CIA chief paid secret visit to Israel ahead of Iran nuclear deal

John BrennanThe director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency visited Israel in secret last week to discuss the Jewish state’s refusal to endorse an emerging deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Citing “two senior Israeli officials”, the Tel Aviv-based Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Tuesday that CIA Director John Brennan arrived in Israel last Thursday. Although he was officially hosted by Tamir Pardo, director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Brennan used the opportunity to hold secret meetings with several senior Israeli officials, said Haaretz. Among them were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, as well as Major General Hartzl Halevi, who heads Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate.

According to Haaretz, Brennan’s visit to Israel had been planned “long ahead of time”, and should not be interpreted as a sudden diplomatic move from Washington. However, it came just weeks ahead of a deadline for a far-reaching settlement next month between Iran and six world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. If successful, the much-heralded deal will mark the conclusion of ongoing negotiations between the Islamic Republic and a group of nations that have come to be known as P5+1, representing the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Israel, however, has strongly criticized the negotiations, referred to as ‘the Geneva pact’. Last year, the Israeli Prime Minister called the pact a “historic mistake” that would enable “the most dangerous regime in the world” to get closer to “attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world”.

It is not known whether Brennan brought with him a message from US President Barack Obama addressed to the Israeli Prime Minister, said Haaretz. On Monday, just 72 hours after Brennan’s departure, another senior American official landed in Tel Aviv —openly this time. It was General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was hosted by his Israeli counterpart, General Gadi Eisenkot. Like Brennan before him, General Dempsey met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon. Haaretz contacted the CIA about Brennan’s secret visit to Israel, but an Agency spokesperson refused to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 June 2015 | Permalink:

White House confirms CIA Director visited Ukraine

White House officials has confirmed that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency visited Ukraine over the weekend, following reports in the Russian media. On Sunday, Moscow urged Washington to respond to allegations in the Russian press that CIA Director John Brennan had made an incognito visit to Ukrainian capital Kiev. The reports alleged that Brennan, who assumed the directorship of the CIA a year ago, traveled to Ukraine on official business under a false identity in order to avoid attention. Russian media further alleged that the CIA head met with a host of Ukrainian intelligence and security officials and advised them on how to respond to the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. Initially, Washington denied comment on the allegations. But early on Monday White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Brennan had indeed traveled to Ukraine over the weekend. He said that the White House normally declines comment on the whereabouts of the CIA Director. However, “given the extraordinary circumstances” in the case of Ukraine, he said he was willing to confirm that Brennan was in Kiev over the weekend “as part of a trip to Europe”. He went on to state that he hoped the official confirmation of Brennan’s trip by the White House would suffice to discredit the “false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA”. Carney added that there was nothing inherently suspicious about a CIA Director’s trip to a foreign country. He argued that “senior-level visits of intelligence officials [abroad] are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation” and that such visits —some of which have been to Russia— go back “to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era”. Read more of this post

US held secret meetings with North Korea after Kim Jong Il’s death

North and South KoreaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Senior United States officials traveled secretly to North Korea for talks on at least two occasions following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, according to a leading Japanese newspaper. Quoting unnamed sources from Japan, South Korea and the United States, the Tokyo-based Asahi Shimbun newspaper said last week that the American officials traveled on US military airplanes from an Air Force base on the Pacific island of Guam to North Korean capital Pyongyang. According to the paper, the visits, which took place on April 7 and August 18-20, 2012, were kept secret from both the South Korea and Japanese governments. It appears, however, that Tokyo found out about the secret flights after it was approached by amateur air traffic hobbyists, who noticed the Pyongyang-bound flights out of Guam. After analyzing air traffic patterns, officials at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs contacted the US Department of State inquiring about the mystery flights. Incredibly, however, Washington refused to discuss the flights with its Japanese ally, citing national security concerns. Eventually, says Asahi, the State Department acknowledged one of the visits, but responded to persistent Japanese pressure by warning Tokyo that further inquiries on the subject “would harm bilateral relations” between Japan and the US. The Japanese daily claims that the secret flights carried a host of senior US officials, including Joseph DeTrani, then chief of the North Koran desk at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Sydney Seiler, Korea policy chief at the White House National Security Council. Read more of this post

Iran official in secret visit to Egypt to discuss ‘new spy agency’

Qassem SuleimaniBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
A senior Iranian intelligence official paid a secret visit to Egypt earlier this month, allegedly to discuss the establishment of a new intelligence service controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Several Egyptian newspapers, including the quality broadsheet Al-Masry Al-Youm, said that the Iranian official was Qassem Suleimani, commander of Quds Force, a unit inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is specifically tasked with exporting the Iranian Revolution abroad. The Quds Force has traditionally constituted the primary channel of communication between the government of Iran and a host of international groups allied to it, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Suleimani is said to have traveled incognito to Cairo at the personal invitation of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who is also a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The group, which was legalized in Egypt after the 2011 revolution, is the Egyptian branch of a Pan-Islamic political and social movement that assumed control of the government after the ousting two years ago of Egyptian longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak. According to reports from Egypt, Suleimani met with “senior officials” in the Egyptian capital, including President Mursi’s chief adviser on foreign affairs, Issam al-Haddad, as well as prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Masry Al-Youm said the Iranian commander discussed plans to develop a new civilian intelligence service in post-Mubarak Egypt, which will be answerable to the government of the country. The apparent plan of the Muslim Brotherhood is to create a brand new spy service that will operate outside the control of Egypt’s military, which currently commands the bulk of the country’s intelligence community. Read more of this post

France pressing for Western military intervention in Mali, claim sources

Mali and the Independent State of AzawadBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
The government of France is holding secret talks with American and other Western officials to explore options for a concerted military intervention in Mali, according to diplomatic sources. A Tuareg rebellion in the northern part of Mali, which began earlier this year, culminated in the unilateral declaration of the Independent State of Azawad. The new state, which borders Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, is controlled by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA). The NMLA is partially staffed by former members of the Libyan Army during the rule of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. But it is also said to incorporate armed members of Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), all of which claim to have links with al-Qaeda. Many French observers view the Independent State of Azawad as the African version of mid-1990s Afghanistan, which eventually served as the base for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. But even though the French government has come out in favor of armed intervention in northern Mali, it has denied persistent rumors that it is contemplating sending French troops in the West African country. Instead, Paris officially favors intervention by the Malian Army backed by African Union troops and using logistical support provided by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). However, in an article published yesterday, The Associated Press claimed that, behind the scenes, the French government is trying to convince the US and other Western countries to participate in a military intervention in Mali. Read more of this post

MI6 chief paid ‘extremely rare’ secret visit to Israel: newspaper

The Director of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, widely known as MI6, visited Israel in secret in late August in an effort to convince the Israelis not to launch military strikes on Iran, according to a British newspaper. In an article published on Tuesday, The Daily Mail said Sir John Sawers, who leads Britain’s foremost external spy agency, held private meetings with leading Israeli officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. His message, according to the paper, was that London wanted more time so that the economic and diplomatic sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community to bear fruit. Sanctions are considered by some in the West a viable alternative to calls by Israeli officials for direct military attacks on Iran, aimed at stopping the country’s nuclear program. If confirmed, Sir John’s visit to Israel would represent a near-unprecedented move; this is because, unlike his counterpart at the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of MI6, known informally as ‘C’, does not routinely travel to foreign countries as a diplomatic messenger of the British government. Many, therefore, will see Sawers’ alleged trip to Israel as yet another sign that the Jewish state is beginning to lean heavily in favor of attacking Iran using overt military means. In a possibly related development, Israel’s Minister for Intelligence and Atomic Energy said on Wednesday that he supported international sanctions on Iran. Read more of this post

CIA Director reportedly in Turkey for secret talks

David PetraeusBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Turkish and American authorities have refused comment on persistent reports that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is currently on a secret visit to Turkey. News of the alleged trip was first reported on Monday by Turkish tabloid daily Akşam. The newspaper said David Petraeus, who heads the United States’ foremost civilian intelligence agency, had arrived earlier that day in Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport, on his private plane. According to the article, the CIA chief decided to embark on the unannounced trip in order to discuss “counterterrorism and the situation in Syria” with senior Turkish officials. Several hours later, French news agency Agence France Presse reported that, according to “a US official”, the CIA Director was indeed in Turkey, holding secret “meetings on regional issues”. However, the unnamed US source would not provide specific information about Petreaeus’ meeting arrangements while in Turkey, nor would (s)he divulge the names of the Turkish officials that were scheduled to meet with him. Another Turkish daily, Hürriyet, said the CIA Director would probably meet with his Turkish counterpart, MİT chief Hakan Fidan, as well as with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan . But repeated efforts by the paper to confirm this were rebuffed by representatives of the US embassy in Ankara, as well as Turkish officials. Read more of this post


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