Negotiations with Tehran began long before the timeframe presented by Washington, discloses Ben Rhodes; Israel, in the meanwhile, had to be persuaded not to attack the Islamic Republic’s nukes.
The dealings behind the agreement struck between Iran and world powers last summer were not exactly as presented to the public, Ben Rhodes, one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers, told The New York Times.
While the American public was led to believe that negotiations between the West and the Islamic Republic took off after the election of President Hassan Rohani, considered to be a moderate political force, negotiations with hard-liners began much earlier. The reason for the skewed presentation of the talks’ timeline, according to the Times’ report, was to enable the administration to sell the deal to a wider audience. Continue reading
Tag Archives: leon panetta
Leon Panetta: We’ve Entered ‘A Much More Dangerous Chapter’ of War on Terror
‘Matter of Time’ Before Attack Directed at United States
President Obama’s former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA Leon Panetta said he believes there is an imminent threat of a terrorist attack to the United States. Continue reading
9/11 Commission Warns US Unprepared For A Possible ‘Cyber-Pearl Harbor’
A decade after releasing its report on U.S. unpreparedness ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the 9/11 Commission has released a new assessment on the growing threat of cyber-terrorism.
“One lesson of the 9/11 story is that, as a nation, Americans did not awaken to the gravity of the terrorist threat until it was too late,” the commission wrote in a new report on the 10th anniversary of the original, which revealed the intelligence failures that led to the hijacking of four planes by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist organization. Continue reading
Military plans would put women in most combat jobs
Under details of the plans obtained by The Associated Press, women could start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later.
The military services have mapped out a schedule that also will include reviewing and possibly changing the physical and mental standards that men and women will have to meet in order to quality for certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Under the plans to be introduced Tuesday, there would be one common standard for men and women for each job.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed the plans and has ordered the services to move ahead. Continue reading
Congressman: Obama is letting China steal U.S. military secrets
For the first time, the Obama administration invited China’s People’s Liberation Army to participate in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, an annual maritime exercise that enlists a variety of nations typically allied with the United States. But in wake of concerted Chinese attempts to obtain U.S. military secrets, not everyone is thrilled about the two naval powers floating side-by-side.
“The administration made a mistake by letting China play a role in the Rim of the Pacific exercises,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, tells The Cable. “They will likely utilize these exercises to their advantage: stealing our military secrets and better understanding our military strategy.” Continue reading
Team Obama won’t act to prevent Assad’s use of chemical weapons
In order to remove Syria, which is the first step to weaken and get to Iran, he must allow the Assad regime some capability to use his WMD stockpile. Once that is used, Obama has a reason to go in. Make no mistake about it, the decision to remove Assad was made a long time ago. The Obama administration is only following their plan to pave the way.
WASHINGTON — The United States, despite repeated pledges to the contrary, has ruled out military intervention to stop Syria from using its chemical weapons.
The administration of President Barack Obama has acknowledged that the U.S. Army would not be deployed to stop President Bashar Assad from firing CW at either Sunni rebels or neighboring states. Officials said the administration has concluded that Washington could not prevent Assad from using his CW arsenal. Continue reading
Spreading Iranian cyber attacks hit Israeli military, US financial and Gulf oil targets
Also on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled his “pre-9/11 moment” speech which revealed that for two weeks, hackers had been hammering the websites of big American banks, the Saudi national oil company Aramco and Qatar’s Rasgas.In a strong comment, he said the US would strike back and consider a preemptive strike against cyber terrorism, without saying how or actually naming Iran.
However in leaks to the American media, former U.S. government officials and cyber-security experts reported that the administration believes Iranian-based hackers were responsible for what Panetta warned could be the first “cyber Pearl Harbor” against America. Continue reading
White House Hack Attack
What good is a nuclear deterrent when it’s compromised? The “MAD” concept has been effectively thrown out the window. What’s more is the American public is 99.9% unaware of the grave danger this puts them in, let alone it happened at all. Sadly, the only “football” most are concerned about is the one that gets tossed around on Monday nights.
Hackers linked to China’s government broke into one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, breaching a system used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands, according to defense and intelligence officials familiar with the incident.
One official said the cyber breach was one of Beijing’s most brazen cyber attacks against the United States and highlights a failure of the Obama administration to press China on its persistent cyber attacks.
U.S. officials familiar with reports of the White House hacking incident said it took place earlier this month and involved unidentified hackers, believed to have used computer servers in China, who accessed the computer network used by the White House Military Office (WHMO), the president’s military office in charge of some of the government’s most sensitive communications, including strategic nuclear commands. The office also arranges presidential communications and travel, and inter-government teleconferences involving senior policy and intelligence officials.
“This is the most sensitive office in the U.S. government,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the work of the office. “A compromise there would cause grave strategic damage to the United States.”
Security officials are investigating the breach and have not yet determined the damage that may have been caused by the hacking incident, the officials said.
Despite the administration national security official’s assertion, one defense official said there is fairly solid intelligence linking the penetration of the WHMO network to China, and there are concerns that the attackers were able to breach the classified network.
Details of the cyber attack and the potential damage it may have caused remain closely held within the U.S. government.
However, because the military office handles strategic nuclear and presidential communications, officials said the attack was likely the work of Chinese military cyber warfare specialists under the direction of a unit called the 4th Department of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, or 4PLA.
It is not clear how such a high-security network could be penetrated. Such classified computer systems are protected by multiple levels of security and are among the most “hardened” systems against digital attack.
However, classified computer systems were compromised in the past using several methods. They include the insertion of malicious code through a contaminated compact flash drive; a breach by a trusted insider, as in the case of the thousands of classified documents leaked to the anti-secrecy web site Wikileaks; and through compromised security encryption used for remote access to secured networks, as occurred with the recent compromise involving the security firm RSA and several major defense contractors.
According to the former official, the secrets held within the WHMO include data on the so-called “nuclear football,” the nuclear command and control suitcase used by the president to be in constant communication with strategic nuclear forces commanders for launching nuclear missiles or bombers.
The office also is in charge of sensitive continuity-of-government operations in wartime or crises.
The former official said if China were to obtain details of this sensitive information, it could use it during a future conflict to intercept presidential communications, locate the president for targeting purposes, or disrupt strategic command and control by the president to U.S. forces in both the United States and abroad.
Former McAffee cyber threat researcher Dmitri Alperovitch said he was unaware of the incident, but noted: “I can tell you that the Chinese have an aggressive goal to infiltrate all levels of U.S. government and private sector networks.”
“The White House network would be the crown jewel of that campaign so it is hardly surprising that they would try their hardest to compromise it,” said Alperovictch, now with the firm Crowdstrike.
Last week the senior intelligence officer for the U.S. Cyber Command said Chinese cyber attacks and cyber-espionage against Pentagon computers are a constant security problem.
“Their level of effort against the Department of Defense is constant” and efforts to steal economic secrets are increasing, Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, Cyber Command director of intelligence, told Reuters after a security conference.
“It’s continuing apace,” Cox said of Chinese cyber-espionage. “In fact, I’d say it’s still accelerating.”
The office is also in charge of the White House Communications Agency, which handles all presidential telephone, radio, and digital communications, as well as airlift operations through both fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft.
It also operates the presidential retreat at Camp David and the White House Transportation Agency.
“To assure proper coordination and integration, the WHMO also includes support elements such as operations; policy, plans, and requirements; administration, information resource management; financial management and comptroller; WHMO counsel; and security,” the website states.
“Together, WHMO entities provide essential service to the president and help maintain the continuity of the presidency.”
A report by the defense contractor Northrop Grumman made public by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in March stated that China’s military has made targeting of U.S. command and control networks in cyber warfare a priority.
“Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict,” the report said.
“PLA analysts consistently identify logistics and C4ISR infrastructure as U.S. strategic centers of gravity suggesting that PLA commanders will almost certainly attempt to target these system with both electronic countermeasures weapons and network attack and exploitation tools, likely in advance of actual combat to delay U.S. entry or degrade capabilities in a conflict,” the report said.
C4ISR is military jargon for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Little is known within the U.S. intelligence community about Chinese strategic cyber warfare programs.
However, recent military writings have disclosed some aspects of the program, which is believed to be one of Beijing’s most closely guarded military secrets, along with satellite weapons, laser arms, and other high-technology military capabilities, such as the DF-21 ballistic missile modified to attack aircraft carriers at sea.
A Chinese military paper from March stated that China is seeking “cyber dominance” as part of its efforts to build up revolutionary military capabilities.
“In peacetime, the cyber combat elements may remain in a ‘dormant’ state; in wartime, they may be activated to harass and attack the network command, management, communications, and intelligence systems of the other countries’ armed forces,” wrote Liu Wangxin in the official newspaper of the Chinese military on March 6.
“While great importance is attached continuously to wartime actions, it is also necessary to pay special attention to non-wartime actions,” he said. “For example, demonstrate the presence of the cyber military power through cyber reconnaissance, cyber deployment, and cyber protection activities.”
Full article: White House Hack Attack (Washington Free Beacon)
Israel Loses Patience with Obama, Starts Countdown to Unilateral Decision on Nuclear Iran
Differences between Israel and the United States over a nuclear Iran brought relations to rock bottom this week. Israeli officials frankly and openly criticized the Obama administration out of a sense of being left in the dark and cornered by a campaign of misinformation.
Most of all, they were irked by the way the one-day Istanbul meeting between the six world powers (P5+1) and Iran on April 14 was held up by Washington and Europe as a constructive and successful exercise because Tehran had deigned to keep on talking in Baghdad on May 23, five weeks hence.
In fact, that was the sum-total of its success.
Then, they discovered that, before Istanbul, the US and Iran had reached certain understandings in private, bilateral contacts in Paris – revealed here for the first time. Those understandings rendered the get-together in Turkey a mere formality and were designed to predetermine the “agreed” outcome in Baghdad, i.e. more “progress” and a third session scheduled for the second half of August.
Therefore, unbeknownst to Israel, Washington had prepared the script for the formal negotiating track well in advance. It set out a leisurely timeline affording Iran time to produce more highly-enriched uranium and to tuck its bomb-making nuclear facilities away in fortified underground hideaways, safe from any Israeli attempt to destroy them.
Israel brings out big guns to shoot down false reports
This was the “freebie” to which Prime MinisterBinyamin Netanyahu referred on April 15, after a long conversation with visiting US Senator Joe Lieberman. He accused the US and the world powers of granting Iran a free five-week run to continue uranium enrichment undisturbed up until May 23 in Baghdad. He pointedly mentioned the US separately.
The point was taken instantaneously – distance being no object.
The US president used the press conference winding up the Western Hemisphere summit in Cartagena, Colombia, to retort: “The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.”
It is precisely on this point that Israeli officials felt they were being misled.
For some weeks, Israeli officials have been fighting a rearguard action to fend off the false assertions leaked to the US media. One is that Netanyahu promised President Obama that he would not order an attack on Iran before the November 2012 presidential election. Another, that Israel lacks the military capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Obama did not get the last word. On Tuesday, April 17, Jerusalem brought out its big guns to rebut what is seen there as a tissue of falsehoods, while also bringing some rare clarity to its intentions.
Three figures in the prime minister’s confidence on the Iranian issue offered revealing statements within hours of each other.
Israel reverts to an implacable front on a nuclear Iran
Defense Minister Ehud Barak led off by demanding a clear-cut outcome from the talks between the six world powers and Iran – quite simply, the discontinuation of Iran’s nuclear program. The bargaining must not drag on for months. Both these demands, voiced in a morning radio interview, were at odds with the Obama strategy for Iran. Barak went on to echo Netanyahu’s charge that the five-week interval between sessions had rewarded Iran with extra time for developing its nuclear capabilities.
Barak then set off for Washington to meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The disenchantment coloring his and the prime minister’s comments was rooted, DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports, in their discovery that the “1,000 formula” agreed between US and Israeli officials had not been put on the table at Istanbul.
This formula (first revealed by debkafile on April 9) would have let Iran kept 1,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium to the low 3.5 percent grade, while stocking no more than 1,000 kilograms. Its 20 percent uranium would be exported.
Barak’s words indicated that since the Americans had ditched this formula, Israel too had withdrawn its concession on enrichment and reverted to an all-or-nothing stance.
The former Israel military intelligence MI chief, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin came next.
“I don’t think that if Iran has a nuclear bomb it will rush to drop it on Israel,” he said. “But Israel can’t afford to risk letting a nation not only seeking, but actively preparing for, its destruction, attain a nuclear weapon.”
Dep. PM Ya’alon: Iran will have a dirty bomb in 2012
Yadlin’s point was that Israel cannot afford to subscribe to the Obama administration’s willingness to live with a nuclear-capable Iran so long as it stops at the threshold of a final decision to use the resources and technology in its power for actually building a bomb.
In ascending order of resonance, the loudest and toughest decibels came from the third speaker, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, who is also minister for strategic affairs.
He made six telling remarks in a television interview Tuesday afternoon:
1. Israel no longer believes the Obama administration.
2. “On the Iranian issue, the US and Israel are not in the same boat.”
3. By the end of the year, Iran will have a dirty bomb. This was the first time a senior Israeli figure has confirmed that Iran is building dirty bombs on the way to completing its nuclear weapons program.
Three hours later, Tehran, which avidly picks up on every word spoken or printed by the “Zionists,” announced the creation of a new “Crisis Management Center for Nuclear and Radiation Accidents,” to be headed by its Atomic Energy Organization’s director, Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi.
Announcing the appointment, Iran’s civil defense chief Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali said:
“Radiation defense will be carried out at national and provincial levels and includes confronting pollution, monitoring threats, treating the injured, cleaning polluted areas, disseminating information and decreasing threats as well as enhancing the level of preparedness, organizing and creating proper mechanisms for times of crisis and holding drills and public training and information dissemination.”
This sounded very much as though Iran was getting ready for an Israeli strike on its stock of dirty bombs after revealing their discovery.
Israel is fed up with Washington’s procrastination
4. Iran will be able to build a nuclear weapon any time between April 2013 and 36 months thereafter.
5. Israel does not accept President Obama’s demand to wait before striking Iran until the end of 2012, i.e. after the US presidential election. According to Ya’alon, Israel was assured that if in 2013 it still finds it necessary to go to war on Iran’s nuclear program, the Americans might undertake the initiative.
Asked by the interviewer if the US president was cynical enough to give his reelection precedence over the threat of a nuclear Iran, the Israeli minister answered with a curt “Yes.”
6. The stalling on an Israeli decision on military action is over. After the Baghdad talks of May 23, Israel will “review its steps,” said Ya’alon.
This was the first time a competent Israeli figure, a member of the top decision-making level, had mentioned dates in connection with a decision about launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. He would not have spoken without the authority of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Jerusalem say that within 15 minutes of the interview, telephones were ringing off the hook in Jerusalem with urgent demands for “clarifications” from the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon.
But clarifications were really unnecessary. Israel’s message was crystal clear: We are fed up with being kept in the dark; we don’t trust American diplomatic maneuvers to stop a nuclear Iran; and we’re getting ready to make our own decisions.
The most radical US maneuver – a major concession to Iran – was still to come, as will be revealed in a separate article in this issue.
Full article: Israel Loses Patience with Obama, Starts Countdown to Unilateral Decision on Nuclear Iran (DEBKAfile)
Karzai orders NATO out after massacre
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told NATO its troops should withdraw from villages and return to their bases as the Taliban suspend nascent talks with the United States.
The President’s demand follows the unprecedented massacre of 16 civilians by a US soldier and coincides with a visit to the country by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
A spokesman for the President said he told Mr Panetta Afghanistan is ready to take over all security responsibilities now and would prefer the NATO withdrawal to be completed in 2013 rather than 2014.
Full article: Karzai orders NATO out after massacre (Australia Network News)
Iran Crisis Heats Up
It is difficult to say whether sanctions are working. Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program, and is probably receiving under-the-table assistance from China and/or North Korea. In all probability sanctions will not work. As for the feasibility of an Israeli strike, in terms of distance to the target and Iranian defenses, there is plenty of uncertainty. Nobody knows whether a strike of this kind would succeed or not. Given the international condemnation of Israel that would result, and the possible loss of U.S. support, the Iranians might secretly wish for an attack (provided it fails).
Given the consequences to the world economy (if the Strait of Hormuz is closed, even for a short time), it is not in the U.S. national interest for Israel to bomb Iran. While an Iranian nuclear arsenal would pose a potential threat to the United States, it would not be the only such threat. Russia and China already have nuclear arsenals aimed at America. What is more frightening to the Americans is a war in the Persian Gulf with a constricted flow of oil. In light of this, it is not surprising that President Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta have both warned the Israelis against a preventive strike in the past. This makes more recent statements by Panetta suspect, adding weight to the theory that U.S. and Israeli officials are attempting to intimidate Iran with tough talk.
Some Israeli strategists believe there is no choice. Israel will have to accept the reality of Iranian nuclear power. Therefore, they argue, Israel must rely on deterrence. Besides this, there is only one country that would profit by an Israeli attack on Iran. That country is Russia. First, because a closure of the Strait of Hormuz would mean that Russian oil exports would generate vast profits for the Kremlin. Yet the Russian government does not enjoy popular support at the moment. If Putin is replaced in the upcoming elections, Russia might be in a stronger position (or maybe not). But for now, massive anti-government protests in Moscow makes Iran unsure of Russia’s help. All these factors may lead the Iranians to short-term concessions.
Full article: Iran Crisis Heats Up (JR Nyquist)
Americans talk about an Israeli strike on Iran, but prepare own offensive
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has been outspoken about a possible Israeli offensive against Iran taking place as of April and one American TV channel theorized simplistically Friday, Feb. 3, about Israel’s tactics. At the same time, no US source is leveling on the far more extensive American, Saudi, British, French and Gulf states’ preparations going forward for an offensive against the Islamic Republic.
Tehran too is gearing up for conflict: The Iranian Guards Ground Forces chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour Saturday, Feb. 4 announced the start of a three-week exercise in southern Iran and the Strait of Hormuz under conditions of war. debkafile: The “exercise” is in fact an Iranian military buildup ahead of a possible American or Israel attack.
debkafile’s military sources report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman’s Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 526 of Jan. 27 was the first world publication to reveal the massive concentration of American might on the two islands.)
Full article: Americans talk about an Israeli strike on Iran, but prepare own offensive (DEBKAfile)
Is Israel preparing to attack Iran?
Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to leave the fate of Israel dependent on American action, which would be triggered by intelligence that Iran is building a bomb, which it hasn’t done yet.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak may have signaled the prospect of an Israeli attack soon when he asked last month to postpone a planned U.S.-Israel military exercise that would culminate in a live-fire phase in May. Barak apologized that Israel couldn’t devote the resources to the annual exercise this spring.
Full article: Is Israel preparing to attack Iran? (Washington Post)
Jerusalem concerned: Saudi Air Force to outnumber Israel’s advanced US jet fleet
With its latest acquisitions from Washington and Europe, the Saudi Air Force will have more fighter-bombers of more advanced models that the Israeli Air Force. Deep concern over this was recently relayed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
DEBKAfile’s Washington and military sources that Israel made its concern known with the utmost discretion so as not to be seen as hampering the expansion of the Saudi Royal Air Force as Riyadh gets set to tackle Tehran should Saudi oil exports be sabotaged by Iranian attacks on its oil production or the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, its primary export outlet.
Last month, the US agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 84 advanced F-15SA fighter-bombers worth $29.4 billion. First deliveries are due in 2015. The package included the upgrading of 70 F-15 planes of the Saudi air fleet. Riyadhis also buying 72 advanced Eurofighter Typhoon fighter bombers. All in all, the oil kingdom will have the largest and most sophisticated fighter-bomber fleet in the Middle East.
Israel leaders reminded the Obama administration of its standing pledge to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. The aircraft supplied to the Saudis will place that edge in doubt.
Continue reading article: Jerusalem concerned: Saudi Air Force to outnumber Israel’s advanced US jet fleet (DEBKAfile)
Obama officials concede his new defense strategy increases war risk
The Pentagon unveiled a new defense strategy last week that calls for sharp cuts in the armed forces, a move that increases the risk that enemies will exploit U.S. military shortcomings by launching wars while U.S. forces are engaged in another regional conflict.
President Obama hailed the strategy as a “smart, strategic set of priorities” that were formulated based on the need to renew American fiscal strength with smaller conventional ground forces and an overall leaner military.
However, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the new strategy unquestionably increases risks to U.S. national security interests.
“There’s no question that we have to make some trade-offs and that we will be taking, as a result of that, some level of additional but acceptable risk in the budget plan that we release next month. These are not easy choices,” Panetta said.
Continue reading article: Obama officials concede his new defense strategy increases war risk (World Tribune)