capabilities to attack US targets. According to Eichenwald, the White House dismissed the agency’s sources as agents “in” on a maskirovka directed by both Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden:

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

Iraqi Spokesman: Al-Hashemi Is ‘Connected Directly’ To Terrorists”: Al-Monitor interviews Iraqi Government spokesman Ali Aldabbagh on the in absentia death sentence against the country’s Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and the ongoing oil revenues dispute between Baghdad and the Kurdish north. The wide-ranging interview also touched on Iran-Iraq relations, including an oblique reference to reports that the US is pressuring Iraq to do more to undermine Iranian assistance to the Syrian regime:

Al-Monitor:  The US has asked Iraq to inspect Iranian planes flying to Syria to prevent arms and material from reaching the Syrian government. Is this a reasonable request? Will the government of Iraq consider doing so?

Aldabbagh:  The US never asked [us] to do so, but it is our commitment not to allow the flow of arms or fighters to both parties in Syria. We had informed the Iranians that Iraq will never [allow the] use [of] its airspace to do so. Iraq is ready to be part of international efforts to stop any arms to Syria. We protect our borders from [allowing the flow of] any equipment or fighters to or from Syria. Iraq is totally committed to these principles. The US had satisfied with Iraq measures toward Syria.

Al-Monitor
:  How do you assess Iraq-Iran relations? Does your relationship with Iran complicate your ties with the United States, as in the case of Syria?

Aldabbagh
:  Never, on the contrary. The US understands that Iraq should maintain good relations with Iran, as we [have] been mediating between them. Even with the Syrians, we differ on some issues with US, while we agree and have the same ideas on some Syrian aspects. Such differences never affect our relations — the US respects Iraq sovergnity [sic] in building relations with others.