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JFP 1/13: US officials accuse Israel of "false flag" operations against Iran
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 13 January 2012 - 7:45pm
Just Foreign Policy News, January 13, 2012
US intel officials accuse Israel of "false flag" operations against Iran
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1) Iran expressed fury at Israel and the US over the killing of a nuclear scientist, and signaled its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps might carry out revenge assassinations, the New York Times reports. State-run media were filled with vitriolic denunciations both of Israel, seen in Iran as the main suspect in his death, and the US, where top officials have gone out of their way to issue strongly worded denials of responsibility. Israeli officials have not categorically denied any Israeli role in the killing.
2) Intelligence memos from the Bush Administration say Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents, Mark Perry reports in Foreign Policy. Perry's sources say the memos investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA of covertly supporting Jundallah.
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," one intelligence officer said. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."
"This was stupid and dangerous," one intelligence official said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
3) President Clinton launched U.S. sanctions against Iran's oil industry in 1995; at that time, Iran had not a single centrifuge turning, writes former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick for CNN. After a decade and a half of sanctions, Iran has more than 8,000 centrifuges spinning and a substantial stock of low-enriched uranium. This is the very definition of a failed policy, Sick writes. Preventing Iran from selling its oil is the equivalent of an act of war, Sick writes. It's no surprise that Iran would make threats in response.
A good place to begin negotiations would be the original U.S. offer to swap 20%-enriched fuel plates, to be used in Iran's research reactor, for Iranian enriched uranium, Sick says. Both sides have accepted some version of it.
4) A new National Intelligence Estimate suggests little progress has been made over the last year in improving security in Afghanistan, writes the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. The NIE is proof that no "surge," and no expenditure of blood and treasure, will succeed, the LAT says. The best way to prevent a collapse of the Afghan government as the U.S. withdraws is to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Taliban.
5) Officials say the Obama administration will resume peace talks with the Taliban as soon as President Karzai formally blesses the negotiations, the Washington Post reports. Officials indicated that the process could be underway within weeks.
6) Sometimes less than 10 cents of every dollar of US aid actually goes to aiding Afghans, writes James Petersen, who served as an auditor for SIGAR, in Politico. In Afghanistan, USAID has struggled to keep NGO overhead costs below 70 percent. Of the remaining 30 cents, frequently only half reaches the intended recipient. The remainder is lost, stolen or misappropriated by Afghan workers and officials.
7) The US' biggest "bunker-buster" bomb might not be sufficient to destroy the uranium enrichment chamber at Fordow, Reuters reports, but it could do serious damage. The US is the only country with any chance of damaging the Fordow chamber using just conventional air power, most experts say. Israel lacks the air assets to reach Fordow's depths, and has no similarly sized bunker buster.
8) Video footage of Marines urinating on Taliban corpses is likely to become of the defining images of the long and deeply unpopular Afghan War, similar to pictures from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Yochi Dreazen writes for National Journal. It has been nearly a decade since the Guantanamo images first surfaced, and they are still widely shown in the Arab and Muslim worlds, Dreazen notes.
9) An Uruguay Supreme Court official promised Uruguay's justice system will reach out to a Haitian man who has accused six U.N. troops from Uruguay of sexually abusing him, after the man told AP no-one had tried to contact him, AP reports. Uruguay had claimed they couldn't contact the man, but AP seemed to have no trouble doing so.
10) Guatemala's new president wants to end a U.S. ban on military aid imposed over concerns about abuses during the country's civil war, AP reports. Aides said he supports meeting Congressional conditions for restoring aid, including reforming a weak justice system that has failed to bring those responsible for abuses to justice. A U.N. truth commission said state forces and related paramilitary groups committed most of the killings.
1) Iran Signals Revenge Over Killing of Scientist
Rick Gladstone, New York Times, January 12, 2012
Iran expressed deepening fury at Israel and the United States on Thursday over the drive-by bombing that killed a nuclear scientist in Tehran the day before, and signaled that its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps might carry out revenge assassinations.
News of the scientist's killing dominated Iran's state-run news media, which were filled with vitriolic denunciations both of Israel, seen in Iran as the main suspect in his death, and the United States, where top officials have gone out of their way to issue strongly worded denials of responsibility.
Israeli officials, who regard Iran as their country's main enemy, have not categorically denied any Israeli role in the killing, which came against a backdrop of growing pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program. Western nations suspect that Iran is working toward building a nuclear weapon, despite Iran's repeated assertions that its program is peaceful.
Iran's official government reaction to the scientist's killing on Wednesday was more restrained, saying that Iran would not be dissuaded from its right to peaceful nuclear energy and demanding that the United Nations Security Council investigate and condemn the attack. The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, said in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the killing was part of a campaign of terrorist acts against Iran committed by "certain foreign quarters," an oblique reference to Israel and the United States.
A much stronger call for retribution came Thursday from one Iranian newspaper in particular, Kayhan, a mouthpiece for the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and for the Revolutionary Guards.
"We should retaliate against Israel for martyring of our young scientist," Kayhan's general director, Hossein Shariatmadari, who was appointed by the ayatollah, said in an editorial. Referring to the Israelis, he wrote, "These corrupted people are easily identifiable and readily within our reach."
The Kayhan editorial, as translated by Agence France-Presse and other Western news services, also said, "The Islamic republic has gathered much experience in 32 years, thus assassinations of Israeli officials and military members are achievable."
Another hard-line newspaper, Resalat, said, "The only way to finish with the enemy's futile actions is retaliation for the assassination of Iran's scientist."
Ayatollah Khamenei added his voice to the condemnations from Iran, posting a condolence message on his Web site that accused the American and Israeli intelligence services of orchestrating the "cowardly murder" of the scientist, who is to be buried on Friday. "Punish the perpetrators of these crimes," he wrote.
2) False Flag
A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.
Mark Perry, Foreign Policy, January 13, 2012
Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives -- what is commonly referred to as a "false flag" operation.
The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah -- a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel's Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel's recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel's ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad's efforts.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.
There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.
According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating "threats posed by foreign intelligence services."
The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on its contents.
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told me. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
Israel's relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel's activities jeopardized the administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.
"It's easy to understand why Bush was so angry," a former intelligence officer said. "After all, it's hard to engage with a foreign government if they're convinced you're killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same."
A senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing -- a result that the officer attributed to "political and bureaucratic inertia."
"In the end," the officer noted, "it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat." Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush's national security team, pitting those who wondered "just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on" against those who argued that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers.
The decision was controversial inside the CIA, where officials were forced to shut down "some key intelligence-gathering operations," a recently retired CIA officer confirmed. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."
Since Obama's initial order, U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership. "We don't do bang and boom," a recently retired intelligence officer said. "And we don't do political assassinations."
Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. "They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads," one highly placed intelligence source said, "and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'"
Unlike the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the controversial exiled Iranian terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is supported by former leading U.S. policymakers, Jundallah is relatively unknown -- but just as violent. In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.
The State Department aggressively denies that the U.S. government had or has any ties to Jundallah. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah," a spokesman wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal, following Jundallah's designation as a terrorist organization. "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism. We will continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations and prevent violence against innocent civilians. We have also encouraged other governments to take comparable actions against Jundallah."
A spate of stories in 2007 and 2008, including a report by ABC News and a New Yorker article, suggested that the United States was offering covert support to Jundallah. The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and has outraged serving and retired intelligence officers who fear that Israeli operations are endangering American lives.
"This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of," former Centcom chief and retired Gen. Joe Hoar said of the Israeli operation upon being informed of it. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."
What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel's actions. "This was stupid and dangerous," the intelligence official who first told me about the operation said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
3) Iran, U.S. need a crisis exit ramp
Gary Sick, CNN, 2012-01-12
[Sick served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.]
President Clinton launched U.S. sanctions against Iran's oil industry by executive order in the election year of 1995; at that time, Iran had not a single centrifuge turning. After a decade and a half of the United States and the international community's escalating sanctions, Iran has more than 8,000 centrifuges spinning and a substantial stock of low-enriched uranium. This is the very definition of a failed policy.
The U.S. Congress in December passed a defense authorization bill that included provisions intended to bring down the Central Bank of Iran. Although President Obama expressed reservations, he signed it into law. This latest U.S. sanctions package is openly intended to deprive Iran of its oil revenues. By prohibiting other countries from dealing with Iran's banks, it is intended to prevent Iran from selling its oil. That is the equivalent of an act of war -- a financial blockade of Iran's oil ports that would deprive Iran of more than half its budgetary revenues.
We should not be surprised that a country faced with economic warfare would remind the world that it, too, can create mischief. Iran cannot close the Strait of Hormuz for a prolonged period of time, but it is capable of impeding oil traffic out of the Persian Gulf for many months. The loss of its own oil exports would be the trigger for such action, which would drive up the price of oil to unforeseeable levels and risk a wider regional war.
A war with Iran would not be surgical, brief, or one-sided. As memorably noted by Gen. Anthony Zinni, if you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you will love Iran. It is a huge country, well-defended, with a fierce sense of nationalism. No air campaign, even if prolonged, will end the problem. Regardless of how a conflict begins, it is most likely to end with lots of boots on the ground. A squad of special forces will not do the job.
Paradoxically, the quickest way to insure that the Iranians decide to go for a bomb may be to bomb them. The most predictable result of a military strike would be Iran's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the ejection of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and cameras that watch every step of the Iranian enrichment process.
In the past few days, we have been reminded by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that Iran has made no decision to actually build a nuclear weapon. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while denouncing Iran's decision to proceed with its deep underground enrichment facility near Qom, has forcefully reiterated the U.S. call for Iran to return to the nuclear negotiating table. In the midst of all the saber-rattling and the clamor of an election year, what is there to talk about?
A good place to begin would be the original U.S. offer to swap 20%-enriched fuel plates, to be used in Iran's research reactor, for Iranian enriched uranium. The fuel plates were originally a gift from the United States to be used in the production of medical isotopes. Iran tentatively agreed to such an offer in 2009, only to withdraw it in the face of domestic opposition. It later accepted the proposal in writing, guaranteed by Turkey and Brazil, only to have it rejected by the United States in 2010. Iran has since signaled its willingness to resume discussions without preconditions.
U.S. policy has been one of pressure leading to negotiations. Iran has also pursued a dual-track policy of threats combined with offers of negotiation. These policies have resulted in the prospect of a war that would be disastrous to all. What we need right now is a crisis exit ramp. Perhaps this is the moment to explore the negotiating track that both sides say they prefer.
4) Afghanistan's Future
With a stalemate in the war, the surest road to peace and stability is through talks with the Taliban.
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2012
It takes a lot for the grinding conflict in Afghanistan to make bigger headlines than the Republican presidential contest, but recent news about that country has made even the Romney-Gingrich slugfest pale in importance. First, and most dramatically, a new National Intelligence Estimate suggests that little progress has been made over the last year in improving security or boosting the country's government or military capabilities. Just as disheartening was the release of a video that appears to show four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of slain Taliban fighters. Finally, word has emerged of a recent diplomatic shift that could lead to the renewal of peace talks with the Taliban.
The first two of these stories show why the third is so vital.
Most U.S. and international forces are slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. They will leave behind either a central government that's strong enough to sustain itself, or a weak and insular cabal beset on all sides by Islamist militants, leading to the high probability of a collapse that would negate the gains from 13 years of effort, billions of dollars in expenditures and more than 1,800 American lives. The best way to prevent the latter outcome is to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Taliban.
Those of a hawkish political bent will see the latest National Intelligence Estimate as evidence that the 2014 deadline for withdrawal is ill-advised and that our military commitment to Afghanistan should be open-ended. We see it as proof that no "surge," and no expenditure of blood and treasure, will succeed. With safe havens for insurgents in neighboring Pakistan and a deep-seated hostility to foreign intervention, Afghanistan is a terrible setting for a nation-building exercise. Stability is likely only if negotiators can forge a compromise in which Islamists would lay down their arms and swear off international terrorism in exchange for political influence within the new government.
The urination video, appearing on YouTube and TMZ, is another good argument for getting out. Every time evidence of bad behavior by U.S. forces emerges, it undermines Afghan civilian support for the U.S. mission, and the video is another step backward. It shows four men in Marine uniforms urinating on what appear to be the corpses of three men lying on sandy ground. "Have a great day, buddy," sneers one of the Marines. Anyone who thinks the U.S. is winning the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan should think again.
Last week, the Taliban announced plans to open a political office in Qatar, the opening move for a resumption in talks. Making a deal that grants concessions to the Taliban would be hard for the Obama administration during an election year, and negotiating with murderous zealots who sheltered Al Qaeda is more than a little distasteful, but few foreign policy decisions could be more crucial.
5) U.S. To Resume Talks With Taliban
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, January 11
The Obama administration will resume peace talks with the Taliban as soon as Afghan President Hamid Karzai formally blesses the negotiations, according to senior administration officials who indicated that the process could be underway within weeks.
Marc Grossman, the senior U.S. diplomat who shepherded a series of secret U.S. meetings with the insurgents last year, will meet with Karzai late next week to ensure that he is on board, officials said.
"If Karzai were to tell [the Obama administration] to go ahead, then we'd start talking again," said one of two officials who discussed the secret negotiations on the condition of anonymity.
A tentative U.S.-Taliban deal, including the transfer of five Afghan detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar and an insurgent renunciation of international terrorism, collapsed in December when Karzai refused to go along with it.
There have been no meetings with the insurgents since then. Although all parties have publicly said that they agree to one element of the deal - the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar - "we need now to make it real," one official said.
Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, for the first time acknowledging Qatar's support for the arrangement, said Wednesday that his government welcomed "any opportunity" to defuse tension in the region. Thani spoke after a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
6) Was $73 Billion Of Afghan Aid Wasted?
James R. Petersen, Politico, January 11, 2012 06:14 AM EST
[Petersen served as senior auditor for the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction.]
I worked in Afghanistan as an auditor for six months last year and spent another seven months at the D.C. headquarters of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, charged with monitoring aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State and Defense departments and others.
Washington has appropriated nearly $73 billion for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan since 9/11, according to SIGAR's October 2011 quarterly report, up $17 billion in each of the past two years. That's a lot of money for our indebted nation.
Our leaders ought to have good reasons for giving this aid. Maybe they do. Taxpayers, however, whether they support our efforts or not, still deserve answers to basic questions: Where has all this money gone? Has anyone verified it went where it was supposed to go? Is it cost effective to run aid programs in a war zone?
The answer is no. The money isn't going where we think it is - and $73 billion is a ton of treasure to waste.
Essentially, all U.S. aid programs are contracted out to nongovernmental organizations, which means that our agencies are really huge contract management centers. NGOs take out administrative costs and the rest goes to aid.
At USAID, for example, NGOs' administrative costs at most programs are about 30 percent. This means, for every dollar from USAID, 70 cents goes to recipients on the ground and the NGO keeps 30 cents to cover overhead.
Thirty percent in administrative costs may sound high, but in Afghanistan, USAID has struggled to keep NGO overhead costs below 70 percent - more than double the norm. Costs can escalate when organizations operate in a war zone. But a mere 30 cents out of every dollar for Afghanistan goes to aid.
It gets worse.
Of that 30 cents, frequently only half reaches the intended recipient. The remainder is lost, stolen or misappropriated by Afghan workers and officials. Many projects don't even attain their own internal goals, according to reports from inspectors general and the Commission on War-Time Contracting. The June 2011, Senate Foreign Relations Committee report concluded that few, if any, of these aid programs are sustainable in the long term.
Add in the cost of the USAID's bureaucratic superstructure - including $500,000 annually for each U.S. employee in Kabul, and the supporting staffs in Washington - and sometimes less than 10 cents of every dollar actually goes to aiding Afghans.
7) Iran nuclear sites may be beyond reach of "bunker busters"
Reuters, Thu, Jan 12 2012
London - With its nuclear program beset as never before by sanctions, sabotage and assassination, Iran must now make a new addition to its list of concerns: One of the biggest conventional bombs ever built.
Boeing's 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), an ultra-large bunker buster for use on underground targets, with Iran routinely mentioned as its most likely intended destination, is a key element in the implicit U.S. threat to use force as a last resort against Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The behemoth, carrying more than 5,300 pounds of explosive, was delivered with minimal fanfare to Whiteman U.S. Air Force Base, Missouri in September. It is designed for delivery by B-2 Stealth bombers.
Would that weapon, delivered in a gouging combination with other precision-guided munitions, pulverize enough rock to reach down and destroy the uranium enrichment chamber sunk deep in a mountain at Fordow, Iran's best sheltered nuclear site?
While the chances of such a strike succeeding are slim, they are not so slim as to enable Tehran to rule out the possibility of one being attempted, according to defense experts contacted by Reuters.
A "second best" result might be merely to block the plant's surface entrances, securing its temporary closure, some said.
One U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, described an attack on the underground site, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Tehran near the Iranian holy city of Qom, as "hard but not impossible."
The United States is the only country with any chance of damaging the Fordow chamber using just conventional air power, most experts say.
Israel, the nation seen as most likely to attempt a raid, has great experience in long range bombing include its 1981 raid on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and a 2007 strike on a presumed nuclear facility in Syria.
But it lacks the air assets to reach Fordow's depths, and has no MOP-sized bunker buster. An Israeli raid would therefore likely require other elements such as sabotage or special forces.
8) Video Of Urinating Marines Could Be A Defining Image Of Afghanistan
Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal, January 12, 2012
The Pentagon opened a formal probe into a video showing Marines in Afghanistan urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, but the move may not be enough to prevent the footage from becoming one of the defining images of the long and deeply unpopular Afghan War.
Panetta's comments were unusually strong and seemed to indicate that the Marines involved, once identified, would automatically be disciplined rather than left to the military's judicial system. The tone and substance of his remarks stem from the military's growing fears that the video could quickly assume iconic status throughout the Muslim world, joining other infamous imagery like the laughing American soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison and the orange-jumpsuited prisoners shown kneeling in black-out goggles at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
The Afghan video is of particular concern because it has the possibility of becoming one of the dominant images of the war. U.S. night raids of Afghan homes, and inadvertent killings of Afghan civilians, are the primary sources of anti-American feelings within the country, but they've never been captured on film. The laughter and smirking of the Marines as they urinate on the corpses is also likely to further offend Afghans already disenchanted with the U.S.-led war effort in their country.
Nevertheless, the video -- regardless of whether the Marines involved - seems destined to live on. It has been nearly a decade since the Guantanamo Bay images first surfaced, and they are still widely shown in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Pictures and videos, as the U.S. keeps unhappily discovering, leave an indelible mark behind.
9) Uruguay will question Haitian about alleged abuse
Ariel Gonzalez, Associated Press, January 12, 2012
A Supreme Court official promised Wednesday that Uruguay's justice system will reach out to a young Haitian man who has accused six U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay of sexually abusing him.
Justice officials said earlier that they had been unable to obtain the man's testimony and that charges might have to be dropped as a result.
But The Associated Press called the 19-year-old's cellphone and found him in Haiti's capital. He said Monday night that no one had ever asked him to testify. "They know where to find me … if they take me, I will go," he said.
Supreme Court minister Jorge Chediak noted the man's comments in an interview with Channel 10 television and said the courts would act once their January vacation ends. "Now that we know he is apparently interested in testifying, he will surely be found, and surely after the recess ends the competent authorities will take the steps needed to have a videoconference," he said.
The Haitian man told AP on Wednesday night that he hadn't been contacted by his attorney or other authorities since the AP's report two days earlier.
On Wednesday, Chediak said justice officials still didn't have the man's address in Haiti, but since the AP had managed to locate him and he expressed a willingness to testify, Uruguayan authorities would take the necessary steps to find him. He insisted that "the last time we couldn't take his declaration because he couldn't be found."
The soldiers initially called it a prank that got out of hand, but it angered many Haitians and gave ammunition to those who have been demanding a departure by the U.N. mission.
10) New Guatemala Pres Wants To Regain US Military Aid
Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, Associated Press, January 12, 2012
Guatemala City - Former general Otto Perez Molina takes office as Guatemala's new president Saturday with a top priority of ending a long-standing U.S. ban on military aid imposed over concerns about abuses during the Central American country's 36-year civil war.
Perez, who was a top military official during the war, has long insisted there were no massacres, human rights violations or genocide in a conflict that killed 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan Indians.
But he won the presidency campaigning on a pledge to crack down on soaring crime, including one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, and he will need U.S. help to battle the Mexican drug gangs that have overrun Guatemala.
Close advisers say he supports meeting the conditions set by various U.S. congressional appropriations acts for restoring aid that was first eliminated in 1978 halfway through the civil war.
Among the required steps is reforming a weak justice system that has failed to bring those responsible for abuses to justice. A U.N.-sponsored postwar truth commission said state forces and related paramilitary groups committed most of the killings.
The U.S. also insists that the government support a United Nations-supported international anti-corruption team whose prosecution effort has been criticized by Guatemala's political elite.
"I do believe Otto Perez Molina will pursue the lifting of the military ban," said Harold Caballeros, the incoming foreign minister. "There is nothing that I hold to be more certain than Otto Perez Molina's commitment to improving the justice system as a whole in Guatemala."
Many in the U.S. are taking a wait-and-see approach to Perez given his military background. President Barack Obama took two weeks to congratulate Perez on his November election victory, something some read as a chilly sign.
"They want to sort of say, look, we're prepared to cooperate, but it depends on who is in the government, what priorities they have," said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center in Washington. "It doesn't come with a free ride."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who wrote legislation prohibiting aid, was more direct about what Guatemala needs to change.
"The army has a role in border security and in protecting against external threats, but it needs to demonstrate that it is accountable to civilian authority for atrocities during the internal armed conflict," said a statement from Leahy, who is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and international aid programs.
The appropriations act says Guatemala can regain aid once the U.S. secretary of state certifies that the military is "respecting internationally recognized human rights" and cooperating with judicial investigations of former military personnel and with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.
The act says Guatemala's military must cooperate with the U.N.-backed commission, including facilitating testimony before the team of police and prosecutors from 25 nations that has rankled the political elite by going after senior officials.
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