Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #535 Death Trap, Part III – Italian Fascism, Bogus Intelligence and the Iraq War

Recorded November 20, 2005

Listen: MP3  One 30-minute segment

REALAUDIO
NB: This stream contains both FTR # 535 and an older program, FTR #514 Conversation with John Loftus About the Muslim Brotherhood, originally aired and blogged on June 21, 2005. Each is a 30 minute broadcast. See also FTR #527 Death Trap Part II &
FTR #471 Death Trap.

Introduction: In a supplement to FTR#’s 471, 502, 527, this program presents information about the bogus intelligence used by the United States to justify the invasion of Iraq. This broadcast highlights the role of the fascist-influenced Italian intelligence agency SISMI in the generation of the Niger yellow-cake uranium canard that generated the Valerie Plame case. As noted, during the run-up to the Iraq war, Italian foreign minister Gianfranco Fini—the head of Italy’s fascist political party (the Alleanza Nationale) and a coalition partner of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—met in Switzerland with leaders of European fascist political parties, including Achmed Huber, a director of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Bank Al Taqwa. The broadcast asks the hypothetical question: Did Fini and his cohorts work to deliberately lure the US into a trap in Iraq, using the SISMI to help plant the bait? In that context, the program also reviews numerous other connections between the milieu of the Alleanza Nationale, Berlusconi and the P-2 Lodge and the Al Qaeda/Al Taqwa/Muslim Brotherhood nexus. The program concludes with a look at an Al Qaeda defector who was believed to be deliberately misleading his American interrogators with information pointing in the direction of Iraq. All of this information is viewed against the background of Mr. Emory’s working hypothesis that the Al Qaeda/Al Taqwa/Muslim brotherhood milieu and the allied Underground Reich was luring the US into a trap that would enmesh the US in a costly, draining war with the world’s Muslim population. Note that this population will have access to WMD technology as a result of the invasion of Iraq (see FTR#527.)

Program Highlights Include: Review of the “doomsday” arrangement between Al Qaeda and Saddam, in which Iraq would give technical know-how about WMD’s to bin Laden’s forces, which would then act as a “back-up” unit in the event of an American overthrow of Saddam; review of the numerous connections between the Al Taqwa nexus and the milieu of the P-2 Lodge, Silvio Berlusconi and the Alleanza Nationale.

1. Unfortunately, both the pro-war and anti-war sides have gotten it wrong with regard to Saddam’s relationship with Al Qaeda. Although there is no indication that Iraq or Saddam were involved with 9/11, the two entities did have a “doomsday back-up” arrangement. Saddam and bin Laden worked out an arrangement in which Iraq—in order to provide for a payback capability if the U.S. ousted him—gave information about WMD’s to bin Laden’s people. Al Qaeda, in turn, was to act as a back-up unit for Saddam’s Iraq, striking at the United States if it knocked out Saddam. Of course, precisely that scenario has transpired. The United States has walked into this “Death Trap,” and a disturbingly large percentage of the Muslim and Arab communities appear ready to join the conflict.

“It appears, however, that this version is the publicly admissible one, the one that can pass political muster. According to the same sources, there was another scenario more. In keeping with the calculating mentality of Saddam Hussein and his secret services. In 1998, after declining all offers that had been made to them through official diplomatic channels, those services are reported to have established a secret operational ‘connection’ with bin Laden in Manila and in Kashmir. It was indeed difficult for Iraq to ignore an Arab like Osama bin Laden who so effectively humiliated the Americans.’ Colonel Khairallah al Takiriti, the brother of the head of Mukkhabarat, the intelligence services, is reported to have been named case officer for the connection. The arrest of two Morroccan associates of bin Laden in Rabat on November 11, 1998, made it possible to establish to establish the link with certainty. According to Western sources, the Iraqi services have sought to secure the assistance of bin Laden’s networks, in case Iraq were again to be attacked by the United States, in order to carry out attacks against American targets in Arab countries.”

(In the Name of Osama Bin Laden; by Roland Jacquard; Copyright 2002 [SC]; Duke University Press; ISBN 0-8223-2991-3; pp. 112-113.)

2. “According to Arab sources, in anticipation of a foreseeable reversal of alliances in Kabul, bin Laden had been in discreet contact since September 2000 with associates of Oudai Hussein, another of Saddam’s sons; the ground for agreement was the anti-Israeli and anti-American battle. Bin Laden and the Iraqis are said to have exchanged information about chemical and biological weapons, despite the opposition of some of the Baghdad leadership, including Tarik Aziz”

(Ibid.;p. 113.)

3. Much of the program focuses on an Italian media report that the SISMI intelligence agency in that country was the source of the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellow-cake uranium from Niger in order to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. This spurious claim was one of the main pieces of false intelligence used to justify the move into Iraq. Much of the broadcast examines the possibility that Italian fascist elements associated with the P-2/Alleanza Nationale milieu may have deliberately participated in the deception. Note that this milieu is directly descended from Mussolini’s fascists. For more about the P-2 Lodge and the AN Party of Gianfranco Fini, use the search function. As will be seen below, Fini, Prime Minister Berlusconi (a former member of the P-2) and other figures in the P-2/Alleanza Nationale milieu are linked to the Al Taqwa complex, involved with—among other things—the funding of Al Qaeda. As seen in FTR#413, the Al Taqwa complex also handled some of the illicit funds spirited out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein. Is it possible that figures involved with Al Taqwa may have introduced Al Qaeda and Baathist elements, so that they could conclude the “doomsday” agreement discussed above?

“Behind the CIA leak scandal lies a bizarre trail of forged documents, an embassy break-in and international deception that helped propel the United States to war in Iraq. While American public attention focuses on special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leak, U.S. and Italian lawmakers are probing a series of bogus claims of Iraqi uranium purchases in Africa that were the opening chapters in a saga that resulted in the disclosure of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.”

(“Seeds of Leak Scandal Sown in Italian Intelligence Agency” by Robert Collier; San Francisco Chronicle; 10/30/2005; p. E3.)

4. “In the past week, the respected, left-of-center Italian daily La Repubblica published a three-part series of investigative articles claiming that documents purporting to prove that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger had been forged by an Italian freelance spy and then were fed by the Italian intelligence agency to eager officials in Washington and London. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate Democratic leader, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., are asking for public hearings into the forgeries and their role in Bush administration claims that Hussein was developing nuclear weapons.”

(Idem.)

5. “The Italian Parliament is scheduled to hold hearings about the La Repubblica allegations on Thursday, with intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari expected to come under heavy grilling. The articles relied heavily on sources in the Italian spy agency, the Military Information and Security Service, known as SISMI. They provide a tantalizing account — credible to some observers, baseless speculation to others — of how President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair were snookered by fabricated intelligence about Hussein’s alleged nuclear program. The allegations in La Repubblica‘s articles lead far into the murky depths of Italy’s intelligence agencies, a realm of conspiracy claims and counterclaims. In Italy this netherworld is called dietrologia – a word that loosely translates as the widespread belief that political, security and criminal forces are constantly engaged in secret plots and maneuvers, noted Henry Farrell, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University in Washington and a blogger on the Crooked Timber Web log, which has dissected the Italian angle to Plamegate”

(Idem.)

6. The article notes that, during the Cold War, the SISMI cooperated closely with the US. In the wake of the Cold War, has that changed? Are the Italian fascists moving away from the “Atlanticist” position they held during the cold war? (By “Atlanticist,” we mean a pro-U.S., pro-NATO stance.)

“ ‘It’s hard to say if (the Repubblica information) is the truth, truth with some distortion, or misinformation from the officials who are leading this,’ Farrell said. ‘But it certainly raises some very troubling questions.’ Farrell noted that during the Cold War, the U.S. and Italian spy agencies cooperated closely on undercover work. Bush and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are close allies, and Berlusconi has strongly supported Bush’s Iraq policy, stationing 3,000 Italian troops south of Baghdad.”

(Idem.)

7. The discussion highlights some of the fascist connections of the SISMI organization. For more about SISMI and the Italian terrorist landscape, use the search function and look for information about the “strategy of tension”.

“SISMI has long been accused of involvement in rightist conspiracies, including work in collaboration with Propaganda Due, or P-2, a Masonic secret society, and the Armed Falange, a neo-fascist terrorist group. SISMI ‘does not have an immaculate history at all,’ said Gianfranco Pasquino, a political science professor at the Bologna, Italy, campus of the School of Advanced and International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. ‘It has been purged and reorganized very often.’ Pasquino called SISMI ‘friendly to the right wing and willing to offer its services for right-wing purposes.’”

(Idem.)

8. “According to La Repubblica, the forged documents were originally produced in 2000 by Rocco Martino, a former member of the Carabinieri paramilitary police who then became a freelance agent for both SISMI and French intelligence. SISMI combined these fakes with real documents from the 1980s showing Hussein’s yellowcake purchases from Niger during that period — in the process, conducting a break-in at the Niger Embassy in Rome to steal letterhead and seals. Soon afterward, La Repubblica reported, Italian operatives passed news of their scoop to the CIA and the British intelligence agency, MI6. When the CIA expressed doubt about the veracity of the claims, SISMI began seeking to peddle it directly to the most pro- war faction of the Bush administration.”

(Idem.)

9. “SISMI chief Pollari met in Rome with Michael Ledeen, an influential Washington neoconservative who has long been reputed to play a back-channel role between U.S. and Italian spy agencies. Pollari also met in Washington with Stephen Hadley, deputy national security adviser, to discuss the new information, La Repubblica reported. On Thursday, a National Security Council spokesman confirmed that the Hadley- Pollari meeting had taken place The elaborate hoax finally succeeded. In late September 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell cited Iraq’s alleged Niger dealings as proof of Hussein’s nuclear ambitions. In his February 2003 State of the Union address, Bush declared that British intelligence had ‘learned’ Saddam Hussein had been seeking to buy nuclear material in Africa. Throughout the period, Blair made similar claims.”

(Idem.)

10. “British officials have insisted that they had other evidence in addition to the forged documents that confirmed Iraqi uranium purchases in Niger. The British have declined to show this evidence, however. La Repubblica quoted a SISMI official as saying of this alleged corroborating evidence, ‘If it ever were brought forward it would be discovered, with red faces, that it was Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980s and shared with our friend Hamilton McMillan’ — the top MI6 counter-terrorism official during that period. . . . .”

(Idem.)

11. The allegations in La Repubblica were subsequently confirmed b by Italy’s spymaster, Nico Pollari.

“Italy’s spymaster identified an Italian occasional spy named Rocco Martino on Thursday as the disseminator of forged documents that described efforts by Iraq to buy hundreds of tons of uranium ore from Niger for a nuclear weapons program, three Italian lawmakers said Thursday. Gen. Nicolo Pollari, director of the Italian military intelligence agency known as SISMI, disclosed that Martino had been the source of the forged documents in closed- door testimony to a parliamentary committee that oversees secret services, the lawmakers said. . . .”

(“Italian Spy Chief Discloses Source of Forged Documents” by Elaine Sciolino and Elisabetta Povoledo [New York Times]; San Francisco Chronicle; 11/4/2005; p. A12.)

12. Next, the program revisits a point of information discussed in—among other programs—FTR#’s 378, 456. In the spring of 2002, as the preparations for the Iraq war were underway, Al Taqwa director Achmed Huber networked with other American and European fascists and far rightists, including Gianfranco Fini, head of the Italian Alleanza Nationale. Might the meeting have had something to do with Iraq? Had the “Atlanticist” orientation of the P-2 milieu been superseded by an anti-U.S./Third Position orientation in the Italian fascist milieu? Did this meeting have anything to do with the feeding of false intelligence to the US in order to lure the country into a draining, expensive and (ultimately) fatal war with the Muslim population of the “Earth Island”? Note in this regard, that Fini is currently the Italian foreign minister. Is it possible that the man (Fini) who characterized Mussolini as “the greatest statesman of the 20th century” has not changed his stripes? Is it possible that he was conferring with the other European fascist leaders in order to help lure the US into a trap? (For more on Huber, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 343, 354, 357, 359, 377, 456.)

“Perhaps the most recent remarkable story concerning Huber comes from a brief item in the Swiss tabloid Blick that in an April 26, 2002 article by Alexander Sautter that Huber was involved in a meeting of far-right leaders from Europe. A photo showing Huber with Jean Marie Le Pen accompanies the article. The Blick story (available on the web) is as follows: ‘Mon Pelerin VD: Christian Cambuzat, the promoter (Scharfmacher) of the right extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen (73): The guru assembles together some of the top leaders of the European right. On the idyllic Mont Pelerin, they debate their crude ideas. At his secret visit to a spa in Switzerland, Le Pen hardly remained alone. Rightist leaders from all over Europe traveled to meet the extremist presidential candidate who was hosted by Cambuzat. Franz Schonhuber (79). Founder of the Republican Party in Germany and a former member of the SS. He talked with Le Pen who constitutes together with Schonhuber the ‘Front National’ Faction in the European parliament. Gianfranco Fini (50). Italian post-fascist, Mussolini admirer, and founder of the Alleanze Nationale. He also was at the meeting with Le Pen and Schonhuber. Ahmed Huber (74). The Swiss is on the Bush Administration blacklist . . . ‘I met le Pen at Mont Pelerin as he went to Christian Cambuzat’s spa,’ Huber told Blick yesterday. At the extremist rendezvous an American far right politician was also supposed to have taken part. [Note: the American is not further identified.—KC] Christian Cambuzat said that Le Pen (after the election) had again become the sharpest weapon of the ‘Front National’ because Le Pen changed his image from a venomous old man to a ‘kindly U.S. TV evangelist.’ Proudly Cambuzat brags, ‘With me Le Pen can relax well’ [from his political endeavors—KC]. And openly link up with new contacts. [Although the Blick story does not give details, Cambuzat runs a spa for the very rich, the Lemanique de Revitalisation, inside a hotel on the famous Mont Pelerin.]’”

(“Report on Islamists, The Far Right, and Al Taqwa” by Kevin Coogan; pp. 14-15.)

13. In the context of the April, 2002 meeting of European fascist leaders at Mt. Pellerin, it is important to note that (in addition to Fini) other Italian fascists from the AN/P-2 milieu are to be found within the Al Taqwa orbit. Allessandro Ghe is a member of the fascist Ordine Nuovo, headed up by Pino Rauti. Rauti is a veteran of the SS-controlled Salo Republic that was established in Northern Italy after Mussolini’s capitulation in 1943. Rauti is also a part of the successful electoral coalition of Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini.

“The goal of the meeting with the notary was the founding of ‘al-Taqwa management Organization SA’ that said it would be concerned with importing and exporting various goods. ‘Taqwa management Organization SA’ that said it would be concerned with importing and exporting various goods around the world. 333 of the 1000 shares (at 100 Swiss Francs a share) went to Mohammed Mansour and his wife. 332 went to Huber. Nada and Himmat took the rest. Mansour was named the president but rarely was the clause in the contract papers mentioned that each decision must be co-signed by the minority holders Nada and Himmat . . . Among the 500 shareholders besides Huber, Himmat and Nada were ‘also a notorious right extremist from Italy’ [not further identified but this is Alessandro Karim Abdul Ghe] and three members of the bin Laden family.”

(Ibid.; p. 8.)

14. More about Allessandro Ghe, and Ordinie Nuovo’s links with Moslem radicals and (allegedly) Bin Laden:

“Another Connection involves al-Taqwa group shareholder Allesandro Ghe, an Italian radical who has been questioned by his country’s security forces about his links to Bin Laden. Ghe was a member of the Italian neo-fascist ‘Ordine Nuovo’ that began coupling up with Moslem radicals in the 1970’s, says Ely Karmon. [Emphasis added.]”

(“A Terrifying Alliance” by Yael Haran; 1/14/2002; Enduring-Freedom-Operation.org; pp. 4-5.)
(For more about the links between Ordine Nuovo and the current governing coalition of Italy, see, among other programs, FTR#’s 307, 320, 321. For more about conduits running between Al Taqwa and Silvio Berlusconi, see FTR#’s 342, 351, 357.)

15. The Al Taqwa orbit contains one Gustavo Selva—a parliamentary representative of Fini’s Alleanza Nationale. “Gustavo Selva belongs to Nasreddin’s wider circle. The former journalist and today parliamentary member of the post fascist Partei Alleanza Nationale, Selva was until April 19, 1999, involved in the Roman-based business, the Arab-Italian Consulting House. Six months before it went under, on September 18, 1998, a certain Sergio Marini was named the firm’s official receiver. Marini was, together with the Nasreddin International Group Limited Holdings, also part of the Milan-registered Line Investment Srl. Since 1988, Marini was CEO of ‘L.I.N.E. Development Light Industry and Environment Development Srl’ in Rome whose administrative director was Abduhrahim Nasreddin along with his deputy Ghaleb Himmat, himself a founder of Al Taqwa Group.”

(“Report on Islamists, The Far Right, and Al Taqwa” by Kevin Coogan; p. 9.)

16. Another evidentiary tributary leading in the direction of the Italian far right concerns areas of overlap between the Al Taqwa milieu and that of Silvio Berlusconi—former member of the fascist P-2 lodge and the head of the Italian coalition government of which Fini’s AN is part.

“The deeper investigators dug, the more senseless it seemed. For example: The Liechtenstein-registered Nasreddin International Limited Holdings on October 20, 1994, decided to change its name to Middle East and Turkey Investment Holding Ltd. And then eight days later it returned to its original name. There is also the fact that Nasreddin at the founding of the Nasreddin International Group Limited Holding in January 1997 appointed—next to Dr. Enrico Walser as trustee—of all people the Tessino lawyer Dr. Ercole Doninelli to the administrative board. Doninelli, until his death, was seen as the ‘soul’ of the Lugano finance society Fimo that was widely involved in the financial scandals of the 1990’s. Fimo helped Italians to send up to 250 million Swiss francs yearly in capital flight. Even more definitive is the role Fimo has played since 1968 in the financing into the millions [of] the first projects of the (at the time utterly unknown) construction builder from Milan, Silvio Berlusconi. The knowledge of how capital from the married pair of Ercole and Stefania Doninelli went from Eti Holdings in Chiasso to more stops in the Interchange Bank and from there to Italcantieri, a company headed by two Berlusconi straw men, finally ended with the mass bankruptcy of Fimo.”

(Ibid.; pp. 9-10.)

17. Another person bridging the worlds of Berlusconi and Al Taqwa is Pier Felice Barchi, an attorney for both Berlusconi and Yussef Nada. (For more about Barchi, see FTR#’s 357, 359.)

“The Akida Bank of Nasreddin was also supposed to be concerned with the spreading of Islamic banking practices. The Lugano-registered affiliate of the bank listed along with its founder Nasreddin, the Tessino-based Pier Felice Barchi. This attorney had great experience with rich and influential foreign customers. Barchi was also concerned with the Tessino financial interests of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and the Saudi minority partner in Berlusconi’s media group Mediaset, Prince al-Waleed al Talal.”

(Ibid.; pp. 10-11.)

18. Another detail concerning the bogus intelligence that was used to justify the Iraq invasion involves an Al Qaeda captive who was evaluated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. That agency opined that he was very likely giving his American interrogators information that he felt they wanted to hear. Is it possible that he was also helping to lure the US into a trap? Bin Laden himself stated that the US overthrow of Saddam was a boon for his organization. Is it possible that Mr. al-Shaykh was deliberately working to lure the United States into the “doomsday back-up” trap that had been laid by Al Qaeda and Iraq?! This is a possibility to be seriously evaluated.

“Who in the White House knew about DITSUM No. 044-02 and when did they know it? That’s the newly declassified smoking- gun document, originally prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency in February 2002, but ignored by President Bush. Its declassification last weekend blows another huge hole in Bush’s claim that he was acting on the best intelligence available when he pitched the invasion of Iraq as a way to prevent an al Qaeda terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction. The report demolished the credibility of the key al Qaeda informant the administration relied on to make its claim that a working alliance existed between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It was circulated widely within the federal government a full eight months before Bush used the prisoner’s lies to argue for an invasion of Iraq because ‘we’ve learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.’”

(“Lying with Intelligence” by Robert Scheer; San Francisco Chronicle; 11/9/2005; p. B13.)

19. “Al Qaeda senior military trainer lbn al-Shaykh al-Libi — a Libyan captured in Pakistan m 2001 — was probably ‘intentionally misleading the debriefers,’ the DIA report concluded in one of two paragraphs declassified at the request of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and released by his office over the weekend. The report also said: ‘Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.’ He got that right. Folks in the highest places were very interested in claims along the lines Libi was peddling, even though they went against both logic and the preponderance of intelligence gathered to that point about possible collaboration between two enemies of the United States that were fundamentally at odds with each other. Al Qaeda was able to create a base in Iraq only after the U.S. overthrow of Hussein, not before. ‘Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements,’ accurately noted the DIA. Yet Bush used the informant’s already discredited tall tale in his key Oct. 7, 2002, speech just before the Senate voted on whether to authorize the use of force in Iraq and again in two speeches in February 2003, just before the invasion.”

(Idem.)

20. “Leading up to the war, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to sell it to the United Nations, while Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith repeated it breathlessly for homeland audiences. The con worked, and Americans came to believe that Hussein was associated with the Sept.11, 2001, hijackers. Even CIA Director George Tenet publicly fell into line, ignoring his own agency’s dissent that Libi would not have been m a position to know what he said he knew. In fact, Libi, according to the DIA, could not name any Iraqis involved, any chemical or biological material used or where the training allegedly occurred. In January 2004, the prisoner recanted his story, and the next month the CIA with- drew all intelligence reports based on his false information.”

(Idem.)

21. Note the reference here to “Curveball”—the code-name for an informant who channeled significant elements of the bogus intelligence to the US. As discussed in FTR#502: “Curveball” was a protégé of Ahmed Chalabi, himself believed by the NSA to be an agent for the Iranian fundamentalists. In addition, “Curveball” was at all times in the custody of German intelligence. The US was never permitted to interview “Curveball” until after the start of the war. In FTR#502 we examined the possibility that the handling of “Curveball” by the BND–the successor agency to the Reinhard Gehlen spy outfit—may have been another part of the hypothetical Underground Reich “deathtrap” being discussed here.

“One by one, the exotic intelligence factoids Bush’s researchers culled from raw intelligence data files to publicly bolster their claim of imminent threat – the yellowcake uranium from Niger, the aluminum tubes for processing uranium- the Prague meeting with Mohamed Atta, the discredited Iraqi informants ‘Curveball’ and Ahmad Chalabi – have been exposed as previously known frauds. When it came to selling an invasion of Iraq it had wanted to launch before Sept. 11, the Bush White House systematically ignored the best available intelligence from U.S. agencies or any other reliable source. . . .”

(Idem.)

Discussion

3 comments for “FTR #535 Death Trap, Part III – Italian Fascism, Bogus Intelligence and the Iraq War”

  1. This sort of feels like beating a dead horse at this point, but anyways….

    Jun 19, 8:40 PM EDT

    CIA releases declassified documents from 9/11 file

    EILEEN SULLIVAN and ADAM GOLDMAN
    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In the months before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the CIA unit dedicated to hunting for Osama bin Laden complained that it was running out of money, and analysts considered the likelihood of catching the terror leader to be extremely low, according to government records published Tuesday.

    The declassified documents, dated between 1992 and 2004, are heavily blacked out and offer little new information about what the U.S. knew about the al-Qaida plot before 2001. Many of the files are cited in the 9/11 Commission report, published in 2004. The commission determined the failure that led to 9/11 was a lack of imagination, and U.S. intelligence agencies did not connect the dots that could have prevented the attacks.

    Though few new details are revealed in the documents, the files offer more historical context for the years surrounding the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.

    The National Security Archive obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and published them on its website Tuesday. The archive is a private group seeking transparency in government.

    An April 2000 document from the CIA’s bin Laden unit alluded to a budgetary cash crunch that was cutting into the agency’s efforts to track the terror leader.

    At that time, al-Qaida was a major concern to U.S. intelligence agencies because of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed many, including two CIA employees. Bin Laden had declared a holy war against the U.S., and the CIA had received multiple warnings that al-Qaida intended to strike the U.S.

    “Need forward movement on supplemental soonest,” said a heavily blacked-out document titled “Islamic Extremist Update.” The supplemental budget was still being reviewed by the national security council and White House Office of Management and Budget. Because of budgetary constraints, the bin Laden unit would move from an “offensive to defensive posture,” the document said. This meant that officials feared they would have to shelve some of their more elaborate proposals to track al-Qaida and instead rely on existing resources.

    The newly released files also offer details about the subsequent investigations into the attacks.

    In one case, the U.S. intelligence community investigated a link between one of the hijackers and the Iraqi Intelligence Service – a connection that was later proved false but that the White House used in its campaign to connect the attacks to Iraq.

    According to a Dec. 8, 2001, CIA report that was sent to the White House Situation Room, the CIA had already made a preliminary determination that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had not in fact traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic in May 2000 to rendezvous with a senior official of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Atta was an Egyptian national who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. That he would have met with the IIS was significant for intelligence officials looking for a connection between al-Qaida and Iraq.

    But just one day after the report was sent to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it had been “pretty confirmed” that Atta had gone to Prague several months before the attack. According to the 9/11 Commission report, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity after a Pakistani with a similar name tried to get into the Czech Republic but was turned away. The document was the basis for a footnote in chapter seven of the 9/11 report.

    Even though the information about Atta meeting with the ISS was later disproved, it still resonated with those bent on going to war with Iraq.

    The hundreds of pages of CIA files released Tuesday include a chronology of the agency’s efforts to catch bin Laden.

    A March 2004 CIA report entitled, “The Rise of UBL and al-Qaida and the Intelligence Community Response,” discusses the likelihood of the CIA capturing bin Laden in the late 1990s using Afghans to do the job. Such a plan didn’t seem viable.

    The CIA estimated that none of the available Afghan units had more than a 10 percent chance of capturing the heavily guarded bin Laden. Another option was using Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, who was friendly with the CIA and fighting the Taliban. “Even if he agreed to do so, his chances of success against the Taliban were judged to be less than 5 percent,” the report said. Al-Qaida operatives killed Massoud on Sept. 9, 2001.

    President Bill Clinton was criticized for not doing more to catch bin Laden. But the documents show it wouldn’t have been an easy task, though some at the CIA were still hopeful they could get him.

    “The odds of success are iffy,” Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s bin Laden unit, said in a 1998 secret memo that was among the declassified documents released Tuesday. “And the thing could blow up at any point along the way.”

    It would take the U.S. government another 13 years to catch and kill bin Laden.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 20, 2012, 10:03 pm
  2. Interesting:

    The New York Times
    Conspiracy Buffs Gain in Court Ruling on Crash

    By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
    Published: February 10, 2013

    ROME — Itavia Flight 870 was entering the final leg of a routine domestic trip from Bologna, Italy, to Palermo, Sicily, one clear summer evening when it suddenly plunged into the Tyrrhenian Sea near the small island of Ustica, killing all 81 people aboard.

    Mechanical failure was ruled out early on, and almost 33 years later, the causes that led to the crash on June 27, 1980, are still a topic of passionate debate in Italy, fueled by three decades of inquiry boards, parliamentary commissions, countless expert reports and one of the longest judicial inquiries in recent Italian history. But despite all that, no formal charges have ever been filed in connection with the crash.

    The crash, known as the Ustica affair, has produced legions of conspiracy theories here, the way the Kennedy assassination — or, on a lesser scale, the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996 — have in the United States. But in the Ustica affair, the case for a cover-up is far stronger.

    Last week, when Italy’s highest court ruled that the country’s Defense and Transportation Ministries had to compensate the families of some of the victims, the court implicitly acknowledged the most widely accepted theory behind the crash: that a missile fired by a warplane had hit the twin-engine McDonnell Douglas DC-9 on Itavia, a now-defunct domestic Italian airline. But the court did not say where that missile came from.

    To conspiracy buffs, it was vindication — to a point.

    “It’s like the O. J. Simpson affair, where he got off in criminal court but was found guilty in a civil procedure and had to pay damages,” said Andrea Purgatori, an investigative reporter whose exhaustive book on the disaster and the presumed cover-up was made into a 1992 film.

    Over the years, several Air Force officials have been investigated for withholding evidence — wiping clean flight tracks and radar scans — and four generals were tried on charges of treason and obstructing investigations. But no one has been convicted.

    In this hothouse atmosphere, it is not surprising that conspiracy theories have proliferated over the years. The crash has been blamed on U.F.O.’s (several Web sites subscribe to this reconstruction) or domestic terrorism (the Bologna train station was bombed not five weeks later, killing 85 and wounding dozens more). In this scenario, the plane went down after a bomb exploded onboard, most likely in the toilet.

    The missile theory gained a new impetus in 2008 when Francesco Cossiga, the prime minister at the time of the Ustica affair, said in an interview that the flight had been shot down by French military planes. Mr. Cossiga did not provide further details, nor can he. He died in 2010, at age 82.

    Cover-up theories have been fueled through the years by what news reports have described as a “suspiciously high mortality” among military personnel and others connected to the case. (Mr. Cossiga is not included among them.)

    Through traffic accidents, shooting deaths and suicides by hanging, there were 36 untimely deaths by 2011, according to a television report about Ustica. The program also cited a number of “bizarre accidents” that befell Ustica witnesses, like being run over by a tricycle and slipping on a banana peel in a Rome subway station.

    “What terrifying truth warranted a cover-up at the cost of the lives of all these people?” asked the show’s host, Adam Kadmon, who plays a mysterious masked vigilante who investigates topics like Ustica, underskin microchip implants and, more recently, Michael Jackson’s prophecy about Sept. 11, and favors the French missile theory.

    At the time, proponents say, Italy was covertly allowing Libyan aircraft to fly through its airspace undisturbed. They did so by gliding in the slipstream of Italian domestic aircraft, where they could not be detected by radar. On the night of June 27, 1980, there were unsubstantiated reports that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was on one of those planes, the theory goes, and French forces tried to shoot it down to kill the Libyan leader, but hit the DC-9 by mistake. Don’t ask why. It has to do with rebels in North Africa and jockeying for oil concessions between Italy and France.

    But Colonel Qaddafi had been warned of the plan and never boarded his plane, according to this reconstruction, which also says the pilot made a successful emergency landing at sea. There, a British submarine reached it and deployed scuba divers to plant explosives to sink the plane and to silence potential witnesses to the assassination attempt.

    There’s quite a bit about SISMI’s involvement with the Ustica coverup in Philip Willan’s Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy (available online via google books).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 11, 2013, 3:08 pm
  3. Did the coup attempt debacle in Venezuela that reportedly left President Trump frustrated with John Bolton’s regime change schemes end up giving Trump cold feet about his administration’s long-standing regime change designs for Iran? That’s one of the big questions raised by a series of recent articles regarding the US’s sudden insistence that Iran and its proxies are planning on militarily targeting US forces. Because not only are we getting reports about US intelligence assessments that there’s some grave new Iranian threat, we’re also getting reports Trump is apparently frustrated with Bolton’s war mongering. Not frustrated enough to actually fire Bolton, mind you, but frustrated enough for these frustrations to end up getting leaked in news reports.

    Granted, this could all be purely theatrics. But Trump does appear to be a reactionary individual and Bolton’s embarrassing coup plot in Venezuela is certainly the kind of thing that might trigger a reaction from Trump. Or perhaps Trump is responding to the fact that the top British general in the US-led anti-ISIS coalition just told the world that he’s seen no indication of a increased threats from Iran or its proxies:

    The Guardian

    No increased Iran threat in Syria or Iraq, top British officer says, contradicting US

    Deputy commander of anti-Isis coalition rebuts White House justification for sending troops

    Julian Borger in Washington

    Tue 14 May 2019 19.34 EDT

    The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region.

    Hours later however, his assessment was disowned by US Central Command in an extraordinary rebuke of an allied senior officer. A spokesman insisted that the troops in Iraq and Syria were on a high level of alert due to the alleged Iranian threat. The conflicting versions of the reality on the ground added to the confusion and mixed signals in a tense part of the Middle East.

    Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, who is a deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the coalition conducting counter-terrorist operations against Isis in Iraq and Syria, was repeatedly questioned by reporters about the threat from Shia militias in Syria and Iraq, cited by US officials over the past week as justification for speeding up the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group in the Gulf and for sending B-52 Stratofortress bombers and an anti-aircraft battery to the region.

    “No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika said in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon. “We’re aware of that presence, clearly. And we monitor them along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in. We are monitoring the Shia militia groups. I think you’re referring to carefully and if the threat level seems to go up then we’ll raise our force protection measures accordingly.”

    On Tuesday night, US Central Command – whose area of operations covers the Middle East and Afghanistan – put out a statement refuting Ghika’s comments.

    “Recent comments from OIR’s deputy commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region,” it said.

    “US Central Command, in coordination with OIR, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”

    The rebuke was particularly striking as it implied that Ghika was unaware of the state of alert of his own troops. The remarkable comments heightened concerns that fabricated or exaggerated intelligence may be being used by administration hawks led by the national security adviser, John Bolton, to further the case for war against Iran, in a manner reminiscent of the buildup to the Iraq invasion.

    The New York Times reported on Monday night that the acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, had presented the White House with a plan that involved sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event of an Iranian attack or departure from the constraints of the 2015 nuclear deal that the US abrogated a year ago.

    The revised plans were ordered by administration hardliners led by Bolton, the report said.

    Donald Trump dismissed the account as “fake news” on Tuesday. “Now, would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that,” the president said. “Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that and if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

    US officials have said there was clear evidence that Iran was building up its proxy forces’ combat readiness and preparing them to attack US forces in the region. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, went to Brussels on Monday to brief his European counterparts on the alleged threats.

    Speaking in Russia on Tuesday, Pompeo said the United States does not want war with Iran but vowed to keep pressuring Tehran.

    “We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran,” he said, adding: “We have also made clear to the Iranians that if American interests are attacked, we will most certainly respond in an appropriate fashion.”

    The Shia militias in Iraq are collectively known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), and have ties of varying strengths to Iran.

    In his briefing from Baghdad on Tuesday, Ghika told Pentagon reporters: “We’ve seen no change in the posture or the laydown of the PMF. And of course the PMF is a moniker for a very broad range of groups. So I think it’s important to say that many of them are compliant and we have seen no change in that posture since the recent exchange between the United States and Iran. And we hope and expect that that will continue.”

    The general stressed that the coalition’s mission was exclusively focused on defeating the remains of Isis and not on confronting Iran, but he added that the issue of force protection had been reviewed “in the light of the events of the last week or so”.

    “Am I concerned about the danger? No, not really,” Ghika said.

    Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that armed drones had attacked two of its oil pumping stations, two days after two Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

    The Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said that the alleged drone attacks caused a fire and minor damage to one pumping station, and implied that the drone strikes and the sabotage of the tankers were the work of Iranian proxies.

    “These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” Falih said in an English-language statement issued by his ministry.

    Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, denied any involvement by his country or any of its regional allies in the attacks.

    “Definitely not,” Ravanchi told CNN. “Iran is not in the business of doing such a thing. We need to have a thorough investigation as to what has happened and who is responsible for it.”

    ———-

    “No increased Iran threat in Syria or Iraq, top British officer says, contradicting US” by Julian Borger; The Guardian; 05/14/2019

    “No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika said in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon. “We’re aware of that presence, clearly. And we monitor them along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in. We are monitoring the Shia militia groups. I think you’re referring to carefully and if the threat level seems to go up then we’ll raise our force protection measures accordingly.””

    Ouch. That’s a remarkable rebuke from a top allied general working with US forces in the region, prompting a counter-rebuke by US Central Command which doubled down on the threat warnings. As the article notes, this kind of high-level disagreement has heightened concerns that the hawks in the US are exaggerating or fabricating intelligence under the direction of John Bolton, which is an entirely reasonable concern:


    On Tuesday night, US Central Command – whose area of operations covers the Middle East and Afghanistan – put out a statement refuting Ghika’s comments.

    “Recent comments from OIR’s deputy commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region,” it said.

    “US Central Command, in coordination with OIR, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”

    The rebuke was particularly striking as it implied that Ghika was unaware of the state of alert of his own troops. The remarkable comments heightened concerns that fabricated or exaggerated intelligence may be being used by administration hawks led by the national security adviser, John Bolton, to further the case for war against Iran, in a manner reminiscent of the buildup to the Iraq invasion.

    And these concerns of exaggerated or fabricated intelligence is on top of learning that Bolton basically ordered acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to come up with a plan for sending 120,000 US troops to the region in response to these intelligence assessments:


    The New York Times reported on Monday night that the acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, had presented the White House with a plan that involved sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event of an Iranian attack or departure from the constraints of the 2015 nuclear deal that the US abrogated a year ago.

    The revised plans were ordered by administration hardliners led by Bolton, the report said.

    But beyond the concerns about Bolton pumping junk intelligence, we also have Saudi Arabia alleging that two of its oil pumping stations were attacked by Iranian proxies. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia and the UAE is waging one of the most brutal wars in recent memory in Yemen (with US assistance), so it appears that attacks by the Yemeni Houthis on Saudi or UAE assets will be used to hype Bolton’s push to war:


    Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that armed drones had attacked two of its oil pumping stations, two days after two Saudi oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

    The Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said that the alleged drone attacks caused a fire and minor damage to one pumping station, and implied that the drone strikes and the sabotage of the tankers were the work of Iranian proxies.

    “These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,” Falih said in an English-language statement issued by his ministry.

    So was that major public disagreement between general Ghika and US Central Command a significant factor in Trump’s apparent souring on Bolton’s Iranian war mongering? It seems like the kind of thing that would have left Trump displeased, at a minimum. General Ghika’s comments were pretty damn embarrassing for the Trump administration, after all. But as the following article also describes, it’s not just a British general who isn’t buying into this new threat assessment. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo learned during his recent trip to Europe, the rest of the US’s European allies don’t appear to be buying this either:

    The Washington Post

    Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran

    By John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan
    May 15 at 11:35 PM

    The Trump administration has been on high alert in response to what military and intelligence officials have deemed specific and credible threats from Iran against U.S. personnel in the Middle East.

    But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

    Disagreements over assessing and responding to the recent intelligence — which includes a directive from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that some American officials interpret as a threat to U.S. personnel in the Middle East — are also fraying alliances with foreign allies, according to multiple officials in the United States and Europe.

    Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    “They are getting way out ahead of themselves, and Trump is annoyed,” the official said. “There was a scramble for Bolton and Pompeo and others to get on the same page.”

    Bolton, who advocated regime change in Iran before joining the White House last year, is “just in a different place” from Trump, although the president has been a fierce critic of Iran since long before he hired Bolton. Trump “wants to talk to the Iranians; he wants a deal” and is open to negotiation with the Iranian government, the official said.

    “He is not comfortable with all this ‘regime change’ talk,” which to his ears echoes the discussion of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the 2003 U.S. invasion, said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

    When asked about the accounts of Trump’s frustration with Bolton, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said, “This reporting doesn’t accurately reflect reality.”

    Trump is not inclined to respond forcefully unless there is a “big move” from the Iranians, a senior White House official said. Still, the president is willing to respond forcefully if there are American deaths or a dramatic escalation, the official said.

    While Trump grumbles about Bolton somewhat regularly, his discontent with his national security adviser is not near the levels it reached with Rex Tillerson when he served as Trump’s secretary of state, the official added.

    Trump denied any “infighting” related to his Middle East policies in a tweet on Wednesday. “There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump said. “Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

    Pentagon and intelligence officials said that three distinct Iranian actions have triggered alarms: information suggesting an Iranian threat against U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Irbil; U.S. concerns that Iran may be preparing to mount rocket or missile launchers on small ships in the Persian Gulf; and a directive from Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regular Iranian military units that some U.S. officials have interpreted as a potential threat to U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. On Wednesday, the State Department ordered nonessential personnel to leave the U.S. missions in Baghdad and Irbil.

    U.S. and European officials said there are disagreements about Iran’s ultimate intentions and whether the new intelligence merits a more forceful response than previous Iranian actions.

    Some worry that the renewed saber-rattling could create a miscalculation on the ground, said two Western officials familiar with the matter. And Iran’s use of proxy forces, the officials said, means it does not have absolute control over militias, which could attack U.S. personnel and provoke a devastating U.S. response that in turn prompts a counter-escalation.

    Bolton warned in a statement last week that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

    Military officials have described themselves as torn between their desire to avoid open confrontation with Iran and their concern about the recent intelligence, which led the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., to request a host of additional military assets, including an aircraft carrier and strategic bombers.

    Multiple officials said uniformed officers from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by its chairman, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., have been among the leading voices articulating the costs of war with Iran.

    Other officials said the view that deterrence rather than conflict was required was “monolithic” across the Pentagon and was shared by civilian officials led by acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, whom Trump nominated last week to remain in the job but who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. As the tensions have intensified, Shanahan has been in touch multiple times a day with other senior leaders, including Bolton, Pompeo and Dunford, officials said.

    Some defense officials have described Bolton’s more aggressive approach as troubling.

    Defense officials said that they are considering whether they will field additional weaponry or personnel to the Persian Gulf region to strengthen their deterrent against possible action by Iran or proxy groups, but that they hope additional deployments will prevent rather than fuel attacks.

    Trump’s fears of entangling the United States in another war have been a powerful counterweight to the more bellicose positions of some of his advisers.

    Trump has called the Iraq War a massive and avoidable blunder, and his political support was built in part on the idea that he would not repeat such a costly expenditure of American blood and treasure.

    A new deal with Iran, which Trump has said he could one day envision, would be a replacement for the international nuclear compact he left last year that was forged by the Obama administration. Trump’s early policy on Iran, which predated Bolton’s arrival, was aimed at neutralizing the pact and clearing the way for an agreement he thought would more strictly keep Iran in check.

    Trump’s administration has been frustrated, however, that Iran and the rest of the signatories to the nuclear agreement have kept it in force.

    Trump’s anger over what he considered a more warlike footing than he wanted was a main driver in Pompeo’s decision last weekend to suddenly cancel a stop in Moscow and on short notice fly instead to Brussels, where he sought meetings on Monday with the European nations that are parties to the Iran nuclear deal, two officials said. Pompeo was not accorded the symbolic welcome of joining their joint Iran-focused meeting. Instead, he met with foreign ministers one by one.

    Pompeo’s visit was meant to convey both U.S. alarm over the recent intelligence on Iran and Washington’s desire for diplomacy, not war, two officials said.

    But European leaders, who have been watching the febrile atmosphere in Washington with alarm, have not been convinced, according to conversations with 10 European diplomats and officials from seven countries, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive assessments of Washington and Tehran.

    Pompeo “didn’t show us any evidence” about his reasons Washington is so concerned about potential Iranian aggression, said one senior European official who took part in one of Pompeo’s meetings. The official’s delegation left the meeting unconvinced of the American case and puzzled about why Pompeo had come at all.

    Many officials in European capitals said they fear that conflict with Iran could have a cascading effect on their relations with Washington, ripping open divisions on unrelated issues.

    They distrust Trump’s Iran policy, fearing that key White House advisers are ginning up rationales for war. And leaders need to win reelection from citizens who hold Trump in low regard and would punish them for fighting alongside Americans on the Iran issue.

    Democratic members of Congress, while traditionally strong supporters of pressuring Iran, have also raised questions about the intelligence and the administration’s apparent flirtation with combat. In a statement on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded “answers from this administration about Iran … and about what intelligence this administration has.” So far, he said, the administration has ignored those demands and refused to provide briefings.

    “We cannot, and we will not, be led into dangerous military adventurism,” he said.

    Anxieties over the heightened threat environment spilled over into Capitol Hill on Wednesday during a classified briefing. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) argued that the intelligence warranted an escalation against Iran, said one person with knowledge of the briefing. In response, Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) accused her of exaggerating the threat in what the person described as a “very heated exchange.”

    ———-

    “Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran” by John Hudson, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan; The Washington Post; 05/15/2019

    Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

    LOL! Trump makes John Bolton – a guy known to be one of the biggest advocates for war with Iran on the planet – his national security adviser and Mike Pompeo – another war hawk – his secretary of state, but he’s like to assure everyone that he’s really against war with Iran. But that’s the current spin.

    Again, given the incredible failure of Bolton’s Venezuelan coup attempt, it’s not inconceivable that Trump has lost faith in Bolton’s ability to successfully create the justification for an Iranian conflict. But it is pretty unimaginable that war with Iran hasn’t been on the Trump agenda all along. And if we parse Trump’s alleged words, it sounds like he’s saying he’s not convinced the stage is set for war with Iran at this moment. Probably because Bolton’s intelligence assessment isn’t being believed. Plus, there’s nothing stopping him from firing Bolton, Instead, we’re told that he’s not nearly as upset with Bolton has he was with Rex Tillerson, a Secretary of State who managed to embarrass Trump on a number of occasions. And don’t forget that Tillerson actually supported keeping the US in the Iran nuclear deal. Do when we’re told that Trump was more pissed as Tillerson than he currently is at Bolton that gives us an idea of how much real disagreement there is between Trump and Bolton. If anything, this looks more like a disagreement of short-term tactics:


    While Trump grumbles about Bolton somewhat regularly, his discontent with his national security adviser is not near the levels it reached with Rex Tillerson when he served as Trump’s secretary of state, the official added.

    Trump denied any “infighting” related to his Middle East policies in a tweet on Wednesday. “There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump said. “Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision — it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

    It’s also worth noting that this entire public spat could be done in an pre-emptive attempt to portray Trump as a reticent dove who will only grudgingly be pushed into war. As the article reminds us, when Trump was a candidate he branded himself as someone who would avoid getting the US into uncessary wars. So it’s possible we’re seeing the threatrics Trump feels he needs to spark a conflict in anticipation of the 2020 campaign:


    Trump’s fears of entangling the United States in another war have been a powerful counterweight to the more bellicose positions of some of his advisers.

    Trump has called the Iraq War a massive and avoidable blunder, and his political support was built in part on the idea that he would not repeat such a costly expenditure of American blood and treasure.

    A new deal with Iran, which Trump has said he could one day envision, would be a replacement for the international nuclear compact he left last year that was forged by the Obama administration. Trump’s early policy on Iran, which predated Bolton’s arrival, was aimed at neutralizing the pact and clearing the way for an agreement he thought would more strictly keep Iran in check.

    But it’s also very possible that Trump was simply really frustrated and embarrassed by the fact that apparently no one believed Mike Pompeo when he suddenly traveled to Europe last week to meet with the European governments and show them the alleged evidence of Iran’s schemes. As with Venezuela, it was already looking like a big Bolton plan for war was fizzling:


    Trump’s administration has been frustrated, however, that Iran and the rest of the signatories to the nuclear agreement have kept it in force.

    Trump’s anger over what he considered a more warlike footing than he wanted was a main driver in Pompeo’s decision last weekend to suddenly cancel a stop in Moscow and on short notice fly instead to Brussels, where he sought meetings on Monday with the European nations that are parties to the Iran nuclear deal, two officials said. Pompeo was not accorded the symbolic welcome of joining their joint Iran-focused meeting. Instead, he met with foreign ministers one by one.

    Pompeo’s visit was meant to convey both U.S. alarm over the recent intelligence on Iran and Washington’s desire for diplomacy, not war, two officials said.

    But European leaders, who have been watching the febrile atmosphere in Washington with alarm, have not been convinced, according to conversations with 10 European diplomats and officials from seven countries, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive assessments of Washington and Tehran.

    Pompeo “didn’t show us any evidence” about his reasons Washington is so concerned about potential Iranian aggression, said one senior European official who took part in one of Pompeo’s meetings. The official’s delegation left the meeting unconvinced of the American case and puzzled about why Pompeo had come at all.

    Many officials in European capitals said they fear that conflict with Iran could have a cascading effect on their relations with Washington, ripping open divisions on unrelated issues.

    They distrust Trump’s Iran policy, fearing that key White House advisers are ginning up rationales for war. And leaders need to win reelection from citizens who hold Trump in low regard and would punish them for fighting alongside Americans on the Iran issue.

    So if Trump is primarily just pissed at Bolton and Pompeo over the fact that no one seems to be buying the US intelligence assessments, and he still has plans for a somehow sparking a conflict with Iran, it’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of forces that are deemed ‘Iranian proxies’ aren’t really under Iran’s control. So the possibility for an ‘Iranian proxy’ playing into the Trump administration’s plans for creating a pretext for war is very real:


    U.S. and European officials said there are disagreements about Iran’s ultimate intentions and whether the new intelligence merits a more forceful response than previous Iranian actions.

    Some worry that the renewed saber-rattling could create a miscalculation on the ground, said two Western officials familiar with the matter. And Iran’s use of proxy forces, the officials said, means it does not have absolute control over militias, which could attack U.S. personnel and provoke a devastating U.S. response that in turn prompts a counter-escalation.

    Bolton warned in a statement last week that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

    It’s also important to keep in mind that the support for war with Iran in the US government isn’t limited to the hawks in the Trump administration. For example, Liz Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney who holds his old seat on congress, appears to be on board with Bolton’s plans of using these intelligence assessment to escalate tensions with Iran:


    Democratic members of Congress, while traditionally strong supporters of pressuring Iran, have also raised questions about the intelligence and the administration’s apparent flirtation with combat. In a statement on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded “answers from this administration about Iran … and about what intelligence this administration has.” So far, he said, the administration has ignored those demands and refused to provide briefings.

    “We cannot, and we will not, be led into dangerous military adventurism,” he said.

    Anxieties over the heightened threat environment spilled over into Capitol Hill on Wednesday during a classified briefing. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) argued that the intelligence warranted an escalation against Iran, said one person with knowledge of the briefing. In response, Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) accused her of exaggerating the threat in what the person described as a “very heated exchange.”

    Interestingly, acting secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan, appears to be joining a number of top US military commanders in taking a more cautions view of the situation:


    Military officials have described themselves as torn between their desire to avoid open confrontation with Iran and their concern about the recent intelligence, which led the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., to request a host of additional military assets, including an aircraft carrier and strategic bombers.

    Multiple officials said uniformed officers from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by its chairman, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., have been among the leading voices articulating the costs of war with Iran.

    Other officials said the view that deterrence rather than conflict was required was “monolithic” across the Pentagon and was shared by civilian officials led by acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, whom Trump nominated last week to remain in the job but who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. As the tensions have intensified, Shanahan has been in touch multiple times a day with other senior leaders, including Bolton, Pompeo and Dunford, officials said.

    Some defense officials have described Bolton’s more aggressive approach as troubling.

    So can we expect Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who had no government experience before Trump selected him as undersecretary of defense in 2017 and who Trump recently signaled he will nominate to replace Jim Mattis, to act as a backstop against the war plans of Bolton and Pompeo? Well, according to the following article, probably not. When it comes to questions of war in Trump’s cabinet it’s John Bolton calling the shots and Shanahan is still relatively new the job and he’s already been losing fights with Bolton:

    Politico

    Shanahan’s Mattis test

    Can Trump’s untested Pentagon chief handle the Iran hawks?

    By WESLEY MORGAN and NAHAL TOOSI

    05/14/2019 08:35 PM EDT
    Updated 05/14/2019 10:21 PM EDT

    The Trump administration’s saber-rattling at Iran has skeptics of military action concerned about the inexperience of acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan — and whether he can stand up to long-time hawks like John Bolton.

    Shanahan had held no government posts before joining the Pentagon nearly two years ago, and in his four months leading the Defense Department he has been less inclined than his predecessor, Jim Mattis, to resist President Donald Trump’s most dramatic impulses.

    Now the former Boeing executive risks being overpowered in internal debates by Trump aides such as national security adviser Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say former U.S. officials who worry that the administration is on a path to war. Those fears were inflamed by a New York Times report Monday that said Shanahan had delivered Bolton a plan that could send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if needed to respond to a provocation.

    Mattis, who resigned in December after a dispute over Trump’s Syria strategy, repeatedly watered down or slow-walked Trump policies that military brass opposed or felt uncomfortable with, including on Iran and a 2018 missile strike on Syria. But Shanahan’s critics say he has far less leverage to do so — even if was so inclined.

    “Shanahan, in that group, is the weakest link,” said a recently departed senior Pentagon official, speaking anonymously to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Shanahan hasn’t been around these kinds of decisions and has zero policy experience and zero military experience. Mattis had experience and gravitas that Shanahan simply doesn’t have, and Bolton has years of experience in dealing with bureaucracy in this town, which gives him a huge advantage.”

    Ilan Goldenberg, a longtime foreign policy expert who served in both the Pentagon and the State Department in the Obama administration, agreed with that assessment.

    “Shanahan is certainly outmatched by Bolton and Pompeo,” said Goldenberg, who is now at the Center for a New American Security. “He has neither the bureaucratic experience or political leverage to fight with them.”

    The report of a new military option has set off fresh concerns about a possible march to war at a time when the Pentagon has an untested leader who may have far more difficulty than Mattis did in shaping Trump’s decisions. Trump hasn’t yet nominated Shanahan to be permanent secretary, although the White House tweeted last week that he “intends to.”

    Shanahan has led the Pentagon since January — the longest stretch ever for an acting defense secretary. Before that, the Senate confirmed him in 2017 as deputy secretary under Mattis.

    A lack of more moderate voices in the administration’s national security leadership was a major concern in both parties in the days after Mattis resigned over Trump’s abrupt decision to pull American troops out of Syria.

    “I want someone like Mattis who will tell the president the truth to his face,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told POLITICO at the time.

    Republicans also expressed concern then that Mattis’ resignation, following the departures of former national security adviser H.R. McMaster and White House chief of staff John Kelly, meant that Trump would be relying on a much narrower set of viewpoints.

    During Mattis’ tenure as defense secretary, the White House was often frustrated with Pentagon resistance to more aggressive moves against Iran and its allies, according to a current defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal debates.

    The official pointed to the slow-rolling by Mattis, a retired general, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford on military options against Iran’s key ally Syria last year. In that instance, Mattis and Dunford pushed Trump toward the most limited item on his menu of proposed military options — a set of missile strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities — by painting it as more muscular than it really was.

    Shanahan is now contending with the outsize personalities of Bolton and Pompeo. Bolton previously served as ambassador to the United Nations and undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, while Pompeo, a former congressman and Army officer, was Trump’s first CIA director.

    Shanahan “likes to say that he earned a PhD in world affairs as Secretary Mattis’s deputy, and he draws on his 17 months of experience and tutelage as deputy secretary” in his new role, said Shanahan’s spokesperson, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino. And Shanahan has malso recently won over former skeptics such as Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who promised Tuesday to hold his nomination hearing “as fast as possible.”

    Many in the Pentagon clearly think Shanahan is up to the task. While “he would not have been a good SecDef” two years ago, “he absolutely has the experience and knowledge to hold his own in interagency debates today,” said a second current defense official who was also not authorized to speak publicly.

    Mattis trusted Shanahan to chair updates from commanders on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria during his time as deputy secretary, the official said, and Shanahan also received “more than 500 intelligence briefings” in that role.

    But the Pentagon has already lost one Iran policy battle under Shanahan, during bureaucratic tussles over the decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization. The White House and State Department supported the move, but the Pentagon opposed it on grounds it might lead Iran to retaliate against American troops and facilities in the region.

    During that debate, Shanahan largely allowed his subordinates who were holdovers from Mattis’s team to “carry the water” on the Pentagon’s argument without challenging Bolton and Pompeo himself, POLITICO previously reported.

    The recently departed senior Pentagon official said Shanahan’s slow, deliberate management style may also not be conducive to the fast decisions he could have to make during a military confrontation involving large numbers of troops.

    “Shanahan has no experience with this — what kinds of things can happen as you mobilize and deploy forces, how escalation works, what it signals to foreign governments,” said another former senior defense official who still advises Pentagon leaders. “He’s never done any of this, whereas Bolton and Pompeo have been at this a long time. How seriously are they going to take him?”

    The first former senior defense official echoed those concerns, citing the battlefield options that Shanahan would have to help choose.

    “There are very consequential decisions that will have to be made,” the former official said. “Shanahan has a management style that’s well known in the building and avoiding and delaying decisions. That’s not what you need in the top seat in this situation.”

    Moreover, Shanahan “will also have to sell any intervention to the Hill and make troops feel confident about his leadership,” the former official added. “It’s not clear he can do either successfully.”

    As the tensions simmered Tuesday, however, whose judgment would prevail on Trump was prominent on the minds of many.

    “We don’t have a Secretary of Defense who’s a decorated 4-star Marine Corps general with decades of military leadership experience, and we don’t have a National Security Advisor with comparable, significant, national security leadership experience,” Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

    “The President did benefit from such a team in his first couple of years,” he added, “and he did not launch any major new wars. I’m gravely concerned that we’ve got folks who are encouraging or tolerating his bumbling forward into a major deployment into the Middle East without a clear strategy.”

    ———-

    “Shanahan’s Mattis test” by WESLEY MORGAN and NAHAL TOOSI; Politico; 05/14/2019

    “Shanahan had held no government posts before joining the Pentagon nearly two years ago, and in his four months leading the Defense Department he has been less inclined than his predecessor, Jim Mattis, to resist President Donald Trump’s most dramatic impulses.”

    Is the new guy on the job up to the challenge of countering someone like Bolton, who has been working on government for years? That’s one of the big questions surrounding Shanahan’s likely nomination to formally replace Jim Mattis as secretary of defense. And based on what we’ve seen, the answer appears to be, no, Shanahan is likely not up to the task:


    Now the former Boeing executive risks being overpowered in internal debates by Trump aides such as national security adviser Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, say former U.S. officials who worry that the administration is on a path to war. Those fears were inflamed by a New York Times report Monday that said Shanahan had delivered Bolton a plan that could send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if needed to respond to a provocation.

    Mattis, who resigned in December after a dispute over Trump’s Syria strategy, repeatedly watered down or slow-walked Trump policies that military brass opposed or felt uncomfortable with, including on Iran and a 2018 missile strike on Syria. But Shanahan’s critics say he has far less leverage to do so — even if was so inclined.

    “Shanahan, in that group, is the weakest link,” said a recently departed senior Pentagon official, speaking anonymously to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Shanahan hasn’t been around these kinds of decisions and has zero policy experience and zero military experience. Mattis had experience and gravitas that Shanahan simply doesn’t have, and Bolton has years of experience in dealing with bureaucracy in this town, which gives him a huge advantage.”

    Ilan Goldenberg, a longtime foreign policy expert who served in both the Pentagon and the State Department in the Obama administration, agreed with that assessment.

    “Shanahan is certainly outmatched by Bolton and Pompeo,” said Goldenberg, who is now at the Center for a New American Security. “He has neither the bureaucratic experience or political leverage to fight with them.”

    Adding to those fears is the fact that Shanahan apparently opposed to the recent move to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, which the Pentagon opposed, and Shanahan lost that battle to Bolton:


    During Mattis’ tenure as defense secretary, the White House was often frustrated with Pentagon resistance to more aggressive moves against Iran and its allies, according to a current defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal debates.

    The official pointed to the slow-rolling by Mattis, a retired general, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford on military options against Iran’s key ally Syria last year. In that instance, Mattis and Dunford pushed Trump toward the most limited item on his menu of proposed military options — a set of missile strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities — by painting it as more muscular than it really was.

    Mattis trusted Shanahan to chair updates from commanders on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria during his time as deputy secretary, the official said, and Shanahan also received “more than 500 intelligence briefings” in that role.

    But the Pentagon has already lost one Iran policy battle under Shanahan, during bureaucratic tussles over the decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization. The White House and State Department supported the move, but the Pentagon opposed it on grounds it might lead Iran to retaliate against American troops and facilities in the region.

    During that debate, Shanahan largely allowed his subordinates who were holdovers from Mattis’s team to “carry the water” on the Pentagon’s argument without challenging Bolton and Pompeo himself, POLITICO previously reported.

    So we’re already seeing signs that the next current acting secretary of defense, who is likely to formally become the secretary of defense, is likely going to play second fiddle to Bolton war cries in Trump’s cabinet.

    And that all suggests that the biggest force left to oppose the Bolton/Pompeo war plans in the Trump White House is Trump himself. *gulp*

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 16, 2019, 12:15 pm

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