Former CIA senior analyst argues in favor of US deal with Iran

Paul R. PillarBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former senior analyst in the United States Central Intelligence Agency has come out in support of a bilateral compromise between Iran and the West on Tehran’s nuclear program. In an article published last week, Georgetown University professor Paul R. Pillar, who spent nearly three decades with the CIA, dismissed the widespread view that the differences between Iran, Israel, and the West are insurmountable. Commenting on news of a nine-step negotiation plan offered by Tehran in early October, but dismissed by Washington as “unworkable”, Pillar said the offer provided the initial steps of an “eminently achievable agreement” between the interested parties. The CIA veteran, who rose to be one of the Agency’s top analysts prior to his retirement in 2005, argued that a possible outcome of bilateral negotiations would be for Iran to curtail its enrichment of uranium to the 20 percent level in exchange for the lifting of most economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Western countries. “An agreement along these lines makes sense”, he added, “because it would meet the major concerns of each side” in the dispute. He cautioned, however, that, under such an agreement, Tehran would not only be prohibited from continuing its uranium enrichment process, but would also be required to surrender all quantities of uranium previously enriched to a level above 20 percent. Such an agreement, claimed Pillar, would mean that neither Iran nor Israel and the West would receive everything they wanted at once. Instead, the process would depend on a gradual implementation of several bilateral agreements in stages, “each side giving something and getting something at each stage”. Read more of this post

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Comment: Was the Killing of Osama bin Laden Legal?

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
The reaction of Americans to news of the assassination of Osama bin Laden has been overwhelmingly jubilant. Many will say that the killing of al-Qaeda’s founder was justified. But was it legal? Responding to news of the killing, famed linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky suggested that “we might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic”. Commenting from a different viewpoint, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin argues that the legal complications of arresting bin Laden would have been immense, and would have perhaps signaled “the most complex and wrenching legal proceeding in American history”.  We could would add to this that the White House was probably concerned about a prolonged state of heightened security for American embassies and civilian or military installations around the world, which could have lasted for as long as bin Laden’s hypothetical trial continued —which could have been years. Read more of this post

Analysis: Axing of US DNI points to structural issues

Dennis Blair

Dennis Blair

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Although few American intelligence observers were astonished by last week’s involuntary resignation of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the silence by the White House on the subject has raised quite a few eyebrows in Washington. Admiral Dennis C. Blair, who became DNI in January of 2009, announced his resignation on Friday. Blair’s announcement came after a prolonged period of controversy, which included bitter infighting with the CIA, and culminated with the recent partial publication of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which blamed “systemic failures across the Intelligence Community” for the so-called Christmas bomb plot of last December. The problem is that Admiral Blair’s replacement will be the fourth DNI in five years, after John Negroponte, Mike McConnell and Blair himself. Read more of this post

Analysis: Is Afghanistan really important in the “war on terrorism”?

Paul P. Pillar

Paul P. Pillar

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center from 1997 to 1999, Paul Pillar, has authored an interesting editorial in which he asks “how important are physical havens to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda?”. The answer: not very. Writing in The Washington Post, Pillar points out that the main unstated assumption behind the US invasion of Afghanistan, namely that the country must not be allowed to again become a haven for terrorist groups, is incompatible with what we know about how such groups organize. If they are offered a haven, groups such as al-Qaeda will use it for basic training of recruits, says Pillar. But operations planning and training does not require such a base, nor is such a center crucial for successful execution of operations. Read more of this post