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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:34 pm 

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"This was the bad side of Trump's HS Military experience."


How to Lose a Special Operations War in Africa
Jonathan Marshall

Trump, who long ago forgot his promise to pull back from costly military interventions abroad, is doubling down on Obama’s strategy.

If national-security reporters are ever replaced by robots writing boilerplate stories, blame it on the fact that U.S. military policy has become so predictable and repetitive.

Consider this New York Times story from 2011:

“The Central Intelligence Agency is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones. . . . The construction of the base is a sign that the Obama administration is planning an extended war in Yemen against an affiliate of Al Qaeda. . . . The clandestine American operations in Yemen are currently being run by the military’s Joint Special Operations Command.”

Back then, the story could just as well have been set in South Asia, where Pakistan was also a major target of CIA and military drone strikes. Today it could apply, with only a few word changes, to new drone bases in Africa that target jihadists across the vast and thinly populated Sahel region.

As NBC recently reported, “The Trump administration is paving the way for lethal strikes against terrorists in Niger as the U.S. military pushes forward with a plan to arm the Reaper drones that fly over that country.”

That push was prompted by the recent killing of four Americans soldiers who were supporting a secret Joint Special Operations Command mission. NBC reported that their death “is fueling an urgency within the Trump administration to take more aggressive steps against the terrorist groups that are operating in North and West Africa, according to intelligence and military officials.”

It’s not clear whether the Trump administration even knows what terrorist groups to target. Numerous armed bands operate in the vast desert region, where ethnic and tribal disputes are rife.

Nor is it clear what critical U.S. interests are at stake. Take a look at a map of Africa and see if you can identify anything that most Americans would find worth fighting over within a one-thousand-mile radius of Niger.

The Action-Reaction Cycle

Nonetheless, the Trump administration’s response is the latest predictable move in the action-reaction cycle we have seen so many times since 9/11: Washington sends troops to the Middle East, South Asia or Africa to wage war against terrorists. The terrorists kill some of the Americans, so Washington sends even more troops, drones and bombers.

In the process, invariably, some civilians die. More terrorists are born. Soon the United States is building more far-flung bases and waging war in yet another country, without explicit congressional authorization.

As a military strategy, this bipartisan strategy has been a dismal failure. At a cost of several trillion dollars, U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries have succeeded only in growing the numbers of terrorists and insurgents and widening their geographic footprint.

In Yemen, for example, drone strikes and Joint Special Operations Command missions in late 2009 and early 2010 killed dozens of civilians, fueling recruitment of local Al Qaeda ranks.

After one such attack with cluster munitions killed thirty-five women and children in 2009, Princeton University’s Gregory Johnsen called the Obama administration’s strategy “incredibly dangerous” because it would draw new support to radical jihadists— as indeed it did. Four years later, another U.S. attack wiped out a wedding procession, causing nationwide outrage.

Yet the Trump administration has dramatically increased the pace of drone strikes and other military operations in Yemen, including a botched raid in January that killed “scores of civilians” and one U.S. commando.

More Terror in Somalia

President Obama insisted in 2014 that the “strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

That rosy assessment would come as news not only to the people of Yemen, who have seen Al Qaeda thrive since the United States and Saudi Arabia expanded that country’s war, but also in Somalia. The East African country recently suffered the worst terror attack in its history—a truck bomb that killed more than three hundred people in the center of Mogadishu.

That attack, according to news reports, may have avenged a “botched U.S.-led operation” against al-Shabaab insurgents in August, which killed ten civilians, including three children.

Few Americans are aware of the scope of U.S. military operations in Somalia, where Washington is fighting one of its many undeclared wars. American drone strikes may have killed as many as 510 people in the country since 2007, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks death and injury reports.

In addition, the Pentagon has sharply increased the number of U.S. soldiers in the country, from fifty or so early this year to more than four hundred today.

On March 30, President Trump declared Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” giving the Pentagon authority to conduct air strikes without interagency vetting to minimize civilian casualties. The decision was quickly followed by a wave of suicide attacks by al-Shabaab against Somali government forces.

Niger Is Next

The head of the U.S. Africa Command has called Somalia “our most perplexing challenge,” but Niger surely ranks high on the list. Its contingent of eight hundred U.S. soldiers is the largest of several dozen low-profile U.S. military deployments on the continent.

The proposed expansion of drone strikes to that nation “would amount to a significant escalation in American counterterrorism operations,” according to NBC. To date, drones flown by the United States out of a base in Niger have been used only in Libya and Somalia. The base was approved by the Obama administration in 2014 to target “emerging” terrorist threats in the Sahel.

Donald Trump, who long ago forgot his promise to pull back from costly military interventions abroad, is doubling down on Obama’s strategy. “The war is morphing,” said Trump’s close confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican member of the Armed Services Committee. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less.”

The United States already has hundreds of soldiers stationed in neighboring Cameroon, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and other nations—some six thousand troops in all of Africa.

Nick Turse, author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, reports that the U.S. military now conducts an average of nearly 3,500 missions per year on the continent, an “explosive” increase of 1,900 percent since the U.S. Africa Command was created in 2008.

Beware of a Backlash

“The huge increase in U.S. military missions in Africa over the past few years represents nothing less than a shadow war being waged on the continent,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

“This military-heavy policy,” Hartung warned, “risks drawing the United States more deeply into local and regional conflicts in Africa and generating a backlash that could actually aid terrorist organizations in their recruitment.”

The most authoritative new study of the sources of terrorism and insurgency on the continent, Journey to Extremism in Africa (September 2017), finds that what triggers many individuals to join violent groups are incidents of government-sponsored violence, such as “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend.”

“These findings throw into stark relief the question of how counter-terrorism and wider security functions of governments in at-risk environments conduct themselves with regard to human rights and due process,” concludes the report, based on interviews with more than five hundred former members of militant organizations.

“State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse. . . These findings suggest that a dramatic reappraisal of state security-focused interventions is urgently required.”

Numerous other experts have drawn similar conclusions from conflict zones in the Middle East and Asia. In 2008, a RAND Corporation report on Lessons for Countering al-Qa’ida warned the U.S. military to “resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment. . . . Military force usually has the opposite effect from what is intended: It is often overused, alienates the local population by its heavy-handed nature, and provides a window of opportunity for terrorist-group recruitment.”

Similarly, the Stimson Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy, composed of former senior officials of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department, warned in 2014 that U.S. strikes had strengthened radical Islamic groups in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Among other drawbacks, it declared that “civilian casualties, even if relatively few, can anger whole communities, increase anti-US sentiment and become a potent recruiting tool for terrorist organizations. Even strikes that kill only terrorist operatives can cause great resentment, particularly in contexts in which terrorist recruiting e?orts rely on tribal loyalties or on an economically desperate population.”

These findings seem fully applicable to Niger, where “The growing foreign military footprint in the country appears to have fed a local backlash against both the government and Western countries,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Since the killing of the U.S. soldiers, Niger authorities have made things worse, rounding up village leaders and ordering thousands of people to evacuate the area where the Americans were ambushed in order to escalate the war on local militants.

The outcome will, of course, be the exact opposite of what Washington intends. As University of Kent professor Yvan Guichaoua said, “Targeting these groups is the best way to make their leaders heroes, foster unity in jihadi ranks, and inflame communal violence. All policymakers working in the area know well the highly inflammable nature of the situation.”

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has almost no one “working in the area.” President Trump only got around to announcing his intent to nominate an ambassador to Niger on September 2. The administration has deployed only five ambassadors to a continent of fifty-four countries and has not yet appointed a senior policymaker for Africa in the State Department.

Africa is suffering from a host of maladies, including ineffectual and corrupt governance, severe climate change, crumbling infrastructure and technological backwardness—as well as civil wars and insurgencies. The United Nations just warned that the continent needs eleven million more doctors, nurses and teachers to prevent a “social and economic disaster” by 2030.

Trying to address these complex ailments through increased U.S. armed intervention will simply aggravate the problem, as it has in so many other parts of the world. That should be the real lesson we take from the tragic failure of the recent U.S. military mission in Niger, and from the broader tragedy of our post–9/11 response to terrorism abroad.

Jonathan Marshall, an independent journalist and scholar, is author or co-author of five books related to national security or international relations, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War, and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:38 pm 

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France: Jihad terror plotters include 65-year-old former Legionnaire who converted to Islam
300+ Geller Report by Pamela Geller

Yesterday the Geller Report brought you the news of arrests of jihad terrorists all across France. Now here is a report from France on the arrests, giving more details. It turns out that one of the jihad plotters is Frederic Renet, a 65-year-old former Legionnaire who converted to Islam.

This sounds like Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. ISIS claimed that he was a recent convert to Islam, and ISIS does not have a history of claiming attacks that are not their own. The ISIS claim was widely dismissed. We were told that because Paddock was white and 64, it was unlikely that he would be a convert to Islam. Why? Islam is ideological – it’s not a race or an age. It’s a belief system. And now we learn of Frederic Renet, a 65-year-old man who converted to Islam and started plotting jihad mass murder.

Renet explodes a good deal of the official story about Paddock, whose actions have never been adequately explained by police or the FBI. The official story has been changed and contradicted so often, it is impossible to tell what really happened.

We need a full, open and honest investigation. We are not getting it.

Here is a translation of the French news story, courtesy Geller Report reader Alexandre:

8 arrested, including 1 former legionnaire, have admitted to belonging to the IS and prepare a bomb attack in France. The profiles of the individuals arrested are now better known. They are young people between 18 and 28 years old, except one of them, Frederic Renet, 65 years old, former legionnaire converted to radical Islam. A terrorist team formed, but not yet a specific target Several of these young people have admitted to being part of the IS custody as part of their custody and some have confirmed their willingness to commit an attack in France, according to Sophie Neumayer (France 3). The journalist said that the individuals were arrested before their target and the date of their passage to the act. An ex-legionnaire converted to radical Islam: Frederic becomes Yasin Frédéric Renet, a 65-year-old legionnaire tempted by armed violence, converted to radical Islam and took the name of Yasin. The person is suspected of having put his physical skills to the service of the cell Menton reports La Provence. Frédéric Renet was legionnaire in three regiments of the Foreign Legion, including the 2nd REP of Calvi. A “pretended imam” Switzerland is one of the 8 suspects Among the suspects is also a self-proclaimed imam known to the judiciary, as we reported on Thursday. The man would be one of the leaders of this terrorist project. The eight suspects were presented to a judge and indicted.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:41 pm 

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Germany: Persecution of Christians by Muslim Migrants Moves from Asylum Homes to the Streets
400+ Geller Report by Pamela Geller

Here is yet more of the poison fruit of Merkel’s suicidal immigration policies. Muslim migrants are persecuting Christian refugees in asylum homes and now in the streets. What are these Muslim migrants going to do when they encounter German Christians? The same thing: physically abuse them, harass them, and ultimately offer them the choice of conversion to Islam or payment of the jizya. Merkel has set Germany on the path of submission to Islam. She likely has no idea of the magnitude of the bloodshed and suffering that her policies have ensured will come upon the young people of Germany. Or maybe she just doesn’t care.

“Persecution of Christians by Muslim Migrants Moves from Asylum Homes to the Streets,” by Chris Tomlinson, Breitbart, November 9, 2017:

After several reports showed that Christians were being systematically persecuted in German asylum homes, the problem has now moved from the homes to the streets.

Gottfried Martens, the pastor of a free church in Berlin, claims that while over the last year or so asylum homes have become much safer for Christians, he has seen the persecution of Christians, especially converts from Islam, continue, Die Welt reports.

“Many who were in refugee shelters a year ago now have private homes,” Martens said but claimed that attacks on Christians now occurred on the streets or at metro stations.

Over the past year across the country, there have been several attacks on Christians including the murder of an Afghan woman in Prien am Chiemsee which police believe had a religious motive behind it.

The 38-year-old mother-of-four was stabbed to death in May by a male Muslim Afghan asylum seeker, and while police suspected a religious motive, the local Protestant church denied the act had anything to do with religion.

In September, another attack occurred in Berlin where a 23-year-old Afghan male convert was beaten by young men in a migrant-populated part of the city after they spotted him wearing a cross around his neck.

Ado Greve of the Christian charity Open Doors, which published an extensive report last year regarding violence against Christians, said: “Those who are attacked usually do not want to attract any attention and often feel they are not getting enough help from the authorities. The police can only respond to specific cases.”

Rosemarie Götze, known as Sister Rosemarie, does not think the situation has improved for Christians at all in the Berlin district of Neukölln where the attack against the Afghan convert took place.

Every Sunday, she holds a German-Persian service and hears harsh criticism against Islam from Afghan and Iranian congregants who say they hate Islam and some refuse to speak to Muslims.

Sister Rosemarie said a few speak about the attacks: “They are afraid that they will continue to be attacked or that families who are still abroad may learn that they have become Christians.”

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:04 pm 

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amgreatness.com Iran and Bin Laden – American Greatness
Angelo Codevilla

8-9 minutes

So little practical consequence does the relationship between the Iranian government and al-Qaeda have that, had not the recently released “Bin Laden papers” revealed it, hardly anyone would notice it. Both sides are getting from it what reality allows.

Iran looms large for al-Qaeda’s sequestered and largely impotent leadership. But as Iranian foreign policy deals with big issues to which bin Laden’s little band is marginal, it sets the price of its services. Some have expressed surprise that any relationship should exist between the center of Shia power and ultra-Sunni al-Qaeda. Yet it exists precisely to the extent of the coincidence between the two sides’ power and interests.

Comparing and contrasting al-Qaeda’s present relationship with Shia Iran and its past relationship with Sunni-led Iraq helps us understand the nature of the relationships that exist between the Muslim world’s governments and terrorist groups in general. Al-Qaeda is a prime example of the fact that these relationships are constantly shifting with circumstances, but that the states are always calling the shots.

The Bin Laden papers dispose summarily of the Sunni/Shia conflict: the Iranians are as much the enemies of unbelieving Westerners as are the Sunni Bin Laden followers. One can only imagine the Iranian side reciprocating. According to al-Qaeda’s headquarters, Iran’s practical importance is as a channel to the outside world—presumably because Sunni Pakistan, al-Qaeda’s headquarters, is not allowing the group to do business through its territory. But Iran’s contribution to AQ does not extend beyond transit of people and money. Some of that sustains AQ affiliates in Syria which are “frenemies” to groups fighting under Iranian leadership. No doubt Iran’s intimate acquaintance with this traffic gives it intelligence as well as the opportunity to “turn” these “frenemies.” It may well demand a cut of the money from the Gulf. Al-Qaeda seems to have little alternative.

Whatever grandiose ideas Bin Laden might have had during the 1980s of using contributions from friends in the Gulf to weld international Islamist recruits into military units to defeat the Muslim world’s bad guys evaporated fast. Unable to survive in the post-Soviet Afghan environment, he moved his band to Saudi Arabia. In 1990, King Fahd laughed when Bin Laden urged him not to call on the Americans to stop Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait because AQ’s troops could do it.

In 1991, when Fahd agreed to station U.S forces in the kingdom, he kicked out Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden went to Sudan, which, at the time was hostile to the Saudis and started taking money from Saddam, who had been hostile to the Saudis. But as Saddam focused exclusively on bloodying Americans so did Bin Laden. In 1996, when the Sudanese expelled him under U.S. pressure, he moved his group to Afghanistan, where he paid rent to the governing Pashtun Taliban by using his troops to fight their Tajik and Uzbek enemies. He also issued a fatwa in which he named America as the evil of evils, citing its mistreatment of Iraq. Saddam was paying the bills. At this time al-Qaeda took in the pre-existing, Iraqi-connected group around Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who organized 9/11. The 2001-2002 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan having led to the Tajik/Uzbek victory over his Pashtun patrons, bin Laden fled into hiding and irrelevance in Pakistan, apparently with limited Iranian patronage.

Why States Use Terrorists
None of this is to say that terrorist groups are puppets, or that they lack their own agendas—just that they are satellites that gravitate around heavier bodies. The orbits provide sustenance, protection, and significance. The groups leave them at their peril. For the states, these satellites are no more than instruments of proxy war, and hence useful only to the extent that they do not provoke direct clashes with other states.

After Egypt’s defeat in the 1956 war against Israel, Gamal Nasser sponsored Yasser Arafat to form a group of irregulars, which he called Fatah, to kill Israelis—but not enough of them to invite full-scale retaliation. Arafat so prospered and expanded in terrorism and picked up so much tangential outside support that he led Fatah out of Egypt’s orbit and attempted to set up his own state. In September 1970 this nearly proved fatal, as Jordan nearly destroyed it. Its remnants took refuge in Lebanon where, in 1982, a similar attempt without state backing also led to near annihilation.

Support—for contrasting reasons—from Syria, Qatar, and Turkey made it possible for some Iraqi radicals to establish what they came to call the Islamic State, which drew some 50,000 combatants from all parts of the world and, in 2014, seized control of what had been western Iraq and eastern Syria. But the moment that Turkey ceased to act as its hinterland, emporium, and sanctuary, and regular forces were arrayed against it, its fate was sealed.

The imperative of major power support applies to small, weak states as well. In our time, tiny Qatar has used its vast wealth to finance the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempt to take power in Egypt. As well, it has financed a variety of groups in the Syrian civil war opposed to others fighting on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. This use of indirect warfare directly to challenge powerful neighbors led to a blockade this year. Fortunately for Qatar, its foreign policy also includes hosting a U.S. base and corrupting influential Americans. Hence the United States is working to relieve the blockade.

Since indirect warfare can never trump the direct kind, intelligent states and groups are careful not to provoke an all-out war by resting foreign policy on terrorism. After 1991, Saddam Hussein rested his entire foreign policy on indirect warfare. Encouragement of all manner of anti-Westernism in the Muslim world plus support for terrorist groups made him popular with the Arab masses and a scourge to the Americans, who eventually overthrew him.

What Iran Knows
By contrast consider Iran, whose foreign policy is a textbook case of how to combine direct and indirect warfare.

The Iranian revolution of 1978 itself resulted, in part, from the Soviet Union’s indirect war on the West. Iran’s Shah having been America’s ally, the Soviets hosted the Ayatollah Khomeini’s headquarters for the revolution in Baku, Azerbaijan. Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization was Khomeini’s Soviet-supplied muscle.

Immediately thereafter the Islamic Republic learned how far it could safely take its semi-direct warfare when the United States reacted to the seizure of its embassy and personnel with pro forma economic sanctions. Since that time, the essence of Iran’s foreign policy has been its Revolutionary Guards’ strengthening and direction of Shia elements throughout the Muslim world to the point that they are not so much independent groups as they are extensions of Iranian power. Lebanon’s Hezbollah is the prime example. Because of it, Lebanon is hardly an independent state anymore. Iran’s hold on Shia Iraq through similar means is not and may never become total. But it moves in that direction.

Nevertheless, the logic of indirect warfare holds. If Hezbollah attacks Israel, the Israelis’ war must be against Lebanon and Iran as well. As Iraq attacks the Kurds with Iranian militias, it involves Iran in that war. Similarly, Iran has identified itself with Qatar and with Yemen’s Houti faction as to invite counteraction, indirect and possibly direct, from Saudi Arabia and its associates. The United States seems willing to absorb any provocation whatever. For now.

The point here is that, for all states, indirect warfare is an all too easy path to overextension. Saddam Hussein provoked too much. Iran is not there—yet.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:54 pm 

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Spinning the bin Laden Documents
Ned Price isn't right.
NOV 20, 2017 | By STEPHEN F. HAYES

(MIR HAMID/DAILY DAWN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Ned Price is not happy.

The former CIA analyst and National Security Council official was at the center of the Obama administration’s efforts to mislead the American people about the continuing threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates and about the rogue states whose support allowed it to regain its strength and expand. With the release on November 1 of 470,000 documents, images, videos, audio, and computer files captured during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the fact that the Obama administration politicized this intelligence became indisputable and the brazenness of its effort clear.

Those responsible are understandably nervous, and they’re lashing out. Ned Price, now an NBC News analyst and a fellow at the New America Foundation, is leading the way. “The newly-released documents don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know,” he tweeted almost as soon as the documents were released. The claim is absurd.

Did we know the contents of Osama bin Laden’s 228-page handwritten journal? Did we know that he first spoke of striking America in the mid-1980s? Did we know he wanted to boycott American apples?

Did we know that bin Laden was surprised by the ferocity of the American response to 9/11 or that he had a subordinate translate Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars so that he might better understand the new U.S. president? Did we know bin Laden’s thoughts on the Arab Spring as it unfolded? Did we know bin Laden sometimes issued statements based on his dreams?

Did we know, as Thomas Joscelyn put it in these pages last week, the extent to which bin Laden “remained an active manager of his far-flung network until his dying day, receiving updates from loyalists around the globe. Groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al Shabaab in Somalia all sought and received his guidance”?

The U.S. intelligence community had released only 571 of the captured documents between May 2015 and January 2017. The nearly half-million documents just released by the CIA tell us countless things we did not know. We’d never heard bin Laden’s own explanation for how he became a “committed” Muslim or that he credits a prominent Turkish Islamist for his theological evolution. We’d never seen the adult face of Hamza bin Laden—Osama’s heir, whom al Qaeda is grooming for a senior leadership post.

We now have many more details of al Qaeda’s support from Iran. We didn’t know, for instance, that the Iranian regime, which had alternately harbored and detained Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was supposedly surprised when the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq chose to return to Iraq and fight upon his release.

We have new insights into the ties between the leadership of al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.

We even learned that bin Laden took in American pop culture as he condemned it and that someone in his compound had a copy of the popular “Charlie Bit My Finger” YouTube video downloaded on a computer.

We learned all this in just one week. Terrorism researchers and scholars will be studying this new information for years in order to gain a fuller understanding of bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Why would Ned Price say something so demonstrably false?

Because the other thing we learned by studying these newly released documents is that the narrative of bin Laden and al Qaeda carefully created by the Obama administration—that of an isolated, impotent jihadist leader detached from his deteriorating terror network and at odds with the regime in Iran—was deeply misleading.

* *

Price sells himself as a disinterested intelligence professional and a partisan of only the truth. He made news at the outset of the Trump administration when he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post announcing his resignation from the CIA. The headline: “I didn’t think I’d ever leave the CIA. But because of Trump, I quit.”

In the piece, Price described the importance of an impartial intelligence community, dedicated to providing unvarnished analyses to the country’s leading policymakers, and made a strong case that we ought to be concerned about Trump’s eagerness to set aside the concerns of U.S. intelligence professionals on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And he denounced as inappropriate Trump’s comments at the CIA in the opening days of his administration”:

Standing in front of a memorial to the CIA’s fallen officers, he seemed to be addressing the cameras and reporters in the room, rather than the agency personnel in front of them, bragging about his inauguration crowd the previous day. Whether delusional or deceitful, these were not the remarks many of my colleagues and I wanted to hear from our new commander in chief.

Price wrote that intelligence professionals are “taught to tune out politics” and insisted that his decision to quit “had nothing to do with politics.” But he had left out an important detail. A little more than six months earlier, he had contributed $5,000 in support of Hillary Clinton. The Post updated his op-ed with a clarification: “This column should have included a disclosure of donations made by author Edward Price in support of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In August, Price gave a total of $5,000 to the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.”

For reporters who had dealt with Price in the three years he had been detailed to the NSC from the CIA, his politics came as no surprise. As NSC spokesman, Price worked at the center of the Obama administration’s national-security spin machine, a fact illuminated in the much-discussed 2016 profile of deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes in the New York Times Magazine. Together, the two carefully cultivated an echo chamber of Obama loyalists in the media, who could be counted on to amplify White House messaging, praise the president’s initiatives, and defend him whenever necessary.

So it was business as usual for Price when the CIA released the Abbottabad documents, and he rapidly laid out a counternarrative on Twitter:

CIA released what it claims are the final public files from Bin Laden’s lair. I’m all for transparency, but this isn’t about that.

In January, [the director of national intelligence], which led the declassification effort, released what it said was the final tranche of Bin Laden files.

The DNI-led review was overseen by career intel officials, who concluded that, w[ith] the Jan[uary] files, all those of public interest were released.

But a funny thing happened when CIA Director Pompeo came into office. I’m told he re-launched a review of the files.

In doing so, he took officers away from important missions to pore—and re-pore—over the millions of documents.

How can we be sure this was a CIA effort? Unlike previous releases, today’s files are hosted on CIA.gov, not the DNI site.

Why would he do that? It seems he’s convinced the unreleased files would tie al-Qa’ida to Iran.

He said as much at the gathering of a conservative group, [the Foundation for Defense of Democracies], opposed to the Iran deal in September.

As luck would have it, CIA provided an advance copy of today’s files to Long War Journal, this group’s publication.

The ploy is transparent despite the fact that the newly-released documents don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

What’s not as transparent are the motives of Pompeo, the administration’s leading and most influential Iran hawk.

But these moves suggest he’s reverting to the Bush administration’s playbook: Emphasize terrorist ties as a rationale for regime change.

Price wrote this tweetstorm up as an article for the Atlantic several days later, but the incoherence remained. In one section, he allowed that “it’s impossible to discern Pompeo’s exact motives in this latest release,” only to declare a few sentences later that he, Ned Price, had managed the impossible and could see the CIA director’s exact motives. “Pompeo is playing politics with intelligence,” Price wrote, “using these files in a plot to bolster the case against Iran by reinvigorating the debate on its terrorist ties.”

* *

For years, the Obama White House resisted calls to release the bin Laden documents. The self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history” gave a series of convenient and self-contradictory reasons for its refusal to share the collection.

At times, we were told the documents couldn’t be released because the information was too sensitive and valuable to make public. At others, however, the administration asserted that there wasn’t much to the cache and what remained unreleased was mostly jihadist detritus that wouldn’t interest anyone.

Sometimes the explanations came from the intelligence agencies; sometimes they came from the National Security Council. In most cases, however, the answers were plainly coordinated. White House officials were copied on emails from the intelligence agencies and vice versa. Ned Price helped direct these efforts.

The January 2017 DNI release that Price holds up as definitive was called “Closing the Book on Bin Laden.” But it covered just 571 documents from the vast Abbottabad collection—a tiny fraction. The accompanying press release claimed that the newly released batch of documents “mirrors themes in previous releases,” among them bin Laden’s “hatred, suspicion of Iran.” It is true that this is what previous ODNI releases claimed. But it just isn’t true that this is what the Abbottabad documents show.

In one previously released document, bin Laden credited Iran for serving as the “main artery” for the strengthening and growth of al Qaeda.

And a document released earlier this month—one we never would have seen if Price had gotten his way—expands on this earlier knowledge. This 19-page report, authored by a senior al Qaeda operative, says that the Iranian regime provided “Saudi brothers” in al Qaeda “everything they needed,” including “money, arms,” and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in exchange for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.” And a video made public as part of the latest release shows Hamza bin Laden reciting his wedding vows—alongside several senior al Qaeda operatives—in Iran.

In 2015, during the intense debate over the Iran nuclear deal, the government threat assessment on Iran largely elided the country’s role in supporting terrorism. Language that had appeared in previous threat assessments from the intelligence community was gone in the new version. A spokesman for the ODNI told us at the time that the changes had been made for reasons of space and were not an effort to downplay Iran’s support for terror.

But that is just what the White House team was trying to do.

Multiple U.S. Treasury Department designations cited a secret agreement between Iran and al Qaeda under which the Iranian regime actively harbored al Qaeda’s “core pipeline.” A February 2012 designation reported that Iranian officials “facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” An October 2012 designation reported: “Iran continues to allow al Qaeda to operate a core pipeline that moves al Qaeda money and fighters through Iran to support al-Qaeda activities in South Asia. This network also sends funding and fighters to Syria.” A February 2014 Treasury designation singles out “a key Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator who supports al-Qaeda’s vital facilitation network in Iran, that operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.” Sources familiar with the intelligence on Iran have told us that much of the language characterizing the Iran-al Qaeda relationship in those designations comes from the Abbottabad documents.

There were tensions between Iran and al Qaeda, to be certain, including over Hamza’s eventual detention in the country. And the documents—new and old—describe moments of frustration and mistrust between these two American enemies. Bin Laden did not want Iran to export its Shiite version of Islam throughout the region, and he considered plans to combat Iranian expansion. Al Qaeda also kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to free hostages held by the Iranian government. Any assessment of the threat presented by Iran and al Qaeda ought to take account of these strains and must appreciate that the relationship is based on mutual exploitation rather than ideological or doctrinal affinity.

That’s not what the previous assessment from the ODNI did. And background statements from “senior intelligence officials” and NSC spokesmen working under the supervision of Price gave the same misimpression. In the past, Obama officials dismissed Iran-al Qaeda cooperation as “baseless conspiracy theories” and claimed, “anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either.” The CIA’s release of the vast bulk of the Abbottabad documents reveals a much more complicated picture—and the degree to which such statements had been White House-driven spin.

No wonder Ned Price isn’t happy.

Stephen F. Hayes is editor in chief of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
http://www.weeklystandard.com/spinning- ... le/2010416

I am Charlie

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