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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