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JFP 1/23 - Israel: Iran not making nuke weapons; Bush CIA chief: bombing bad idea
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 January 2012 - 2:26pm
Just Foreign Policy News, January 23, 2012
Israel: Iran not making nuke weapons; Bush CIA chief: bombing bad idea
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*Action: NYT claims Israel and US say Iran is pursuing the building of nuclear weapons
"Israel and the United States *both say that Iran is pursuing the building of nuclear weapons* - an assertion denied by Tehran - but they have had differing views on how aggressive the pursuit has been and what should be done about it." [JFP emphasis]
- "U.S. General Visits Israel for Discussions on Iran"
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 19, 2012
"Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No."
- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Face the Nation, Jan 8, 2012
"The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb."
- "Barak: Israel 'very far off' from decision on Iran attack,"
Amos Harel, Haaretz, 18.01.12
Please complain to the New York Times and ask for a correction:
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1) Only 35% of likely voters support the U.S. use of military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if diplomatic efforts fail to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities, according to Rasmussen Reports. Most voters do not think that even stiff economic sanctions will force Iran to abandon its nuclear program.
2) Israeli officials planned to present an intelligence assessment U.S. armed forces chief General Dempsey that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb, Haaretz reports. The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon, Haaretz says.
3) Evaluating reporting and commentary about Iran could be reduced to one simple rule, writes Peter Hart for FAIR: There is no evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. Statements that suggest otherwise are misleading. Reports that fail to point this out are doing readers/viewers/listeners a disservice. But according to this simple standard, PBS and NPR are weighed in the balance and found wanting.
4) Writing in Defense News, retired Air Force General Ron Fogleman argues that the Defense Department could save money while maintaining military capability by reducing the size of our standing army and increasing the size and resources of the National Guard and Reserve. Fogleman calls this returning "to our historic roots as a militia nation." [In addition to saving money, this move might act as a deterrent against future wars, since the National Guard and Reserve are more "embedded" in the civilian population - JFP.]
5) Research commissioned by the US military says mutual mistrust and contempt between local and foreign forces in Afghanistan that often borders on hatred is one of the main reasons why Afghan troops increasingly turn their guns on NATO troops, the Guardian reports. The report said US soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and "crude behaviour". It also heavily criticised as "profoundly intellectually dishonest" NATO claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare.
6) "Regime change" is extremely unlikely to produce a government in Iran that will do the West's bidding on Iran's nuclear program, writes senior editor Robert Wright in The Atlantic. Iran's nuclear program is overwhelmingly popular among Iran's population, including among supporters of the Green Movement, who constitute a minority of the population and are extremely unlikely to take power in any event.
7) George W. Bush's CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden says the Bush Administration concluded that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be a bad idea, The Cable reports. "When we talked about this in the government, the consensus was that [attacking Iran] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent -- an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret," Hayden said.
Without an actual occupation of Iran, which nobody wants to contemplate, the Bush administration concluded that the result of a limited military campaign in Iran would be counter-productive, according to Hayden. Hayden then said he didn't believe the Israelis could or even would strike Iran -- that only the United States has the capability to do it -- but either way, it's still a bad idea.
8) The general level of antipathy between U.S. and Afghan forces was sharply illustrated by praise among U.S. forces for the corpse desecration video, the New York Times reports. Although American commanders quickly took action and condemned the act, chat-room and Facebook posts by Marines and their supporters were full of praise for the desecration.
9) A senior Israeli general said a nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel from going to war in Lebanon and Gaza, Reuters reports.
10) The French parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee published an unprecedented report accusing Israel of implementing "apartheid" policies in its allocation of water resources in the West Bank, Haaretz reports. "Some 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians that live there," the report said. "In times of drought, in contravention of international law, the settlers get priority for water." It also said "the separation wall being built by Israel allows it to control access to underground water sources" and to "direct the flow of water westward."
11) President Obama called the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Friday to express U.S. concern about the Cairo government's intensifying crackdown on democracy-building groups, the Los Angeles Times reports. The U.S. provides $1.3 billion in aid to the Egyptian military, but Congress passed legislation last year that says the money can only be released if the White House certifies that Egypt is complying with democratic principles. That money may now be at risk, the LAT says.
1) Only 35% Support U.S. Military Action If Sanctions Won't Stop Iran
Rasmussen Reports, Thursday, January 19, 2012
Most voters don't expect economic sanctions to discourage Iran from continuing its development of nuclear weapons, but most also don't support U.S. military action if those sanctions fail.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 27% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is even somewhat likely that stiff economic sanctions will force Iran to disband its nuclear program. That includes only six percent (6%) think it's Very Likely. Sixty-three percent (63%) feel the sanctions are unlikely to stop Iran's nuclear weapons development, with 17% who say they're Not At All Likely to do so.
[The question was: "Suppose that diplomatic efforts fail to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities. Should the United States use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?" - JFP.]
2) Barak: Israel 'very far off' from decision on Iran attack
Israel believes Iran itself has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb, according to intelligence assesment to be presented later this week to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey.
Amos Harel/Reuters, Haaretz, 10:09 18.01.12
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel was "very far off" from a decision about an attack on Iran over its nuclear program.
Barak was speaking on Israel's Army Radio ahead of a planned visit this week by U.S. armed forces chief General Martin Dempsey that has triggered speculation Washington would press Israel to delay any action against Tehran's nuclear program.
Asked whether the United States was asking Israel to let them know ahead of any assault against Iran, Barak replied: "We haven't made any decision to do this," and added: "This entire thing is very far off."
Barak also suggested Israel was coordinating with Washington its plans about handling Tehran's nuclear project which Israel views as an existential threat.
[Senior Israeli officials dispute the claim that Iran's nuclear program represents an "existential threat" to Israel, but everyone hasn't received the memo - JFP.]
When pressed as to whether "very far off" meant weeks or months, Barak replied: "I wouldn't want to provide any estimates. It's certainly not urgent. I don't want to relate to it as though tomorrow it will happen."
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.
The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon - or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.
The Iranian issue will presumably be the major focus of Dempsey's talks here. Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration recently warned Israel not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, and Dempsey is apparently here in part to make sure that Israel has no such plans.
In addition, the U.S. State Department publicly criticized the assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran last week and denied any connection to it. Iran has blamed Israel for the attack, though it later accused the United States and Britain of being involved as well.
Israeli officials have made contradictory statements in recent days about the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the sanctions in an interview with an Australian paper, but later told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that they were insufficient.
3) PBS, NPR Try to Defend Iran Distortions
Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 01/17/2012
Evaluating reporting and commentary about Iran could be reduced to one simple rule: There is no evidence that Iran is working on a nuclear weapon. Statements that suggest otherwise are misleading. Reports that fail to point this out are doing readers/viewers/listeners a disservice.
That sounds simple enough. But don't tell that to the outlets that are being criticized over their Iran reporting.
Take NPR and PBS, both of which were singled out by the group Just Foreign Policy.
A few days ago (1/10/12), the FAIR Blog featured a post criticizing the PBS NewsHour for a deceptive report on Iran. The report introduced a quote from Pentagon chief Leon Panetta with this statement by PBS anchor Margaret Warner: "The Iranian government insists that its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes only, an assertion disputed by the U.S. and its allies."
Panetta's quote immediately followed: "We know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon." My point in that blog post was that right before he said this, Panetta had made a very candid admission about Iran, one that would no doubt be surprising to most corporate news consumers: "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No."
The fact that the NewsHour would clip this statement from his soundbite was troubling. PBS ombud Michael Getler responded (1/12/12) by agreeing that we had a point:
'I think FAIR makes a good journalistic catch in calling attention to the fuller quote by Panetta on CBS. It was a very brief and clear statement by the Defense secretary on an important point about whether Iran is actually developing a nuclear weapon.'
And NewsHour foreign affairs and defense editor Mike Mosettig editor agrees that "it would have been better had we not lopped off the first part of the Panetta quote."
But Getler thinks it was unfair to to call the PBS edit "dishonest," and he explains why:
The logical understanding that NewsHour viewers--and anyone who has been following this subject--would draw from the portion of the Panetta quote that was used is that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon but that they are developing a "nuclear capability" and that the U.S. warning, as Panetta expressed it, is not to cross "our red line" and actually develop a weapon.
So viewers who are paying close attention to Iran coverage (and who are hopefully tuning out the rhetoric coming from many of the Republican presidential candidates) would know that when Panetta was saying, "We know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability," he meant that they were not trying to develop a nuclear weapon--even though the program had edited out his very straightforward explanation of what is actually known about the state of Iran's nuclear program.
This is a curious argument. One of the things that made Panetta's comment so revealing was that it represented a break from the usual chatter about Iran--even within the Obama administration. That's precisely what made it newsworthy. PBS seems to think its viewers should have to read between the lines in order to arrive at the accurate assessment about Iran's nuclear program they left on the cutting room floor.
Now to NPR.
The criticism of Robert Naiman and Just Foreign Policy centered on NPR reporter Tom Gjelten's statement that "the goal for the U.S. and its allies...[is] to convince Iran to give up a nuclear weapons program." The suggestion, it would seem, is that Iran is indeed pursuing such weapons.
But NPR ombud Edward Schumacher-Matos (1/13/12) sees it exactly the other way around. He writes:
'The story didn't say or imply that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. As Bruce Auster, the senior editor for national security, notes, "The story was about how the sanctions are designed to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons program, which automatically suggests it may not have one."'
Does NPR really think that the best way to inform its listeners is to assume that when people hear a report about forcing Iran to "give up a nuclear weapons program," these listeners should fill in the blanks themselves so as to arrive at an entirely different meaning? That every time you hear something about Iran's "nuclear weapons program," that is really code for "the-nuclear-weapons-program-that-may not exist-since-there-is-no-evidence-that-it-exists"? That'd be an unusual burden to place on listeners.
For good measure, the ombud throws in another defense of the NPR report by pointing out that the "quote carefully refers to 'a' program--using the indefinite article--and not the definite 'its' or 'the' program." Again, NPR listeners: If you hear one of the reporters use the word "a," remember that could be a reference to something that doesn't exist. Got it?
4) Going Back to the Future
Militia Model Could Cut U.S. Expenditures
Ron Fogleman, Defense News, Jan. 16, 2012 - 01:36PM
[Retired Gen. Fogleman was Air Force chief of staff, 1994-97.]
Throughout my career, I spoke frequently about the kind of defense America deserved - that is, a modern, balanced and ready force. This is still true.
While some of the threats to our nation are different today, many are the same we have faced through our 235-year history.
In 2011, we took our forces out of Iraq by year's end and have begun in earnest to draw down forces in Afghanistan.
There will be strong arguments made to stay with the force we have built over the past 10 years.
However, while the senior leadership in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs reflect on the past, they are compelled to develop a fresh national security strategy to meet the continuing threat of terrorism and a world being reshaped by new players and new dynamics.
The new Air-Sea Battle concept will be part of this new strategy and will require a range of capabilities to include submarines, stealth aircraft, space surveillance, anti-satellite weapons and long-range strike platforms to counter anti-access and area-denial weapons being fielded by potential adversaries. Such a strategy will be resource-constrained.
Except in the middle of major wars, this has always been the case for security strategies. Going forward, two of the key resources that will have to be addressed are manpower and funding.
The programmatic/hardware side of the funding issue is getting most of the attention in the media because we've entered a period of significant economic challenge. The country has amassed trillions of dollars of debt and the time has come to seize control of that situation.
The senior leadership has experience with addressing the programmatic/hardware funding issue. Waste and inefficiency must be identified and eliminated. Programs must be reduced and eliminated. Reduced defense budgets and force-structure reductions go hand in hand. Procurement and operating accounts are targeted, and in the end, the troops are asked to do more with less.
We have been through funding cuts in the past, but for the first time in 50 years, the manpower issue may be every bit as important as the procurement and operating accounts. They are certainly related, and the relationship has become critical due to the size and construct of the all-volunteer force.
In its current form, the force has become unaffordable. Total personnel costs are consuming more than half of the DoD bud-get. Nonetheless, our nation deserves a modern, balanced and ready defense.
The big question is, how does the department reduce its budget and continue to provide a modern, balanced and ready defense when more than half of the budget is committed to personnel costs?
The all-volunteer force has provided the nation with the most capable and experienced force in our history. We need to preserve that capability; however, we cannot afford the imbalance of resources stemming from the size and composition of the force.
The answer to that question is right before us: We should return to our historic roots as a militia nation.
So, what does that mean, exactly? Simply put, it means we should return to the constitutional construct for our military and the days when we maintained a smaller standing military and a robust militia.
In this time of fiscal burden, of seeking ways to lessen expenditures and pare down our debt, this is an idea that warrants real consideration. And the way to get back to this construct is pretty direct should our military and civilian leaders at the Defense Department be interested.
It starts with a well-articulated national security strategy. Then, rather than reducing the size of the military to meet budgetary necessities, the force should be reshaped with the goal in mind of maintaining as much of the capability and professionalism that exists in today's forces to meet the challenges of the future.
To do that, leaders must put old parochial norms aside and be willing to actually shift forces and capabilities to the National Guard and Reserve.
This would enable significant personnel reductions in the active components. It would also result in a larger reserve component. Most important, it would preserve capability and equipment that has cost the American taxpayer trillions of dollars, nest it in our mostly part-time Guard and Reserve, and have it available should it be needed.
This concept worked well for our country for the better part of two centuries. Unfortunately, several generations of leaders have come and gone, and most of today's leadership fails to recognize the true potential of the militia model.
We need our collective senior military and civilian leaders to recognize there is a way back to a smaller active military and a larger militia posture. The fiscal environment and emerging threats demand it.
To do otherwise is to allow the budget to drive the future capability in a way that fails to meet the needs of the nation.
5) Nato's Afghan alliance unhinged by growing mutual mistrust
US military report reveals how issues such as arrogance and cleanliness are leading Afghan soldiers to shoot Nato trainers
Jon Boone, Guardian, Friday 20 January 2012 11.25 EST
Kabul - Mutual mistrust and contempt between local and foreign forces in Afghanistan that often borders on hatred is one of the main reasons why Afghan troops increasingly turn their guns on their Nato comrades, a damning report has found.
The research, commissioned by the US military, said American soldiers enrage their Afghan colleagues with what the report describes as extreme arrogance, bullying and "crude behaviour".
It also heavily criticised as "profoundly intellectually dishonest" the Nato claims that the killing of alliance troops by Afghan soldiers is extremely rare.
The data suggests incidents such as the killing on Friday of four French soldiers "reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between 'allies' in modern military history)".
It warned that the problem is now so serious that it is "provoking a crisis of confidence and trust among westerners training and working with Afghan National Security Forces" (ANSFs).
According to behavioural scientist Jeffrey Bordin's report, the number of attacks have been growing, with 26 incidents of killings or attempted killings since early 2007. Those attacks led to the deaths of 58 foreign personnel.
While some of these incidents involved Taliban infiltrators, Bordin believes many resulted from "deep-seated animosity, often stimulated by social and personal conflicts".
Based on interviews with 613 Afghan security forces, the document paints an extremely bleak picture of mutual contempt and misunderstanding between the two sides.
US troops regard their Afghan allies they are training and fighting alongside as untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and practising "repulsive hygiene".
For their part, the Afghans have been provoked into fights, and even attempts to kill, by behaviour that many Americans might not be unduly shocked by.
That includes "urinating in public, their cursing at, insulting and being rude and vulgar to ANSF members, and unnecessarily shooting animals".
The factors that create the most animosity included US military convoys blocking traffic, returning fire on insurgents in an apparently indiscriminate way, risking civilian lives, "naively using flawed intelligence sources" and conducting raids on Afghans' private homes.
Another cause for concern is the fact that armed Afghan soldiers almost never intervene when one of their comrades is attempting to kill Nato soldiers.
On Friday, Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said the so-called "red team study" was produced by an outside contractor and was not approved or endorsed by senior Isaf officials who reviewed it.
Military "red teams" are independent cells used to scrutinise and challenge operations and plans.
6) Why Regime Change Won't Work in Iran
Robert Wright, The Atlantic, Jan 18 2012, 5:19 PM ET
[Robert Wright is a senior editor at The Atlantic.]
One of the most popular things on the Republican campaign trail--possibly more popular than any of the candidates themselves--is regime change in Iran. Mitt Romney favors it, Rick Santorum favors it, and Newt Gingrich even has a plan for doing it: "cutting off the gasoline supply to Iran and then, frankly, sabotaging the only refinery they have."
Give these guys some credit: At least they don't suffer from the common illusion that a few days of bombing will lastingly set back Iran's nuclear program. Unfortunately, the idea that regime change would do the job isn't much more reality-based.
You'd think that our eight-year adventure in Iraq would have raised doubts about the extent to which changed regimes will hew to our policy guidelines. There we deposed an authoritarian leader and painstakingly constructed a government, only to see the new regime (a) tell America to get the hell out of the country; and (b) cozy up to an American adversary (Iran!).
Maybe boosters of Iranian regime change are thinking: This time will be different; in Iran there are lots of well-educated, somewhat westernized regime opponents--the famous "green movement" that, having been brutally suppressed, lies waiting to take the reins, after which compliance with the international community's wishes will ensue.
An appealing scenario, but here's a flashback that complicates it:
In late 2009, negotiators reached a deal that would have defused tensions over the nuclear issue: Iran would send uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched and returned in a form suitable for medical use but not for use in weapons. President Ahmadinejad favored the deal, hailing it as a "victory". But then the deal was denounced not just by some Iranian conservatives but by Mir Hossein Mousavi, leader of the "progressive" greens. Ahmadinejad quickly changed his tune.
Mousavi's resistance isn't surprising. According to public opinion polls done that year, the greens don't differ much on the nuclear issue from Iranians at large. With sanctions already underway and starting to bite, 78 percent of Mousavi supporters said Iran should not "give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances."
To be sure, they weren't talking about a nuclear bomb. They were talking about a nuclear energy program. But a UN Security Council pre-condition for suspending sanctions is Iran's suspension of "all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities." That's the kind of thing that Iranians broadly--green and non-green--seem to oppose; there is a strong, nationalistic insistence in Iran on the right of the country to enrich its own uranium as part of a nuclear energy program. And there is roughly as strong a resistance among the more hawkish Iran hawks to letting Iran do that.
So one key premise of regime change--that the will of a new democratic government would align with the will of regime-change boosters--is dubious even if you assume that greens would be the dominant force in this government. And that assumption, in turn, has two problems of its own: (1) Those 2009 opinion polls showed greens to be in the minority, outnumbered by Ahmadinejad supporters; so even if you ensured fair elections, and restructured Iranian democracy so that the elected president was truly the country's supreme leader, that wouldn't mean greens ran the show; (2) How would you ensure fair elections and restructure Iranian democracy in the first place?
After all, when you induce regime change by tightening sanctions to the choking point, you don't get to micro-manage the transition. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz, champions of regime change, recently wrote that "through sanctions, a democratic counterrevolution in Persia might be reborn." Yes, it might. And through rolling a pair of dice, doubles might be born. But at least as likely as a smooth transition to a truer democracy is a civil war in which lots of people die. (When will neocons--and for that matter liberal hawks--learn that authoritarian leaders, though we may call them "autocrats," usually have a large constituency that sees itself as benefiting from their rule and will fight on their behalf?) Among the things that could follow a civil war are more authoritarian rule and regional conflagration. And, as long as we're on the subject of human suffering: How much misery winds up getting inflicted on innocent people before an economic chokehold leads to regime change in the first place?
Even in Iraq--where, with hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, we in theory could micro-manage things--we wound up with a regime that defies our will and is increasingly thuggish. And now we think we can do regime change by remote control and get a happy ending? I'd rather let nature take its course; if you leave Iran to its own devices the regime won't continue to escape the forces, technological and otherwise, that have fueled the Arab Spring.
Support for a policy of regime change rests on two major features of America's national psychology: optimism, reflected in the assumption that democracy would magically ensue; and moral self-confidence, reflected in the assumption that whatever America wants is best for the world and that reasonable people everywhere will see this if given the chance.
The Iranians--whether green or not--don't seem to see this. But who knows? Maybe if we shut off their gasoline imports and blow up their one refinery, they'll warm up to us.
7) Bush's CIA director: We determined attacking Iran was a bad idea
Josh Rogin, The Cable, Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 6:28 PM
President George W. Bush's administration concluded that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be a bad idea -- and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future, former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) chief Gen. Michael Hayden said Thursday.
"When we talked about this in the government, the consensus was that [attacking Iran] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent -- an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret," Hayden told a small group of experts and reporters at an event hosted by the Center for the National Interest.
Hayden served as director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and then served as CIA director from 2006 until February 2009. He also had a 39-year career at the Air Force, which he ended as a four-star general.
Without an actual occupation of Iran, which nobody wants to contemplate, the Bush administration concluded that the result of a limited military campaign in Iran would be counter-productive, according to Hayden.
"What's move two, three, four or five down the board?" Hayden said, arguing that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities was only a short-term fix. "I don't think anyone is talking about occupying anything."
Hayden then said he didn't believe the Israelis could or even would strike Iran -- that only the United States has the capability to do it -- but either way, it's still a bad idea.
"The Israelis aren't going to [attack Iran] ... they can't do it, it's beyond their capacity. They only have the ability to make this [problem of Iran's nuclear program] worse. We can do a lot better," he said. "Just look at the physics, the fact that this cannot be done in a raid, this has to be done in a campaign, the fact that neither we nor they know where this stuff is. [The Israelis] can't do it, but we can."
8) Afghanistan's Soldiers Step Up Killings of Allied Forces
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, January 20, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - American and other coalition forces here are being killed in increasing numbers by the very Afghan soldiers they fight alongside and train, in attacks motivated by deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces, according to American and Afghan officers and a classified coalition report.
A decade into the war in Afghanistan, the report makes clear that these killings have become the most visible symptom of a far deeper ailment plaguing the war effort: the contempt each side holds for the other, never mind the Taliban. The ill will and mistrust run deep among civilians and militaries on both sides, raising questions about what future role the United States and its allies can expect to play in Afghanistan.
Underscoring the danger, a gunman in an Afghan Army uniform killed four French service members and wounded several others on Friday, according to an Afghan police official in Kapisa Province in eastern Afghanistan, prompting the French president to suspend his country's operations here.
The violence, and the failure by coalition commanders to address it, casts a harsh spotlight on the shortcomings of American efforts to build a functional Afghan Army, a pillar of the Obama administration's strategy for extricating the United States from the war in Afghanistan, said the officers and experts who helped shape the strategy.
The problems risk leaving the United States and its allies dependent on an Afghan force that is permeated by anti-Western sentiment and incapable of combating the Taliban and other militants when NATO's combat mission ends in 2014, they said.
One instance of the general level of antipathy in the war exploded into uncomfortable view last week when video emerged of American Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters. Although American commanders quickly took action and condemned the act, chat-room and Facebook posts by Marines and their supporters were full of praise for the desecration.
But the most troubling fallout has been the mounting number of Westerners killed by their Afghan allies, events that have been routinely dismissed by American and NATO officials as isolated episodes that are the work of disturbed individual soldiers or Taliban infiltrators, and not indicative of a larger pattern. The unusually blunt report, which was prepared for a subordinate American command in eastern Afghanistan, takes a decidedly different view. The Wall Street Journal reported on details of the investigation last year. A copy was obtained by The New York Times.
"Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between 'allies' in modern military history)," it said. Official NATO pronouncements to the contrary "seem disingenuous, if not profoundly intellectually dishonest," said the report, and it played down the role of Taliban infiltrators in the killings.
The coalition refused to comment on the classified report. But "incidents in the recent past where Afghan soldiers have wounded or killed I.S.A.F. members are isolated cases and are not occurring on a routine basis," said Lt. Col. Jimmie E. Cummings Jr. of the Army, a spokesman for the American-led International Security Assistance Force. "We train and are partnered with Afghan personnel every day and we are not seeing any issues or concerns with our relationships."
The numbers appear to tell a different story. Although NATO does not release a complete tally of its forces' deaths at the hands of Afghan soldiers and the police, the classified report and coalition news releases indicate that Afghan forces have attacked American and allied service members nearly three dozen times since 2007.
Two members of the French Foreign Legion and one American soldier were killed in separate episodes in the past month, according to statements by NATO. The classified report found that between May 2007 and May 2011, when it was completed, at least 58 Western service members were killed in 26 separate attacks by Afghan soldiers and the police nationwide. Most of those attacks have occurred since October 2009. This toll represented 6 percent of all hostile coalition deaths during that period, the report said.
"The sense of hatred is growing rapidly," said an Afghan Army colonel. He described his troops as "thieves, liars and drug addicts," but also said that the Americans were "rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language."
Senior commanders largely manage to keep their feelings in check, said the officer, who asked not to be named so he could speak openly. But the officer said, "I am afraid it will turn into a major problem in the near future in the lower ranks of both armies."
There have been successes, especially among the elite Afghan commandos and coalition Special Operations forces, most of whom have undergone in-depth cultural training and speak at least some Dari and Pashto, the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan. But, as highlighted by the classified report, familiarity in most cases appears to have mainly bred contempt - and that, in turn, has undercut the benefits of pairing up the forces.
The problem has also featured in classified reports tracking progress in the war effort, most of which are far more negative than the public declarations of progress, said an American officer, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing secret information.
"If you get two 18-year-olds from two different cultures and put them in New York, you get a gang fight," said Anthony H. Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington who has advised the American military on its Afghan strategy.
"What you have here are two very different cultures with different values," he said in a telephone interview. "They treat each other with contempt."
The United States soldier was killed this month when an Afghan soldier opened fire on Americans playing volleyball at a base in the southern province of Zabul. The assailant was quickly gunned down. The deadliest single incident came last April when an Afghan Air Force colonel, Ahmed Gul, killed eight unsuspecting American officers and a contractor with shots to the head inside their headquarters.
He then killed himself after writing "God in your name" and "God is one" in blood on the walls of the base, according to an Air Force investigation of the incident released this week.
In a 436-page report, the Air Force investigators said the initial coalition explanation for the attack - stress brought on by financial problems - was only a small part of Colonel Gul's motivation. His primary motive was hatred of the United States, and he planned the attack to kill as many Americans as possible, the investigators said.
There have been no reported instances of Americans' killing Afghan soldiers, although a rogue group of United States soldiers killed three Afghan civilians for sport in 2010. Yet there is ample evidence of American disregard for Afghans. After the urination video circulated, a number of those who had served in Afghanistan took to Facebook and other Web sites to cheer on their compatriots, describing Afghans of all stripes in harsh terms.
Many messages were posted on public forums, others in private message strings. One private exchange was provided to The Times by a participant in the conversation; the names of those posting matched those on record as having served in the Marine Corps. In that conversation, a former Marine said he thought the video was "pretty awesome." Another said he hoped it would happen more often.
The 70-page coalition report, titled "A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility," - which was originally distributed as an unclassified document and later changed to classified - goes far beyond anecdotes. It was conducted by a behavioral scientist who surveyed 613 Afghan soldiers and police officers, 215 American soldiers and 30 Afghan interpreters who worked for the Americans.
While the report focused on three areas of eastern Afghanistan, many of the Afghan soldiers interviewed had served elsewhere in Afghanistan and the author believed that they constituted a sample representative of the entire country.
"There are pervasive feelings of animosity and distrust A.N.S.F. personnel have towards U.S. forces," the report said, using military's abbreviation for Afghan security forces. The list of Afghan complaints against the Americans ran the gamut from the killing of civilians to urinating in public and cursing.
"U.S. soldiers don't listen, they are too arrogant," said one of the Afghan soldiers surveyed, according to the report. "They get upset due to their casualties, so they take it out on civilians during their searches," said another.
9) Nuclear Iran May Curb Israeli Border Wars: General
Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria seen emboldened by Iran bomb
Israel can't "knock out" enemies, senior general says
Dan Williams, Reuters, Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:25am EST
Jerusalem, Jan 17 - A nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel from going to war against Tehran's guerrilla allies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli general said on Tuesday.
The Jewish state sees the makings of a mortal threat in Iran's uranium enrichment and missile programmes, and has lobbied world powers to roll them back through sanctions while hinting it could resort to pre-emptive military strikes.
Major-General Amir Eshel, head of strategic planning for the armed forces, echoed Israeli government leaders who argue that Iran, which denies wrongdoing but rejects international censure over its secretive projects, could create a "global nuclear jungle" and fuel arms races in an already volatile Middle East.
Eshel made clear that Israel - widely reputed to have the region's only atomic arsenal - worries that Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia as well as Palestinian Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza could one day find reassurance in an Iranian bomb.
"They will be more aggressive. They will dare to do things that right now they would not dare to do," he said in a briefing to foreign journalists and diplomats.
"So this is going to create a dramatic change in Israel's strategic posture, because if we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, it might be different."
Eshel, who spoke at the conservative Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs think-tank, quoted an unnamed Indian officer who, he said, had described the Asian power's friction with nuclear-armed rival and neighbour Pakistan in terms of self-restraint. "When the other side has a nuclear capability and are willing to use it, you think twice," Eshel said. "You are more restrained because you don't want to get into that ball game."
10) French parliament report accuses Israel of water 'apartheid' in West Bank
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 17.01.12
The French parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee published an unprecedented report two weeks ago accusing Israel of implementing "apartheid" policies in its allocation of water resources in the West Bank.
The report said that water has become "a weapon serving the new apartheid" and gave examples and statistics that ostensibly back this claim.
"Some 450,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank use more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians that live there," the report said. "In times of drought, in contravention of international law, the settlers get priority for water."
The report states that water is not allocated fairly to West Bank Palestinians and that Palestinians have no access to the territory's underground aquifers. Glavany said Israel was perpetrating a "water occupation" against the Palestinians.
"Israel's territorial expansion is seen as a 'water occupation' of both streams and aquifers," the report said.
It also said that "the separation wall being built by Israel allows it to control access to underground water sources" and to "direct the flow of water westward."
The report accused Israel of "systematically destroying wells that were dug by Palestinians on the West Bank," as well as of deliberately bombing reservoirs in the Gaza Strip in 2008-09. It also claimed that "Many water purification facilities planned by the Palestinian Water Ministry are being 'blocked' by the Israeli administration."
11) Obama Speaks To Egypt Ruler Over Crackdown On Democracy Groups
Rather than return confiscated materials as the U.S. says was promised, Egyptian authorities have increased harassment of the groups and hinted that they may pursue criminal charges against them.
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2012
Washington - President Obama called the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Friday to express U.S. concern about the Cairo government's intensifying crackdown on democracy-building groups, a growing source of friction between the two longtime allies.
Three weeks after Egyptian security forces closed 17 human rights, legal aid and other independent groups, including several partly funded by the U.S. government, Obama stressed to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi that such civic organizations play a key role in democratic societies and "should be able to operate freely," the White House said in a statement.
Outraged by the Dec. 29 raids, senior Obama administration officials said the next day that Egyptian leaders had promised to return the cash, computers and other equipment they had seized from the groups and to allow them to resume operations.
Egyptian authorities, however, have increased interrogations and harassment of the groups and hinted that they may pursue criminal charges against them. Egyptian officials also proposed a law this week that would sharply tighten official control of nongovernmental groups. And confiscated equipment and cash have not been returned, according to the U.S. groups.
"The situation is only getting worse," said Charles Dunne, head of Middle East programs for Freedom House, a Washington-based democracy-building and human rights group that was operating in Egypt along with the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
All three, which get funding from Congress, saw their offices shuttered and equipment confiscated during the raids.
The U.S. provides $1.3 billion in aid to the Egyptian military, but Congress passed legislation last year that says the money can only be released if the White House certifies that Egypt is complying with democratic principles. That money may now be at risk.
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