News you may have missed #809 (Obama-Iran edition)

Iran and its regionBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Will re-elected Obama take a new line on Iran? Barack Obama returns to office after an election campaign in which Iran’s nuclear program often dominated foreign-policy debates. Mitt Romney frequently accused him of taking too soft a line toward Tehran. Now, as Obama begins a second term, the question is how much he has been stung by such criticism. Will Obama retain confidence in his dual strategy of squeezing Iran with economic sanctions while also extending offers of rapprochement? Or will the fact that Iran keeps building centrifuges and enriching uranium despite Obama’s efforts persuade the White House it needs to try something new?
►►Obama’s victory vindicates his Iran policy. President Barack Obama’s re-election victory represents an important vindication of his approach to Iran and its potential nuclear ambitions —and, for the world, a new face of American policy in the Middle East that will relegate the aggressive policies of George W. Bush into the distant past. The election confirmed what polls have clearly shown, that while Americans are deeply concerned about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, they also view addressing the problem through vigorous diplomatic engagement and sanctions as the most appropriate exercise of American power and leadership.
►►Iranians see reduced risk of war in Obama’s reelection. In Iran, there is a sense of relief these days, as concerns of a military attack by US and Israeli forces over Iran’s nuclear energy program if Mitt Romney were elected, had become widespread. While there continues to be no official response from Iran’s leadership about US election results, Iranian media is still heavily focused on covering American polls. Commenting on one of Iran’s most popular political Web sites, Asriran, one reader wrote, “At least we know we won’t be going to war during the next four years”. And Iran’s state-run English language television channel, Press TV, carried a live and uninterrupted broadcast of President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

News you may have missed #808 (Obama-Netanyahu edition)

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►The other concession speech: Netanyahu congratulates Obama. At least there was no pretending. In the language of diplomacy, the greeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended to Barack Obama on the occasion of his re-election was “correct” and nothing more. “Prime Minister Netanyahu congratulates US President Barack Obama on his election victory,” read the public statement issued early Wednesday in Jerusalem. The next word out of Balfour Street, where Netanyahu mulled the returns, was a warning to members of his Likud party to shut up about how they figure the premier might really feel. By then, the deputy speaker of the Knesset had already called Obama “naïve” and vowed Israel would not “surrender” to him.
►►Netanyahu rushes to repair damage with US President. Over the past several years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has on several occasions confronted or even undercut US President Barack Obama, taking his message directly to the Israel-friendly United States Congress, challenging Mr. Obama’s appeal to the Arab world, and seeming this fall to support his opponent, Mitt Romney. Mr. Netanyahu woke up Wednesday to find not only that his Republican friend had lost, but also that many Israelis were questioning whether he had risked their collective relationship with Washington.
►►Barack Obama victory spells trouble for Israel’s Netanyahu. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an even more awkward time with Washington and re-energized critics at home who accused him on Wednesday of backing the loser in the US presidential election. With Iran topping his conservative agenda, Netanyahu will have to contend with a strengthened second-term Democratic president after four years of frosty dealings with Barack Obama and a rift over how to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

News you may have missed #748 (US edition)

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US lawmakers probe China companies over spy concerns. In letters sent last week to Chinese communications hardware firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, a group of senior members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee have outlined concerns about the companies’ ties with the Chinese government, including the role of a “party committee” at Huawei. The lawmakers have also asked about Huawei’s relationships with five US consulting firms and requested an expansive collection of documents, including the contracts between the firms and Huawei.
►►Lone Senator resists Bush/Obama NSA wiretapping plan. The Obama administration wanted a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. That’s despite President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to revisit and revise the rules to protect Americans’ rights. Everything seemed to be going to plan after a Senate committee approved the re-authorization in secret last month. But Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used.
►►What did Hayden tell Obama in January 2009? In December of 2008, a meeting took place between the incoming US Presiden Barack Obama and the departing CIA Director Michael Hayden. Several days later, on January 15, Hayden told journalists that Obama had privately assured him that “no plans to launch a legal inquiry” into the CIA’s use of controversial interrogation methods during the Bush administration. Now, several years later, Salon has published an insider’s account of what was said in that meeting between Obama and Hayden, as well as during the days that followed.

US rejects calls to free Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The White House has rejected persistent calls by Israeli politicians and lobbyists to free a United States Navy intelligence analyst serving a life sentence for giving classified US government documents to Israel. Jonathan Jay Pollard was convicted in 1987 for selling classified information to the Israeli government. Ronald Olive, a former counterintelligence officer for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who led the US Navy’s prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, has described Pollard’s spying activity as “one of the most devastating cases of espionage in US history”, involving the theft of over “one million classified documents”. Recently it emerged that, before spying for Israel, Pollard had attempted to spy on the US for the government of Australia. However, in Israel, Pollard, who is now an Israeli subject after renouncing his American citizenship, is widely considered a national hero. Last week, senior Israeli political figures renewed persistent calls to the administration of US President Barack Obama to free Pollard. According to the Israelis’ reasoning, the life sentence imposed on Pollard is too harsh considering that he spied for a US ally. Last week’s calls were led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the White House to free the convicted spy “in the spirit of the Jewish Passover. Netanyahu said that “the Festival of Freedom of all the Jews should be turned into Pollard’s private one”. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plea was echoed in a personal letter addressed to President Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres, along with a petition signed by over 80 members of the Israeli Knesset. Read more of this post

Israel ‘has decided to attack Iran’, claims US intelligence source

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The consensus in the US intelligence community is that Israel has decided “on principle” to launch a military strike on Iran in order to halt its nuclear program, according to an American intelligence insider. The American source was quoted on Israel’s Channel 2 (Arutz 2) television on Monday as saying that most US intelligence analysts believe “the attack will go ahead”. The source also argued that the Israeli public remains unaware of the “catastrophic consequences” of such an attack, which, according to US intelligence analysts, will be met with thousands of missiles launched against Israel by Iran and several Arab states. The confrontation will most likely trigger a regional war and “possibly even World War III”, said the source, citing US intelligence reports on the subject. He also warned Israel that the decision to attack Iran would be “tantamount to suicide”. The Channel 2 report claimed that the American and Israeli governments are “deeply at odds” over the potential consequences of a military attack on Iran, but that Tel Aviv has already decided to authorize strikes. The latter will allegedly take place before summer, unless there is “a significant change in the Iranian nuclear program in the next few weeks”, said the report. However, sources close to the Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the Channel 2 report as part of “scare tactics” employed by Washington. The sources dismissed the so-called “nightmare scenario” as a method employed by members in the administration of President Barack Obama, who “want to constrain Israel from contemplating an attack on Iran”. Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph effectively corroborates the Channel 2report, and adds that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the US President with “an ultimatum” during their closed-door meeting in Washington on Monday. Read more of this post

Bush “did nothing” about Mossad using US passports to recruit terrorists

Jundallah ForcesBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Current and former American intelligence officials have accused Israeli spy operatives of posing as US citizens to recruit members of a Pakistani terrorist group in a covert war against Iran. In an explosive exposé, the respectable US-based journal Foreign Policy has revealed that officers of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency used forged US passports to pose as American personnel of the Central Intelligence Agency. They used their fake American identities to contact members of Pakistan-based terrorist group Jundallah, which is responsible for numerous brutal strikes against civilian targets in Iran. Jundallah (soldiers of God) is an extremist militant organization that claims to be fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran. Most of its members belong to the Baluch ethnic group, which is concentrated along the Iranian-Pakistani border. The Foreign Policy article cites interviews conducted over the past 18 months with six anonymous US government officials, including two serving intelligence officers and at least two others who “have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the US government”. They told the journal that, in 2007, during the concluding years of the administration of President George W. Bush, the CIA discovered that the Mossad was using forged US passports and US currency to court and fund Jundallah operatives, in a series of secret meetings in London, England. One US government source told Foreign Policy that American officials “were stunned by the brazenness” of the Mossad, saying: “it’s amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with […]. They apparently didn’t give a damn what we thought”. A retired CIA officer told the journal that Agency analysts drafted official memoranda that made their way “up the US intelligence chain of command”, eventually reaching the White House. The CIA officer added that President Bush “went absolutely ballistic” when briefed on the Mossad operation. Read more of this post

Biden stopped Obama from granting clemency to Israel spy

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The President of the United States considered clemency for an American Navy analyst who spied on the US for Israel, but was stopped by his Vice President, Joe Biden, according to a report in The New York Times. The report claims that Barack Obama gave in to concerted pressure from the Israeli government and members of the pro-Israel lobby in the US, and proposed that Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed for life in 1986 for handing over classified US government documents to Israeli spies, be released. But Joe Biden rejected Obama’s proposal, reportedly telling the President that “over my dead body are we going to let [Pollard] out before his time”. The information appears to have come from Joe Biden himself, who revealed it during a recent meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida. The Times reports that, “according to several people at the meeting”, Biden was asked by one of the rabbis why it was that Pollard remained in prison, despite a lengthy campaign in Israel to have him released, or transferred to an Israeli jail. Biden responded that Obama had proposed releasing Pollard, but his suggestion never reached the heads of America’s intelligence community, because it was blocked by Biden himself. The Vice President said he told Obama that, if it were up to him, Pollard “would stay in jail for life”. The Times article does not relay the reaction to Biden’s forceful answer at the meeting; but the paper states that Biden appears to be on a mission to improve Obama’s image with Jewish voters in the United States. Although Jewish Americans traditionally tend to vote for the Democratic Party, they are currently being aggressively courted by the Republicans, worrying some Democratic electoral strategists. By answering the way he did in response to the question about Pollard, Biden “took a punch meant for his boss”, argues the paper. Read more of this post