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August 20, 2007

Iran

IRGC Threat: New 'Punch' Same As The Old 'Punch'

General Safavi's 'New' Iranian Threat In Historical Context

By Steve Schippert | August 20, 2007

The headline that splashed pages, both Web and print, reads"Iran’s Guards threaten to ‘punch’ U.S." So angry is Safavi, apparently, that the United States is considering naming his Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group. But that's not really what Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' top commander says. Headlines are by definition limited and constraining. Please read the full(er) quote:

"America will receive a heavier punch from the guards in the future," [General Safavi] was quoted as saying in the conservative daily Kayhan.

"Heavier." That is a key word. It explicitly refers to previous "punches" that were not as "heavy" as the one that the commander now vows.

Heavier than what, perhaps?

The arming, funding and training of Iraqi militias and terrorist groups currently killing Americans in Iraq? EFP's accounted for 18% of US combat deaths in the last quarter of 2006. (Not just IEDs, mind you, but specifically the Iranian EFPs.)

Or, perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be "heavier" than the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? In that "punch," over 220 Africans were killed and two US Embassy buildings destroyed. But that was an al-Qaeda attack, right? Ah, how the lines of disparate sectarian terrorists and enabling states blur when a common enemy is targeted. On this, consider from December 2001 Congressional Testimony by Matthew Levitt:

'According to U.S. intelligence reports, Osama bin Laden's operatives approached Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents in 1995 and again in 1996 offering to join forces against America.''

Matthew Levitt added more:

''In fact, phone records obtained by U.S. officials investigating the 1998 Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania revealed that 10 percent of the calls from the compact and satellite phones used by bin Laden and his key lieutenants were to Iran.''

Or, perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be "heavier" than the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia? 19 American servicemen were killed in that "punch." Former FBI Director, Louis Freeh has a keen understanding of who delivered it.

The FBI's investigation of the Khobar attack was extraordinarily persistent, indeed relentless. Our fallen heroes and their families deserve nothing less. Working in close cooperation with the White House, State Department, CIA and Department of Defense, I made a series of trips to Saudi Arabia beginning in 1996. FBI agents opened an office in Riyadh and aligned themselves closely with the Mabaheth, the kingdom's antiterrorist police. Over the course of our investigation the evidence became clear that while the attack was staged by Saudi Hezbollah members, the entire operation was planned, funded and coordinated by Iran's security services, the IRGC and MOIS, acting on orders from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran.

Or perhaps the IRGC "punch" will be even "heavier" than if we travel back to the 1983 bombings of the US Embassy and the Marine Barracks in Beirut? In this instance, a nascent IRGC in development "punched" the life out of 241 US Marines at the barracks alone with a Hizballah truck bomb. The Iranian Ambassador to Syria organized and ordered the 1983 "punch."

"Newsweek" also reports that the U.S. National Security Agency recorded a 1983 telephone call from Tehran's Ambassador in Damascus to his foreign minister, Ali-Akbar Velayati. In this call, the ambassador described ordering Abu Haidar of the Husseini Suicide Forces Movement to get weapons from Yassir Arafat's Fatah group to use in an operation against the U.S. Marines in Beirut. The October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks killed 241 people.

Then-Ambassador Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur is now viewed as a "reformist" by some observers. [Ed. Note: And in 1999, the Iranian Ambassador to Syria was Hussein Sheikholeslam, Mohtashemi-Pur's Foreign Ministry contact for the Marine Barracks bombing.]

And today we have "The Irbil Five." Five Iranian 'diplomats' whose American detention in Iraq have so riled the IRGC as to be believed the impetus for the Quds Force-organized and executed “Karbala Raid” in which 5 American soldiers were killed, 4 of them summarily executed on a roadside. It is also believed teh impetus behind the IRGC capture of the British Sailors earlier in the year.

The elite IRGC is a strict adherent to the "Leave No Man Behind" creed. Note: They do not care much for 'diplomats.' They do, however, care for Quds Force / IRGC operators, some of which can be stationed in 'diplomatic' posts, such as Ambassador Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur's position at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria in 1983.

Consider a simple snapshot (via Matthew Levitt's Congressional Testimony) of Iranian State Sponsorship of Terror. Iran's vehicle for "exporting the revolution" is the IRGC. Exclusively so. And, in Iran, who is tasked not only with "exporting the revolution" (IRGC), but with direct sponsorship (training, arming, facilitating) of foreign terrorist groups? The IRGC's Quds Force.

This provides the Iranian regime with more than the vehicle for ideological exportation. It also, through the supported proxy terrorist groups, provides (and has provided them) with just enough degree of separation as to insulate it from direct response at the hands of the enemies they attack.

This is not a delegated task or responsibility.

To that end, Iran's terror-sponsoring hand extends well across popularly perceived (an over-emphasized) sectarian divides. They continue to host al-Qaeda's top deputies on their soil without trial or conviction, including Sayf-al-Adel (Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi) and Saad bin Laden, Usama's own son.

So do not misinterpret IRGC commander General Safavi's stern words as some sort of regrettable "backfire" that comes as simply a response to our own paper designations. In that sense, the Iranians have hardly heard a peep from us, even after hundreds dead at their hands.

The touted "punch" from Iran's IRGC and Quds Force operators (and their necessary proxies) will perhaps be a "heavier punch," as Safavi himself called it, but it will not be any "new" punch with any new impetus for the same old "Great Satan." We've always been quite popular.

They've been killing us for years. Perhaps you simply haven't noticed.

August 17, 2007

Iran

IRGC Designation and the Law of Unintended Consequences

White House Err In Designating Iran's IRGC a Terrorist Organization?

By Steve Schippert | August 17, 2007

The intent in the President's Executive Order to specially designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity may be to increase international pressure to divest from the Iranian regime and injure the elite IRGC. Specially designating the IRGC a terrorist entity will have the desired economic impact. Of that one can be assured. But its eventual effects will likely be more consequential and its overall impact detrimental to our own efforts in the War on Terror by unnecessarily muddying waters that at current are quite clear in a conflict that is otherwise replete with complexities.

The stated aim of the designation is to target the IRGC an its many commercial endeavors financially, bringing international pressure to bear on firms who do lucrative business with the elite Iranian military force. The IRGC's Quds Force is expressly responsible for supporting international terrorist groups such as Hizballah in Iran. David Sands and Kenneth Timmerman detail the enormity of IRGC business dealings. Timmerman says the IRGC military-industry has evolved so much over the past three years that it is closer “to being a military-economic cartel, similar to the People’s Liberation Army in Communist China,” rather than a purely military branch.

The IRGC – and its directing regime – needs to be confronted and challenged. Ralph Peters may be quite right in observing that, while the stated intent is to target the IRGC financially, the administration may be seeking legal justification for airstrikes on IRGC units and posts. If the aim is no more than financial, did we then lack alternative diplomatic means before the specific designation to psychologically impact our allies currently invested in IRGC projects in Iran, such as France, Japan, Italy and others?

The more important question, however, is whether or not we require designating a military branch of a state-actor as a terrorist group in order for such a defense.

That “defense” is not limited to just military strikes, but also financial efforts as those the administration is undertaking now with the terrorist designation. And what's more, it's not as if the designation affects direct and immediate legal or financial consequences for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. As Timmerman notes, the Iranian terror trainers have no US holdings that can be directly impacted. So the administration is “clearly counting on the fear factor,” hoping to make international investors “think twice” about their dealings with IRGC projects, such as Iran's southern oil fields.

Designating the IRGC a terrorist organization will likely have precisely the desired economic effect. But can this purely psychological impact (beyond our borders, definitions and laws) not be achieved under the existing “state sponsor of terrorism” umbrella? If not, why not?

Ask precisely how Iran sponsors international terrorism, and it must be concluded that it is almost exclusively through their IRGC and Quds Force. So why separate the IRGC from its commanding regime?

Do we really need to specifically designate Iran's most elite military branch as a terrorist entity to justify such defense against those who are killing our troops in Iraq, both directly and via sponsorship and arms support?

The short answer is “No.” The long answer is more colorful and spoken by soldiers and Marines in the field losing their brothers at Iranian hands. Specially designed Iranian-supplied EFP's claim the bulk of US casualties incurred by roadside blasts. During the last quarter of 2006, “EFP attacks accounted for 18 percent of combat deaths of Americans and allied troops in Iraq.” And the level of EFP shipments is increasing, not decreasing.

But perhaps the most convincing single incident was the Karbala operation of January 20, 2006. The IRGC's Quds Force planned, trained and perhaps directly participated in an attack that ended up with 5 US soldiers killed, four of them summarily executed on the side of the road after being abducted. That attack employed men in American-style uniforms, at least one of them with blonde hair speaking American English, in order to gain entry to the Karbala compound.

What's more, Aviation Week and Space Technology published in a June article that an American reconnaissance satellite discovered an Iranian mock-up of the Karbala compound where the attack took place. It reported that "The U.S. believes that the discovery indicates Iran was heavily involved in the attack, which relied on a fake motorcade to gain entrance to the compound.” Aviation Week added, "The duplicate layout in Iran allowed attackers to practice procedures to use at the Iraqi compound, the Defense Department believes."

'Rogues' within a state – as some have tried to characterize lethal IRGC/Quds Force actions in Iraq - do not build entire mock-ups, coordinate and train foreign actors, and supply vast amounts of precision-milled shaped copper EFP's without the acknowledgment of their state apparatus.

Unless the Bush Administration dismisses a definition of terrorism which in essence includes “an unlawful threat or act of violence committed for a political purpose by a non-state actor,” then the action of designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force as terrorists by definition sets them apart from the Iranian regime and state. How wise is this?

Ralph Peters says, “Our policy is that we reserve the right to whack terrorists anywhere in the world. Now we have newly designated terrorists.” He's quite right. But do we not also equally reserve the right to defend ourselves against state actors who kill and/or facilitate killing our troops in the field?

Does it matter at the end of the day whether that state actor trains, arms and deploys terrorists or sends their own men to do the job? It shouldn't.

Either Iran is attacking us or they are replete with “rogue” elements who somehow persistently operate beyond the control of – and against the wishes of - the regime who leads Friday prayers in Tehran streets with “Death to America!” chants. The Iranian regime makes no bones about their intent. However, they quite skillfully leave their specific actions just ambiguous enough for us to reliably debate ourselves into inaction. And, as do all nations, we reserve the right to defend ourselves by any and all means against all attackers - states and terrorists alike.

These are not words seeking war. They are, however, words seeking clarity. That said, the special designation of the IRGC and Quds Force is certainly more clarity than in the past, insofar as it identifies the Administration's position and policy. Nevertheless, labeling a sanctioned arm of a state sponsor of terrorism as a terrorist group – lumping it with al-Qaeda and other non-state actors – is perplexing in the sense that it removes clarity from an already elusive definition of what a terrorist group is (i.e. a state or non-state actor).

If we cannot affect the same pressure on such terror-training and -supplying organs of a state identified as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” then perhaps we need to revisit our self-defined and sanctioned actions against such state sponsors rather than shoe-horn their specific military branches into the definition of a terrorist group.

We cannot simply re-classify or redefine the actions of those who kill us and openly seek to destroy us. When a state's military conducts regular attacks upon another, it is by definition an act of war. We may not like it. We may even try to redefine it. And we may ultimately decide that such provocation does not warrant an in-kind response. But it is what it is, regardless. We need not conflate the “non-state” or “sub-national” definition of a terrorist group in order to justify targeting – militarily or financially - any state or group that kills or seeks to kill our civilians or soldiers.

August 15, 2007

United States of America

The Domestic Intelligence Imperative

How do we deal with the enemies among us?

By Michael Tanji | August 15, 2007

This is a banner week for intelligence-related stories, and the biggest story so far is summarized in this post at Secrecy News about the expanded use of intelligence resources in and on the US.

Issues surrounding domestic intelligence are going to come to a head a lot sooner than most people think. The pending satellite reconnaissance flail is probably going to be the tipping point. It is going to be painful to watch various department heads testify to the fact that we don’t have a good handle on how to execute this mission much less who is best suited to do so. There are plenty of pretenders to the throne, just not a good way to assess legitimacy.

Of course there is no shortage of people who claim to fear the police state we are supposedly creeping towards. Never mind the list of intelligence failures, management screw-ups, and administrative mayhem is dramatically longer than examples of intelligence community competence (or actual community-like behavior). We are to assume that suddenly competence and cooperation will spring forth once intelligence officers realize they can read their neighbor’s mail and spy on them via their web cams. Such wishful and fuzzy thinking flies in the face of both history and reality.

The fact of the matter is that the intelligence community is already drowning in a sea of perfectly legitimate and potentially dangerous material associated with foreigners. America’s spies are really not interested in data that is of no use, and that is what the vast majority of personal communications in this country is: useless. Ever listened in (inadvertently of course) to the average conversation of the average 20-something strolling through the mall or airport, on a commuter train or in a coffee shop?

It will of course be argued that no self-respecting Big Brother is going to use his power for that sort of work; it’s the dissidents and opposition that will be targeted. COINTELPRO and CHAOS are offered up as proof as to how far an administration will go to advance its agenda, but for every MLK Jr. that was snooped on, there were dozens or more that belonged to groups like the Weathermen, the Klan, and many other groups hell bent on damaging if not destroying the country. Abuse on a personal level is the exception, not the rule.

The problem we face today with regards to domestic intelligence is in many ways the same problem we have always faced: how do we deal with the enemies that are among us? The solutions to date have proven to be both unimaginative and uninspiring.

Turning our national intelligence apparatus on domestic targets is not difficult from a practical perspective, but the addition of a domestic mission would merely degrade our ability to deal with the foreign missions we already have. Absent legislation that would greatly expand the size of the IC, the community is faced with hiring more contractors and exposing itself to more of the problems that such a strategy brings.

Since a sea-change is not likely any time soon, that leaves us to nibble around the edges of current intelligence-related law. The new FISA legislation is a step in the right direction, as is the six-month sunset clause. Our intelligence system ought to be able to demonstrate to its overseers that the program is functioning as advertised AND producing meaningful results. It may be that things don’t work out as planned, in which case closing such a program down is both good policy and good economics. However, if such a program is indeed working and working well, it should stand as an example that prudent use of available resources, combined with effective oversight, significantly reduces opportunities for abuse and does not in fact lead to the downfall of the Republic. In that case, we should be looking at re-tooling all of the pertinent intelligence legislation and policy that is currently hampering our domestic intelligence capabilities.

Of course the weak point in this course of action is oversight. I’ve sat on a dais with Congressman Hoekstra, the former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He’s a great guy who really knows his stuff, but he’s working with people who frankly are not up to the task. Not to mention that he’s got to get re-elected every two years, and the hundred other plates he’s got spinning at any given time. I’m a big fan of oversight, but our representatives could benefit by the use of full-time professionals, something the community has successfully fought to date.

The government’s primary job is keeping us safe. A nation that lets its enemies operate unchecked - regardless of where they operate - is one that is in danger of extinction. All of the rights afforded us via the founders are inapplicable once our own regime is changed. A well-designed, robust, and effectively managed domestic intelligence capability can help prevent such a thing from happening and do so without violating the rights of the innocent. Wherever you fall out on this issue the answer is not hyperbole but vigilance; by your representatives and yourselves. If you truly believe we are being led down a primrose path, then it is your responsibility to put people in office that will operate per your consent, not lambaste the professionals who place their own lives on the line so you don’t have to.

August 3, 2007

Israel

Racing For A Final Status Palestinian Deal

Diplomacy on Front Burner As Renewed 'Land For Peace' Talks Begin

By C. Hart | August 3, 2007

Despite being blamed for the failures of the Second Lebanon War of 2006, and his current unpopularity among Israeli voters, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has managed to stay in office, muting disagreements in his coalition over his current diplomatic and defense policies. While the public is upset over continued widespread corruption within the present government, believing that members of the Knesset care more about their jobs and pocketbooks than the needs of the nation, there still has been no serious attempt to change the status quo. There has not been the kind of consistent public outcry expected, or a call for early elections among opposition leaders like Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Olmert, the master politician, has learned much from his predecessor, the great master politician former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Olmert has managed to not only keep most of his government ministers on board -- both on the left and right -- he has also been able to fortify his position as leader of the Kadima party, as well as secure his power through putting loyal comrades in high level jobs around him.

New Bedfellows In Olmert's Government

One of those comrades is current Israeli President Shimon Peres, an 84 year old dovish long-term civil servant, who has failed to gain the trust of a majority of the Israeli public, and who has never actually won a general election. Olmert has welcomed Peres into his inner circle. Peres sits in the seat of presidential royalty, making “peace” overtures to world leaders, which some Israelis claim goes beyond his call of duty. His main responsibility is to unify the people of the nation, while providing a positive public relations image of the state to nations abroad. He is supposed to refrain from offering his political opinions, or his own peace initiatives.

Yet, Peres, who reportedly believes in a new world order, is expected to use his position to further his agenda. In June, the editors of one of Israel’s leading Hebrew newspapers, Yediot Ahronot, said that Peres will make the most out of his seven year term. They are convinced that he will use his energies to bring heads of state to Israel; to negotiate peace at his own discretion; and, to bring investors and VIP’s to the country to contribute and invest in projects he likes.

Israel’s Negotiating Partners

Many of the projects Peres likes involve global economic policies that are not only geared to help Palestinians obtain their own independent state, but also to maintain it. This sounds like a good plan until one realizes that wide-spread financial corruption continues in the West Bank, despite the promises to curtail it by Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The so-called military force under Abbas’ leadership, which involves Palestinian factions such as Fatah and its al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, is actually comprised of criminal gangs and mob leaders who hate Israel, who have violently terrorized and killed Israelis, and who still believe in Israel’s destruction, despite international attempts to reform them.

The surprise take-over of Gaza by Hamas militants caused a world-wide stir as the global community tried to assess if this was a good thing or a bad thing for Israel. Despite the fact that an Islamic entity sits five kilometers from the Israeli town of Ashkelon, Olmert chose to focus attention on his now-revived West Bank withdrawal plan. Immediately, he went to work on pumping up Abbas as a moderate, and then kick-starting the peace process.

World leaders, including U.S. President George Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, quickly joined the fray, putting pressure on Israel to offer more concessions to get the Palestinians to the peace table. Israel responded just as quickly, releasing 255 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Some Israelis objected because they felt Olmert should have insisted on the release of Israel’s POW’s, especially Corporal Gilad Shalit, who is being held by militants in Gaza. But, Olmert knew Abbas could not deliver Shalit, who is most likely in the hands of Hamas operatives.

Yet, this comes at a time when new IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers are not as enthusiastic about serving in the army as they were before the Second Lebanon War. They think that their prime minister cares more about helping the Palestinians get a state than bringing home Israel’s POW’s from captivity. This is not a confidence-building measure by Olmert for the Israeli population.

Dangerous Plans

Hoping to hold off a war in the south and the north of Israel, Olmert has also welcomed the revived 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, looking beyond the local conflict to a solution for the troubled Middle East region. But, the proposed Saudi plan calls on Israel to withdraw from all lands obtained by war in 1967, including the Golan Heights; to agree to a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with east Jerusalem as its capital; and to find a solution for receiving the so-called Palestinian “refugees” who want to live in the state of Israel.

This plan was not seriously considered by previous Israeli governments, but Olmert suddenly embraced it as a “starter” to over-all peace negotiations with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Some analysts see the plan as a non-starter. They believe the Arabs are not interested in compromising on this initiative. The plan, in its current form, does not allow for defensible borders, but instead, limits the geographical portion of the state of Israel to a long narrow sliver of land. If the Arab initiative were implemented today, the agreement to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to live in Israel would cause the Jewish state to cease having a Jewish majority in the future. Furthermore, giving overall control of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, or to an international world power like the Vatican, as some have suggested, would limit Israel’s control over the Temple Mount and other important holy sites in the Old City.

In essence, Jews would be exiled, once again, from the heartland of their homeland and from portions of their capital city, Jerusalem. Instead of the fence/wall barrier that is now in place on Israel’s borders to keep terrorists from infiltrating into Israel’s main cities, there would be another kind of enforcement limiting Jews from access to many parts of the country, and from fully enjoying the freedom of worshipping at the Western Wall.

Quick-Fix Agendas

While Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzippi Livni, saw the presence of the Arab League in Jerusalem in July as an “historic” moment for Middle East peace, Israeli analysts didn’t necessarily agree. Israel’s dialogue on its own soil with those representing “moderate” Arab states in the Middle East region comes at a time when former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has been setting up offices in Jerusalem. Blair’s new position as peace envoy for the Quartet (the EU, the UN, the US and Russia), is another attempt by world leaders to bring Israel and the Palestinians to a quick final status deal, without any real change in the overall violent policies of the Palestinians toward Israel. The goal is to get the Palestinians their state, no matter what it takes, and as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, after months spent fighting with Congress over Iraq, the Bush Administration has been overcompensating in its focus on the Middle East peace process. Concerned about losing its influence as the chief negotiator in peace negotiations, the Bush Administration sent Rice to Israel in early August. Rice told Olmert to go to the next level of diplomacy with Abbas, despite the fact that the two have met often and are already discussing final status issues.

Accompanying U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the Middle East, Rice first met with “moderate” Arab states before flying on to Israel. Shoring up U.S. support with strategic Arab allies, America offered billions of dollars in arms deals, especially to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. got its ‘thank you’ when Saudi Arabia signaled the possible acceptance of an invitation to an American-sponsored Middle East peace conference that is expected to take place in the fall, bringing key Arab leaders together with Israel.

In the meantime, other world powers have also attempted to exert their leadership in the peace process including the European Union. The EU has revealed recently that it will exert full pressure towards a final peace deal, as well as open the door to dealing with Hamas, even if Hamas is not willing to recognize Israel. It also hints at the possibility of establishing a peace-keeping mission, which could result in international troops being sent to contested land areas, something Israel has opposed in the past.

Recently, Olmert signaled that he would like to see a division of Jordanian armed forces in the West Bank commissioned to help undergird the present Palestinian military force under Abbas because the current force lacks cohesiveness or stability. Jordan’s King Abdullah is against this option, as well as against bringing in Jordan’s elite Badr forces, or any possibility of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation.

Two Heads Of The Same Coin

What is being gravely overlooked in this fast paced diplomacy is the lack of internal reform among Palestinian leaders or their population in the West Bank. This includes lack of changes in Palestinian textbooks and media outlets, which continue to be virulently anti-Semitic. An overhaul of Palestinian institutions and financial structures is needed before any successful final status deal can be negotiated in order for there to be a successful democracy in place.

Also being largely ignored is the increased influence of Islamic Shariah law in Gaza, despite denials by Hamas. This, along with an Islamic radical agenda, continues to be exploited by Hamas, while Western leaders passively look on. Some in Israel think that the West Bank and Gaza will remain two separate entities controlled by Fatah and Hamas respectively. But, others believe the two groups will heal their differences for the greater common cause. The Palestinians are looking forward to all the territory promised them by the international community. Many are still committed to Israel’s destruction, whether through peace or war. When peace negotiations become unacceptable to them, more rocket attacks and suicide bombings can be expected, leading Israel into yet another military conflict with its rebellious neighbors.

Marking The End Goal

Skipping over key points of accountability in the Road Map, and quickly pushing forward to a final deal for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, global leaders are seizing this current window of opportunity. Olmert himself may be showing much more optimism than he should, thinking that he will present his case to Israel’s disgruntled population, and that they will readily accept it. But, in reality, the diplomatic flurry distracts from the accusations of his personal failures in governance as well as from the pointing to the lack of integrity of some whom he appointed to office. Meanwhile, only time will tell if this recent peace process fervor will provide a “political horizon” that fails as miserably as Oslo did, or will succeed beyond everyone’s current expectations.

C. Hart writes for ThreatsWatch from Jerusalem, Israel.

August 1, 2007

United States of America

National Security: Deeds Not Words

We can do nothing if nothing is being done.

By Michael Tanji | August 1, 2007

How to gauge if our congressional leadership is taking national security seriously? Some basic indicators:
  • They listen to as wide an array of opinions as possible and only then make objective decisions
  • They deal with security issues head-on
  • They focus on real security, not security theater
Yet in the past few days we have seen little indication that our national security is being addressed in an effective manner by national legislators:
Members of Congress who have already conducted data-free analysis about the war cannot be viewed as serious about national security. They are practicing domestic partisan politics on issues of international scope; and they claim that it is the administration that is hurting US credibility abroad.

Absent drastic reforms, politicians will always view bringing home pork as a part of their jobs, but pork is only good if you live long enough to enjoy it. Gaming the threat assessment process to feather the nests of cronies back home (who can then turn around and do the same for you) is essentially turning anything that might be good about anti-terrorism and intelligence reform legislation into a “terrorism enabling act.”

Our intelligence system is trying to evolve from the industrial into the information age. It is simultaneously trying to combat terrorists who have already mastered information technology. Preventing honest debate about the need for legal reforms necessary to combat modern terrorist tactics hinders our ability to defeat the enemy. Protecting the privacy of innocent citizens is a red herring. Listen to what the intelligence community is asking for: updated, clear guidance to go after known bad actors, not grandmothers.

Arguing about the war and related issues is both desirable and necessary, but absent a certain level of rigor and honesty such arguments serve no meaningful purpose from a security perspective. An ignorant electorate views the stubbornness of their representatives as courageous without understanding that inaction is just what our enemies are hoping for. Regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum, we should all be clamoring for legislative action in one way or another.

With the passage of time we can detect where we might have gone wrong and right our course; we can do nothing if nothing is being done.

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