Benghazi: the decision to let him be killed 1

The terrible story of the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi is even worse in the light of this article from American Thinker, by Jonathon Moseley:

Elite U.S. troops were completely capable of saving Ambassador Chris Stevens during the Benghazi Consulate attacks on September 11, 2012. Elements of the highly specialized Combatant Commanders In-Extremis (CIF) units are always on alert, on forward deployment, ready to respond. Their job description is to hit the ground in 3 to 5 hours. CIF elements are ready to engage in active combat anywhere in their region, 3 to 5 hours after the call.

Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense at the time, either misled the U.S. Congress or was incompetent. Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 7, 2013 that the U.S. military could not have responded in less than 9 to 12 hours.

Obama’s first secretary of defense, Robert Gates, told CBS’s Face the Nation on May 12, 2013 that “[w]e don’t have a ready force standing by” in that region.

But we absolutely do “have a ready force standing by” to reach any trouble spot in a few hours. Insider reports previously revealed that CIF elements were training in Croatia and could have been in Benghazi in three and a half hours.

Although rotating out of the United States, some CIF elements are always forward-deployed within each military command region, always on stand-by. Their training includes expertise within each local region. Some of each region’s unit is always ready. They don’t need to pack. Being ready to go — immediately — is their job description. It’s the reason they exist. 

The U.S. military has developed a range of capabilities, from CIF teams to the Navy SEALs, to Rangers, to Green Berets. …  Commanders in Extremis units are so highly trained and expert that even elite Green Berets wash out of the highly demanding CIF training in large numbers.

Standard military doctrine is to activate all such resources immediately, even if they are ultimately not used. Military’s plans require getting such teams in the air and on the way, not waiting to see if they will be needed.

So Panetta’s and Gates’s statements to the public violate standard military protocol. Leon Panetta telegraphed to our enemies an image of incompetence of U.S. forces. Panetta’s testimony was an insult to the U.S. military. Elite forces go through constant, grueling training to be able to do what Panetta and Gates say they cannot do. One of the purposes of “special operators” is deterrence. Panetta and Gates undermined that deterrence.

The U.S. military perfected capabilities after the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, the 2008 U.S. Embassy bombing in Yemen, and similar events. Gates emphasized the need for planning; Commanders in Extremis forces plan constantly for all contingencies.

CIF units answer directly to the general for each regional command to eliminate delay. Therefore, if AFRICOM – the U.S. military’s regional command for matters involving Africa – had actually wanted to rescue Ambassador Stevens – and the classified secrets in the Consulate – the AFRICOM general would have communicated directly with the CIF team on forward deployment in the region.

Panetta testified that the U.S. military could not react because they didn’t know the situation on the ground in Benghazi. In fact, two unmanned drones were overhead, sending real-time video, including infrared and night-vision cameras, back to the national command authority. Everyone but Panetta seems to know how dumb Panetta’s statement was.

Panetta testified that we should not send in aircraft without knowing what is happening on the ground. Au contraire. You send in the correct aircraft to find out what is going on. It’s called reconnaissance. The U.S. Air Force has been conducting reconnaissance since World War I (then as part of the U.S. Army). Unless maybe our leaders don’t want to know.

In fact, it is reported that CIF elements assigned to AFRICOM were already mobilizing and preparing to respond in Southern Europe. But they were ordered to stand down. It is believed they were mobilizing at a U.S./NATO air base in Sigonella, Italy, near Naples.

Sigonella air base is only 475 miles from Benghazi. Fighter jets from Sigonella could have been above Benghazi in 20 minutes from takeoff at the F-16′s maximum speed of 1,500 miles per hour. Transports and gunships could have reached the Consulate in 90 minutes from take-off.

F-16s can carry fuel for a flight of 2,000 nautical miles. So the 475-mile flight from Sigonella would have left enough fuel for an hour of operations over the Consulate in Benghazi plus a flight to Andravida Air Base in Greece, only 405 miles away, to land and refuel. Greece is a NATO partner. Later waves could have refueled first in Andravida, 405 miles away.

Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and its battle group were within range to assist the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette was relieved of command and flown back to the States on undisclosed allegations of inappropriate judgment, as reported in the military’s Stripes magazine. It is widely believed within the U.S. military that Admiral Gaouette was mobilizing a response to come to the aid of Ambassador Stevens but was ordered to stand down. The allegation of “inappropriate judgment” was that Admiral Gaoutte insisted on mounting a rescue, leading to sharp words being exchanged.

Gregory Hicks, Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, immediately tasked his embassy defense attaché with calling for help from the U.S. military. According to Hicks’s testimony on May 8, AFRICOM told the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that the U.S. airbase in Aviano, Italy could have F-16s over Benghazi in 2-3 hours but that there were no aerial tankers in the area to refuel the F-16s.

That excuse rings false. Throughout Europe, U.S.-compatible standard refueling tankers are always available. That’s why they exist. NATO exists so that all NATO countries will come to the aid of any of their fellows when attacked.

Furthermore, why Aviano? Sigonella was roughly half the distance. Sigonella’s F-16s could have reached Benghazi in 20 minutes from wheels up, conducted action above the Consulate, and returned to Italy or Greece with fuel to spare. Remember: a “spotter” from the Benghazi CIA annex was on the roof of the Consulate, “laser designating” the attackers’ mortar team and reporting by radio.

Gates also commented that U.S. F-16s could not have simply buzzed the Benghazi Consulate to scare away the attackers because of the risk of anti-aircraft missiles. Hogwash. For months the year before the U.S. Air Force and NATO jets had strafed and bombed the Libyan military and decimated its anti-aircraft weaponry. And since when are members of the U.S. military afraid to come to the defense of civilians because someone might hurt them?

Even liberal columnist Maureen Dowd commented: “The defense secretary at the time, Leon Panetta, insisted, ‘We quickly responded.’ But they responded that they would not respond.” Dowd sums it up: “All the factions wove their own mythologies at the expense of our deepest national mythology: that if there is anything, no matter how unlikely or difficult, that we can do to try to save the lives of Americans who have volunteered for dangerous assignments, we must do it.”

The only conclusion one can come to is that the high – highest? – command did not want to save Ambassador Stevens.

A decision was made to let him be killed.

By whom? Why? We have not yet heard a convincing – or even plausible – explanation.

 

[Put "Ambassador Chris Stevens" into our search slot and you'll find pages of articles about what happened to him and the search for explanation.]

Innocence of Muslim-Lovers (a script for a video trailer) 9

The following scene is fictitious. Any resemblance between the characters, or the events they refer to, and real people or real events, is purely coincidental.

*

A stretch of wasteground, deserted but for two figures approaching each other from opposite sides. No buildings in sight.  No road, no passing traffic or pedestrians. Both figures, one elderly female (Hillary), one elderly male (Tom), are muffled up to the ears and have hats with brims pulled down over their faces. Both look nervously about them to make sure they’re not being followed or observed.

When they’re close to each other Tom speaks.

Tom: Hi Hillary. So what is it you need to see me urgently and secretly about?

Hillary: It’s the Benghazi thing. We managed to keep it off the front pages, but you know what happened. I got Susan to stick her neck out trying to spread the video story. Told her I’d definitely tell Barack that she was the one to have my job at State when I retire if she’d do that little thing for me. But then some people may they rot in hell let out part of the truth about what really happened, and we just didn’t manage to make the video story stick, and now the Republicans are trying to make a scandal of it.

Tom: So where do I come in?

Hillary: I told Barack we must set up an official inquiry that can take some weeks so it only comes out when we’re safely over the election, and while its going on we won’t have to answer any questions  - we can say we don’t want to anticipate the findings. With luck by the time the inquiry’s finished the whole thing will be forgotten or at least seem very stale news.

Tom: And you want me to head this inquiry – right?

Hillary: It has to be you, Tom. You know the area. You know the people. You know how Barack feels about them. The same way you do.

Tom: But why the secrecy? You’ll be making a public announcement that I’ll be heading it, won’t you?

Hillary:  Of course. But we have to talk about what your inquiry will find out.

Tom: I get you. Okay, tell me what you want me to hide.

Hillary: Well, its really, really important to Barack to have everyone believe he’s defeated al-Qaeda. You know?

Tom: Sure, I understand that. Though I personally always thought that bin Laden guy was a fine looking fellow. Good at what he did too. Bit of a shame that he had to go. I understand Valerie nearly got Barack to leave him be, but the navy people just wouldn’t stop pushing once they’d found out where he was and they knew they could do it.

Hillary:  Thing is, the vast right wing conspiracy has found out that there may have been some al-Qaeda people among the mob who killed Chris.

Tom: Chris?

Hillary: Stevens. Our ambassador to Libya.

Tom: And you want that kept that out of my findings?

Hillary: Well, it’s out now so you may not be able to. They’ve even picked up leads to our weapons transfers.

Tom: Weapons transfers?

Hillary: Yeah – guns and stuff. Stuff left over from when we supplied the rebels against Gaddafi. Stingers – whatever they are. Chris was organizing their transfer through Turkey to the rebels in Syria.

Tom: Good. I mean – bad if anyone found out about that, eh?  By the way, who are these Syrian rebels, d’you know?

Hillary: Well, that could be even more embarrassing. Some of them are also al-Qaeda.

Tom: Okay. Okay. Sure. Fine.

Hillary: We don’t want that to come out in the inquiry. And certain other things that you’ll come across will have to be …. you get me?

Tom: Suppressed. Of course. So let me ask you this. What can come out in my report?

Hillary: You can find that Chris didn’t get enough protection. Everyone knows that much by now. But you mustn’t blame me or Barack. You mustn’t find his policies at fault. And Barack himself mustn’t  come into it at all. Or me.

Tom:  Okay. I see. Fine.

Hillary: Without actually naming names you can hold some of my underlings responsible for refusing protection. I mean, everyone knows we refused more protection when Chris asked for it so there’s no point in trying to hush that up.

Tom: You want anyone in particular named?

Hillary: No. No names. You can say that nothing anyone did is a firing offense. I mean, I might fire a few people anyway just to make it look as if I’m so angry with them that I’m ready to go beyond your recommendations.  Zeal.  I’ll show zeal.

Tom: And what about Chris himself? Can we put some of the blame on him?

Hillary: Sure.

Tom:  He asked  for too much?

Hillary: Er – rather  he didn’t make his needs clear enough.

Tom: They might call that “blaming the victim”.

Hillary: Well don’t make too much of that. What you can make as much as you like of is the Republicans in the House not voting us enough money for the proper protection of our embassies and diplomats.

Tom: Is it true?

Hillary: True enough. There’s a grain of truth …  and it’s  something people will believe. Above all, keep me out of the picture. Me and Barack.

Tom: Didn’t you make a public statement that you accepted responsibility?

Hillary: Yep. I thought that was a good move. Made me sound courageous. And honest. Didn’t it?

Tom: Sure it did.

Hillary: I was rather hoping it would  be enough and I wouldn’t have to do anything more.

Tom: Doesn’t the House want you to answer some questions?

Hillary: Yep.  That’s bad. They’ve got film of me saying it was all because of the video when Barack and I met the coffins coming home. I even told one of the dead guys’ father that we would punish the disgusting little man who made the video. But I think I can get out of having to testify. I have important engagements abroad. A wine-tasting in Australia, as a matter of fact. And after that – well maybe I’ll fall sick or something. Bang my head and lose my memory if the worst comes to the worst. I’ll think of something.

Tom: Is there anything else you should tell me now? I mean, what other cats are already out of the bag?

Hillary: Let me see. They may make a lot of noise about us paying local militias to guard our installations.

Tom: You hired Arabs to guard them? Armed?

Hillary:  Of course armed.

Tom: Trained to use arms?

Hllary: They knew how to use them. They were militants. No point in …

Tom: Hold it right there a moment. Let me get this straight. You’re saying that you hired terrorists to guard our people in Libya?

Hillary: Don’t use that word!  You know Barack won’t allow it.

Tom: (Whistles) I didn’t realize he’d gone as far as that. Didn’t you tell him it would be dangerous? I mean, I know what he’s aiming at, but I thought he was better at the art of throwing dust in people’s eyes than that.  I think we should suppress that.

Hillary: It’s already known.

Tom: Already known? (Whistles again)

Hillary: Stop doing that, Tom. It’s not that bad. I don’t want it to be that bad.

Tom: This ain’t gonna be easy, sister. Anything else that could be an impeachable offense? Better you tell me now …

Hillary: Well, there was a secret CIA operation going on. Taking prisoners. Interrogations.

Tom: (Taking a deep breath) I don’t know if I can do this, Hillary. An illegal operation?

Hillary: I don’t know. Honestly, Tom, I don’t know anything about that.  I – I – . It wasn’t  my idea. I’ll have to get Petraeus to fill you in about that.

Tom: Speaking of Petraeus – he seems to resent Susan putting the blame on the info his people gave her. He seems to be wanting to tell the truth – I mean the real truth. Out loud. In public.

Hillary: Don’t worry about him. I promise you, we’ve got him where we want him.

Tom:  You have? I see. I see. But now tell me. What’s the real story why we didn’t send anyone to help them. Our people in Benghazi. Why didn’t we? Don’t worry, you know what you tell me here will go no further. But to satisfy my own curisity. After all, we could have, couldn’t we? We even got a plane from Italy to within a couple of hours from Benghazi. What happened then?

Hillary: I told them … I mean we told them … I mean, Barack said … At least, Valerie said … Jeez Tom, you expect me to know? You can ask Leon. But whatever he tells you, remember what I’m telling you now. Nothing that would be bad for Barack – or me  …

Tom: So let me be clear what you want from me. Bottom line – you’re asking for a whitewash?

Hillary: Well yes, of course. But it mustn’t seem like a whitewash. You know?   You must make it seem really, really tough. I want them to use words like “scathing”.

Tom: A scathing report. Yep. Sounds right.

Hillary: And make recommendations for how we should  get our act together and improve the way we deal with protecting our people abroad. That sort of thing. A whole lot of recommendations. And make them sound … draconian. Make it sound as though we take the whole thing to be a teaching moment and we really want to learn from it going forward.

Tom: Draconian.

Hillary: Yes. But  not so draconian that I can’t say I accept them. I need to say I accept them all. It will make me sound …

Tom: You’re setting me quite a challenge here.

Hillary: I know you’re up to it, Tom. Will you do it? For the cause. You know what I mean?

Tom: Okay, Hillary. I’ll do it. I’ll do my best … but  you understand it might not work?

Hillary: Just do it. We’ll make it work. Me and Barack. Between the two of us we can’t fail. I’m very experienced, you know, in getting out of tight corners. And Barack is incredibly –

Both together: LUCKY.

They laugh.

End

Deep corruption 6

Here are just some of the questions hanging in the air over the Obama administration, whose hands are soaked with the American blood shed in Benghazi, about the Generals in Disgrace Affair. They are by Victor Davis Hanson, and we take them from The Corner of the National Review:

How can some individual just call up an FBI friend (?) and thereby instigate an FBI investigation?

That is what Jill Kelley, now said to have been in an intimate relationship with General John Allen, did. Why did she do it?

It seems she is in serious debt, and may have hoped to launch a scandal in order to make money from the media.

How can a Florida socialite by any stretch of the imagination merit a vast e-mail correspondence with the nation’s highest ranking warriors entrusted to conduct our most critical struggles?

Because corruption has become normal.

What in the world is an “honorary consul general” and who extends such Alice Through the Looking Glass titles?

That’s what she called herself, and on the strength of the self-awarded title asked the FBI for diplomatic protection.

How can a Ph.D. candidate, without any journalistic or historical credentials, become the public face of a four-star general and be privy to information to the point of hitting the lecture circuit to pontificate about a CIA annex in Benghazi? How did an early-middle-aged married mother of two suddenly morph into a court biographer who lectured on everything from military practice to leadership to national-security challenges?

This refers of course to Paula Broadwell, who was not a writer but has her name on the biography (actually penned, we surmise, by her “co-author” Vernon Loeb) of General Petraeus. Our suggestion: She didn’t get close to the General because she was writing his biography; she thought up the idea of “writing” his biography as a pretext for staying close to him.

We are not outraged by adultery. As the schoolboy said, the lifelong marriage of one man with one woman is called monotony.

We are outraged by what Obama, Hillary Clinton, General Petraeus, Leon Panetta and Co allowed to happen, or caused to happen in Benghazi. The divers devious divas who play their parts in the spectacle of corruption merely decorate the stage.

We await the day of judgment on the Benghazi disaster – but not with high hopes that justice will be done.

America’s humble defense 1

It seems that the (misnamed) “War on Terror” is over – not because Islam has been defeated, or Muslims have stopped waging jihad but because the US will no longer resist it.

America’s anti-America president would rather the US military does not fight. Maybe he’d allow it to do a little social work abroad now and then. But the US should have nothing as nasty as a formidable military capability.

This is from the Washington Post:

For most of the past year, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has stressed that the vast military complex over which he presides is at a “strategic turning point.”

A decade of grinding guerrilla war is drawing to a close. Defense budgets are shrinking. The implication is that major changes are coming to the military. …

And what is this civilian with no experience whatsoever of military service doing about it?

The watchword for Panetta’s tenure, senior defense officials said, has been “humble.”

“He’s told the service chiefs to be humble in their predictions of warfare,” one senior official said.

Be humble in their predictions? What does that mean? Humbly predict? Or predict US humbleness?

In an interview describing his defense strategy, Panetta said he has helped craft an approach that hedges bets against a range of potential enemies. “It really does provide maximum flexibility,” he said.

You bet they won’t attack you, and as you’re not committed to any kind of response  (“flexibility”) you won’t have to do anything in particular about it if they do?

The military is going to be smaller … “

Ah-hah!

“… but it is going to be more agile, more flexible …”

No fixed orders, no fixed plan, no fixed aim?

… and more deployable so that it moves fast and stays on the cutting edge of technology.”

Drones then, mainly?

Panetta’s vision is notable for some of the big questions left unanswered. A highly touted promise to shift the military’s focus to Asia has produced little in the way of major new deployments. Nine months after it was unveiled, there is scant evidence of how it will be implemented.

This is a time when you would expect an intense focus on where we want to go and what we want to be,” said Andrew Hoehn, a senior vice president at the Rand Corp. and a former Pentagon strategist. Hoehn said such a debate does not appear to be happening inside the Pentagon or in the presidential campaigns, which have largely ignored national security issues.

Although the war in Iraq has ended and troops are being withdrawn from Afghanistan, Panetta has not pressed the ground forces to conduct a tough and detailed examination of their performance in the two long and costly wars, said Eliot Cohen, a military historian at Johns Hopkins University and an adviser to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

In recent years, Army and Marine Corps officers have tended to blame their struggles on the State Department and other federal agencies, which were unable to provide the necessary help to rebuild the war-torn countries’ governments and economies.

Were unable to rebuild the enemies’ economies?  Well then, the news isn’t  all bad. Though the US did waste a vast amount of energy and money trying to do just that.

Cohen said the finger-pointing has prevented the ground services from acknowledging their own shortcomings, such as their inability to produce a core of experts in the culture, politics, history and languages of the two countries where they have spent most of the past decade fighting.

But since when have countries needed to be familiar with the culture, politics, history and languages of their enemies? The only mission has always been to defeat them.

Panetta said he would like to see the military do more in this area. “I think we have to look at the lessons that we draw, particularly from these last 10 years of war,” he said. “I’m not satisfied. I think more needs to be done.”

Good grief! Far too much social work has been done by the US military in Afghanistan. (See our posts Heroic inaction May 19, 2010; No victory or something like that June 15, 2010; No reason at all April 19, 2011.)

The Obama administration’s defense strategy, meanwhile …

So they do have one?

… plays down the likelihood of the military fighting major counterinsurgency wars in the coming years.

Not a likelihood of their having to fight such wars, but just not fighting them in any circumstances.

To that end, Panetta has ordered the Army to shrink to about 490,000 soldiers by 2017, a reduction of about 80,000 that will leave the force slightly larger than it was before Sept. 11, 2001.

A surprise pick to run the CIA in 2009, Panetta had spent most of his career as a congressman from California and … in the Clinton administration, including a stint as White House chief of staff.

Even after two and a half years at the CIA and 14 months at the Pentagon, Panetta’s speeches tend to steer clear of the kinds of detailed policy prescriptions and tough questions that were routine under Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, his immediate predecessor.

“Do we really need 11 [aircraft] carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?” Gates asked a Navy audience in 2010. He also challenged the Marines to consider whether, in an era of increasingly precise cruise missiles, they would be called upon again to storm an enemy’s shore — a question that cuts to the core of the Marines’ identity.

Gates’s goal was to encourage lower-ranking officers to challenge military pieties. By contrast, Panetta sometimes sounds more like a congressman representing the “Pentagon district” than the leader of the world’s largest military. …

Contradictorally, he is against the devastating reduction in the defense budget that the Obama administration proposes.

“It’s mindless, and it will . . . do incredible damage to our national defense,” Panetta said last month in a speech in New York.

But then, he is not a man who worries overmuch about depleting public funds:

As he did during his days as a congressman, Panetta spends most weekends in California, commuting home on a military jet at a cost of more than $800,000 as of this spring, the latest figures available. …

Although the Washington Post states that “the current list of crises stretches from growing unrest in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions to a new leader in North Korea and rising tensions between China and its neighbors around the South China Sea”, it blandly reports that Michele Flournoy, “the Pentagon’s top policy official”, declared that -

For the first time in a decade, the urgent priority mission is not staring us in the face.

Got that? No urgent priority mission staring the US in the face.

Though Iran is rapidly becoming a nuclear power.

 

Of blue dogs and red herrings 0

The dishonesty of the Democrats in power is breathtaking.

Some examples: 

David Limbaugh writes:

When will Americans open their eyes? Everything about Obama’s plan is a lie. He says he wants to increase competition and choice, improve the quality of health care, reduce costs, and achieve universal coverage. But his plan would reduce competition, with mandatory government controls and mandates that would require uniformity of coverage. It would dramatically increase overall costs by artificially increasing demand. It would destroy the quality of health care, and it would crowd out and force out private insurers, through stacking the deck in favor of the euphemistically labeled “public option.” Congressional Budget Office projections indicate that for all the Draconian coverage mandates, the plan wouldn’t even solve the overarching problem of insurance coverage. Of course, the insurance coverage issue has been enormously distorted by this bunch, by their failure to disclose that millions of the uninsured are not American citizens, millions are young and healthy and choose not to buy insurance though they can afford it, and almost half of the uninsured only remain so for an average of four months…On top of all this… [is] the bureaucratic nightmare that awaits us if we adopt this plan … for what? Reduced health care quality, choice, costs and availability — in exchange for economy-destroying tax increases. Now is the time for all good Blue Dog Democrats to come to the aid of their country.

Nancy (‘Pythoness’) Pelosi claimed that the CIA lied to Congress and her grand ophidian self about its waterboarding of terrorists. It hadn’t. So she tried to find something that the CIA had lied about to justify her claim which was being challenged by Republicans in Congress. The best that Obama’s new man at the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, could come up with to satisfy this slithery demand – after he’d ransacked the filing-cabinet and grilled the staff – was a discussion about whether there ought to be a program that would instruct CIA operatives to hunt down the leaders of al-Qaeda and other violent enemies of the US and kill them.  Scandalously, such a program was never put into effect. It was also, like all programs not put into effect, not reported to Congress. Pelosi wants this to be seen as proof of the CIA’s betrayal of its responsibilities, a deception if not an actual lie, in order to exonerate her, and, as a bonus, to allow her to blame it on Dick Cheney, the subject of her everlasting paranoia. In truth it is a giant Red Herring. 

The government is in great need of Red Herrings. As Jonah Goldberg says:   

 Democrats are clamoring yet again for an investigation into Bush-era policies at precisely the moment their agenda is starting to unravel. The stimulus is looking more like a dud every day, Obama’s health-care and cap-and-trade schemes are acquiring an increasingly bad odor politically, and suddenly Democrats, Panetta included, are looking to offer up a big, distracting spectacle by turning the CIA into a partisan cudgel.

Posted under Commentary, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, July 17, 2009

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Dawn over the White House? 1

Our reader ‘roger in florida’ has told us that  DebkaFile , the source of the following information, is generally unreliable, but as this is peculiarly interesting we offer it for what it’s worth:

Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta visited Israel two weeks ago to explore Israel’s intentions with regard to a raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities and its alignment with Egypt and Saudi Arabia for this shared objective.

On the one hand, Panetta showed Israeli leaders a new US report which estimates first, that Iran lacks adequate military resources to shield its nuclear sites from attack and, second, would pull its punches in responding to an Israeli strike. On the other, it is feared in Washington that by linking up with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Israel would be free to send its warplanes against Iran through the skies of its two Arab partners, without deferring to the United States.

This report was also presented by defense secretary Robert Gates on May 5-6 to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh.

None of the three Middle East leaders took the report seriously because -

1. They could not make out if it was meant to encourage or deter an Israeli attack? Surely, the best time to strike would be before Iran acquires adequate defenses for its nuclear sites. Is that what the Obama administration is after?

2. Israel does not believe that Iran would emulate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein who refrained from hitting back after Israel demolished his nuclear reactor in 1981. Iran’s rulers are committed to massive retaliation or else face a degree of popular contempt that would test the regime’s survival.

Panetta and Gates alike returned home convinced that Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf emirates are far more fearful of a nuclear-armed Iran than of clashing with the Obama administration over its policy of engaging Iran.

This understanding prompted a policy review in Washington, which is still going on.

One outward symptom of a possible reversal was the sudden announcement on May 8 that President Obama had decided to again address the Muslim world from Egypt on June 4, ten days after Mubarak visits Washington. On the same day, he also renewed sanctions against Syria, which, after weeks of diplomatic pursuit, he accused of sponsoring terror and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Washington’s dawning appreciation that the rise of a nuclear-armed, terror-sponsoring Iran is the burning preoccupation of Middle East rulers, leaving the Palestinian issue for another day, will certainly make Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s talks in the White House next Monday, May 18, a lot smoother. The clash which otherwise would have been unavoidable may now be averted.

Posted under Commentary, News by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 14, 2009

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