The most important issue is that this administration is seeking to withdraw from the fight against al Qaeda and return to a pre-9/11 posture. This should come as no surprise, as Obama has from the beginning of his presidency called for the end of US involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the Abbottabad raid in May 2011, touted the death of Osama bin Laden (and, subsequently, some of his lieutenants) as the end of al Qaeda….
This administration assumes that local insurgencies will remain local and that their efforts will be focused on the “near enemy,” or the local governments they oppose, vs. the “far enemy,” most notably the United States. But this is a major misunderstanding of al Qaeda, its guiding philosophy, and how it has operated historically. Al Qaeda has always focused most of its efforts to fight the near enemy, and has culled certain operatives from this cadre of seasoned fighters to plan and conduct attacks against the West. (Long War Journal, Posted 25 May 13)
In seventy lugubrious paragraphs, President Obama today asked America whether as commander-in-chief he should bomb terrorists. He concluded that sometimes he should, and sometimes he shouldn’t. He couldn’t quite make up his mind. Therefore, he would appoint a panel to advise him….
Mr. Obama then criticized the Guantanamo prison for terrorists. “We compromised our basic values,” he said, “by detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.” His remedy? He was sending 62 of the 86 prisoners back to Yemen. Those killers would then be someone else’s problem. Let’s hope Yemen does not copy the president’s example and let them loose to kill more Americans. That result would conflict with “our basic values.” (National Review, Posted 24 May 13)
Iran has begun paving over a former military site where its scientists are suspected to have conducted nuclear-weapons-related experiments, according to a new U.N. report, a move that could doom efforts to reconstruct a critical part of Iran’s nuclear history.
Satellite photos of the site, known as Parchin, show fresh asphalt covering a broad area where suspicious tests were carried out several years ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an internal report that was prepared for diplomats. (Washington Post, Posted 24 May 13)
The U.N. atomic agency on Wednesday detailed rapid Iranian progress in two programs that the West fears are geared toward making nuclear weapons, saying Tehran has upgraded its uranium enrichment facilities and advanced in building a plutonium-producing reactor….
Iran denies that either its enrichment program or the reactor will be used to make nuclear arms. Most international concern has focused on its enrichment, because it is further advanced than the reactor and already has the capacity to enrich to weapons-grade uranium.
But the IAEA devoted more space to the reactor Wednesday than it has in previous reports. While its language was technical, a senior diplomat who closely follows the IAEA’s monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities said that reflected increased international concerns about the potential proliferation dangers it represents as a completion date approaches. (Associated Press, Posted 22 May 13)
The federal government has given the job of compiling statistics used by the State Department to analyze trends in global terrorism to an academic group, a move that may complicate accurate unclassified assessments of patterns of terrorist activity for years to come….
But because of the switch, the statistics are likely to be dramatically different this year compared with previous years. Several officials said that when the next edition of the State Department survey is released, they expect the number of terrorist incidents for 2012, including figures on the number of people kidnapped, wounded or killed by terrorists, to be significantly lower than what was reported in previous years. But that decrease may not reflect an actual downward trend in attacks on the ground. (Washington Post, Posted 22 May 13)
The union representing the State Department’s security officers has endorsed House Republicans’ call for a special panel to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi…. “The production of 1,000 documents by the State Department and the administration, as well as the testimony of former Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, has proven insufficient in addressing numerous unanswered questions,” Adler wrote. “When the questions involve the fatalities of two heroic SEALS, as well as the injuries of brave DSS Special Agents, every government resource should be committed towards answering them.
“We don’t kick heroes under the carpet because we find an investigative inquiry administratively inconvenient.” (The Hill, Posted 21 May 13)
A good deal of media attention has quite appropriately been lavished on e-mail traffic between mid-level administration officials in the days leading up to Sunday, September 16. That is the day when Ms. Rice, a close Obama confidant, made her appalling appearances on the Sunday-morning political shows. Those performances were transparently designed to mislead the American people, during the presidential campaign stretch run, into believing that an anti-Islamic Internet video — rather than a coordinated terrorist attack orchestrated by al-Qaeda affiliates, coupled with the Obama administration’s gross failure to secure and defend American personnel in Benghazi — was responsible for the killings.
Fraud flows from the top down, not the mid-level up. Mid-level officials in the White House and the State Department do not call the shots — they carry out orders. They also were not running for reelection in 2012 or positioning themselves for a campaign in 2016. The people doing that were, respectively, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. (National Review, Posted 21 May 13)
Following the attack in Benghazi, Libya, senior State Department officials close to Hillary Clinton ordered the removal of a midlevel official who had no role in security decisions and has never been told the charges against him. He is now accusing Clinton’s team of scapegoating him for the failures that led to the death of four Americans last year.
Maxwell just wants his day in court. He wrote a poem on his personal blog in April which referred to the State Department’s treatment of the four officials removed from their jobs after Benghazi as a “lynching.” Last week, he posted another poem about the growing Benghazi scandal. “The web of lies they weave gets tighter and tighter in its deceit until it bottoms out -at a very low frequency – and implodes,” he wrote. “Yet all the while, the more they talk, the more they lie, and the deeper down the hole they go.” (Daily Beast, Posted 20 May 13)
Putin is determined to prevent Assad’s fall from power, fearing that a like-minded leader’s demise would reverberate throughout his own country. Russia’s missile transfer and deployment of ships off the Syrian coast underscore Putin’s desire to eliminate the possibility of a U.S.-led effort to intervene and to preserve the Russian base in Tartus. The actions also reflect Putin’s utter disdain for the United States, which he views as weak and needing him more than he needs it.
Beyond Russia’s policy toward Syria, examples of that disdain are plentiful, even in the past two weeks. The day Kerry arrived, a former senior official at the U.S. Embassy now in the private sector was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for 17 hours without food or water, interrogated and then deported. Putin then kept Kerry waiting for three hours before their meeting. (Washington Post op-ed, Posted 20 May 13)
The Chinese navy’s surface forces are on the march. Destroyers, frigates, corvettes, fast-attack craft, and, most recently, the newly commissioned aircraft carrier comprise the surface fleet. Over the past two decades, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) has put to sea four Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers procured from Russia, along with ten new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates. Some of the latter ship types have entered serial production, adding mass to the fleet. This is an impressive feat by any standard.
The PLA Navy’s metamorphosis from a coastal defense force into a modern naval service has riveted the attention of the U.S. defense community. In 2009 the Office of Naval Intelligence — a body not known for hyperbole — described the advances of China’s surface fleet as “remarkable.” Similarly, the Pentagon’s most recent annual report on Chinese military power notes the “robust” buildup of PLA Navy major combatants since 2008. (The Diplomat, Posted 19 May 13)
The Washington Post editorial board is quite upset with “Republicans and conservative media obsessed” with the “phony” issue of the administration’s misleading public explanation of the nature of the attacks in Benghazi. In a lengthy editorial, the Post makes a haughtier and more condescending version of a complaint we’ve heard from others. So it’s worth a response.
The piece begins with a complaint that critics charged that “Susan E. Rice ‘willfully or incompetently misled the American public’ when she appeared on news programs Sept. 16 and described the attackers as having emerged from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.” That argument is wrong, the Post avers, because “it was established that Ms. Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community.” That’s incorrect, and for an editorial devoted to much harrumphing that “actual facts don’t seem to matter much to the scandal mongers,” it’s an inauspicious start. (Weekly Standard, Posted 18 May 13)
Secretary Kerry’s announcement of a peace conference on Syria only ten days ago has been met with a series of remarkable provocations from the Russians: First, they refused to halt the sale of a sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons system to Assad, one which would make the imposition of a no-fly zone more difficult. Second, they expelled an alleged CIA spy from the country, a move most notable for the amount of bluster and indignation that accompanied it.
And as the WSJ reports today, the Russian navy, which began a sustained buildup around Syria three months ago, shows no signs of backing down. (The American Interest, Posted 18 May 13)