Archive for April 15th, 2010

Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle East

April 14, 2010

Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle East

By MARK LANDLER and HELENE COOPER

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/world/middleeast/15mideast.html?th&emc=th

WASHINGTON — It was just a phrase at the end of President Obama’s news conference on Tuesday, but it was a stark reminder of a far-reaching shift in how the United States views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement.

When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.

This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.

Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Mr. Obama’s words reverberated through diplomatic circles in large part because they echoed those of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the military commander overseeing America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent Congressional testimony, the general said that the lack of progress in the Middle East created a hostile environment for the United States. He has denied reports that he was suggesting that soldiers were being put in harm’s way by American support for Israel.

But the impasse in negotiations “does create an environment,” he said Tuesday in a speech in Washington. “It does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate.”

The glimmers of daylight between United States and Israeli interests began during President George W. Bush’s administration, when the United States became mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years ago, Condoleezza Rice, then secretary of state, declared during a speech in Jerusalem that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was a “strategic interest” of the United States. In comments that drew little notice at the time, she said, “The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people.”

But President Bush shied away from challenging Israeli governments.

The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies.

“In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel and the vice president and the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?” Mr. Indyk said. “No. But will it help us get there? Yes.”

The administration’s immediate priority, officials said, is jump-starting indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians. There is still a vigorous debate inside the administration about what to do if such talks were to go nowhere, which experts said is the likeliest result, given the history of such negotiations. Some officials, like Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, advocate putting forward an American peace plan, while others, like the longtime Middle East peace negotiator Dennis B. Ross, who now works in the National Security Council, favor a more incremental approach.

Last week, National Security Council officials met with outside Middle East experts to discuss the Arab Israeli conflict. Two weeks before, General Jones and Mr. Obama met with several national security advisers from previous administrations and discussed putting forward an American proposal, even though it would put pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians.

Several officials point out that Mr. Obama has now seized control of Middle East policy himself, particularly since the controversy several weeks ago when Israeli authorities announced new Jewish housing units in Jerusalem during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Obama, incensed by that snub, has given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a list of demands, and relations between the United States and Israel have fallen into a chilly standoff.

“The president is re-evaluating the tactics his administration is employing toward Israel and the entire Middle East,” said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman who resigned in January to lead the Center for Middle East Peace, a Washington-based nonprofit institution that is working for a peace agreement.

“I don’t think that anybody believes American lives are endangered or materially affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Mr. Wexler, who has close ties to administration officials. “That’s an oversimplification. However, you’d have to have blinders on not to recognize that there are issues in one arena that affect other arenas.”

For their part, administration officials insist that their support for Israel is unwavering. They point to intensive cooperation between the American and Israeli militaries, which they say has allowed Israel to retain a military edge over its neighbors.

The sense of urgency in Washington comes just as many Israelis have become disillusioned with the whole idea of resolving the conflict. Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government has long been skeptical about the benefits of a peace deal with the Palestinians. But skepticism has taken root in the Israeli public as well, particularly after Israel saw little benefit from its traumatic withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions.

In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, “Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?”

Mr. Lauder, who said the letter was scheduled to be published Thursday as an advertisement in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, said he discussed the letter with Mr. Netanyahu and received his support before taking out the ad.

A photo caption in an earlier version of this article erroneously identified Ramat Schlomo as a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. It is a neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

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Report: Petraeus Warns Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen that Israel Is Jeopardizing US Security Interests

http://america-hijacked.com/2010/03/17/report-petraeus-warns-joint-chiefs-of-staff-chairman-mullen-that-israel-is-jeopardizing-us-security-interests/

 

Dr. Strangelove, Made in Israel

Dr. Strangelove, Made in Israel

http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2010/04/14/dr-strangelove-made-in-israel/

Posted By Philip Giraldi On April 14, 2010

One would expect the Air Force’s top civilian adviser to be someone who has spent some time in the US military or who has a very particular educational or skills set that brings something special to what is, after all, a very senior and sensitive position.  Not so.  Dr. Lani Kass, who is the senior Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force General Norton A. Schwartz, was born, raised, and educated in Israel and then served in that country’s military where she reached the rank of major.  She has a PhD in Russian studies but advises Air Force Generals on Cyberwarfare, terrorism, and the Middle East.  And Kass appears to have close and continuing ties to her country of birth, frequently spicing her public statements with comments about life in Israel while parroting simplistic views of the nature of the Islamic threat that might have been scripted in Tel Aviv’s Foreign Ministry.

Kass’ official Air Force bio, which has been expunged from the Pentagon website possibly due to less than flattering commentary regarding her appointment, indicates that since January 2006 she has been “the principal adviser on policy and strategy and formulates, develops, implements, and communicates the policies, programs and goals of the Air Force.”  Another official bio adds that she “…conducts numerous complex, high priority special assignments involving research and fact-finding to develop analyses, position and issue papers, and generate new initiatives based on a variety of strategic subjects of critical importance to the Joint Staff and/or the Joint Force.” There have also been suggestions that Kass has recently become an informal adviser to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Middle Eastern policy.

Dr. Lani Kass is married to Norman Kass, a former Pentagon Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and resides in McLean, Virginia.  She has been naturalized as a US citizen and is presumably a dual national who now holds both American and Israeli passports.  Her three children were all born in Israel.  While it is perhaps not unusual for American citizens to volunteer with the Israel Defense Forces as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did in 1991, it would have to be considered unprecedented for a senior Israeli military officer to obtain a high level position at the Pentagon.  In fact, it is hard to imagine that anyone carrying out a security background investigation would approve such a transition under any circumstances, suggesting the possibility that Kass’s ascent to high office might have been aided or even godfathered by friends in key positions who were able to override or circumvent normal procedures.

Dr. Kass’s full first name is Ilana and her maiden name is Dimant.  She has a 1971 BA in political-science and Russian area studies, summa cum laude, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a 1976 joint PhD from the Kaplan School of the Hebrew University and Columbia University in international affairs.  She apparently met her husband Norman at Columbia.  Both she and her husband are fluent in Russian and Hebrew.   After completing her PhD, she served in the Israeli Air Force, achieving the rank of major.  For those who are unfamiliar with the military, the rank of major is a senior rank that normally would be awarded to a career officer.

Between 1979 and 1981, Kass worked at the Russian research Center of Booz Allen and Hamilton. Between 1985 and 2005 she held the position of Professor of Military Strategy and Operations of the National War College. In 1992 Dr. Kass obtained a senior position at the Pentagon as Special Assistant to the Director, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5).  Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense at the time.  She returned to the Pentagon under Secretary William Cohen and stayed on during 2000 – 2001 as Senior Policy Adviser and Special Assistant for Strategic Initiatives to the Director, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5) under Donald Rumsfeld.

In early November 2006, US Air Force officials formed the Air Force Cyberspace Command that had the “authority to launch wars in cyberspace.”  The command was reported to be “largely the brainchild of Dr. Lani Kass, director of the Air Force Cyberspace Task Force.”

Dr. Kass’ position and access inevitably raise a number of questions.  Her appointment is somewhat unseemly, which even the Air Force appeared to recognize when it removed her bio from the website.  Surely there must be qualified Americans who would be both delighted and proud to serve their country in the position she holds.  Surely someone in Washington must see the security implications of a former foreign military officer holding a high level post in the Pentagon with full access to classified information.  To challenge Dr. Kass’s position is not to question her academic credentials and intelligence or even her ability or integrity, but it is not unreasonable to ask why the Pentagon would appoint to a sensitive position someone who was born, raised, and served at a senior level with the armed forces in a foreign country.

And it is also not unreasonable to stop and consider whether Kass might well be an agent working for the Israeli government, which aggressively spies against the United States.  She left Israel and began her journey through the US defense department in 1981, when Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was still active.  Israeli intelligence certainly was then and is now capable of what is referred to in intelligence jargon as a seeding operation in which “a mole” is placed in an innocuous position and expected to rise higher, eventually obtaining access to top secret information and even sometimes winding up in a position in which it is possible to direct policy as a so-called agent of influence.  Kass started her ascent by working on Russia for beltway bandit Booz Allen Hamilton, quite likely for completely innocent reasons but also possibly because it was a non-threatening way to ease her entry into the world of government contractors.

In seeking to discover how she wound up where she is now it is fair to ask how exactly she obtained the positions that she has held with the Pentagon and who sponsored her through the bureaucracy.  How did she manage to obtain a clearance in spite of the obvious red flags in her background?  In light of legitimate security concerns, has she been polygraphed, what questions about her relationship with her former country were asked, and what were her answers?  Was any deception indicated?  Has she been re-polygraphed recently?  This is not intended as harassment or as any accusation against Kass but rather to determine if she has been subject to normal and appropriate security measures.  CIA officers are, for example, required to undergo polygraph exams every five years and the questions concentrate on possible unreported relationships with foreign governments.

Critics note that while Kass is genuinely an expert on Russia, she has little background to qualify her as an authority on the currently fashionable Cyberwarfare, where she has somehow turned herself into a major spokesman through mastery of the necessary buzzwords and talking points.  Nor does she have any genuine expertise on the Middle East or on terrorism to share with Mullen and others, apart from her own Israeli perspective.  Her access to the highest levels of the Air Force also raises the questions of just what is she advising and what does she know?  Does she support an air war against Iran, for example, and is she actively promoting that option?  Does she know how the Obama Administration will react if Tel Aviv tries to stage a unilateral attack on Iran?  Such information would be pure gold for the Israeli government.

There are indications that Dr. Kass is a major player in shaping US security policy.  She has been described as a “key participant” in the development of the national strategy for combating terrorism, as well as the national military strategic plan for the Global War on Terrorism. In September 2007, The Times of London reported that she was a leading participant in “Project CHECKMATE, a “highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with ‘fighting the next war’ as tensions rise with Iran” that was “quietly established” by the US Air Force in June 2007 as a “successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign.”

Also per The Times, CHECKMATE “consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defense and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.” Its director Brigadier-General Lawrence A. Stutzriem and Kass reported directly to General Michael Moseley, at the time chief of staff of the Air Force. The Times cited Defense sources saying, “detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years.” Regarding Iran operations, Kass was quoted as saying “We can defeat Iran, but are Americans willing to pay the price?”

Dr. Kass is not directly linked to any neoconservative groups but appears to be a kindred spirit, possessing a Manichean world view.  Her comment cited above about defeating Iran has a dismissive tone to it, as if she is not identifying as an American herself. And she is also reported to have said “Remember what Israelis tell their children when they cry: ‘Don’t cry — you want to be a paratrooper don’t you?’” Some other public utterances are also revealing, suggesting that if General Schwartz and Admiral Mullen are actually listening to her it is no surprise that some US defense and security policies are largely based on simplistic bumper sticker analysis.  In a speech at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho on July 9, 2007, she said radical Muslims hate the western world because Europe took their dominant political position away and they want it back.  To support her claim she produced a map taken from an obscure Jihadi website showing the entire world depicted as the “United States of Islam,” in which everyone will have to follow Sharia Muslim law.  Kass likes to use the map as a prop in many of her public appearances.  In her speech she explained that Muslims hate western culture and want to dominate the world, adding that because radical Islam has a “culture of death” all those who do not submit to Islam must die, an assertion so absurd that one suspects her political analysis derives from the Free Republic website.  She also compared all Americans to sheep and sheepdogs.  The former keep their heads down hoping that someone else will be eaten by wolves a.k.a. terrorists while the latter fight back.  Kass sees herself as a sheepdog.  For her Air Force audience she concluded that the long war against the Islamists will end “when they learn to love their children more than they hate us,” a comment originally attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Kass’s powerpoint demonstration “A Warfighting Domain,” dated September 26, 2006, is equally scary, and more than a little Strangelovean in its language and appeal.  It includes the map of the United States of Islam and defines the “mission” as “to fly and fight in the Air, Space, and Cyberspace.”  She boasts “as Airmen we are the nation’s premier multi-dimensional maneuver force, with the agility, reach, speed, stealth, payload, precision, and persistence to deliver global effects at the speed of sound and the speed of light.”  Her objective?  To “foster a force of 21st century warriors, capable of delivering the full spectrum of kinetic and non-kinetic, lethal and non-lethal effects in the Air, Space, and Cyber domains.”

Dr. Kass the Kremlinologist might have been a dab hand at interpreting the Nomenklatura standing on top of Lenin’s tomb but her embrace of Cyberwar and her comments relating both to terrorism and the state of the Middle East make one wonder how she has ascended to her lofty perch…and equally why she should remain there.  Legitimate security concerns about her possible conflicted loyalty and her intentions should have blunted her trajectory long ago.  But on the other hand, the global war on terror is so much of a joke that it perhaps needs someone like Dr. Kass to symbolize its absurdity and to launch the US Air Force on a vital new mission replete with lethal warrior-airmen delivering “global effects” at the speed of light.  At an estimated cost of $100 billion, one might add.  Captain Kirk?  Are you ready to beam me up?  Things are getting kind of strange down here.

Read more by Philip Giraldi
Nuking the Mullahs – April 7th, 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/nukingthemullahs)
•Honest in the Worst Way – March 31st, 2010
•The Crisis That Wasn’t – March 24th, 2010
•Some Rogue Regimes Are Less Rogue Than Others – March 17th, 2010
•The Rogue Nation – March 10th, 2010

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Israel First: More on Dr. Lani Kass

Posted By Philip Giraldi On April 21, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2010/04/21/israel-first-more-on-dr-lani-kass/

My recent account of the career of Dr. Lani Kass was based on what has appeared about her in the public record and media, including her own comments regarding national defense and security policy.  To recapitulate, Kass was born, raised, and educated in Israel.  She has a PhD in Russian studies and is fluent in Russian and Hebrew in addition to English.  Kass reportedly reached the rank of major in the Israeli air force before moving to the United States and working her way up through the US defense establishment.  She is currently the most senior civilian adviser to Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz and is believed to have access to most American defense secrets.  Kass is best known to the public for her role in promoting Air Force cyberwarfare, but she also appears to have been a major player in counter-terrorism policy and in war preparations directed against Iran even though she has no actual substantive background in those areas.  She believes that the US is engaged in a long war against Islamo-radicalism and that “winning” against Iran is necessary but the American people must be willing to pay the price to succeed.

My concern regarding Dr. Kass is based on the potential conflict of interest and divided loyalty that is normal in anyone who is born in one country and moves to another.  She comes from a country that has a history of large scale and highly aggressive espionage directed against the United States and she appears to continue to have close ties to her birthplace.  Dr. Kass has become a naturalized American while apparently retaining her Israeli citizenship and her three children were reportedly born in Israel, not the United States.  The information she has access to would be extremely valuable to Israel and potentially damaging to US interests, particularly as she likely knows what the US Air Force response to a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran would be.

The issue of Israel aside, one might reasonably argue in any event that a senior officer in any foreign country’s military establishment should be considered an undesirable candidate for a top post in the Pentagon on security grounds.  If Dr. Kass were a dentist it would make absolutely no difference where she came from and what her political views might be, but a person’s ultimate loyalty is not just an abstraction for someone who has relatively free access to the Defense Department’s most highly classified information and is probably also able to influence policy.

I continue to question to what extent Kass has been properly security vetted for her position, to include rigorous inquiry into whether or not she still has ties to the Israeli government. I also can only speculate at the type of advice that Kass is providing to her Pentagon associates as she appears to embrace particularly hard line views about Muslims and about the desirability of going to war with Iran, positions that are rather similar to those promoted by the Israeli government.

Additional information has come to light on Kass that heightens my concern about her high position in the United States government’s defense and security establishment.  Her first job in Washington was with the Advanced International Studies Institute (AISI), a Washington DC area based think tank.  After being recommended by someone at the Pentagon, she was hired for her Russian language skills in an unclassified program funded by the Department of Defense called Soviet Watch.  Her fellow employees understood that she was a former major in Israeli intelligence.  A few months later she moved on to beltway bandit Booz Allen Hamilton.  Some months after she departed AISI, one of her colleagues received a call from a personnel manager at the Industrial War College asking to confirm Kass’s employment with AISI.  The Industrial War College was, as the name implies, an institute set up to coordinate industrial production with Defense Department needs.  Some of its work was classified.  Kass’s colleague told the caller that Kass was an intelligence officer who thought of herself as an Israeli and added that putting her in any position of influence would be a bad idea.

From there and then to here and now has taken more than twenty years, proceeding through a number of Defense Department positions with ever-increasing responsibility and access.  It would not be out of place to observe that if the report that Kass was truly an intelligence officer for the Israeli Defense Forces is correct the Department of Defense security screeners should have erred on the side of caution based on the supposition that she was still in touch with her former employers. She should never have been given a security clearance and provided access to United States classified information in the first place, which again raises the issue of just if and how thoroughly her background was actually investigated.

More information has also been developed regarding Kass’s current role.  According to a highly reliable source, Dr. Lani Kass is now the principal adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen regarding the Middle East. She recently was involved in a very important meeting, one that concerned Israel.

The meeting took place because of concerns that the United States has been losing the “war of ideas” in the Muslim world.  At the end of last year, General David Petraeus sent a special emissary out on a fact finding mission to meet with the heads of state and top military officers in all of the Muslim countries considered to be friends or allies of the US for a frank exchange of views.  The emissary, an Arabic speaker, learned that no country any longer trusts the United States because it is widely believed that all American policies in the Near East region are subject to veto by Israel.  It was also commonly observed that Washington is complicit in the genocide against the Palestinians because of its failure to do anything to restrain Israel, making it extremely difficult to rally popular support in any Muslim country for US policies.

Petraeus was surprised by the unanimity and emotion of the views that were confidentially expressed and thought the issue to be important enough to move it up the chain of command.  In February, he met with Admiral Mullen and briefed him on his findings.  Mullen was accompanied only by Dr. Lani Kass, who was described to Petraeus as his special assistant for the Middle East.  Mullen expressed some dismay at the implications of the findings while Kass disputed Petraeus’ conclusions and said that the concerns being expressed were greatly exaggerated.  Petraeus nevertheless presented his report to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th together with his judgment that the failure to address the Palestinian issue was putting US soldiers in danger because it was inflaming anti-American sentiment and giving groups like al-Qaeda an unnecessary propaganda victory.

One might argue that Dr. Lani Kass is just another Israel firster who has risen to high office in the US government, not really unlike Dennis Ross, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith.  And that might well be true.  But at the same time one must challenge the judgment of those who enabled her rise to a position of great responsibility and power and there should be serious questions about whether her bellicose and racially tinged viewpoint comes from objective and honest analysis of the genuine challenges confronting the United States or from her loyalty to her country of birth.

Read more by Philip Giraldi
•Dr. Strangelove, Made in Israel – April 14th, 2010
•Nuking the Mullahs (http://tinyurl.com/nukingthemullahs) – April 7th, 2010
•Honest in the Worst Way – March 31st, 2010
•The Crisis That Wasn’t – March 24th, 2010
•Some Rogue Regimes Are Less Rogue Than Others – March 17th, 2010

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Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com

McCain: Time to ‘Pull the Trigger’ With Iran (for Israel of course!)

Newsmax
McCain: Time to ‘Pull the Trigger’ With Iran
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 12:19 PM

http://newsmax.com/InsideCover/US-US-Iran/2010/04/14/id/355711?s=al&promo_code=9C14-1

Senator John McCain says the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while that country moves ever closer to having nuclear weapons.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the United States acts more boldly.

Speaking figuratively, the Arizona Republican says the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran but failing to “pull the trigger.”

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McCain goes rogue on Iran (for Israel of course!):

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/36530897#36530897

Nuking the Mullahs (be sure to take a look at the comments section at the bottom of the following URL):

http://tinyurl.com/nukingthemullahs