Saturday, November 28, 2015

America’s “Gospel of Democracy” meets Putin’s Realpolitik: Russia’s return in force to the Middle East

“Russian media reported earlier that Russia may sign a deal with Egypt for the delivery of Kamov Ka-52K helicopters. Last week the two countries signed a deal to build four third-generation nuclear reactors in Egypt.”

For more than a decade I have described on JPost and other Israeli web-based forums the retreat of the United States from the Middle East and the world. Since Bush invaded Iraq and sued for peace in 2007 America has desperately sought a graceful exit from the region. America, I concluded, would soon be replaced by a more determined and aggressive Russia, with dire consequences for the US and the EU. 

With 70% of the world’s oil reserves; with the Suez Canal as transit point for global commerce; with the surrender of the region as military crossroad between north/south, east/west: it seems beyond the ability of American politicians and their academic advisers to see the implications of abandoning the region to Russia. Apparently overlooked in the rush to vacate is that along with control of the ground, Russia would also achieve its likely principal goal, control also of the Mediterranean Sea. And, lest American policy-makers need reminding Europe, already dependent on Russia for natural gas to heat its homes and fuel its factories will find itself sandwiched between the Russian Navy to the south and The Russian Army to the north. Does it really require deep strategic imagination to appreciate that the loss of NATO will leave the United States naked and alone, with but two oceans as buffer in a world of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles? Is Isolationism a viable option in a world which views the United States with equal measures of envy and hate?

In an op-ed piece appearing recently in JPost, Defeating Islamic State, Amitai Etzioni describes a counter-script to the general impression of the US Government and its military. America, he insists, did not lose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just the opposite, it
“won both wars easily and quickly, suffering few casualties and low costs, and causing little collateral damage. Both campaigns ended up badly once the US decided to make out of these nations stable, democratic, US-friendly regime." (emphasis added)
I agree. It was the politicians: the White House backed by Bush’s "yes-sir" appointees, including his defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs who decided that the two war’s outcomes be determined not on the field of combat but by the democratization of the invaded countries. Etzioni is correct in describing both recent US presidents as committed to nation-building after “America’s image.” It is this which for a decade I have described as America’s Gospel of Democracy. Blind-sided by Ideology successive US administrations failed to learn the lessons of serial failures of US diplomacy at least back to Carter and Iran.

Whatever Bush’s true motivation for deposing Sadam Hussein, in the end he fell back on, "providing the Iraqi people the gift of democracy.” And the outcome was Iraq as failed state and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. Obama, determined to be “Not-Bush” wound up pursuing the same Bush agenda with identical results: the failed states of Libya and Syria and hundreds of thousands more dead Arabs. And while Obama did his best to add Egypt to that list by ousting America’s loyal and secular ally Hosni Mubarak in favor of an Islamist for president intent on imposing Sharia law on Egypt, in the end it took another general to oust the Islamists and restore Egypt to secular governance. Adding insult to injury Obama then refused to recognize the new Egyptian president with the result that Egypt has now turned to Russia for military materiel needed in fighting MB-inspired terrorists. Egypt is also purchasing several nuclear reactors, a response to Obama welcoming the terror-state Iran into the nuclear community. 

It is likely that an Arab Spring and its revolutionary anti-West Islamism was an event waiting for an opportunity. That it emerged when it did is clearly the result America’s faith-based “diplomacy,” its stubbornly-held Gospel of Democracy.


The single, most obvious lesson of United States-imposed regime change in the Middle East is that not only does the American model of “liberal democracy” fail as an option for ill-prepared states (recall it took two centuries for the West to arrive at its present approximation of that political ideal), but most of the world today is only recently emerging from a century and more of western-imposed colonialism. And how many states born of that oppressive regime even approximate the basic social stability fundamental for an “educated” electorate? Imperialism created “states” without recognition or regard for religious and traditional tribal distinctions. While a strong colonial military with superior weaponry provided the appearance of “native” social tranquility, rivalries simmered for centuries beneath that apparent tranquil surface. And so the much heralded by the West Arab Spring; and al-Qaeda in Iraq have metastasized into today’s “Daesh.” Amitai Etzioni' article, Defeating Islamic State, describes the hoped for end to the terror empire. But Daesh as seething memory of defeats past will continue to survive and evolve, to metastasize likely into something even more brutal. 

Cultural grudges are not soon forgotten.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Response to Professor Sharkansky’s JPost blog on Jonathan Pollard: Another hero, also flawed

I would have posted this as blog response to statements made and issues raised in your present blog, Another hero, also flawed, but was dismayed to find no response option. Which is why I decided to contact you by email. I have rewritten parts of my response to you for readability by my blog audience.

I recently responded to Fred Burton of Stratfor on much of the same territory covered by you in your article so will leave that out of my present response. You wrote: "What he [Pollard]provided to Israel exposed US sources of information within the Soviet Union, set back US intelligence efforts, and resulted in the death of informants."

To my understanding this falls into the problem of Aldrich Ames, CIA mole and chief of East Europe who provided his masters in Moscow the names, etc of agents known to him. “Somehow” responsibility for the deaths of those agents, the compromise of CIA agents and methods remained mysteriously on Pollard’s head justifying presidential inaction over the decades to release him (remember Pollard as possible release at Wye River only to face CIA Director George Tenant’s threat to resign should Pollard be released.

"Early on, Pollard boasted about his affinity to Israel. His supervisors should have taken notice of a man showing strong commitments to another country and emotional instability, and reviewed his access to sensitive material. What he provided to Israel was material that the US would have supplied, if asked officially."

The second issue first: What the US was NOT providing Israel. In my discussion in the Burton/Stratfor article I responded to this same question: why would Israel take such risks since there was in effect a Memorandum of Understand covering intelligence sharing? The obvious answer immediately suggests itself: the MoU was not being adhered to by elements in the US intelligence community and, for present discussion, the Department of Defense supervising Naval Intelligence, the agency for which Pollard was employed as analyst.

Which brings up the first part of your question regarding the "lack" of vetting evident in the hiring of Jonathan Pollard. As an outspoken Zionist one might have expected Jonathan Pollard to have been immediately flagged a security risk. Instead he was hired and serially promoted, increased in security clearance until his assignment to the team tasked by NI to oversee the exchange of intelligence with Israel!

Hopefully this raises at least some doubt regarding US motives and actions regarding Pollard, particularly when one takes into consideration events surrounding his arrest: Irangate (for readers not familiar with  the term) describes a pattern of Reagan Administration criminal activity spanning several years involving the sale of arms to Iran while using the profits to fund Nicaraguan terrorists called “Contras).”  

Why the Reagan Administration hullaballoo over Pollard and Israel? After all, Dr. Sharkansky, as you acknowledge the United States does, has since pre-statehood days, spied on Israel. How is reciprocal espionage a "breach of faith" by Israel? As you certainly know, at the time of Pollard’s arrest the CIA was running its own Israeli spy against Israel, the former IDF Major of intelligence, Yosef Amit!

"Pollard violated a pre-sentencing agreement with respect to not talking to journalists. He spoke with Wolf Blitzer, and the violation was instrumental in an extended sentence."

I agree that Pollard violated the letter of his pre-sentence agreement. But who would have had the authority to authorize a reporter for an Israeli journal, Jerusalem Post, access to the high security prison that housed him even as US media were denied access? Surely not the warden! And considering that the US Government gave Blitzer access, twice (Blitzer expresses surprise that a second request was also approved); were you Pollard might you not at least have viewed the interview approved by the Justice Department? Not only was Blitzer approved by appropriate authorities to meet with the prisoner, twice, but was granted “courtesies” possibly unprecedented. He was allowed to bring with him into that high security prison to interview a prisoner described as a security risk a tape recorder and camera!

I leave aside the questions you raise regarding the Israel Government’s role in the Pollard Affair. You are better positioned than I, an American, to address that.

“We felt betrayed, not only by Pollard but by Israel.” Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair

In an interview on “the David Brinkley Show Richard Helms, director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, was asked by Sam Donaldson,  "Well, surely, Mr. Helms, the United States isn't spying on its allies, is it?" Helms matter-of-factly replied, "I certainly hope so."”

Several months ago Stratfor published an article by Fred Burton: Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair. Timed to coincide with Jonathan Pollard’s release from thirty years in prison Stratfor chose to republish the “analysis” which, with its abundant weaknesses should not have seen the light of day the first time. The piece is emotional and lacking in objectivity, two qualities that are better suited for “pop journalism” than a reputable open-source intelligence provider. Burton’s piece reads more like “polemic”:

“Maybe 30 years is long enough to bring the former U.S. Naval Intelligence analyst to justice. But I still vividly recall what a powerful sense of betrayal the entire intelligence community felt... As special agents and analysts at the intelligence services, every day we handled sensitive, classified information. Most of us took that responsibility extremely seriously… But Jonathan Pollard broke that trust… After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed, not only (or even primarily) by Pollard but by Israel — and specifically, by the Israeli intelligence service.

My primary criticism of Burton’s starting point is his apparent naiveté, certainly unbecoming one who served and, according to his biography, rose in the ranks of the US Defense Security Service (DSS) and is described by Stratfor as "one of the world's foremost experts” in his field. “We felt betrayed”? Betrayed? That any branch of US intelligence, including that of the State Department, would be emotional regarding the common practice of espionage between allies and enemies should, by itself, raise questions regarding the author’s credibility and qualifications.

But back to the substance of Stratfor’s emotional and one-sided “analysis” of Jonathan Jay Pollard’s admitted crimes and those of “the Israeli intelligence service.” Coincidentally, even as Pollard was spying for Israel, half a world away America’s Central Intelligence Agency already had in place an Israeli spying for the United States.

Yosef Amit was a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) major who worked in intelligence and operated agents in Arab countries. Soon after his release from the IDF Amit was recruited by a CIA agent based at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. Tasked with providing highly classified information on Israeli intentions and troop movements in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, Amit was arrested in 1986, one year after Pollard. Not only was he employed by the CIA against his own, and far more vulnerable country, the major was also alleged to have passed classified information to a NATO country in Europe.

So much for Fred Burton’s plaintive, “After he was discovered, a deep fog of anger settled over the U.S. intelligence community. We felt betrayed...” As former CIA director Helms acknowledged when asked about US spying on allies, “I certainly hope so.” fdIt is a matter of record that the United States had been spying on the Yishuv even before it became Israel!

Having failed to provide a level playing field for inter-ally espionage and limiting focus only on Israel, what follows from Burton’s article only reinforces the rank amateurism with which he approaches his topic. Take, for example, the following assertions:

“Rather than go through the established liaison channels, Mossad recruited Pollard and went behind our backs to commit espionage that, at least to my knowledge and to that of all my colleagues, we would have been open to sharing with them anyway.”

In another incident of either poor “tradecraft” as journalist or commitment to position sans facts Burton again demonstrates ignorance of the facts of the Pollard Affair. Pollard was neither recruited (he volunteered) nor was he accepted by Mossad. Any unbiased observer with even a nominal knowledge of the Affair had to know that the Pollard operation was handled by Lakam, Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations headed by Rafi Eitan.

As to: “we would have been open to sharing [intelligence] with them anyway…” this only raises further questions regarding its author’s qualifications in his profession; how limited his knowledge of, or interest in the actual facts surrounding Israel’s decision to accept Pollard’s offer. As Burton should know, Pollard was an analyst for Naval Intelligence, an office under the umbrella of the Department of Defense. DOD was headed by Caspar Weinberger widely knon to be both antisemitic and anti-Israel. Weinberger was instrumental, for example, in the decision to provide the Saudis AWACS battlefield control aircraft which compromised Israeli security while having opposed the sale of advanced fighter planes to Israel. According to Ollie North, a close adviser to Vice President Bush (the elder) during the years of Irangate,

“[Weinberger] seemed to go out of his way to oppose Israel on any issue and to blame the Israelis for every problem in the Middle East. In our planning for counterterrorist operations, he apparently feared that if we went after Palestinian terrorists, we would offend and alienate Arab governments – particularly if we acted in cooperation with the Israelis… Weinberger’s anti-Israel tilt was an underlying current in almost every Mideast issue.”

As Burton describes there was an agreement in force at the time between President Reagan and Israel, a Memorandum of Agreement regarding close intelligence sharing between Israel and the United States. Even Burton should be hard-pressed to explain why Israel, in a trusting relationship with Reagan Administration would risk the MOU by engaging an American Jew to spy on the US if, as Burton assures, the MOU was working? Which beggars the question how it was that a young and boastful Zionist, employed by Naval Intelligence, would have found himself among the negotiating team tasked with providing Israel intelligence due her under the MOU: Whatever the state of compliance of other US intelligence agencies, there was a state of non-compliance in Weinberger’s Defense Department. And “conveniently” Zionist Jonathan Pollard was well-placed to observe the non-compliance. It was his participation in the team, as Pollard explains to Blitzer in Territory of Lies, that led him to approach Israel as a volunteer.

I responded to the Burton article when it first appeared and hoped that his severely flawed Broken Trust: The Pollard Affair would have achieved its just desserts, oblivion. Embarrassing that Stratfor, an otherwise respected source for intelligence, would resuscitate so poorly researched and fact-checked an article as this. At best the explanation for Burton writing it was a deep-seated prejudice from his exposure to the Pollard Affair as a new, naïve and impressionable “special agent” for DSS. At worst it is just a poorly written polemic. In neither case should it have passed editorial oversight to appear in Stratfor.