Opinion: Iraq is like South Vietnam in 1963 – the US should walk away

Diem and LodgeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS* | intelNews.org
As I watch the dramatic collapse of the Federal government of Iraq, I keep telling myself that I cannot possibly be the only person noticing the remarkable political resemblance between the Iraq of 2014 and the South Vietnam of 1963. Just like government of Iraq today, the Republic of South Vietnam, which had been set up with direct American support flowing France’s exit from Indochina in 1954, faced increasing domestic opposition that was both political and religious. In Iraq today it is the Sunni Muslims who have taken up arms against the Shiite-controlled government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The South Vietnamese President, Ngo Dinh Diem, a westernized Vietnamese Catholic, whose family had been proselytized to Christianity in the 17th century, was shunned by South Vietnam’s Buddhist majority. The latter became increasingly agitated in opposition to the American supported government in Saigon, which they saw as alien and fundamentally anti-Vietnamese. Diem’s response was to intensify internal repression in South Vietnam. He unleashed the country’s secret police, controlled by his shadowy brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, against the Buddhist community. In the summer of 1963, Buddhist monks began resorting to self-immolation in a desperate attempt to draw public attention to their repression by Diem’s paramilitaries. Nhu’s wife, the fashionable Madame Nhu, shocked public opinion by dismissing the incidents as just some “drugged monks barbecuing themselves”. Washington immediately distanced itself from her comments, and increasingly from Diem.

In the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy, a personal friend of Diem, publicly accused the government in Saigon of having “lost touch” with the Vietnamese people and condemned the harsh repression of the Buddhist community. In private, Kennedy had gone a step further, instructing the Central Intelligence Agency and his Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, to begin consulting with the South Vietnamese military about the possibility of deposing Diem. By that time, the Diem regime had become immensely unpopular in South Vietnam. Read more of this post

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Ex-MI6 head ‘might air memoirs’ to set Iraq War record straight

Sir Richard DearloveBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of Britain’s external spy service has hinted he might publish his personal account of the decisions that led to Britain’s entry in the Iraq War, if he is criticized in a public inquiry on the subject. Sir Richard Dearlove led the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as SIS or MI6, from 1999 until his retirement in 2004. He is currently on sabbatical from his post as Master of Cambridge University’s Pembroke College, in order to research and author his autobiography. The memoir is believed to be largely preoccupied with the intelligence that led to the British government’s decision to enter the United States-led 2003 war in Iraq. Sir Richard had previously indicated that he intended to make his memoirs posthumously available as a resource to academic researchers. But in an email to British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, he hinted he would consider publishing his personal account if he finds himself criticized by the Iraq Inquiry. Known in Britain as the Chilcot Inquiry, after its Chairman, Sir John Chilcot, the Iraq Inquiry was commissioned by the British government in 2009 to investigate the executive decisions that led the country to participate in the invasion of Iraq. One of the inquiry’s many goals was to evaluate the intelligence provided by MI6 to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. There have been rumors that the inquiry’s declassified findings, which are scheduled for publication soon, are critical of MI6’s performance and place particular blame on Sir Richard’s role in the debacle. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #827

Brigadier General Mohammed KhaloufBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Analysis: The spies who fooled the world about Iraq. On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, the BBC flagship investigative program Panorama has aired a documentary arguing that, even before the fighting in Iraq started, intelligence from highly placed sources was available in the UK, suggesting that the administration of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
►►Syrian officer to auction spy files as general defects. Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported this past weekend that an intelligence officer that defected is offering to auction the intelligence archives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat. Meanwhile, Syrian Brigadier General Mohammed Khalouf and about 20 soldiers defected from the Syrian army in two separate incidents on Saturday, according to rebel-controlled media.
►►Half a million wiretapped in Turkey in last decade. Some 470,000 people in Turkey have been subject to eavesdropping over the past 11 years, said officials from the Gendarmerie Command’s intelligence unit. In 2012 alone, over 33,000 people were eavesdropped on by the Gendarmerie, according to information given to the Turkish Parliament’s Eavesdropping Examination Commission. Notably Gendarmerie authorities said that they found no information or documents regarding the case of the wire-tapping of the Turkish Prime Minister in their examination of their own records.

CIA declassifies internal review on Iraq ‘intelligence failure’

Report cover pageBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An internal report on the alleged failure of the Central Intelligence Agency to accurately read the intentions of the Iraqi regime in the run-up to the 2003 invasion by the United States, has been declassified. The report, entitled Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspections Created Picture of Deception, was authored in 2006, classified ‘secret’. It was prepared by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the part of the Agency that is responsible for collating and assessing gathered intelligence in order to assist the decisions of US policy-makers on key foreign issues. The report describes what it sees as the DI’s intelligence failure to assess the true state of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction program in the run-up to the US invasion. It says that invalid predispositions and “analytic liabilities” among CIA analysts prevented the Agency from seeing the issue of weapons of mass destruction from the viewpoint of the Iraqi government. Although heavily redacted, the report seems to state that CIA analysts spent little time examining the view, held by many at the time, that the Iraqi regime had in fact terminated its WMD program by 1995. Furthermore, Agency analysts failed to realize in time that, although it had terminated its WMD program, the Iraqi regime maintained a deliberate policy of ambivalence about the purported existence of the program, in order to save face, deter potential adversaries and appear more dangerous than it actually was. Such a policy of deception was well within the character of the Iraqi regime and should have been detected by American intelligence experts, says the report. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #705

Neil HeywoodBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►UK man found dead in China had links to intel company. It has emerged that Neil Heywood, a British citizen and China expert, who was recently found dead in a hotel room in China, was an adviser to Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm founded by former MI6 officers. Hakluyt has confirmed that Heywood prepared periodic reports for it, but said he had not been working for the company at the time of his death.
►►Analysis: Iraq war ghosts haunting CIA in tackling Iran. At America’s top spy agency, the ghosts of Iraq are never far away. One CIA analyst who had helped develop some of the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction had a breakdown, months after the Iraq war began; he had participated in the post-invasion hunt there that found the weapons did not exist. When he eventually was given a new assignment assessing Iran’s nuclear program, he confided a fear to colleagues: that the intelligence community might get it wrong again.
►►Interview with African-American CIA official. Starting in the early 1980s, as a standout undergraduate student at Colgate University, Harvard-trained lawyer and master of several languages, Justin Jackson is now the most senior African-American at the CIA. From 1983 to 2010, he served under five presidents and 10 CIA directors. “My job was to collect foreign intelligence from those human sources who were reporting on the plans and intentions of our adversaries. I also conducted covert action as directed by the administration and I ran counterintelligence operations to detect efforts that foreign countries were making against us”, he says.

News you may have missed #654

Abdel Hakim Belhaj►►Libyan military commander sues British intelligence. Just as he said he would, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who commands the new Libyan military forces in Tripoli, has sued Britain for its role in his rendition into imprisonment and torture at the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. He said he resorted to legal action after waiting in vain for the British government to offer an apology for his seven years spent in the jails of the secret police.
►►Argentine Admiral fired over espionage scandal. The head of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Jorge Godoy, has stepped down after being accused of illegal espionage. He has been indicted for alleged practices of “domestic intelligence” –which are prohibited by Argentina’s laws– against political leaders and of human rights activists, in the years between 2003 and 2006.
►►US intelligence warned of strive after US Iraq pullout. This is what Reuters news agency reports, citing anonymous sources inside the US government. Then again, US intelligence agencies warned in 2002 of increasing strife in case of a US invasion in Iraq, and nobody in government listened to them. So why would anyone listen to them now?

News you may have missed #596

August Hanning

August Hanning

►►Analysis: China’s growing spy threat. Extensive and well-research analysis by Alex Newman in The Dipomat magazine. The article contains input by –among others– Charles Viar, of the Center for Intelligence Studies, Larry Wortzel, formerly of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, and intelNews’ own Joseph Fitsanakis.
►►Dutch court orders compensation for Indonesian massacre widows. The Dutch state is responsible for executions committed by colonial troops at an Indonesian village in 1947 and relatives of victims should be compensated, a Dutch court has ruled. Eight widows and one survivor from the town of Rawagedeh, east of Jakarta, took the Dutch state to court in 2008 to claim compensation for the execution of men and boys on December 9, 1947 by Dutch colonial troops.
►►Bush official says Germany partly responsible for Iraq War fiasco. A few weeks ago, August Hanning, the former Director of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, accused the Bush administration of consciously falsifying intelligence supplied by Germany in order to justify going to war in Iraq. Hanning’s charges related to ‘Curveball’, an Iraqi defector to Germany who supplied the CIA with false information about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, in order to justify his political asylum. But now the American side is fighting back. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff has told German newspaper Die Welt that the Germans were “at least partly responsible” for the war (article in German).

News you may have missed #580

Baroness Manningham-Buller

Manningham-Buller

►►Ex-MI5 director says Iraq posed not threat to UK. Iraq posed no threat to the UK when then Prime Minister Tony Blair took Britain to war there, according to Baroness Manningham-Buller, former Director of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. In an interview, she described the Iraq war as an unnecessary action that increased the domestic threat to the UK, and “a distraction from the pursuit of al-Qaeda”. No kidding.
►►Interview about DAS wiretaps with Colombia Attorney General. This blog has covered extensively the wiretapping program against opposition politicians, journalists and civil rights activists, by Colombia’s disgraced DAS domestic intelligence agency. This Washington Post interview with Colombia’s new attorney general, Vivian Morales, displays the toothless nature of the government’s ‘investigation’ into the scandal. Morales says that her investigation has “nothing to do” with allegations that the Colombian government used funds provided by Washington to implement the wiretapping. She also says that she cannot “legally investigate” the question of whether former President Alvaro Uribe knew about the wiretaps.
►►Taiwan losing spy game with China. The deputy news editor of The Taipei Times argues that the United States is scaling back its sales of defense equipment to Taiwan because of “the penetration of almost every sector of Taiwanese society by Chinese intelligence”. Accordingly, “any arms sale to Taiwan carries the risk that sensitive military technology will end up in Beijing”, he says.

US misused our intel to justify Iraq War, says German ex-spy chief

August Hanning

August Hanning

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of Germany’s foreign intelligence service has accused the Bush administration of consciously falsifying intelligence supplied by Germany in order to justify going to war in Iraq. August Hanning, who served as Director of Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (known as BND) from 1998 to 2005, said that the BND had no part in the deception, and that “the responsibility for the war lies solely with the Americans”. In an interview to the Sunday edition of German national newspaper Die Welt, Hanning explained that the administration of US President George W. Bush was especially interested in intelligence collected by the BND from an Iraqi defector codenamed ‘Curveball’. The defector, whose real name is Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, arrived in Germany in 1999 and applied for political asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Among other things, he told his BND debriefing team that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of biological weapons labs on wheels, in order to avoid detection from America and other countries. After consulting with biological weapons experts, the BND expressed serious doubts about Curveball’s reliability, but kept him in Germany nonetheless. Several years later, al-Janabi confirmed the BND’s suspicions, by admitting that he had invented his allegations in order to help bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein. He also admitted that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to get asylum in Germany. At the time, said Hanning, the BND strongly and repeatedly communicated to the CIA its doubts about Curveball’s claims, something which is known. What is not known, however, is that Hanning personally wrote to then CIA Director George Tenet and urged him to adopt a skeptical approach to the defector’s allegations. The former BND chief told Die Welt that he was “assured by the Americans that our intelligence would not be used in Powell’s speech”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #542

Sir John Chilcot

Sir John Chilcot

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-spy says MI6 cut corners to back Blair’s Iraq war case. Britain’s ongoing Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot, heard last week from a former spy, identified in documents only as “SIS2″. The witness said that MI6 was “probably too eager to please” the government and was guilty of “flying a bit too close to the sun”. He was referring to the intelligence support provided by MI6 in support of the case for entering the Iraq War, made by the Labour government of Prime Minister Tony blair in 2003. He also told the committee that “the pressure to generate results, I fear, did lead to the cutting of corners”. ►►Medical group criticizes CIA’s vaccination scheme. A whimiscal tone prevails in most articles on the recent revelation that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on Osama bin Laden by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, Pakistan. But medical groups engaged in organizing vaccination schemes are not amused. French-based international medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières has lashed out at the CIA because, it said, by using a medical cover for its assassination scheme, the Agency endangered those who conduct life-saving immunization work around the world. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #477 (Germany edition)

  • German ex-foreign minister in spat with ex-CIA director. Former CIA Director, George Tenet, claims that he discovered “too damn late” that Curveball –the Iraqi defector who became a key source for the CIA and the German secret service (BND)– was a fabricator. But Germany’s former foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, has told journalists that the BND did in fact share its doubts about Curveball with the CIA.
  • German spy chief claims Mubarak to stay in Egypt [unconfirmed]. According to German newspaper Die Welt, Ernst Uhrlau, director of Germany’s BND federal intelligence agency, says he has “no evidence that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wants to leave the country, and that his comment that he intends to stay and be buried in Egypt “is credible”.
  • Austrian on trial in Germany on charges of spying for Russia. An Austrian soldier is on trial in Germany, accused of spying for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and passing on sensitive information about European helicopter prototypes. Prosecutors at the Munich court allege that the unnamed 54-year-old Austrian army mechanic spied from 1997 to 2002.

Colin Powell wants answers over fake Iraq intelligence

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi

Alwan al-Janabi

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by recent news that the Iraqi defector whose information helped build the Bush Administration’s case for invading Iraq in 2003, has admitted he lied about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known in intelligence circles as ‘Curveball’, arrived in Germany in 1999, where he applied for asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Serious doubts about al-Janabi’s reliability were expressed at the time by Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, the BND, and by some in the CIA. Yet his testimony became a major source of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech before the United Nations Security Council, in which he layed out Washington’s case for war. A year later, both the BND and the CIA concluded that al-Janabi had been lying about his alleged biological weapons role, and that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to fool Western intelligence. Now al-Janabi, who still lives in Germany, has spoken to British newspaper The Guardian, and openly admitted that his story was completely fabricated. He told the paper that he was an “opposition activist” and that he lied to his German and American intelligence handlers in order to help “topple” the regime of Saddam Hussein. Read more of this post

Why is Germany protecting Iraqi informant who lied about WMDs?

Rafid Ahmed Alwan

Alwan al-Janabi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
German politicians in the state of Baden-Württemberg are questioning the protection given by German intelligence services to a notorious Iraqi informant, who lied about Iraq’s weapons program. Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known in intelligence circles as “Curveball”, arrived in Germany in 1999, where he applied for political asylum, saying he had been employed as a senior scientist in Iraq’s biological weapons program. Despite serious doubts expressed at the time by officials in Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, the BND, and by some of their CIA colleagues, al-Janabi was given asylum in Germany. Moreover, information gathered from his testimony became a major source of the Bush Administration’s argument in favor of going to war in Iraq in 2003. Less than a year later, both the BND and the CIA concluded that al-Janabi had been lying about his alleged biological weapons role, and that he was in reality a taxi driver from Baghdad, who had used his undergraduate knowledge of engineering to fool Western intelligence. Read more of this post

WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA’s role in Iraq

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Along with unprecedented inside information on American military operations in Iraq, the 400,000 US military reports recently released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks provide several interesting snippets of the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in that ongoing conflict. Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog correctly notes that, unlike Afghanistan, where the CIA’s role has been relatively clear almost from the very start of the US invasion, the Agency’s function in Iraq has been something of a mystery for most outside observers. There has even been some speculation that the CIA has been sidelined in Iraq by a host of Pentagon-managed special operations outfits, including the Joint Special Operations Command. But the WikiLeaks documents, which are primarily composed of incident reports authored by US troops on the ground in Iraq, include frequent references to operations by “Other Government Agency” or “OGA” —a term usually reserved for the CIA in internal military documents. Collectively, the reports referring to OGA activities reveal significant paramilitary functions performed by CIA personnel until as recently as 2009. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #446

  • American pleads guilty to spying for China. Glenn D. Shriver acknowledged on Friday that he accepted $70,000 from Chinese spies as he attempted to secure jobs with the CIA and US Foreign Service that would have allowed him to expose US government secrets. He apparently spent two years going through the CIA hiring process and reached the final security screenings. But US intelligence sources say Shriver was discovered very early in the hiring process.
  • Obama widens CIA operations in Pakistan. The US is pushing to expand secret CIA operations in Pakistan. But Islamabad is so far rebuffing US requests to allow additional CIA officers and special operations military trainers to enter the country.
  • US spy balloons blew towards Iran. The latest WikiLeaks revelations show that on two occasions in 2006 American JLens spy balloons broke from their moorings in Iraq and drifted toward the Iranian airspace. No information on the balloons’ fate is reported in the war logs. Did Iran get hold of them?
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