Jul 16

Iraq Illusions by Jessica T. Mathews | The New York Review of Books -

"There is no military solution to this state of affairs. The solution must be political, and the fact that there is only a slim chance of success does not make doing the wrong thing any more sensible. The administration should not be stampeded by either Washington hawks or cries of imminent collapse from Baghdad into mission creep on the ground or into becoming Maliki’s air force. Instead, over the coming month or two, it should use all its strength to push for a new Iraqi prime minister and a government that can make a credible case for Sunni and Kurdish support. It is true that Maliki has just been reelected, but his party holds only a quarter of the seats in Parliament—hardly a mandate.

At the same time, the situation cannot be resolved domestically. Every state in the neighborhood has its hand in the mess. There will have to be an international effort to shore up a more workable government with the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and others involved, perhaps under UN auspices (though one could wish for a more able and energetic secretary-general). All share, to some degree, an interest in avoiding stateless anarchy, Sunni or Shia, on their borders.”

Jul 15

Expulsion of CIA Head A Sign of Tougher German Response to Spying - SPIEGEL ONLINE -

"The latest revelations of US spying on Germany have unleashed unprecedented levels of distrust in Berlin. The government has already expelled the CIA’s chief here and may soon be planning additional measures as it seeks answers from Washington."

Guest Post: Beyond the US-German Case: Understanding the Espionage “Rules of the Game” | Just Security -

It all comes back to maintaining trust internationally and oversight domestically - David C. Unger

"When circumstances merit unilateral action, no one should be enamored with the idea of spying on friends, because today there is a greater sense of betrayal associated with such activity, even by the perpetrator. In some ways, the global intelligence community’s “lone wolf” tendencies have become an obstacle to developing trust-but-verify -based relationships necessary to solve transnational problems, e.g., international extremism, radicalization and terrorism, halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction; working together against organized crime, narcotics and human trafficking networks. It makes no sense for political leaders to allow spy cases to damage the broader bilateral interests between states. Much can be learned in this regard from reviewing the history of CIA-KGB spy cases; both countries have consistently strived to ensure these recurring bumps in the relationship did not do permanent damage to the bilateral interests.

In the best of all worlds, there would be no need for intelligence. But in the world we live, intelligence is a lesser evil than the threats we confront. I believe that the challenge for any free and open society is for its citizens to thoughtfully limit the power of intelligence to activity that is necessary to safeguard national security interests, and to ensure that this activity falls under appropriate oversight. In the US, it is my conviction that we have struck the right balance.”

John Kerry’s Compromise Deal Lays Out a Way Forward for Afghans - -

"The compromise is a rare success for American foreign policy. But it would not have been possible without President Obama’s threat to withhold aid, the billions of dollars that have propped up Afghanistan’s economy and underwritten its security forces, and without which it could well go the way of Iraq. Mr. Obama must be prepared, if necessary, to use that leverage again to ensure the deal is carried out."


Global opposition to U.S. drone strikes grows -

"The percentage of people who believe the United States respects personal freedoms fell to 51% in Brazil this year, down from 76% in 2013. In Germany, it dropped to 58% from 81% in 2013."

Jul 14

Spies Like Us - -

"I asked Joseph T. Wippl, who was the C.I.A.’s Berlin station chief in the early 2000s, why the agency had recruited German sources. “The C.I.A. has developed strongly in the direction of a third world agency, in that its officers work in places where the U.S. has great leverage over others and where there is no rule of law,” he said. “They are not used to or have not been trained to work in countries with similar democratic, constitutional institutions.” At the same time, he went on, the Germans had never seemed interested in the level of cooperation that might obviate this sort of unilateral snooping — the sort of treaty relationship that America has with Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

To suggest that the Germans could be treated as a Sixth Eye is a flattering idea. Yet I doubt the Germans would accept the honor. As is the case with America’s nuclear umbrella, we’re happy to have the protection while being still happier not to have to carry the responsibility. If Germany entered into a real intelligence alliance with America, the government would have to deal with a load of dirty knowledge — and lose the benefit of plausible deniability.”

Rick Perry Is Dead Wrong - Sen. Rand Paul - POLITICO Magazine -

"If refusing to send Americans to die for a country that refuses to defend itself makes one an “isolationist,” then perhaps its time we finally retire that pejorative.
Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want to send U.S. soldiers back into Iraq. Is Perry calling the entire country “isolationist” too?
The let’s-intervene-and-consider-the-consequences-later crowd left us with more than 4,000 Americans dead, over 2 million refugees and over trillions of dollars in debt. Anytime someone advocates sending our sons and daughters to war, questions about precise objectives, effective methods and an exit strategy must be thoughtfully answered. America deserves this. Our military certainly deserves this.
Tough talk like Perry’s might inspire some for the moment, but when bombast becomes policy it can have long and disastrous consequences. It is vitally important that we remember past mistakes so that we learn from them.”

Read more:

U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force - -

The American intervention that keeps on giving - David C. Unger

""A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.

The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.

Adding to the administration’s dilemma is the assessment’s conclusion that Iraqi forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki are now heavily dependent on Shiite militias — many of which were trained in Iran — as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.”

The problem with the secret service – is the secrecy | Blogs | Amnesty International UK -

"While all this will be hammered out in the courts next week, meanwhile in Parliament, there will be a ‘debate’ on Tuesday, on the newly proposed ‘emergency’ Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill, we saw hurried out last week.

I say ‘debate’ – because the Bill has apparently already got cross-party approval from the entire political establishment. I say ‘emergency’ because there was ample time to consult on this legislation, but clearly the government would prefer a quiet back room deal.

So is the timing of this new legislation – which coincides with this historic legal scrutiny on surveillance - just a coincidence? Professor Heather Brooke who was set to sit on the panel of an Independent Surveillance Review, briefed to examine what’s happened in the past and advise on future policy, thinks not. She told the Evening Standard: “A legal case begins on Monday in which Liberty, Privacy International and Amnesty International are challenging GCHQ’s mass interception and data collection.

“The Government seems very worried that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal might find what they’ve done to be illegal.””